Longer Looks: Interesting Reads You Might Have Missed

Each week, KHN finds longer stories for you to enjoy. This week’s selections include stories on Facebook, wood-burning stoves, covid, genital mutilation, and more.

Facebook Researchers Find Its Apps Can Make Us Lonelier

Loneliness has come into sharper focus at Meta during the Covid-19 pandemic, as people use its social media apps as alternatives to in-person experiences. Meta has promoted its role as a digital connector, running ads touting its groups and messaging products. “We change the game when we find each other,” reads a tagline for one of its recent commercials. But internally, employees are questioning their products’ impact on mental health. Meta wants to address the problem but doesn’t know how. Internal research shows that a given feature — such as one that shows people photo memories — can spark feelings of connection for some and sadness for others. Regulators, meanwhile, are already probing whether Meta’s Instagram harms young people. (Nix and Wagner, 3/2)

Wood-Burning Stoves Raise New Health Concerns

When Susan Remmers moved into her home in Portland, Oregon, she thought she’d live there for the rest of her life. Remmers, a 58-year-old with a mobility disability, planned to outfit the house with ramps to be wheelchair accessible, and she viewed her 2012 purchase as an investment in her and her partner’s future. But within months of moving in, she noticed grey smoke billowing from the chimney of the house next door. Next, she says, came the sore throats, headaches, and tight lungs. Remmers had no history of respiratory issues, but by 2016 she ended up in the emergency room in the middle of the night when she had trouble breathing. She was pretty sure that the source was the smoke, and says that she asked her neighbor to stop burning wood for heat. But he kept doing it, as did other neighbors in her quiet residential neighborhood on the city’s northeast edge. Now, almost 10 years after moving in, Remmers is desperately trying to leave the home she once saw as a haven. (Kruzman, 3/2)

The Wall Street Journal:
Companies Bet You’re Ready To Test At Home For More Than Covid-19 

The Covid-19 pandemic has hastened consumers’ willingness to test for more medical conditions at home, test makers said, expanding the market for self-diagnostic products. Manufacturers are developing new types of at-home tests, including for flu and strep throat, aimed at consumers who are increasingly monitoring and managing their own health through fitness apps and smartwatches. (Hufford, 3/3)

NBC News:
First To Cancel Sports In 2020, Chicago State University Quietly Set Pivotal Trend

Elliott Charles, a young administrator at Chicago State University, feared he’d “committed career suicide” two years ago when he made the unprecedented decision to cancel basketball games over a budding health crisis. The move on March 4, 2020, made the little-known school the first sports program from North America’s four major sports leagues or NCAA Division I to cancel games because of the coronavirus pandemic. (Li, 3/4)

In Somaliland, COVID Brings ‘Cutters’ Door To Door For Girls 

Safia Ibrahim’s business was in trouble. COVID-19 had taken hold in Somaliland, in the Horn of Africa. The 50-year-old widow with 10 children to support set out door to door on the capital’s outskirts, a razor at hand, taking advantage of the lockdown to seek work with a question: Have your daughters been cut? Her business is female circumcision, learned at the age of 15, performed hundreds of times and now being passed along to her daughters. She congratulates young girls upon completing the procedure: “Pray for me, I’ve made you a woman now.” She believes her work keeps girls pure for marriage. “This is our Somali culture. Our great-grandmothers, grandfathers — all of them used to practice,” she said, even though she now knows there’s no medical or even religious reason for the removal of external genitalia, which can cause excessive bleeding, problems with urination and childbirth, infections and even death. But it remains legal in Somaliland, so Ibrahim will continue until authorities tell her to stop. (Anna, 2/28)

On TV and in print —

The Wall Street Journal:
‘The Dropout’ Review: Out For Blood At Theranos 

Elizabeth Holmes, who rode Silicon Valley’s “fake it till you make it” ethos all the way to a four-count felony conviction, isn’t interesting because she’s a victim. She’s interesting because, by every indication, she’s a sociopath. And yet, by the end of episode 1 of Hulu’s dramatic series “The Dropout,” a viewer will be wondering if the subject’s misbehavior is going to be blamed on her chilly mother, her feckless father, her own frigidity, mean girls, a sexual assault at Stanford, or the fact that she couldn’t run as fast as the other kids in grade school. (Anderson, 2/28)

Book Excerpt: The Lockdown Diaries Of Wuhan

Old Ji is a 40-something delivery driver employed by Meituan, one of China’s biggest online platforms for shopping and retail services. After Wuhan was locked down, Old Ji posted his first Weibo message on Jan. 24, 2020: “#Wuhan novel coronavirus# It’s coming to me closer and closer.” The message was posted with two photos. One photo shows three people in full PPE entering a building in a residential community. The other is of an “urgent notice” issued by the property-management office of his community, notifying residents that a couple had contracted the virus and were under quarantine at home. The notice urged residents not to leave home but if they had to, to wear face masks. (Yang, 3/4)

This is part of the KHN Morning Briefing, a summary of health policy coverage from major news organizations. Sign up for an email subscription.

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