The New York Times – Guns play oversize role in rural suicides
Suicide rates are higher in rural counties, according to a new study, and the reason is firearm use by men. The report, in the American Journal of Public Health, used data on 6,196 suicides of Maryland residents over age 15. They found that the rate of firearm suicides was 66 percent higher in the most thinly populated counties than in metropolitan areas with populations greater than a million. Non-firearm suicide rates in rural and urban counties were roughly the same. The suicide rate in rural settings, the authors conclude, is primarily driven not by lack of access to mental health care or economic disparities, but by men’s preference for suicide by gun, and the wider availability of guns in rural areas.

Kaiser Health News – Opioid crisis strains foster care system; programs aim to keep kids with mom
After Raven Mosser gave birth six years ago, she woke up to a social worker in her hospital room. Her newborn son had been born exposed to opioids — drugs she had been abusing for years. If she didn’t get clean, she was at risk of losing him. Mosser, 26, is one face of the nation’s opioid crisis. But the epidemic is also touching a much younger set of victims: children whose parents have substance abuse problems, who are increasingly being shuttled through the foster care system, unable to stay at home even as their parents struggle to get clean.

Reuters – India threatens Philip Morris with ‘punitive action’ over alleged violations
The Indian government has threatened Philip Morris International Inc with “punitive action” over the tobacco giant’s alleged violation of the country’s anti-smoking laws, according to a letter sent to the company by the federal health ministry. The letter was prompted by a Reuters investigation last month that revealed how Philip Morris was deploying marketing tactics in India, some targeting young people, that officials said were illegal.

STAT News – Most hospices fare well in first public release of Medicare quality scores
or the first time, Medicare officials Wednesday posted quality scores for some 3,800 hospice providers on its new website, Hospice Compare, aimed at helping people select hospice facilities for themselves or others. In a press briefing Wednesday, Kate Goodrich of the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services said the effort will provide a “snapshot on the quality of care delivered by each provider” that will “help consumers make informed decisions.” Scores for the vast majority of hospices were near the top end of the quality range — so good, in fact, that some observers questioned whether consumers will find the data useful for comparison shopping.