New Problems

Listen 49:14


In the decades after the Civil War, the nation was changing rapidly. Cities were industrializing, the railroad was expanding, business was booming in many places — people were busy! Life in the fast lane seemed to have an impact, giving rise to a condition that soon became known as neurasthenia. Some of the symptoms were fatigue, irritability, and digestion problems. Today, we would probably call this stress, or burnout.

Each time period has its own problems that people try to name, and get under control. Often, new inventions come with unintended consequences. On this episode, we look into the new problems of our times, and what we’re doing about them. Is vaping still a good strategy to quit smoking? Can clunky electronic health records be fixed? We also find out what therapists know about helping people who need to be online for their jobs, and are targeted by trolls.

Also heard on this week’s episode:

  • Many people have used vaping as a way to quit smoking. But then we started hearing about a mysterious lung illness that’s put more than 2,000 people in the hospital, and killed more than 50. Since then, there’s been a backlash against vaping — with some claiming that it could be just as unhealthy as smoking regular old cigarettes. Is that true? Reporter Liz Tung — who recently traded Camels in for mango-flavored e-cigarettes — investigates.
  • Journalist Beth Gardiner talks about the global impact of air pollution. Her new book is “Choked: Life and Breath in the Age of Air Pollution.”
  • Asthma rates are on the rise across the U.S., but the problem is especially dire on reservations. Reporter Eilís O’Neill visited the Navajo Nation to see how asthma is affecting families and children there. Her reporting was funded in part by the USC Annenberg Center for Health Journalism’s National Fellowship and by the Dennis A. Hunt Fund for Health Journalism.
  • Technology means constant distractions, or reminders that something else needs to be done right now. We jump from task to task, or get sucked into social media. When do distractions lead to mistakes? We talk with researchers Samuel Murray from Duke University and Santiago Amaya from Universidad de Los Andes in Bogotá.
  • Electronic Health Records were supposed to make it easier to manage patient information, and to avoid mistakes. Instead, many health care providers complain that they are clunky to use, and interfere with treatment. Reporter Camille Petersen explores if they can they be fixed.

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