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In April, Dr. Thomas Frieden of the CDC, estimated the lifelong cost of caring for a child born with microcephaly at $10 million or more. Barbara Altman, a parent of a 53 year-old with microcephaly, gives a range of estimated costs, depending on how and where the child is cared for. She estimates the cost of caring for her son at home to date to be $4.6 million. However, her estimates include out-of-pocket expenses for herself and her husband, and selected Medicare costs, but do not include the cost to their private insurance for surgery and routine care, or the social security he is now eligible for because he was disabled at birth. Institutionalizing him from birth, as was recommended to her and her husband, would have cost $22 million, according to Altman’s estimates. Either way, it looks like the $10 million estimate is very low. Thankfully, in September, Congress put aside their differences on Planned Parenthood funding for birth control to prevent the spread of Zika and approved a $1.1B package to prevent the spread of the virus and to research a cure, hopefully preventing a widespread outbreak.
After this month’s election, the number of counties implementing a soda tax has grown to 7, up from 1 (Berkley, CA) at the beginning of 2016, despite the American Beverage Association’s $38 million in oppositional spending. Although there’s debate about whether 7 counties are enough to spur a nationwide momentum to pass soda taxes, an increase of 600% is nothing to burp, I mean sneeze at.
For reasons we don’t quite understand yet, adults born between 1945 and 1954 have the lowest age-adjusted stroke rates, when compared with people born both before and after them. In article published in the Journal of the American Heart Association, researchers analyzed admission data from New Jersey hospitals from 1995-2014 and found that stroke rates are declining for patients 55 years and older. Surprisingly, stroke rates for those younger than 55 increased, though still lower than their elder peers.
The Department of Veteran’s Affairs has contracted with Flow Health to develop a medical knowledge graph with the ultimate goal of delivering personalize, precision medicine to the Veterans. Healthcare data from 22 million Veterans over 20 years will be analyzed to inform decision-making and train artificial intelligence (AI) to personalize care plans.
In other AI news, Cognito, a behavioral analytics company started at MIT has raised $15 M to develop and further deploy their deep learning and other technological capabilities, detect emotions through an analysis of voice and speech. Cognito has shifted from it’s original focus on healthcare delivery, and is now focused on customer service call centers. The AI technology helps customer service operators better understand and respond to callers’ needs by providing real-time guidance during a call.