In Boston this week: Massachusetts health policy, #HIPPA and #climate change


Live stream: Thursday 4/26 12:30, Holding Hospitals Hostage: From HIPAA to Ransomware

 In 2016, more than a dozen hospitals and healthcare organizations were targeted by ransomware attacks that temporarily blocked crucial access to patient records and hospital systems until administrators agreed to make ransom payments to the perpetrators. Emerging online threats such as ransomware are forcing hospitals and healthcare providers to revisit and re-evaluate the existing patient data protection standards, codified in the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act, that have dictated most healthcare security measures for more than two decades. This talk will look at how hospitals are grappling with these new security threats, as well as the ways that the focus on HIPAA compliance has, at times, made it challenging for these institutions to adapt to an emerging threat landscape.

No stream:  

Human Health in a Changing Climate

The Harvard University Center for the Environment present “Human Health in a Changing Climate.”  Keynote address by Gina McCarthy, former Administrator of the Environmental Protection Agency, followed by remarks by Michelle Williams, Dean of the Harvard T.H. School of Public Health.

Today 4/10: Live stream of #Lancet-linked session on Income #Inequality and # Health in America

cover.tifRegister to attend in Boston 

See Boston Science and Engineering Lectures page for more events this week

4:30 – 6:30.  Income Inequality and Health in America.”  Boston University U:  Instructional Building, Hiebert Lounge, 72 East Concord Street.

Income inequality in the United States has steadily increased over the last four decades. Although this inequality has been a part of the recent national public conversation, including during this last federal election cycle, the science regarding the relationship between income inequality and population health remains unresolved. This spring, The Lancet will publish a special issue featuring five papers that advance our understanding of this issue. Boston University School of Public Health welcomes several of the issue’s authors for a discussion.

Single-payer lives — in my mailbox

Boston Health News doesn’t take sides, so we won’t be signing the petition to both Massachusetts senators that arrived in the mail yesterday.  But it is worth noting. The fat single payer posterenvelope features a quote from Bernie Sanders, a document entitled  “Myths and Lies about Single-Payer” and an appeal for donations to Public Citizen, the consumer group that has championed the cause for many years.

A group called Mass Care has been advocating for single-payer in the state, recently gaining a powerful ally, health policy heavyweight Don Berwick. This weekend, the group and its supporters will be gathering on the steps of the State House as part of a “National Day of Action for Improved Medicare.

Sanders meyers
2016: Alan Meyers, a Boston Medical Center pediatrician, said Sanders has brought discussion of single-payer into the mainstream. “We’ve been waiting for this for years.”  They’ll be lobbying for Medicare For All , aka single payer.

The Washington Post reports that the failure of the AHCA has led to a resurgence of the idea.

Progressives, emboldened by Republicans’ health-care failure, are trying to shift the political debate even further to the left, toward a long-standing goal that Democrats told them was unrealistic. They see in President Trump a less ideological Republican who has also promised universal coverage, and they see a base of Trump voters who might very well embrace the idea.

Here in Massachusetts, health planners have moved beyond coverage to costs. Check out the latest on that from The Boston Globe.



Health picks from the Boston Science and Engineering Calendar

The Boston Science and Engineering Lectures website offers a comprehensive list of many such events happening in the Boston area. Nothing fancy, just super comprehensive.

by Nora Valdez. Click for more.

Here’s a sample of health-related posts from this week. Always double check before attending. Trends toward science but includes policy events. And, thanks to editor Fred Hapgood, who would “appreciate your mentioning this list to people with compatible interests.”

Here’s a sample:

Monday March 27

Noon.  “Folding Tissues: cell-based origami.”   Adam Martin.   target=_”new”> Lab of Morphogenesis.   Northeastern:  333 Curry Student Center.   Details.

File Oct 30, 9 54 16 AM
Boston medical meeting swag


“Mining the Human Gut Microbiota for Immunomodulatory Organisms.”   Naama Geva-Zatorsky.   HMS:  NRB 1031.   Details.

5:15p.  “Poverty and Inequality: Societal and Psychological Costs.”   Presentations and a Panel Discussion.   HLS:  Austin Hall 100, 1515 Massachusetts Ave.   Details, Abstract.

Tuesday, March 28

11a.  “Brain Circuits Regulating Fear.”   Stephen Maren.   McLean Hospital:  deMarneffe 132, 115 Mill St.   Details.

2 – 5p.  “The Myths of Testosterone.”   A forum. .   BU:  Photonics Center 906, 8 St. Mary’s St.   Details.

6 – 8p.  “Rosalind Franklin: DNA’s Shadow Figure.”   A screening of NOVA’s “Secret of Photo 51,” which examines Franklin’s largely unsung role in the discovery of DNA.   Introduced by Tracey L. Petryshen, of the MGH Center for Genomic Medicine.   MGH:  Museum of Medical History, 12 North Grove St.   Details. To register, please email or call 617-724-2755.

Wednesday, March 29

11a.  “Toward a Therapy for Central Nervous System Injuries: simple solutions for studying neuroregeneration.”   Khalid Shah.   Northeastern:  333 Curry Student Center.  Details, Abstract.

Noon.  “Nature’s Gift: How the Discovery of Structural Principles in a Microbial Protein Helped Illuminate the Pathophysiology of Psychiatry.”   Karl Deisseroth.   Boston Children’s Hospital:  Folkman Auditorium, 300 Longwood Ave.   Details.*   This Event will be webcast.

1p.  “Motor Skill Learning and Execution in a Distributed Brain Network.”   Steffen Wolff.   Harvard:  Northwest 243.   Details.

4p.  “How Do Patents Affect Innovation?”   Heidi Williams.   Harvard:  Maxwell Dworkin G115.   Details.

t party buttons5:30 – 8p.  “Connected Health: Emerging Technologies Poised to Make our Lives Better.”   A forum.   MIT:  32-144.   Details, Abstract, Registration.

6p.  “Examining America’s Opioid Crisis.”   A forum.   HKS:  JFK Jr. Forum, 79 JFK St.  Details.

March 30 – 31.  “2017 MassBio Annual Meeting.”   Royal Sonesta, Cambridge.   Details, Abstract, Registration.

Thursday 3/30

Noon.  “Biological Design for Health and the Environment.”   Pamela Silver.   Harvard:  Northwest B103.   Details, Abstract.

Noon.  “Diagnosis of Hereditary Hearing Loss in the Genomic Era.”   Jun Shen.   Mass Eye & Ear, Meltzer Auditorium, 243 Charles St.   Details.

2:30p.  “CRISPR and What’s Next.”   2017 MassBio Annual Meeting.   Royal Sonesta, Cambridge.   Details.

4:30p.  “How Many Patients does It — and should It — Take to Develop a New Cancer Drug?”   Jonathan Kimmelman.   HMS:  1st Floor Conference Room, 641 Huntington Ave.  Details, Registration.

6:30p.  “Consciousness Hacking: Meditation, Neuroscience, and Technology.”   A forum.   Harvard Divinity School:  Sperry Room and Various Classrooms, Andover Hall, 45 Francis Ave.  Details, Abstract, Registration.

6:30p.  “What Brain Connectivity Reveals about Music, Language, and Creativity.”  Psyche Loui.   Aeronaut Brewery, 14 Tyler St, Somerville.   Details.

Friday March 31

9 – Noon.  “A Mini-Symposium on Cancer Stem Cells.”   Dana-Farber Institute, Jimmy Fund Auditorium.   Details.

12:45p.  “Incorporating Climate Projections in Health Impact Studies.”   Pat Kinney.   BUSM:  L210.   Details.

April 1 – 2.   “Investing in Discovery: Food Tank Summit.”   A conference.   Tufts:  Friedman School, 150 Harrison Avenue.   Details, Abstract, Registration.

March 24: Harvard — and HuffPo — offer live update of #marijuana science

You can’t buy it yet, but marijuana is now legal under state law. For the latest on weed law and science, tune in Friday for a  Harvard School of Public Health live webcast. Or, watch it via Facebook Live. 


Send panelists questions in advance to

Tweet us @ForumHSPH #marijuanascience


Selkoe to discuss #amyloid and #Alzheimer’s in wake of another disappointing drug study

A recent story in The Atlantic asks “Is the Leading Theory About Alzheimer’s Wrong?

1905: Research at McLean

For years, scientist have been arguing about whether amyloid protein in the brain is a cause,or just a symptom of condition.  Pharma has been confident — or desperate — enough in the science to bet on amyloid clearing drugs, but they haven’t turned out to be very good bets. So far, none has proved effective.

On Tuesday morning, one of the chief proponents of the theory, Harvard’s Dennis Selkoe, will give a talk at McLean Hospital, the storied psychiatric facility in Belmont.  Entitled  “New Insights into the Protein Biology of Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s Diseases,” it takes place at 11 am in room 132 of at the hospital’s de Marneffe Building.

And, if those in audience have read the Atlantic piece — in which Selkoe is quoted — they may have questions about Merck’s recent decision to abandon test on what was once considering a promising treatment. .



After Merck’s announcement last week, one neurologist told Bloomberg that “there is mounting evidence—of which this is another piece—that removing amyloid once people have established dementia is closing the barn door after the cows have left.” An advisor to a life-sciences venture-capital firm tweeted, “I’ve been a long-term adherent of the amyloid hypothesis, but starting to feel like this”: “This” was a gif of the Black Knight from Monty Python, arms missing but still adamant he had suffered nothing worse than a flesh wound.

And well, the amyloid hypothesis is not dead yet. Large clinical trials targeting amyloid are still underway—either using new, potentially more powerful anti-amyloid drugs or trying out the previously failed drugs in patients with less advanced Alzheimer’s. These trials will likely affirm the amyloid hypothesis or kill it for good.

Harvard, STATnews hold forum on “21sth Century Cures Act” #research #FDA #NIH


NIH, Bethesda, Maryland

The Harvard Gazette, the school’s in-house newsletter, has a summary of the forum. A video will be available here at some point or find it on Facebook Live.

Note that NEJM editor Jeffrey Drazen said “The NIH is undergoing a slow strangulation,…Money is what drives research. You need the resources when you have an idea.”

Lots of people say this.If you argue that more money for research is always good, you agree. And if you are one of the many, many scientists trying to get the NIH money to fund a project, life is a lot harder. But, is there such a thing as evidence-based research funding? Are we getting outr money’s worth?

Note that NIH’s budget doubled between 1999 and 2003.  Funding started to decline with the 2008 financial crisis, and it’s been pretty level since then. That’s the equivalent of a decline with inflation.

Still,  to many, more is better and level is less. So the increased funding for NIH in the bill perhaps sweetened the provisions in the “21st Century Care Act”  that will speed FDA approval of new drugs. That’s good news for those who will get better and richer from new drugs. Bad news for those worried that FDA oversight is already lax. Two of the speakers expressed some “concern about speeding up the FDA’s drug approval process, saying that will result in decisions based on less-rigorous science.”