As the Greek government implemented austerity measures in response to a financial crisis, Greek suicide numbers doubled last year. And in London, tuberculosis rates grew by 8 percent from 2010 to 2011, a result of increased homelessness and drug use during the Great Recession. In “The Body Economic: Why Austerity Kills,” Oxford political economist David Stuckler and Sanjay Basu, an epidemiologist at Stanford University‘s Prevention Research Center, argue that austerity measures have public health consequences, including HIV outbreaks and increased rates of depression, suicide and heart attacks. The authors recently spoke with U.S. News about the relationship between fiscal policy and public health. Excerpts:
Why connect public health with austerity?
Basu: In the 1990s, there was an astounding series of studies that said, What if everybody had perfect health insurance? How many premature deaths in the U.S. among people less than 75 years of age could we prevent? And it turned out that the answer was only about 15 to 20 percent. The other 80 to 85 percent can’t be affected by medical care, meaning that health doesn’t start on the exam table in the ICU, but in our homes, in our neighborhoods, whether we smoke or drink too much, and the quality of our air, food and safety. One of the biggest determinants therein is the state of the economy and, in particular, whether we have safety nets during hard times.
How does austerity lead to a loss of life?
Stuckler: When effective services and supports that sustain health are withdrawn, they pose a direct risk. A clear example can be seen in Greece today. To meet the deficit reduction targets, the health sector in Greece has been cut by more than 40 percent. HIV infections have more than doubled as effective needle exchange program budgets were cut in half. There was a return of malaria after mosquito spraying programs to prevent the disease were also cut, covering the southern part of the country. Deep reductions of a pharmaceutical budget led several pharmaceutical companies to leave the country. There was subsequently a 50 percent increase in people reporting being unable to access medically necessary care.
What surprised you most in your research?
Basu: That there are some very well-researched, effective programs out there that can benefit both public health and the economy, but the academic research is so far afield from the public discourse. A lot of the discourse just assumes that the only way to reduce deficits is to cut budgets in the short term, and it’s quite hard to explain why that’s a bad idea and actually increases long-term budgets. That counterintuitive problem has created a lot of fallacies and makes it difficult to translate research into practice.
Do you expect to see public health consequences to spending cuts in the U.S.?
Basu: We already see them if we compare state-based responses to different kinds of unemployment crises since 2007. We can, controlling for pre-existing conditions, compare states that underwent more extensive budget cuts versus those that didn’t; and [we] saw a rise in suicide among those who were denied unemployment benefits.
Which current policies are most harmful to public health?
Basu: I think the indiscriminate cuts to safety net programs among the poor are particularly easy to implement and particularly dangerous for public health. [And] cuts to our nation’s best defense system against epidemics, the Centers for Disease Control [and Prevention] are particularly dangerous. We recently had the fungal meningitis outbreak, and without the CDC, it would’ve been hard to conceive of how we would’ve protected ourselves from having a dramatic expansion of that epidemic.
Are there any economic policies that don’t have daunting human costs?
Basu: In many areas of the world, we see pretty effective policies that simultaneously improve health and the economy. For example, in Sweden and Finland there are active labor market programs. They help enroll the newly unemployed into supportive job retraining and re-entry, and work with both firms and the newly unemployed. As a side effect, they seem to reduce suicide, depression and alcoholism, while also stimulating the economy and being, in some cases, net cost-saving.
Why should President Obama read your book?
Stuckler: The book shows that there is an alternative to austerity that’s grounded in evidence. And when governments pursue it, they can pave the way to a happier and healthier future for people. By making smart, evidence-based investments, not only is it possible to protect people’s most valuable asset – their health – but to chart faster economic recoveries and address fundamental threats of deficits and debt. A simple answer is because his choices and those of Congress are matters of life and death for millions of Americans.
According to the most recent statistics, about one-third of the entire U.S. population, or more than 100 million Americans, suffers from either diabetes or pre-diabetes, a blood sugar condition that can eventually lead to more serious health conditions and even death. And based on U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) projections, this number is expected to double by 2050 if trends continue at current rates. But you and your family do not have to fall victim to this sweeping diabetes epidemic — here are some tips on how to alter your diet and lifestyle to avoid developing diabetes and potentially succumbing to premature death:
1) Eat more foods rich in quercetin. A member of the flavonoid family of antioxidants, quercetin has been shown to help lower blood glucose levels and improve plasma insulin levels, two factors commonly associated with diabetes (http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/19496084). Quercetin also helps neutralize damaging free radicals and inhibit inflammation, not to mention lower blood pressure in people with inflammation (http://www.umm.edu/altmed/articles/quercetin-000322.htm).
Foods that are high in quercetin include apples, citrus fruits, onions, parsley, sage, green tea, and red wine. Olive oil, grapes, dark cherries, and dark berries are also rick in quercetin and other flavonoids, according to the University of Maryland Medical Center (UMMC). And if dietary sources are not enough, quercetin is also available in supplement form, including in the Rejuvenate! Plus green superfood formula available at the NaturalNews store (http://store.naturalnews.com/Rejuvenate-Plus-500-g_p_95.html).
2) A teaspoon of cinnamon a day to keep the diabetes away. Cinnamon contains powerful blood sugar-stabilizing compounds that not only increase glucose metabolism by a significant amount, but also mimic the activity of insulin inside the body. Supplementing with cinnamon can also help slow the speed at which food empties from your stomach, inhibiting the blood sugar rush that often comes following a meal high in refined sugar and simple carbohydrates (http://www.huffingtonpost.com).
Most of the cinnamon you will find on grocery store shelves today comes from the “cassia” family of cinnamon, which is not necessarily the most medicinal variety. So-called “true” cinnamon, which is generally not as flavorful or as easy to find as cassia cinnamon, comes from the “Ceylon” family, and has a much lower ratio of coumarin, a blood-thinning compound, as well as higher overall nutrient content. However, all major varieties of cinnamon possess demonstrable diabetes-fighting properties (http://www.naturalnews.com/035642_cinnamon_blood_sugar_regulating.html).
3) Eat more broccoli, cruciferous vegetables. Rich in a cancer-fighting compound known as sulforaphane, broccoli and other cruciferous vegetables are an important part of an anti-diabetes diet because they protect blood vessels against cellular damage. Vitamin C, chromium, fiber, beta-carotene, and many other nutrients found in broccoli help protect against free radical damage, high blood sugar, and high levels of low-density lipoprotein, or LDL, cholesterol, all of which are linked to diabetes (http://www.nhs.uk/news/2008/08August/Pages/Broccolianddiabetes.aspx).
4) Exercise more, and cut out the junk food. This one might be a little more obvious, but simply engaging in physical activity regularly can have a huge impact on whether or not your body succumbs to a diabetic condition. Since obesity and poor physical health are major factors in diabetes, it only makes sense that exercising and eating right are important components for staying fit and maintaining healthy blood sugar levels. It is best to start with shorter, higher-intensity workouts to get your metabolism going and lower insulin and leptin resistance, and gradually add in appropriate cardiovascular workouts.
As far as diet is concerned, it is best to avoid wheat and gluten-containing foods as these have been shown to interfere with glucose metabolism. Foods that contain ingredients like high-fructose corn syrup (HFCS), enriched flour, hydrogenated oils, artificial flavors, preservatives, food colorings, and genetically-modified organisms (GMOs) should also be avoided if you are serious about preventing diabetes. Stick with whole, organic foods; limit consumption of grains, including whole grains; and consume healthy fats, including saturated fats from unrefined coconut oil and grass-fed butter and pastured meat for optimal health (http://www.charlespoliquin.com).
5) Make sure you are getting plenty of magnesium and probiotics. More than 75 percent of the American population is said to be deficient in magnesium, a mineral your body needs to activate more than 300 unique and necessary biochemical reactions. Your bones, cells, organs, and tissues all rely on magnesium to function properly. Without enough magnesium, your immunity, skeletal system, heart, and circulatory system are all at serious risk. Making sure you intake high amounts of magnesium is crucial for protecting against hypertension, cardiovascular disease, and diabetes (http://ods.od.nih.gov/factsheets/Magnesium-HealthProfessional/).
Similarly, probiotic bacteria, which populate the gut and regulate the immune system, are essential for thwarting the onset of diabetes. A study published earlier this year found that altering the microbiota balance of obese patients at high risk of diabetes can help reverse the metabolic effects linked to diabetes (http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/22798958).
To learn more about preventing and curing diabetes, visit:
Also, check out the book How to Halt Diabetes in 25 Days:
If vaccines play absolutely no role in the development of childhood autism, a claim made by many medical authorities today, then why are some of the most popular vaccines commonly administered to children demonstrably causing autism in animal primates? This is the question many people are now asking after a recent study conducted by scientists at the University of Pittsburgh (UP) in Pennsylvania revealed that many of the infant monkeys given standard doses of childhood vaccines as part of the new research developed autism symptoms
For their analysis, Laura Hewitson and her colleagues at UP conducted the type of proper safety research on typical childhood vaccination schedules that the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) should have conducted — but never has — for such regimens. And what this brave team discovered was groundbreaking, as it completely deconstructs the mainstream myth that vaccines are safe and pose no risk of autism.
Presented at the International Meeting for Autism Research (IMFAR) in London, England, the findings revealed that young macaque monkeys given the typical CDC-recommended vaccination schedule from the 1990s, and in appropriate doses for the monkeys’ sizes and ages, tended to develop autism symptoms. Their unvaccinated counterparts, on the other hand, developed no such symptoms, which points to a strong connection between vaccines and autism spectrum disorders.
Included in the mix were several vaccines containing the toxic additive Thimerosal, a mercury-based compound that has been phased out of some vaccines, but is still present in batch-size influenza vaccines and a few others. Also administered was the controversial measles, mumps, and rubella (MMR) vaccine, which has been linked time and time again to causing autism and various other serious, and often irreversible, health problems in children
“This research underscores the critical need for more investigation into immunizations, mercury, and the alterations seen in autistic children,” said Lyn Redwood, director of SafeMinds, a public safety group working to expose the truth about vaccines and autism. “SafeMinds calls for large scale, unbiased studies that look at autism medical conditions and the effects of vaccines given as a regimen.”
Adding to the sentiment, Theresa Wrangham, president of SafeMinds called out the CDC for failing to require proper safety studies of its recommended vaccination schedules. Unlike all other drugs, which must at least undergo a basic round of safety testing prior to approval and recommendation, vaccinations and vaccine schedules in particular do not have to be proven safe or effective before hitting the market.
“The full implications of this primate study await publication of the research in a scientific journal,” said Wrangham. “But we can say that it demonstrates how the CDC evaded their responsibility to investigate vaccine safety questions. Vaccine safety oversight should be removed from the CDC and given to an independent agency.”
A staggering 1 in 3 seniors dies with Alzheimer’s disease or other types of dementia, says a new report that highlights the impact the mind-destroying disease is having on the rapidly aging population.
Dying with Alzheimer’s is not the same as dying from it. But even when dementia isn’t the direct cause of death, it can be the final blow – speeding someone’s decline by interfering with their care for heart disease, cancer or other serious illnesses. That’s the assessment of the report released Tuesday by the Alzheimer’s Association, which advocates for more research and support for families afflicted by it.
“Exacerbated aging,” is how Dr. Maria Carrillo, an association vice president, terms the Alzheimer’s effect. “It changes any health care situation for a family.”
In fact, only 30 percent of 70-year-olds who don’t have Alzheimer’s are expected to die before their 80th birthday. But if they do have dementia, 61 percent are expected to die, the report found.
(MROE: Two Studies Find Promising New Ways to Detect Alzheimer’s Earlier)
Already, 5.2 million Americans have Alzheimer’s or some other form of dementia. Those numbers will jump to 13.8 million by 2050, Tuesday’s report predicts. That’s slightly lower than some previous estimates.
Count just the deaths directly attributed to dementia, and they’re growing fast. Nearly 85,000 people died from Alzheimer’s in 2011, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention estimated in a separate report Tuesday. Those are people who had Alzheimer’s listed as an underlying cause on a death certificate, perhaps because the dementia led to respiratory failure. Those numbers make Alzheimer’s the sixth leading cause of death.
That death rate rose 39 percent in the past decade, even as the CDC found that deaths declined among some of the nation’s other top killers – heart disease, cancer, stroke and diabetes. The reason: Alzheimer’s is the only one of those leading killers to have no good treatment. Today’s medications only temporarily ease some dementia symptoms.
But what’s on a death certificate is only part of the story.
Consider: Severe dementia can make it difficult for people to move around or swallow properly. That increases the risk of pneumonia, one of the most commonly identified causes of death among Alzheimer’s patients.
Likewise, dementia patients can forget their medications for diabetes, high blood pressure or other illnesses. They may not be able to explain they are feeling symptoms of other ailments such as infections. They’re far more likely to be hospitalized than other older adults. That in turn increases their risk of death within the following year.
“You should be getting a sense of the so-called blurred distinction between deaths among people with Alzheimer’s and deaths caused by Alzheimer’s. It’s not so clear where to draw the line,” said Jennifer Weuve of Chicago’s Rush University, who helped study that very question.
The Chicago Health and Aging Project tracked the health of more than 10,000 older adults over time. Weuve’s team used the data to estimate how many people nationally will die with Alzheimer’s this year – about 450,000, according to Tuesday’s report.
That’s compatible with the 1 in 3 figure the Alzheimer’s Association calculates for all dementias. That number is based on a separate analysis of Medicare data that includes both Alzheimer’s cases and deaths among seniors with other forms of dementia.
(MORE: New Research on Understanding Alzheimer’s)
Last year, the Obama administration set a goal of finding effective Alzheimer’s treatments by 2025, and increased research funding to help. It’s not clear how the government’s automatic budget cuts, which began earlier this month, will affect those plans.
But Tuesday’s report calculated that health and long-term care services will total $203 billion this year, much of that paid by Medicare and Medicaid and not counting unpaid care from family and friends. That tab is expected to reach $1.2 trillion by 2050, barring a research breakthrough, the report concluded.
As a lifelong hypochondriac, I’ve always been comforted by the Hippocratic oath. What an excellent idea, having doctors pledge to put patients first. So I was less than thrilled to learn that doctors are under increasing pressure—from state legislatures, industry, and other groups—to break that oath by withholding key pieces of information from their patients. “We are very concerned about special interests attempting to influence our practices,” says Valerie Arkoosh, president of the National Physicians Alliance (NPA). “We’ve seen state legislatures overreaching a lot with regard to doctor-patient relationship.” Here are five things that—depending on where you live—your doctor could be keeping from you:
Fracking chemicals might be making you sick.
Many of the chemicals that oil and gas companies are pumping into the ground (and groundwater) during the hydrofracking process are known carcinogens or neurotoxicants. Pennsylvania recently passed a law requiring companies to disclose the ingredients of proprietary fracking fluids to doctors who can show that a patient may have been exposed, so long as the doc signs a nondisclosure agreement. State officials say the info can be shared with patients, but the law itself contains no such guarantee. “How are you supposed to treat a patient if you can’t say why you’re treating them?” Arkoosh asks. “I wouldn’t know how to do that.”
Your fetus has a serious anomaly.
Fourteen states forbid parents from suing doctors who withheld information that might have caused them to seek an abortion. Proponents argue that these laws protect the rights of disabled people. As Nancy Barto, a Republican state senator who championed such a law in Arizona, put it on her blog, “Wrongful life/wrongful birth lawsuits implicitly endorse the view that the life of a disabled child is worth less than the life of a healthy child.”
The gun in your house may get you shot.
Pediatricians routinely ask parents whether they own guns, since research shows that gun owners and their families are almost twice as likely to be murdered and 17 times more likely to commit suicide with a gun. But in Florida, the Firearm Owners’ Privacy Act—introduced by conservative legislators and signed into law by Gov. Rick Scott in 2011—forbids doctors from asking patients whether they own guns. A federal judge has since ruled most of “Docs vs. Glocks” unconstitutional, but Scott aims to appeal the decision. Dr. Jerome Paulson, a pediatrician at the Children’s National Medical Center‘s Child Health Advocacy Institute in Washington, DC, calls the move “absolutely absurd.” Since the connection between guns and injury is clear, he says, “as health professionals, it’s our job to share that information with patients.”
There’s a cheaper and safer drug than the one I prescribed for you.
It’s no secret that pharmaceutical companies push new drugs on doctors. But now they employ data-mining to do so. For a licensing fee, industry marketers can access the American Medical Association’s database of physicians, which allows sales reps to track down precisely which drugs a doctor is prescribing. “That’s how reps get incentivized—they know what drugs to pitch to what physicians,” Arkoosh says. “Those drugs are always the most expensive drugs. And we don’t have a full understanding of the safety profile of these drugs. Vioxx is exhibit A.” (In 2004, Merck pulled its blockbuster anti-arthritis drug after a study revealed that Vioxx increased patients’ risk of heart attack and stroke; the company has paid out billions of dollars to settle the resulting lawsuits. Cheap alternative: ibuprofen.) The good news is that Obamacare requires doctors to disclose in a public database any gift worth more than $10 that they receive from pharma reps. Until next year, when the provision kicks in, the NPA counsels doctors to opt out of the AMA database.
Alternative vaccination schedules can sicken your kid.
In his popular 2007 tome, The Vaccine Book: Making the Right Decision for Your Child, pediatrician Robert “Dr. Bob” Sears (son of the best-selling author Dr. William Sears) encourages parents who are skittish about shots to reconsider the vaccination schedule recommended by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention to decrease the likelihood of a bad reaction. Parents should consider getting “fewer shots at each infant checkup and spreading the shots out over more time,” he suggests on AskDrSears.com, the online arm of his family’s pediatric advice franchise. Online parent forums are full of posts touting pediatricians amenable to the Sears vaccine schedule. But Dr. Mary Fallat, chair of the American Academy of Pediatrics‘ bioethics committee, says doctors have an ethical duty to warn parents that delaying vaccines will leave kids exposed to disease. If enough of them adopt the Sears schedule, it could weaken our herd immunity to catastrophic diseases like whooping cough. The kicker? A 2010 study in Pediatrics showed that adopting an alternative schedule doesn’t affect children’s long-term outcomes.
Dichlorophenol-containing pesticides linked to food allergies, study finds; Chemical also used to chlorinate tap water
ScienceDaily (Dec. 3, 2012) — Food allergies are on the rise, affecting 15 million Americans. And according to a new study published in the December issue of Annals of Allergy, Asthma and Immunology, the scientific journal of the American College of Allergy, Asthma and Immunology (ACAAI), dichlorophenol-containing pesticides could be partially to blame.
The study reported that high levels of dichlorophenols, a chemical used in pesticides and to chlorinate water, when found in the human body, are associated with food allergies.
“Our research shows that high levels of dichlorophenol-containing pesticides can possibly weaken food tolerance in some people, causing food allergy,” said allergist Elina Jerschow, M.D., M.Sc., ACAAI fellow and lead study author. “This chemical is commonly found in pesticides used by farmers and consumer insect and weed control products, as well as tap water.”
Among 10,348 participants in a US National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey 2005-2006, 2,548 had dichlorophenols measured in their urine and 2,211 were included into the study. Food allergy was found in 411 of these participants, while 1,016 had an environmental allergy.
“Previous studies have shown that both food allergies and environmental pollution are increasing in the United States,” said Dr. Jerschow. “The results of our study suggest these two trends might be linked, and that increased use of pesticides and other chemicals is associated with a higher prevalence of food allergies.”
While opting for bottled water instead of tap water might seem to be a way to reduce the risk for developing an allergy, according to the study such a change may not be successful.
“Other dichlorophenol sources, such as pesticide-treated fruits and vegetables, may play a greater role in causing food allergy,” said Dr. Jerschow.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, an increase in food allergy of 18 percent was seen between 1997 and 2007. The most common food allergens are milk, eggs, peanuts, wheat, tree nuts, soy, fish, and shellfish.
Food allergy symptoms can range from a mild rash to a life-threatening reaction known as anaphylaxis. The ACAAI advises everyone with a known food allergy to always carry two doses of allergist prescribed epinephrine. A delay in us