Trump announced Thursday that he will be withdrawing the US from the Paris Climate Agreement signed by 195 countries. Vox observes, “The reality is that this isn’t just a story about Trump — it’s a story about the Republican Party and the conservative movement, which has adopted a rock-solid, widespread consensus in opposition to any serious action aimed at US reducing carbon emissions. This has become a bedrock belief of the modern GOP.” Later on Thursday afternoon, three state governors – representing California, New York, and Washington – launched the United States Climate Alliance, “a union that will work to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, even as national leadership on climate change falters.” In a statement, California Governor Jerry Brown said, “The president has already said climate change is a hoax, which is the exact opposite of virtually all scientific and worldwide opinion… I don't believe fighting reality is a good strategy—not for America, not for anybody. If the president is going to be AWOL in this profoundly important human endeavor, then California and other states will step up." According to Mother Jones, “61 American mayors also pledged on Thursday that their cities will uphold the tenets of the Paris Climate Agreement.” In a press statement, the American Public Health Association labeled the decision a "disaster for public health": "The science is clear. Climate change is happening and it’s affecting our health. A changing climate affects our food supply, the spread of infectious disease, our water systems and air quality, and much more. All have significant impacts on human health.
The Project for Public Spaces posted a blog last week on “placemaking when Black Lives Matter,” exploring issues of equity and the limits of ‘inclusive’ policies in a context of systemic racial oppression: “Persistent inequalities and decades of discrimination mean a code of ethics isn’t going to cut it. We need an actual politics of placemaking. Our naiveté borders on negligence if we don’t explicitly address how the very presence of certain bodies in public has been criminalized and the color of your skin can render you automatically “out of place.” Stop-and-frisk policies have criminalized an entire generation of Black and Latino youth in the name of public safety. What kind of places are we making in American cities where a 12-year old kid is shot in his own neighborhood park?”
A new study in JAMA Internal Medicine finds that when African-Americans move out of heavily segregated neighborhoods, their elevated blood pressure drops. According to KQED, “Doctors have known for a long time that African-Americans are prone to high blood pressure. And previous research had found that people living in segregated places tended to have higher blood pressure… The new study is the first to follow people over time to see how leaving segregated communities could affect the risk of heart disease. This kind of before-and-after study strengthens the observations made in the earlier studies. “The big message here is that this study shines a light on one of the root causes of heart disease and stroke in our country,” says David Goff, director of the division of cardiovascular diseases at the National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute, which funded the study.
In an opinion piece for The Hill, Andrew Dreyfus, president and CEO of Blue Cross Blue Shield of Massachusetts wrote that insurers should never charge people with pre-existing conditions more for health coverage. “A return to charging higher premiums for people with pre-existing conditions would also reinforce the mistaken notion that serious illness stems largely from personal choice. Most illness and disability is due not to choice but to bad luck and bad circumstances — the accidents of birth and life, including genes, economic and social factors, workplace conditions, and exposure to infection and toxins.”
In a San Francisco Chronicle op-ed, the former executive director of San Francisco’s Rafiki Coalition for Health and Wellness, says that ACA repeal would affect African Americans disproportionately, and calls on social justice advocates to help defeat the repeal, as well as promote equity in mainstream public health and health organizations.
In a Facebook Live interview with USA Today, CMS Administrator Seema Verma said CMS has the legal authority to allow work requirements for Medicaid recipients.
The California State Senate advanced a bill this week that would ban the use of tobacco products, including e-cigarettes, in public housing, and passed Senate Bill 5, which would set in motion the park bond process.
The State of Ohio has joined a growing list of states and municipalities suing drug companies for misleading marketing campaigns. In a lawsuit filed this week, Ohio alleges drug makers exaggerated prescription opioids’ benefits for long-term pain relief and denied or underplayed the risks the drugs carry for addiction. Ohio’s suit seeks compensation for money paid for the drugs and through state programs such as Medicaid and for addiction treatment. Among the companies named are Purdue Pharma, Teva Pharmaceutical Industries, Johnson & Johnson, Endo Pharmaceuticals, and Allergan. Ohio is among the states with the highest rates of opioid addiction and overdose deaths. In addition to drug makers, some states and municipalities are suing drug distributors.
The Atlantic’s Vann R. Newkirk looks at what the American Health Care Act would mean for mental health and substance misuse, and projects major rollbacks from gains made under the Affordable Care Act. He says some of the likely consequences of the American Health Care Act, which is headed for the Senate, are:
- Less access to preventative and rehabilitative services for mental health and substance misuse as a result of contracting eligibility and funds available for Medicaid, and elimination of requirements that plans cover mental health and substance abuse services at the same level as physical health services; and
- Greater need for substance misuse treatment due to higher levels of untreated depression and other mental health problems.
As Newkirk puts it: “The middle of an unprecedented nationwide opioid epidemic might seem like a strange time to slash public funding for substance abuse, but that’s exactly what Republicans intend to do.”
In The Addicts Next Door, Margaret Talbot profiles for the New Yorker a West Virginia community where locals are struggling to save their neighbors and their towns from being devastated by drugs.
STAT’s David Armstrong and the Boston Globe’s Evan Allen explore the world of “patient brokers,” middle people paid to connect those dealing with addiction problems with out-of-state treatment centers that profit by collecting insurance money for running substandard programs. They investigate the case of one man who left his home in Boston for treatment in Florida and was found dead in a hotel room two months later.
Some schools in New Orleans are transitioning from a “no-excuses” model of discipline to a trauma-informed approach that better considers students’ emotional and behavioral needs, NPR reports. In other words, instead of asking “What’s wrong with that child?,” asking “What happened to that child?.” The hope is that approaching behavior issues with greater understanding, accountability, and support instead of no-questions-asked punishment ultimately will help kids stay in and succeed at school.
Homelessness continues to rise in Los Angeles and the Bay Area. The LA Times reported this week that LA County’s homeless population has risen by 23% in the last year alone, to nearly 58,000 homeless people. Homelessness in Alameda County has increased by nearly 40% in the last two years, to approximately 5,629 homeless people.
A leaked memo shows that the Trump administration is planning to roll back the ACA’s birth control mandate by allowing any employer to opt out of covering birth control.
Civil Rights Project/Proyecto Derechos Civiles at UCLA and the Center for Education and Civil Rights at Penn State co-released a report on the resegregation of schools in the South. Among Latino students in the South, 42% attend “intensely segregated” schools, while 35% of black students do. “Together, black and Latino students experience intense segregation by race as well as by poverty. Via CityLab: “On average,” the report notes, “black, Latino, and low-income students head to schools in which low-income students make up 70 percent of the enrollment.” The typical white student goes to a school where fewer than 50 percent of students are low-income.”
Frederica Perera, professor at Columbia’s Mailman School of Public Health and director of the Columbia Center for Children’s Environmental Health, wrote a New York Times op-ed this week exploring the threats that toxic or infectious exposures during pregnancy can have on child development, and the need for federal funding through the EPA and other agencies to research diseases, chemical safety, and more.