Blood pressure on the go

The 511 / November 11, 2020

For information in the 20th century, we called 411. The 511 includes: 

  • a handful of paragraphs about health tech or some other science-y thing
  • 1 sentence for reflection (and maybe a laugh), and 
  • 1 track I’ve currently got in heavy rotation.

Take care of your heart! No pressure

As a DIY bike mechanic, I like to fix things that are broken. I even like to fix things that aren’t broken. Luckily, our doctors don’t tend to our health the way I tend to my bikes. And, for every check-up during my lifetime, two technologies remain unbroken: the stethoscope and the blood pressure cuff. If the blood pressure cuff is not broken, though, it’s not exactly comfortable either, and it’s been that way since 1881. (Thank you, Samuel Siegfried Karl von Basch.) In fact, it can be painful for kids, grown-ups, and seniors alike.

There is, as you might have guessed, another and considerably better way to measure blood pressure. At Blumio, a medtech start-up led by Oliver Shay and Catherine Liao, they are developing new wearable technologies based on a novel and brilliant idea:

Cuffless BP monitoring can be made possible with a pressure-less sensing modality that can capture arterial pressure waveform with the same sensitivity as applanation tonometry.

From https://www.blumio.com/science/

Let’s unpack that last phrase first. Applanation tonometry is about accuracy and sensitivity. It’s a test that measures the amount of pressure necessary to flatten a portion of your cornea, which allows your doctor to monitor your eyes for glaucoma. Blumio’s “pressure-less sensing modality” offers continuous monitoring of your blood pressure using a radar-based sensor. With precision medicine all the rage, along with too many Americans consumed by rage (do you really see that changing in 2021?), Blumio’s wearable sensor represents a major tech breakthrough to help Americans with their hypertension (1 in 3 adults) and cardiovascular disease (1 in 4 deaths: the leading cause of death in the US). Blumio provides real-time monitoring of the impact of alcohol, smoking, drugs, exercise and diet (finally!) on blood pressure.

“This contextualized information will ultimately provide insights into how behaviors, medicines, and other drugs impact blood pressure”: from the abstract of Blumio’s 2018 award from the NIH.

Dear reader: do you think that will be enough, say, to reverse the downward trend on American life expectancy? American life expectancy peaked in 2014, while the golden years of friendly neighbors to the north — and just about every other country where we have military personnel — continue to grow and grow.

Source: https://tinyurl.com/y3vuh2zj.

To be clear: I don’t expect the lovely folks at Blumio to be solely responsible for this task, for it’s clear who is responsible: we the people. As I write, of course, we as a country are less than a week removed from the calling of the 2020 election. Liberals, as well as members of Trump’s inner circle, have breathed a sigh of relief. Despite the administration’s constant assault on evidence-based protocols, science will rise again from the ashes.

Science, though, only thrives if its audience is paying attention. Yes, we’re all caught up in the distraction machine, but we also face duress due to policies — combined with market forces — that no longer work on behalf of millions of Americans. “Almost a third of working Americans currently have some kind of medical debt,” according to a recent report by Salary Report for NBC. “And about 28% of those who have an outstanding balance owe $10,000 or more on their bills.” That financial stress leads Americans to ration their healthcare. A full 33% of uninsured Americans — and even 8% of people with private health insurance — take their medicine on a drawn out schedule, rather than as prescribed.

With the expansion of the gig economy, and industry contraction during the pandemic, life for millions of Americans lacks the anchors of steady work, affordable insurance, and strong public education. “The infinite promise of American youth — a promise elaborately articulated by movies and advertisements and university prospectuses — has been an empty lie for so long,” notes novelist Zadie Smith, “that I notice my students joking about it with a black humor more appropriate to old men, to the veterans of wars.”

Her students, Smith notes, cling to their “writing style,” for they have so little else to fall back on. Does that same sense of being adrift characterize the political investments of adult Americans, too? Do we cling to our candidates and parties because everything else — including healthcare, especially — is fraught with contingency?

Should a Biden administration expand the reach of the Affordable Care Act and, in turn, reverse the curve of American life expectancy, maybe our next presidential election — and our politics in general — tax our cardiovascular health at a lower rate.

5(1)1 — On life from the vantage point of bike saddle

“When the spirits are low, when the day appears dark, when work becomes monotonous, when hope hardly seems worth having, just mount a bicycle and go out for a spin down the road, without thought on anything but the ride you are taking.”

Sir Arthur Conan Doyle (1859 – 1930), author of Sherlock Holmes
51(1) — In rotation: Portugal. The Man’s “Feel It Still”

“Feel It Still” celebrates 1966, a great year for rock’n’roll, and 1986, a great year for post-punk pop. My daughter has requested a household moratorium on this tune, but I can still share it with you. Enjoy!

FeelItStill.jpg

If you have a favorite remix of this tune, let me know!

If you like this stuff, and you know someone interested in health, leadership, and music, all mixed up with a dash of humor, please spread the word.

I’m also on this thing called Twitter (@randaldoane). While it may be a passing fad, drop me a note, if you like what you see.

If you want to talk about a grant proposal you’re working on, or a newsletter that needs more pop, drop me a line over here.

Cheers!

Sources

System and method for cardiovascular health monitoring. Patent application # US20190282106A1, United States. https://patents.google.com/patent/US20190282106A1/en.

“32% of American workers have medical debt—and over half have defaulted on it.” CNBC. February 13, 2020. https://www.cnbc.com/2020/02/13/one-third-of-american-workers-have-medical-debt-and-most-default.html

FEASIBILITY STUDY OF A NOVEL NONINVASIVE RF SENSOR FOR BLOOD PRESSURE MEASUREMENTS. NIH RePORT. 2018. https://projectreporter.nih.gov/project_info_description.cfm?aid=9679554&icde=0

“The Trump Administration Has Attacked Science 100 Times … and Counting,” Scientific American, May 29, 2019. https://blogs.scientificamerican.com/observations/the-trump-administration-has-attacked-science-100-times-and-counting/ .

“How does U.S. life expectancy compare to other countries?” KFF. https://www.healthsystemtracker.org/chart-collection/u-s-life-expectancy-compare-countries/.

http://www.nytimes.com/2020/07/22/books/review-intimations-essays-zadie-smith.html

# # #

Healthcare and the four freedoms

The 511

For information in the 20th century, we called 411. The 511 includes: 

  • a handful of paragraphs about health tech or some other science-y thing
  • 1 sentence for reflection (and maybe a laugh), and 
  • 1 track I’ve currently got in heavy rotation.

Talking with the SCOTUS about freedoms

And then there were nine. Justice Amy Coney Barrett gets some new threads for her wardrobe — just in time to determine the fate of the Affordable Care Act, it seems. Barrett, of course, made headlines when asked to list the five freedoms of the First Amendment: “Speech, religion, press, assembly … I don’t know — what am I missing?” Senator Ben Sasse tossed her the bone of “redress” of grievances. Here’s the full text:

First Amendment Rights - The Association for Women in Communications
The Constitution, from back in the day.

Great stuff, but let’s go bigger — namely, back to FDR’s State of the Union, 1941. The “Four Freedoms Speech” highlighted the freedoms of speech and worship (codified above), along with the freedoms from want and from fear. In this speech (full text here), FDR acknowledged that democracies in Europe were under assault and the US had an obligation to defend its allies. The freedom from want and the freedom from fear, respectively, appealed to the universal need — the human right — for economic security and freedom from aggression between nations.

Now it took awhile, but shortly after the close of the cold war, global poverty declined year over year for 25 years — until this year. War, of course, remains an all-too-steady feature of contemporary life.

I want to focus here on want as a key feature of American health disparities across racialized lines. For example: Black Americans aged 35 to 44 experience Covid-19 mortality rates that are nine times higher than their white counterparts. In pre-pandemic times, disparities in life expectancy were comparably frightful. “For COVID-19 to raise mortality as much as racial inequality does,” notes Elizabeth Wrigley-Field, “it would need to erase two to three decades of mortality progress for whites.”

Back to want and fear (in a more general sense): the two go hand-in-hand. The eight million Americans who have fallen below the poverty line since May (and, presumably, lost their employment-tied healthcare) have a right to be terrified. No pandemic-related relief is expected from Congress for another three weeks. (Recent studies indicate that over 114 million Americans lack health insurance or are underinsured.)

So … I’m just mapping out some parameters here, a series of threads to weave together in a future piece. These include:

  • the growing acceptance of Zoom-based education
  • the absurd level of debt incurred by students in medical school
  • the challenges faced by (and provisional solutions offered to) underrepresented groups in STEM disciplines in post-secondary education (here, to begin)
  • the decline in the number of Black male doctors in the US (here), and
  • community-driven solutions to health disparities (here)

And, since the AMA is the 7th biggest lobbyist in the country, I have an idea of how to pay for it. Thanks for checking this out.

5(1)1 — On the need for a renaissance of hope

The infinite promise of American youth — a promise elaborately articulated by movies and advertisements and university prospectuses — has been an empty lie for so long that I notice my students joking about it with a black humor more appropriate to old men, to the veterans of wars.”

Zadie smith, from intimations (2020)
51(1) — In rotation: Van Morrison’s “Astral Weeks”

When the colors of fall roll in and the wind turns brisk, I think more of Morrison’s Moondance than Astral Weeks. But this track (and nearly every track on the album) help lift the weight of this strange historical moment. Hail to the music that helps us to straighten our backbones and do what needs to be done. Here ya go.

Astral Weeks - Rolling Stone
Astral Weeks, 1968.

If you like this stuff, and you know someone interested in health, leadership, and music, all mixed up with a dash of humor, please spread the word.

I’m also on this thing called Twitter (@randaldoane). While it may be a passing fad, drop me a note, if you like what you see.

If you want to talk about a project with words, drop me a line over here.

Cheers!

Sources

Reducing achievement gaps in undergraduate general chemistry could lift underrepresented students into a “hyperpersistent zone” BY R. B. HARRIS, M. R. MACK, J. BRYANT, E. J. THEOBALD, S. FREEMAN, SCIENCE ADVANCES, 10 JUN 2020 : EAAZ5687 / https://advances.sciencemag.org/content/6/24/eaaz5687.full.

Elizabeth Wrigley-Field. US racial inequality may be as deadly as COVID-19. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences Sep 2020, 117 (36) 21854-21856;
DOI: https://doi.org/10.1073/pnas.2014750117.

Jamila Taylor. “Racism, Inequality, and Health Care for African Americans,” The Century Foundation, December 19, 2019. https://tcf.org/content/report/racism-inequality-health-care-african-americans.

National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine; Health and Medicine Division; Board on Population Health and Public Health Practice; Committee on Community-Based Solutions to Promote Health Equity in the United States; Baciu A, Negussie Y, Geller A, et al., editors. Communities in Action: Pathways to Health Equity. Washington (DC): National Academies Press (US); 2017 Jan 11. Available from: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/books/NBK425848/ doi: 10.17226/24624

Laurencin, Cato T, and Marsha Murray. “An American Crisis: the Lack of Black Men in Medicine.” Journal of racial and ethnic health disparities vol. 4,3 (2017): 317-321. doi:10.1007/s40615-017-0380-y

http://www.nytimes.com/2020/07/22/books/review-intimations-essays-zadie-smith.html

“Off the Ruling Class”: A Preview of my 10/22 Talk at CPL

Not the 511

So today’s a bit different: I’m using this blog entry to preview a talk I’m giving on 10/22.


Sign up here today to reserve your spot on 10/22 (reservation required).

The talk is based on an essay I wrote for Harper’s back in April, but expands its review of the three key elements of any given crime: motive, ability, and opportunity. In the 5-minute video below, I offer a sneak peek of the talk, with a review of an open letter, sent that fall, to campus newspapers at American colleges and universities by FBI director J. Edgar Hoover.

And yes, I have progressive lenses, which is why I hold my head at that weird angle. (Sorry for the couple of spots where the audio dips slightly.)

If you view the video via full screen, you can read the text pretty easily.

51(1) — In rotation: The Ramones’ “You Sound Like You’re Sick”

Ramones devotees celebrate the earliest LPs as the best, but I do have a soft spot for a bunch of tunes on this Phil-Spector-produced LP.

Here ya go. I hope you, of course, are in perfect health.

I’m also on this thing called Twitter (@randaldoane). Let’s connect!

If you want to talk about a project with words, drop me a line over here.

Cheers!

Sources

Open letter by J. Edgar Hoover (from the Nixon Library).

https://www.library.kent.edu/special-collections-and-archives/kenfour-notes-investigation

# # #

JoeBlogs: the Cadence edit

Newsletter Challenge, v. 20

Quick note: I recently wrapped up a writing coach arrangement with Ari Lewis, host of the Mastering the Attention Economy podcast. We enjoyed working together (see Ari’s ROI here), and he proposed a newsletter editing challenge. I’ve built my list from the top paid newsletters at Substack, and I toss in an odd find now and again to keep things fresh.

The challenge: 20 edits by … never mind. It’s done!

My primary goal: add clarity, concision, and cadence, and sharpen up my own editing process. After I wrap up the challenge, I’ll provide reflections on these edits and offer lessons you can use on your own newsletter.

For details on my process, click here, a Google doc. Leave suggestions as you see fit. Thanks!

“First Woman Voter: Or, How I Spent My Summer Vacation,” August 25

https://joeposnanski.substack.com/p/first-woman-voter

by Joe Posnanski / @JPosnanski

–Grey typeface: Posnanski.

Normal typeface: me.

Key metrics (original -> edit)
–reading level: 9 -> 7.
–word count: 950 -> 918.
–median sentence length: 22 -> 15 words.
–sentence length, standard deviation (basically, a measure of the variety of sentence lengths): 16 -> 13.
–% of sentences, hard or very hard to read: 40% -> 22%.

~~~~~~

First Woman Voter: Or, How I Spent My Summer Vacation

A few of you have reached out to check on me since it has been a little while since I posted here. Thank you for that. I’ve been entirely swamped on this project I’m about to tell you about — and it has been wonderful and exhausting and inspiring and, mostly, all-consuming. But I also have been writing some baseball over at The Athletic, so please check that out.

You might know that a couple of years ago, I partnered with my friend Dan McGinn on a project we call, Passions in America. What is Passions in America? That’s a very good question … and one we have spent a long, long time trying to answer.

The inspiration behind Passions is a simple idea: Our passions — which is to say the activities and pursuits and collections and pastimes that bring us joy and well-being and a sense of purpose — are more important now than ever. We deeply believe in that idea, deeply believe that our passions connect us, they energize us, they give our lives balance, they bring out our best selves, they help us see each other in entirely new ways.

It’s been a while since my last post, and I’m grateful to those of you who checked in with me to see what’s what. Seriously. Thank you. I’m happy to report I’ve been knee-deep in a project for weeks — and it’s been wonderful and exhausting and inspiring and, most of all, all-consuming. I have also been writing about baseball at The Athletic, so please check that out.

As some of you know, I partnered with my friend Dan McGinn a couple of years ago on a project called “Passions in America.” What is “Passions in America”? Good question … and one we have spent a long, long time trying to answer.

The inspiration behind Passions is simple: our passions —the activities and pursuits and collections and pastimes that bring us joy, well-being, and a sense of purpose — are more important than ever. We deeply believe in this prospect. We deeply believe that our passions connect us, energize us, and give our lives balance. They bring out our best selves. And they help us see one another in entirely new ways.

~~~~~~~~~~~

But where does that idea lead? How do we use Passions in America to bring a little more joy, a little more unity, a little more creativity into the world? How do we encourage people to embrace their passions? How do we tell more stories about people through the prism of passion?

I can tell you: These are all pretty sticky questions. Over the last couple of years, we’ve gone down numerous paths, some with more success than others. But none of them seemed exactly the right path.

So … how do we use Passions in America to bring a little more joy, a little more unity, a little more creativity into the world? How do we encourage people to embrace their passions? How do we tell more stories about people through the prism of passion?

These questions are all pretty sticky. Over the last couple of years, we’ve gone down numerous paths. Some hinted at more success than others. None of them seemed just the right path.

~~~~~~~~~~~

Then, this summer, we came upon something. We asked people if they would send in a photo of something bringing them joy during this pandemic. It was just this simple idea, but it led to something wonderful: Most than a thousand people sent in photographs … and they were all so stirring and marvelous and, especially, happy. We got photos of dogs and sunsets, magic tricks and board games, puzzles and delicious foods, books and lawnmowers, coffee mugs and picnic tables, bicycles and guitars. We all felt like just looking at those photos was, somehow, like having some of the passion and happiness that people felt transferred to us.

Not long after that, Negro Leagues Baseball Museum President Bob Kendrick approached us with the idea of creating a virtual celebration of the 100th anniversary of the birth of the Negro Leagues. And in a whirlwind few weeks, thousands of people across America — including the four living former Presidents, 20 Baseball Hall of Famers, sports legends like Michael Jordan and Magic Johnson and Billie Jean King, celebrities like Paul Rudd and Rob Lowe, more than 40 U.S. mayors, politicians and musicians and countless kids on baseball teams — tipped their caps.

It is one of the most inspiring and wonderful things I’ve ever been lucky enough to be a part of.

Then, this summer, we asked people to send in a photo of something that brings them joy. It was a simple idea, but it led to something wonderful. More than a thousand people sent in photographs, and they were all so stirring and marvelous and brimming with happiness. We got photos of dogs and sunsets, magic tricks and board games, puzzles and delicious foods, books and lawnmowers, coffee mugs and picnic tables, bicycles and guitars. While we all looked over the photos, we felt inspired — and spoiled — by the passion and happiness that our respondents transferred to us.

Not long after that, Bob Kendrick, president of the Negro Leagues Baseball Museum, got in touch. He invited us to create a virtual celebration of the 100th anniversary of the birth of the Negro Leagues. And, in a few whirlwind weeks, thousands of Americans— including the four living former Presidents, 20 Baseball Hall of Famers, Michael Jordan and Magic Johnson and Billie Jean King, celebrities like Paul Rudd and Rob Lowe, more than 40 U.S. mayors, politicians and musicians and countless kids on baseball teams — tipped their caps.

It is one of the most inspiring and wonderful things I’ve ever been a part of.

~~~~~~~~~~~

And then came First Woman Voter. Talk about a whirlwind. Over the last month, in celebration of 100 years of women’s suffrage and in conjunction with numerous women’s groups and too many amazing people to name, Dan and I have played a small part of this incredible celebration of women honoring the First Woman Voter in their families. I can’t really describe it well enough, I mean, just watch this video from CNN’s Suzanne Malveaux:

And, shortly after that, came First Woman Voter project. Over the last month, in celebration of 100 years of women’s suffrage and in conjunction with numerous women’s groups and dozens of amazing people, Dan and I played a small part in the incredible celebration of women honoring the First Woman Voter in their families. Even today, I can’t really describe it. So, just watch this video from CNN’s Suzanne Malveaux:

~~~~~~~~~~~

And this one from Bernice King celebrating her mother Coretta Scott King:

And this one from Lynda Bird Johnson Robb about her mother, Lady Bird Johnson.

And this one from my friend, ESPN’s Mina Kimes:

Note: please check out Joe’s essay to see the other amazing clips from this project.

~~~~~~~~~~~

There are more than 120 of these videos on the site — including the four former First Ladies and every woman who has been Secretary of State — each of them so personal, so moving, so unifying. In a time when everything feels so hopelessly divided, these videos from Democrats and Republicans, hard-line liberals and conservatives — from those who trace their voting rights back to 1920 to those who go back to the 1965 Voting Rights Act to those first-generation Americans like myself and Mina — have lifted my spirit continuously.

They remind me every single day that there is a bond that ties us together as Americans, and even if that bond seems frayed it is not torn.

There are more than 120 videos on the site. They include the four former First Ladies and every woman who has been Secretary of State. Each of them is so personal, so moving, so unifying. In a time when everything American feels so hopelessly divided, these videos from Democrats and Republicans, hard-line liberals and conservatives — from those who trace their voting rights back to 1920 (see: the 19th Amendment) or even just 1965 (see: the Voting Rights Act) to those first-generation Americans like myself and Mina — have lifted my spirit to new heights, over and over and over.

These videos remind me that, as Americans, we have a bond that ties us together. Even if that bond seems frayed, it is not torn asunder.

~~~~~~~~~~~

The Washington Post so loved this project that they asked us to share our videos for them to display in a wonderful package they put together called “Why She Votes.” Others have asked us to share these videos for projects we will unveil as time goes on.

It has all been amazing. I’m not sure how financially viable it is since right now the running money total on the two projects is $640 — that’s how much we SPENT on the websites and for video converting software — but the feeling of being a part of these projects and bringing some good into the world is indescribable.

The First Woman Voter campaign is still building online, particularly as we go into Women’s Equality Day on Wednesday. It’s really simple: Record a video celebrating the First Woman Voter in your family (or the woman in your family who first inspired you to vote), use a photo and a memento if you can, and post it to your social media with the hashtag #FirstWomanVoter. Would love for you to join in.

Staff at the Washington Post absolutely loved this project. We agreed to share our videos with them, and they assembled them in in a wonderful package called “Why She Votes.” Others have asked us to share these videos for other projects, and we will unveil them in the near future.

The whole thing has been amazing. I’m not sure how financially viable it is, though. Right now, the running money total on the two projects is $640: that’s how much we spent on the websites and for video-converting software. Still, the feeling of bringing some good into the world via these projects is indescribable.

The First Woman Voter campaign is still building online, particularly as we approach Women’s Equality Day on Wednesday [August 26]. It’s so simple to be a part of this project:

  • Record a video celebrating the First Woman Voter in your family (or the woman in your family who first inspired you to vote)
  • include a photo and a memento (if possible), and
  • post it on social media with the hashtag #FirstWomanVoter

I would love for you to join us.

~~~~~~~~~~~

As for Albert Pujols officially moving into second place in RBIs, even though Babe Ruth actually had more RBIs … I’ll save that for another day.

As for Albert Pujols officially moving into second place in RBIs even though Babe Ruth actually had more RBIs … I’ll save that for another day.

# # #

And that’s a wrap. Be sure to head over to Joe’s site to see the rest of this super-smart essay.

I have room in my schedule for a new client, beginning November 9. If you like what you see, drop me a line over here.

Thanks!

Happy writing!