This Week in Research: Fewer Butterflies, More Doctor’s Visits

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The mild winter and early spring might be putting people in a good mood, but it’s taking a toll in unexpected places. Take the butterflies, for example. When snow melts early (or never comes in the first place), flowers can bud too soon. If a late-season frost happens to hit, the flowers are killed, meaning that there’s less nectar overall for the butterflies to chow down on. And that means fewer butterflies overall.

According to David Inouye, a University of Maryland biology professor and co-author of a recent study on the Mormon fritillary butterfly, the warm winters can account for more than 80 percent of the butterflies’ population decline. In other words, climate change has a very direct — and surprisingly strong — effect on insect life, even in the case of bugs that only live for a season. “We already can predict that this coming summer will be difficult for the butterflies,” said Inouye’s co-author, Carol Boggs.

No one likes going to the doctor — but sometimes there’s a good reason to stop into that office. Recent research out of Johns Hopkins shows that when adults accompany their aging parents to routine office visits with doctors, their loved ones get better care. According to the study, these companions help provide information to the doctor, ask the doctor questions, and explain the doctor’s instructions to their loved ones. Older, less-educated patients were less likely to have a consistent companion taking them to the doctor, as were patients with multiple chronic ailments.

In other words, improving care isn’t just a doctor-patient issue. “Initiatives to improve older adults’ quality of chronic illness care have typically focused on improving health care professional and patient competencies, and have ignored the fact that Medicare beneficiaries often manage their health conditions and attend routine physician visits with a family member, predominantly a spouse or an adult child,” said Jennifer Wolff, lead author of the study and a professor at Johns Hopkins’s Bloomberg School of Public Health.



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