Saturday, May 5, 2018

A Simple Way to Improve a Billion Lives: Eyeglasses - The New York Times

PANIPAT, India — Shivam Kumar's failing eyesight was manageable at first. To better see the chalkboard, the 12-year-old moved to the front of the classroom, but in time, the indignities piled up.

Increasingly blurry vision forced him to give up flying kites and then cricket, after he was repeatedly whacked by balls he could no longer see. The constant squinting gave him headaches, and he came to dread walking home from school.

"Sometimes I don't see a motorbike until it's almost in my face," he said.

As his grades flagged, so did his dreams of becoming a pilot. "You can't fly a plane if you're blind," he noted glumly.

The fix for Shivam's declining vision, it turns out, was remarkably simple.

He needed glasses.

More than a billion people around the world need eyeglasses but don't have them, researchers say, an affliction long overlooked on lists of public health priorities. Some estimates put that figure closer to 2.5 billion people. They include thousands of nearsighted Nigerian truck drivers who strain to see pedestrians darting across the road and middle-aged coffee farmers in Bolivia whose inability to see objects up close makes it hard to spot ripe beans for harvest.

Then there the tens of millions of children like Shivam across the world whose families cannot afford an eye exam or the prescription eyeglasses that would help them excel in school.

"Many of these kids are classified as poor learners or just dumb and therefore don't progress at school," said Kovin Naidoo, global director of Our Children's Vision, an organization that provides free or inexpensive eyeglasses across Africa. "That just adds another hurdle to countries struggling to break the cycle of poverty."

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Thursday, May 3, 2018

I followed the federal dietary and exercise guidelines for a year. Here's what happened. - NBC News

Early in 2017, I started my year-long project to adhere to the federal Physical Activity Guidelines and Dietary Guidelines with the support of the Science & Research Team of the American Council on Exercise.

We mapped out a six-month incremental process of behavior change that allowed me to establish and then build upon new habits over the remaining six months. It was a year full of stops, starts, plateaus, struggles and triumphs. Through this process, I changed so many things about my life. I learned how to incorporate more physical activity into my daily routine (and I learned to enjoy it, or at least enjoy the way it made me feel). By making a series of small, manageable changes, I completely altered the way I eat and my overall relationship with food. I inspired my wife to get more active and helped a number of friends and family members make similar changes in their lives. I learned how to make changes that made me healthier without negatively impacting my overall quality of life.

In many ways, I still struggle with certain aspects of my new lifestyle and will admit to having gained a few pounds since my project "ended" a few months ago — though we all know that true lifestyle change never ends. In other words, it still is — and always will be — a work in progress. But I've learned how to live a healthy lifestyle, how to forgive myself for slip-ups and how to inspire myself to get back on track.

Of course, when people ask me how the project went, they don't want to hear some inspirational speech. They want numbers!

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Patients face expensive ER bills even when they don’t receive treatment - Vox

On October 19, 2016, Jessica Pell fainted and hit her head on a nearby table, cutting her ear. She went to the emergency room at Hoboken University Medical Center, where she was given an ice pack. She received no other treatment. She never received any diagnosis. But a bill arrived in the mail for $5,751.

"It's for the ice pack and the bandage," Pell said of the fee. "That is the only tangible thing they could bill me for."

Pell's experience is not unique. Submissions to Vox's ER database project found multiple examples of ERs charging patients hundreds or even thousands of dollars for walking through the door. Some never got past the waiting room. Some were triaged, but none received treatment from a doctor.

Pell left the ER when she discovered the plastic surgeon who would see her was out of network for her insurance. She decided to go to an in-network facility instead. She thought this was a smart way to avoid the costly fees that came with seeing a provider that wasn't included in her health plan.

"I decided to decline treatment because I can't really afford any surprise bills right now," she said. "The bill I'd probably incur would not be worth saving my ear, which was sad but a choice I had to make."

Pell's health insurance plan paid the hospital $862, what it deemed a "reasonable and appropriate" fee for the services the hospital paid. That left Pell with a $4,989 bill that she received on February 28.

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