FDA Changes Position on BPA

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As a member of Better Health Network of medical bloggers, I had an opportunity to participate in a briefing on bisphenol A (BPA) in December. You can listen to the briefing read up about issues surrounding BPA here. This is an important story which will probably receive more attention as we learn more about the safety of BPA.

On Friday, the FDA changed its position regarding BPA over concerns about the chemical which is used in a wide range of consumer products from water bottles to baby bottles. The FDA is now expressing its intent to seek and fund more studies on the public health safety of BPA.

The BPA story has been a long-running controversy and provides us with a good view of the intersection of public health, scientific rigor, commercial enterprise, government regulation, the spread of memes via social media and the economic consequences of public policy.

If it turned out, on solid scientific grounds, that BPA does indeed pose a threat what would be the economic consequences of revocation and remediation? This isn’t to equate money with life or health – but it is a point about the important role that scientific rigor has in how we produce goods.

In an age of instantaneous propagation of information (either good or bad), how do we filter out the right data from the wrong? Additionally, given that public debates are necessarily human in nature (that is to say, emotional), how do we ensure that reasoning minds appropriately congregate so we achieve the clearest results?

What do you think of the FDA’s change in stance with respect to BPA? Do you think public debates on matters like BPA safety are healthy?

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Foursquare Is Powerful Enough to Cure Insomnia and Depression

So¬† I’ve been toying around with Silicon Valley’s latest toy Foursquare. I realize geolocation services are going to become very big this year as mobile and social become more common. But sometimes I wonder how carried away evangelists can get sometimes.

Anyhoo, I haven’t seriously used Foursquare but have been intruiged by its usage – it seems a lof of people on Twitter love to use the service and tell everybody that they became Mayor of Casterbridge or some such place. Harmless fun I suppose.

So I decided to see how useful this service could be. Does it have a place in health care? How can Foursquare be re-purposed for more utilitarian goals beyond telling friends what watering hole you’re Mayor of? (See note below this post.)

What if you could “check into” emotional places or disease states? (Yes, I like taking it to the absurd.) Foursquare doesn’t let you do that – not for very long at least. I can see how spam could become an issue for Foursquare (I’m probably not the only joker doing these sort of things). So here’s what I did: I added the items Insomnia and Clinical Depression and linked to them on Twitter. A few hours later, Foursquare removed (or “closed”) these places. Here are screenshots:

So wow! Foursquare could end Insomnia and Clinical Depression! Score one for Social Media!!!

I’m all for using social media for all sorts of things. And I’m sure Foursquare has its uses. But I also sense that social media mania may be getting out of hand. I wonder if the majority of the adopters of these servcies have a clear purpose in mind before they adopt them. Or are they just adopting them because they exist, with some getting lucky in finding purpose after?

What do you think? Do you use Foursquare? How do you use it?

On a more serious note, I’d like to add that perhaps we could take some inspiration from this sarcastic use of Foursquare – along the lines of a service which enables people with similar issues (diseases, practical problems, political affiliations, industries, etc.). A sort of mashup of Twitter and Foursquare and Yelp and Get Satisfaction.

Foursquare is based on one simple piece of meta-data – geolocation. It’s the primary social object around which all other social objects and behaviors and meta-data orbit.

But there are all kinds of meta-data. Think about that, developers.

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Be A Linchpin Instead of a Cog – Reading Seth Godin

I received my advanced copy of Seth Godin’s Linchpin: Are You Indispensable and will review the book shortly. Seth has a knack for simple and light analogies that do heavy lifting. Cogs are dispensable; linchpins aren’t. As the Technology expands its dominance, The Age of the Cog is giving way to the Age of the Linchpin and Seth sets out to explain how any of us can achieve indispensability.

After reading the first few chapters, it’s clear that Seth provides us with a fresh historical perspective of how our civilization came to be dominated by the Cog-mentality. The ways in which we learned to do business, plan our careers and live our lives largely stemmed from the emergence of factory-like processes that consumed global economies.

But a new technological order is upending the status quo of the factory and the cog. Stability was a luxury that is now vanishing speedily. Replacing the stable order of things is a rapidly evolving Web. Seth sets out to offer us a way out of our fears of change: to become a linchpin – an indispensable presence in the world. It’s a difficult task, but increasingly a paramount one.

What’s the cost of maintaining the Cog system? Seth explains:

“…legions of frustrated workers, wasted geniuses each and every one of them, working like automatons, racing against the clock to crank out another policy, get through another interaction, see another patient.”

For those of you in the healthcare industry: does this sound painfully familiar? We really do need a re-frame of just how much the Technological mentality has influenced everything we do. And I’m glad that Seth – even if he might not realize it – is giving us a way to do such a re-framing.

I look forward to digesting Linchpin and conveying my thoughts and a full review in future posts. You can view of list of reviews and tweets about Linchpin here.

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