Tuesday, July 11, 2017

Ideas, Actions, and Inspiration for a Better Tomorrow - July 11 Edition

Women, World Population Day

There are about 214 million women around the world who want to avoid pregnancy but don’t have access to contraception, according to the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA). Addressing this unmet need is part of the inspiration for the theme of this year's World Population Day on Tuesday: "family planning." 

The world has 7.4 billion people in it, and by 2023 the United Nations predicts there will be more than 8 billion people who call the planet home. In Africa alone, the continent with the highest fertility rate and lowest use of modern contraceptives, 26 countries will double their population by 2050, according to the U.N.

“Fundamentally if you’re looking at World Population Day, it is at heart a women’s rights issue,” said Roger-Mark DeSouza director of population, environmental security and resilience at the non-partisan policy Wilson Center, based in Washington, D.C.

Inspiration, Life after 50

Robin Nesdale’s story is not that unusual. At 56, divorced and with her daughter, her only child, off at college, her life felt a little empty and rudderless.

Friends suggested that she take up a hobby or volunteer at a local charity, but “that didn’t suit me,” Ms. Nesdale said. “I’ve always been a tomboy.” And then one day, she passed the local fire department in Mamaroneck, where she lives, and saw a firefighter sitting outside. They chatted a bit, and “I asked him, ‘do you think I could do this?’ and he said, ‘Sure.’ And it was like a light bulb went off. I wanted something to help me and the community.”

So she put in an application to become a volunteer firefighter.

That was just about a year ago, and in a ceremony on Thursday, Ms. Nesdale will graduate as a volunteer firefighter. Walter Ferguson, a state fire instructor in Westchester County, said Ms. Nesdale was the oldest woman to become a volunteer in his 20 years as a teacher.

Health Care

To understand why the cost of health insurance continues to increase, we need to understand why the cost of overall health care spending is rising. Most health care over the past 20 years has been reimbursed under a fee-for-service model, a flat sum for each test or procedure provided to patients regardless of outcome. As a result, the U.S. both orders and spends more on medical tests and treatments per person than any other country. Yet, we show no better health outcomes for patients.

This lack of accountability for outcomes compounded with a model that rewards volume over value has created a bloated system. While an MRI in the U.S. costs four times more than an MRI in France, increases in U.S. life expectancy have flatlined relative to Western Europe.

Physicians and business school professors often speak of “bending the cost curve”—decreasing the rate at which health care costs rise. If we can redesign health care delivery to reduce overall spending and improve patient outcomes, then the cost of providing health insurance becomes a much smaller problem. The flip side of that equation is that if we don’t tackle issues of quality and efficiency in the health care system, then whatever way Congress ends up choosing to provide health care coverage won’t matter; health care costs will become increasingly unaffordable and erode access to coverage as everyday Americans are priced out of the insurance market.

Early Education

Children enter kindergarten with a wide variety of previous education experiences: some have participated in pre-K programs, whether private, state-funded, or part of Head Start, while others have spent time in a family child care setting or in informal arrangements with family, friends, and neighbors. Regardless of the setting, the transition to kindergarten can be fraught with stress and uncertainty for many children and their parents.  While the planning of a stable, well-connected transition between early education and kindergarten falls largely within the purview of individual schools and districts, states can actively encourage intentional, local efforts to smooth transitions to kindergarten.

Today, the Early & Elementary Education policy team released Connecting the Steps: State Strategies to Ease the Transition from Pre-K to Kindergarten, which profiles efforts in four states to smooth the transition process. The states highlighted in the report are Colorado, Oregon, Washington, and West Virginia. These states came to our attention as we reviewed research on the transition to kindergarten and spoke to experts in the field. Each state has taken actions to address the difficulties that often arise in the transition to kindergarten. In this brief, we describe the steps each state has taken and discuss the opportunities and challenges with their various approaches.

Romance, Travel

Austin Mann and Esther Havens are travel photographers whose work takes them around the world.

They were good friends before striking up a romance; six years ago, Mann was passing through the Amsterdam airport and realized Havens would be there a few days later. He hid a note for her in the airport Starbucks and texted her a riddle to help her find it. The pair later started dating, and continued hiding notes for each other at airport Starbucks around the world, weaving their own little secret trail of love notes in otherwise very public places.

The notes often consisted of encouraging messages taped under a table or slipped between cushions in a booth. Sometimes, Mann would arrange to have a drink waiting for Havens after she found the note. Then, in May, he left the biggest note of all:

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