Editorial pages focus on these health topics and others.

Broken U.S. Health Care System Causes High Maternal Death Rate 

The U.S. has a weirdly high maternal death rate. It’s a symptom of a sick health care system. The number of women dying of complications of pregnancy and childbirth is going down in all developed countries except the United States. New statistics released last week show that the U.S. maternal death rate has continued to climb, and is now four to six times higher than in many European countries. (Faye Flam, 2/9)

The Wall Street Journal:
How To Improve Health Outcomes For Older Americans

I recently cared for a 70-year-old man in the resuscitation bay of my hospital’s emergency department. His blood pressure was low, his skin mottled, his stench foul. Ambulance personnel told us he was “found down” by a neighbor. His home was in disarray. Evidently, no one had cleaned it in weeks. His shins were partially covered with dressings that desperately needed changing. His toes were infected—red, swollen and draining. (Elizabeth Goldberg, 2/9)

The Washington Post:
The Vaping Ban Is Here, And It’s Already Out Of Date

The Food and Drug Administration’s ban on some of the most popular types of flavored e-cigarettes came into force on Thursday. Except FDA officials want to be clear that it is not technically a ban — it is a “guidance” on how federal regulators will wield their wide-ranging enforcement powers — which means that the potentially deadly gaps in the policy are not really “loopholes,” they argue. The FDA, they stress, can use its powers anytime it wants to crack down on any e-cigarette product that seems to be marketed to or hooking children, whether or not it was specifically mentioned in the enforcement policy. (2/8)

Miami Herald:
1 In 5 Kids Say They Were Victims Of Cyberbullying: UM Study

A team of University of Miami Health System researchers recently completed a study of 50 adolescents who were admitted for inpatient psychiatric care. We asked them all if they had been cyberbullied, with what online platforms, and examined the consequences. We learned a few important things about cyberbullying. Despite previous estimates of cyberbullying that ranged up to 35% of children and adolescents with an online presence, we found that 20% of people in the study had been cyberbullied. (Philip Harvey, 2/7)

The Hill:
The Dangers Of Criminalizing Medical Care For Trans Youth

In the past month, at least six states have introduced bills to charge doctors with a felony for providing medical and surgical treatment to transgender youth. The bills’ titles appear to suggest they will protect vulnerable children, when in fact, they may accomplish the opposite. I am a pediatrician and adolescent medicine specialist at Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia, where I co-founded a clinic that provides medical care and psychosocial support to more than 1,400 transgender youth. I know firsthand what legislation like this could mean for my patients and the more than 1  percent of U.S. youth who identify as transgender or gender-diverse. (Nadia Dowshen, 2/8)

The Washington Post:
Embryo Freezing Was A Way To Preserve Our Fertility Until We Were Ready For Parenthood. A Decade Later, We Have A Baby Boy.

We welcomed our new baby boy 18 months ago. He is here because 10 years ago, when I was 30 and my husband was 32, we underwent IVF to create and then freeze embryos. Back then, we were not ready to be parents. But we knew of the looming risks of infertility, miscarriage and genetic disorders if we waited too long. So we turned to what I called “Preservation IVF” in a Washington Post story. Our baby is proof that this can work and help so many future couples wanting to delay parenthood. (Gillian St. Lawrence, 2/8)

Armchair Philosophizing Doesn’t Help Conscious Patients In Vegetative States

“Imagine.” This word let a severely brain injured patient tell neuroscientists she was still conscious using only her thoughts. …By using their imaginations, a portion of patients with unresponsive wakefulness syndrome can show that they are still conscious. But we must do more than just imagine what their lives are like. (Mackenzie Graham, Adrian M. Owen and Charles Weijer, 2/10)

The New York Times:
Why Are You Still Packing Lunch For Your Kids?

Parents today face a steady stream of advice about how best to care for their children. Mothers, in particular, are pressured to be the perfect parent: Most of the advice on social media and parenting blogs is directed at them. How to feed the kids gets a lot of the attention. Sending children off to school carrying a healthy, made-from-scratch lunch is one of the ways that (mostly) mothers are encouraged to protect their children from the harmful effects of the industrialized food system. (Jennifer Gaddis, 2/10)

Kansas City Star:
KS Abortion Amendment Fails Due To House’s August Obsession

Passing legislation on abortion will never, ever be easy. It’s just too personal, too far-reaching, too politically radioactive. But Kansas legislators could have made their vote on a constitutional amendment to allow legal restrictions on the procedure a little easier — and more successful — if they hadn’t tried to shoehorn the public vote on it into the August primary. Instead the amendment failed in the House Friday 80-43, four votes short of the 84, or two-thirds, required for a constitutional amendment — with several representatives saying they voted against it because they were opposed to holding the public vote in the sparsely populated August election. (2/7)

The Star Tribune:
Get To ‘Yes’ Swiftly On Minnesota Insulin Bill

State lawmakers will return to the Capitol Tuesday. If they care about having a healthy, productive session, they ought to heed an early diagnosis from one of their physician colleagues, Sen. Scott Jensen, R-Chaska. An emergency insulin assistance bill needs to pass early in the session, Jensen said. This legislation, which would provide this lifesaving medication to diabetics who can’t afford a new supply, got lost in last year’s end-of-session chaos. Despite vows to pass it in a special session, and despite a flurry of offers exchanged in January between House DFLers and Senate Republicans, there was no special session and nothing has been enacted. That’s left insulin advocates rightly angry and energized. (2/7)

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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