Valley Public Radio - Live Audio

Jonathan Lambert

Here's a bit of heartening news to consider this Fourth of July: Democracy is good for our health.

A study published in The Lancet in April analyzed how the "democratic experience" of a country impacts the health of its citizens. The results were a clear win for democracy.

Competitive runners (myself included, once upon a time) will try almost anything that could give them a natural edge in their next 5K or 10K.

Down concentrated beet juice before a race? I've done it.

Eat chia seeds by the handful? Yep.

Altitude tents that mimic life at 10,000 feet? If only I had the money.

But new research hints that, perhaps, someday I may add consuming bacteria to that list.

Humans have made an indelible mark on the planet. Since the mid-20th century, we've accelerated the digging of mines, construction of dams, expansion of cities and clearing of forests for agriculture — activity that will be visible in the geological record for eons to come.

Some scientists are calling it the Anthropocene era, or the age of the humans ("anthropos" is Greek for human).

Two people got very sick, and one died, during a trial of an experimental procedure known as fecal transplant, according to a statement issued Thursday from the Food and Drug Administration. As a result, the agency is suspending several clinical trials investigating the procedure until safety standards can be assured.

Americans could be forgiven for not knowing that much about measles. After all, it's been 51 years since an effective vaccine was introduced, quickly turning the disease from a common childhood experience to a rarity, and nearly two decades since the disease was declared eliminated from the U.S.

But outbreaks have surfaced throughout the country over the past few months, affecting more than 700 people.

In 2000, the Pan American Health Organization announced a monumental public health achievement: Widespread vaccination efforts, overseen by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, had effectively eliminated measles from the United States.

The disease, which before the vaccination era affected 3 million to 4 million people in the U.S. each year, was now isolated to small, contained outbreaks connected to international travel.

This year's record-setting outbreak threatens that achievement.

Meal kit delivery services like Blue Apron or HelloFresh promise gourmet meals without the hassle of shopping for ingredients. But the environmentally conscious consumer may feel guilty about seeing all the plastic and cardboard it takes to bring that Pork and Veggie Bibimbap to their doorstep.

Empathy seems like a good quality in human beings. Pure and simple.

It allows us to consider the perspective of others — to put ourselves in their shoes and imagine their experiences. From that empathetic vantage point, only good things can come, right?

Daviz Simango, mayor of Beira, Mozambique, thought that his coastal city was prepared for cyclones.

In 2012, the city built a new drainage system and wave barriers with $120 million from the World Bank. The idea was to help Beira withstand the rising seas and increased storms that experts predict will accompany global climate change.

Then Cyclone Idai hit.

It's an unfortunate fact of life — as we age, we tend to become more forgetful.

Aging brains struggle especially with working memory. Called the workbench of the mind, working memory allows us to store useful bits of information for a few seconds and use that information across different brain areas to help solve problems, plan or make decisions.

Researchers are trying to understand why this ability fades as we age and whether we can slow, or reverse, that decline.

You've probably heard statistics about how our diet affects the health of the planet. Like how a beef hamburger takes considerably more water and land to produce than a veggie burger or that around a quarter of global greenhouse gas emissions stem from food production.

Our thoughts and fears, movements and sensations all arise from the electrical blips of billions of neurons in our brain. Streams of electricity flow through neural circuits to govern these actions of the brain and body, and some scientists think that many neurological and psychiatric disorders may result from dysfunctional circuits.

There are 111,616 incarcerated women in the United States, a 7-fold increase since 1980. Some of these women are pregnant, but amid reports of women giving birth in their cells or shackled to hospital beds, prison and public health officials have no hard data on how many incarcerated women are pregnant, or on the outcomes of those pregnancies.

Precision medicine promises to tailor the diagnosis and treatment of disease to your unique genetic makeup. A doctor may use the presence of certain genetic markers to diagnose a disease, or choose one drug for treatment over another.