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HPH Weekly: Can the sober curious trend change U.S. alcohol consumption?

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Written by
Christine Mehta
January 4, 2024
Read Time
3 min

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Can the sober curious trend change U.S. alcohol consumption?

Photo illustration: A cocktail shaker spills in midair with two ice cubes spilling out. The cocktail shaker is pink and orange on a dark green background.
Photo illustration: Kent Dayton / Harvard Public Health

The holidays are over and the season’s iconic indulgences of frosted cookies and hot toddies have given way to the traditional temperance of Dry January (or Damp January for those interested in moderation over abstinence). But for more and more younger Americans, avoiding alcohol is not just a seasonal thing.

Our reporter, Sandra Lamb, took a closer look at these new consumption patterns. She found “no-alcohol” bars popping up from New York City to Milwaukee—and new moves to tax take-home alcohol, despite resistance from the alcohol lobby. While policy measures encouraging people to drink less are still piecemeal, and regular bars still vastly outnumber no-alcohol ones, experts say any little bit helps.

Superbugs thrive in the ruins of war

Close-up photo of a petri dish with agar containing colored microorganisms and bacteria. The Petri dish is on a dark blue background with a blue speckled frame.
Photo illustration: Mary Delaware / Harvard Public Health

It’s long been known that “superbugs”—antimicrobial-resistant (AMR) bacteria—flourish in war zones. Yet we’ve made little progress toward containing drug-resistant infections in wartime, writes Henry Skinner, CEO of the AMR Action Fund. Instead, the world relies on hand-washing, good antibiotics stewardship, and piecemeal improvements in surveillance. “These efforts have impact and are commendable,” he writes, “but it is like trying to control a forest fire with a garden hose.”

Skinner calls for governments to invest where the pharmaceutical industry won’t. Only then, he argues, can we take meaningful steps toward addressing a problem of this scale.

Myopia in children: does staring at a screen damage eyesight?

Photo illo: A young boy sits and plays with a glowing tablet. Behind him is an oversized eye chart that blurs on the sides.
Source images: ngkaki / iStock, andresr / iStock

By 2050, nearly one billion people will be severely nearsighted, writes reporter Alex Smith. Nearsightedness, or myopia, mostly means a lifelong dependence on glasses or contacts, but sometimes it leads to complications like retinal tearing, glaucoma, or macular degeneration, especially later in life. No one knows exactly why myopia is becoming so prevalent, but getting quality care for the condition can be challenging, especially for low-income families. Myopia treatments are few, and vision insurance remains rare.

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Filed Under
Christine Mehta
Christine Mehta is the senior editor for ideas and opinions at Harvard Public Health. Read more from Christine Mehta.