Your Personal Health Information Isn’t as Safe as You Think It Is… Should You Care?

Today’s Twitter thread summarizes my latest publication in the American Journal of Medicine with co-author Arnold J. Rosoff, building upon a series of papers and presentations we’ve done over the past couple years on data privacy in the most personal parts of your life: your body and your health…

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Our American Discourse, Ep. 29: Speaking Your Truth — How It’s Possible to Talk About and Improve Diversity and Inclusion

Diversity and inclusion sound like universally accepted ideas, but when we try to talk about how we fall short of them and how we can improve, they become two of the most controversial political sparks in the fire that rages around our American discourse. Many people believe they can’t speak the truth in their hearts, and so they see no path forward. At the USC Price School, we have been challenging this assumption and lifting up these voices to unfurl a path that had been blocked until only recently.

In this episode, LaVonna B. Lewis tells the story of this new effort, known as the Initiative on Diversity, Inclusion, and Social Justice, and she implores us to follow the Price School’s lead in our everyday lives.

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Our Editorial in the New York Times: “We Stand For Access”

As a member of the American Society of Law, Medicine & Ethics, I’m proud to add my name to this letter to the editor in the New York Times:

To the Editor:

We, many of the nation’s health law and health policy professors from law, medical, public health and graduate schools across the United States, write to address one of the most fundamental issues impacting our country: the potential repeal and replacement of the “Affordable Care Act” (“Obamacare”). It is clear that the House-passed “American Health Care Act,” as well as the legislation likely to be considered by the Senate, will cause severe, lasting harm to all of us, especially our society’s most vulnerable and middle class.

Today we raise our voices to oppose these proposals. While the Affordable Care Act has its shortcomings that should be fixed, the current proposals are merely “repeal,” with no effective “replace.” These proposals are wrong, and must be rejected. At a time when we are seeing significant declines in the number of uninsured and inadequately insured in our country, the House and Senate proposals represent a giant step backward. By cutting Medicaid funding, eliminating federal assistance for families securing private coverage, and encouraging individuals to either not purchase insurance or to buy barebones coverage, these proposals will result in a less equitable, less accessible system of health care. Ultimately, the public’s health will decline as needed care is forestalled or not sought, and costs will rise as a shrinking pool of Americans with “good” insurance pay more to subsidize those without.

Given the many health care challenges that we face— an aging population needing an increasing amount of health care services; a young and middle age population facing growing rates of obesity, heart disease, and other chronic conditions; a rapidly expanding “gig” economy of independent contractors needing to secure insurance without employer subsidies; and a rising number of individuals addicted to new and more prevalent illegal drugs— reducing access to health care services simply cannot be an acceptable policy option.

We also are deeply concerned about what this new legislation portends for women and children. Currently, the United States leads the developed world in maternal mortality. More women die during childbirth in the United States than in any other Western nation. Despite the urgency to protect women’s health and strive for better outcomes, lawmakers have specifically targeted maternal health coverage for cuts.

The same is true for infants in the U.S, whose health care is also at risk with these proposals. Our nation ranks 50th in the world on infant mortality. By shifting more families off of Medicaid, and creating a larger uninsured and under-insured population, children’s access to health care services will decline.

The Affordable Care Act protects all Americans from discrimination based on preexisting conditions, expands coverage for mental health treatment and drug addiction, and fosters preventive care. Millions of Americans have health insurance for the first time, and we are at an all-time low in the percentage of citizens who lack coverage. The reform legislation under development proposes to wipe away these essential gains, returning Americans to the pre-Affordable Care Act era of coverage limitations and exclusions thwarting the provision of essential health care services.

In 1966, Dr. Martin Luther King explained to a group of health providers, “Of all the forms of inequality, injustice in health is the most shocking and inhumane.” We agree.

Letter to a Trump Supporter #7: Black Lives Matter

This is the seventh in my series of “Letters to a Trump Supporter,” from correspondence with a family friend who supports Mr. Trump.

Continuing our conversation about race, he sent me a video about Black Lives Matter. Again, I have to emphasize strenuously: This video will be extremely offensive to many of you. Please use your discretion in choosing whether to watch it.

Below is my response.

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Dear Mr. ——,

Thanks for passing along this video. It’s really interesting to see how much disinformation is out there about Black Lives Matter.

I debunked most of these claims in my last letter. You probably remember, for example, that poor urban whites are more likely to commit violent crimes than poor urban blacks and that the black community is more concerned about black-on-black crime than about unjust policing. So, the claim that blacks are to blame for a homicide “epidemic” is obviously untrue, and it’s equally false that the black community is ignoring the problem.

This video adds a new comparison: whether cops are more likely to use force on blacks, and if so, why.

The man in the video alleges that blacks are more violent, so it’s reasonable for cops to use force on them more often. The funny thing is, he never actually shows any evidence that cops use force because the suspect is more violent.

But we know that’s not the case.

Roland Fryer, one of the most celebrated economists in the world, published research a couple months ago showing that police officers were significantly more likely to use force on black suspects — by pushing them into walls, handcuffing them when they weren’t arresting them, drawing their weapons, pushing them to the ground, pointing a gun at them, and using pepper spray and batons on them — even if they displayed the exact same behavior as white suspects.

I’m honestly shocked that anyone would even question the notion that police officers are excessively violent toward black suspects. We all saw the videos on the news where cops clearly killed unarmed black victims. We watched them die before our eyes, and we saw that they did nothing to deserve that death. How can anyone pretend that didn’t happen?

Why would anyone not be concerned about that kind of behavior, especially when it’s repeated over and over and over?

Those videos alone are good reason for Black Lives Matter to protest. It’s pretty silly for him to claim that Democrats “need” Black Lives Matter to get elected, since Black Lives Matter is only a couple years old and Democrats have been getting elected for decades.

And it is absolutely one of the most disgusting, unconscionable things I’ve ever heard when he refers to blacks as “slaves on their vote plantation.” This man is degrading millions of human beings. He has stripped them of their dignity and their autonomy, and he has blatantly suggested that black lives don’t matter — that those people deserved to die — and that is exactly where the slogan “Black Lives Matter” came from.

This video is a perfect example of what’s wrong in America today that they are protesting. So I thank you for sending it as a reminder of that fact.

Finally, he has spent the entire video assuming that Black Lives Matter is opposed to the police. It becomes very clear at the end when he alleges that they want to remove cops from their communities. On the contrary, black communities feel that police officers have abandoned their neighborhoods; hence, the high rate of black-on-black crime and their distrust of the police. It makes perfect sense if you actually ask anyone what it’s like to live in these neighborhoods.

Obviously, he has never spoken to anyone in the Black Lives Matter movement. That’s how racism works. The racists don’t ask the victims how they really think. They don’t actually care. They have an unshakeable worldview that their victims are wrong and deserve to be oppressed.

But I understand that you really want to know what Black Lives Matter advocates want, since you sent me this video. I will tell you. They have released an entire list of solutions that you can read at this website. They include:

  1. Ending profiling and stop-and-frisks;
  2. Decriminalizing marijuana possession, loitering, and jaywalking;
  3. Creating mental health response teams that have proven to resolve many situations better than police;
  4. Disciplining officers who use excessive force;
  5. Allowing the community to give input into police policy;
  6. Establishing stricter procedures for allowable use of force;
  7. Recruiting more police officers of color;
  8. Requiring body cameras; and
  9. Ending “for-profit” policing that encourages police to take resources out of low-income communities.

These are very reasonable, centrist proposals. The only way to make Black Lives Matter sound extreme is to completely misrepresent what they say and what they believe. That is exactly what this video has done. I hope these facts help you understand the movement better, and I hope you will consider joining me in supporting them in their worthwhile efforts to make our country safer and more just.

Best regards,
Anthony

Letter to a Trump Supporter #6: Black Homicides

This is the sixth in my series of “Letters to a Trump Supporter,” from correspondence with a family friend who supports Mr. Trump.

Continuing our conversation about race, he sent me a video about violent crimes committed by black Americans. I cannot stress this enough: This video will be extremely offensive to many of you. Please use your discretion in choosing whether to watch it.

Below is my response.

~~~~~~~~~~

Dear Mr. ——,

As always, you send thought-provoking stuff. But I’m astonished that the guy in the video doesn’t ask the obvious question: Why are so many homicides committed by black Americans? There are really only two logical possibilities: Either they are innately more homicidal, or something has happened to them to put them in such a position.

The first possibility is, by definition, racism. It assumes that blacks are biologically different. Of course, any decent scientist can tell you that that’s not true, as can anyone who spends any time with black people.

The second possibility is supported by ample evidence. Blacks have faced systemic discrimination throughout American history, forcing them to live disproportionately in areas of concentrated poverty, where people are most likely to commit crimes. One of my colleagues at USC recently wrote a couple excellent blog posts on this history:

Somehow, the man in the video thinks “white liberals” use these facts as an excuse for crime. I’ve never heard any “white liberal” say such a thing. Everyone is in favor of prosecuting violent crimes. But it’s pretty simple logic that you can only prevent crimes if you understand why they’re happening. And blaming it on a person’s race is both incorrect and immoral.

The deeper problem with the argument in this video is that it reinforces the very discriminatory behavior that caused the problem in the first place! If everyone acts the way this man is telling them to — calling black people “savages” or worse, avoiding them when they walk down the street, generally thinking of them as a threat — then good, decent, law-abiding black Americans will continue to be unable to get jobs, homes, mortgages, education, or anything else of any value in society.

This is an unjust way to treat any person who hasn’t done anything wrong, and it’s an irrational way to go through life.

Every year, the number of whites killed by blacks is one-tenth the number of whites killed by other whites. The vast majority of black people, just like the vast majority of white people, pose no threat to you or me. It would be ridiculous for us to assume otherwise. Statistically, “you have more reason to be afraid of your own swimming pool than any young black man you see in a hoodie.”

And it’s completely insane to compare a black person to a wild animal, as the man in the video does. You and I cannot fathom how injurious such a comparison is to a black person (although, as empathetic human beings, we certainly should try). I have black friends who have to hear such comparisons all the time, and it makes them think that the world doesn’t understand them. It makes them think that the world is working against them. It makes them think that the world hates them.

And who can blame them? If you and I were told such things from the moment we were born, we would think the exact same things, and we would have to work immensely harder to become confident and successful because we’d be working against those stereotypes.

Also, contrary to what the man in the video says, black communities consistently express outrage at black-on-black crime, but when black people kill other black people, they usually go to prison. The system prosecutes the offender. When white cops kill black citizens, that often does not happen. Black Lives Matter is protesting this injustice, especially since it is an injustice perpetrated by the very people who are supposed to protect them.

You may have seen these protests and thought this injustice was the black community’s only concern, but that’s not even close to accurate. Within the black community, polls show that people are more worried about black-on-black crime than about unjust policing, not less.

Finally, I will wrap up this letter with the absolute dagger in the heart of this video: Poor urban whites are statistically more likely to commit violent crimes than poor urban blacks.

And with that, the man’s entire argument falls apart. It has literally nothing to do with race.

Best regards,
Anthony