Map of life expectancy at birth from Global Education Project.

Tuesday, January 23, 2007

Pay no attention to the man behind the curtain

I'm going to ignore the ridiculous health insurance proposal those of you with stronger stomachs than mine are going to hear about tonight because it's DOA anyway, along with the rest of whatever idiotic psychopathy goes down. I thought I'd catch up on a couple of projects I'm working on, in lieu of doing any actual work.

We're going to be participating in an interesting study by our friend William Collinge which involves teaching caregivers (e.g., spouses, partners, siblings) of people with cancer some basic therapeutic massage techniques. It turns out that massage can have huge benefits in relieving pain and stress, side effects of chemotherapy, and other distressful symptoms of cancer. Of course, nobody makes money off of it, so you won't see advertisements on TV telling you to give your sick relative or friend a massage.

I'm also working on a proposal to study the "food environment" near middle and high schools. (I shouldn't give this away because somebody might steal the idea, but what the hey.) I live near a middle school and every morning, when I go to buy the paper, the kids are in the store buying candy, sugary snacks, soda, etc. I have a pretty good idea that in rich neighborhoods, the food choices the kids have are better than in the poor neighborhoods. We did a study a while back that asked the same questions about cigarettes, and it was pretty clear.

We're also finishing up a review of state policy to address health disparities in the New England states. As you may have noticed, health care reform at the state level is all the rage these days -- which I guess it has to be since we obviously aren't going to get anything worthwhile out of the federal government, given that the clowns are running the circus right now. Unfortunately, I'm close to concluding that the states just cannot do very much to solve our problems. They have to operate in the national market and they simply cannot make fundamental changes. As Massachusetts, Maine, Vermont, and now California and possibly Pennsylvania and New York try to work within the given national context, their halfway measures and Rube Goldberg contraptions are doomed to failure, and may even make matters somewhat worse. Why? Because they can't do anything to contain costs, or get control over resource allocation.

It's another one of those long wonkish stories, but I'll try to tell it in coming weeks. Actually, events may speak for themselves. The Massachusetts plan is already running into rough sledding, and it's only halfway implemented. I just hope we all can make it until January, 2009. It's going to be touch and go.

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