Category: Research

The false link between mental illness and gun violence

published date
May 19th, 2016 by

It would be nice if we could eliminate mass shootings by improving the mental health system, coaxing (or forcing) potential shooters into treatment before they have a chance to wreak havoc.  As the Washington Post (Most mass shooters aren’t mentally ill. So why push better treatment as the answer?) reports:

“It would be ridiculous to hope that doing something about the mental-health system will stop these mass murders,” said Michael Stone, a forensic psychiatrist at the Columbia College of Physicians and Surgeons and author of “The Anatomy of Evil,” which examines the personalities of brutal killers. “It’s really folly.”

This seems pretty obvious, and yet Republican and Democratic leaders, along with the general public and the media seem to think mental illness is the root cause of shooting sprees and that improving the mental health system can fix the problem.

After mass shootings, reporters often jump quickly to mental illness as the cause. Remember after the Sandy Hook shooting when there was speculation that the shooter’s Asperger’s diagnosis was to blame?

Asperger’s? Are you kidding me?

The danger of our fixation on mental illness as the root cause of violence is that we end up stigmatizing people with mental illness –and developmental disorders– while ignoring more direct causes of gun violence, such as ready access to guns.

Mass shootings are rare outside the US. Is there someone who can tell me with a straight face that the difference is due to better mental health systems abroad?

Meanwhile, Australia has seen a major decrease in gun violence over the past 20 years since adopting strong gun control after a mass murder. That seems like a more evidence and logic based response than what we’ve tried here.

By healthcare business consultant David E. Williams, president of Health Business Group.


The decline of white women's health

published date
April 12th, 2016 by


The Washington Post (A great divide in American death: Statistics show widening urban-rural gap) examined death statistics and found that death rates for white women –especially rural white women– have been climbing fast. Key culprits? Self-destructive behavior such as over-eating, opioid abuse, heavy drinking, smoking, and suicide. White women still live longer than other groups, but the trend for them is bad.

According to the Post:

In at least 30 counties in the South, black women in midlife now have a lower mortality rate than middle-aged white women, The Post found. That’s up from a single such county in 1999.

Among them is Newton County, Ga., southeast of Atlanta, where the death rate for black women ages 35 to 54 dropped from 472 per 100,000 to 234. The rate for white women went the other way, from 255 to 472.

The article cites researchers who speculate that new sources of stress are contributing to poor health and higher death rates.

The Post also connects areas with rising white death rates to those supporting Donald Trump’s presidential bid. That makes intuitive sense to me, although I don’t know whether there’s a causal link. What I will say is that those who vote for Donald Trump are going to be disappointed that he won’t be a stress reliever, even if he is somehow elected.

Image courtesy of Ohmega1982 at

By healthcare business consultant David E. Williams, president of Health Business Group.

Vision Zero: The poem

published date
April 5th, 2016 by
Oops, didn't see that coming
Oops, didn’t see that coming

My father, Allan F. Williams is a renowned highway safety expert, sometimes called the Grandfather of Graduated Licensing. He retired from the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety as Chief Scientist in 2004.

Recently he told me about Vision Zero, a Swedish notion, now popular in the US, that there should be no deaths or serious injuries on the highways. But one problem with this idea is that about three-quarters of people think they are superior drivers and that the highway safety problem is due to the “other” driver.

He wrote a little poem to explain what’s happening on the roads.

Good Driver, Bad Driver

I’m a highly skilled driver, and you are not,

I know, I’ve seen enough of your lot.

You bumble around, get in my way,

Your feeble talents on full display.

Rules of the road are meant for you,

Whereas I can flout them, and often do

I speed, I phone, I drive with flair

And never, ever, make any error

Vision zero is a reality,

With fewer of you and more drivers like me.

Allan Williams, 4/4/16

Image courtesy of Salvatore Vuono at

By healthcare business consultant David E. Williams, president of Health Business Group.

Second breakfast: The Hobbits were on to something

published date
March 18th, 2016 by

From MedPage Today (For Kids, Two Breakfasts Healthier Than None)

Middle-school students who routinely ate two breakfasts — one at home and one at school — were still more likely to maintain a healthy body weight than those who skipped breakfast, a longitudinal study found.

Previous studies have shown a link between skipping breakfast and weight gain, but the mechanisms behind this phenomenon are not well understood either, Schwartz and colleagues said. One reason may be reverse causality: Overweight individuals skip breakfast thinking it will help them lose weight. Another theory is that skipping breakfast leads to overeating later in the day.

I’m a breakfast eater, so such studies validate my own biases, much as the frequent articles about the health benefits of coffee, chocolate and alcohol warm the souls of those substances’ partisans.

But this study reminded me of the wisdom of the Hobbits, who seemed to be a happy, healthy lot. They had breakfast and second breakfast, plus five meals beyond that. Any good researcher knows to end his/her paper with a call for further research. In this case I think a study of Elevenses would make a good follow-on.



By healthcare business consultant David E. Williams, president of Health Business Group.

Collaboration in pre-clinical and clinical development: interview with Dalvir Gill

published date
March 16th, 2016 by



TransCelerate BioPharma is a pharmaceutical company collaboration that addresses key issues in clinical development that benefit everyone. Now six members have decided to extend the concept to the pre-clinical realm by establishing BioCelerate. Their goal is to compress time to market, reduce cost, and increase the predictive value of preclinical data.

I spoke recently with TransCelerate’s CEO Dalvir Gill about TransCelerate and the new BioCelerate initiative. As CEO of both organization, he’s in a good position to comment. Here’s what we discussed:

  1. (0:10) What is Transcelerate?
  2. (1:13) How did it get started? These entities compete with one another so how did they decide to get together to work on something?
  3. (4:46) When the organization was launched there were a few specific projects. What can you say about the project and the results achieved?
  4. (8:19) Can you talk about your interactions with non-members, including regulators?
  5. (11:43) What financial commitment do you expect from members? How do you avoid the freeloader problem?
  6. (13:45) You’ve grown your membership and initiated new projects. You’ve now initiated Biocelerate. What is it and why are you setting it up as its own entity?
  7. (16:06) Tell me about the initial project, which is focused on toxicology.
  8. (18:13) Are there more projects that are lined up for Biocelerate?

By healthcare business consultant David E. Williams, president of Health Business Group.