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Digital Health is Complicated

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When Calling a $10 Uber Can Save $100 Billion

Patients who don’t go to their medical appointments cost the U.S. health system an estimated $150 billion per year, partly because 3.6 million people can’t access adequate transportation. With new initiatives, investments, and government partnerships, Lyft and Uber believe they can save the health system lots of money. But, Motherboard asks, at what cost?

Facebook & Instagram Grapple with Mental Health

Facebook moderators detailed the consequences of exposure to the flood of disturbing content they see in an article published by The Verge. Counseling services and “wellness” breaks offered through their employer, Facebook contractor Congnizant, are insufficient. Moderators report panic attacks, substance abuse, and PTSD symptoms – not surprising considering they regularly see violent murders, suicides, and vitriolic hate speech. In a statement, Facebook said they are “committed to working with our partners to demand a high level of support for their employees; that’s our responsibility and we take it seriously.” You’ll forgive our skepticism.

In more uplifting news out of the same company, Instagram is partnering with the National Eating Disorders Association (NEDA) on the #ComeAsYouAre campaign in honor of National Eating Disorders Awareness Week. Instagram has been putting much time and resources towards promoting positivity and combating self-harm on the platform in recent years. Says Karina Newton, Head of Public Policy at Instagram, “Keeping Instagram a safe, positive and supportive space is our greatest responsibility — and partnering with incredible organizations like NEDA is an important way to do that.”

On Rare and (Almost) Extinct Diseases

Speaking of awareness raising…in an article for Techonomy, Meredith Salisbury explains why Thursday is Rare Disease Day. Collectively, the 7,000 or so known rare diseases (defined as affecting fewer than 200,000 Americans) afflict tens of millions, possibly hundreds of millions, of people worldwide. Most have genetic causes, and many affect children. Few have good treatment options, in part because pharmaceutical companies are less motivated to invest resources to develop treatments when the potential market is so small. But with the rise of precision medicine, there is hope that barriers to developing new treatments will be lowered.

Smallpox was thought to be eradicated until a photographer working above a lab at Birmingham University was diagnosed. Live dengue fever virus was unknowingly sent in the mail. Polio, on the verge of extinction, hides in lab samples around the world and could easily infect a careless technician. Finding and containing every single sample of a contagious virus is a major roadblock to eradicating a disease. WIRED explains.

Smart Phones, Stillness, and Schools

In a story for the New York Times, Kevin Rose shares his experience with phone addiction and eventual healing process. Digital wellness is a growing industry that includes everything from adorable apps to detox packages to full-blown rehab programs. Through his journey, says Rose, he “became aware of how profoundly uncomfortable I am with stillness.” Though many people can relate to his anecdotes, the power of the screen can have far more devastating implications. Catherine Steiner-Adair of Harvard Medical School says widespread use of smartphones undermines empathy, attention and relationships in children, and undercuts education. See her discuss the research on stage at Techonomy 2018 here.

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