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Posts Tagged ‘public health’

“Where the wind comes sweepin down the plain.” That Rogers and Hammerstein musical was my first taste of show biz. I was new to public school and new to ninth grade, so naturally I tried out for the school play! My first boyfriend was a drummer in the orchestra; a nice, Irish Catholic boy who gave the Flapper the impression he would watch out for me after school at rehearsals…

I’ve thought about the theme behind the play many times, about how the farmers and the cowboys can’t really be friends. About building walls and fences to keep certain people out, and certain people in. It’s about conflict with a capital C, and are we going to blame others for our problems or try to cooperatively fix things – “Flowers on the prairie where the June bugs zoom. Plenty of air and plenty of room. Plenty of room to swing a rope!”

Well, states’ AGs have decided to treat our country’s big problem, the opioid epidemic and our addiction to pain-killers, in the same way they treated our addiction to nicotine – by blaming corporations. Yesterday, Johnson & Johnson lost their landmark opioid trial and was ordered to pay $572 Million to the Sooner State.

Surprisingly J&J stock went up, because the decision fell far short of the 17 Billion judgement the OK state was asking for – from the New York Times:

“In his ruling, he (the judge) wrote that Johnson & Johnson had promulgated “false, misleading, and dangerous marketing campaigns” that had “caused exponentially increasing rates of addiction, overdose deaths” and babies born exposed to opioids.

Johnson & Johnson, which contracted with poppy growers in Tasmania, supplied 60 percent of the opiate ingredients that drug companies used for opioids like oxycodone, the state argued, and aggressively marketed opioids to doctors and patients as safe and effective. A Johnson & Johnson subsidiary, Janssen Pharmaceuticals, made its own opioids — a pill whose rights it sold in 2015, and a fentanyl patch that it still produces.”

Bob tells me that it’s kind of difficult to abuse a patch. But what made me chuckle just a little was the actual law on the books the judge used to cite his landmark decision, the “Public Nuisance” law! 

What constitutes a public nuisance, one might ask? This law is the bread and butter of local government: you let your lawn grow into wildflowers till it overtakes the sidewalk; you play your music too loud and for too long; or more broadly, you act (or fail to act) on something that endangers an entire community.

In 2017, 117 people died in Nashville due to overdoses, though it’s hard to find out if the drug was pushed via needle or via mouth. For some reason the TN death rate due to drugs has been going up every year: https://www.tennessean.com/story/news/health/2019/07/19/opioid-crisis-tennessee-overdose-deaths-climbing-heroin-fentanyl-meth/1550137001/

I’m wondering why a smart AG shouldn’t treat gun violence with the same strategy? How many people were killed with guns in your community last year?

Why not go after Sturm Ruger or Smith & Wesson also known as American Outdoor Brands? Allowing people to walk around town brandishing an assault weapon, even though they managed to get an “open-carry permit,” might also fit into this “Public Nuisance” category. https://www.fool.com/investing/2017/03/04/can-you-guess-the-biggest-gunmaker-in-the-us.aspx

After all, gun deaths are on the rise. https://www.cbsnews.com/news/gun-death-statistics-cdc-study-says-gun-deaths-are-on-the-rise-after-years-of-decline/ While drug deaths due to prescription opioids have been going down in most states (exception TN), albeit deaths due to fentanyl laced cocaine and meth have been going up. https://www.pbs.org/newshour/health/its-not-just-opioids-deaths-from-cocaine-and-meth-are-surging

I remember when Rumson passed a Noise Ordinance law, though I’m not sure how they managed to enforce it. Mostly driven by extremely early sounds of lawn maintenance equipment on the weekends; the Wall Street traders in town wanted to sleep in, while the townies who did their own lawns wanted an early start. It’s always the cowboys and the farmers.

This was me at 15, rather a drawing my big sister Kay did of me as a Can-Can girl in Oklahoma.

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Anyone else think the new PM of Britain looks familiar? That tousled mop of reddish-blonde hair, the arrogant swagger and pouty mouth of a blowfish. Indeed, Boris Johnson, the newly elected British Prime Minister, is following in the footsteps of our own Mr T in trying to take his people backward, maybe in a Tardis?

Today, while we are watching and hoping for a miracle that will never come as Mueller addresses Congress, Theresa May will resign to the Queen. In a last ditch effort to redeem her Brexit/Exit, the ex-PM has passed a health document into her last days at Downing Street. She wants to reduce the number of years her fellow country people spend in poor health – namely:

‘The government is pledging to end smoking in England by 2030 as part of a range of measures to tackle the causes of preventable ill health.”

You might wonder who’s still smoking, but walk into any public building and you must hold your breath to navigate the sidewalk through cigarette smoke. We can ban smoking in restaurants, and try to tax it away, but it seems that 14% of adults still smoke in England…. and in America it’s 15%, or about 40 million people!

And that’s not taking into account the upswing in underage, teenage smoking – not the old fashioned, combustible type of cigarettes mind you.

Teens are using e-cigarettes at record levels: “America’s teens report a dramatic increase in their use of vaping devices in just a single year, with 37.3 percent of 12th graders reporting “any vaping” in the past 12 months, compared to just 27.8 percent in 2017. ” https://www.drugabuse.gov/news-events/news-releases/2018/12/teens-using-vaping-devices-in-record-numbers

A 10% jump in just one year, I wonder if 2019 will follow suit? Commonly called Juuling, after the brand name “Juul” that sells their vaping device as an upscale alternative to tobacco, vaping contains the same amount or more of nicotine along with some carcinogens wrapped up in a pretty, pen-like, battery charged package. I know because my sister’s nurse told us all about it. And now nearly 40% of our kids are trying them out, thinking they are vaping a “flavor” and not necessarily knowing they are becoming addicted to nicotine.

My whole family smoked cigarettes. In fact I’m pretty sure I NEVER smoked one cigarette because I always felt it was impossible to breathe in their vicinity. I hated the smell, the dirty ashtrays, the feeling of superiority my older siblings coveted as they puffed away. I would sit alone in the front of an airplane back when airlines allowed smokers to sit in the back; way back there, where my sister Kay and brother Mike were having fun. “Smokin and jokin.”

Vaping is not without its drawbacks – a man has had the battery explode in his face. It has caused “wet lung” and countless other maladies along with addiction to nicotine. According to the doctors in my family, it will most certainly be banned in the near future because of its marketing to children with flavors like fruit medley and cool mint.

The threat of COPD, cancer and emphysema are hazy outcomes when you’re a teen. You want to look cool, I guess that’s the top priority. Huffing on a flash drive doesn’t look very cool to me though.

And second-hand vaping is real y’all! “…vaping worsened indoor air quality, specifically by increasing the concentration of nicotine, particulate matter, PAH (polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons) and aluminum — compounds that have been linked to lung and cardiovascular disease and cancer among other health effects.” https://www.scientificamerican.com/article/e-cigs-and-second-hand-vaping/

At one point while I was in NYC, I was surrounded by 3 vapers. They were adults who either thought this was a more acceptable way to smoke, or maybe they thought they were saving money? I just couldn’t wait to breath some clean, fresh, hot, city air.

The race is on. Will England be the first to win the prize of eradicating this public health enemy? Or will we look across the pond next year with a newly elected progressive president ready to tackle climate change and give us universal healthcare? Banning weapons of war along with e-ciggies?

The ball is in your court Mr Mueller! This is what the L’il Pumpkin thinks of smoking.

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This week Ms Berdelle was rounding up the neighborhood so we could all tie ourselves to the cherry trees on the Cumberland River bank. But that’s another story

Cherry trees are exploding all over Nashville. There is new growth on every block; tulips coming while daffodils are going, backed by an orchestra of bird song. I can’t help but smile as I walk Ms Bean and wonder if passers-by are also euphoric over Spring, or are they just self/or/doctor/medicated? Passover and Easter are right around the corner and we are in the midst of starting over in our new home, the #PartyFarmhouse.

Like Chip and Joanna of HGTV fame, I’ve christened our urban oasis with its very own name – the Party Farmhouse is a simple, white shingle-style abode with black trim – built in the 1930s, the small side garden holds a gas fire pit and is adorned with party lights! Emptying the Pod yesterday was like Christmas morning; the Flapper’s Buddha, the French cupboard, old paintings and my ancient desk. In the midst of it all, I’d almost forgotten my hair stylist’s appointment.

There is nothing like a new do to make you feel alive and reborn, so of course I made a point of showing up because I love Chase! We always have the best conversations, and yesterday he told me that his dearly departed grandmother shared my name and my original hair color! We talked about one of his relatives who doesn’t believe in vaccinations, and I told him how I was lined up at Sacred Heart School to road test one of the very first polio vaccines. In my day, we still saw children who had been afflicted with polio in wheelchairs with wasted limbs.

Which is why I cannot abide by parents who are “anti-vaxxers.” I told Chase about the research I did on language acquisition in college at the Hartford School for the Deaf. Most of those beautiful pre-schoolers had been born to mothers who had contracted German measles during their pregnancy, also known as Rubella. There was no choice for these parents, not in the 1970s. The MMR vaccine today prevents Rubella and regular measles, aka Rubeola. Now thanks to certain communities in the US and all over Europe as well, measles is making a comeback.

“Italy and France have extended existing requirements (for school admission) with fines and restricted school attendance. And Germany is currently discussing making measles vaccine mandatory.

In New York’s Rockland County, unvaccinated children have been banned from public places for 30 days. But it is difficult to see how this could be effectively enforced and there is little evidence that mandatory vaccination is always the best approach.”   https://www.bbc.com/news/health-47800438

Whether you believe basically sentencing an unvaccinated child to house arrest for a month is constitutional, or not, this is a fine line for public health officials to cross. Most outbreaks have occurred in ultra-Orthodox Jewish communities thereby fueling anti-Semitic sentiments. But combined with Christian-Right homeschoolers, many children can no longer rely on herd immunity. A community needs a rate of 95% compliance in order to benefit from herd immunity.

My biological Father was a pharmacist who believed you could contract all these communicable diseases in a hospital, when in fact the measles virus floats around in the air droplets of an infected person and on surrounding surfaces for hours. It’s highly contagious and not worth risking a child’s life over unsubstantiated conspiracy theories, no matter what religion one subscribes to.

Well, it’s back to unpacking boxes for me. Ms Berdelle’s plan almost worked, since the cherry trees were not chopped down and now have another chance at life! Let’s hope most of the trees the city of Nashville transplanted to accommodate the NFL draft (and our massive voter petition) continue to bloom! We pick up the Grands today after school and just might be installing a fairy house!

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This morning we awoke to another mass shooting, except this time the carnage took place in New Zealand, a country we Americans like to think of as idyllic. Friends returned from a trip once to tell us that Kiwis are the most delightful people they’ve ever met! The Bride will tell anyone that people just don’t sue their doctors in the land of Tolkein.

But today, hate has landed on their shores in the form of far-right, white supremacy.

49 people are dead and more than 20 are injured simply for attending their mosque in Christchurch. The young man, the terrorist with a gun, live-streamed his vicious attack shooting men, women and children at close range for Facebook.

How is this different than a neo-Nazi killing Black people in a Christian church in South Carolina? Or is it different from an anti-Semite slaughtering Jews at prayer in a synagogue in Pennsylvania? Is a shooting at a place of worship any different from a school massacre?

An anti-immigrant, anti-Muslim, racist bigot with a camera on his head is no different than other young, white men on a mission to hate and kill; what they all have in common besides hate is a GUN. Yes, terrorists will try killing with cars and trucks and knives, but a gun is so much more efficient

And in this respect I do have some good news to share – the Supreme Court of the state of Connecticut has ruled that the Sandy Hook Elementary victims have the right to sue the manufacturer of the gun, a Remington Bushmaker AR-15, that was used to slaughter their children. The Associated Press reports:

In a 4-3 decision, justices reinstated a wrongful death lawsuit against Remington and overturned the ruling of a lower court judge, who said the entire lawsuit was prohibited by the 2005 federal law. The majority said that while most of the lawsuit’s claims were barred by the federal law, Remington could still be sued for alleged wrongful marketing under Connecticut law.

This is a huge step for gun control safety, ending the age-old practice of complicit immunity to gun companies and their shareholders.

And in other good news, the 55 year old father of the Waffle House shooter here in Nashville has been charged with unlawful transfer of a firearm, a felony, in his home state of Illinois. His “child” killed 4 people in 42 seconds. Because the father knew his son had been hospitalized in the past five years for his mental health, the state thinks he should not have given his son an AR-15. What do you think? Do you see a pattern? https://www.tennessean.com/story/news/crime/2019/03/14/travis-reinking-father-jeffrey-waffle-house-shooting/3016158002/

“If he is found guilty, the charge could carry probation or up to three years prison time and a fine of up to $25,000.”

My heart goes out to the victims in Christchurch this morning. But as Spring approaches, I have hope that we can turn this massive public health crisis around. Like Rip van Winkle, our country is awakening from the biting cold grip of the Second Amendment.

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Yesterday was surreal. We heard helicopters flying around our house as if we lived in LA. A small news station in Roanoke, WDBJ, just an hour away from Cville had been broadcasting a fluff early morning piece at Smith Mountain Lake, when a lone gunman murdered the beautiful, young reporter and her photo journalist, live. It was an unthinkable act. They don’t kill journalists in America, do they? And while I was following the car chase via Twitter and a local news anchor, the killer posted his own video of the crime to social media. My oatmeal was getting cold, I’d lost my appetite.

This morning we are learning more about the victims, Alison Parker and Adam Ward. Two talented, rising stars in TV news who didn’t deserve to die yesterday while doing their job. And we’ve learned that the shooter (I refuse to use his name) was a disgruntled, ex-employee of the station. He’d been fired for basically not playing well with others at many different news outlets. He’d been encouraged to seek medical help. Let the chorus begin…mental health vs gun control. Only like most things in life, it’s not that simple; and it’s not really a political issue.

The ease of obtaining a gun, and the sheer abundance of guns in this country is a public health issue. Period.

The state of Virginia rates a “D” in the gun law scorecard of the Law center to Prevent Gun Violence. You can go to their website to rate your own state http://smartgunlaws.org/search-gun-law-by-state/  Here is what Virginia does not have on the books, some of our very own loopholes for people intent on gun ownership: We DO NOT

  • Require a background check prior to the transfer of a firearm between unlicensed individuals;
    Require firearms dealers to obtain a state license;
    Regulate the transfer or possession of 50 caliber rifles or large capacity ammunition magazines;
    Require firearm owners to report lost or stolen firearms;
    Impose a waiting period prior to purchase of a firearm; or
    Regulate unsafe handguns (“junk guns” or “Saturday night specials”).

Why are we blind to this? How can we walk away from VA Tech and Sandy Hook without confronting our national sin. Or the countless times guns are used in a suicide – or in a domestic dispute – or in an “accident” involving a child – are seemingly overlooked by the media frenzy for a mass shooting incident at a mall or a movie theatre. It’s easy to say, oh he was crazy, he was over the edge; because it’s always a “he” and it always involves a gun.

I knew a teenager at the height of the Iraq war, who was circling her bedroom with a crown moulding of names – the names of the soldiers who were dying there and in Afghanistan. I was breathless when I first saw this memorial border, and I thought how so much is ignored or buried or covered up in the news. At the time, only PBS was broadcasting the names of the dead. Remember we were not allowed to see the flag covered caskets returning to our shore, as if we are children who need to be shielded from the sight of dead soldiers. Maybe we need to start a long border of names, or a quilt of the US citizens who have been killed by guns in the past year. The children, the wives and mothers, the fathers and yes, the young people just going to work in Virginia at daybreak.

Every day on average 290 people are shot in this country. We have three times as many gun homicides as European nations. Three Times

Our review of the academic literature found that a broad array of evidence indicates that gun availability is a risk factor for homicide, both in the United States and across high-income countries,” according to the Harvard School of Public Health. “Case-control studies, ecological time-series and cross-sectional studies indicate that in homes, cities, states and regions in the US, where there are more guns, both men and women are at higher risk for homicide, particularly firearm homicide.” http://www.washingtonpost.com/news/wonkblog/wp/2015/06/18/you-have-to-see-how-many-more-people-are-killed-by-guns-in-america-to-really-believe-it/

God help us all if we have come to a point where we can continue to eat breakfast and accept this kind of news as normal. cover_chamberguide_2014_final-page-001

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take a picture of it! I’m guilty of wanting to document my life on Instagram, wanting to be creative and confounding, humorous and compelling, all in a few pixels. And the last few days were telling. Bob and I took a quick trip to NY via Amtrak, and despite fears of Legionnaires Disease, I found myself surrounded by unending vistas of wonderment. It is August in the City that never sleeps, native New Yorkers were gone, restaurants were semi-empty, and cabs were easy to find – especially with Uber drivers just a click away on Trip Advisor!

So there I was, in a tall office building, looking out a window towards the Hudson, and in one frame I could get a Little League baseball game, a big sailboat, AND a beautiful bridge. It was a sunny, glorious day, NY at her finest and I was feeling like Hooper, or Warhol, or somebody. I aimed my iPhone and darn if it didn’t work, it was trying to tell me something, in a message box…

My storage was seemingly full and I could “manage” this little snafoo on “Settings.” Why thank you cell phone, how kind of you to remind me.

But by the time I got to my Settings and deleted a few ridiculous Apps I didn’t need or use, my picture was gone. The game was over and the sailboat was probably in the Atlantic.

No problem. I still got a few nice pix of dim sum at Red Farm (a very trendy West side Chinese eatery), soaring skyscrapers, oh and I love signs. Not like a sign from above “Sign,” but a regular directional sign. The kind that tells us where to go, what not to walk on, or how many pounds a toilet seat can hold. I managed to snap a “Sabbath Elevator” sign. Once a wordsmith.

Isn’t writing just painting a picture with words? That’s what I try to do when I take fingers to laptop, or even pen to paper. I see something in my mind’s eye and a story unfolds. Maybe that is what makes some of us “Visual Learners” – I could always  remember a face, but rarely remember a name.

While we waited in Penn Station for our train back to VA, a PSA was on a continual loop on a monitor above our heads.

“If You See Something, Say Something.” http://www.dhs.gov/see-something-say-something

It was all about what to do if there was a shooter in the building – basically get the heck out of the building by the nearest exit. And If that’s not possible, hide. And if that’s not possible, it showed a commuter throwing his briefcase at the suspect with a gun. And it also tried to explain what suspicious behavior looks like – which if you know NY, is pretty much everybody. It was almost comical.

Until I thought about how our children are probably watching a similar video, in their schools. Our well meaning attempt at “managing” rampant gun violence in this country is a farce of epic proportions. When will we change our perspective, put on a new pair of eyeglasses, and see, truly see our national disaster for what it really is – a public health issue. Should we all now boycott public spaces to get our legislators to listen? Stop going to movie theaters, stop going to malls, stop going to college and just study online, at home?

Or should we stand up and say something – anything – like we’re mad as hell and vote the whole lot of GOP war mongers out of office? If you didn’t read this letter from Sarah Clements, the daughter of a Sandy Hook teacher, to Amy Schumer, here it is: https://medium.com/human-development-project/an-open-letter-to-amy-schumer-8f1fd3637d41

Women have truly begun to lead the gun violence prevention movement — and they are winning. Women are our teachers, our protectors, our shielders. Women weep in public and in private for the lives we’ve lost, and they’re not afraid to scream at the cameras and go toe-to-toe with monsters who perpetuate these crimes on the streets and in boardrooms. Women are very simply the ultimate moral base in our battles for peace and justice throughout the world.

Tonight I have a date with Bob, so I’ll miss the circus, the so called “cocktail hour” featuring Donald Trump in the great Republican debate. But I’ll stay up late to watch Jon Stewart’s last hurrah. Thank you Jon, for painting a very clear picture of American politics for a younger generation. Now if we can just get them to the polls, to say something.

Heading Uptown

Heading Uptown

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Look around you America. If it looks like you’re surrounded by Barbara Striesand’s least favorite color, orange, you’d be right. And to be honest, being a strawberry blonde meant I avoided that particular hue too. But today is National Gun Violence Awareness Day, and I thought I’d share a few facts with you this morning while I listen to Ms Bean snooze.

Gun injuries to children and young adults cause twice as many deaths as cancer!

Now just think about that for a second. Think about all those pink ribbons, yellow bracelets, and fund-raising schemes non-profits have come up with to draw attention to a disease we still can’t quite pin down. Is it hereditary or arbitrary? Is it environmental or viral? We know some people have the right sequence of genes to make them more susceptible to certain types of cancer, but we still don’t have a cure.

Look at Beau Biden. He died at about the same age that my father died of the very same tumor. Robert Lynn left 6 children behind. Brain cancer is a death sentence 66 years later. Our society is pouring money into research and development to fight cancer, but in our nation’s capital, the NRA is pouring money into the bloody hands of politicians. Why? To keep doctors from asking questions of parents about guns. To get guns on college campuses. To fight any legislation that might make purchasing a gun difficult – background checks? So what if you have a restraining order and domestic abuse issues, step right up and tell us what kind of rifle you like.

Gun injuries cause five times as many deaths as heart disease.

Well now we’re talking. The American Heart Association once thought that educating Americans about their risk of heart attack and stroke was their main mission. Today they’ve upped their game, to include educating us on our diets, legislating “heart healthy” packaging strategies state by state, fighting childhood obesity and running anti-smoking campaigns. “Sitting is the new smoking” one doc told Bob at a recent medical conference. Leverage that against gun lobbyists spouting “freedom” like they invented the word. The freedom to walk into a movie theatre in Colorado, an elementary school in Connecticut, or a college in Virginia with a rifle. The freedom to leave a handgun unlocked and loaded where a child might pick it up. These should be the NRA’s four freedoms.

Gun injuries kill 15 times as many people as infections! 

MERSA? Tuberculosis? Flesh eating bacteria, SARS and the flu? HA, we may have some antibiotic-resistant strains roaming around the world, but they pale in comparison to the sheer number of guns and ease of availability we Americans have simply taken for granted. So every time someone dies from, let’s say West Nile, since I just happened to experience that horrific infection, 15 people die from gun violence.

A child shoots herself in the face; a child shoots his friend in the yard; a child shoots his mother while sitting in a shopping cart playing with her purse…

I am so sick and tired of reading about the ways we humans can so easily kill each other with guns. No other country in the world is as lax as we are in regulating guns. Make women wait 2 days for an abortion and watch some video about it beforehand, maybe even get a pelvic ultrasound in the interim, sure  –  but make you wait for a background check before buying a gun? Nonsense.

I’m wearing orange today for my grandchildren, so that they may grow up in a country without this scourge of gun violence. Because we need to elect leaders whose pockets are not lined with blood money.  IMG_2705

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