Archives for posts with tag: inequality

Miller-McCune: America’s hidden diseases.

Millions of poor Americans living in distressed regions of the country are chronically sick, afflicted by a host of hidden diseases that are not being monitored, diagnosed or treated, researchers say. From Appalachia to the Mississippi Delta to the segregated inner cities of the Great Lakes and Northeast, they say, and from Navajo reservations to Latino communities along the U.S.-Mexico border, more than 20 chronic diseases are promoting the cycle of poverty in conditions of inadequate sanitation, unsafe water supplies and rundown housing. “These are forgotten diseases among forgotten people,” said Peter Hotez, a microbiologist at George Washington University, president of the Washington, D.C.-based Sabin Vaccine Institute and co-founder of the institute’s Global Network for Neglected Tropical Disease Control. “If these were diseases among middle-class whites in the suburbs, we would not tolerate them. They are among America’s greatest health disparities, and they are largely unknown to the U.S. medical and health communities.”  More . . .

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From The Province:

Public elementary schools in low-income neighbourhoods are more likely to be located near a major road or highway, exposing students to higher levels of air and noise pollution, according to a new B.C. study.

The study, which examined the proximity of 1,556 schools to a major thoroughfare in Canada’s 10 largest cities, found that more than 22 per cent of schools located in the poorest neighbourhoods lie within 75 metres of a major road, compared to 13 per cent for the richest areas.

“The relationship between income and proximity was quite consistent across cities,” said Simon Fraser University assistant professor Ryan Allen, one of the co-authors of the study, published this week in the International Journal of Health Geographics.

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One possibility for the correlation, speculated Allen, could be that high volumes of vehicular traffic make a neighbourhood less desirable, driving property values down and making them more affordable to low-income residents.

The study obtained addresses for elementary schools in Toronto, Hamilton, Mississauga, Ottawa, Montreal, Quebec City, Winnipeg, Calgary, Edmonton and Vancouver. The schools where then geocoded and their proximity to the nearest major road calculated.

“About 16 per cent of the schools we looked at is close enough to a major road to have elevated pollution and noise,” said Allen, a health-sciences professor.

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Research has shown that increased exposure to traffic-generated air pollution is linked to reduced lung functions, asthma and decreased cognitive functions. Noise pollution is also linked to increased blood pressure and reduced sleep quality.

The study does not list schools and its distances to major roads, but authors said Vancouver schools near or along Knight Street or Kingsway would be representative of schools that fall within the 75 metres radius.

A 2003 city of Vancouver report on the Clark/Knight Corridor had noted that while ambient sound levels in classrooms during lessons should be 35 decibels, the cacophony on Knight Street exceeds 70 decibels.

“It would be a challenge to meet the relevant criteria (< 35 dBA) in classrooms, even with the windows tightly closed,” said the report.

Allen said he hopes the study increases awareness of where schools, daycares, and other similar facilities are built in the future.

“I’d like to see environmental quality be a consideration,” he said. “I think we have an obligation to provide a safe environment for our kids to grow up in.”

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Image from Flickr.

From Huffington Post:

“Who wouldn’t be against the poisoning of children?”

This was the rhetorical question posed by Dr. Robert D. Bullard during a recent phone interview that I had with him. Our talk covered topics from the genesis of his career as the “Father of Environmental Justice,” to the role that women and mothers have played in the struggle for the health of the planet. As Bullard stated, “Women have been the backbone of environmental justice — and women of color have consistently been fighting for their kids.”

African-American and Latinos have repeatedly found their communities targeted as prime locations for toxic facilities. I reached out to Bullard for an overview on the evolution of the Environmental Justice movement, which has served as a prism through which to examine policy based on race, environment, and waste. Bullard walked me through his work from the 1970s, when he developed the theory of Environmental Justice, to his current role as the Dean of the Barbara Jordan-Mickey Leland School of Public Affairs at Texas Southern University.

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Dumping In Dixie: Race, Class, and Environmental Quality, Bullard’s 1990 book, became a textbook primer for teaching the underpinnings of Environmental Justice. In it, Bullard illustrated how siting practices have created a full range of health problems in the African-American population as the result of incinerators, garbage dumps, hazardous waste, and chemical plants. Bullard meticulously used research based on science and facts to demonstrate that environmental waste was being located in economically poor and politically powerless neighborhoods. The same year, Bullard built a list of groups doing related advocacy initiatives, which led to the National People of Color Environmental Summit in 1991 and a Principles of Environmental Justice manifesto. His formulations on public policy branched out to the international level, when in 1999 he assisted in preparing environmental racism documents that were presented at the United Nations Human Rights Commission in Geneva.

When we spoke, Bullard expressed his concern about the current atmosphere of ongoing negativity toward the Environmental Protection Agency. He said, “When people demonize the EPA, it’s totally bogus. We need a strong, independent EPA.” Reflecting on what a lapse on enforcing standards could do to the public’s wellbeing, Bullard remarked, “Are we trying to race to the bottom?”

On the issue of “unequal protection,” Bullard emphasized the need of governmental agencies to work together so that “no community becomes a dumping zone.” He was definitive in his stance, “You need a strong Federal presence,” referencing how in too many circumstances, “states have done a lousy job.” Drilling down on the way equity issues impact low wealth communities, Bullard noted that the same neighborhoods that experience toxic sites are also the ones lacking in supermarkets, parks and other quality of life markers. Pointing to a Toxic Waste and Race Report, Bullard observed that of 413 commercial waste facilities, 56 percent were in locations inhabited by people of color. Using the term “clustering,” he pointed to hot spots in California, Texas, and New Mexico — as well as to the urban centers of Detroit, Miami, Washington, D.C. and New York City — that shared similar patterns of toxic release.

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In explaining how children of color were disproportionately affected by ozone, automobile and truck exhaust, coal-fired power plants — putting them on the front line, Bullard circled back to the efforts of mothers in East Los Angeles, reiterating how they had been battling against local incinerators for decades. He also mentioned the ongoing work of [Upstream Contributor] Peggy Shepard, executive director and co-founder (1988) of West Harlem Environmental Action (WE ACT), New York’s first organization devoted to improving environmental health in communities of color. Speaking of all youngsters, Bullard said, “If we protect children, we protect everyone. If we don’t, we put everyone at risk.”

His final words to me summed up why mobilizing to ensure and maintain the progress and regulations put into place by the EPA is so essential:

“Writing off an entire generation is not acceptable.”

More.

From TEDTalks:

We feel instinctively that societies with huge income gaps are somehow going wrong. Richard Wilkinson charts the hard data on economic inequality, and shows what gets worse when rich and poor are too far apart: real effects on health, lifespan, even such basic values as trust.

Vodpod videos no longer available.

Unnatural Causes – Episode 1

UNNATURAL CAUSES criss-crosses the country investigating the stories and findings that are shaking up conventional notions about what makes us healthy or sick. It turns out there’s much more to our well-being than genes, behaviors and medical care. The social, economic, and physical environments in which we are born, live and work profoundly affect our longevity and health – as much as smoking, diet and exercise.

The series sheds light on mounting evidence of how lack of access to power and resources can get under the skin and disrupt human biology as surely as germs and viruses. It also reveals a health gradient tied to wealth: those at the top of the class pyramid average longer, healthier lives, while those at the bottom are the most disempowered, get sicker more often and die sooner. Most of us fall somewhere in between.

What’s more, at every level, many communities of color are worse off than their white counterparts. Researchers believe that chronic stress over the life course may create an additional health burden for people of color.

From Documentary Website:

UNNATURAL CAUSES is the acclaimed documentary series broadcast by PBS and now used by thousands of organizations around the country to tackle the root causes of our alarming socio-economic and racial inequities in health.

The four-hour series crisscrosses the nation uncovering startling new findings that suggest there is much more to our health than bad habits, health care, or unlucky genes. The social circumstances in which we are born, live, and work can actually get under our skin and disrupt our physiology as much as germs and viruses.

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