This week's mass shooting of elementary schoolers in Texas (just 10 days after a racially motivated mass shooting at a Buffalo, New York, grocery store) has reignited the gun debate in Washington, D.C., and around the country. But the political disagreements over guns and their appropriate role in American society are as insoluble as ever.
Meanwhile, Oklahoma becomes the first state to try to ban all abortions, as the nation awaits the Supreme Court's ruling in a case it is expected to use to overturn the landmark Roe v. Wade decision.
And on Capitol Hill, lawmakers criticize the FDA for its handling of the infant formula shortage, rekindling a debate over whether food should be regulated by a separate agency.
This week's panelists are Julie Rovner of KHN, Joanne Kenen of the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health and Politico, Anna Edney of Bloomberg News, and Rachana Pradhan of KHN.
Among the takeaways from this week's episode:
- Although much of the nation has been riveted by the May 24 shooting in Uvalde, Texas, thousands of Americans are killed each year in gun violence that doesn't make headlines. More than half of those deaths are suicides and many others result from isolated shootings.
- Despite an epidemic of gun violence, the regulation of guns in the U.S. has declined in the past couple of decades. Not only did the federal assault weapons ban expire, but many states have moved to make guns easier to purchase and own.
- Since the Columbine High School shooting in Littleton, Colorado, in 1999, an entire generation has come of age with the prospect of violence hitting their schools. The oldest of those people are sending their own children to schools where shooting drills are a fact of life.
- Texas officials have said that the Uvalde shooting demonstrates a need for more security in schools but that adding metal detectors and more guards do not necessarily make children feel safe, especially in communities where they may have reason to fear the police, too.
- In a congressional hearing this week, lawmakers blasted the FDA for its slow response to reports that an Abbott infant formula plant in Michigan had extreme contamination problems and its handling of the aftermath when that plant closed and formula became scarce. The issue points up difficulties at the FDA when it was trying to deal with the covid pandemic and was also without a permanent leader. The Biden administration was slow to nominate anyone to head the agency; Dr. Robert Califf didn't take the helm until earlier this year.
- The infant formula problems have renewed a debate about whether food safety should be placed under the purview of a new, separate agency since the FDA is so busy handling drug and medical device issues.
- A report out this week from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention finds that 1 in 5 adults who get covid will develop longer-term problems that can include neurological issues and some organ disorders. The study of long covid, however, has left many questions unanswered, including whether vaccination reduces the number of cases and how long the problems last.
- The high number of long-covid cases identified in the report suggests that there could be a significant increase in the population of people needing disability services.
- As the country awaits a decision by the Supreme Court on the future of access to abortion services guaranteed by its 1973 Roe v. Wade decision, states continue to enact restrictive laws. Oklahoma's governor this week signed a law that bans abortion from the time of fertilization. Some companies have pledged to help workers travel to get abortion services, but that may run afoul of states' efforts. Texas lawmakers say they want to stop businesses from providing that benefit.
Also this week, Rovner interviews Dr. Richard Baron, president and CEO of the American Board of Internal Medicine. Baron co-authored a recent article in the New England Journal of Medicine about how the medical community should deal with doctors who spread medical misinformation on social media.
Plus, for extra credit, the panelists recommend their favorite health policy stories of the week they think you should read, too:
Julie Rovner: "Strangerville" podcast's "Episode 203: Jacob," by Jessica and Justin Van Wyen
Joanne Kenen: NBC News' podcast "Needle In/Tiffany Dover Is Dead*" by Brandy Zadrozny
Anna Edney: ProPublica's "The Plot to Keep Meatpacking Plants Open During COVID-19," by Michael Grabell
Rachana Pradhan: The Washington Post's "We're Ignoring a Major Culprit Behind the Teen Mental Health Crisis," by Heather Turgeon and Julie Wright
Also discussed on this week's podcast:
Vox.com's "The School Shooting Generation Grows Up," by Marin Cogan
Stat's "Viruses That Were on Hiatus During Covid Are Back — And Behaving in Unexpected Ways," by Helen Branswell
The New York Times' "More Than 1 in 5 Adult Covid Survivors in the U.S. May Develop Long Covid, a C.D.C. Study Suggests," by Pam Belluck
The Texas Tribune's "Businesses That Help Employees Get Abortions Could Be Next Target of Texas Lawmakers if Roe v Wade Is Overturned," by Zach Despart
This article was reprinted from khn.org with permission from the Henry J. Kaiser Family Foundation. Kaiser Health News, an editorially independent news service, is a program of the Kaiser Family Foundation, a nonpartisan health care policy research organization unaffiliated with Kaiser Permanente.