Tag: general interest

Men in Medical Face Masks Rated as More Attractive

Source: Sammy Williams on Unsplash

Besides COVID prevention, there is an upside to wearing the ubiquitous face masks worn in many countries: they increase attractiveness, at least in men. 

A study published in Cognitive Research: Principles and Implications measured how different types of face masks changed the attractiveness of 40 male faces.

However, the researchers discovered the type of covering matters – blue medical masks were found to increase facial attractiveness more than other types of masks.

Dr. Michael Lewis, an expert in the psychology of faces, said: “Research carried out before the pandemic found medical face masks reduce attractiveness – so we wanted to test whether this had changed since face coverings became ubiquitous and understand whether the type of mask had any effect.

“Our study suggests faces are considered most attractive when covered by medical face masks. This may be because we’re used to healthcare workers wearing blue masks and now we associate these with people in caring or medical professions. At a time when we feel vulnerable, we may find the wearing of medical masks reassuring and so feel more positive towards the wearer.

“We also found faces are considered significantly more attractive when covered by cloth masks than when not covered. Some of this effect may be a result of being able to hide undesirable features in the lower part of the face—but this effect was present for both less attractive and more attractive people.”

In the study, 43 female participants were asked to rate the attractiveness of images of male faces without a mask; wearing a cloth mask; a blue medical face mask and holding a plain black book covering the area a face mask would hide. The research took place seven months after face masks became mandatory in the UK.

“The results run counter to the pre-pandemic research where it was thought masks made people think about disease and the person should be avoided,” commented Dr Lewis.

“The current research shows the pandemic has changed our psychology in how we perceive the wearers of masks. When we see someone wearing a mask we no longer think ‘that person has a disease, I need to stay away’.

“This relates to evolutionary psychology and why we select the partners we do. Disease and evidence of disease can play a big role in mate selection – previously any cues to disease would be a big turn off. Now we can observe a shift in our psychology such that face masks are no longer acting as a contamination cue.”

Next steps are to see if the reverse holds true for women’s attractiveness to men.

Source: Cardiff University

A Look Back at 2021

Photo by Olya Kobruseva on Pexels

The start of 2021 saw South African hospitals battling for resources amid a COVID surge, and planning for what would be a very controversial and drawn-out vaccination programme which would be partly paid for by the overflowing coffers of the country’s medical aid schemes. Indeed, there was a real concern that the as-yet-to-be-named Beta variant would evade vaccines, which would prove to be true – and a story which would be repeated with the Omicron variant later in the year. In China, the start of an investigation into the origins of the SARS-CoV-2 virus in Wuhan was stymied by the Chinese government denying them entry.

The middle of the year saw the Third Wave, now driven by the highly transmissible Delta variant which had ravaged India earlier in the year. Production setbacks further dogged South Africa’s vaccine programme as millions of Johnson & Johnson vaccines were deemed unfit for use. In Brazil, deaths passed half a million amid condemnation of the mishandling of the COVID pandemic by its President Jair Bolsonaro. Economic frustration, stoked by political manoeuvring around the trial of former President Jacob Zuma, saw much of the country erupt in looting and violence. This would seriously damage COVID vaccination and surveillance efforts in the affected areas, particularly KwaZulu-Natal.

Statins seemed to be losing some of their bad image as new studies revealed that they were not associated with cognitive decline, following on from a 2020 study showing many of their feared side effects were the result of the ‘nocebo’ effect. The US government initiated a probe into how a controversial drug for the treatment of Alzheimer’s disease managed to receive approval despite no evidence of benefit. Dr Zweli Mkhize stepped down as Health Minister amidst revelations about procurement irregularities relating to the Digital Vibes contract.

Towards the end of the year, South African vaccination rates fell due to a combination of factors: vaccine hesitancy, apathy and difficulty servicing remote areas. Omicron was detected in late November, immediately raising alarm due to the extremely large number of mutations it possesses. In response, countries around the world announced immediate travel bans or heightened quarantine restrictions. However, these proved futile as the highly contagious Omicron was already loose in the borders of many countries, rendering the controversial containment efforts moot.

Fortunately, early signs from Netcare showed that Omicron caused less severe disease. By year end, new effective COVID treatments were going through these stages of their final approval. Merck’s Molnupiravir (Lagevrio) had shown promise for the treatment of COVID, though later analysis with additional data showed it to be less effective than believed. Expected production for Pfizer’s nirmatrelvir (Paxlovid) was expected to increase to 80 million courses after results showed an 89% reduction of hospitalisation or death for outpatients. As the year closed, there was some good news for South Africa’s economy as travel bans were lifted – though the countries imposing them now had Omicron surges of their own to contend with.

Most Superheroes Will Age Healthily, Researchers Conclude

Spider-Man has a healthy outlook, so long as he doesn’t binge drink or smoke like his mentor, Iron Man. Source: Pixabay

Australian researchers in the Christmas edition of the British Medical Journal took a whimsical look at the ageing trajectories of Marvel superheroes based on their attributes and behaviours as seen in the films, finding them to be largely well-adjusted and likely to age healthily. 

Positive behaviours and health assets
Marvel superheroes are physically active, socially engaged, and optimistic, with high educational attainment and (with one notable exception) healthy weight, all of which have been associated with a positive ageing trajectory.

The review found that superheroes regularly engage in physical activity and exercise, both associated with healthy ageing. They often undertake high intensity interval training (HIIT), associated with improved health status in ageing men.

Even during discussions about how to stop aliens from enslaving humanity, superheroes stand regularly and pace, increasing their step count and further improving their healthy outlook.

In terms of social engagement, superheroes exhibit a high degree of social cohesion and connectedness, both linked to reduced dementia risk. People with strong social ties tend to live longer than isolated people, regardless of other risk factors such as smoking, alcohol consumption, and physical activity.

The superheroes show a positive or optimistic mindset on several occasions, as well as psychological resilience and a sense of purpose, all of which have been associated with healthy ageing.  Some have traumatic backgrounds, including Spider-Man who was orphaned, which increases his risk of substance abuse and mental health problems. However, his supportive social contacts, including positive male role models help mitigate this.

Most of the superheroes did not drink or smoke excessively, save for Iron Man and Thor, which is associated with longevity and healthy ageing. However, Thor is already thousands of years old and the researchers could not assume that modifiable personal traits would affect his life trajectory.

Negative behaviours and risk factors
Superheroes are exposed to loud noises, air pollution, and receive multiple head injuries precipitated by high risk physical activities.

Superheroes are repeatedly exposed to loud noises such as explosions, which is linked to hearing loss, which in turn is associated with an increased risk of cognitive impairment and dementia. Some of the superheroes, such as Hulk and Thor, have booming voices, potentially indicative of early sensorineural hearing loss.

During their activities, superheroes sustain multiple major head injuries, increasing their dementia risk. Involvement in high risk activities, which could increase their likelihood for life changing physical injury and disability.

Of the individual cases presented, Black Panther has probably the best health outlook, as he is extremely wealthy and intelligent, health assets that he shares in common with Iron Man. However, unlike Iron Man, he does not drink or smoke excessively, and is a vegetarian, which has well-studied benefits in healthy ageing.

On the other end of the spectrum, the Hulk was noted to have serious health concerns. Bruce Banner transforms to the Hulk when he experiences tachycardia—specifically, a heart rate of 200 beats per minute. The frequency of this occurrence suggests a predisposition to cardiac arrhythmias, possibly indicating underlying cardiac disease.

Hulk’s body mass index (BMI) is about 120 (calculated from height 213cm–243cm and weight 471kg–635kg). Although being in the overweight category might be protective, obesity is associated with a higher death rate as well as dementia, and several chronic health conditions and frailty. Hulk’s BMI also raises pragmatic concerns around future access to appropriate healthcare. Hulk’s almost constant anger (“That’s my secret Captain. I’m always angry”) might lead to increased inflammation and comorbidity in advanced old age.

Source: The British Medical Journal

Brain Surgeons versus Rocket Scientists: Who’s Brainier?

Source: Sammy Williams on Unsplash

A light-hearted research article published in the Christmas edition of the BMJ sought to see once for all who is ‘brainier’: brain surgeons versus rocket scientists.

Brain surgeons and rocket scientists are often put on a pedestal as the exemplars of intellectual endeavour. But which of them is smarter and deserves the accolade more? Or at all? A group of neurosurgeons – who were, of course, totally unbiased – decided to resolve this conundrum.

Delving into the background of the phrases, they wrote that, “The phrase ‘It’s not rocket science’ is thought to have originated in America in the 1950s when German rocket scientists were brought over to support the developing space program and design of military rockets,” a research team led by University College London neuroscientist Inga Usher explained in their new paper.

“The origin of ‘It’s not brain surgery’ is less clear. It is tempting to speculate that the pioneering techniques of the polymath and neurosurgeon Harvey Cushing captured the attention of the public and promulgated the phrase.”

Their study aimed to settle the debate once and for all, and to “provide rocket scientists and brain surgeons with evidence to support their self-assuredness in the company of the other party.” The researchers tested participants across cognitive domains such as emotional discrimination and motor control. Eschewing an overall winner, they assessed the cognitive characteristics of each specialty using a validated online test, the Great British Intelligence Test (GBIT). This test had been used to measure distinct aspects of human cognition, spanning planning and reasoning, working memory, attention, and emotion processing abilities in more than 250 000 members of the British public. Rather than being an IQ test, it is intended to more finely discriminate aspects of cognitive ability. The dataset also let the researchers benchmark both specialties against the general population.

The neurosurgeons showed significantly higher scores than the aerospace engineers in semantic problem solving (possibly attributable to their familiarity with Latin and Greek scientific terminology). Aerospace engineers showed significantly higher scores in mental manipulation and attention. Domain scores for memory, spatial problem solving, problem solving speed, and memory recall speed were similar for both groups. When each group’s scores for the six domains were compared with those in the general population, only two differences were significant: the neurosurgeons’ problem solving speed was quicker and their memory recall speed was slower. No significant difference was found between aerospace engineers and the control population in any of the domains. 

The researchers observed that, “despite the stereotypes depicted by the phrases ‘It’s not rocket science’ and ‘It’s not brain surgery’, all three groups showed a wide range of cognitive abilities. In the original GBIT, 90% of Britons scored above average on at least one aspect of intelligence, illustrating the importance of studying multiple domains that make up a concept of intelligence rather than a single measure.”

The researchers came to the conclusion that, based on the findings, in situations that do not require rapid problem solving, it might be more correct to use the phrase “It’s not brain surgery”. It is possible that both neurosurgeons and aerospace engineers are unnecessarily placed on a pedestal and that “It’s a walk in the park” or another phrase unrelated to careers might be more appropriate. Other specialties might deserve to be on that pedestal, and future work should aim to determine the most deserving profession.

On a more serious note, they also considered that fewer young people are choosing surgery or engineering as a career path, and that such pursuits are commonly seen as ‘masculine’, deterring many females at an early stage. Their results however, showed that neither field differed significantly in cognitive aspects from the general public, which should help reassure future candidates that there is no ‘requirement’ for any type of personality trait.

Source: The British Medical Journal

Great Gift Ideas for Healthcare Workers

Photo by Jess Bailey on Unsplash

If you’re stuck for gift ideas for a certain healthcare worker, or you are one yourself and looking to leave hints for someone stuck for ideas, this list could help. 

1: A Good Pair of Scrubs
This one may seem obvious, but not all scrubs are identical or of high quality, and healthcare providers can never have enough high-quality scrubs. Ones that are soft, flexible, and moisture-resistant are ideal. For the fashion-conscious healthcare worker, go for jogger style.

2: A Massage Gun
The healthcare working environment is a physically demanding one. With long shifts, sometimes up to 24 hours or even longer, much of the time is spent standing. A massage gun can work wonders for sore muscles, aches, and pains.

3: Good Moisturiser or Hand Cream
Healthcare workers wash their hands and use hand sanitiser all day long, which can cause the skin to dry out and lead to painful cracking. A good moisturiser can go a long way. However, avoid those that are heavily scented since some patients may be sensitive to the chemicals. Another great option is hydrating single-use hand masks.

4: Quick Meal Solutions
Gift cards for food delivery services like Uber Eats or Mr D are a great way for healthcare workers to get an easy meal – and can offer healthy alternatives to junk food. Cooking most likely is not at the top of their priority list either on shift or coming off of it, so this can be a practical way to be supportive and make their lives a little easier.

5: Custom Tailored Lab CoatThe long white lab coat is a symbol of office for physicians, a representation of all the long years of hard work they’ve put into their career as well as a reassuring sight for patients. A custom-tailored and embroidered white lab coat would make the perfect gift for any physician.

6: Spa DayTwo years into the pandemic with the constant threat of burnout, there’s nothing quite like having an indulgent spa day for your healthcare worker friend or family member to relax. A good massage to ease stiff muscles and a sauna session is a fantastic way to help unwind, lease the burden and de-stress.

7: Smartwatch
A smartwatch that can track health data and perform other functions can make a great gift for a healthcare worker if they don’t have one already. Smartwatches are of course convenient for checking the time, but they can also monitor activity and exercise levels and overall well-being and sync with mobile phones for calls, alerts, and many apps – some of which can warn if healthcare workers are falling ill.

8: Travel Mug
People who are on the go for their job can always use a travel mug, especially paramedics who spend long nights on shift on the road. This will keep coffee (or tea, hot chocolate, or soup) at just the right temperature for extended periods of time.

9: Compression Socks
Working in a field that requires a great deal of time spent on their feet, most healthcare workers likely know about the benefits of compression socks. They prevent muscle soreness and stiffness in the legs, and just like regular socks (and scrubs), you can never have too many.

10: Blue Light Blocking Glasses
Hours spent sitting at a computer, inputting patient charts can cause some serious eyestrain. This can purportedly be reduced by wearing blue light glasses (which can be either prescription or non-prescription) which filter out blue light, supposedly reducing strain. Evidence for the glasses are mixed, but many swear by them.

Source: MedPage Today

Men and Women Have the Same Emotional Turbulence

Photo by Monstera from Pexels

Contrary to widely held gender stereotypes, women are not more emotional than men, say researchers of a new study into emotional differences in gender.

Feelings such as enthusiasm, nervousness or strength are often interpreted differently between the two genders. It’s what being ’emotional’ means to men versus women that is part of a new University of Michigan study that dispels these biases.

For example, a man whose emotions fluctuate in a sporting event is described as “passionate” while a woman whose emotions change in any event, even if provoked, is considered “irrational,” said senior author Adriene Beltz, assistant professor of psychology.

Prof Beltz and colleagues followed 142 men and women over 75 days to learn more about their daily emotions, both positive and negative. The women were divided into four groups: one naturally cycling and three others who used different forms of oral contraceptives.

The researchers detected fluctuations in emotions three different ways, and then compared the sexes. Little to no differences were seen between the men and the various groups of women, suggesting that men’s emotions fluctuate to the same extent as women’s, although likely for different reasons.

“We also didn’t find meaningful differences between the groups of women, making clear that emotional highs and lows are due to many influences – not only hormones,” Prof Beltz said.

These findings could have implications for research, which has historically excluded women partly because ovarian hormone fluctuations result in variation, especially in emotion, which cannot be experimentally controlled, the researchers said.

“Our study uniquely provides psychological data to show that the justifications for excluding women in the first place (because fluctuating ovarian hormones, and consequently emotions, confounded experiments) were misguided,” Prof Beltz said.

Source: University of Michigan

One Woman’s Journey of Recovery from Cardiac Arrest

Photo from Olivier Collett on Unsplash
Photo from Olivier Collett on Unsplash

At age 37, Mary Gordon was fit and healthy but could not explain the fatigue she began experiencing. Shortly before Christmas 2019, she woke up feeling out of sorts. During Christmas shopping, she nearly passed out at one point.

“Everything went blank,” Gordon recalled. “But it was so quick that I questioned if it really happened.”

Gordon put it down to dehydration and tiredness. But over the next week, she nearly passed out three more times, once while driving. Just before flying home, she managed to get a last-minute appointment on New Year’s Eve with her doctor’s physician assistant. By this point, she half expected to be admitted to hospital.
The physician assistant performed a test on her heart, which looked normal. But her blood pressure was through the roof. She advised Gordon to cancel her flight and to start wearing a heart monitor so the medical team could gather more information.

Gordon was familiar with the heart monitor because in university, her doctor detected a heart murmur and diagnosed her with mitral valve prolapse: extra tissue caused the mitral valve leaflets to expand into the left atrium when her heart contracted. In the severe cases, it can lead to blood leaking back through the valve, potentially resulting in arrhythmia. However, when the doctor reviewed the data, he told her to not worry about it. And an electrocardiogram years later seemed to confirm the diagnosis.

But now, leaving the visit with the physician assistant, Gordon collapsed near the elevator, in cardiac arrest. Fortunately a receptionist found her. For six minutes, the physician assistant and a doctor performed CPR , and also used an automated external defibrillator. The first thing she remembered was being in the emergency room, with her boyfriend, Matt Costakis, and several doctors at the foot of her bed.
She was confused for the first few days.

“My brain was not retaining information,” she said. “It took a few days before things were sinking in. Everything was a blur.”

An implantable cardioverter defibrillator was implanted in her chest, followed by a minimally invasive surgery the week after to repair her mitral valve.

“It wasn’t until the surgery that it was fully recognized she has something that’s particularly rare called mitral annular disjunction,” said Dr. Paula Pinell-Salles, Gordon’s cardiologist at Virginia Heart in Falls Church. “That variant is the most prone to significant prolapse and may be more closely associated with the kind of arrhythmia she presented with.”

Gordon was discharged after a two-week hospital stay. Though fatigued, she eagerly started her cardiac rehab, relishing the supportive environment. 

“The thought of raising my heart rate or being able to ever run again was so foreign,” she said. “It was awesome to know there’s a way to slowly ease back into that with the safety of people watching you.”

When COVID ended in-person rehab, she continued to push herself walking long distances but she still feared exercising alone.

“It was a weird transition and very emotional,” she said, pointing to the emergency ID tag she now wears. “But I got to the point where I could go off by myself.”

Eight months after the cardiac arrest, she was running again. And on the one-year anniversary, Gordon and Costakis, along with her dog, hiked her favourite trail to the top of a mountain, where Costakis proposed to her. 

Now happily engaged and largely recovered, Gordon promotes CPR training and wants to raise awareness about the difference between heart attacks and cardiac arrest.

As defined by the American Heart Association and the American College of Cardiology, “(sudden) cardiac arrest is the sudden cessation of cardiac activity so that the victim becomes unresponsive, with no normal breathing and no signs of circulation. If corrective measures are not taken rapidly, this condition progresses to sudden death. Cardiac arrest should be used to signify an event as described above, that is reversed, usually by CPR and/or defibrillation or cardioversion, or cardiac pacing. Sudden cardiac death should not be used to describe events that are not fatal.”

“It doesn’t hurt to learn it again, or watch the video and just build your confidence,” she said. “If I can do something to help the next person, that’s all I can ask for.”

Source: American Heart Association

The Phenomenon of Radon Gas ‘Health Spas’

Photo by Vladyslav Cherkasenko on Unsplash

While radon is commonly known as a radioactive gas that sometimes builds up in basements, people in pain travel to Montana in the US to be surrounded by it. The visitors view the radon exposure as low-dose radiation therapy for a long list of health issues.

But the Environmental Protection Agency and the World Health Organization, among others, list the gas as the second-leading cause of lung cancer. Though radiation is used to kill cancer cells, in the US, using low doses for other ailments is disputed – one such debated use is treating respiratory conditions. Clinical trials are testing whether low doses of radiation can help treat COVID patients.

But radon gas is not the same as the targeted radiation in radiotherapy. It can be inhaled, making it particularly dangerous. Sitting in a radon-filled room and radiotherapy are as different as “chalk and cheese,” said Brian Marples, a professor of radiation oncology at the University of Rochester.

“In clinical therapy, we know exactly what the dose is, we know exactly where it’s going,” he said.

Prof Marples said much of the argument for radon’s therapeutic use stems from historical reports, unlike evidence-based research on clinical radiation. However, there is debate as to what level of radon gas exposure is harmful. Another concern is that the radon treatment in the mines is largely unregulated, and bodies like the EPA don’t have the power to mandate limits on radon. 

Nonetheless, each year travelers head to western Montana, where four inactive mines with high levels of radon are within 18 kilometres of one another. Radon gas forms from the radioactive decay of naturally occurring uranium in the bedrock and has a short half-life.  In the Merry Widow Health Mine, visitors can bathe in radon-contaminated water or simply sit and work on a puzzle.

For owner Chang Kim, 69, his business helps treat chronic medical conditions such as arthritis or diabetes. Adherents claim radon in low doses creates stress on the body, triggering the immune system to readapt and reduce inflammation.

“The people coming to the mines, they’re not stupid,” Mr Kim said. “People’s lives are made better by them.”

He learned about the mines 14 years ago when his wife, Veronica Kim had developed a connective tissue disease which crumpled her hands and feet. Traditional medicine wasn’t working for her. After takim=ng two sessions a year in the mines ever since, Veronica smiles when she shows her hands.

“They’re not deformed anymore,” she said, adding she’s been able to reduce her use of meloxicam for pain and swelling.

Radon users point to European countries such as Germany, where the controversial radon therapy can still be prescribed for various conditions.

In the US, the EPA maintains that no level of radon exposure is risk-free, noting it is responsible for about 21 000 lung cancer deaths every year. The agency recommends that homes with radon levels of 150 Becquerels (radioactive decays per second) per cubic metre or more should have a radon-reduction system. The EPA derived this value from lower values being subject to false negatives, and it being an achievable level with radon-reduction systems. By contrast, the owners of Montana’s oldest radon therapy mine, Free Enterprise Radon Health Mine, said their mine has an average of about 64 000.

The federal guidelines are “a bunch of baloney” according to Monique Mandali, who lives in Helena, about 40 minutes from the mines, and tries to fit in three sessions at Free Enterprise a year – 25 hours of exposure spread out over 10 days for arthritis in her back.

“People say, ‘Well, you know, but you could get lung cancer.’ And I respond, ‘I’m 74. Who cares at this point?'” she said. “I’d rather take my chances with radon in terms of living with arthritis than with other Western medication.”

Antone Brooks, formerly a scientist at the US Department of Energy and who studied low-dose radiation, is one of those who believes the low dose threshold is excessive.

“If you want to go into a radon mine twice a year, I’d say, OK, that’s not too much,” he said. “If you want to live down there, I’d say that’s too much.”

In the early 1900s, before antibiotics were popularised, small doses of radiation were used to treat pneumonia with reports it relieved respiratory symptoms. Since then, fear has largely kept the therapeutic potential of low-dose radiation untapped, said Dr Mohammad Khan, an associate professor with the Winship Cancer Institute at Emory University. But amid the pandemic, health care providers struggling to find treatments as hospital patients lie dying have been giving clinical radiation another look.

Patients who received low doses of radiation to their lungs were weaned off of oxygen and were discharged from hospital sooner than those without the treatment. Dr Khan said more research is necessary, but it could eventually expand clinical radiation’s role for other illnesses.

“Some people think all radiation is the same thing, that all radiation is like the Hiroshima, Nagasaki bombs, but that’s clearly not the case,” Dr Khan explained. “If you put radiation in the hands of the experts and the right people – we use it wisely, we use it carefully – that balances risk and benefits.”

Source: News-Medical.Net

COVID Crowdfunding Entrenches Health Inequalities

Photo by Carlos Muza on Unsplash
Photo by Carlos Muza on Unsplash

A study set to be published in the August issue of Social Science & Medicine found that Americans created over 175 000 COVID-related crowdfunding (CCF) campaigns in the first half of 2020, with many receiving no funding at all and campaigns in the most privileged areas receiving the most funding.

During the first year of the COVID crisis, many Americans turned to charitable crowdfunding for help with medical bills, funeral expenses, lost wages, small business support, food assistance, and other needs. CCF increased exponentially after March 2020 on platforms such as GoFundMe. Europe saw CCF focusing largely on support for medical facilities and workers, while the majority of US CCF aimed to support individuals, raising money for food, rent, funerals, and other expenses. In India, which only spends 1.2% of its GDP on healthcare, huge numbers of people are turning to crowdfunding in an attempt to cover costs caused by patchy medical insurance which often does not cover COVID-related illness, nor the significant outpatient costs.

According to GoFundMe CEO Tim Cadogan, the platform saw “unprecedented use,” in the first few months of the COVID pandemic, and crowdfunding “activity has persisted at an alarming rate” since then. Unlike most disasters, which generally have an acute phase of destruction followed by a recovery phase, the economic and health impacts of the pandemic are long-lasting, a trend reflected in the prolonged growth of CCF campaigns. Between March and August of 2020, GoFundMe reported that more than 150 000 CCF campaigns had been started.

Drawing on a large dataset of geo-tagged CCF campaigns started on GoFundMe between January 1 and July 31, 2020, researchers found a number of surprising results in their analysis.
They found that the median campaign raised only $65 out of a $5000 goal, with a median of 2 donations. A striking 43.2% of CCFs received zero donations, with more than 90% not reaching their campaign goal. This is worse than reported in prior research; a 2017 study of medical campaigns found only 3.5% had no donations.
Medical fundraising made up 18.3% of all CCF campaigns, and those indicating severe medical needs, with terms like “ICU”, received an average of 96 donations, and an average donation size of $197, while campaigns mentioning “rent” or “eviction” received an average of 23 donations, with an average size of $84. Campaigns seeking money for businesses or PPE fell between these extremes.

The researchers also noted that CCF campaigns are created most often in the highest-income areas, not those hardest hit by COVID. Previous research on charitable crowdfunding has shown that it exacerbates social inequities by providing financial relief primarily to privileged recipients. Previous economic and ecological crises have also been used by powerful individuals and institutions to serve their own interests, deepening inequities and health disparities during recovery.

“We find a significant disconnect between COVID- related needs, and the ability to adequately and equitably address them with crowdfunding. CCF campaigns face heightened competition, and steep inequalities between winners and losers,” the authors wrote. “Campaign success increasingly accrues among those with more social and economic capital.”

Link to journal article

Journal information: Igra, M., Kenworthy, N., Luchsinger, C. and Jung, J., 2021. Crowdfunding as a response to COVID-19: Increasing inequities at a time of crisis. Social Science & Medicine, 282, p.114105.

First Olympic COVID Cases Among SA Soccer Team

Photo by Bryan Turner on Unsplash
Photo by Bryan Turner on Unsplash

Three members of the South African soccer team staying in the Olympic Village have tested positive for COVID just days before the Olympic opening ceremonies. They are also the first Olympic athletes who tested positive in the tightly-monitored athletes’ enclave along a Tokyo waterfront.

The South African team said in a July 17 statement that defender Thabiso Monyane, midfielder Kamohelo Mahlatsi, and Mario Masha, a video analyst on the coaching staff, had tested positive on the weekend. All South African players had tested negative when they departed for Tokyo on July 13. The entire South African football team is now under quarantine, raising doubts whether they’ll be cleared for their July 22 match against Japan.

Since the announcement, South African rugby Sevens coach Neil Powell as well as an unnamed member of the female US gymnastics team have also tested positive. Outside the athlete’s complex, positive results have been reported for South Korean IOC official Ryu Seung, an unnamed member of the Nigerian delegation, and an unnamed athlete.

Despite the country’s best efforts to contain the virus, COVID remains a big concern in Tokyo at the world’s largest sporting event, expected to draw about 11 000 athletes from 200 nations. The Tokyo Olympic Committee has introduced measures such as banning spectators at games, daily COVID screening for athletes, and limiting stays at the Olympic Village to seven days.

With Japan still under a state of emergency and the COVID delta variant spreading rapidly, many continue to appeal to the International Olympic Committee to cancel the games. But some experts said that at this point a cancellation would cost Japan $16.4 billion. It would also run the risk of being sued by the IOC for breach of contract.

Addressing the outbreaks in an effort to rally local support for the events, IOC president Thomas Bach said, “We are well aware of the skepticism a number of people have here in Japan,” he said. “My appeal to the Japanese people is to welcome the athletes for their competitions.”

Source: Quartz