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Health Capsules: May 22

By: Lisa Russell


Will the dead soon outnumber the living on Facebook?

As Facebook continues to expand worldwide, the number of deceased users may overtake living ones, a new analysis found.

If the world’s largest social network continues to expand at its current rate, the number of deceased Facebook users may be greater than living ones by as early as 2070, according to a new analysis conducted at the Oxford Internet Institute [OII]. 

This disturbing trend has important implications for how we treat our “digital heritage” in the future, both individually and as a society, said Carl Öhman and David Watson, doctoral students at the institute and authors of the analysis.

Their analysis predicts that, based on 2018 user levels with no further expansion, at least 1.4 billion Facebook users will die before 2100. If, however, Facebook continues to grow at current rates around the world, the number of deceased users could reach as high as 4.9 billion before the end of the century. The actual number will probably fall somewhere in between, they said.

“These statistics give rise to new and difficult questions around who has the right to all this data … On a societal level, we have just begun asking these questions and we have a long way to go. The management of our digital remains will eventually affect everyone who uses social media, since all of us will one day pass away and leave our data behind,” Öhman explained.

 “Never before in history has such a vast archive of human behavior and culture been assembled in one place. Controlling this archive will, in a sense, be to control our history. It is therefore important that we ensure that access to these historical data is not limited to a single for-profit firm,” Watson added.

As the largest of several social media platforms with growing membership globally, Facebook should invite historians, archivists, archaeologists and ethicists to participate in the process of managing the “vast volume” of data left behind when users pass away, they said.

‘Black box’ warning issued for some sleep medicines

The FDA will soon require a new boxed warning – the agency’s highest-level warning – on certain prescription insomnia drugs following several reports of serious injuries and some deaths of people taking them. The new warning will be required for eszopiclone [Lunesta], zaleplon [Sonata] and zolpidem [Ambien, Edluar, Intermezzo and Zolpimist].

Some of the so-called “complex sleep behaviors” the drugs can cause, which precipitated the new warning requirement, have included sleepwalking, driving while asleep and engaging in dangerous activities while not fully awake, such as unsafely using a stove. 

Although few in number [less than 50], reports of non-fatal serious injuries have included accidental overdoses, falls, burns, near-drowning, exposure to extreme cold temperatures leading to loss of a limb, and self-injuries such as gunshot wounds. The 20 reported deaths were due to carbon monoxide poisoning, drowning, fatal falls, hypothermia, fatal motor vehicle collisions with the patient driving, and apparent suicide. 

“We recognize that millions of Americans suffer from insomnia and rely on these drugs to help them sleep better at night. While these incidents are rare, they are serious and it’s important that patients and health care professionals are aware of the risk,” said Dr. Ned Sharpless, the FDA’s acting commissioner. “These incidents can occur after the first dose of these sleep medicines or after a longer period of treatment, and can occur in patients without any history of these behaviors and even at the lowest recommended doses.” 

Mercy ranked among top U.S. health systems 

For the fourth consecutive year, Chesterfield-based Mercy has been named among the top five large health systems in the nation by IBM Watson Health.  

The annual study recognizes five large, five medium and five small systems which together operate nearly 3,000 hospitals throughout the U.S.

Watson Health, an IBM company, conducts a rigorous analysis of hospital performance to identify the best health systems in the nation. Its scorecard uses objective, independent research, and health systems do not apply for consideration.

“Mercy is very focused on the quality of care we provide our patients, and we’ve made significant strides in reducing both health-care associated infections and surgical complications,” said Dr. Keith Starke, Mercy senior vice president and top quality officer. “For patients, it means we prevent unnecessary suffering, and they go home healthier and sooner.”

According to the Watson study, Mercy’s superior performance included more life-saving  outcomes with fewer complications and readmissions; lower cost of care; shorter hospital stays and emergency department wait times; and higher levels of patient safety and satisfaction.

On the calendar

An American Red Cross Blood Drive is on Thursday, May 30 from 3:30-7:30 p.m. at the St. Louis County Library’s Samuel Sachs Branch, 16400 Burkhardt Place in Chesterfield. Walk-ins are welcome, but appointments will take priority. To schedule an appointment, visit redcrossblood.org or call the Red Cross at 1-800-733-2767.

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BJC St. Louis Children’s Hospital sponsors a Staying Home Alone course on Saturday, June 1 from 9-10:30 a.m. at Children’s Specialty Care Center, 13001 N. Outer Forty Road in Town & Country. This class is designed for parents and children to attend together; it will help to determine a child’s physical, mental, social and emotional readiness to stay home alone and prepare them for the experience. The fee is $25 per family. To register, call (314) 454-5437.

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St. Luke’s Hospital’s annual Tour de Wellness – Ride for Heart Health is on Sunday, June 2 beginning at 7:30 a.m. at the hospital’s Desloge Outpatient Center, 121 St. Luke’s Center Drive in Chesterfield. The event welcomes cyclists of all levels; choose from one of three routes ranging from 17 to 60 miles. Proceeds will support St. Luke’s Heart and Vascular Institute in its continued development of treatment options, life-saving research and community outreach initiatives.  Registration, sponsorship details and general information are available online at stlukestourdewellness.com.

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St. Luke’s Hospital offers cholesterol and glucose wellness screenings on Friday, June 7 from 7-10 a.m. at St. Luke’s Resource Center, 101 St. Luke’s Center Drive in Chesterfield. Get your cholesterol and glucose numbers in a one-on-one consultation with a registered nurse/health coach, which also includes blood pressure and body composition measurement. The cost is $20; an A1C blood test is also available for an additional $12. Advance appointments are required; register online at stlukes-stl.com.

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Missouri Baptist Medical Center hosts a Babysitting 101 class on Saturday, June 8 from 9 a.m.-1 p.m. at the hospital’s Clinical Learning Institute, 3015 N. Ballas Road. This class is a great introduction to the basics of babysitting; participants learn how to entertain kids in their care while attending to their needs. Topics include the business of babysitting, child development, safety and first aid, and fun and games. There is no age limit. The course fee is $30 per child. Register online at https://classes-events.bjc.org/wlp2/.

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St. Luke’s Hospital offers a Sitter Skills course on Monday, June 10 from noon-2:30 p.m. at the hospital’s Institute for Health Education, 222 S. Woods Mill Road in Chesterfield. This program is for beginning babysitters, both boys and girls, ages 11 and older to help make their babysitting experience a success. Topics include safety, first aid and child development. The course fee is $25 per child. Advance registration is required by visiting stlukes-stl.com.

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St. Luke’s Hospital presents Tune in to Prevent Diabetes on Wednesday, June 19 from 1-2:30 p.m. at the Desloge Outpatient Center, 121 St. Luke’s Center Drive in Chesterfield, in Building A. Prediabetes is a serious medical condition that should be treated in a timely manner to keep you diabetes-free and reduce your risk of complications. This free program will review nutrition and  lifestyle strategies and provide resources to help you take control. Register online at stlukes-stl.com.

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