Tag Archives: Health

China, America, and the International Order after the Pandemic

By Mira Rapp-Hooper – As people around the world fall ill, global markets convulse, and supply chains collapse, COVID-19 may also reorder international politics as we know it. No analyst can know when this crisis will end, much less divine the world we will meet at its conclusion. But as scholars have begun to note, it is plausible that China will emerge from the wreckage as more of a global leader than it began.

Following World War II, the United States was a chief architect of the so-called liberal international order and became its uncontested leader with the Cold War’s end. China, with its breathtaking economic growth and vast increases in military spending, has been on the ascent for decades, but long remained focused on domestic stability and the security of the Chinese Communist Party. It clambered to center stage after 2008, when the global financial crisis appeared to signal a weakening of American primacy.

China and others took the American financial stumble as a blunder of democratic capitalism, and a moment of opportunity to advance their own agendas. Under Xi Jinping, Beijing has seen the last decade as a period of “strategic opportunity” — one it did not necessarily expect to last, as it faces its own expected economic and demographic slowdowns. It built military bases in the South China Sea in contravention of international law, launched the vast and opaque Belt and Road Initiative to spread economic and political influence, doubled down on the state’s role in the economy and prejudicial policies, and coopted international human rights bodies. Along the way, it began to develop its own global governance aspirations and visions.

With the election of Donald Trump, the United States widened Beijing’s window of opportunity with its self-inflicted political convulsion. To China’s great fortune, American foreign policy was now expressly hostile to multilateral institutions, bellicose on trade, and defined national security in terms of narrow, homeland defense. To experts in the United States and abroad this looked like a willing abdication of the system the United States had constructed and led. But alongside these fears, and in another significant shift, foreign policy thinkers from both major parties increasingly agreed that the United States and China had entered a period of a great-power competition, in part, over the future of the international order and which power would set its terms.

Alone, the United States could not hope to match China’s economic and military heft in Asia. With allies by its side, America could remain peerless and manage peaceful change. Narrow unilateralism stoked renewed perceptions of further American decline and attenuated an otherwise favorable balance of power.

Enter the novel coronavirus.

It should be stunning that a virus that originated in China and spread in part due to Chinese government mismanagement may reorder the world to Beijing’s advantage, as Kurt Campbell and Rush Doshi have argued. more>

Updates from McKinsey

We’re not going back to the ‘normal’ we had before coronavirus
Our global managing partner Kevin Sneader joined Andrew Ross Sorkin on CNBC’s “Squawk Box” Wednesday, March 25, to talk live about the business implications of the coronavirus pandemic. The full interview is available now at CNBC.com. You can read all of our material on the crisis at our coronavirus insights page.
By Kevin Sneader – One thing is clear from all the conversations I’ve had: nothing is going to be the same. This is a new normal, a different way of operating.

I think for our clients, they’re worried about their employees, their customers, and cash—in that order. And they are worried about cash. Even in the health care sector, there are providers who are not getting paid right now, and they’re worried about cash flow just as players in several other sectors are.

Another reality they’re all dealing with is that people keep sending them scenarios as to how this could play out. The message we’re hearing is that the scenarios are helpful, but leaders are wondering what’s going to be true across all these scenarios. Because if it’s not going back to the way it was before, what’s the next normal? What’s the way in which we’re going to have to operate?

The reality is that consumer behavior is changing fundamentally, and so much else is changing, and the question is, “will it go back?” I think the answer in many cases is “no.”

If you think about a lot of what’s happened in the last few years, some of it’s going to be reinforced. The shift [to working] online has now been given a boost, and it’s hard to see that being taken back to where it was before.

At the same time, I think one of the biggest shifts will be the way that products reach us. For many years, we and others have been focused on efficiency: how efficiently can I run my supply chain? I think now there’s going to be a lot of conversation about, how resilient is my supply chain? more>

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Updates from McKinsey

COVID-19: Implications for business
By Matt Craven, Linda Liu, Mihir Mysore, and Matt Wilson – The coronavirus outbreak is first and foremost a human tragedy, affecting hundreds of thousands of people. It is also having a growing impact on the global economy.

At the time of writing, there have been more than 160,000 confirmed cases of COVID-19 and more than 6,000 deaths from the disease. Older people, especially, are at risk. More than 140 countries and territories have reported cases; more than 80 have confirmed local transmission. Even as the number of new cases in China is falling (to less than 20, on some days), it is increasing exponentially in Italy (doubling approximately every four days). China’s share of new cases has dropped from more than 90 percent a month ago to less than 1 percent today.

Our perspective is based on our analysis of past emergencies and our industry expertise. It is only one view, however. Others could review the same facts and emerge with a different view.

Many countries now face the need to bring widespread community transmission of coronavirus under control. While every country’s response is unique, there are three archetypes emerging—two successful and one not—that offer valuable lessons. We present these archetypes while acknowledging that there is much still to be learned about local transmission dynamics and that other outcomes are possible:

  • Extraordinary measures to limit spread. After the devastating impact of COVID-19 became evident in the Hubei province, China imposed unprecedented measures—building hospitals in ten days, instituting a “lockdown” for almost 60 million people and significant restrictions for hundreds of millions of others, and using broad-based surveillance to ensure compliance—in an attempt to combat the spread. These measures have been successful in rapidly reducing transmission of the virus, even as the economy has been restarting.
  • Gradual control through effective use of public-health best practices. South Korea experienced rapid case-count growth in the first two weeks of its outbreak, from about 100 total cases on February 19 to more than 800 new cases on February 29. Since then, the number of new cases has dropped steadily, though not as steeply as in China. This was achieved through rigorous implementation of classic public-health tools, often integrating technology.
  • Unsuccessful initial control, leading to overwhelmed health systems. In some outbreaks where case growth has not been contained, hospital capacity has been overwhelmed. The disproportionate impact on healthcare workers and lack of flexibility in the system create a vicious cycle that makes it harder to bring the epidemic under control.

Based on new information that emerged last week, we have significantly updated and simplified our earlier scenarios. more>

Updates from ITU

Let’s work together to improve road safety. Technology will be key.
By Yushi Torigoe – There is great concern that road traffic accidents kill more than 1.35 million people every year and are the leading cause of death for children and young adults aged 5-29 years.

Road traffic accidents cost most countries 3 per cent of their gross domestic product.

The numbers are indeed, alarming!

The 3rd Global Ministerial Conference on Road Safety was an opportunity for a dialogue on how we can provide access to safe, affordable, accessible and sustainable transport systems for all.

It is clear that while some countries have made progress on road safety in the past decade through better road safety legislation on speeding, drink driving, seatbelt use, wearing helmets, for example, much more can be done, and we need a set of innovative solutions to save lives on the world’s roads.

Participants at the Conference agreed that intensifying international cooperation and multilateralism through engagement with all relevant actors, including the private sector, is necessary to achieve global road safety targets – including the Sustainable Development Goal target 3.6 – to reduce road traffic fatalities and injuries by half.

We need to put an end to a silo mentality, when it comes to dealing with a global problem. more>

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Simple steps to reduce the odds of a global catastrophe

By Warwick J. McKibbin and David Levine – The novel coronavirus COVID-19 may become a footnote in history – a disaster narrowly averted. It could also become a global pandemic similar to some of the worst pandemics of the twentieth century.

For example, assume the COVID-19 is as easy to spread and as dangerous as the 1957 Asian flu. Based on the epidemiological estimates of mortality and morbidity rates from that experience, our best estimate from a 2006 study on pandemics was that such a virus might kill more than 14 million people and shrink global GDP by more than $500 billion  (McKibbin and Alexandro Sidorenko. Global macroeconomic consequences of pandemic influenza. Australian National University, 2006). These estimates are far higher than the costs were in 1957 because our world is increasingly connected and urban. Preliminary results currently being updated  in 2020 suggest even higher numbers for worse case COVID-19.

We hope that scientists can rapidly develop a vaccine. Unfortunately, there is much we do not yet know about this new virus.

At the same time, we do know the virus mostly spreads when people sneeze or cough. The germs then spread when people inhale infected droplets. The germs also land on surfaces. People who touch their own mucus or an infected surface then spread the virus on their hands. For most respiratory infections, perhaps half the cases spread from people’s hands.

Fortunately, even without a vaccine, we already know how to slow an epidemic of respiratory infections.

If everyone coughed or sneezed into their elbow or a tissue (not into the air or on their hands), the germs would not travel very far. And if everyone washed hands with soap before preparing food or eating, that route of transmission would end. more>

Updates from Chicago Booth

A plain way to cut smoking rates
By Meredith Lidard Kleeman – Tobacco has been a known carcinogen for more than 50 years, yet cigarettes continue to attract new smokers to the harmful, addictive habit every day. Research suggests that marketing, including package labels and brand logos, plays an important role in encouraging young people to take up smoking and legitimizing the habit for many smokers who are trying to quit—and that policy makers may have a way to change that.

In recent years, some 120 countries have added mandatory pictorial health warnings to packaging, and a handful have passed plain-packaging laws. These efforts to discourage new smokers and reduce tobacco-related disease and deaths appear to be working. Australia, the first country to implement a plain-packaging mandate, in 2012, saw monthly cigarette sales decline after the mandate was introduced, according to research from Chicago Booth’s Pradeep K. Chintagunta, Deakin University’s André Bonfrer, University of New South Wales’s John Roberts, and University of South Australia’s David Corkindale.

The researchers analyzed sales data from before and after Australia implemented the plain-packaging mandate and compared these with data from New Zealand, where the mandate hadn’t yet been imposed (but was in 2018)

Across the world, tobacco products are subject to strict marketing and advertising regulations, but tobacco marketers still control packaging design in most respects. Australia’s plain-packaging mandate presented the researchers with an opportunity to study the role this packaging plays in influencing product sales. more>

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Updates from Georgia Tech

Scientists Transform Barbecue Lighter Into a High-Tech Lab Device
By Josh Brown – Researchers have devised a straightforward technique for building a laboratory device known as an electroporator – which applies a jolt of electricity to temporarily open cell walls – from inexpensive components, including a piezoelectric crystal taken from a butane lighter.

Plans for the device, known as the ElectroPen, are being made available, along with the files necessary for creating a 3D-printed casing.

“Our goal with the ElectroPen was to make it possible for high schools, budget-conscious laboratories, and even those working in remote locations without access to electricity to perform experiments or processes involving electroporation,” said M. Saad Bhamla, an assistant professor in Georgia Tech’s School of Chemical and Biomolecular Engineering. “This is another example of looking for ways to bypass economic limitations to advance scientific research by putting this capability into the hands of many more scientists and aspiring scientists.”

In a study reported January 10 in the journal PLOS Biology and sponsored by the National Science Foundation and the National Institutes of Health, the researchers detail the method for constructing the ElectroPen, which is capable of generating short bursts of more than 2,000 volts needed for a wide range of laboratory tasks.

One of the primary jobs of a cell membrane is to serve as a protective border, sheltering the inner workings of a living cell from the outside environment.

But all it takes is a brief jolt of electricity for that membrane to temporarily open and allow foreign molecules to flow in — a process called electroporation, which has been used for decades in molecular biology labs for tasks ranging from bacterial detection to genetic engineering. more>

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Another year of living dangerously

Twenty twenty will be another year of living dangerously if short-term policies continue to be pursued at the expense of long-term vision.
By Isabel Ortiz – The year 2019 ended with widespread demonstrations, rising inequality and a crisis of representation in many countries. The world is sleepwalking toward recession and a new crisis, while depleting the environment. Governments, and ultimately people, can reverse these alarming trends in 2020.

Sixty-one countries will have presidential or parliamentary elections in 2020. Many citizens are tired of conventional orthodox policies; they want change, and they will choose new parties as a way to achieve this.

This is an important opportunity to redress the current situation, but many of the new emerging leaders are far-right demagogues who blame today’s problems on social-welfare policies, migrants and the poor, while aiming to remove all remaining constraints on capital. As in the United Kingdom, many whom neoliberalism has harmed will vote for these politicians, making the world a more unequal and riskier place.

A lot will be decided in the United States, still the world’s hegemonic power. How US citizens (many without much knowledge of global affairs) vote in the 2020 presidential election will have profound consequences for the rest of the planet’s citizens.

The US president, Donald Trump, has already had a big impact on the world, eroding multilateral institutions, trade agreements and global initiatives as part of his ‘America First’ agenda. Despite the populist rhetoric, Americans in the main have benefited little. more>

Updates from Chicago Booth

Want to be happier? Give more to others
By Alice G. Walton – There’s scientific evidence, it turns out, to back up centuries-old religious teachings that it’s better to give than to receive. Chicago Booth’s Ed O’Brien and Northwestern PhD candidate Samantha Kassirer find that giving to others might make you happier in the long run and has staying power, whereas the joy of receiving fades quickly.

In an experiment, the researchers gave college students $5 for five days in a row and told them to spend it the same way each day. Half of the students were instructed to spend the money on themselves, say by buying a coffee daily. The other half were told to spend the money on others, for example by donating to a single charity or leaving a tip in the same coffee shop each day. Every night, the participants completed a survey in which they reported how they felt overall that day.

The happiness level of the students who spent money on themselves declined over the five days, the researchers find. But for those who donated the money, their happiness level on the fifth day was similarly high as on the first. more>

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Updates from Chicago Booth

How racial bias infected a major health-care algorithm
By Jeff Cockrell – As data science has developed in recent decades, algorithms have come to play a role in assisting decision-making in a wide variety of contexts, making predictions that in some cases have enormous human consequences. Algorithms may help decide who is admitted to an elite school, approved for a mortgage, or allowed to await trial from home rather than behind bars.

But there are well-publicized concerns that algorithms may perpetuate or systematize biases. And research by University of California at Berkeley’s Ziad Obermeyer, Brian Powers of Boston’s Brigham and Women’s Hospital, Christine Vogeli of Partners HealthCare, and Chicago Booth’s Sendhil Mullainathan finds that one algorithm, used to make an important health-care determination for millions of patients in the United States, produces racially biased results.

The algorithm in question is used to help identify candidates for enrollment in “high-risk care management” programs, which provide additional resources and attention to patients with complex health needs. Such programs, which can improve patient outcomes and reduce costs, are employed by many large US health systems, and therefore the decision of whom to enroll affects tens of millions of people. The algorithm assigns each patient a risk score that is used to guide enrollment decisions: a patient with a risk score in the 97th percentile and above is automatically identified for enrollment, while one with a score from the 55th to 96th percentiles is flagged for possible enrollment depending on input from the patient’s doctor.

Obermeyer, Powers, Vogeli, and Mullainathan find that black patients are on average far less healthy than white patients assigned the same score. For instance, for patients with risk scores in the 97th percentile of the researchers’ sample, black patients had on average 26 percent more chronic illnesses than white patients did. The result of this bias: black patients were significantly less likely to be identified for program enrollment than they would have been otherwise. Due to algorithmic bias, 17.7 percent of patients automatically identified for enrollment were black; without it, the researchers calculate, 46.5 percent would have been black.

The bias stems from what the algorithm is being asked to predict. more>

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