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Harvard Health Publications: A New Content Resource For The Better Health Blog

I’m very pleased to announce that Harvard Health Publications (HHP) is Better Health’s newest content resource. Soon readers of the Better Health blog will enjoy contributions from the HHP team. We believe that their insight and perspectives will be a great addition to our unique collection of healthcare voices online.

The Better Health blog is a continuation of “Dr. Val And The Voice Of Reason,” first launched in 2006. At the time, I was inspired to start a blog because of the baffling amount of misinformation that my patients were finding on the Internet. It was a David-versus-Goliath enterprise, but I felt duty-bound to do what I could to provide a counterpoint to media hype, fear mongering, and snake oil salesmen.

Over the past four years I’ve been humbled by the number of others who have chosen to join me on my quest. I’m no longer a single voice, but rather a facilitator of a movement designed to empower patients with trustworthy health commentary. Currently the Better Health blog offers content from over 100 contributing authors, most of whom also manage their own blog sites. In addition, I am a proud contributor to Science-Based Medicine, a blog devoted to an in-depth review of controversial therapies and practices.

HHP shares my desire to promote evidence-based information in an accessible format. Their goal is:

” …to bring people around the world the most current health information that is authoritative, trustworthy, and accessible, drawing on the expertise of the 9,000 faculty physicians at Harvard Medical School.”

I applaud this commitment to journalistic excellence and medical integrity and I’m proud to promote their efforts to empower patients on a national and global scale.

A warm welcome to the HHP team, and a big “thank you” to the readers who have inspired me to keep writing all these years.

– Val Jones, M.D. (aka “Dr. Val”)

e-Mapping The World’s Health

We’ve written before about HealthMap, a project spearheaded by folks from Harvard, Children’s Hospital-Boston, and a few other institutions. At TEDMED 2010 we had a chance to interview John Brownstein, co-founder of the project, about what HealthMap is up to these days:


The Latest on HealthMap, an Online Disease-Mining System

HEALTHmap Global Disease Tracker

*This blog post was originally published at Medgadget*

Patient Tests, EHRs, And Medical Homes: The Price Isn’t Right

Healthcare reform is forcing medical students to learn about the financial costs of the tests they order, as well as their clinical importance. Once a taboo topic, it’s being openly taught to students to prepare them for practice.

At Harvard, one physician in training duplicated television’s “The Price is Right” to keep his peers guessing at the costs of tests on a patient’s bill. Molly Cooke, FACP, a Regent of the College, encourages doctors to consider the value of the tests they order as they deliver care. (Kaiser Health News, New England Journal of Medicine)

The price isn’t right for electronic medical records. Even $44,000 in stimulus money isn’t enough to make doctors jump into using computers. Read more »

*This blog post was originally published at ACP Internist*

What You Should Know About Stem Cell Research

Camouflaged in the politics, controversy, and hype surrounding stem cells have been two stunning and unexpected dividends: the ability to study diseases in a petrie dish and a new way to think about cancer. This is separate from the most well-publicized stem cell story: the potential of embryonic stem cells to morph into any cell in the body and replace injured or defective cells — for example in diabetes, Parkinson’s, and spinal cord injury.

Human embryonic stem cells (HES cells) are collected from unused embryos created by in-vitro fertilization. About two years ago, scientists figured out a way to turn ordinary skin cells into stem cells. This was a huge deal.  These cells — called “induced pluripotents stem cells” (IPS cells) — are not identical to HES cells and may not be quite as nimble in morphing into other cells. But they are electrifying the field because diseases can now be studied outside the body – in a petrie dish. For example, researchers have taken skin from patients with ALS (Lou Gehrig’s disease), turned them into stem cells, then turned the stem cells into the kind of nerve cells (motor neurons) damaged in the disease. Read more »

Latest Interviews

IDEA Labs: Medical Students Take The Lead In Healthcare Innovation

It’s no secret that doctors are disappointed with the way that the U.S. healthcare system is evolving. Most feel helpless about improving their work conditions or solving technical problems in patient care. Fortunately one young medical student was undeterred by the mountain of disappointment carried by his senior clinician mentors…

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How To Be A Successful Patient: Young Doctors Offer Some Advice

I am proud to be a part of the American Resident Project an initiative that promotes the writing of medical students residents and new physicians as they explore ideas for transforming American health care delivery. I recently had the opportunity to interview three of the writing fellows about how to…

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Latest Book Reviews

Book Review: Is Empathy Learned By Faking It Till It’s Real?

I m often asked to do book reviews on my blog and I rarely agree to them. This is because it takes me a long time to read a book and then if I don t enjoy it I figure the author would rather me remain silent than publish my…

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The Spirit Of The Place: Samuel Shem’s New Book May Depress You

When I was in medical school I read Samuel Shem s House Of God as a right of passage. At the time I found it to be a cynical yet eerily accurate portrayal of the underbelly of academic medicine. I gained comfort from its gallows humor and it made me…

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Eat To Save Your Life: Another Half-True Diet Book

I am hesitant to review diet books because they are so often a tangled mess of fact and fiction. Teasing out their truth from falsehood is about as exhausting as delousing a long-haired elementary school student. However after being approached by the authors’ PR agency with the promise of a…

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