Booking.com has unveiled a pilot edition of its new Booking Experiences product that represents the latest technology response to relieve any tension during the experience and stay at the destination. Booking Experiences will allow travelers to discover the best that the destination has to offer, all via a mobile device, and your smartphone will soon be all we need for a unique experience wherever your travels take you.Booking Experiences is the first mobile technology experience of its kind to ultimately leverage artificial intelligence and powerful machine learning technologies to anticipate individual traveler intentions and create a truly convenient and personalized destination experience – all on demand, with hassle-free payments. Alright. “Unlike other experience-seeking tools, the Booking Experiences platform is fully managed through Booking.com, without relying on or redirecting to the websites of others. ” point out from Booking.com and add that after travelers have booked a stay in one of the first cities offered by Booking Experiences, through a single QR code in the Booking.com application, the traveler can get quick access to reservations at all included destinations and attractions that are there.Booking.com turns to selling destinations as a motive for coming by targeting emotions and experiences A clever move by Booking.com, which has clearly realized that in the long run it will not be able to hold the lead in the market only as a site to search for accommodation, but adds a new element – selling a destination as a motive for coming, ie selling experiences and emotions. Of course, from that point of view, it is important to personalize the whole process so that each traveler brings an offer tailored just for him, in accordance with his wishes and needs. Artificial intelligence will be in charge of that, which will collect all the information about you.Booking Experiences eliminates the need to book in advance or wait in lines to buy tickets and tickets – travelers simply have to show up at the place they are interested in, scan the code from their smartphone and enjoy. “With Booking Experiences technology, our passion for data collection, our deep knowledge of travel and our ambition to smartly incorporate artificial intelligence technology into our product combine to create a new and unique travel experience that is fully personalized. The technology supported by Booking Experiences will continuously advance and gather knowledge, both from your travel-related preferences and other travelers like you, to ultimately offer you options that have been carefully selected just for you. Our ultimate goal is to inspire you whether it’s your first or fifth stay at a particular location. “Pointed out Goran Pleše, Area Manager of Booking.com and added that at the moment the Experiences platform is available to travelers visiting London, Paris, Amsterdam, Rome and Dubai, and new destinations will soon arrive, as well as in Croatia.
In the doctoral thesis “Analysis of the impact of hotel characteristics on the seasonality of business“Author dr.sc. Goran Ćorluka, Head of the Department of Trade Business at the University Department of Professional Studies, Split, under the mentorship of doc. Dr. Sc. Smiljana Pivčević, dealt with a crucial issue of the Croatian hotel industry. The Croatian hotel industry, internationally established in the tourist product sun and sea, is facing a concentration of demand at the peak of the tourist season, with capacities remaining underused for the rest of the year. Hotels are exposed to unprofitable and unprofitable business, and the drastic situation is indicated by the results of research in the doctoral thesis.The research included 218 hotels on the Dalmatian coast, and according to the results of the research, the business year is divided into three seasons: low, secondary i high season. The following is an overview of the months with the corresponding occupancy rate of hotel accommodation capacities by seasons. The low season consists of January (4,30%), February (5,27%), March (9,14%), November (6,51%) and December (4,95%). In five months of the year, the average occupancy rate of hotel accommodation is only 6,04%. The middle season consists of April (21,72%), May (47,45%) and October (32,98%). The average occupancy rate in the seasonal period, which should be the mainstay of the main tourist season, is 34,05%, so only a third of the hotel capacity is full. The high season consists of June (65,58%), July (80,76%), August (87,29%) and September (69,48%). Considering that Croatian tourism almost exclusively depends on this seasonal period, the average occupancy rate of hotel accommodation capacities of 75,78% is not satisfactory. According to the above, it can be concluded that the situation is alarming.The question is how do hotels manage to survive given the high share of fixed costs and business inelastics?According to the author, hotel management is aimed at increasing revenue per available capacity, which means that it is not taken into account how to increase occupancy but how to charge as much as possible for filled capacity. Being profitable at such a low occupancy rate is only possible by setting accommodation prices in the peak season to cover the lack of income in the off-season. However, until when will the demand be willing to pay for hotel accommodation in Croatia many times more expensive than in the rest of the Mediterranean.The doctoral thesis identifies the issue of seasonality in the hotel industry and examines the impact of hotel characteristics on the occupancy rate of accommodation capacities in the seasonal periods of low, middle and high season. The results indicate that hotels with a higher category, larger hotels, hotels with a convenient location, hotels connected to a hotel group and hotels market-oriented to the business segment have less seasonality of business. The special contribution of hotel features in the rate of occupancy of accommodation facilities stands out in the middle season. The contribution of the hotel category is on average 12,89%, the size of the hotel on average 6,62%, the location of the hotel on average 11,71%, the form of hotel business on average 10,13% and the market orientation of the hotel on average 18,99% in total occupancy rate of accommodation capacities in this seasonal interval. The middle season is followed by the high season in terms of contribution, namely in the high season the hotel category contributes to the total occupancy rate of 5,84%, hotel size on average 8,36% and the form of hotel business on average 17,82%. The contribution of the observed characteristics of the hotel is the lowest in the low season, in which only the market orientation proved to be a significant determinant of the occupancy rate of accommodation capacities, on average 6,04%.According to the author’s guidelines, the development policy of hotel accommodation in coastal holiday tourism destinations should be aimed at restructuring accommodation capacities – by building new highly categorized hotels and renovating existing hotel facilities, increase the share of high quality hotels, increase market share of large hotels. and additional hotel facilities, intensify the development of hotel chains on the Croatian market, which would achieve the benefits of doing business under the hotel chain, and improve the hotel offer aimed at the business market segment – one of the fastest growing market segments.The author also emphasizes the importance of a tourist destination to the hotel business. The demand for hotel accommodation depends on the destination demand, if the destination does not attract demand, there will be no demand for individual service providers in the destination. In order for the destination to attract demand, especially in the middle and low seasons, significant efforts are needed at the local, regional and national levels.It should be pointed out that the culprit for the extreme seasonality of the Croatian hotel industry should not be sought on the demand side, but on the supply side. Croatia has failed to make a step away from an internationally recognized bathing destination. Croatian tourism is formed in a way that meets the needs of demand motivated by bathing tourism. It is necessary to raise awareness of demand through marketing activities about the advantages of coming to Croatia outside the high tourist season. Develop accompanying tourist facilities that will complete the stay of tourists and increase tourist spending. Valorize other tourist resources and develop selective forms of tourism such as health, sports, cultural, rural, ecological, etc., for which it is necessary to make Croatia available to tourist demand, ie to develop transport connections with major emitting markets, which primarily means intensifying development airlines throughout the year.Side dish: Dr.sc. Goran Ćorluka / ANALYSIS OF THE INFLUENCE OF HOTEL CHARACTERISTICS ON BUSINESS SEASONALITY
Over 60 attractive electric racing cars, mostly attractive Tesla vehicles model S and X, were driven through Istria these days on the route of the fourth edition of the international “Nikola Tesla EV Rally Croatia 2017″.On the route through Istria, they first visited the Pula Arena, and then the town of Vodnjan. In Vodnjan, the arrival of vehicles on the central Narodni trg was organized, where electric vehicles were exhibited and many citizens present had the opportunity to see them. Rally participants, coming from Germany, Austria, Norway, Belgium, Finland, France, Switzerland, Serbia, Slovenia, the United Arab Emirates, Canada, Denmark, Finland and Croatia, visited the center of Vodnjan and the church of St. Blaža. After a two-hour stay in Vodnjan with an organized tasting of extra virgin olive oil from the Chiavalon olive grove, they headed to the city of Porec.”Nikola Tesla EV Rally Croatia” traditionally starts on the main city Freedom Square in Poreč. Numerous visitors, passers-by, tourists and lovers of electric vehicles filled the town square. The Deputy Mayor of the City of Poreč, Mrs. Nadia Štifanić Dobrilović expressed her satisfaction that Poreč has been the host and main base of the “Nikola Tesla EV Rally” in Istria for the fourth year in a row.”By setting up one of the first charging stations for electric vehicles two years ago, the city of Poreč has settled on the map and joined the network of cities that, with awareness of the implementation of new technologies, enable guests with electric vehicles to come to our city.. ”Said the deputy mayor. She also pointed out that the implementation of such projects contributes to global awareness of reducing environmental pollution and endangering the health of the population, which raises the level of communal equipment of the city of Porec, the overall quality of the tourist offer and facilitates planning a stay in Porec.In addition to the exhibition program on Freedom Square, a skill test was held in Poreč in a large city parking lot, next to the city charging station for electric vehicles. After the solemn ceremony 1.6. in Poreč, participants of “Nikola Tesla EV Rally Croatia” continued their journey towards Rovinj. 2.6. the tour of Istria continued. In Berm in the Gothic church of St. Marija na Škrilineh, the participants toured the famous fresco “Dance of the Dead”, after which they visited the smallest town in the world, Hum.After the Hum rally, it continues to Croatia through Opatija, Senj, Krk, Cres, Lošinj, Pag, Paklenica, Zadar (Greetings to the Sun and Sea Organ), Šibenik, Krka National Park, Vransko Lake, Split, Imotski, Smiljan, Plitvice Lakes and Zagreb. As much as eight days of driving on a 1300 km long route through beautiful landscapes leads over 5 islands and 6 national parks with many attractions on the route, which is also the official “Green Electric Highway”. No stopping point was chosen by chance but to show the best that Croatia has to offer from its wine / gastronomic offer, natural beauty and cultural heritage. „BWe had a very nice time in Istria, and we are glad that we showed guests from all over the world the natural and cultural beauties, as well as the gastronomic offer of Istria. We have been traditionally in Istria for 4 years now, and we believe that we will be in the coming years as well. We truly connect people and projects, and we are especially proud of the fact that we are the organizer of the most beautiful rally of its kind in the world”, Points out the main organizer Tina Kolovrat.Find more details on our website: www.nikolateslaevrally.com.hr
The researchers evaluated a religiously integrated CBT approach “that takes into account and utilizes the religious beliefs of clients.” The study included 132 patients with major depression and chronic illness. All patients said that religion or spirituality was “at least somewhat important” to them.Patients were randomly assigned to conventional or religious CBT. Both approaches included broadly spiritual content, focusing on “forgiveness, gratefulness, altruistic behaviors, and engagement in social activities.” What made religiously integrated CBT unique was “its explicit use of the client’s religious beliefs to identify and replace unhelpful thoughts and behaviors,” Dr Koenig and coauthors write.Religious CBT was performed by therapists experienced in integrating religion into psychotherapy. Most of the patients were Christian, but some received religious CBT adapted to other faiths (Jewish, Muslim, Hindu, and Buddhist). Both groups received ten therapy sessions, mainly by telephone.At the end of therapy, religious and conventional CBT produced similar improvement in depression scores. Other outcomes were also similar between the two types of therapy–for example, about half of patients in both groups had remission of their depression symptoms.Better Response in Highly Religious PatientsPatients who identified themselves as highly religious had somewhat greater improvement in depression scores with religious CBT, compared to conventional CBT. The highly religious also tended to complete more psychotherapy sessions if assigned to religious CBT, compared to those receiving conventional CBT.“Historically, there has been little common ground between religious and psychological concepts of mental health,” Dr Koenig and coauthors write. Mental health professionals may have negative attitudes toward religion, while religious patients may view psychological treatments as “unsympathetic to their religious beliefs and values.”Depression is very common among patients with serious illnesses, many of whom rely on their faith to help cope with their disease. The authors thought that psychotherapy incorporating patients’ religious beliefs might be particularly effective for such patients.The authors note that their small study can’t show whether religious and conventional CBT are truly equivalent treatments. However, the results suggest that religiously integrated CBT is effective for treatment of major depression in chronically ill patients “who are at least somewhat religious.”The study also suggests that religiously integrated CBT may be more effective for people who are highly religious. Religious CBT “may increase the access of religious persons with depression and chronic medical illness to a psychotherapeutic treatment that they might otherwise not seek, and those who are highly religious may be more likely to adhere to this type of therapy and benefit from it,” Dr Koenig and colleagues conclude. For chronically ill patients with major depression, an approach to cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT) that incorporates patients’ religious beliefs is at least as effective as conventional CBT, suggests a study in the April issue of The Journal of Nervous and Mental Disease. The journal is published by Wolters Kluwer.“Integrating religious clients’ beliefs into CBT does not appear to significantly reduce its effectiveness, especially in religious clients,” write Dr Harold Koenig of Duke University Medical Center, Durham, N.C., and colleagues. They believe that this approach might help to make psychotherapy more acceptable to religious patients with depression and chronic illness.Incorporating Religious Beliefs into Depression Therapy Pinterest Share on Facebook Share LinkedIn Email Share on Twitter
Pinterest Share on Facebook Share Share on Twitter People often mimic each other’s facial expressions or postures without even knowing it, but new research shows that they also mimic the size of each other’s pupils, which can lead to increased trust. The findings, published in Psychological Science, a journal of the Association for Psychological Science, reveal that participants who mimicked the dilated pupils of a partner were more likely to trust that partner in an investment game, but only when the partner was part of the same ethnic group.“People generally underestimate the importance of pupils, despite the fact that we look into them each day. The pupil provides a rich source of social information — we can force a smile, but we can’t force our pupils to dilate or constrict,” says psychological scientist Mariska Kret of Leiden University, lead author on the study. “Our findings show that humans synchronize their pupil size with others and this behavior — over which we have no voluntary control — influences social decisions.”In previous work, Kret and colleagues found that humans and chimpanzees synchronized their pupil size specifically with members of their own species. The researchers hypothesized that pupil mimicry might be important for the establishment of a bond of trust between two individuals. Dilated pupils are typically perceived as a sign of safety, suggesting that mimicry of another person’s dilated pupils may lead to a sense of mutual trust. Constricted pupils, on the other hand, tend to be perceived as a sign of threat — thus, the researchers did not expect that mimicry of constricted pupils would be associated with trust. Email Kret and colleagues Agneta Fischer and Carsten De Dreu of the University of Amsterdam recruited 61 Dutch university students to participate in an investment game. The students were told that, for each trial, they would see a short video clip of their partner and would then have to decide whether to transfer 5 Euros or 0 Euros to that partner. The clip was actually a manipulated image of a pair of eyes, programmed to show pupils that either dilated, constricted, or remained static over a period of 4 seconds.The participants were told that their investment would be tripled and their partner would then choose what portion of the money (if any) to give back to the participant. Thus, the participant had to make a quick decision about whether they should trust the partner and invest the 5 Euros, in the hope of seeing a greater return. In reality, all of the partners’ choices were determined and randomly assigned by the researchers.As expected, the results showed that participants were more likely to trust partners whose pupils had dilated, especially when the eyes indicated a happy expression.And data captured by eyetracking technology showed that the participants tended to mimic their partners’ pupils, whether they were dilating or constricting.Most importantly, mimicking a partner’s dilating pupils was associated with the decision to invest money — but only when the partner’s eyes had a Western European appearance.According to the researchers, these findings suggest that group membership plays an important role in how we interpret pupil signals. In this study, participants were more likely to trust partners with dilated pupils when they belonged to the same group (Western European descent) than when they didn’t belong to the same group (Asian descent).“The results of the current study further confirm the important role for the human eye in what people love and fear,” the researchers write. “More specifically, pupil mimicry is useful in social interactions in which extending trust and detecting untrustworthiness in others go hand in hand, and it benefits in-group interactions, survival, and prosperity.” LinkedIn
Share on Facebook LinkedIn Share on Twitter Email Share Pinterest Neuroscientists at Georgetown University Medical Center have found in a small study that although a group of HIV+ older individuals scored “cognitively normal” in standard neuropsychology testing, a scan of their brains tells a different story.Published Nov. 17 in the journal AIDS Care, functional MRI (fMRI) scans, taken while participants were performing an alternating face-gender/word-semantic task, revealed that HIV+ individuals in the study showed deficits in cognitive functioning, compared to an age matched healthy controls.Despite advances in treatment, HIV-associated neurocognitive disorder, or HAND, remains one of most common disorders in individuals with HIV infection. Previous studies have suggested about 30 to 60 percent of individuals with HIV-infection are affected, says neuroscientist Xiong Jiang, PhD, the lead author of the new study. This study suggests that cognitive impairments in HIV-infected 50 years or older individuals might be even more prevalent than previously proposed. “This could be due to the fact that some standard neuropsychology tests might be insensitive to HAND”, says Jiang. The new study used an experimental design that has been validated to study cognitive control (the ability to guide thought and action in accordance with current goals in a given environment) in healthy younger adults.During the scanning, the participants were cued (unpredictably) to judge the gender of the face (male versus female) or the meaning of the word (e.g., animate for “tiger” and inanimate for “table”) on superimposed face-word images. A switch (after the cue) in task often leads to an increase in reaction time and a decrease in accuracy (known as switching cost).The HIV+ group was significantly slower in adjusting to change in tasks, which correlates with brain dysfunctions in the dorsal anterior cingulate cortex (dACC), one of the key executive regions. This collar-shaped area is near the front of the brain, and damage to this region has been linked to many cognitive impairments, including executive deficits and apathy.“Intriguingly, both impairments are highly prevalent in individuals with HIV-infection, suggesting dACC might be one of commonly affected brain regions in HIV and a potential neural target for therapies,” says Jiang.“These findings, although preliminary, could have a significant implication for public health,” says Jiang, “While there is no proven treatment that can effectively treat HAND other than control HIV replication, it is important for caregivers, families and the individuals themselves to know if they are affected.”Jiang says he will now study HAND in a larger population — research supported by a $2 million grant from the National Institute of Mental Health (1R01MH108466-01) to further develop his fMRI-based biomarkers with the potential to guide and evaluate early and targeted therapies.
Pinterest PsyPost: Why were you interested in this topic?Dailey: I’ve been doing research on how family members support weight management for a few years. The predominant theories that are used to understand romantic partner support of individuals’ weight loss implicitly characterize romantic partners as objective individuals who are able to impart ideal support. Yet, we know from experience that partners might not be able to provide quality support or even undermine weight loss efforts. I wanted to delve into the unique nature of romantic, cohabiting relationships to understand how the relational context might be facilitating or hindering individuals’ weight loss.What should the average person take away from your study?There are three major findings from this study. First, the vast majority of participants wanted a team effort in losing weight. Beyond praise or encouragement, logistical help (e.g., partners making them meals, taking care of the household or kids so individuals can have time to exercise) or partners just being accommodating (e.g., being open to the individuals working out late at night, willing to try new foods) was seen as helpful.Second, certain obstacles were presented by the interdependent nature of romantic relationships. For example, sometimes partners had opposing perspectives on weight loss that made working together difficult. Partners also sometimes made negative comments about their own body or weight loss efforts that drained individuals’ motivation. Some also found it difficult to balance their weight loss goals with the needs of the relationship (e.g., individuals had to make choices to either work out or spend time with their partner).Third, individuals trying to lose weight might make it difficult for partners to provide support. Some participants gave mixed messages about the support they desired from their partners or inconsistent reactions to partner support. For example, some individuals reacted positively to the partner’s suggestion to go for a walk one day but then had a negative reaction the next day.Overall, the findings suggest that weight loss occurs in an intricate, relational context that both partners shape. And merely coaching cohabiting partners on which strategies to use might not address the complex web of relational dynamics that affect the weight loss process.Are there any major caveats? What questions still need to be addressed?This was a qualitative analysis of interviews with 44 individuals, and thus, the findings are not based on a representative sample. The results, however, point towards relational dynamics (e.g., balancing the needs of the individual and the relationship, partners’ own struggles with weight loss, differing perspectives on weight loss) that need to be assessed in future research. These characteristics could also be incorporated into a more comprehensive model of romantic partner support of weight loss.Is there anything else you would like to add?Obviously, weight loss is hard, and individuals have to be motivated to lose weight. But romantic partners are in a unique position to help individuals with their weight loss goals (e.g., daily contact, meals together, sharing household responsibilities). As such, it might be beneficial to incorporate romantic partners into weight loss programs.The study, “Exploring the role of the romantic relationship context in weight loss“, was published February 21, 2017. Share LinkedIn Share on Twitter Email New qualitative research published in the Journal of Social and Personal Relationships suggests that romantic partners are in a unique position to help with weight loss goals.The study consisted of interviews with 44 overweight adults from a Southwestern city in the United States. Most participants wanted their romantic partner to be involved in their weight loss efforts, and welcomed any help they received. But relationships could also be an impediment to weight loss efforts, as several participants reported that they and their partner had different approaches to getting fit.PsyPost interviewed the study’s author, René M. Dailey of the University of Texas at Austin. Read her explanation of the research below: Share on Facebook
Share on Facebook Share Email Pinterest LinkedIn Mental health professionals have long struggled to find more effective treatments for post-traumatic stress disorder. Scientists are currently investigating whether the illegal party drug known “ecstasy” or “molly” could help those suffering from the disorder. As part of that investigation, researchers have now published evidence showing that the combination of psychotherapy and MDMA (methylenedioxymethamphetamine) not only reduces PTSD symptoms but also causes long-lasting changes in key personality traits.The findings appeared online June 21 in the peer-reviewed Journal of Psychopharmacology. “The scientists in our group (Multidisciplinary Association for Psychedelic Studies, a.k.a. MAPS) have been the first to rigorously study the potential therapeutic effect of a psychedelic agent (MDMA) in the treatment of patients with refractory post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) using a double blinded, placebo controlled, open label, cross-over design with long-term follow-up at 12 months (and in one study 45.4 month follow-up),” explained study author Mark T. Wagner, a professor of neurology at the Medical University of South Carolina.MDMA is an amphetamine-like stimulant with psychedelic properties. In the original study, 20 patients with PTSD who had not responded to conventional treatments received either two sessions of MDMA-assisted psychotherapy or psychotherapy with an inactive placebo.“The effect size of the treatment has been large (0.9 effect size) and in long-term follow-up we have found that 67.4% of subjects no longer met the DSM criteria for PTSD,” Wagner told PsyPost. “What has been even more remarkable has been that the treatment effect is most evident after a single MDMA-assisted psychotherapy session.”“The immediacy and magnitude of the therapeutic effect seems to defy current psychological theories of psychotherapeutic change and is instead a therapeutic epiphany life-changing experience similar to what had been described so many years ago by psychologist Abraham Maslow.”But the researchers wanted to know more about how MDMA-assisted psychotherapy helped to treat PTSD.“Our most recent study was an investigation to better understand the psychological mechanism of action involved in MDMA-assisted psychotherapy for PTSD,” Wagner explained.The researchers found that MDMA-assisted psychotherapy resulted in long-lasting changes in two aspects of personality: openness and neuroticism. Both are part of the “Big Five” model of personality traits. These personality changes were associated with reduced PTSD symptoms. “Inconsistent with prevailing theory that personality structure is a stable throughout life, we found that MDMA-assisted psychotherapy resulted in persistent fundamental alteration in personality with subjects showing evidence of reduced neuroticism and increased openness on the NEO Personality Inventory-Revised (NEO PI-R), which in turn was associated with reduction in PTSD symptomatology as measured by the Clinician Administered Post-Traumatic Stress scale (CAPS) — often leading to a cure,” Wagner told PsyPost.“Neuroticism has been considered a pervasive tendency to experience negative emotion sufficient to interfere with effective adjustment to life, perhaps making such individuals more vulnerable to PTSD. Though changes in personality were linked to reductions of PTSD symptoms, the cause and effect behind this association was unclear.“In our study, whether reduced neuroticism associated with MDMA-assisted psychotherapy was due to PTSD symptom resolution or whether lower CAPS scores were a reflection of reduced neuroticism, was an open question,” Wagner said. “Similarly, those who had the greatest increase in Openness did demonstrate greater decreases in PTSD symptomatology, demonstrating that increased Openness may be the mechanism of therapeutic change.”“On the NEO PI-R, higher scores on the Openness facet are associated with individuals who tend to seek out new experiences and are open to self-examination. It appeared that this was the mechanism that served to enhance therapeutic change in both behaviors and cognitions for our subjects with treatment-refractory PTSD. “We speculated that there may be epigenetics at play in using MDMA that caused personality change whereby environmental factors such as profound experiences related to a trauma or cathartic MDMA-induced psychological insight can permanently influence underlying genetically driven personality trait.”The researchers emphasized that while MDMA may be a necessary catalyst for psychological change, it is not a magic pill. There’s no evidence to suggest that consuming MDMA without psychotherapy improves symptoms — and it could even make symptoms worse.“It is our feeling that the MDMA experience is necessary, but not sufficient, and only safe in a controlled psychotherapeutic setting. We cautioned that in a non-therapeutic setting, the reverse effect could occur,” Wagner told PsyPost.“Based on our phase 2 scientific studies, in late 2016 the FDA has approved a phase 3 clinical trial of MDMA-assisted psychotherapy for at least 230 subjects. This phase 3 trial may lead to MDMA becoming a prescription medication in the US for treating certain forms of psychopathology.”The study, “Therapeutic effect of increased openness: Investigating mechanism of action in MDMA-assisted psychotherapy“, was also co-authored by Michael C. Mithoefer, Ann T. Mithoefer, Rebecca K. MacAulay, Lisa Jerome, Berra Yazar-Klosinski and Rick Doblin. Share on Twitter
Sep 29, 2010 (CIDRAP News) – The external committee tasked with reviewing the World Health Organization’s (WHO’s) response to the H1N1 pandemic wrapped up its third round of live meetings in Geneva today, hearing from an array of country and organization health representatives, as well as WHO Director-General Margaret Chan, who strongly defended the organization’s response.Chan, who spoke to the group yesterday during a public plenary session on the second day of its meeting, also said the WHO learned some important lessons that will position it to, for example, ease the flow of pandemic vaccine to developing countries. Her address to the group appeared yesterday on the WHO’s Web site. The pandemic review committee is simultaneously reviewing how the International Health Regulations (IHRs) functioned during their first use in an international health emergency.Dr Harvey Fineberg, the group’s chairman, briefed reporters today at the conclusion of the group’s 3-day meeting. He said the committee is still in an information-gathering mode and that the agenda consisted of public plenary sessions and deliberation meetings during which members met by themselves. He is president of the Institute of Medicine of the US National Academy of Sciences.The review committee’s last meeting in Geneva was in early July, and Fineberg told reporters the committee will meet again in November for deliberation sessions. He projected that the group would have a draft of a report for its own members to review by early January in time for its final plenary meeting. The members will submit a final report that includes a response from Chan in advance of the World Health Assembly next May.Fineberg said the group heard testimony from a wide range of health and industry experts and confirmed, based on a journalist’s question, that Michael T. Osterholm, PhD, MPH, addressed the group during the plenary sessions. Osterholm is director of the University of Minnesota’s Center for Infectious Disease Research and Policy, publisher of CIDRAP News.One of the largest blocks of testimony came from key people who led the WHO’s response and were involved in administering the IHRs, including Chan, Fineberg said. At the committee’s last meeting in July they heard from some of sharpest critics of the WHO’s response, including a Council of Europe representative and the editor of the British Medical Journal.”One of the things that was not surprising, but very revealing, was that the principals at the WHO secretariat were very eager to tell their story,” he said. “They are as eager to tell their story as the critics are to tell theirs.”Chan spoke candidly about the challenges and successes she observed during the WHO’s pandemic response and said the group welcomes the review and is mindful of the praise and criticisms it has received. She said the WHO is grateful for the moderate impact the pandemic had, and she said in retrospect some response measure may look excessive.”Had the virus turned more lethal, we would be under scrutiny for having failed to protect large numbers of people,” Chan said. “Vaccine supplies would have been too little, too late, with large parts of the developing world left almost entirely unprotected.”She said experts assumed that H5N1, with its more lethal severity, would cause the next pandemic, which guided preparations for a more severe pandemic than what emerged with the 2009 H1N1 virus. The phased pandemic alert approach was developed as cues to help countries increase their preparedness levels without causing public alarm. “In reality, it had the opposite effect. It dramatized the steps leading to the declaration of the pandemic and increased the build up of anxiety,” Chan said.Chan rejected charges that the WHO exaggerated the pandemic threat and said when she announced the move to alert phase 6 she reminded the world that the number of deaths were small, that she didn’t expect to see them increase suddenly, and that most patients were recovering without medical care.During a time when health officials had to make decisions in an environment of scientific uncertainty, most health officials erred on the side of caution, she said. “In this regard, the phased approach to the declaration of a pandemic was rigid and confining. In communicating the level of alarm, authorities need to be able to move down as well as up,” Chan said, adding that limited vaccine capacity and long production times also hampered the flexibility of countries’ pandemic responses.She strongly rejected charges that commercial interests tainted the WHO’s pandemic alert level decisions. “I can assure you: never for one moment did I see a single shred of evidence that pharmaceutical interests, as opposed to public health concerns, influenced any decisions or advice provided to WHO by its scientific advisors,” Chan said in her statement.On a positive note, Chan said some elements of the world’s pandemic response worked well, including the IHRs, which she said provided a useful set of checks and balances, and the early distribution of oseltamivir stockpiles to developing countries.”In my view, the Emergency Committee, with both experts and affected states represented, functioned well as a balanced and inclusive advisory body,” she said. The emergency committee met at least nine times to advise Chan during pandemic phase and response discussions, and some critics charged that the process lacked transparency, because member names were confidential. The WHO has said the names were kept secret during the pandemic to protect members from undue influence. It revealed the member names on Aug 10 when the WHO declared that the pandemic was over.In response to journalists’ questions, Fineberg said several times that the role of the committee isn’t to assign blame, but to identify ways that the WHO can improve its pandemic response.He said the review committee is hearing a lot about the challenge of decision making under conditions of great uncertainty and that some response measures, such as the vaccine donation process, are very complex.”Everyone came at this from their own perspective, but few had a vision of the whole. Each told an important side of the story,” Fineberg said. “Our job is making a coherent whole out of these perspectives.”See also:Sep 28 Margaret Chan comments to IHR review committeeSep 29 IHR review committee meeting media briefing audioJul 2 CIDRAP News story “WHO pandemic review wraps up second meeting”
Dec 28, 2010Global swine flu surveillance seen as seriously inadequateAn article published yesterday in Scientific American explores what experts see as the vastly inadequate global efforts to monitor influenza viruses in swine, in the wake of a pandemic caused by a swine flu virus that jumped to humans. Reporter Helen Branswell writes that most pork-producing countries don’t test their swine herds for flu at all. In the United States, pork producers generally test their animals, but they don’t usually share the results with public health officials, since they know that any news about swine flu scares people away from eating pork. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recently worked with the US Department of Agriculture to launch a program to share animal testing results with the public health sector, Branswell reports. But the program has limitations, in that swine flu surveillance data are stripped of identifying information, so health officials know what state a sample came from but not what county or farm. And when a human case of swine flu occurs, the herd suspected as the source can be tested only with the owner’s permission. Flu experts are planning a February meeting in Italy to try to find ways to overcome the barriers to better surveillance, the article says.Dec 27 Scientific American articleSalmonella probe points to Illinois farm as source of sproutsPreliminary findings in an investigation of the 15-state Salmonella outbreak linked to Jimmy John’s restaurants point to Tiny Greens Organic Farm of Urbana, Ill., as the source of contaminated sprouts, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) announced yesterday. The FDA said consumers should not eat alfalfa sprouts and “Spicy Sprouts” (which contain alfalfa, radish, and clover sprouts) from Tiny Greens. The products were distributed in 4- and 5-ounce containers to farmers’ markets, restaurants, and grocery stores in Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Missouri, and possibly other Midwestern states. In a Dec 23 report on the outbreak investigation, the CDC said 89 patients with a matching strain of Salmonella serotype I 4,,12:i:-were reported by 15 states and Washington, DC, between Nov 1 and Dec 21, including 50 cases in Illinois. Among patients with available information, 23% reported being hospitalized, but there were no deaths, the CDC said. In other developments, J&D Produce of Edinburg, Tex., yesterday announced the “precautionary” recall of curly parsley and cilantro after samples tested positive in Quebec and Detroit. The recall applies only to products packed on Nov 30 and Dec 6, and no illnesses have been reported, the company said in a statement. The products were packed in red, white, and blue waxed cartons and sold under the Little Bear brand at retail outlets and wholesale terminal markets. A CNN report said the recall involved close to 7,000 cases of the products, which were distributed in several US states as well as Quebec and Ontario.Dec 27 FDA press releaseDec 23 CDC report on outbreak investigationDec 28 CNN story on Texas firm’s recallHaiti’s cholera cases approach 130,000Cholera continues to engulf Haiti, with nearly 130,000 cases and 2,707 deaths reported so far, the Jamaica Observer reported today. Even with ongoing international efforts to contain the epidemic, an estimated 40 people are dying each day, the Haitian health ministry said. Worst hit is the Artibonite province in central Haiti, but infection has spread all over the country. Adding to the strife currently are attacks on voodoo priests in the southwestern part of the country by mobs claiming that they are responsible for the outbreak; more than 40 priests have been killed.Dec 28 Jamaica Observer articleFlu vaccination policy in UK debatedThe UK Department of Health is coming under fire for not offering free flu shots to healthy children under 5 years of age this flu season. The shots are being recommended only for high-risk groups this season, including pregnant women and the elderly but not young children. The current vaccination policy follows the recommendations of the independent Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisation. During last season’s H1N1 pandemic, all age-groups were urged to obtain vaccination. Some critics claim that preschoolers were left off the shot roster this season to save money, but the health department claims the decision was made because of age and risk considerations. No vaccination campaign has been directed at the general public this year; only high-risk people have been contacted to get the vaccine. Public schools in the United Kingdom reopen next week after the holiday recess, and concern is mounting that flu, which is currently seeing a surge there, will reach epidemic proportions.Dec 28 BBC articleDec 28 The Guardian articleDec 28 The Telegraph articleEgyptian girl dies of H5N1; Japan, Korea cite bird deaths A Dec 25 death in Egypt from H5N1 avian flu brings the number of deaths from the disease there to 11 this year and 38 since the outbreak began in 2006. The latest victim was an 11-year-old girl in the Luxor governorate who had been reported as hospitalized last week. Meanwhile, reports of H5N1 deaths in birds have come in from Japan and South Korea. Three cranes were found dead in the Izumi Plains of Kogoshima prefecture Dec 21 and subsequently tested positive for H5N1, according to a Kyodo News International article, bringing the recent total to five. In South Korea, the farm ministry reported today that 20 spectacled teal ducks had been found dead south of Seoul, apparently from H5N1. This is the third such report from the area this month.Dec 25 Kuwait News article on Egyptian deathDec 27 Kyodo News article on Japanese cranesDec 28 Yonhap News article on South Korea