Tuesday, July 29, 2008

Tuesday Health News

Tuesday is health news day for many daily newspapers and other news groups.  Here is a roundup of what's making news today:

Monday, July 28, 2008

HIV/AIDS Always a Priority

I worked in the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (DHHS) Immediate Office of Secretary Margaret Heckler when she first announced the new health care crisis that we now know as AIDS.  Since the very beginning of the epidemic CDC tracked how many Hispanics had AIDS.  We have always been hard hit by AIDS' impact in our communities.  Recent coverage by the Washington Post missed the opportunity to describe the experience of our community.  I appreciated that the Post today tried to correct their reporting by including my Letter to the Editor in today’s editorial section.

There is much that we still have to do to help all those in our communities who have HIV/AIDS as part of their daily lives.

Friday, July 25, 2008

Add to Your "Must Do" List and Save a Life

The EPA surprised health advocates yesterday by proposing to ban carbofuran on both domestic and imported food.  That's good news for all of us.  Carbofuran is one of the most toxic insecticides still in wide use and poisons our food supply and our drinking water.  EPA is accepting comments for 60 days on the proposed ban and needs to hear your voice that this is a good thing.  Carbofuran's manufacturer, FMC, has vowed to fight the ban.

Of course EPA is an agency run by lawyers and not known for making public comment an easy task.  So here's a sample letter with all of the relevant docket numbers and authority codes. Just click here to download the letter.

About 1 million pounds of carbofuran are used in the U.S. each year and it's even more widely used outside of the U.S.  What's more, studies showed that when birds wandered into a field sprayed with carbofuran, 84% of them died . . . yet we allow farm workers to be exposed to this same chemical as part of their work!

As health advocates, we need to raise the noise level on this issue.  The Washington Post did a half page story, but its gotten scant coverage elsewhere.  The New York Times today only did a small blurb.

So make this a "must do" and save a life.  Write today to the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and let them know you support the proposed ban of carbofuran.

Thursday, July 24, 2008

Scholarships in Science for Hispanic Youth

I am thrilled that over the next five years the National Alliance for Hispanic Health and our partners will award at least $475,000 every year in scholarships and internships. The new Alliance/Merck Ciencia (Science) Hispanic Scholars Program was featured yesterday in testimony at a U.S. House Education and Labor Committee hearing on innovative business-education partnerships to help keep America competitive.

As one school superintendent told us, “this is going to change my kids lives.” It is a change that is long overdue. You can help by letting students know that they can call the Alliance at 1-866-783-2645 to get a science scholarship guide including information on our new scholarship program. In a time of financial difficulties for so many of our families it’s a bit of good news and who knows the student you help could become the next Hispanic Nobel Prize winner!

In related news, Education Week published a terrific feature story today by reporter Scott J. Cech about SciTech Summer Camp, developed by HENAAC and partners, aiming to get Hispanic high school students excited about the STEM fields (science, technology, engineering, and mathematics) through hands-on projects.

Tuesday, July 22, 2008

Needle in a (Jalapeño) Stack

The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has found the source of the salmonella outbreak in the U.S. that sickened hundreds of people.  FDA inspectors found a jalapeño pepper from a distribution center in McAllen, Texas that was a genetic match with the outbreak serotype, Salmonella Saintpaul.  Talk about finding a needle in a jalapeño stack!

There’s been a lot of frustration about the 15 weeks it took to examine tomato and pepper producers and to identify this outbreak source.   What has not been talked about is what a gargantuan task this was for the FDA.  There are over 10 million tons of tomatoes grown in the U.S. alone each year and over 125 million tons worldwide.

It’s time for lawmakers to give the FDA the budget it needs to do its job.  The Senate Appropriations Committee just last week approved a $325 million increase for the FDA after years of budgetary neglect and it needs to become law.  As consumers we also need to recognize that we can never be 100% protected.  However, we can reduce risk by making safe food practices, like safe storage and washing fresh fruits and vegetables, a part of our daily routine.

And as a lover of my salsa, I want to say a word of thanks to the FDA inspectors and scientists that rarely get thanks, but have dedicated their lives to protecting the public’s health and this week found a needle in a jalapeño stack.

Tuesday Health News

Tuesday is health news day for many of the major daily newspapers and their news websites. Here is a roundup of links for what's making news today and some Alliance news:

Sunday, July 20, 2008

EPA Devalues Worth of Human Life

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) earned front-page coverage after it was revealed that the government agency has lowered its official estimate of life's value!

Leave it to EPA to devalue the worth of a human life.  I guess that inflation missed having an impact on our human worth.  And really...is this how we want to make our environmental decisions?  How do you factor in the costs of a compromised life because of the increasingly toxic environment in which we live?  The EPA has a mandate to protect the public health and yet continues to play a numerical shell game with our lives.