Research News

Leading the Fight Against Childhood Cancer

By Jordan Weinstein   |   Tuesday, May 1, 2012
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May 2, 2012

BOSTON — There's been a hopeful development in the fight against one form of cancer. Sarcoma is rare in adults but rather prevalent in children. For the first time in 30 years, a drug to treat soft-tissue sarcoma has been approved by the FDA. The news coincides with a fundraiser this Saturday in Hudson to raise money for the Jennifer Hunter Yates Sarcoma Foundation. WGBH News' Jordan Weinstein talked with Dr. Edwin Choy from Massachusetts General Hospital to see how fundraisers like these generate awareness and money. Choy said the foundation led the way.

New Jobs Report Contradicts Previous Data

By Cristina Quinn   |   Wednesday, April 18, 2012
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April 18, 2012
BOSTON — It looks like the job market in 2011 wasn’t as bad as we thought. A new report shows that Massachusetts added 38,900 jobs in the first nine months of 2011.
MassBenchmarks published its findings on April 18. The figure is in stark contrast to the Bureau of Labor Statistics’ revised estimate released last month, which reported that 2,300 jobs were added during that time period.
Michael Goodman, professor at UMass Dartmouth and co-editor of MassBenchmarks, said that the sampling model the Bureau of Labor Statistics used can produce statistical errors, though it is unusual at such a large scale.
“The initial revisions that they released in March were partially based on a sample of records, whereas ours are based on more of a complete set of records and is more reliable,” Goodman said.
Goodman said although these findings mean that Massachusetts had a relatively strong year compared to the rest of the country, we're not out of the woods yet: “We still have a long road of recovery here in Massachusetts and nationally, but at least we can understand where we are and our policymakers and business leaders can make more informed decisions now that they have a better assessment of our recent economic history."
MassBenchmarks is a journal published by the Donahue Institute at the University of Massachusetts in partnership with the Federal Reserve Bank of Boston.

Out-of-State Gambling Trends Bode Well for Mass.

By Cristina Quinn   |   Thursday, April 12, 2012
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April 13, 2012
BOSTON — As Massachusetts starts the process to build casinos, it appears that residents are not waiting to gamble. They increased their spending by 6 percent last year in casinos and slot parlors in the neighboring New England states.

According to a survey released April 11 by the Center for Policy Analysis at the University of Massachusetts Dartmouth, Bay State residents made more than 7.1 million visits and spent nearly $909 million in Connecticut's resort casinos and at slot parlors in Rhode Island and Maine.

The study also shows that for the first time, people from Massachusetts visited and spent more at Rhode Island’s two slot parlors than Rhode Island’s own residents. Bay State residents made 2 million visits to Twin River Casino and Newport Grand Slots, spending an estimated $284 million, which is a 7 percent increase over 2010 spending levels.

Clyde Barrow, director of the Center for Policy Analysis, said two factors are behind this surprise finding.

“I think the dominant factors are that Twin River has consciously marketed themselves to Massachusetts residents in central and southeastern Massachusetts and were successful," he said. “And the second factor is that I think more people are stopping at Twin River because of higher gas prices and they’re staying closer to home.”

Barrow also said that with unemployment continuing to decline, private payrolls growing, and home prices stabilizing, it is likely that 2012 will mark the beginning of a recovery in the region’s gaming market. That bodes well for casinos being considered in Massachusetts.
“The fact that we’re seeing Massachusetts residents again increase their spending, I think, suggests that by the time we open gaming venues in this state, they’ll be opening right into the thrust of the economic recovery in the next couple of years,” he said.
Since the center began publishing its annual New England Casino Gaming Update in 2004, Massachusetts residents have spent over $8.7 billion at the region's casinos and slot parlors and directly generated over $2 billion in tax revenues to Connecticut, Rhode Island and Maine state governments. 
> > READ: The complete survey findings (pdf)

Mass. Ranks above Average on Medication Adherence

By Sarah Birnbaum   |   Wednesday, March 28, 2012
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March 28, 2012

medication adherence
This map, from CVS Caremark, shows medication adherence rates across the country.

BOSTON — Massachusetts residents do a better job than residents of most states when it comes to taking medications as prescribed, but there's still room for improvement. That's according to new studies released Tuesday by CVS Caremark, Brigham and Women's Hospital and Harvard University.
Tom Hubbard of the Cambridge-based health policy think tank NEHI said people who don’t follow their prescriptions get sicker, end up in the emergency room and rack up big medical bills.
“If people don’t take their medications as prescribed, they’re not only not getting better but it’s a tremendous source of sort of futile effort in the health care system and wasted money,” he said.
Nationwide nearly half the people who are taking a drug to treat a chronic condition like high blood pressure or high cholesterol will stop taking their medication within the first year. In Massachusetts, about one-third of such people trail off.
Hubbard's heard many excuses, ranging from "the pills are too expensive" to "I feel better so I can stop taking them." He said there’s not one clear solution for improving medication compliance rates. But Massachusetts might have scored better than other states because drugs are more affordable here, he said: "We’re better covered in Massachusetts than almost anyplace else in the country. More people have health insurance."
According to the study, Massachusetts ranked first in the nation when it came to use of cheaper generic drugs to treat diabetes, depression, high blood pressure and high cholesterol.
But the study also found that Massachusetts ranks near the bottom of states whose residents take advantage of mail-order prescriptions, coming in 44th. Research shows that if people don’t have to make repeated trips to the drugstore for refills, they’re more likely to stay on their medications. The study suggests that doctors, insurers, pharmacists and lawmakers find ways to encourage more patients to use mail-order prescriptions.

Your Take: A Mass. Corruption Report Card

By WGBH News   |   Thursday, March 15, 2012
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April 2, 2012

State Integrity logo

BOSTON — The indictment of former treasurer Tim Cahill on corruption charges was just another reminder of the long history of political misdeeds in Massachusetts. On March 19, WGBH News released the State Integrity Index, a report card compiled through a nationwide investigation by the Center for Public Integrity, Global Integrity and Public Radio International. That report gave Mass. a C on corruption risk. We asked you to grade Massachusetts on how corrupt it actually is. 

So ... what do you think?

Your Mass. Corruption Report Card

As of March 26, these were the results:

report card: A - 3%, B - 7%, C - 20%, D - 22%, F - 48%

Some comments and examples ...

F: "Speaker of the House x 3. Leading by example." (Swansea)
F: "Nepotism rules ... rather than meritocracy." (Chelmsford)
D: "Allowing retired public employees to get new jobs on the same public payroll, the Big Dig fiasco, House speakers under indictment... Need I go on?" (Shirley)
D: "The leaders of the Legislature met in private to discuss bills. Why?" (Braintree)

We'll be checking back through August with more stories on the topic. Further thoughts on the matter? Comment here or on Facebook, or tweet with the hashtag #corruptionrisk.


Optimism Continues among Local Employers

By Jordan Weinstein   |   Tuesday, March 6, 2012
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Mar. 6, 2012

BOSTON — Bay State employers appear to be gaining more confidence in the economy. Associated Industries of Massachusetts reported on Tuesday that its monthly business confidence index rose by more than two points in February to 54.9, the highest reading in nearly a year and the fourth straight month that the index gained ground.
The index works on a scale of 100. A reading above 50 indicates that businesses are more optimistic than pessimistic about the direction of the economy.

Raymond Torto, chairman of AIM’s board of economic advisors, said the rating demonstrated "improving health — not good health, but improving health. And that’s what we’re settling for nowadays.”

While most employers surveyed judged overall business conditions as "average," they felt more positive about the state's business climate than the national economy and were less worried about the prospect of another recession.

However, Torto thought world events might erode that optimism.
“This week alone we’ve had conversations about the price of oil and Iran, which might affect this number for the next month,” he said.

> >  Read the complete report.

About the Authors
Jordan Weinstein Jordan Weinstein
Jordan Weinstein is a news anchor for NPR's All Things Considered on WGBH, 89.7 FM in Boston.
Sarah Birnbaum
Sarah Birnbaum is WGBH News' State House reporter. Send her a news tip.
The WGBH News team comprises the WGBH radio newsroom, The Callie Crossley Show, The Emily Rooney Show and WGBH Channel 2 reporters and producers from Greater Boston and Basic Black. 


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