Great Britain has appointed a “minister for loneliness” to devise a national public-private strategy to tackle the largely modern public health problems associated with social isolation. It is estimated that 200,000 older Britons have not had a conversation with a friend or relative in over a month. Lonely persons are more likely to experience dementia, heart disease, depression, and a reduction in lifespan expectancy. As part of the effort, the Office for National Statistics is also establishing a method to measure loneliness.
The Nowon District of Seoul, South Korea, is launching what is believed to be the first local cryptocurrency, further bringing blockchain-based currency use into everyday commerce. When residents in the district volunteer or make donations, they will earn units of the currency that can be used for transactions between private citizens and a growing number of participating businesses. Users can access the currency through a mobile app or with a card.
The District of Columbia, with the help of the nonprofit Open Law Library, is updating and codifying its laws in near-real time under a new pilot. It can often take months to turn enacted session laws into properly formatted legal code. A single DC government codification attorney can now do the entire process in as little as a week using artificial intelligence and natural-language processing. Open Law Library also hopes to unveil tools to allow explanatory documents to be linked with the code to help everyday residents — not just lawyers — navigate the meaning and purpose of the laws they live under. DC passes about 250 code-changing ordinances each year and around 500 ordinances that require annotations to the code.
To reduce the number of unnecessary emergency room visits, the Los Angeles Fire Department has launched the Sobriety Emergency Response (SOBER) pilot program designed to better identify intoxicated patients who need transportation to the city’s sobering center, not an emergency room visit. During a traditional ER visit, emergency responders can sometimes spend up to six hours waiting for the individual to be admitted, preventing them from responding to other calls. Under the one-year pilot, an EMT, nurse practitioner, and caseworker will respond to incidents involving individuals who meet certain criteria. Around 100 people have been transported by the unit to the sobering center since the pilot launched, with the unit averaging four people a day.
Hawaii is launching a program that will provide eligible working family caregivers with financial assistance to help pay for costs associated with caring for their elders. Under the Kupuna Caregivers Program, administered by the Hawaii Executive Office on Aging, working caregivers may apply to receive up to $70 per day to cover the cost of adult daycare, chore services, home-delivered meals, transportation, and other services. The state will collect and analyze data during a six-month program pilot to evaluate demand, provider capacity, and how effective the program is in helping caregivers retain employment and ease financial burden.
Over the past two decades, teen drinking and substance abuse in Iceland has dramatically declined as part of a nationwide, federal-state initiative that focuses on societal supports not just individual responsibility. Under “Youth in Iceland,” the country implemented measures such as tiered curfews based on age, the signing of communal pledges by parents to limit parties and increase parental involvement, parental patrols of local neighborhoods, and the expansion of state-funded afterschool sports and leisure activities to keep kids busy and out of trouble. Iceland is now exporting its model to several dozen cities in Europe and at least two counties in West Virginia.