Tag Archives: harvard

New Harvard report says U.S. unprepared to help seniors age in place

A newly-released report from the Joint Center for Housing Studies at Harvard University says the U.S. is woefully unprepared to meet the escalating need for affordable, accessible housing that offers social connectivity and support services for America’s seniors. Many older adults already must decide between paying for food, medication or rent, and as the population ages this crisis is getting worse.

The new report, Housing America’s Older Adults, says that existing housing often lacks basic features needed by seniors, such as wheelchair accessibility. This lack of necessary features forces many frail and disabled older adults from their own homes. Additionally, isolation among adults who can no longer drive is an increasing problem, due to lack of public transportation and inadequate pedestrian infrastructure. These “disconnects between housing programs and the health care system put many older adults with disabilities or long term care needs at risk for premature institutionalization,” the report says.

The report calls for a combined effort of public, private, non-profit organizations to assess and address housing options that support aging in community. It also calls on individuals and families to be more proactive in determining current and future housing requirements. Many adults who are about to turn 65 are not doing enough to prepare themselves or their environments for aging in place, according to this article in the Washington Business Journal. AARP’s Public Policy Institute documented the decline in living standards many people face as they reach retirement age and struggle with changes in income and rising health care costs due to multiple chronic conditions.

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Berwick reminds next class of doctors of their responsibility

Several weeks ago I got an email from a Democrat on the Hill that said, “This might make you cry, right there at your desk.” She attached  an essay by Donald Berwick in the Journal of the American Medical Association.


Donald Berwick

I  saved the email but didn’t open it right away. It was a busy day  in a busy month; I’ve heard Berwick speak often, during and after his stint as the head of the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid and when I was lucky enough to attend Institute for Healthcare Improvement conferences and  hear  his soaring, provocative keynotes.  And I had just spoken to him myself a week or so earlier, after the Supreme Court ruling.  I promised myself I’d read this. But later.

August finally arrived, work quieted down (sort of) and as I was trying to slash and delete  my way through the email jungle, I found the Berwick essay.  I clicked.  The person who sent it had been right. I cried right there at my desk.

It was his commencement speech to the graduating class of Harvard Medical School this spring, and it seems on the 40th anniversary of his own HMS graduation.

“You will soon learn a lovely lesson about doctoring; I guarantee it. You will learn that in a professional life that will fly by fast and hard, a hectic life in which thousands of people will honor you by bringing to you their pain and confusion, a few of them will stand out. For reasons you will not control and may never understand, a few will hug your heart, and they will become for you touch points – signposts – like that big boulder on that favorite hike that, when you spot it, tells you exactly where you are. If you allow it – and you should allow it – these patients will enter your soul and you will,  in a way entirely right and proper, love them. These people will be your teachers.”

One of his teachers was a patient he called  Isaiah. Continue reading

Were journalists ‘fabulously naïve’ about human genome?

As Tinker Ready reported on the Nature Network’s Boston Blog, the luminaries gathered for Harvard’s panel on the 10-year anniversary of mapping the human genome, particularly the Broad Institute’s Eric Lander, had some strong opinions on media coverage of the event. Here’s Ready’s description of the spiciest bit:

Lander blamed the press for unrealistically high expectation for the human genome.
… Lander said that expectations for the impact of the research were “fabulously naïve. Journalists wrote about how we were going to have drugs for all these disease in the next decade. Somebody was smoking something. This was just nuts.”

The next day, on her Boston Health News blog, Ready revisited that particular quote for a bit of fact-checking. She went back to initial reports from The New York Times and USA Today, and tried to substantiate the claims of Lander, the lead author who himself wrote, at the time, that “The scientific work will have profound long-term consequences for medicine.”

Without spoiling Ready‘s post, I’ll just say she found some examples of restrained, responsible journalism. Were there a few hyperbolic quotes? Yes. But they came from scientists.

Rule limits Harvard docs’ conflicts of interest

Harvard doctors will now be limited to making $5,000 a year for serving as board members for drugmakers and biotech companies, under a new rule intended to reduce the conflicts of interest in medical research.

Scott Hensley explains and rounds up the coverage on NPR’s Shots blog, with links to stories in The New York Times and The Boston Globe. Hensley writes that the new rules also prohibit taking company shares as compensation and from serving on drug companies’ speaker bureaus.

Harvard to revise policy on speaking to media

Duff Wilson of The New York Times reports that Harvard Medical School is revising a recent policy that limited students’ contact with the news media.

Students say the policy was enacted to keep them from speaking out about things such as medical conflicts of interest.

The policy says: “All interactions between students and the media should be coordinated with the Office of the Dean of Students and the Office of Public Affairs. This applies to situations in which students are contacted by the media as well as instances in which students may be seeking publicity about a student-related project or program.”

The dean of students says the policy was intended to help students but it was approved shortly after students spoke to a reporter about the influence of drug company money on faculty.