Thursday, October 26, 2006

health, poverty, power-law, gladwell

The NYT reports that hospitals are acting on some of the principles described in Malcolm Gladwell's discussion of "power law statistics" and homelessness, published in The New Yorker last February. That is, hospitals are offering free preventative and health maintenance type care, to allay and prevent emergency visits and the costs incurred by uninsured patients with certain chronic troubles.

One of the clear targets of these programs are people with diabetes. A health condition that, like "hypertension, congestive heart failure or asthma" (other conditions in the "to-prevent" list) in so many instances, is caused, exacerbated or sustained by poverty.

The article also includes this disclaimer, "'All these local efforts are commendable, but they are like sticking fingers in the dikes,' Ms. Davis of the Commonwealth Fund said, noting that the larger trend was hospitals’ seeking to avoid the uninsured."

In a way, I'm most interested in the fact that this application of power-law statistics, in the hospital setting, is so practical and effective and less dramatic and morally fraught than Gladwell's presentation of similar arguments.

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Blogger Hans said...

I'm glad that there's an exception to one of my general rules in life: if its written on paper, it'll take three times as long to carry out then originally planned.

However I think the rule of Unintended Belligerent Consequences still holds true.

11:34 PM  
Blogger zp said...

I didn't mean to suggest that the hospitals were actually responding to Gladwell's article . . . But I'm not sure that this affects the dynamics of the first of your general rules.

11:48 AM  

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