1) Healthcare.gov Gets Clean Bill Of Health… Kind Of.
Few health stories in 2013 captured as much news coverage and attention than the launch of the Federal Health Exchange website and its rocky beginnings. Many were excited by the prospect of lower health insurance costs, promised by the administration, and flocked to the website to sign up. But, due to technical difficulties, hundreds of thousands of customers were left out in the cold and unable to enroll in coverage. Insurance companies reported very few applications received even months after the site’s launch.
By November, 2014, the problems that plagued the site earlier had seemed to be fixed with the officials announcing 100,000 application submissions on the first day of open enrollment. But, higher than expected premium cost and lower coverage for consumers — combined with complicated and costly systems for hospitals — highlights just how much further ‘Obamacare’ has to go before it will be seen as a success.
2) The Ebola Outbreak: Death in Africa
While Ebola didn’t start in 2014, it sure came on like a lion then. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reported that, as of January 6, 2015, a total of 21,007 cases were reported, and nearly 9,000 deaths were attributed to the disease.
3) The Ebola Outbreak: Coming to America
The inevitable happened which captured headlines around the country, igniting a firestorm, sending people running for surgical masks and hazmat suites to protect themselves from the disease. But, was it much-ado-about-nothing? Within a few weeks, everything seemed back to normal again.
4) Enterovirus Grips The Nation
Enterovirus D68 (EV-D68) took the U.S. by surprise in 2014, with a confirmed total of 1,153 people within 49 states and the District of Columbia affected.
5) E-Cigarette Use Soars
Amid the ongoing debate whether e-cigarettes are a less dangerous alternative to smoking, the use of these devices soared in 2014. A U.S. National Institutes of Health survey found that more than double number of 10th graders are likely to have tried e-cigarettes, to those who will have tried traditional cigarettes.
6) War In The Lunchroom: Kids vs Healthy Eating
No matter where you land on the issue of healthy meals in public schools one thing is for sure, the kids weren’t happy in 2014. Championed by First Lady, Michelle Obama, federal regulations on what constitutes a healthy meal were met with opposition from the recipients of those lunches. Kids around the country took to social media, tweeting photos of their meals along with the trending hashtag #ThanksMichelleObama.
7) Right To Die
When most think about a patient seeking assisted suicide we picture a face of many more years than that of Brittany Maynard’s, an attractive 29-year old woman from California. Brittany suffered from cancer and moved to Oregon in 2014 to take advantage of the state’s “Death With Dignity Act” — at the same time capturing the nations attention to the serious subject of an individuals right to die.
8) Vaccines…pssh! Who Needs ‘Em? We Do, Apparently.
A small but growing number of parents who have shun vaccinating their children, based on beliefs that vaccines cause conditions like Autism, are unwittingly playing a role in the resurgence of once-rare childhood diseases. In 2014, California suffered its worst outbreak of pertussis, also know as ‘whooping cough’, in 70 years. CDC statistics also show that U.S. measles cases have reached a 20-year high.
9) Pot gets legalized
Although the legalization of marijuana in Washington state, Oregon, and Colorado was for recreational use, I have added it to this list for the social significance it points to. Namely, the changing tide in public sentiment toward pot and its use. Many states have already, up-till-now, had laws for its legal medical use. However, in many cases, the wider view of pot as a ‘bad thing’ stymied its spread as a potential option for those seeking a serious alternative to pharmaceuticals. This recent wave of states legalizing its use could signal a change in opinion, and open doors for patients looking for other options.
10) America Looses An Icon
America, and the world, was shocked when it learned that one of its beloved stars had committed suicide. Robin Williams took his own life after years of struggling with depression. After his death, Williams’ wife revealed he had also recently been diagnosed with Parkinson’s disease, and an autopsy revealed his brain showed signs of Lewd Body Disease, a form of dementia that can cause hallucinations and concentration problems.
Although it’s not confirmed these conditions played a role in William’s suicide, his death has shed light on several frequently misdiagnosed or understood disorders.
11) “I’ll have the small ‘650 calorie’ popcorn please.”
Restaurants and concession stands must now post calorie counts on their menus. Under newly finalized FDA rules, chain restaurants, vending machines, and theatre and amusement park snacks must post their calorie counts. Personally, I don’t want to know my ‘elephant ear’ is 1,500 calories… I just want to shove it in my face while spinning 800 rpm’s on the tilt-a-whirl.
I want to end this list on a high note, because, while there were some really terrible things that happened in 2014, there were some really heart-warming and amazing things that happened as well.
12) Grow-Your-Own Ears
By first depositing living cells encapsulated in a hydrogel with a 3D printer, scientists at Weill Cornell Medical College were able to construct and grow the first artificial ears that look and act like real ones. Using human cells, specifically from the same patient, reduces any possibility of rejection.
13) Congratulations Nurses!
Nurses once again topped the list of ‘professions with the highest ethical standards’ in Gallup’s 2014 survey on honesty and ethics. Way to go nurses… Whoop, whoop!
14) The Six-million Dollar Men: Bionic Eyes and Arms
A North Carolina man became the first patient in state history to receive a “bionic eye”, Argus II retinal prostheses, allowing him to see light for the first time in 30 years. Then, in the later half of the year, a double arm amputee was fitted with robotic arms that he was able to control… wait for it, with his mind! How freakin’ cool is that?