Process Reflection: End of Semester

As the semester comes to a close, I feel lucky to have taken this class for a number of reasons. I enrolled in the class as an undeclared sophomore, attempting to decide between a sociology and international relations major. I knew that I wanted to work with people in some practical capacity, and that I was interested in the effect that big systems like healthcare systems had on human life at the most personal and individual level. While I will not be pursuing a public health major or minor at least in undergrad, the knowledge I have gained in this class is something so fundamentally relevant to my own life and the lives of those in the community that I am quite grateful to have taken the course.

I believe everyone would benefit from a basic knowledge of the materials learned in this class – no matter their profession or stage in life. Americans particularly live in a healthcare system that is very flawed, and often ends up taking a financial, physical and psychological toll on the people who need it the most. Other countries work as examples for systems functioning more efficiently or more poorly than ours, and educating ourselves about these differences is the first step to positive change. I am especially glad that I took this course at a time when the world is beginning to have more of these conversations – vast changes may be made to these existing systems in just the next few years.

In this class I learned a myriad of things I did not know before – from the consumer-centric and often arbitrarily priced mess of health care services, to conversations around death and dying and the shocking discrepancy between the care Americans want and the care they receive. I am grateful for all of it, and will absolutely consider taking more classes about health care in the future.

Abuse and neglect in nursing homes

In reading the New York Times article “Fighting to Honor a Father’s Last Wish: To Die At Home”, I keep being appalled by the inhumanity of some of the stories of patients in these nursing homes. Beyond the fact that the system is becoming more and more profit-driven, the reports of abuse and neglect, in some cases, are major. From a basic human rights perspective, how can this be continuing with such frequency?

Lifting Weights, Twice a Week, May Aid the Brain

This article, published in the health section of the New York Times, offers new research on the benefits of exercise on aging brains; specifically through weight training. While plenty of research exists linking exercise and brain health, most of it is focused on aerobic exercises like running rather than simple muscle-building exercises.

The article first describes the problem: as a person ages, the white matter in their brain develops lesions, and the brain can shrink. Since white matter is the agent that carries messages from one part of the brain to another, people with more or quickly multiplying lesions experience slower cognition and communication problems. Exercise has been shown to be beneficial to white matter specifically, and the leaders of this experiment hypothesized that since weight training strengthens muscles (which also shrink with age), it may also be useful in slowing the spreading of lesions on the brain.  Continue reading “Lifting Weights, Twice a Week, May Aid the Brain”

“Study Offers Support for Cancer Treatment During Pregnancy” – The New York Times

This article, published in the health section of the New York Times on September 28th, offers new statistics on a controversial topic: the administration of chemotherapy to pregnant women diagnosed with cancer. The concept itself is emotionally charged enough to breed caution: chemotherapy drugs are very toxic and taxing on an adult body, let alone a developing fetus. Many doctors urge their patients to delay chemotherapy, terminate the pregnancy, or deliver the baby preterm before attempting cancer treatment on pregnant women, but a new study offers hope: some forms of chemotherapy have been shown not to harm a child’s cardiac or cognitive development in the womb.

For this study, 129 cases were selected in which the doctor and mother of the developing fetus had decided to proceed with cancer treatment rather than the alternative options. More than half of the mothers-to-be had breast cancer; others had forms of blood cancer. The chemotherapy was always administered in the second and third trimesters of the pregnancy —the first trimester always holds the highest risk of birth defects — and the cognition and cardiac strength of the children was studied at birth and again at the age of 3. The results of the study found that none of the children exposed to chemotherapy in utero had impaired cognition or cardiac function compared to the control group.

Continue reading ““Study Offers Support for Cancer Treatment During Pregnancy” – The New York Times”