This week, the deadline passed for the Trump administration to reunite children under age five with their parents. As of Friday morning, only 45% of children under five had been reunited, with the Department of Health and Human Services claiming that not all children were “eligible” for reunification in cases where parents had already been deported (in some cases, agreeing to deportation on the promise of being reunited with their children) or still in detention. The New York Times reports that family members and sponsors of immigrant children separated from their parents and held in government detention centers have to pay thousands of dollars to be reunited. In The New York Times Perri Klass, M.D., writes about the difficulties doctors and therapists face in treating children who have been separated from their families at the border, including treating preschool children experiencing symptoms of PTSD. Without a proper medical history, which young children and their interim caregivers cannot offer, medical care becomes exponentially more difficult, particularly when trying to treat chronic conditions like asthma.
A new study published in The Lancet Planetary Health examines the role of air pollution in elevating type-II diabetes risk and estimates that – worldwide – 8.2 million years of healthy life were lost in 2016 alone due to pollution-linked diabetes: “Scientists are just beginning to understand what exactly makes PM2.5 so harmful, but a major reason is that it’s so small and contains toxic metals. Its size allows it to penetrate the lungs and enter the bloodstream. There, it can circulate to different organs and cause inflammation. The inflammation increases insulin resistance. Eventually, this insulin resistance can become so severe the pancreas becomes unable to pump out enough insulin to compensate, and diabetes can set in.”
Over the weekend, the US nearly scuttled a World Health Assembly resolution to endorse breastfeeding as the healthiest for children and call on member countries to curb deceptive marketing of infant formula. The US, taking the side of infant formula companies, threatened Ecuador, the original sponsor of the resolution, with pulling aid and enacting stiff trade measures against the country, and threatening to cut funding to the World Health Organization. Eventually, Russia sponsored the resolution. The New York Times reports that the confrontation was just “the latest example of the Trump administration siding with corporate interests on numerous public health and environmental issues… During the same Geneva meeting where the breast-feeding resolution was debated, the United States succeeded in removing statements supporting soda taxes from a document that advises countries grappling with soaring rates of obesity… ‘What happened was tantamount to blackmail, with the U.S. holding the world hostage and trying to overturn nearly 40 years of consensus on the best way to protect infant and young child health,’ she said.”
This week, the Council of Parent Attorneys and Advocates filed a federal lawsuit against the Department of Education, challenging the department’s decision to delay an Obama administration rule that sought to address inequities in the treatment of students of color who have disabilities. Mother Jones reports that the rule “required states to determine if racial disparities in the identification, treatment, and discipline of students with disabilities were occurring in school districts in compliance with the Individuals with Disabilities Act. Specifically, if a state identified “significant disproportionality” in a school district, the state would examine the district’s policies and practices to see if they were improperly treating and identifying students and, if not, make sure the districts change their practices. The department gave states 18 months to comply with the regulation. But last week, on July 3—just two days after states were supposed to be in compliance—the agency issued a final notice that it would delay for two years the special education rule’s implementation. COPAA, a nonprofit organization that advocates for protecting the civil rights of students with disabilities and their families, now alleges that the move violates the Administrative Procedure Act, the federal law that governs how regulations are proposed, and is requesting that a federal judge block the department from moving forward with the regulation’s delay.”
The Washington Post reports on how violence against women, harassment, and misogyny can be a warning sign for acts of mass violence, citing recent mass shootings, including at the Capital Gazette newspaper: “The alleged mass shooter’s rage began — as it has so often before — with a woman. Years before Jarrod Ramos sued the Capital Gazette for defamation, before he targeted a specific columnist at the Capital with hateful emails and online threats, before he was charged with killing five people in the small Annapolis newspaper’s office last week, one person was living that nightmare every day. She spoke for the first time Monday, giving an interview to the “Today” show about the harassment she endured. ‘I was afraid he could show up at any point, any place . . . and kill me,’ she said. ‘I have been tormented and traumatized and terrorized for so long that it has, I think, changed the fiber of my being.’”
Suicide rates among men in the United States are higher than ever. In his article in SLATE, Gary Barker examines the CDC’s recent analysis of underlying factors contributing to the increase in suicide rates among men, who make up 77% of the 45,000 people who take their own lives every year in the U.S. On the list of factors are mental health issues, substance misuse, social or personal problems, and access to firearms, stressors which are compounded by restrictive understandings of what it means to be a man in the US and the stigma attached to men seeking help for emotional or physical pain. Barker cites national mental health and suicide-prevention efforts as critical to helping men gain access to mental health services and reframing the conversation about masculinity.
The Trump administration undertook a series of actions to undermine the Affordable Care Act, including slashing funding to help people enroll in health plans by 70% (following a 40% cut in such funding last year), ending advertising for the ACA exchanges, expanding access to barebones health plans that don’t meet ACA requirements, freezing payments to health insurers and creating more uncertainty in the healthcare marketplaces, and challenging that ACA requirements to cover people with preexisting conditions are now unconstitutional, since the individual mandate was repealed by Congress last fall.
Earlier this month, California Governor Jerry Brown signed into law a bill blocking California cities and counties from passing new taxes on soda and other sugary drinks until the end of 2030. In an op-ed in The Hill that ran last Sunday, PI's Larry Cohen drew parallels between big soda and big tobacco's legislative tactics to crush local ballot initiatives, illustrating how preemption corrodes local control and blocks community efforts to protect public health.
In The Guardian, Chigozie Obioma contrasts the high rates of mental health issues and suicide in the relatively wealthy nation of the U.S. with rates in Nigeria, where abject poverty abounds but the thought of suicide is nearly non-existent. Obioma opines that Nigerians’ sense of optimism and faith that things will get better one day keeps depression at bay, as well as the acceptance of suffering as a natural and inevitable part of life.
Kaiser Health News has released several years’ worth of Purdue Pharma’s internal budgeting records that reveal the money and marketing tactics behind a company that sold one of the most prominent drugs in the opioid epidemic. From 1996 – 2002, Purdue Pharma spent hundreds of millions of dollars on marketing and launching OxyContin, which led to countless drug-related deaths and 1,500-plus federal lawsuits filed on behalf of cities and states demanding remittance for the high costs of treating misuse. “Federal officials estimate the economic cost of opioid abuse topped $500 billion in 2015 alone. Since 1999, at least 200,000 people have died in the U.S. from these overdoses, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.” Despite learning that OxyContin was a leading cause of overdose deaths in 2000, Purdue Pharma spent increasing amounts of money on deceptive marketing strategies to block bad press and further promote the drug. "Five years after its legal battle with Florida officials, Purdue made a startling admission in federal court. The company pleaded guilty in 2007 to felony charges of “misbranding” OxyContin ‘with the intent to defraud or mislead.’ The company paid $600 million in fines and other penalties. Among the deceptions it confessed to was directing its salespeople to tell doctors the drug was less addictive than other opioids.”
A new study from Resources for the Future indicates that the Trump administration’s plan to delay the retirement of coal-fired power plants for two years could cause hundreds of premature deaths due to poor air quality and other environmental hazards.
In the New York Times, Amitha Kalaichandran, M.D. writes about the physical and mental health benefits of ‘forest bathing,’ an increasingly popular and prescribe-able activity that can include slow walks, guided meditation, and tea ceremonies. Among others, some benefits of spending more time with nature are reduced blood pressure and cortisol, and improved heart rate and mood. Kalaichandran highlights one initiative in Oakland for low-income communities where members can’t necessarily access a forest. “At the University of California, San Francisco, Benioff Children’s Hospital in Oakland, Dr. Nooshin Razani, a pediatric infectious disease doctor and director of the Center for Nature and Health, has offered a similar program for the past four years. The ‘Shine’ program, linked to the East Bay Regional Parks District, offers ‘park prescriptions,’ a movement that is growing in popularity, and aims to improve accessibility to nature for low income children.