Kaplan on Challenges in Implementing Gun Control

Mark Kaplan, professor of social welfare, spoke to Yahoo News about deadly shootings happening in California and the rest of the country. The government spends only a small amount of money on firearm violence research, Kaplan said. “Quite often with prevention, we don’t know what’s been prevented. That’s the problem. Because we don’t really have good research,” he said. Kaplan also said strong gun laws in places such as California are undercut by illegal trafficking across state borders. “The idea of piecing together a patchwork of 50 states and coming up with a national policy is almost impossible in this country.  … The problem is state lines, and how do we minimize the flow of firearms into areas that have very strict firearm laws.” The Half Moon Bay Review also cited Kaplan’s research into the relationship between social inequity and gun violence, including his finding that “there is a strong correlation between homicide per million and income inequality.”

Understanding the Epidemic of Mass Attacks

The Washington Post called on social welfare professor Ron Avi Astor for perspective on the nation’s epidemic of mass attacks at campuses, workplaces and other public locations. In an article about a Secret Service report that characterized the motivations of attackers, Astor noted that suicidal ideation is a key factor. “A good number of them are suicidal, a good number of them are trying to create terror, and … some of them might want to be remembered when they’re gone,” he said. Another Post story about a rise in the presence of panic buttons, locks and police on school campuses said more than 331,000 children at more than 350 schools have experienced gun violence during school hours since 1999. “It’s decades of shootings that are horrific, and it’s not just in schools. It’s supermarkets and movie theaters, music events, and just the randomness,” Astor said. But he cautioned against the “prisonization” of schools, noting that increased security must be accompanied by mental health initiatives.


Tilly on Grocery Store Employees’ Rights

Chris Tilly, professor and chair of Urban Planning, spoke to Fast Company and Public News Service about the rights of grocery store employees in both the United States and Europe. In the Fast Company article, Tilly compared American cashiers to their counterparts in Europe, where cashiers are allowed to be seated while working. A blend of standing and sitting would be a recommended health benefit for employees, Tilly said, but “no country seems to have adopted that as a standard.” In the Public News Service article, Tilly commented on the merger of Albertsons and Kroger, grocery store chains that promised to honor union agreements. Tilly noted that there are no guarantees. “Workers are rightly skeptical of that, particularly because when Albertsons and Safeway merged, they spun off 168 stores and quite soon a lot of those stores closed,” he said.

Callahan on Cleaning Up Polluting Port Traffic

Colleen Callahan, co-executive director of the UCLA Luskin Center for Innovation, spoke to Bloomberg News about new business models that could speed the transition to zero-emission freight trucks at California’s ports. Callahan co-authored a study of the heavy-duty diesel trucks that serve Southern California ports, which contribute to dangerous air quality in surrounding low-income communities. “A lot of experts call it the diesel death zone,” Callahan said. “You have these kids going to school adjacent to rail yards and freeways where all these diesel trucks are transporting goods from the ports.” As one result, rates of asthma among children living near the ports are particularly high. New policies are expected to phase out diesel trucks and replace them with electric vehicles, but there are challenges involving cost, charging infrastructure, and a complicated landscape of rebates and incentives. Startup companies are now emerging to provide electric trucks to small businesses on a subscription or leasing plan.


Holloway on Stigmas Surrounding HIV/AIDS and Mpox

Ian Holloway, professor of social welfare and director of the Southern California HIV/AIDS Policy Research Center, spoke to the Los Angeles Times about parallels between the stigmas associated with HIV and AIDS in the past and the recent outbreak of the virus mpox. Public messaging around health threats plays a vital role in how people affected by such conditions are treated. Misinformation and stigma surrounding mpox can discourage people from getting proper care, Holloway said. “The effect that it has is similar to the early days of HIV/AIDS because it kept people away from testing and treatment, and overall created a lot of shame and mental health challenges,” Holloway said. “It’s unfortunate to see those parallels play out.” However, Holloway said messaging around the mpox outbreak has been more inclusive than it was around AIDS, showing that government leaders are doing a better job of responding to new viral threats.


Yin on Effects of Mass Medical Debt Forgiveness

Wesley Yin, associate professor of public policy and management, was cited in an article by NOLA News about an initiative in New Orleans to erase $130 million in medical debt held by the city’s residents. The New Orleans City Council voted last year to allocate funds to a New York-based nonprofit that purchases medical debt on secondary markets, then forgives it. Yin, who is working with the nonprofit to observe the effects of debt forgiveness, said that eliminating newer debt is potentially more impactful than eliminating older debt. He also said there are limits to what providers can do to curb the effects of patient debt. “The problem of debt is something that’s beyond what a hospital really controls, and a much larger problem about inequality and financing in health care systems,” Yin said. “The best place to do this is prevention, and just have more generous health insurance to begin with.”


Torres-Gil on the Rapid Growth of the Aging Population

Fernando Torres-Gil, director of the Center for Policy Research on Aging at UCLA Luskin, was cited in a Los Angeles Times column about the aging population and new challenges it will pose. By 2031, it’s estimated that a quarter of California’s population will be 60 years or older. As many more people have begun to find L.A. County unaffordable, older residents wonder whether they will struggle to make ends meet as inequities increase. The state of California projects a care-provider shortage of over 3 million people in the near future. The “sandwich generation,” consisting of people who simultaneously care for both their parents and children, have thus had to take on more responsibilities. Torres-Gil explains that the two main questions many aging adults are asking themselves these days are “can I afford to cover my bills as I get older, and who will take care of me as I get older?”


Cohen on Why Forced Institutionalization Goes Unchallenged

David Cohen, professor of social welfare, was cited in an article by Mad in America about the non-consensual institutionalization of people for psychiatric treatment. Cohen said that a lack of discussion on social media regarding the issue of involuntary treatment is part of a vacuum of inquiry that has allowed such practices to continue unnoticed. He discussed how coercion is still socially accepted because people justify the use of force against certain people although it cannot be justified by contemporary science. “The desire to coerce others makes the theories of psychiatric science acceptable, even though the theories are so full of holes that they can’t be accepted,” Cohen said. “It gives everything the sense that we can trust psychiatrists to do this thing which is otherwise distasteful to our democratic norms, our rules of law, our sanctity of the individual and our respect for privacy.”


Wasserman on San Francisco’s New Subway Line

Jacob Wasserman, research project manager at the UCLA Institute of Transportation Studies, spoke to the San Francisco Standard about the new Central Subway, the long-awaited transit project connecting eastern San Francisco to Union Square and Chinatown. Among major U.S. metropolitan areas, San Francisco has been one of the slowest to economically recover from the COVID-19 pandemic, raising questions about the current demand for ridership on the new subway. To date, the project is $375 million over budget. Wasserman said that time and cost estimates tend to be highly inaccurate from planning to opening for public transit projects. “Ridership projections are often much higher than ends up being the case, costs overrun by orders of magnitude.”


Pierce on Solutions to Mitigate Floods in San Francisco

Gregory Pierce, co-director of the UCLA Luskin Center for Innovation, spoke to SFGATE about San Francisco’s lack of preparation to prevent flooding after supercharged storms. The city’s sewage infrastructure is extremely antiquated, combining raw sewage and stormwater runoff into a single system. San Francisco’s vast concrete landscape also enables flooding as it doesn’t allow for any stormwater to absorb into the cityscape. Creating a landscape that allows for such drainage will help reduce the chances of flooding. “Reducing paved area is the biggest factor we need to take into account that we haven’t historically,” Pierce said. In addition, about 4,400 of the city’s 25,000 catch basins have been “adopted,” but they are not regularly cleaned by volunteers. “It’s great if neighborhoods and local communities can take additional ownership of unclogging issues,” Pierce said. But he stressed the importance of having centralized maintenance of the system in order to keep the basins clean.