Roundup: Opinions from other newspapers

Farmington Daily Times
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Research shows dementia rates declining

Recent research has concluded that, even though the number of people with dementia is increasing as baby boomers age, the prevalence of the affliction is declining.

A study published last week in The New England Journal of Medicine provided the strongest evidence yet that better education is helping people live longer before falling victim to the disease. It evaluated 5,025 people age 60 and older four times beginning in 1977, and it found a steady decline of about 20 percent in new cases each decade. That decline occurred only in people with a high school education or more. It also found that the average age of onset, which was 80 in the 1970s, now is 85.

Another large-scale study conducted by a professor of internal medicine from the University of Michigan found, according to The New York Times, that the rate of dementia declined by about 21 percent from 2000 to 2010; other researchers have reported similar findings.

If that’s true, why are there so many people being diagnosed? Blame the aging population bulge.

Experts still don’t know why the level of education affects the likelihood that a person will develop dementia. Are better educated people likely to live healthier lifestyles or does the educational process create more neural pathways in the brain?

The studies are encouraging in suggesting that dementia may not be as inevitable a consequence of aging as once was expected, but researchers still have far more questions than answers.

In a nation where 5 million people already have dementia, the hope is that previous predictions that the number would triple by the middle of this century will be proved wrong.

Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, Feb. 15


Government has lots of unhappy customers

The American Customer Satisfaction Index recently released its annual report on customer satisfaction with federal government agencies and a CBSNews.com story about the results says it all: “Americans hate the U.S. government more than ever.” Though perhaps a bit melodramatic, it is true that the satisfaction index recorded the lowest score since ACSI started evaluating government agencies in 1999: 63.9 on a scale of 0-100.

That is down from the previous record low set last year, 64.4, and continues a general downward trend that has persisted since 2006.

It should be little surprise that the worst score went to the Treasury Department (55), which houses the Internal Revenue Service. The Justice Department (59) and the scandal-plagued Department of Veterans Affairs (60) also brought up the rear.

The highest scores went to the Department of the Interior (75), which runs the National Park system, the Department of State (71), whose passport service generally receives good marks, and the Defense Department (70).

The government consistently underperforms the private sector in customer satisfaction, however, which has also been a long-term trend. “As in prior years of ACSI measurement, both federal and local government services score far below every private economic sector in user satisfaction,” the report stated.

This is the almost inevitable result when you have monopolistic government agencies that are not subject to competition. Unlike private businesses, government employers’ and employees’ livelihoods do not depend on satisfying customers’ needs and desires. Their budgets are determined by political pull — not economic realities — and will increase regardless of performance.

Yet many persist in demonizing the capitalist system, which provides people with the things they want, and worshiping a government they admit is not satisfactory.

The Orange County Register, Feb. 16