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Farming For Our Future November 29, 2012

Posted by ToYourHealth in Global Health, Public Health.
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More households turn to growing their own food as unsustainable food production practices ravage large crop lands.

We’re on track to deplete the earth of it’s ability to produce food.

Global crop land increased by 12% but agricultural production by 150% over the last 50 years. We’ve managed to keep barely ahead of the curve for overall food production. But not sustainably. The projected world population growth will pass 9 billion by 2050, and that means an increase in food production by 70% and better methods of distribution to meet the food security demand.

Agriculture’s continued dependence on non-renewable fossil fuels for production/fertilizer/irrigation, machinery, processing, transportation, packaging and marketing has direct and unsustainable consequences for farmlands. A recent United Nations study indicates that “all continents are experiencing land degradation, with particularly high incidence along the west coast of the Americas, across the Mediterranean region of Southern Europe and North Africa, the Sahel and the Horn of Africa, and throughout Asia. The greatest threat is the loss of soil quality, followed by biodiversity loss and depletion of water resources.”

Farmed animals consume 70% of the grains produced on U.S. farms. Droughts have already caused food riots and war in recent years. Irrigation currently accounts for 70% of all water use and 19% of farm energy use in the U.S. Once groundwater sources are depleted, the amount of land available for cultivation will diminish substantially. Groundwater levels of the North China plains have declined to the point where rice production, which accounts for 90% of water usage there, are overexploited and now scarce.

Maintaining and improving ecosystems, including coastal habitats and oceans is also critical, as TIME reports

“The world has ignored the ominous constellation of factors that now make feeding humanity sustainably our most pressing task – even in times of economic and climatic crisis,” writes Professor Cribb. But Professor Cribb  isn’t the only scientist clamoring for politicians to take climate change seriously. In a recent study by the ARC Center of Excellence for Coral Reef Studies, it warned of a potential mass extinction as the number of ocean dead zones – waters starved of oxygen – increase at an accelerating pace.  The Tyndall Centre for Climate Change Research also put out a study that shows the increasing likelihood of frightening changes to rainfall, water supplies, weather systems, sea levels and crop harvests by the end of the century.

Read more: http://newsfeed.time.com/2010/12/07/impending-crisis-earth-to-run-out-of-food-by-2050/#ixzz2DSOyogVl

Progress exists somewhat in alternative forms of energy– nuclear, coal, wind and solar–but none produce liquid fuels. Countries gather regularly to discuss these impending changes, but have yet to enact solutions on the largest crop lands.

Transitional Farms

Pickards Mountain Eco-Institute, a Chapel Hill, NC educational farm and sustainability living center, was established by Tim Toben, an eco-revolutionary who believes sustainability will require more personal responsibility and that farms will be plentiful in rural areas by 2050 as Americans minimize their grandiose lifestyles out of necessity. This transitional farming is self-sustaining and, he believes, is likely to become the new American Dream.

What kind of connection do you want to have with your food? Will you make any changes to help ensure our planet is able to produce enough food for us in the next decades? Would you live in a cob cottage or stop eating industrial meat in order to preserve the land?

Related Reading:

The Future of Farming: Eight Solutions For a Hungry World (www.popsci.com)

Investing In Ecosystem Services Can Boost Food Security, Raise Incomes (www.un.org)

The Association for the Study of Peak Oil & Gas (www.peakoil.net)

Regreening Africa (www.thenation.com)

Children of Our Fields (www.acroan.com)

Hidden Hunger in the Heartland (www.acroan.com)

Location, location, location! The High Cost of Living in a Food Desert (www.acroan.com)

Children of Our Fields November 1, 2012

Posted by ToYourHealth in Public Health.
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Every time we sit at a table at night or in the morning to enjoy the fruits and grain and vegetables from our good earth, remember that they come from the work of men and women and children who have been exploited for generations. -Cesar Chavez

Of the three to five million U.S. migrant and legal immigrant workers, about 600,000 of them are children. It’s difficult to ascertain an accurate count, because they are under-reported.

Most industries allow minors to work from the age of 16, but for agriculture the minimum age drops to 12. The migrant field worker families often have several children whom each year they uproot from their homes and schools to travel sometimes many states away, to work in endless fields 10-14 hours per day from the age of 12. Sometimes as young as 7 because there is no childcare. And they do this because they feel they have no other choice.

From today’s Latin American Herald Times,

North Carolina’s regional coordinator of Association of Farmworker Opportunity Programs, Emily Drakage’s, mission is to document the amount of child labor in the agricultural sector, educate the public and local leaders about the conditions in which the children work and seek support from other organizations to get these minors out of the fields.

“It’s a very tough problem. There are cultural and linguistic barriers, economic interests, immigration, educational and health problems, but someone has to speak for these workers who have no voice and are unaware of their rights,” Drakage said.

Farm workers earn an average of just $7,000 a year and must pay part of their salary to their employer to cover transport and housing costs. Children earn $1,000 a year.

Usual migrant housing is filthy, rusted and cramped. Poverty levels are extremely high. Little to no access to health care is common. Health insurance is unheard of. One hundred thousand children are injured by sharp blades and other farm machinery each year.

Farmworkers are among the highest risk groups for:

  • Poverty–among 97% of migrant workers
  • Lack of basic education, literacy and language skills, job training
  • Poor health: respiratory and dermatological illnesses, dehydration, heat stroke and heat illness, chronic muscular and skeletal pain, direct exposure to sanitation chemicals and pesticides, infectious disease, chronic disease, work-related injuries, depression and substance abuse, lack of sanitation
  • Death
  • Sexual abuse
  • Gang activity
  • Marginalization
  • Slave wages and wage fraud
  • Failure to thrive under provisions of the Fair Labor Standards Act and child labor laws

In 1960, Edward R. Murrow’s “Harvest of Shame” aired the day after Thanksgiving. Fifty years later, CBS News revisits the very topic and details again the deplorable working conditions of the migrant family.

Feeling grateful this month as you prepare the bounty for your Thanksgiving table? In a nation where 2/3 of adults and 1/3 of children are overweight or obese from making poor choices about food, one-fifth of our farm workforce is children. These workers drive the agricultural sector and provide fresh food the millions of the rest of us enjoy everyday.

Related Reading:

Itinerant LIfe Weighs on Farmworkers’ Children (www.nytimes.com)

NOW With Bill Moyers  (www.pbs.org)

Shame On Obama Administration For Sacrificing Children to Keep Agribusiness Happy (www.citizen.org)

United Farm Workers (www.ufw.org)

Keepin’ It Real (with Real Food) October 23, 2012

Posted by ToYourHealth in Public Health.
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Wednesday, October 24 is Food Day. Join in this second annual national event where thousands of businesses, coalitions and other participants are holding Food Day celebrations to promote healthy, affordable and sustainable food. 

Food Day, Food Pyramid Killing Us, diet, nutrition, USDA, agriculture, corn, grocery, government

Created by the Center for Science in the Public Interest, Food Day has become a movement to increase awareness of the usual unhealthy American diet which is leading to our top three causes of death and other forms of morbidity.

Our nation’s food system is not focused on promoting health, but maintaining agribusiness and food production as cheaply as possible. Fellow blogger, Ellice Campbell of Enlightened Lotus Wellness, just published a worthwhile post, Corn And It’s Stranglehold on the Food Industry. Also, have a look at The Trouble With Corn Subsidies. About 75% of all grocery store food products contain some form of corn (not the sweet kind that we enjoy during the summer) and high fructose corn syrup. This is creating a sugar addiction among our children and is one factor contributing to increased diagnoses of diabetes in adults and children, not to mention obesity. I find this to be an outrage.

What we put into our bodies is 100% up to us! Just because cheap and processed foods are available everywhere we look, does not mean we must succumb to eating them. As one of my blog readers previously commented, “Eat what you want–no one is forcing you not to.” Every time we eat and every thing we eat is completely our choice. I feel this is too fundamental to blog about, but as a nation, we are clearly not making the best choices.

Of course this has implications beyond personal diet and disease. According to CSPI, only minor amounts of Farm Bill funding support organic and sustainable farms, while those growing the crops most harmful to us reap the major funds. We have allowed our government to carry on this way for decades. Food production methods are harmful to workers, animals and the environment.

How will you celebrate Food Day? Click the link for inspiration, activities, recipes and a zip code map to see what is offered in your area. Or, take a page from their school curriculum, eat real around your dinner table and discuss healthy eating and where your food comes from.

Eat Real, y’all. Practice mindful eating and the world will be better off. Really.

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West Nile Virus Death Toll Climbing October 11, 2012

Posted by ToYourHealth in Public Health.
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West Nile Virus, mosquito, encephalitis, horse health, public health

CDC expects more West Nile Virus deaths this fall

The number of humans with West Nile Virus climbed 40% this week, bringing the total to 4,249 cases and 168 deaths. All contiguous states have reported cases and are on alert to take preventive measures as the CDC warns that more deaths are expected.

West Nile Virus comes to us through infected birds via mosquitos and is worst during summer months, tapering off in fall. A small number of dogs and cats have been infected, and some hundreds of horses. Many horse owners have opted for the equine vaccine, however, no vaccine exists for humans. There have been no cases of horses transmitting the virus to other horses or to humans. The only human transmission of the disease was transplacental, reported in 2002, and one case of transference through breast milk.

Symptoms and Risk Factors

Symptoms appear between 3 and 14 days after being bitten by an infected mosquito. Approximately 80% of infected people will show no symptoms. About 20% present with fever, headache, body aches, nausea, vomiting, swollen lymph glands and occasionally a skin rash on chest, stomach and back. One in 150 infected will develop severe neuroinvasive disease such as West Nile encephalitis, West Nile meningitis, West Nile meningoencephalitis and West Nile poliomyelitis, and require hospitalization. However, to date 53% of reported cases have been classified as neuroinvasive. Symptoms of severe disease can include high fever, neck stiffness, disorientation, coma, tremors, convulsions and paralysis. In all cases the symptoms may last several days or several weeks.

Residents of any area where virus activity has been identified are at risk. People over age 50 are of highest risk.


  • Mosquitos breed and lay their eggs in shallow, standing water. Several times per week empty water from pet dishes, birdbaths, buckets and cans. Clean out any clogged rain gutters. Drill holes in tire swings to allow water to drain.
  • Communities and cities may use vector management programs to reduce mosquito populations.
  • Try to remain indoors during dawn and dusk when mosquitos are most active. Wear protective clothing and then spray the clothing with an insect repellant containing DEET.
  • Ensure all doors and windows are screened, and consider using mosquito netting around cribs and children’s beds in areas with highest rates of West Nile Virus.

Do not handle dead birds. Contact your local health department to dispose of the body.

Related Reading

West Nile Virus, Pregnancy and Breastfeeding

Human West Nile Virus Map

“I Knew My Husband Was Going To Go,” West Nile widow says.

Central woman survives West Nile Virus (wafb.com)

Addicted To Their Mother’s Drugs September 10, 2012

Posted by ToYourHealth in Public Health.
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NAS, drug addicted mothers, prenatal care, addicted babies, drug overdose, prescription drug use pregnancy

Drug dependent newborns are the newest US epidemic

In Tennessee the number of neonatal abstinence syndrome (NAS) cases doubled from 2010 to 2011. Kentucky has seen a three-fold increase. Twelve thousand NAS babies are born every year in Washington. Maine’s opiate use is 8.6 times higher than the national average.

At least two Florida counties have lax regulations regarding ease of obtaining and filling prescriptions. Rates in Broward County have quadrupled, and Lee County has seen a 657% increase since 2005. These counties draw out-of-towners and have become the base for the 1,000 mile “Pill-Pipeline” running from Florida to Kentucky along Interstate-75, spiking rates of NAS along that route.

No neighborhood is immune, it seems, to the ever-growing demand and physician compliance for chronic pain medications. The resulting NAS epidemic devours states’ Medicaid funds and places a heavy burden on social services. This epidemic is 100% preventable by mothers choosing to abstain either from drugs or from unprotected sex while addicted.

A mother’s 20-minute high creates the same prolonged response in the baby over a two-week period. Stopping drug use during pregnancy is not recommended, as the babies may experience fatal seizures in utero. Babies suffer withdrawal because they have been continually exposed to drugs before birth and no longer receive them after birth. Within hours to days they exhibit withdrawal symptoms seen in high-pitched constant shrieking, tremors and inability to feed. The average age of addicted mothers is 17-25.

This week we welcome an interview with a Certified Nursing Assistant (CNA) who is employed by Pediatric Interim Care Center. This unique non-profit organization is a 24-hour care facility created with the intent to assist medically fragile newborns suffering from NAS. Due to the sensitive nature of her work, I am withholding her name from this publication.

Q: Do you find that the majority of your infants are suffering from prescription drug dependence?

A: Toxicology reports are only 60% accurate so we can’t identify all the drugs. Depending on the drugs and the mixture of drugs, some can be identified. Some examples are the tremors of meth and heroine-dependent babies. Because more meth makers no longer use a purification process, when the baby stools, the chemicals excreted burn the babies’ bottoms. Cocaine-dependent babies tend to be much calmer than babies with no drug dependency, but they never feel hungry so we have to train/teach them to eat. It’s extremely important to keep them on a feeding schedule so they learn to be hungry. The most that I have seen in one baby are 10-15 different drugs, but this is according to the mother’s reported use.

Q: How long does an infant’s withdrawal treatment usually last?

A: Withdrawal depends on length of use during pregnancy and on the mixture of drugs. Some withdrawals are not apparent until baby is a couple weeks old. The treatment could be three weeks or three months.

Q: Are there other organizations like PICC? Is PICC used when NICU/hospital benefits run out?

A: PICC is the only center of its kind. Many states have contacted [us for] help because hospital staff aren’t trained and become overwhelmed. Here in Washington, it is cheaper to send babies to PICC versus staying in a hospital. State funded medical assistance will pay for a mother’s recovery but not a baby’s.

Q: How do you calm and treat the babies?

A: The babies are in pain, like any user who is trying to recover from addiction. We treat the harsh cases with morphine to help with the withdrawal, we hold them, keep them swaddled, and love them.

Thank you for your candid look into caring for NAS babies.

Every day, 2,200 youth ages 12-17 use a pain reliever for the first time. More teens abuse illicit drugs than any other drug except for marijuana. Seventy percent of the prescription drugs come from a friend or relative with 56% of those being given for free. Only 4% are purchased from a drug dealer.

The amount of prescribed medication from physicians for chronic pain is at an all-time high. Some of these are highly addictive, and frequently adults carelessly leave them in cabinets after they no longer need them. Among 12 and 13 year-olds, prescriptions drugs are the drug of choice because of their availability.

This begins the downward spiral resulting in neonatal abstinence syndrome, with 75% of addicted mothers not receiving prenatal care, and a resulting 50% increase in children requiring foster care. Furthermore, current policies allow funding for maternal treatment of addiction, but not for their babies. Developmental delays and behavioral issues are common but not a guarantee.

This epidemic is too new to have any long-term study results, but PICC has seen several of their babies continue on to graduate high school, ever-grateful for the help they received as infants.


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Is The Food Pyramid Killing Us? May 21, 2012

Posted by ToYourHealth in Public Health.
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diet, nutrition, food pyramid, heart disease, stroke, hypertension

Two groups of food pyramid promote leading causes of U.S. deaths

Hang in there with me for just a few minutes, folks.

The leading causes of U.S. deaths are heart disease, cancer, respiratory ailments and stroke. Right? In the vast majority of cases, these are attributed to poor nutrition, not genetics. What food groups do we as a nation consume the most? Meat and dairy. Consumption of which foods increases at the same rate as chronic disease and fatal illness? Meat and dairy. What are two of the main food groups the Food Pyramid encourages us to eat as part of our daily diet? Meat and dairy. Why would an agency of the federal government urge us to consume the two most unhealthy foods as part of each meal? (defended my 10-year old son).

Welcome to the Western diet, Western diseases and the cozy kinships within the USDA, a not unbiased agency which regulates and promotes their own interests. According to Physicians’ Committee for Responsible Medicine (PCRM),

The USDA’s statutory duty is to foster and assist in expanding uses in moving larger quantities of agricultural products throughout the private marketing system to consumers in the US and abroad. They compromise consumer health in favor of promoting specific food products.

The US spends more money on health care than any other developed nation, yet we have among the highest rates of preventable disease. Our convenient diets are nutritionally deficient, being high in fats, sugar, salt and animal proteins, as brilliantly researched by Dr. T. Colin Campbell’s famous 20-year China Study, and his subsequent work with the esteemed surgeon, Dr. Caldwell Esselstyn, Forks Over Knives. Their independent and collaborative science illustrates that our bodies are engineered for optimum performance with plant-based nutrition.

For over a century, the USDA dietary guidelines have included meat and dairy as the primary sources of protein and calcium. A previous post, Calcium for Bone Health-Not What You Thought, details a direct correlation between animal-based calcium consumption and increased rates of osteoporosis.

The federal government is considering regulating our diets in an effort to tackle the obesity epidemic, especially in children, due to the amount of time spent and number of calories consumed during school hours. This is an appalling notion. There is obvious conflict mandating compliance with National School Lunch Program menus, and providing the very guidelines which promote obesity-related illnesses. Regular lunch entrees in my school district include corn dogs, breaded and fried chicken patties, breaded and fried chicken nuggets, fried mozzarella sticks, cheeseburgers and pizza. Always available: milk, ice cream, unhealthy snacks and drinks in vending machines. By contrast, a regular French school lunch in the town of Barjac, for example, consists of coleslaw, mussels mariniers, sautéed potatoes, and an organic, locally grown pear for dessert. Water and baguette are standard at every meal, of course. Karen LeBillon’s book, French Kids Eat Everything, details fundamental differences in their approach to school lunches. Menus are decided by regional school administrators and parents, there is no national food program, and there is a national ban on vending machines.

Each one of us is in control of our own health destiny. A plant-based diet not only prevents what’s killing us, but can reverse it. Dr. Esselstyn was shunned by the USDA after reporting his results, and the Food Pyramid still contains meat and dairy. In his TED talk, he explains our top killers are food-borne illnesses.

Your food choices are 100% up to you. What will you choose to eat today?

*           *           *

Forks Over Knives is streamable from Netflix. It just might save your life.

Related Posts:

My Picks: Top 10 Superfoods For Disease Prevention

Location, location, location! The High Cost of Living in a Food Desert

Trickery, Manipulation and $50: A Plan for School Cafeterias

The Kind Diet


STDs, Matchmaking, and Online Health May 10, 2011

Posted by ToYourHealth in Public Health.
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Your health online

More people seek answers to health questions online than from a physician. It’s no surprise, really. If you or someone you care about may be afflicted with a health condition, why wait for an appointment and make your co-pay when you can instantly get answers from trusted medical sites for free? Today, 83% of online users have consulted the Internet regarding health issues – especially sexual health. Another reason: anonymity.

According to a CNN report from last October, three of the top five health searches are pregnancy, herpes, and STD. Frequently these searches are conducted from cell phones for reasons you can probably guess (often beginning with poor planning and ending in panic).

But that isn’t the only change in online health and lifestyle. The CDC states that each year there are 19,000,000 new cases of STDs in the U.S. That’s right: 19 M. Over one million of these have joined http://www.herpesmingle.com, a site devoted to matching infected people with other infected people. There are other disease-specific matchmaking sites, of course, each with their own quickly growing user base.

Regular testing every few months can detect a re-infection of chlamydia or gonorrhea. But many of today’s STDs evolve into new strains. Management of one strain will not treat or protect against a new strain. Re-infection incidence is likely to rise in correlation with the increased use of STD dating sites.

Achievable risk-reduction goals have been set and do tend to influence behavior. In addition to prevention counseling about STD/HIV, abstinence and partner management, pre-exposure vaccines for two types of human papillomavirus (HPV) are available to prevent the virus that causes cervical cancer and genital warts. A Hepatitis B vaccine is recommended for all unvaccinated, uninfected persons undergoing disease evaluation.

This video has shown to change behavior and prompt discussion of STD prevention with partners when shown in testing clinics:

Disease rates and evolution can be curtailed with extensive public health outreach. Find a local testing site here. STDs are preventable!

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