It’s Our Moral Duty

As I am writing this blog, I am double-thinking as to whether or not I should continue eating the sandwich I am holding in my hand. Throughout my life, I have not personally witnessed the consequences of socioeconomic inequality. As time passes, globally, the economy is improving, yet the growing gap between the privileged and the destitute continues to expand. With an increase in food supply internationally and the advancements in technology, why then does the issue of inequality and health disparities persist? I believe it is because there is an imbalance in power which in return causes some populations attain prosperous lives while others suffer with socioeconomic hardships.

The introduction in Dying for Growth by Millen et al. mentions how the topic of reaching out to poverty-stricken populations is a moral duty for humans worldwide, yet many people are neglected. Luckily, there are organizations committed to taking action. To avoid the rate of mortality, especially among those in the third world countries, UNICEF has outlined the aspects of life that these areas need improvement in and help make differences for a better tomorrow. It is challenge to make revolutionary changes to populations that have not undergone improvements like the developed world has, but with time and a commitment from all to have change for the better, then the quality of life can be improved for millions.

In the near future, my group and I will focus on how violence and trauma has a direct affect on the inhabitants of Sudanand how in return, they suffer from malnutrition and disease. Villages have been destroyed, and the lack of access to life essentials calls for an outcry for help. The following link provides several basic facts on the ongoing situation in the Sudan region.Image

Now, as I take a bite into my sandwich, I realize that I am fortunate than many by far, and instead of feeling guilty for eating a healthy sandwich, I will continue educating myself on this matter and in return be an advocate for socioeconomic equality, including health and nutrition interventions that can steer deprived populations into a more tolerable one.


Our Possessions Reconsidered: Trauma in Sweatshops

The articles for this week truly highlight the correlations behind economic wealth and health disparities. One of the statements made in the articles that resounded to me was that as the GDP increases lives in men and women worsen. Such a statement provides the notion that while one person is getting richer, the other person is being affected.  And those who are being affected are third world countries that are now more than ever the target for American outsourcing. White collar jobs (call centers, customer service, medical billing) are all being sent to countries where their employees will not complain for $1.87 the hour. Such exploitation, while American business owners claim that they are providing relief to these people are in the end hurting them, because with this outsourcing, some situations such as sweatshops arise bringing to what Mr. Flores, in the article, states “taking advantage of ones poverty.”

Browsing through the Internet the first thought into the sweatshop scandals that have erupted have fallen along the lines of fashion, Nike and recently the infamous Kardashian family. However while we protest about wearing sweatshop clothing, we hone on our technology, love our Blackberry’s and since we are living in the Apple era, our iPads, iPhones, iPod’s and the list goes on. However, the Apple world is just as guilty as the Kardashians in the sweatshop brigade, however Steve Jobs was excellent in keeping it silent. A sweatshop is a working environment considered unacceptable difficult or dangerous. They are essential to the first world country corporations to produce an excessive amount of products with little monetary output. These corporations while they believe they are doing “good” they are not providing any economic relief to most of its workers, if anything, workers are dying, committing suicide, all to receive a meager sum of a wage. They are paid less than their daily expenses, which causes them to never save money. Conditions in sweatshops can be detrimental to health, at times contributing to pulmonary diseases, malaria, tetanus, or at times musculoskeletal disorders. While communities seek a fixed amount of money for work, they are being placed in traumatic and harmful situations, which are caused by the ultimate greed of outsourcing and large corporations. It is important for Americans, to realize where their possessions come from and to acknowledge the possibilities of their shirt, iPad, dress or shoes being made by hands who are living a traumatic life at this moment, if lucky, not dead.

Disparities in Mental Health Treatment

The discrepancies between economic growth and continued poverty and health disparities are disheartening. In their book’s introduction, titled, “What is Growing? Who is Dying?” Millen, Irwin, and Kim examine, “this paradox—that poverty, vulnerability, and suffering should flourish even as wealth and technological power increase” (6). It is assumed that a liberal, free market correlates with greater prosperity. This may be true, but the full picture is not being painted. While the rich continue to get richer, economic growth has done little to enhance the living conditions of the poor. Something clearly needs to be done when, “the developing world carries 90 percent of the disease burden, yet poorer countries have access to only 10 percent of the resources that go to health” (4).

One health disparity that wasn’t mentioned in this article was the lack of mental health treatment available for many disadvantaged or minority populations. I found a dissertation written by Sarah J. Gaillot, titled, “Disparities in Trauma and Mental Health Service Use,” which looks at the inadequate treatment given to racial-ethnic minorities suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder. It is unfortunate that minority populations continue to receive inferior treatment, and that economic inequalities, like a lack of health care, are often the central contributing factors to these disparities. The video below addresses the lack of mental health services available to minority populations in Texas. I found this statement interesting: “Dr. Martin says in minority communities that mental health conditions often result from past trauma. Africans were brought to the US as slaves against their will. Many Asians, such as the Vietnamese, were refugees fleeing war-torn countries. And many Hispanics are recent immigrants who speak two languages and alternate between cultures.” It is crucial that adequate treatment is given to these unique populations to address their needs in response to past trauma.

Sources:  Continue reading

Disease Compounds Disaster

The readings for this Thursday’s class explored the inequalities in health care and appalling lack of access to basic resources throughout the world. Millen’s introduction shows that despite the apparent improvement in statistics, the widening gap between developed and less developed countries has devastating consequences for billions of people around the world. It shows how statistics can be misleading, because while the world’s wealth has continued to increase, the disparity of wealth has created a global health crisis. And the most tragic part is that most of the diseases that kill people in developing countries are preventable. The lack of access to basic health care and adequate living conditions tends to be hidden underneath the faulty logic of improvement that lets developed countries “off the hook”. A good example of this is what happened in Haiti after the earthquake in 2010.

After the devastation of the earthquake, there was an outpouring of financial support from across the globe. However, much of the aid that has been pledged has yet to be distributed. And of the money that has made its way to Haiti, most of it has not improved the lives of the Haitian people in a noticeable way. In fact, a health crisis in the form of a cholera epidemic has thrust Haiti into a state of despair once again. The systemic poverty and lack of access to resources has been exacerbated by the earthquake, and the aid has not made a difference. As the poorest country in the Western Hemisphere suffers from a cholera epidemic, Haiti’s plight has all but been forgotten by the rest of the world that sent in billions of dollars in donations when the earthquake struck. As the readings for this week illuminated, health care is one of the areas that is most problematic for poorer countries. The statistics seem to convey that the world health situation is improving. However, as the article here describes, the devastation of cholera that has compounded the already inconceivable tragedy of the earthquake is an example of how less developed countries bear the burden of the world’s health care problem. This relates to our topic of violence because the same displacement camps with awful living conditions that became the breeding ground for the cholera epidemic created the conditions for violence, specifically sexual violence against women. The camps lacked basic health care and sanitary conditions, but they also lacked security, which gave opportunities for violence such as rape. This article gives one such tragic story.


Parental Diet Affects Offspring’s Health

Today’s articles brought awareness toward the topics of nutritional epigenetics and the emergence of diabetes. In Landecker’s article, an emphasis is placed on the strong correlation between nutrition and gene expression. During the “critical periods”, the food pregnant women take from the outside environment and introduce to the body internally may affect the “the physiology and disease susceptibility of an organism for the rest of its life”. The research conducted assumes “the basic idea is that food conditions early in life … affect patterns of gene expression and thus the way the body works for a lifetime, and perhaps beyond”, generation after generation. I was most intrigued when I read that the responsibility of a child’s health does not solely rely on pregnant women, but rather on men as well. Food’s profound affect on human development requires individuals to monitor what they eat and have parents set healthy examples for their offspring.

Moreover, other sources have conducted research and agree that “one of the most critical periods is early life when epigenetic memories are created that may impact a person’s susceptibility to disease later in life”. Speaking of disease, after reading Kleinfield’s New York Times post on diabetes, I learned that not enough is being done to stall the diabetes epidemic. Although the disease does not to have a cure, the illness could be controlled with constant monitoring and perhaps several lifestyle changes. Because diabetes relates to high sugar levels, I was curious to find out if there has been credible research that may suggest a link between diabetes and violence. It seems that studies show “a real correlation between diabetes and violence”, as I had presumed. Ultimately, this is not to suggest that all diabetics act aggressively, but rather that it helps explain the possible change in behavior. All in all, good diet and exercise can help curb the rate of many disease outbreaks. To sum up, Landecker’s article mentions the expression:  “Genetics may load the cannon, but human behavior pulls the trigger.”

Fix Communities Conquer Diabetes

The New York Times article on diabetes portrayed the illness through various lenses. We see the economic, social and physical effect on those inflicted with the disease. One of the aspects that I found most interesting was the analysis on the future to come.  “As more women contract diabetes in their reproductive years, Dr. Lorber said, more babies will be born with birth defects. Those needy babies will be raised by parents increasingly crippled by their diabetes.” This highlights one of the key factors that the American health care system fails to note and attack at early stages. Preventative medicine is the key to stop these problems from occurring. This disease allows people to live yet with debilitating circumstances, which can be prevented. We try to finance curing our problems that it is more cost efficient to save our money.

As diabetes affects adults, children are becoming the additional target for the life altering disease. In such situations, whom do you blame? Research suggests that genetics has a major cause for diabetes in children while other cases correlate it to the lifestyle and access to fresh foods. Additionally, the article suggests minority populations are at the forefront of being prone to the disease. While genetics play a role in all people, I strongly believe that the major reason for the presence of minority populations falls under the lifestyle and poverty of these families. While the literature strongly supports this notion, everyday experience supports it.  During a day working in South Central, I decided to look for a typical grocery store to pick up (to what I hoped) cheaper produce than the local Trader Joe’s in Westwood. Driving throughout the impoverished communities that were populated with apartment homes, not one grocery store came up. I proceeded to GPS a grocery store in the area to what resulted into no available locations.  Then considering that South Central is “the hood,” you are not only dealing with the poverty issue, you are working with a community that is tainted with gang violence, running around with a soccer ball might get a kid shot or dead.  Communities contribute to the diabetic problem and both outcomes are traumatizing. Either, you risk your chances at putting yourself in danger while getting physical activity needed or you fall into the continuous cycle of living with what is provided, which is not much considering that the family poor. In the grander scheme of things a disease such as diabetes cannot be combated without some community intervention, as long as there is none of that intervention, we will see more families with diabetes and more and more children inflicted with the disease.

The Dramatic Effects of Epigenetics

Dr. Landecker gives compelling evidence for the effects of nutritional epigenetics on further bodily processes. Nutritional epigenetics looks at the effects of nutrition and different types of food on the regulation of gene expression. Landecker states that, “food type and availability during so-called “critical periods” of development affect patterns of gene expression and thus the physiology and disease susceptibility of an organism for the rest of its life, and perhaps the life of future generations.” It is fascinating that the foods we eat during early development can have such profound impacts on our bodies later in life, especially on the genetic level. I’m sure these findings will provide valuable insight as we look at disadvantaged populations who might not have access to the nutrition necessary for proper regulation of gene expression.


(Source: NIH)

Reading about epigenetics caused me to research more about its effects in relation to trauma. I found a life science article titled, “Trauma inherited via epigenetics,” which looks at the process of emotional stress in mice being passed on to offspring. In the study, male mice were subjected to traumatic events, including maternal separation or maternal stress during the first two weeks of life. These stressed male mice then mated with normal female mice and the offspring were studied. Experiments demonstrated that 2nd and 3rd generation mice exhibited similar depressed or impulsive behavioral patterns, pointing to the role of epigenetics in the transmission of traumatic behavior. This research also provides positive insight on the negative effects that stress can have on offspring (as health disparities and discrimination often lead to elevated levels of stress or trauma).


Continue reading

The Tragic Toll of Diabetes

The New York Times article, “Diabetes and Its Awful Toll Quietly Emerge as a Crisis,” showed the frightening magnitude of social, economic, physical, and emotional effects of diabetes. By focusing on the ravaging path of the disease in a particular state, community, and even a single hospital, it gives the reader a more personalized account of the disease rather than meaningless statistics. I think it is more powerful and relatable by offering personal stories combined with the concerned opinions of professionals calling diabetes in this country an “epidemic”. It is clear that diabetes is negatively impacting many aspects of society, including the health care system and the economy as a whole, on top of the hardships individuals with the disease face on a daily basis. However, considering the toll this disease is taking, it is remarkable how few resources have been devoted to prevention, research, and treatment.


In addition to the negative consequences set forth in the article, research has shown that diabetes can contribute to violent behavior. When blood sugar is low or there are problems with the metabolism of glucose, the brain is less able to control aggressive impulses. As the co-author of a study described in this article says, “this is the first study to find that boosting glucose levels can reduce actual aggressive behavior,” and that “there is a real correlation between diabetes and violence.” In a previous study, it was shown that states with higher diabetes rates have higher crime rates. While this is an example of correlation, and not necessarily causation, it is an interesting finding, and one that may make more sense in the context of this new study linking blood sugar to aggressive behavior.

This is another interesting article about the connection between diabetes and violence that shows how children who suffer from abuse are more likely to get Type 2 Diabetes in adulthood.

Disabled Children Face the Risk of Violence

In “The Damaged Self”, Robert Murphy provides an autobiographical account of living with a disability in. He allows his audience to empathize with him as he writes about his inner struggles and the effects of “cultural notions of stigma and the social creation of the “other”’ (322). Having a disability is both physically and mentally damaging. In societies throughout the world, individuals with a disability are easily viewed as different and therefore most likely treated with indifference. As Murphy describes, disabled individuals encounter an emotional toll on their health, as they may continually have a sense of guilt and shame. Repetitive negative thoughts on one’s condition due to self-hate can often become traumatic and deteriorate the health of the individual. It is not fair for these individuals to go through a “loss of self-esteem” and a “lowered self-worth” due to the social isolation that emerges from having a disability, and therefore, those with able bodies must refrain from showing their ignorance and begin to provide assistance and support through any means necessary.

Murphy (with his age, wisdom, and well-tended environment) was able provide his voice and in return was commended for writing about his disability, whenas the voice of children living with a disability has been left unheard of to many. To elaborate more on Frania’s post regarding her experience spending time with disabled children, I would like to provide a more global perspective on this marginalized group. Unfortunately, “violence and abuse are serious problems for persons with disabilities” and they “are at greater risk than non-disabled persons”. On the United Nations website, it has been noted that “research indicates that violence against children with disabilities occurs at annual rates at least 1.7 times greater than for their non-disabled peers”. Many children are either born with a disability or are permanently disabled due to violence in warfare, which means that these innocent children are placed in situations that unjustly damage and disadvantage them for life. There has been a lack of response to help these children in need, and those educated must continue to share there knowledge and make a difference.

This clip provides viewers with facts and images of children with disabilities, as well as several case studies with outcomes that may leave the audience with disbelief. As I was watching this, I was mentally disturbed to read about the infanticide that persists in some cultures, and the quote that stood out to me was when a mother claimed “a disabled child can mean a disabled family”.

Trauma, Disability, and Social Isolation

Robert E. Murphy describes his own experience with social isolation after becoming a paraplegic in this selection, titled, “The Damaged Self.” He uses words like “stranger,” “aliens,” and “exiles,” to describe a new condition of being in the world. There is much trauma attached to disability. Murphy describes an “us vs. them” mentality when he speaks of being “one of ‘them’…[standing] somewhat apart from American culture, making [him] in many ways a stranger” (Murphy, pg. 323, 329). Disability and low self-esteem often leads to withdrawal, as the disabled person has been given a completely new identity. With disabilities, especially paralysis, come extreme feelings of helplessness–a very traumatic feeling.

Traumatic experiences in general also tend to result in social isolation. On her blog, “The Forgotten Peace,” a woman named Gayook speaks about her own experiences. After a traumatic event, she explains a pattern of avoidance, as victims are often reminded of the event. She makes an enlightening comment about the perpetuation of social isolation after a traumatic event. “While, in the short-term, counting on ourselves may have helped us in the beginning. Over a long period of time, it perpetuates for the survivor a sense that no one can help us. It keeps us in a state of trauma.” (Gayook)


How does healing occur? Certainly not in isolation. I believe that a support system and some sort of therapy is essential, both for people like Murphy suffering from a major disability, or Gayook reliving a traumatic event. Unfortunately the luxuries of a support system and therapy are not always available for everyone.


Robert E. Murphy: “The Damaged Self”