Health and Science

Mass shootings have far-reaching mental-health consequences, say experts

By Ilana Marcus
Medill Reports

In the weeks following the Parkland, Florida school shooting, Chicago-based psychologist Nancy Molitor noticed that the tragedy was surfacing repeatedly during sessions with her patients, even though it happened more than a thousand miles away.

“They were coming in for other issues, but it was the first thing on their mind,” said Molitor, who specializes in mood and anxiety disorders.

“This shooting in particular, I think impacted the public as a whole, even if they haven’t been witnesses,” she said.

School social worker Katie Prahin also noticed an increase in anxiety among the students at her Catholic school in Chicago.

“It doesn’t necessarily manifest itself where you see children talking directly about school shootings or gun violence,” she said. “I think that’s due to what they’re hearing about, whether it’s their exposure to the news, whether they hear their parents talking about it, whether they hear their peers talking about it.”

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Taking a tip from the plants: Mimicking photosynthesis to produce fuels

By Lakshmi Chandrasekaran

Nathan La Porte dreams of a field full of solar panels leading to a pump in the corner fueling station. The sun shines down on the panels collecting enough energy to power a process that produces a liquid fuel to fill up the gas tank of a car.

If you think this falls in the realms of science fiction, think again. La Porte, a post-doctoral scientist with Michael Wasielewski’s chemistry lab at Northwestern University, is working to convert the concept into reality. And the inspiration for this comes from the billion-year-old phenomenon perfected by plants to produce their food – photosynthesis.

Wasielewski, director of the Institute of Sustainability and Energy at Northwestern is developing artificial photosynthesis as a way to harness solar energy and produce different types of fuels while tapping atmospheric carbon dioxide as a resource for the process. Carbon dioxide is the driving force of climate change and a key ingredient of photosynthesis.

“We are running the most dangerous experiment in history right now, which is to see how much carbon dioxide the atmosphere can handle before there is an environmental catastrophe,” said Elon Musk, CEO of Tesla Motors, in an interview with USA Today.

Artificial photosynthesis for solar liquid fuels of the future. (Animation scripted and reported by Lakshmi Chandrasekaran/MEDILL; produced by Next Media Animations)

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From solar to backyard birds – Find eco-friendly solutions at Going Green Matters

By Nathan Ouellette
Medill Reports

Going Green Matters, will feature more than 100 eco-friendly vendors this Sunday, offering everything from solar power to pedal power. Wilmette’s annual environmental fair has been showcasing clean energy solutions and technologies to Chicago area residents for 12 years.

The fair, co-sponsored by Go Green Wilmette and the Village of Wilmette, opens at the Michigan Shores Club this year and gives visitors one-stop shopping on how to introduce new sustainability practices into their everyday lives.

This year’s fair takes a special focus on solar.

“We want to get solar installed as cost-effectively as possible,” said Jack Ailey, co-owner of Ailey Solar. “We do it for environmental reasons and to be fair to our workers.”

You can meet these 10 vendors among dozens of others  at this year’s Going Green Matters.

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Japan uses robots in nursing home care; an example for America?

By Alexa Adler
Medill Reports

Tokyo–The Japanese nursing home industry, facing a demographic crisis that combines an increasing number of nursing home patients with a decrease of eligible caregivers, has turned to robots to provide patient care designed to be both more effective and safer, while making caregivers’ jobs a little easier.

Silver Wing Social Welfare Corp., a Tokyo-based nursing home operator, fueled by a 5.2-billion-yen fund provided by the Tokyo metropolitan government for robot use, is one of the leaders in nursing home robotic innovations.

Declining birth rates and increased longevity have made the Japanese population increasingly elderly. According to the Statistics Bureau of Japan, people aged 65 or older, the group from which nursing home patients generally come, constitute a staggering 27.3 percent of the population, and the proportion is rising. The U.S. Census Bureau says that only 14.9 percent of Americans are 65-plus.

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Trend toward veganism finds a new niche market: Women

By Hannah Wiley
Medill Reports

In a world of fad diets and constantly changing health trends, vegans want you to know that they’re here to stay. With more plant-based products on the market and alternative options for meat and dairy, veganism grew in popularity in 2017.

According to a Forbes report, plant-based food sales went up 8.1% last year. The report suggests the food and beverage industry should invest in vegan-friendly items, pointing out that the plant-based market is expected to grow to a $5 billion industry by 2020.

An option for those curious about veganism — or others already following the lifestyle — is Vegan Women Made, a market started by Nicole Melanie Davis that features plant-based products. Davis began the marketplace after starting Mindful Indulgences, a confection business that uses only fair-trade and vegan ingredients.

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South Side wellness salon makes acupuncture affordable to more people

By Yunyi (Jessie) Liu
Medill Reports

Haji Healing Salon in Hyde Park, about a 15-minutey bus ride from the Red Line, can be challenging to find without help from a friend.

But customers entered the salon steadily on a recent Sunday morning and salon owner Aya-Nikole Cook greets them as they arrive.

“It’s such a beautiful place,” says Khadijah Kysia, an acupuncturist at the salon who lives in Humboldt Park on the West Side. When Cook invited her to work at the salon and provide community acupuncture treatments, Kysia intended to reject the offer at the very beginning. Continue reading

Exelon and Northwestern partner to kick up the energy from solar cells

By Lakshmi Chandrasekaran

A Chinese solar energy company captured the imagination of the world and a younger generation of consumers by building a solar farm in the shape of a giant panda. That adds a bit of whimsy to China’s growing reputation as a world leader in solar energy production.  But the hottest competition is in the race for new solar technology

In the quest to limit carbon emissions, more countries are harvesting energy from the sun, with the focus on research to create better solar cells and batteries to store it.  And this is not surprising when you consider a few facts about solar power. The Earth receives 173,000 terawatts (or 173 trillion kilowatts) of solar energy all the time.

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Despite risks, flu shot not required for staff at many nursing facilities

By Ilana Marcus
Medill Reports

Staff at many skilled-nursing and rehabilitation facilities in Chicago are not required to receive the vaccination against influenza, despite working with some of the most vulnerable members of the population.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention does not issue any vaccination requirements for health care workers, and while some facilities encourage their staff to get flu shots, ultimately the decision is left to the individual staffer.

The consequences of seniors coming down with influenza this year can be deadly, said Teri Dreher, CEO of Northshore Patient Advocates and registered nurse.

“It’s a very bad idea” for staffers who have direct patient contact to forego vaccination, she said. “The infections out there are so dangerous to seniors, both the flu and bacterial infections.”

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Psychological impact of gun violence causes public health crisis

By Ilana Marcus
Medill Reports

The long-lasting psychological impact and mental disorders stemming from exposure to gun violence have made Chicago’s shooting epidemic a public-health issue, a panel of experts said last week at an event hosted by Cook County.

That’s on top of the monetary costs to the health system associated with treating gunshot victims, said panelists.

The panel was the first event of a Cook County initiative to bring awareness to the intersection of gun violence and public health. The goal is to encourage lawmakers to create policy addressing these issues, said Alejandro Aixalá, executive director of the Cook County Justice Advisory Council.

“We do prevention and treatment, trying to reduce the likelihood of these things happening,” he said, discussing both preemptive and reactive efforts to minimize gun violence.

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80 floors, 1,634 steps, and more than $629,000 for kids

By Yunyi(Jessie) Liu
Medill Reports

More than 2,500 people climbed the 80 flights to the top of the Aon Center, the city’s third tallest skyscraper, to help children battling illness and families at the Ann & Robert H. Lurie Children’s Hospital of Chicago.

The annual “Step Up for Kids” event  on Sunday earned $629,772.52 up to now, just shy of the $800,000 goal. All the funds raised benefit the Lurie Children’s Department of Family Services, a division of the hospital that focuses on the mental, emotional and spiritual well-being of patients and their families. K.I.D.S.S. for Kids, a fundraising organization affiliated with the hospital, has organized the event for the last two decades.

Stair-steppers gathered from across Chicago, Illinois, Iowa and Wisconsin, according to Ted McCartan, director of Community Engagement at the hospital,.

The event ran from 8 a.m. until 12:30 p.m. Chicagoan Terry Purcell championed the competition with an astonishing 9-minute, 44-second climb, followed by Robert Liking at 10 minutes and Tara Linn 10 minutes and 44 seconds.

Photo at top: Kids from the British International School of Chicago, Lincoln Park, completed the climb.  ( Yunyi(Jessie) Liu/MEDILL)