This is the first installation of a three-part series entitled “Ten Lessons from Flint” in which I speak with Professor Marc Edwards of Virginia Tech, pediatrician Dr. Mona Hanna-Attisha of Hurley Children’s Hospital, and Michigan State University and interim Dean Dr. Aron Sousa of Michigan State University.
Researchers like Professor Marc Edwards and Dr. Mona Hanna-Attisha were not the first people to speak up about the water crisis in Flint. In June of 2015, regional EPA employee Miguel A Del Toral, Regulations Manager of the Ground Water and Drinking Water Branch, issued an internal memorandum entitle “High Lead Levels in Flint, Michigan – Interim Report.” This document described the lack of corrosion control protocol and high lead levels. It was released to officials within the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), Professor Edwards and Flint resident Lee Ann Walters, whose home water contained extremely high lead levels, as confirmed by city officials.
Exposing contaminated and corrosive water in Flint was necessary and life-saving, and the story garnered significant national attention. Yet not every situation calls for advocacy in such a public way. Advocacy for individual patients and patient safety is also crucial. Whether you’re advocating for an individual patient in a hospital or the public on the national stage, becoming an effective advocate requires practice and training. With the right training and understanding of the advocate’s tool kit, we can advocate for positive changes on behalf of individual patients and the public.
Vaccines have become a cornerstone of modern public health and have greatly reduced the burden of infectious disease across the globe. They are also the center of major debate in America. Conjuring furious arguments with divided opinion, where vaccine safety gets more attention than vaccine effectiveness. In the era of Facebook, Twitter and every imaginable social media outlet, opinions and facts flood computer screens, distorting truth and instilling doubt. To support an argument, it is not difficult to find an article or group that agrees with you. Medical professionals constantly find themselves concerned and restrained by an apathetic response to reason and science.
The images of water from Flint, Michigan water came into my mind and I lingered at the sink a few minutes too long. I became heartbroken for the children whose bodies may have been irreversibly and negatively impacted. I became enraged at a system that would prioritize saving pennies over properly protecting its citizens from preventable harm. Governor Rick Snyder, his appointed “emergency financial managers” and other leaders allowed this crisis to develop over years as they mistreated Black citizens through racist policies, violated the public trust, and endangered lives. A significantly poor and majority black city was told it was okay to use polluted water to prepare their children’s dinners. Families washed their dishes in what could be mistaken for urine. They scrubbed their pearly whites with toxins to avoid cavities.
“Race is a social construct.” This is a statement that we hear frequently but don’t fully believe or understand. In the United States, we may superficially state that race is a social construct, but in reality, we understand it as genetic underpinnings. In medicine especially, race and genetics are often understood as interchangeable.
So now that we have discussed the many benefits of exercise, how much is recommended? National organizations such as the American Heart Association (AHA) have created evidence-based guidelines describing the minimum amounts and types of physical in which adults should regularly engage.
Good sleep goes hand in hand with good health; after all, one-third of the day is spent in the state of non-wakefulness know as sleep. Whether this sleep is a peaceful slumber or ridden with multiple awakenings has great consequences for productivity, learning, attention and demeanor throughout the day. Thus, it is essential to maintain adequate sleep hygiene, and exercise can play a role in increasing restorative sleep — if done at the right time.
Hippocrates, the ‘father of medicine’ said, “let food be thy medicine and medicine be thy food.” The role of nutrition in health has been recognized since the beginning of medicine, yet somehow nutrition education has fallen by the wayside in most medical curricula. Given that 34.9 percent of Americans are obese and obesity has been linked to diabetes, heart disease, stroke and certain types of cancer, nutrition should be a focal point of medical education.
This story revolves around a single piece of paper. Among those who use this piece of paper, and among those who benefit from it, there exists much confusion about the paper’s intention. Some of the providers suspect intentional misguidance by those who designed the form.
Today, a person’s zip code is a better indication of their health than their genetic code is. We know that physical communities experience shared sickness, whether linked to trauma, viruses or unavailable nutrition, and there are established biomedical consequences to poverty and segregation. Acknowledging these links, however, only gets us so far; successful intervention demands thinking deeply about the relationship between patients and their communities. Rochester, NY is home to an innovative attempt to combating these issues. It is one that challenges traditional ideas of what factors define health and consequently, what metrics define therapy.
In the past few weeks, there has been considerable press surrounding needle exchanges and the recently declared HIV epidemic in Indiana.
The first time I talked with my friends about needle exchanges, I had a visceral reaction. “Why would you give people new needles?” I asked, completely outraged. “Isn’t that enabling and therefore doing a disservice to the very people you’re trying to help?”