Roundup: Outdoors Rx and An Uncontacted Tribe Gets The Flu
A couple of really interesting stories caught my eye this week:
The Takeaway had a segment this week about a new program at Massachusetts General Hospital that doctors are calling "Outdoors Rx." They're training pediatricians to write actual prescriptions for outdoor play, in a new approach to preventative medicine in an always-connected world. Dr. Christina Scirica told the hosts that she's seen an increase in the number of young people with symptoms that usually don't show up until later in life, including pre-diabetes, high blood pressure and joint pain, among others. Studies show that spending more time active outdoors can help prevent these and other conditions.
Scirica is the director of Outdoors Rx, which works with the Appalachian Mountain Club to get kids outside, and she's hoping to take the program national.
Callers and commenters mentioned that when TV first became popular, doctors often told kids to spend more time outside. But it's not clear whether there's ever been a push to have it be a literal prescription. Boston Magazine actually wrote about Outdoors Rx last year, and explained that patients' parents get a prescription and can then register their families on the Outdoors Rx website to get information about available outdoor activities, as well as track their progress.
Five men and two women from one of the few remaining tribes in Peru left their village last month and traveled to Ashaninka in Brazil, where they all contracted influenza, according to Brazil's national Indian foundation Funai.
The people, from the Chitonahua tribe, are reportedly hunter-gatherers, and Carlos Travassos of Funai told Forbes earlier this week that doctors were flown in and interpreters used to convince them to take medication to lower the chance that they spread the potentially deadly sickness to their tribe.
It seemed like an odd story to be reading in 2014. Many researchers believe that entire tribes of people were wiped out by flu-like illnesses contracted after their homes and nearby lands were occupied by outsiders. We learn about this in school, but this week's story is a stark reminder that the few remaining tribes who still live "uncontacted" are at a very real risk, especially as logging and other industries increasingly encroach on wild lands in South America.