General Health

Scientists Enter Political Fray To Defend Silly-Sounding Research

Friday, June 16th, 2017

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Biologist Patricia Brennan, examining an Orca whale penis.

The national March for Science on April 22 – and satellite events around New England – mark a departure for many scientists. Until recently, they did not consider political activism part of their job. But over the past few years, a growing number of researchers – including targets of political attacks – say it’s time to come out swinging. And that includes defending what might sound like unusual lines of inquiry. [Aired on New England Public Radio April 20, 2017]

Treatment Island: Addicts Sent To Recover Off Coast of Cape Cod

Tuesday, January 17th, 2017

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About a dozen miles off the coast of Cape Cod sits a rustic island named Penikese — part of the Elizabeth island chain. A hundred years ago, Penikese was home to a leper colony, then a school for troubled boys and a bird sanctuary. In the fall of 2016, Penikese opened to its newest incarnation — a treatment program for opioid addicts. [Aired November 2016 on New England Public Radio, and December 2016 on WHYY's The Pulse. Also part of the New England News Collaborative.]

Heroin Addicts (Willingly) Trade Freedom for Treatment

Thursday, November 17th, 2016

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A sign urging families to consider civil commitment, at the Greenfield courthouse.

Massachusetts is one of 38 states where someone who abuses drugs or alcohol to an extreme can be legally committed to a locked treatment facility. In most cases, a worried family member has to go to court to make that happen.

But one recent trend that has surprised even court officials is how many addicts are appealing directly to a judge — willing to give up their civil rights in exchange for some help.

Aired on New England Public Radio October 19, 2016.

National version aired on NPR’s All Things Considered November 15, 2016

Vets Get Alternative Treatment for PTSD, But Not Always Evidence-Based

Monday, October 17th, 2016

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The Department of Veterans Affairs estimates up to 30 percent of former service members — from the Vietnam war to Iraq and Afghanistan –have post traumatic stress disorder. They don’t all seek treatment – but among those who do, the V-A says twenty to forty percent don’t get better with the standard regimen of therapy, medication, or both. Increasingly veterans are seeking out alternative mental health care – and much of it untested.

Aired on New England Public Radio July 18, 2016

Kinder, Gentler Policing: Rethinking The War On Drugs

Tuesday, March 22nd, 2016

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Last year, the police chief of Gloucester Massachusetts made an unusual offer on his department’s Facebook page. Heroin addicts who come

Montague Police Chief Chip Dodge

voluntarily to the police station will not get arrested; they’ll get help.The post went viral and led to the creation of  the Gloucester Angel program, in which the police help addicts find drug treatment options. The Gloucester effort has gotten national press and spread to dozens of other police departments around the country. Karen Brown spent time with one New England police chief who was inspired by the Gloucester example – though with not quite the same results. [Aired on WHYY's The Pulse, Feb 2016, and New England Public Radio, March 2016.]

Staying Alive: The Art and Science of Living to 100

Thursday, November 12th, 2015

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Photo by Karen Brown/Peter Chilton.

More people are living to a hundred than ever before — twice as many as twenty years ago. And they’re often living quite well – which is why centenarians have become a popular group to study in the science of aging.

Listen here to an audio essay of my quest to meet centenarians in Western Massachusetts and learn the secret to their longevity. Voices of: Arky Markham, Helen Backiel Krok, Althea Cowles and Eva Blondin. (Music by John Townsend.)

This story was first performed as a staged reading at Live Art Magazine in Northampton, MA on Oct. 23, 2015.

To download audio, right-click here