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Things to feel good about

By UW Magazine staff | December 2020

The good news is out there. In the spirit of Swedish doctor Hans Rosling, the world health visionary for whom the new Population Health Center is named, we’ve assembled a sampling of good news findings and events with connections to the UW.

Rosling described himself as a “possibilist,” “someone who neither hopes without reason, nor fears without reason, someone who constantly resists the overdramatic worldview.” He saw great progress toward improving the health and conditions for humans worldwide and it filled him with conviction and hope that further progress is possible. Another piece of good news, we limited ourselves to 10 items from various disciplines, but this list could be a whole lot longer.

1. Infants are altruistic

According to a recent study out of the UW’s Institute for Learning & Brain Sciences, babies are happy to share their food, even with unfamiliar people, and even when they’re hungry.

2. Two baby orcas born

In September, whale-watchers reported two new calfs in the vulnerable J pod. UW researchers have been tracking the pod’s health, which is affected by boat noise, pollution and availability of food. When food supplies allow, the pod spends part of the year in southern Puget Sound.

3. Eelgrass has a halo

One of nature’s superheroes, eelgrass, has a slippery texture and is known for offering shade and camouflage for young fish. It also helps anchor shorelines and provides food and habitat for many marine species. A new UW study adds one more superpower: warding off toxin-producing algae—the kind that closes beaches.

4. Full-fat dairy is OK

Full-fat dairy, like whole milk, heavy cream and cheese, can be good for you. An international study in which the UW took part shows that those who eat full-fat options are less likely to suffer from obesity. Full-fat foods are more filling and can keep blood sugar stable between meals. Also, some acids in milk fat may crank up calorie burning.

5. Mosquitoes & flowers

Those tiny, bitey creatures are drawn to flowers as much as to people. New research from UW biologists has revealed the hows and whys of those chemical cues. The findings could help the development of less toxic and more effective repellants.

6. Grads in pandemic

Despite the challenges of taking classes remotely and wrapping up the school year in the middle of a global pandemic, about 18,000 UW students received their degrees in June.

7. Nature knows best

Going outside improves our mental well-being as well as our physical health. UW studies show it reduces anxiety, helps us sleep better, and offers benefits for health issues including Type 2 diabetes, depression and obesity.

8. Expanding canvases

A pandemic, then protests, then plywood-covered storefronts have provided opportunities for artistic expression across Seattle. Check out a few new sculptures on campus, including the Chinook Indian welcome outside the Burke Museum.

9. More family time

Millions of Americans are staying home these days. UW experts recommend structuring your days, blocking off time for work and homework and dedicating at least 20 minutes for fun, child-directed play and undivided attention.

10. Bye, murder hornets

Using technology and knowledge developed at the UW, the state Department of Agriculture attached tiny trackers to the invasive insects and followed them to their nest in a tree in Blaine. The interlopers were removed!