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Civic Engagement and Health, the State of the Union, Better Sleep: RAND Weekly Recap

February 7, 2020

This week, we discuss how civic engagement might improve physical and mental health; insights from RAND on the State of the Union address; ways the United States can help China fight the coronavirus outbreak; what provokes Putin; how to sleep like your relationship depends on it; and automating U.S. Army convoys.

People leaving a polling place, wearing I Voted stickers, photo by SDI Productions/Getty Images

Photo by SDI Productions/Getty Images

Could Voting Improve Your Health?

Civic engagement activities—such as voting or volunteering—are essential for the health of democracy. But could they improve your health, too? Evidence from a recent RAND study shows that increased civic engagement is linked to better physical and mental health for people and whole communities. This extends to a range of areas, including lower rates of cancer, heart disease, and depression.

Notably, it's not clear whether better health causes more civic engagement or vice versa. But as U.S. primary elections begin this month, it's nice to know that taking a turn at the ballot box might boost your well-being.

U.S. President Donald Trump prepares to deliver his third State of the Union address in Washington, D.C., February 4, 2020, photo by Doug Mills/Pool via Reuters

U.S. President Donald Trump before delivering his third State of the Union address in Washington, D.C., February 4, 2020

Photo by Doug Mills/Pool via Reuters

State of the Union: Insights from RAND

President Trump gave the final State of the Union address of his four-year term on Tuesday night. While many may view his remarks through the lens of the unprecedented circumstances surrounding the evening, it's important to note that the speech touched on a range of policy challenges, including the opioid crisis, health care reform, and infrastructure. If policymakers are to develop effective solutions, they'll need to draw on objective and nonpartisan resources. That's why we've rounded up insights from RAND's research, analysis, and expertise.

Chinese Premier Li Keqiang wears a mask and protective suit while speaking to medical workers at the Jinyintan hospital, where coronavirus patients are being treated following the outbreak in Wuhan, China, January 27, 2020, photo by cnsphoto via Reuters

Chinese Premier Li Keqiang speaks to medical workers at the Jinyintan hospital during the coronavirus outbreak, Wuhan, China, January 27, 2020

Photo by cnsphoto via Reuters

Coronavirus: U.S.-China Cooperation on Pandemic Response

More than 560 people have died from the new coronavirus in China, and the number of infections continues to soar. There are also confirmed cases of this novel respiratory virus in more than two dozen other countries. In congressional testimony this week, RAND's Jennifer Bouey explained how China and the United States have collaborated to fight past outbreaks, including SARS. It's important for Beijing and Washington to continue long-term cooperation on this front, she says. But U.S. health professionals could also help in the near term, by reaching out with humanitarian and technical aid.

Russian President Vladimir Putin at his annual end-of-year news conference in Moscow, Russia, December 19, 2019, photo by Evgenia Novozhenina/Reuters

Russian President Vladimir Putin during a news conference in Moscow, December 19, 2019

Photo by Evgenia Novozhenina/Reuters

What Provokes Putin's Russia?

The goal of deterrence is to prevent aggression. But if deterrence is too heavy-handed, then it might prompt the aggression it seeks to avoid. A new RAND paper examines how NATO can prevent this from happening when deterring Russia. The authors identify “redlines” that the alliance likely cannot cross without eliciting a major or hostile response from Moscow. They also highlight one tactic that seems to hold the most potential for effective deterrence: carefully calibrated changes in force posture.

How to Sleep Like Your Relationship Depends on It

“Is it bad if my partner and I sleep apart?” This is the question RAND's Wendy Troxel, a sleep scientist and clinician, hears most often. In a recent TEDx talk, she explains that there is no one-size-fits-all sleeping strategy for couples. But everyone should make sleep a priority. And if you and your partner do sleep separately, don't think of this as filing for a “sleep divorce,” says Troxel. Think of it as forging a “sleep alliance.”

An M1075 palletized load system truck and an M915 line-haul tractor are equipped with add-on kits that transform the vehicles to be fully autonomous, photo by Bruce Huffman/U.S. Army

An M1075 palletized load system truck and an M915 line-haul tractor are equipped with add-on kits that make the vehicles fully autonomous

Photo by Bruce Huffman/U.S. Army

Automating U.S. Army Convoys

Using robotic ground vehicles in U.S. Army convoys could help increase efficiency and save soldiers' lives. But it would also bring new risks. A new RAND report explores different options for deploying this technology. The authors find that a mix of both manned and unmanned vehicles—a convoy in which automated trucks, each with a single soldier, follow a fully manned truck—may be the best option. This could help address some of the technical and tactical risks posed by using automated vehicles.

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