People Live Longer in Non-Profits

The COVID pandemic has revealed problems in our society which we will need to fix. Thankfully researchers are identifying what problems are fixable by looking for the cause. Long term care homes (LTCs) are one such area of our society that we can improve, and do so very easily too. It turns out the non-profit LTCs are safer places for people to live and that they will live longer in a place that puts people ahead of profits.

Let’s make all LTCs non-profits. The profit motive and the goal of caring for people don’t always go together.

The COVID-19 pandemic revealed that for-profit long-term care homes had worse patient outcomes than not-for-profit homes. A new study found that of those for-profit homes, long-term care homes (LTCs) owned by private equity firms and large chains have the highest mortality rates.

“Financial firms are in seniors’ housing for what they can take from it, not .what they can contribute. This approach – and the prioritization of profits is what guides financial firms,” she said. “It’s at odds with the social and moral imperatives that underline the need to provide good homes, high-quality care and dignified environments for our elderly populations and the workers who care for them.”

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We can Save 200,000 Lives a Year Replacing Car Commutes with Bicycles

a couple, bicycles

A simple modification to our cities can save a lot of lives: add more and better bicycling infrastructure. Researchers looked into quantifying how many lives we can save by replacing car journeys with bicycle use and the results aren’t surprising, but will hopefully influence people. The harms vehicular traffic does to our bodies and our communities are well documented so the fact that using car less will save lives isn’t schocking. It’s great to see more evidence and analysis into how getting rid of cars will improve everyone’s well being.

Biking plays a significant role in urban mobility and has been suggested as a tool to promote public health. A recent study has proposed 2050 global biking scenarios based on large shifts from motorized vehicles to bikes. No previous studies have estimated the health impacts of global cycling scenarios, either future car-bike shift substitutions.

We found that, among the urban populations (20–64 y old) of 17 countries, 205,424 annual premature deaths could be prevented if high bike-use scenarios are achieved by 2050 (assuming that 100% of bike trips replace car trips). If only 8% of bike trips replace car trips in a more conservative scenario, 18,589 annual premature deaths could be prevented by 2050 in the same population. In all the countries and scenarios, the mortality benefits related to bike use (rather than car use) outweighed the mortality risks.

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Thanks to Mike!

This is Why Nature Helps Your Cognitive Health

It’s clear that being around nature is good for one’s health, but why? Researchers have been looking into the physiological reasons for the benefits of nature and multiple reasons have been found. Being in nature is good for you in many tiny ways that culminate into a big benefit to your immune system. Everything from a small house plants to large trees in local parks helps your immune system function better.

Be comforted knowing that you can improve your health (and other’s) by just helping plants grow.

In built environments, trees and landscaping may promote health not only by contributing positive factors like phytoncides but also by reducing negative factors. Air pollution is associated with myocardial inflammation and respiratory conditions (Villarreal-Calderon et al., 2012). High temperatures can cause heat exhaustion, heat-related aggression and violence, and respiratory distress due to heat-related smog formation (Anderson, 2001; Akbari, 2002; Tawatsupa et al., 2012). And violence affects physical and mental health (e.g., Groves et al., 1993). Vegetation filters pollutants from the air (although see Table 2 in the Supplementary Materials for details), dampens the urban heat island (e.g., Souch and Souch, 1993), and appears to reduce violence (Table 2 in the Supplementary Materials for review).

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They mapped the thousand places in America where you’re breathing poison

industry

The Trump administration in the USA cut funding for their Environmental Protection Agency which led to an increase in pollution that harms people and nature. The pollution problem isn’t all thanks to Trump though, it comes from years of negligence around policies and procedures to protect communities from dangerous industrial waste. For example, in the early 2000s the Bush administration stopped a few NASA efforts to observe greenhouse gas emissions in the nation.

Despite government inaction, ProPublica decided to map out the most poisoned places in the States. Why is this on a good news site? If we don’t look at where the emission are coming, and what the combined impact is of those emissions then we won’t be able to adequately fight climate change. Knowledge is power.

At the map’s intimate scale, it’s possible to see up close how a massive chemical plant near a high school in Port Neches, Texas, laces the air with benzene, an aromatic gas that can cause leukemia. Or how a manufacturing facility in New Castle, Delaware, for years blanketed a day care playground with ethylene oxide, a highly toxic chemical that can lead to lymphoma and breast cancer. Our analysis found that ethylene oxide is the biggest contributor to excess industrial cancer risk from air pollutants nationwide. Corporations across the United States, but especially in Texas and Louisiana, manufacture the colorless, odorless gas, which lingers in the air for months and is highly mutagenic, meaning it can alter DNA.

In all, ProPublica identified more than a thousand hot spots of cancer-causing air. They are not equally distributed across the country. A quarter of the 20 hot spots with the highest levels of excess risk are in Texas, and almost all of them are in Southern states known for having weaker environmental regulations. Census tracts where the majority of residents are people of color experience about 40% more cancer-causing industrial air pollution on average than tracts where the residents are mostly white. In predominantly Black census tracts, the estimated cancer risk from toxic air pollution is more than double that of majority-white tracts.

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Thanks to Tom Scott for the title!

Taxing Sugar Drinks Works if the Tax is Known

beer

Soda taxes get proposed often, and they have varying levels of success depending on how they are implemented. A new study reveals that when people are made aware that the sugar tax impacts the price of products they stop buying the unhealthy product. If you educate people then they act on that knowledge. One way to remind people about the health impact of consumer food products is on their bill.

But the share of sugary drinks purchased did decline slightly (45%) when the tags mentioned the price included the added tax.

Results showed that most consumers who chose to avoid sugary drinks with the added tax chose a drink that was not subject to the tax.

“Consumers are averse to taxes, so when they learn that their favorite drink has this sugary beverage tax, some are less interested in buying it,” Donnelly said.

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