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Tracking Trash


Carryout food is one of our modern conveniences, but the leftover trash is a burden. In many cities, polystyrene “clamshell” containers and plastic bags and bottles end up in the streets and in waterways. Two Johns Hopkins University students recently mapped where and how trash happens in Baltimore. Using spatial analysis, surveys, personal observations, and interviews, they pinpointed areas with high concentrations of litter. Their analysis suggests that locations near carryout restaurants, convenience stores, bus stops, public middle and high schools, and food deserts—where grocery stores are lacking—accumulate the most trash. The litter comes from people consuming food outside the home, and yet the city doesn’t always place trash receptacles or schedule trash pickup accordingly. One solution they propose is more trash cans in high-litter areas in the spirit of the so-called Disneyland theory, based on a study reportedly commissioned by the Disney Corporation for its theme parks that determined a person will walk roughly 30 steps to find a trash can before littering.

Illustration of a man picking up litter in the street
Jack Dylan

Protecting Pregnant Women From Abuse

women's health

For most, pregnancy is a joyful time, but in the U.S., as many as 30 percent of women are abused by their partners. A new program called DOVE, developed by Phyllis Sharps, an associate dean at the Johns Hopkins School of Nursing, with researchers from the University of Virginia was successful in reducing violence against pregnant women. Participants in DOVE worked at home with a nurse or community health worker to discuss the cycle of violence, take a danger assessment, and review safety planning information. Women in the program experienced an average of 20–40 fewer instances of violence compared to the nonparticipants also being tracked by researchers. Some of the women felt empowered to leave their abusers, and those who stayed noted significantly less violence and a better ability to cope. “Domestic violence screening among pregnant women is not universal, and yet the adverse effects on mother and baby tell us more needs to be done,” Sharps says. “Babies of mothers who experience violence are more likely to be born premature, small in gestational size, and suffer cognitively and emotionally as they grow. This is not something we can overlook.”

More Bad News About Fracking

environmental health

The detrimental health consequences associated with natural gas wells operated by hydraulic fracturing—or fracking—continue to mount: Add migraine headaches, chronic nasal and sinus symptoms, and severe fatigue to the list. Pennsylvania residents with the highest exposure to active fracking wells are nearly twice as likely to suffer from these symptoms, according to a new study by the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health. “We don’t know specifically why people in close proximity to these larger wells are more likely to be sick,” says the study’s senior author Brian S. Schwartz. “We need to find a way to better understand the correlation and, hopefully, do something to protect the health of these people.” Previous research conducted by Schwartz and colleagues has linked fracking to increases in premature birthsasthma attacks, and indoor radon concentrations.

Getting to Know You

primary care

If you tend to pop into urgent care, you might consider the benefits of having a consistent source for routine care: Doctors often like patients they know. In one of the first studies to explore physicians’ attitudes toward their patients, doctors reported that they liked the majority of their patients, but admitted to liking some a bit more. Those favored weren’t necessarily the most compliant or those who were most similar to the doctor. Rather, they were patients whom the physician had known over a period of time—anywhere from one year to several decades. This highlights the importance of establishing a relationship with your primary care providers, according to study leader Joy Lee, a postdoctoral fellow at the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health. That said, physicians also said they strive to be fair and to give all patients quality care. “Doctors really thought about their relationship with patients, which is encouraging from a patient perspective,” Lee says.

The findings also underscore the importance of health insurance and consistent access to health care where patients can see the same doctor or practice over time. Uninsured patients tend to see a variety of practitioners, often seeking treatment at emergency rooms, instead of developing relationships with a specific doctor.

Illustration of a doctor holding patients' charts on a clipboard, looking on to the one patient with which he is familiar
Dingding Hu

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