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Facebook should modify algorithms to make social media safer for teens

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Talk to a pediatrician and we will tell you: We are going through a mental crisis in teenagers. The pandemic has brought school closings and stay-at-home restrictions that resulted in social isolation among youth. With more than 721,000 COVID-19 deaths across the country, many teens know a deceased person personally and in some cases have even lost a parent.

Unsurprisingly, pediatricians like us are at the forefront of caring for more than twice as many teenagers struggling with depression, anxiety, and eating disorders.

With this in mind, social media giant Facebook – owner of Instagram, a platform used by more than half of teenagers in the United States – plays a key role. Amid these rising and unprecedented rates of mental illness among teenagers, will Facebook be part of the problem or the solution?

Instagram and eating disorders

Whistleblower and former Facebook product manager Frances Haugen recently testified before Congress that internal research by the company showed that Instagram may have worsened the mental health of young people. In these studies, teenage girls reported feeling worse about their bodies on Instagram, increasing eating disorders, and having thoughts of suicide more often.

We’ve seen examples of this at our own eating disorders clinic, where teenagers often tell us Instagram exposes them to posts that perpetuate unrealistic body shapes and share harmful diet tips.

Facebook’s internal research confirms a 2018 study by the Pew Research Center that shows 1 in 4 teenagers say social media negatively affects their lives because they experience bullying and harassment, unrealistic views about their lives Develop colleagues and get distracted from spending too much time online.

Again, these are concerns we often hear from teenagers in our practice. Such issues are likely to be compounded among teenagers who spend more time on social media, which is particularly worrying given that nearly 90% of teenagers who visit Instagram and other platforms do so several times a day.

This time of immense control presents Facebook with a pivotal opportunity to support, rather than hurt, teenage mental health. Legislators have proposed stepping in and regulating the platform, and as pediatricians we are inclined to support these measures if they are aimed at improving the health and wellbeing of teenagers. However, despite regulation, social media is likely to play a permanent role in teenage lives for years to come. Facebook should seize this moment to take action to clearly improve and support teenage mental health.

Larry Strauss:A teacher’s question: Social media harms my students, but do technical executives even care?

Perhaps most importantly, Facebook and other social media companies should reinforce healthy messages. In the same study by the Pew Research Center, 1 in 3 teenagers reported that social media had a positive impact on their lives, most often because it helped them connect with others or find important information.

However, algorithms in Facebook and Instagram – which are kept secret from public scrutiny – are based on how many people like, share and comment. This approach encourages bombastic, misleading, and unhealthy posts.

We need health-oriented algorithms

Instead, social media companies could specifically curate and actively promote messages about health and wellbeing. Numerous pediatric influencers (e.g. @teenhealthdoc, specialist in youth health in New York) already offer evidence-based advice and health information for adolescents and their families on Instagram and other platforms. Facebook could set up an advisory board of clinicians to assess the quality of influencers’ posts, offer health care providers a review (with the invaluable “blue check mark” that shows a user is authentic and remarkable), and make their posts accessible to a youthful audience do.

Social media companies should also encourage young people to post accurate, health-promoting content themselves.

Tom Kistenmacher:Facebook Revelations: Social Media Strengthened Our Voices, But Impaired Our Hearing

This approach would require Facebook to change its algorithms, which the company is likely to resist unless regulation enforced. Social media companies have come under constant fire for being too late to respond to misleading or harmful posts, which contributes to bad press and negative regulatory attention.

We claim that Facebook should be proactive in its approach and promote high quality content that is interesting to teens. Done right – with an infusion of creativity, thoughtful design, and humor – positive, health-promoting posts can receive a tremendous number of likes, shares, and comments, but may need to be actively promoted amid the negative messages currently prevailing. Realizing that it has a duty to block misinformation about COVID-19, Facebook must take similar steps to protect teenagers’ mental health.

Facebook can also help facilitate moderation in the use of its platforms among teenagers. The current business models of social media companies are driven by the persistent, compulsive use of their products and the advertising revenue they generate. In his credit, Facebook has imposed advertising restrictions on teenagers.

The company should build on this by helping teenagers put their smartphones down. To reduce screen time, Apple introduced Screen Time, an iPhone and iPad integration that allows parents to limit the time teens spend using social media apps. However, workarounds are easy to find for teenagers. Facebook should introduce its own functionality that would allow parents to limit teenagers’ use of its platforms.

We will address the after-effects of COVIC-19 on teenage mental health in the years to come. The reality is that while many of us pediatricians would like to remove social media from the lives of our teenage patients altogether, Instagram and other popular platforms are going nowhere. Social media companies wield tremendous power over young people. You should use it to empower – not hinder – the hard work we frontline pediatricians do to fight mental illness.

Dr. Scott Hadland is the Chief Medical Officer of Adolescent Medicine at MassGeneral Hospital for Children and Harvard Medical School (@DrScottHadland on Twitter and Instagram). Dr. Kathryn Brigham is the medical director of the Teenage Eating Disorders Program at MassGeneral Hospital for Children and Harvard Medical School.

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Early Omicron Reports Say Illness May Be Less Severe

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JOHANNESBURG – The Covid-19 virus is spreading faster than ever in South Africa, the country’s president said on Monday, an indication of how the new Omicron variant is fueling the pandemic, but there are early signs that Omicron is causing less serious diseases than other forms of the virus.

Researchers at a large Pretoria hospital complex reported that their patients with the coronavirus are much less sick than those they treated before, and that other hospitals are seeing the same trends. In fact, most of their infected patients were admitted for other reasons and had no Covid symptoms.

However, scientists cautioned against placing too much emphasis on potential good news of lesser severity or bad news such as early evidence that previous coronavirus infection offers Omicron little immunity. The variant was only discovered last month, and more study is needed before experts can say much about it with confidence. Additionally, the real effects of coronavirus aren’t always immediately felt as hospital admissions and deaths often lag well behind the first outbreaks.

Dr. Emily S. Gurley, an epidemiologist at the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health, said of the signs the variant is less severe, “It wouldn’t be shocking if that were true, but I’m not sure we do can still conclude. “.”

In the absence of more detailed information, governments have responded to Omicron with severe restrictions on international travel and new vaccination regulations. World leaders who have been accused of reacting too slowly or weakly at the start of the pandemic would like to be viewed as measures, although some experts doubt the travel restrictions are an overreaction.

The variant has spread rapidly and has so far been detected in more than 30 countries on six continents. Health officials and researchers say it could be the most contagious form of the virus to date, and that it could soon displace the Delta variant, which emerged as the predominant form last year. This has fueled fears that a world eager to overcome two years of pandemic hardship could slip into yet another cycle of disease, lockdown, and economic suffering.

In Europe as well as in South Africa there are first signs that Omicron cases can be relatively mild, albeit easily ill.

In the UK, the government said Monday that the number of Omicron cases there had risen to 336, two and a half times as many as on Friday. Denmark reported 261 cases, quadrupling the number on Friday, and local media has reported that a holiday lunch for high school students may have been a superspread event with dozens of people catching the new variant.

The UK and Denmark are doing an unusually large amount of genomic sequencing of virus samples to distinguish one variant from another and detect changes, suggesting that many Omicron cases in other countries simply go undetected.

On Monday, the United States required international travelers arriving in the country to show evidence of a negative coronavirus test, which was done no more than 24 hours before their flight, a standard that can be difficult to meet. Previously, fully vaccinated travelers could show negative test results up to 72 hours before departure.

China, a key part of the global travel and tourism industry, announced that it would keep international flights at 2.2 percent pre-Covid levels during the winter in order to maintain its zero-covid approach. The issuance of new passports has been almost completely stopped since August, arriving travelers have to be quarantined for 14 days and extensive papers and several virus tests have to be presented.

In South Africa, where scientists say Omicron is already dominant, the pandemic is picking up again. A month ago, South Africa had fewer than 300 new virus cases a day; on Friday and Saturday there were more than 16,000. It fell slightly on Sunday and Monday, but this may be due to a reporting delay often seen on weekends.

“As the country enters a fourth wave of Covid-19 infections, we are experiencing an infection rate that we have not seen since the beginning of the pandemic,” wrote President Cyril Ramaphosa in an open letter to the country. He added: “Almost a quarter of all Covid-19 tests are now positive. Compare that with two weeks ago, when the proportion of positive tests was around 2 percent. “

A report released this weekend by doctors at the Steve Biko Academic and Tshwane District Hospital Complex in Pretoria, South Africa’s administrative capital, offers the strongest support yet for a more hopeful view of Omicron, despite its author, Dr. Fareed Abdullah, Reasons Cited Be careful with conclusions.

Updated

Dec. 2/6/2021, 6:55 p.m. ET

Dr. Abdullah, director of the HIV / AIDS and Tuberculosis Research Bureau at the South African Medical Research Council, examined the 42 coronavirus patients who were hospitalized last Thursday and found that 29 of them, 70 percent, were breathing ordinary air. Of the 13 who used supplemental oxygen, four had it for non-Covid-related reasons.

Only one of the 42 patients was in the intensive care unit, in line with numbers released last week by the National Institute for Communicable Diseases, which showed that despite the surge in infections, only 106 patients were in the intensive care unit in the past two weeks .

Most patients were admitted “for diagnoses unrelated to Covid-19,” the report said, and their infection “is an incidental finding in these patients and is largely driven by hospital policy that requires testing of all patients”. It is said that two other large hospitals in Gauteng Province, which include Pretoria and Johannesburg, had an even lower percentage of infected patients who needed oxygen.

Dr. Abdullah said in an interview that he went to a Covid station and found a scene unrecognizable from earlier phases of the pandemic when it was full of the buzzing and beeping of oxygen devices.

The Coronavirus Pandemic: Important Things You Should Know

“Out of 17 patients, four received oxygen,” he said. “For me, it’s not in a Covid ward, it’s like a normal ward.”

Dr. Johns Hopkins’ Gurley noted that the severity of the disease reflects not only the variant, but who it infects. Two years into the pandemic, far more people have some immunity to the virus through vaccination, natural infection, or both, and this could lead to milder cases.

“We don’t know how to read the genetic sequences to tell exactly how this variant will develop,” she said. “We are now getting more information from South Africa, a particular population with a particular profile of pre-existing immunity.”

Dr. Maria D. van Kerkhove, the World Health Organization’s technical director for Covid, told CBS News on Sunday that even if a smaller percentage of Omicron cases were found to be severe, it means a larger number of cases could make up for it more hospitalizations and deaths.

Dr. Abdullah also examined all 166 patients with the coronavirus admitted to the Biko-Tshwane complex between November 14 and November 29, and found that their average hospital stay was just 2.8 days and less than 7 percent died . Over the past 18 months, the mean length of stay for these patients was 8.5 days, and 17 percent died. Shorter stays would take the pressure off the hospitals.

Eighty percent of the 166 patients were under 50 years of age, and similar numbers were reported across Gauteng – a sharp contrast to previous cohorts of hospitalized Covid patients who were usually older. This could be because South Africa has a relatively high vaccination rate in people over 50 and a low one in younger people, but one of the big unknowns at Omicron is whether existing vaccines offer strong protection against it.

Part of the caution in interpreting Dr. Abdullah’s report is that the numbers are small, the results haven’t been peer-reviewed, and he doesn’t know how many of the patients had Omicron, unlike other variants of the coronavirus – although the government reported last week that they already had three Accounted for quarter of the virus samples in South Africa.

Dr. Abdullah acknowledged these drawbacks, noting that there could be a delay between the first appearance of Omicron and an increase in serious illness and death. But despite the huge increase in cases, the number of Covid deaths in South Africa has not yet increased.

Lynsey Chutel reported from Johannesburg, Richard Pérez-Peña and Emily Anthes from New York. Coverage was contributed by Megan Specia, Isabella Kwai, Sui-Lee Wee, Juston Jones and Jenny Gross.

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Miller awarded prestigious grant to research policy impacts, health disparities

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Contact: Sarah Nicholas

Gabe Miller (Photo by Robby Lozano)

STARKVILLE, Miss. — A Mississippi State Sociology faculty member is awarded a prestigious Robert Wood Johnson Foundation grant to study how policy affects the health outcomes of members of the LGBT community and other marginalized groups.

Gabe H. Miller, assistant professor of sociology and faculty member in MSU’s African American Studies program, has received the $ 248,431 two-year scholarship from the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, the nation’s largest philanthropy devoted exclusively to health. The scholarship is part of the RWJF’s Health Equity Scholars for Action initiative. Since 1972, the organization has supported research and programs targeting America’s most pressing health problems – from substance abuse to improving access to quality health care. More information can be found at https://www.rwjf.org/en/how-we-work/building-a-culture-of-health.html

Miller’s Prize is awarded for his proposal “Investigating the Effects of Political and Political Determinants of Health on the Health Outcomes of Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender People”. He said he would use his research to guide policymakers towards data-driven policies promoting the health, wellbeing and equal opportunities of the population, and to work on building a “health culture,” which is a core theme at RWJF.

“Racism, homophobia and transphobia affect the health of people of color and LGBT people through discrimination, stigma and minority stress,” said Miller, noting that LGBT people are at greater risk for depression, anxiety, post-traumatic stress disorder, alcohol problems and suicide psychiatric difficulties.

“An intersectional approach to health advocates considering how systems of inequality combine or overlap to produce different health outcomes based on where individuals fall across multiple structures of inequality,” Miller said.

“I will examine the effects of more than 40 different LGBT protections in all 50 states from 2013-2020 to examine how those protections at the federal level affect mental health, physical health, chronic illness, access to health and people’s health behaviors affect LGBT populations. Additionally, I will examine whether these guidelines have different implications when we consider the racial and sexual orientation overlap, ”he said.

Deputy Dean of Research Giselle Thibaudeau said: “Given our commitment to health equity, the MSU is fortunate to have Dr. To have Miller’s passion and expertise in the health inequalities of marginalized communities. We are proud of the recognition and funding of his research by the RWJF. More importantly, we are very proud and hopeful of the impact of Dr. Miller’s efforts on these communities and health equality in general are. “

Born in Texas, he has been a faculty member since 2020 and received his Ph.D. in Sociology from Texas A&M University. His research and teaching interests at MSU include medical sociology and health disparities.

As part of the MSU’s College of Arts and Sciences, the Sociology Department is available at www.sociology.msstate.edu. Further information on the African American Studies course can be found at www.aas.msstate.edu.

MSU is the premier university in Mississippi, available online at www.msstate.edu.

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The link between cytokine storms and cardiovascular problems in COVID-19 patients

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Increased inflammation from cytokine storms has led to several heart complications in infections with coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19). But to treat these cardiovascular problems, doctors need to better understand the relationship between cytokine storms and cardiovascular proteins.

New research suggests that the Th1, Th2, and Th17 inflammatory pathways are involved in the overproduction of cardiovascular proteins in COVID-19 infections. Th1 cytokines have an established role as mediators against viral infections. Th2 and Th17 inflammatory pathways are signals during a severe autoimmune reaction.

The results can help clinicians select effective treatment regimens for patients with cardiac complications. They suggest using immunomodulators to reduce cardiovascular inflammation and prevent the immune system’s ability to fight the severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus 2 (SARS-CoV-2).

Study: Th1, Th2 and Th17 inflammatory pathways correlate synergistically with cardiometabolic processes. A case study on COVID-19. Image source: Corona Borealis Studio / Shutterstock

The study was recently published on the preprint server bioRxiv *, while the article is being peer-reviewed.

Cytokine levels in T helper cell signaling pathways

The researchers compared the cytokines in patients who were or were infected with SARS-CoV-2. In COVID-19 cases, an increasing trend in protein expression was seen in most Th1 and Th17 mediators (and in more than half of Th2 mediators). Protein levels rose from non-severe infections to patients who died from COVID-19 illness. Deceased COVID-19 patients had significantly high Th1, Th2, and Th17 levels. Patients with non-COVID respiratory infections did not show increasing trends in protein expression in inflammatory pathways.

Relationship between cardiometabolic protein and COVID-19 disease severity

In the second research phase, every existing relationship between cardiometabolic protein and COVID-19 infection was examined. Of the 335 cardiometabolic proteins examined, around 35 were strongly linked to the severity of COVID-19 disease. In addition, all 35 proteins were expressed at significantly increased levels in patients who died of COVID-19 disease. Ten cardiometabolic proteins were highly expressed in intubated patients with COVID-19 compared to patients with mild disease.

Cytokine storms contribute to COVID-19-related heart complications

Next, the research team tested its hypothesis that Th1, Th2, and Th17 cytokines are involved in altering cardiometabolic proteins. They grouped immune markers for each pathway and analyzed their frequency of expression for each cardiometabolic protein present in patients with COVID-19 infection.

The results showed 186 links between cytokines and cardiometabolic proteins expressed in COVID-19 infection. In particular, a synergistic effect between the immune pathways and proteins of Th1, Th2 and Th17 was observed.

The research stated that

Most of the compounds on our networks were positive compounds, suggesting that increased production of cytokines stimulates the overall production of cardiometabolic proteins. “

Of the 35 cardiometabolic proteins correlated with severe COVID-19 infection, 31 were predictive factors for cytokine storms. In fact, 20 of the 31 proteins have also been linked to cardiovascular inflammation and high blood pressure in other research studies. The 20 proteins were most strongly associated with IFNGR1 of the Th1 pathway. In the TH2 pathway, the most common association was with CCL11 and CCL7. In the Th17 pathway, the 20 cardiovascular markers were strongly linked to the cytokines PI3, LCN2 and IL6.

Study restrictions and future directions

The study used limited OLINK assay analysis to identify associations between immune mediators in inflammatory pathways and cardiometabolic proteins. An alternative technique that may have provided more descriptive and accurate results is whole genome sequencing.

A second limitation is that due to the many unknowns surrounding SARS-CoV-2 at the beginning of the pandemic, many COVID-19 cases were initially misdiagnosed. Incorrect diagnoses can alter the predictive power of cardiovascular markers with the severity of COVID-19.

Future research is needed to examine the relationship between helper T cells and heart inflammation. This should focus on a more detailed comparison between the cardiovascular and immune pathways and their interaction with viral infections beyond SARS-CoV-2.

Further studies examining the relationships between two systems could provide a complete picture of the immune-cardiovascular interaction in disease and health.

*Important NOTE

bioRxiv publishes preliminary scientific reports that have not been peer reviewed and therefore should not be considered conclusive, that guide clinical practice / health-related behavior or should be treated as established information.

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