Rising mortality for women giving birth in the United States

While infant mortality in the U.S. is worse than the rest of the developed world, it's getting better. (See, for example, this report.) It's also worth noting that U.S. and Canadian rates looks worse partly because of differences in the ways mortality rates are calculated in different countries, though that doesn't appear to be enough to explain the difference.

(Infant mortality also varies a lot by state This chart from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention shows that babies die at a much higher rate in Ohio, Indiana, Oklahoma, Arkansas, Tennessee, Louisiana, Mississippi, Alabama, and Georgia than they do on the West Coast, New York, New Jersey, and most of New England.)

Maternal mortality, on the other hand, has been getting markedly worse in recent years. In absolute terms childbirth is nowhere near as bad as it was historically. In the U.S. fewer than 0.03 percent of live births result in the death of the mother. But that rate has gone up by more than half since the year 2000, and it's several times the rates in Canada or Western Europe.

A report by ProPublica and NPR last May suggested that part of the problem may be a focus on infant mortality that leads to a neglect of the mother's health. Here's an interview with one of the report's authors that aired last Mother's Day on the PBS NewsHour:

Link: https://youtu.be/nWUMQGD713M

Last week Samantha Bee's Full Frontal featured a segment on the problem, noting that it's even worse in rural areas, where many hospitals have been forced to shut down their maternity departments, forcing women to travel long distances for prenatal care and or to get emergency help if problems develop during the birth.

Link: https://youtu.be/CA6A3ZlGlH8

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More very short movies

Here are a couple more very short films I liked, following up on the collection of 15-minute scary films featured Monday.

Picture Perfect: 30 seconds of romance from Jay Haynes

Link: https://youtu.be/zCryyt48AAA

Early Bird: a minute of dark comedy from the HeavyMetalFlute YouTube channel

Link: https://youtu.be/GExCGPgViBo

The first was created by Jay Haynes and stars himself and his wife Jayme. Their son Neil was the camera operator. I don't know them, but Jay runs an interesting YouTube channel with tutorials explaining how to do special effect with HitFilm Pro and HitFilm Express. HitFilm is excellent video editing and effects software, and the Express version (not as powerful as Pro but still remarkably good) is free.

I know nothing about the people behind the second film except that the YouTube channel belongs to a professional musician.

The short film competition mentioned is one created by the Shiny Films YouTube channel, which also offers free filmmaking tutorials using HitFilm and the powerful free imaging and animation software Blender.

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Evidence-based approaches to discouraging drug abuse have other benefits

In a column published yesterday in The New York Times, public health researcher Austin Frakt discusses ways of attacking the deadly opioid crisis that save money, have tested with good results, and have a number of other benefits. They involve a combination of broad education and targeted intervention to discourage people from abusing addictive drugs to start with. This may sound like the old Drug Abuse Resistance Education (D.A.R.E.) programs of the past, but the new ideas appear to be more sophisticated and are borne out by research.

Obviously, it's unlikely these programs will miraculously eliminate such a large and complicate problem. But if they can reduce the harm and do so at low-enough cost, they can be worth trying. A bonus is that it appears to be possible to reduce a spectrum of bad behaviors at once -- not just drug use but bullying and some types of criminal behavior.

The Times article and the paper it references are briefly summarized by pediatrician and Indiana University professor Aaron Carroll in this video:

Link: https://youtu.be/uWY5dUtO4t0

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15-second scary movies

The 15 Second Horror Film Challenge is an international ultra-short-film competition. For more information see http://15secondhorror.ca. There you can also find out about the 2018 competition, open now until October 15.

Below are my personal favorites among the top 20 of the 2017 edition. I prefer eerie to bloody, but be warned brief gore (and a tiny bit of mildly foul language) can be found in some of the films below. I've arranged them into a viewing order that seems appropriate to me but that reflects neither by my relative rating nor the placement in the competition, though the latter can be found at the top of each video.

Paradox by Shahzad Ali

Link: https://youtu.be/5NQg5LUqe78

Emma by Daniel Limmer

Link: https://youtu.be/mto2mNFbrps

Free Fallin by Derek Bensonhaver

Link: https://youtu.be/w-PIemSOlig

Good Night by LUMA Films

Link: https://youtu.be/K8vCult4o4s

VR by Richard Addlesee

Link: https://youtu.be/OcoLm7IQ_W0

Making Faces by Andrew J.D. Robinson

Link: https://youtu.be/2DuqYmhY6hU

Bad Timing by Cameron Fife

Link: https://youtu.be/NULtV_k_dVc

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