New in Exploring Health's longform vertical: Gillian Feinglass delves into the complex and often overlooked struggles of American apple farmers, juxtaposing the pastoral dream with the harsh economic and environmental realities they face.
By Paula Span, The New York Times
On October 17th, new FDA regulations will turn hearing aids into an over-the-counter product, hopefully making them both easier to purchase and more affordable. This change has been in the works for a few years: In 2017, Congress allowed the FDA three years to explore making hearing aids over the counter, though the agency took five. That delay combined with COVID’s stress on the supply chain has led many experts to suggest people temper their expectations about the lower price tags. Currently, manufacturers and retailers have not communicated too much about what the new market will look like, however, a few stores, such as Best Buy and Sony have created some partnerships that will allow hearing aids to hit the shelves at a lower price. More than 90 percent of hearing aid users’ needs can be met with over-the-counter products. If hearing aids really can hit the market at a much lower price, a huge market awaits, as half of people over 70 report hearing loss.
— by Andrew Feld
By Christina Jewett, The New York Times
Adderall, used to treat ADHD, is in a nationwide shortage, according to an FDA declaration on October 13, 2022. The drug contains the stimulant amphetamine, a controlled substance that is closely tracked, making it difficult for pharmacies to carry alternatives or change to new suppliers. The pandemic gave rise to both an explosion of telehealth services and a teen mental health crisis, which sharply increased Adderall prescriptions. About 4 percent of adults and 8 percent of children are believed to have ADHD, and roughly 70 percent of adults and 40 percent of children may be going untreated, suggesting the scale of demand for the drug. The example of Cerebral, a San Fransciso-based telehealth start-up that has been accused of overprescribing by a former executive in a lawsuit, demonstrates the complexity of prescribing controlled substances: Some patients were duplicated in its database, suggesting people were seeking extra prescriptions to resell.
— by Emily Kim
By Benjamin Mueller, The New York Times
The prevalence of “long COVID” may be greater than previously thought. A new large-scale study found that 5% of those who contract COVID-19 do not recover from the illness, while another 40% still have symptoms many months after testing positive. This means that approximately half of those who fall ill with COVID-19 develop long COVID, and demonstrates a need for more specialized and extensive medical care to support these patients. The researchers emphasize that COVID-19 can no longer be seen as a short-term respiratory problem, but rather as a complex, full-body disease. Because of the novelty of long COVID, more research needs to be completed to determine the true implications of the condition, and how patient health will be affected in the future. However, these findings help point to where COVID efforts should be focused moving forward.
— by Sammy Ramacher
By Emily Baumgaertner, The New York Times
Hospitals nationally are closing children’s units to make more room for adult beds, which earn more revenue. When the pandemic hit, many hospitals needed all the space they could find, often turning pediatric beds into adult intensive care units. Many have been reluctant to switch back. Physicians are resorting to referring pediatric patients to surrounding emergency departments, but this is causing ERs to reach max capacity, leaving sick children in waiting rooms. The case of Lachlan Rutledge, an Oklahoma 6-year-old with multiple chronic illnesses, demonstrates how bad the crunch has become: Where he lives, there is now only a single inpatient pediatric unit, and his mother has driven him to Denver and Dallas to get care. Other sick children in the area must be driven to Missouri and Minnesota to find inpatient help. The lack of pediatric care creates a descending spiral: As staff become less accustomed to caring for children and do not practice with child-sized equipment, critically ill children are put at risk of receiving substandard care.
— by Madison Woods
By Marcus A. Banks, PNAS
The lifestyle and culture of the United States predispose us to obesity. However, not all fat is created equal. Studies are uncovering the influence of brown fat, which may reduce the lifestyle diseases associated with overweight. Brown fat breaks down blood sugar and fat molecules to produce heat, regulating body temperature. Currently, scientists are attempting to demonstrate how this impacts metabolic health specifically. In a recent study in young men, cell biologist Shingo Kajimura concluded that brown fat can break down branched chain amino acids, which are associated with greater incidence of obesity and type 2 diabetes. Other researchers are exploring whether brown fat can be increased in the body in hopes of reducing high blood pressure and coronary artery disease, but since most work has been performed in mice, further human studies are needed.
— by Chris Ejike
Items contributed by: Andrew Feld, Emily Kim, Sammy Ramacher, Madison Woods, and Chris Ejike