Category Archives: Health

Map of the day: Serious mental illness rates

From SAMHSA, the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services:

Serious Mental Illness in the Past Year among Persons Aged 18 or Older, by Substate Region: Percentages, Annual Averages Based on 2008, 2009, and 2010 NSDUHs

Serious Mental Illness in the Past Year among Persons Aged 18 or Older, by Substate Region: Percentages, Annual Averages Based on 2008, 2009, and 2010 NSDUHs

Map of the day: Pneumonia, a child killer

And most deaths of children under five occur in just ten countries, according to UNICEF [PDF]. Click on the map to enlarge:

World Pneumonia Day 3-up letter copy

An imperiled treasure of the Sierra Madre

The Huichol people live in Mexico’s Sierra Madre, in in the states of Jalisco, Durango, Nayarit.

They were rediscovered in popular culture north of the border in the 1960s because their religion centers on the use of peyote, a hallucinogenic cactus native to their mountains, and because of their colorful and utterly psychedelic artworks.

In this Wikimedia image of a Huichol mask, the symbol for peyote dominates the forehead, an apt representation of the central role played by the cactus in Huichol life:

BLOG Huichol mask

Huichol culture is in danger, in part because a generation of elders has died, often without leaving behind students who have mastered the rich and intricate oral traditions that bound the preliterate Huichols together.

Our first video offering, a short 1992 documentary by Ryan Noble, features Huichols from the villages of Las Guayabas and San Andreas, in which one remarks on the threatened loss of the ancient culture: “We want to live and remember so that it doesn’t end.”

Note also the system of agriculture employed by the Huichol, the traditional Mexican milpa, the only system of agriculture which has allowed for continuous cultivation for millennia without the use of either pesticides or fertilizers.

The Huichols: History – Culture – Art

Huichol art a sometimes take on a larger scale, as illustrated in this image from Mexico’s Museo de Arte Popular, a sight to stir twitches of envy in the souls of Berkeley’s own art car ornamenters.

BLOG Huichol art car

But the mountains that are home to the Huichols are coveted by multinational corporations, which have been logging the trees and devastating the landscape, forcing ever-larger numbers of Huichols to head to the lowlands simply to survive.

And the jobs awaiting them there are killing them, quite literally.

From Huicholes Contra Plaguicidas:

Huichols and Pesticides

Program notes:

Huichols & Pesticides, documents, through witnesses, reports and persuasive images, the indiscriminate use of pesticides in the tobacco fields, and the poisonings, and even deaths, resulting from the use of agrochemicals.

One notable effort to preserve the Huichols and their way of life is being undertaken by the Huichol Center for Cultural Survival and the Traditional Arts:

The Huichol Center: A model for cultural survival

Program notes:

This documentary was produced to support The Huichol Center. The Center helps the Huichol people of Mexico maintain their culture, art and spirituality. The Huichols have been almost untouched by modern civilization, and have been able to maintain their ancient ways despite crushing poverty and disease.

With their ancient heritage, their system of sustainable organic agriculture, and an artistic tradition that merges the sacred and the profane in unique ways, the Huichol surely deserve protection from the ravages of corporate imperialism and agricultural toxins.

To close, a final image, via Wikipedia, this time of a Huichol yarn painting:

BLOG Huichol yarn

New Ebola cases, and an alarming report

We begin in Liberia, where three new cases have been reported in a country declared free of the disease just weeks ago.

From the Associated Press:

Three new Ebola cases have been confirmed in Liberia, a health official said Friday, more than two months after the West African nation was declared Ebola-free for a second time.

It is a setback for Liberia, one of the three countries hit hardest by the worst Ebola outbreak in history. The country has recorded more than 10,600 cases and more than 4,800 deaths, according to the World Health Organization. More than 11,300 deaths have been recorded for the entire outbreak, which was concentrated in Liberia, Sierra Leone and Guinea, according to WHO.

Liberia was first declared Ebola-free on May 9, but new cases emerged in June resulting in two deaths. WHO declared the country Ebola-free again on Sept. 3

More from Reuters:

The first of the new patients was a 10-year-old boy who lived with his parents and three siblings in Paynesville, a suburb east of the capital Monrovia, said Minister of Health Minister Bernice Dahn. Two direct family members have also since tested positive, officials said.

All six family members, as well as other high risk contacts, are in care at an Ebola Treatment Unit in Paynesville, she said.

“The hospital is currently decontaminating the unit. All of the healthcare workers who came into contact with the patient have been notified,” she told a news conference.

And now comes a clear warning that West Africa and the world aren’t ready for another major outbreak.

From Nature:

The world is no better prepared for the next global health emergency than it was when the current Ebola epidemic began nearly two years ago, an expert panel warns.

The problems that led to the deaths of more than 11,000 people in history’s worst Ebola outbreak have not been solved, a group of 20 physicians, global health experts, lawyers and development and humanitarian experts convened by Harvard University and the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine (LSHTM) warn in a paper published on 22 November by The Lancet1. Meanwhile, the outbreak stubbornly hangs on: on 20 November, hopes that it might be declared over by year’s end were dashed by reports of new infections in Liberia, which has twice been declared Ebola-free.

“We’re closer, but we’re not yet ready for another outbreak of this magnitude,” says epidemiologist David Heymann at the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine, a member of the commission that produced the report.

More on the report from the London school via EurekaAlert:

Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health (Harvard Chan) and a professor of medicine at Harvard Medical School. “People at WHO were aware that there was an Ebola outbreak that was getting out of control by spring…and yet, it took until August to declare a public health emergency. The cost of the delay was enormous,” said Jha.

The report’s 10 recommendations provide a roadmap to strengthen the global system for outbreak prevention and response:

  1. Develop a global strategy to invest in, monitor and sustain national core capacities
  2. Strengthen incentives for early reporting of outbreaks and science-based justifications for trade and travel restrictions
  3. Create a unified WHO Center with clear responsibility, adequate capacity, and strong lines of accountability for outbreak response
  4. Broaden responsibility for emergency declarations to a transparent, politically-protected Standing Emergency Committee
  5. Institutionalise accountability through an independent commission for disease outbreak prevention and response
  6. Develop a framework of rules to enable, govern and ensure access to the benefits of research
  7. Establish a global fund to finance, accelerate and prioritise R&D
  8. Sustain high-level political attention through a Global Health Committee of the Security Council
  9. A new deal for a more focused, appropriately-financed WHO
  10. Good governance of WHO through decisive, timebound reform and assertive leadership

The Harvard and London School of Hygiene & Tropical Medicine teams felt strongly that an independent analysis from academic and civil society voices should inform the public debate, in addition to other planned official reviews of the global response.

According to Liberian Panel member Mosoka Fallah, Ph.D., MPH, of Action Contre La Faim International (ACF). “The human misery and deaths from the Ebola epidemic in West Africa demand a team of independent thinkers to serve as a mirror of reflection on how and why the global response to the greatest Ebola calamity in human history was late, feeble and uncoordinated. The threats of infectious disease anywhere is the threat of infectious disease everywhere,” Fallah said. “The world has become one big village.”

Map of the day II: Global maternal mortality

From Trends in Maternal Mortality: 1990 to 2015 [PDF], a new report, [PDF], from the World Health Organization [and click on the map to enlarge]:

BLOG Maternal mortality

Chart of the day: U.S. teen births plunge

From Child Trends, and we suspect abstinence ain’t the reason for the steady decline:

BLOG Teen births

Map of the day: Antibiotics and the heartland

From the New England Journal of Medicine via the Centers for Disease Control [PDF], a map showing state-by-state relative antibiotic use, with overprescription and failure to take the full course of a prescription being leading culprits in spreading resistant microbes:

BLOG Antibiotic use