The Pump Handle

New happenings on public health intersecting with activities of U.S. espionage agencies.

By Sara Satinsky: Should pregnant women who use drugs be charged as criminals or given help? From a public health perspective the choice is clear: provide treatment to help women quit drugs before their use harms their child. Less than a year ago, Tennessee adopted a progressive policy to provide such treatment, but now is on the brink of taking a big step back.

Cholera had spared Haiti for a century or more, so it was not unreasonable that people asked where did the pathogen come from in 2010. But public health people might have explained that the question was a distraction. Why so? Very simply, knowing how Vibrio cholerae arrived in Haiti would not help control its spread or prevent future outbreaks.

By Jonathan Heller. Author Nicholas Freudenberg advocates that we “return to the public sector the right to set health policy and to limit corporations’ freedom to profit at the expense of public health.” We should also think specifically about obligations corporations have to their workers, at a time when the minimum wage is inadequate, wage theft is common among low-wage workers, and millions of US workers lack paid sick time.

Genocide is a Public Health Problem

The New York Times editorial page warns that genocide looms in the Central African Republic. It’s worth re-reading a Commentary from Elihu Richter in the Journal of Public Health Policy, which focuses on the Rwandan genocide but is relevant today.

The quality of public housing is a key determinant of health among low-income populations, but much of the public housing in the United States is in disrepair – unhealthy, unsafe, even uninhabitable. A health impact assessment of San Francisco’s Rental Assistance Demonstration project highlights some of the considerations for local governments working to assure safe, well-maintained housing for their most vulnerable residents.

I am always just a little skeptical about public health education. Do students learn to apply the principles they learn? Recently, I was able to answer in the affirmative, at least about a single occurrence.

MMWR describes cases of bronchiolitis obliterans diagnosed in two individuals who worked— not at a microwave popcorn plant—-at a Texas coffee bean processing company. (Re-post, by Celeste Monforton)

Denying undocumented immigrants access to the ACA’s main avenues for covering the uninsured has implications for the hospitals and health centers that serve uninsured people. (Re-post, by Liz Borkowski)

Following passage of a Massachusetts law requiring companies to report on their use of toxic chemicals, environmental releases of potentially carcinogenic chemicals declined 93% between 1991 and 2010 while reported use declined 32% between 1990 and 2010. (Re-post, by Elizabeth Grossman)