health

therapeutic drum circles!

The San Francisco Examinier reports that drum circles "are emerging as an effective and respected treatment method for conditions such as stress and anxiety"

Medicinal drumming, formerly called “therapeutic drumming,” is a decade-old practice based on centuries­-­old wisdom, and is being used in The City to keep at-risk youths out of gangs and help trauma victims face their demons, among other uses, the city report said.

...

“It’s a really strong, good therapy that’s been very helpful in keeping kids off the street,” said Public Health spokeswoman Eileen Shields.

“Repetitive patterns influence brainwave activity,” Nunez said. “If a person is susceptible to seizures or perhaps psychosis or has been significantly traumatized, repetitive patterns can trigger some of that.”

The medical community is buying into the practice. Just recently, Nunez’ therapeutic drumming was recognized by the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration as a “culturally appropriate” and clinically proven practice.

how emotional pain becomes physical

I'm going to hope that the opening sentences of this Telegraph story about research into a genetic link between physical and emotional pain reflects the dullness of the reporter, not the opinion of the scientists:

Researchers have found a genetic link between physical pain and social rejection, which means that breaking up with a partner really can be painful.

I hope that the researchers are cluefull enough to understand that an experience of pain is real regardless of our understanding of genetic or neurological mechanisms. Any scientist who thinks that reductionist explanations validate or invalidate the existence of the phenomenon they are trying to explain, needs a good smack. I don't need a neurologist to tell me that getting dumped can be painful, I have my own direct experience, thank you very much. The physiological correlates are not the experience.

Anyway, the research itself is very interesting, especially the evidence that people who are more sensitive to physical pain are also sensitive to social rejection.

Is health care a right? The question is irrelevant, but yes, it is.

Is health care a right? In his recent odious Wall Street Journal editorial, John Mackey argues that "A careful reading of both the Declaration of Independence and the Constitution will not reveal any intrinsic right to health care, food or shelter. That’s because there isn’t any. This “right” has never existed in America."

(Markey is co-founder and CEO of Whole Foods Market Inc., and his Thatcher-quoting article promoting a "you're own your own, buddy" version of health care has spawned a boycott movement.)

Now, if Mr. Mackey had actually read the Constitution, he would have seen Amendment IX: "The enumeration in the Constitution, of certain rights, shall not be construed to deny or disparage others retained by the people." I.e., the fact that a right is not enumerated, can not be used to argue that it does not exist.

There is, for example, no right to privacy mentioned in the Constitution. That does not mean that one does not exist.

And something may not be a "right", and yet might be expected as a basic government service. In cases like Warren v. District of Columbia and Castle Rock v. Gonzales, the courts have found that there is no right to a police response -- yet we expect tax-funded, government-provided cops to show up if we dial 911. There is no "right to food", but a government that does not deal with hunger and famine is going to at minimum have a lot of crime, and quite possibly political unrest -- hungry people are ready-made followers for radicals, and so we have food stamps and agricultural policy.

Why An Anarchist Favors Government Health Care

(some notes toward a manifesto of sorts)

I've generally found myself in agreement with Thoreau:

"I heartily accept the motto, -- 'That government is best which governs least'; and I should like to see it acted up to more rapidly and systematically. Carried out, it finally amounts to this, which also I believe, -- 'That government is best which governs not at all'; and when men are prepared for it, that will be the kind of government which they will have."

and with Kerry Thornley's "Zenarchy":

"As a doctrine, it holds Universal Enlightenment a prerequisite to abolition of the State, after which the State will inevitably vanish. Or - that failing - nobody will give a damn."

Over the years, some of you have heard me rail against many things the government has done: war, drug policy, domestic surveillance, censorship, and so on. For example, way back in 1993, in a USENET discussion about drug policy I spoke of the feds as

"...the government that gave us the Dredd Scott decision, Prohibition, McCarthyism, MK-ULTRA mind-control experiments with LSD, the Bay of Pigs, the Vietnam police action, Watergate, Iran-Contra, the House banking and Post Office scandals, the Waco [assault], and 20-page MILSPECS for brownies..."

and a decade and a half later, I find nothing to disagree with in that statement.

(I Am Not Making This Up: the 2003 version of the military specification for brownies actually runs to 26 pages.)

So, how is it that I now find myself arguing in favor of that same government taking up a greater role in health care?

It is because, under current and foreseeable circumstances, the alternative is health care from the same sorts of massive corporations that brought us the Bhopal disaster, the Exxon Valdez debacle, the Merck fake medical journals, the Enron and Halliburton and KBR and Blackwater and Madoff and Goldman Sachs scandals.

A large corporation is an animal dedicated to its own preservation and growth; if actual goods and services are produced, that's just a fortunate by-product of its metabolic processes. And that's fine when we're dealing with ordinary consumer goods. But a health care system in which some people might occasionally receive care, if it doesn't affect the bottom line too much? Stacked against that, a government-regulated system (however subject to inefficiency and corruption and mistakes) that claims as its prime directive to provide care, starts to sound attractive.

running shoes increase risk of injury -- did Nike make us fatter?

Stumbled across this Daily Mail article about running shoes a while back. It claims that every year, 65 to 80 per cent of all runners suffer an injury -- regardless of fitness level or experience. It quotes Dr. Daniel Lieberman, professor of biological anthropology at Harvard University: "Until 1972, when the modern athletic shoe was invented, people ran in very thin-soled shoes, had strong feet and had a much lower incidence of knee injuries."

Lieberman believes that modern running shoes make people more likely to be injured; therefore they exercise less, and are more likely to suffer from heart disease and other maladies. The modern running shoe was essentially invented by Nike, so in addition to the growing problem of sweatshop labor conditions, I have to ask: can we lay the obesity epidemic partly at Nike's feet?

According to the Daily Mail,

In a paper for the British Journal Of Sports Medicine last year, Dr Craig Richards, a researcher at the University of Newcastle in Australia, revealed there are no evidence-based studies that demonstrate running shoes make you less prone to injury. Not one.

It was an astonishing revelation that had been hidden for over 35 years. Dr Richards was so stunned that a $20 billion industry seemed to be based on nothing but empty promises and wishful thinking that he issued the following challenge: "Is any running-shoe company prepared to claim that wearing their distance running shoes will decrease your risk of suffering musculoskeletal running injuries? Is any shoe manufacturer prepared to claim that wearing their running shoes will improve your distance running performance? If you are prepared to make these claims, where is your peer-reviewed data to back it up?"

Dr Richards waited and even tried contacting the major shoe companies for their data. In response, he got silence.

For the past few weeks I've shelved my New Balance cross-trainers and been doing my Wednesday morning run in flat-bottomed Chuck Taylor style sneakers. (Since Converse is now owned by Nike, I recommend alternative shoes made by responsible companies with good labor practices, such as No Sweat and Ethletic.) The first few times I could feel my calves and ankles working harder, but I've noticed that my knees and hips are less sore after a run in the simple sneakers than they were getting with the cross trainers.

Electronic health records make it better -- until the power goes out

On Tuesday, for about two hours Indianapolis' Methodist Hospital had to send incoming ambulances to other hospitals. Why? A power surge knocked out their computer system (bad design part 1), and patients' records had to be hand entered. They couldn't deal with the backlog (bad design part 2).

It looks more and more like electronic health records are going to work as well as electronic voting.

Red meat kills. Sunshine and fresh air are good.

More health news that should shock no one:

A National Cancer Institute study found that people who eat the most red meat and the most processed meat have the highest overall risk of death per year from all causes, including heart disease and cancer.

And the World Health Organization says that sunshine and fresh air can reduce the risk of tuberculosis in hospitals and prisons. (One interesting fact: while many of us worry about catching some nasty airborne disease on an airplane, according to the director of the WHO's Stop TB department, Mario Raviglione, "In airplanes the ventilation system is actually better than in most buildings.")

Cannabis and coffee to prevent Alzheimer's

At the Ohio State Department of Psychology, Gary Wenk and Yannic Marchalant have done a study showing that a low dosage of a certain cannabinoid reverses reverses memory loss in rats. (Not an endorsement of research on animals - but, I have to admit, giving rats cannabis is very far from the worst sort of experimentation.)

And Finnish and and Swedish researchers have found evidence that moderate coffer drinkers have a reduced risks of developing Alzheimer's disease.

But, drinking too much coffee - seven cups of instant or three cups of the real thing - greatly increases the likehood of experiencing hallucinations. Whether that's a benefit or a risk is up to you...

Evangelical teens say they believe in abstainance, but are more sexually active (wish I'd known then...)

Margaret Talbot reports in The New Yorker on how religion influences what evangelical teens say they think about sex - and who it impoacts what they actually do:

Regnerus argues that religion is a good indicator of attitudes toward sex, but a poor one of sexual behavior, and that this gap is especially wide among teen-agers who identify themselves as evangelical. The vast majority of white evangelical adolescents—seventy-four per cent—say that they believe in abstaining from sex before marriage... evangelical virgins are the least likely to anticipate that sex will be pleasurable, and the most likely to believe that having sex will cause their partners to lose respect for them. (Jews most often cite pleasure as a reason to have sex, and say that an unplanned pregnancy would be an embarrassment.) But, according to Add Health data, evangelical teen-agers are more sexually active than Mormons, mainline Protestants, and Jews. On average, white evangelical Protestants make their “sexual début”—to use the festive term of social-science researchers—shortly after turning sixteen. Among major religious groups, only black Protestants begin having sex earlier.

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