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Coronavirus May Have Changed Everything, But Not the Human Capacity For Good

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Photos of Joshua Ladle on his bike ride for Leukemia and Lymphoma Society

BOCA RATON, Florida, April 6, 2020 – Walking along Massachusetts Ave in Washington, D.C. to an event in which I promised my editor I would sit far away from other attendees, I could not have foreseen how swiftly my life would change – along with the rest of the country.

Within days I was ordered to evacuate my university housing amid rising coronavirus concerns, and drive nearly 15 hours to my family’s home in Boca Raton, Florida.

Instantly I was working remotely and attending class online while social distancing. But despite the sudden isolation, one thing remained dependable and beautifully stagnant in my life—kind human beings who overdeliver in times of struggle.

This brings me to one such human being, a family friend, Joshua Ladle. For the last year, Josh planned and organized a solo bike ride down the entire east coast of Florida to raise funds and awareness for the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society.

In 2017, my older brother, Ian, was diagnosed with Hodgkin’s Lymphoma. His diagnosis came as an utter shock.

I postponed my next semester at Brigham Young University to return to Boca and take care of him during chemotherapy.

I dreaded the bimonthly drives to chemotherapy, while my brother sat in solemn silence. Watching his once athletic body diminish and his demeanor turn sullen became a dark and heavy chapter for my family.

Josh came by regularly to take Ian to a local sandwich joint. He always came back lighthearted and smiling from his outings with Josh, a glimpse of the pre-chemo persona I dearly missed. While my brother avoided visitors during this time, Josh persisted.

In the wake of coronavirus, Josh decided to go ahead with the bike ride for lymphoma.

Hotels could not donate rooms along the route due to mass cancellations, and family members could not travel to support him for fear of exposure to the virus.

Last week Josh completed the 565-mile bike ride along the east coast of Florida in 60 hours. He rode in honor of my brother and in memory of his beloved friend, Duben Wilde, who passed away after battling Hodgkin’s Lymphoma.

Along the path, he encountered road blockades discouraging gatherings or beach activity and emotional and physical exhaustion.

“There were definitely some low moments,” said Josh. “When you’ve been riding through the night, it can be challenging, like mentally and also physically,” he recalled.

At times in his exhaustion from expended calories, his body shut down and resisted nourishment.

With 100 miles left to get to Boca, where Josh planned to rest for only six hours before finishing the ride, his friend Joey showed up to bike alongside him.

He said Joey saved the day. Josh called Joey’s companionship and encouragement in the ride an “answer to prayer.” By the time they arrived in Boca, Josh had already been awake and biking for well over 24 hours, but he continued with an unfettered commitment to his goal.

On March 27, in the late afternoon, Josh reached Key West, where restaurants and hotels were closed and empty. Even though the ride turned out differently, the sparse streets created a safer and almost surreal environment.

While the world continues the fight against a global pandemic, that has left many feeling isolated, ordinary people keep our communities connected through quiet feats of extraordinary good.

Follow the link to a short video of Josh’s ride.

Health

Providers Call for More FCC Telehealth Funding as Demand Grows

‘I think obtaining funding from the Universal Service Fund would go a long way.’

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Photo of FCC Chairwoman Jessica Rosenworcel

WASHINGTON, July 26, 2022 – Health care providers in parts of America say they are struggling to deliver telehealth due to a lack of broadband connectivity in underserved communities, and recommended there be more funding from the Federal Communications Commission.

While the FCC has a $200-million COVID-19 Telehealth program, which emerged from the Coronavirus Aid, Relief and Economic Security (CARES) Act, some providers say more money is needed as demand for telehealth services increases.

“The need for broadband connectivity in underserved communities exceeds current availability,” said Jennifer Stoll from the Oregon Community Health Information Network.

The OCHIN was one of the largest recipients of the FCC’s Rural Health Care Pilot program in 2009. Stoll advocated for the need for more funding with the non-profit SHLB Coalition during the event last week. Panelists didn’t specify how much more funding is needed.

Stoll noted that moving forward, states need sustainable funding in this sector. “I am hoping Congress will be mindful of telehealth,” said Stoll.

“The need for telehealth and other virtual modalities will continue to grow in rural and underserved communities,” she added.

Brian Scarpelli, senior global policy counsel at ACT, the App Association, echoed the call for FCC funding from the Universal Service Fund, which subsidizes basic telecommunications services to rural areas and low-income Americans. “I think obtaining funding from the Universal Service Fund would go a long way.”

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Artificial Intelligence in Healthcare Has Benefits, But Also Challenges That Must Be Rectified: Experts

The technology needs to be examined to ensure it doesn’t create inequities in healthcare, panel hears.

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Screenshot of the Atlantic event in late June

WASHINGTON, July 11, 2022 – While the use of artificial intelligence in healthcare has been lauded by some, experts said at an Atlantic event late last month they are concerned that inaccurate data can also hamper progress in the field.

Artificial intelligence has been used widely across the medical field to analyze relationships between medical providers and patients to improve equality of care, including providing patient risk identification, diagnostics, drug discovery and development, transcribing medical documents, and remotely treating patients.

Carol Horowitz, founder of the Mt. Sinai Institute of Health and Equity Research, argued that while AI plays a substantial role in diagnosing health problems at earlier stages, diagnosing patients more quickly, providing second opinions in diagnoses, enhancing scheduling abilities, stimulating hospital workflow, and finding drug availability for a patient as in dermatology, therapeutics, or population health, it’s not a golden ticket.

She reasoned that it “can reflect and really exaggerate inequities in our system,” negatively affecting healthcare equity among patients.

She stated that AI tools have led to inaccurate measurements in data that have proved harmful to individuals’ health. Horowitz shared the example of faulty AI technology during March 2020 meant to allow individuals to self-monitor their own oxygen levels as a precautionary method to the COVID-19 pandemic but led to inaccurate pulse readings for those with darker skin, and inaccurate data gathering, resulting in delayed treatment for many in need.

Michael Crawford, associate dean for strategy of outreach and innovation at Howard University, added that if these certain mismeasurements and flaws in the technology are not addressed, “AI could increase disparities in health care.”

Alondra Nelson, head of the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy, said when it comes to assessing AI technology innovation for the future, there are both cost and benefits, but we must find “where can we move forward in ways that don’t harm human society but that maximize human benefits.”

As we grapple with how to implement this technology, “we must do science and technology policy that always has equity at the center” for future innovation, said Nelson.

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States Lagging on Bills to Implement 988 Suicide Hotline Mandate as Deadline Approaches

As of June 7, 20 states have passed legislation to implement the 988 suicide hotline mandate, according to FCC data.

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Screenshot from the FCBA event on June 8

WASHINGTON, June 15, 2022 – Only 20 out of the 35 states that have introduced legislation for a new suicide hotline have made the legislation law as of June 7, according to information from the Federal Communications Commission, as the July 16 implementation deadline nears.

States are required to implement the infrastructure and the funding for a 988 number that will go to the National Suicide Hotline, but only four states have passed bills to finance it, Emily Caditz, attorney advisor of the Wireline Competition Bureau under the FCC, said at a Federal Communication Bar Association event last week. Those states – Colorado, Nevada, Virginia, and Washington – fund the implementation from fees on cellphone lines.

James Wright, chief of crisis center operations at the federal Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration, suggested that “key partnerships between state and local governments” will be necessary to help states meet this deadline.

Laura Evans, director of national and state policy at Vibrant Emotional Health, said this funding will “make sure we have robust capacity for the anticipated 9-12 million contacts we expect to come in that first year.”

The commission ordered the adoption of the nationwide line nearly two years ago, on July 16, 2020.

According to the National Suicide Hotline Designation Act of 2020, “988 is designated as the universal telephone number within the United States for the purpose of the national suicide prevention and mental health crisis hotline system operated through the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline.”

“America’s suicide rate is at its highest since World War II,” said former FCC Chairman Ajit Pai at an FCC event in December of 2019. “A simple three-digit code for a suicide hotline can reduce the mental stigma surrounding mental health and ultimately save lives.

Caditz said the implementation of text messaging “is especially popular with groups that are at heightened risk of suicide or mental health crises, including teenagers and young adults and individuals who are deaf, hard of hearing, deafblind, or speech disabled.”

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