Archive for the ‘Public Health’ Category

>Sewer debt is your responsibility

March 14, 2011

>There was an article in the Birmingham News recently in which the Jefferson County sewer crisis was covered. In the article John S. Young was quoted as saying that Jefferson county sewer customers could expect double digit rate increases (even as high as 25%) to deal with the sewer debt. Young is the court appointed receiver handling the case. He has the power to raise rates and increase revenue to pay off the debt.

I have stated before that this debt is not the responsibility of just the sewer customers, and gave a reason suggesting that so called non-user fees are one way to increase revenue. More on this later.

There is another reason that all the citizens of Jefferson County, not just he sewer users, should contribute to paying off the debt. This debt was amassed as a result of poor decisions and unethical dealings by elected officials and their staffs (and some are paying the price). Those elected officials were put in place by all the (voting) citizens of Jefferson County, and like it or not, we must also pay the price for our poor decision in elected those corrupt and inept officials.

Here is the Western Tribune column in which I suggested non-user fees were proper. This is a public health issue, and all residents benefit from the sewer, whether they are hooked up to the system or not.

When this column ran, someone asked for an example of harm resulting from a septic tank. Here is an example; a septic tank was the source of a Norwalk virus outbreak that affected 135 people in South Dakota, as mentioned in this article. So yes, septic tanks can contribute to disease outbreaks.

Someone else mentioned that they pay (taxes) for local schools even though they have no children in the schools. Is that a non-user fee that we are paying? We all benefit from an educated public (just as we all benefit from the sewer system).

Cholera became the first reportable disease in the United States. Hundred of thousands of people in this country died from cholera during the 19th and early 20th centuries. Only after the connection between contaminated water (from sewage) and disease outbreaks was recognized were public health measures undertaken. With filtration and treatment of drinking water and disposal and treatment of waste in separated facilities Cholera became a non-threat in this country.

We take clean, uncontaminated drinking water for granted.

Everyone benefited from the public health measures put in place to control Cholera, and like wise, everyone benefits from the Jefferson County sewer system, whether your waste flows through it or not.

So there are two reasons why the responsibility for the debt should be spread among all the residents of the county, not just the sewer users. I wonder if Mr. Young will agree.

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>A big FAT "F"

June 24, 2010

>In a comparison of the 50 largest metropolitan statistical areas in the United States, Birmingham ranks near the bottom in an index of healthiness.

This was reported in the Birmingham News, and most of this post comes directly from that article.

We ranked 49th, just ahead of Oklahoma City.

In a year, we’ve dropped from 43rd to 49th. Either other cities are improving and leaving us behind (an Alabama staple in many areas, it seems) or we have just completely abandoned any thought of improving ourselves health wise.

The percentage of our population that is obese is 34.1%. That is more than one out of every three of the people around you. The national average among Metropolitan Statistical Areas is 25.6%, just over one out of every four people.

I think that a large number of people are in denial about their health. Be honest with yourselves, folks.

Your life expectancy, and even more important, your quality of life as you approach the end of it, depend on your attitudes and actions regarding your health.

When it comes to 14 personal health indicators and chronic health conditions, Birmingham ranked dead last.

A couple of statistics give Birmingham a glimmer of hope, though they are nothing to brag about. We are 35th out of 50 when it comes to community recreation, including the number of parks and recreation facilities and the level of state-required physical education programs.

Birmingham has considered closing rec centers, however, and Bessemer has none.

Birmingham ranks above average when it comes to the number of Farmer’s Markets, park playgrounds, recreation centers, swimming pools and requirements for physical education in schools, but below average on the number of tennis courts (Birmingham MSA – 1.3%, MSA average – 2.1%), acres of park land per capita ( Birmingham MSA – 2.6%, Average – 10.3%) and percent of people walking or riding their bicycles to work (Birmingham – 1%, Average – 2.8%).

Birmingham spends $37 per capita on funding parks. The average is $102.

Jerri Haslem has taught exercise classes in Birmingham for 20 years. These are sad statistics, she said, calling it the “mindset” of the people and not a lack of opportunity.

If people would use the facilities we have more, then more would be built, she believes. She says a large fitness club might look at our area and say there aren’t enough fitness minded people to build here. On the other hand she, says, a fast food company might take a look at our statistics and see a big opportunity. I’m not sure what she means by that.

An opportunity to exploit our “mindset” that propels us to fast food restaurants? Or an opportunity to improve their menus and the quality of food that they serve, so that they do not continue to adversely affect the health of our communities?

Because of $13.3 million in Federal Stimulus money given through the CDC and the Jefferson County Department of Health, many of the issues in the report will be addressed.

Included will be a push for smoke-free air policies in Jefferson County’s cities and a requirement that restaurants post nutritional information a the point of purchase. Also included will be working with school nutrition and exercise policies and working with neighborhood development such as requiring sidewalks and building greenways to connect parks .

Other health indicators:

Death rate per 100,000 for cardiovascular disease – Birmingham MSA – 259.3, Average – 212.4

Diabetes – Birmingham MSA – 11%, Average 8.3%.

Here’s a link to the full report.

Here’s a community action guide that you or me or our group or agency can use to develop healthier communities.

Here’s a link to all of Birmingham’s statistics in this report (click on the city you want to view).

Housekeeping. I have changed the Facebook share button that appears on each post. By clicking it, you should be able to easily share this or any post with your friends on Facebook.

Coming soon, Twitter share and others. What Share button would you like to see?

Also, Bessemer Opinions is now available in 9 languages other than English. Use the translator at the top of the left sidebar and click on the flag representing the language you want to view. Maybe you can then send the translated post (by copying the link) to your friends that spea that language. Play around with it. Let me know what you think.

>End of life issues

August 11, 2009

>We all get these crazy emails forwarded by our Republican friends who accept what they say on blind faith without checking things out and forward them to everyone they know. One such email I got said this.

“ON PAGE 425 OF OBAMA’S HEALTH CARE BILL, the Federal Government will require EVERYONE who is on Social Security to undergo a counseling session every 5 years with the objective being that they will explain to them just how to end their own life earlier. Yes…They are going to push SUICIDE to cut medicare spending!”

So I looked at it. In the health care bill (which is not in its final form) are these words on page 425:

Advance Care Planning Consultation

Subject to paragraphs (3) and (4), the term ‘advance care planning consultation’ means a consultation between the individual and a practitioner described in paragraph (2) regarding advance care planning, if, subject to paragraph (3), the individual involved has not had such a consultation within the last 5 years.

it goes on to explain:

‘‘(A) An explanation by the practitioner of advance care planning, including key questions and considerations, important steps, and suggested people to talk to.

‘‘(B) An explanation by the practitioner of advance directives, including living wills and durable powers of attorney, and their uses.

‘‘(C) An explanation by the practitioner of the role and responsibilities of a health care proxy.

‘‘(D) The provision by the practitioner of a list of national and State-specific resources to assist consumers and their families with advance care planning, including the national toll-free hotline, the advance care planning clearinghouses, and State legal service organizations (including those funded through the Older Americans Act of 1965).

‘‘(E) An explanation by the practitioner of the continuum of end-of-life services and supports available, including palliative care and hospice, and benefits for such services and supports that are available under this title.

Two things need to be said.

First of all, if your doctor is doing what he or she should be doing, they are already discussing these things with you.

Advance directives, living wills and health care proxies are good things, and they make life (and death) much simpler when the end of life comes. If certain things are decided in advance, the wishes that were determined by the person in question can be carried out without the emotions and rivalries of the survivors coming into play.

If you have not taken this step, you need to. Information about advance directives in Alabama (state specific resources, as described in the bill) can be found here. An advance directive for our state that you can download, print and use can be found here.

Second, if you think that the government is turning your life into a math equation trying to figure out who’s going to die when and putting a dollar mark on your life, this is already being done by the insurance companies.

Insurance companies want to make money, and price their products so that they do. To do this, and to ensure solvency, they develop projections of future insured events such as death, sickness and disability. They develop mathematical models of the causes of death or particular illnesses and the timing of the events.

They produce life tables (or mortality tables) with rates of surviving or death and morbidity tables with rates or a disease. From these tables they can predict the probability of you dying at a certain age, or how many more years you should live, etc. Here is a sample life table. These can be developed for the entire country or for any group or cohort of people.

Then they add other risk factors such as smoking, age, etc., and using math and statistics they predict when you will die. Then they can figure how much to charge for their product based on how much will need to be paid out when.

This is easiest to understand when applied to life insurance and end of life. But the same type of statistics are used in determining health insurance rates (that generate huge profits).

So, while insurance companies are very interested in when you die and whether they should pay for certain treatments for particular individuals, there is nothing in this bill that indicates the government would be a proponent of ending your life earlier. However, the government is interested in making the end of your life easier for both you and your love ones to endure.

So, there is no forced euthanasia or suicide of the elderly in this bill.

Again, spreading such misinformation is not only malicious, it shows the ignorance of those doing so.

>Surgeon General Nominee Regina Benjamin

July 13, 2009

>In a rose garden ceremony today President Obama nominated Bayou La Batre physician Regina Benjamin as Surgeon General.

Photo credit Paula Burch

Dr. Benjamin probably wouldn’t know me from Adam’s house cat but we served together on Governor Riley’s Black Belt Action Commission, (she as technical advisor, me as commissioner)and in fact, probably more than any one person she would be responsible for my interest in rural medicine which led to my interest in Public Health.

For an informative story about her clinic and what happened following hurricane Katrina click here.

In this video she talks about Health Information Technology, or electronic records, and how the need was demonstrated after Katrina and again after the fire that destroyed her clinic.

These are just some of her accomplishments.

Dr. Benjamin is former Associate Dean for Rural Health at the University of South Alabama College of Medicine in Mobile where she administered the Alabama-AHEC program and USA Telemedicine Program. In 1998 she was the United States recipient of the Nelson Mandela Award for Health and Human Rights. In 1995, she was elected to the American Medical Association Board of Trustees, making her the first physician under age 40 and the first African-American woman to be elected. She also served as President of the American Medical Association Education and Research Foundation (AMA-ERF) and is a current member of the AMA Council on Ethical and Judicial Affairs. In 2002 she became President of the Medical Association State of Alabama, making her the first African American female president of a State Medical Society in the United States. Dr. Benjamin is also co-author of the book “How’s Your Health? What You Can Do To Make Your Health and Health Care Better.”

Her proposed solution for our health care problems include societal change: an overhaul of policies, broader insurance systems, and better distribution of physicians nationwide.

But of course, as Surgeon General, she will be promoting President Obama’s ideas, but I’m sure hers are in line with his.

Update: I just listened to her remarks and yes, her policies reflect his.

She was described on CNN as a “rural, way rural” doctor. I like that. She described the way preventable health issues affected the lives of her family members, including a brother who died of HIV related illness. She also spoke of the effort she puts into serving a population with many uninsured people, and noted that it should not be that difficult.

She will help to bring the change that is needed to our health care system, and I predict that we will be proud of her.

Bayou Clinic is her clinic web site. Congratulations, Dr. Benjamin.

>Western Tribune column March 25 2009

March 25, 2009

>This is not really the column I had hoped to print this week, but **** happens. You will just have to wonder what that implies.

Column

As the economic recovery continues we have to be mindful that hardship continues for some. As the stimulus creates jobs by helping some industries to thrive, others will be slower to respond and people may still lose their jobs.

Some will find other means of work although this often occurs at a lower rate of pay than they are accustomed to, so changes in their lifestyle may be in order.

But we hope that our government sponsored safety nets and charitable enterprises will keep those who are experiencing any degree of hardship from really suffering.

Some who read this experienced the difficult times of the Great Depression, and the rest of us probably heard about it from our parents. But even those tough times did not reflect true misery.

The type of misery I am referring to is what Johann Peter Frank described in his address to the medical graduates of the University of Pavia in Italy in 1790. The situation in the Austrian Empire that year was somewhat like the situation here in the United States today. Great social reforms had been promised including impartial justice and equitable taxation along with freedom of thought and religious tolerance. The nobility and clergy felt threatened and the reforms were revoked by the leader who had proposed them.

Today the Republican nobility certainly feels threatened and many in the clergy disapprove of the religious tolerance that seems to be advancing.

The type of misery that Frank was referring to was a direct result of the extreme poverty that the laboring masses lived under, and which resulted in increased levels of crime and disease.

“The misery of the people” was described as “the most fertile mother of diseases” in his address. Certainly, live birth rates were markedly different from what we know today, and early childhood death was common. This resulted in part from forced servitude with little or no compensation and starvation was not unusual.

Frank proposed reforms in his address that would do away with servitude and allow for farmers to own the land that they tilled. Better nutrition and health would result, and misery would be expelled from the provinces.

The standards under which we live today would not let us even consider returning to such conditions. The safety nets will prevent such. But just as important, the compassion and caring attitudes of friends and neighbors will see us through. Let’s be sure our neighbors are taken care of during the upcoming months.

>Non-User Fees… Western Tribune column

February 18, 2009

>I like it when I can add visuals to my columns, and this week I have.

Think about this when you are in a conversation about the proposed sewer non-user fee.

Western Tribune column February 18, 2009

Sometimes there is a great misunderstanding that leads people to their opinions and this is the case with our sewer debt crisis. A web poll by this paper led me to write this column, which I am sure will be unpopular.

The question was whether non-sewer users should be charged a fee. Conventional wisdom says “Of course not.” But in reality, the benefits of the sewer system to non-users are worth much more than the $20 or $30 proposed fee.

In 1854 in London a cholera epidemic was underway, and a physician named John Snow discovered the source of contamination using epidemiologic methods.



A particular source of drinking water, the Broad Street Pump, was found to be the source, but ultimately the cause was contamination of drinking water with material from a cesspit. Cesspits were dug to collect wastes which were from time to time collected and removed.

Without our sewer system people in our county would be forced to use cesspits or outhouses for waste collection. Have you seen “Slumdog Millionaire?”

In one scene of the movie the waste collection system is seen and it’s not a pretty sight.

Without a sewer system, we might have something like that. Not all land is suitable for septic tanks, nor are they possible in the densely populated areas of the county.

The World Health Organization estimates that over 2 billion people in the world lack proper sanitation. One only has to look at the rate of diarrheal diseases and death, especially among children and women, in those areas to understand the importance of proper sanitation.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention says that “cholera was prevalent in the 1800s but has been virtually eliminated by modern sewage and water treatment systems.” In the past 100 years cholera has not been a threat in our country.

This is because of our sewer and wastewater treatment systems. Plus better understanding and education of the importance of hand washing and other sanitary procedures.

In view of the consequences, it seems that a few dollars is a small price to pay for the assurance that your baby or elderly parent won’t die the excruciating death that cholera causes.

The public, including sewer users and non-users, should reconsider their stance on this issue and be thankful for the benefits our system provides.

Now, about fairness of the current sewer rates, that is another story.

Martin Luther King Jr: Pro Public Health and Anti-War

January 21, 2008

Since 1900 the average life expectancy in the United States has increased 30 years. Of that, 25 years can be attributed to advances in public health, and the other five years to advances in medicine.

The differences might not be readily apparent, but in general, public health initiatives that contributed to extended life include things like food safety and better understanding of nutrition, decrease in tobacco use, improvements in workplace safety, family planning, maternal and child care, water safety and fluoridation, vaccination programs, seat belt use and sanitation.

Advances in medicine, while important from an individual standpoint, do not contribute that much statistically. These include things such as the development of new diagnostic equipment, advanced procedures and new drugs to treat illnesses.

Today we honor the life and achievements of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Dr. King understood the importance of public health and the role that it plays in the health of our nation. Consider the following:

“One day our society will come to respect the sanitation worker if it is to survive, for the person who picks up our garbage is in the final analysis as significant as the physician, for if he doesn’t do his job, diseases are rampant. All labor has dignity.”

(Martin Luther King, Jr., The Autobiography of Martin Luther King, Jr., ed. Clayborne Carson (Grand Central Publishing, 2001), pp. 352-35)

King was referring to the low wages the sanitation workers received and was fighting against the institutionalized poverty forced upon blacks by their own government. But he also made the point that in the control of disease, sanitation is a must. In the 19th century immigration and urbanization caused a population shift that led to overcrowding in cities with inadequate waste disposal systems. Often garbage was piled in the streets or thrown over a fence giving food and shelter to vermin and contributing to disease outbreaks.

By 1900 public health departments had been established in 40 of the 45 states. From the 1930’s through the 1950’s, great strides were made in solid waste disposal, as well as sewage and water treatment and hygiene practices. Vermin control, related to garbage control, also contributed to the reduction of disease.

I believe King would also be an outspoken critic of the war in Iraq. Here is what he said about the Vietnam War:

“And I knew that America would never invest the necessary funds or energies in rehabilitation of its poor so long as adventures like Vietnam continued to draw men and skills and money like some demonic, destructive suction tube. So I was increasingly compelled to see the war as an enemy of the poor and to attack it as such.”

(Beyond Vietnam speech delivered April 4, 1967. The quote can be found in A Call to Conscience: The Landmark Speeches of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., ed. Clayborne Carson and Kris Shepard (Warner Books, 2002), p. 142)

To the left of this column you can see the Cost of the war. $487 billion. Almost half a trillion. Consider the job training and education that could be provided with that money. Not to mention the cost in lives lost or damaged. One example is the number of men and women returning with traumatic brain injury, and an army task force suggests that 10 to 20 percent of those returning for Iran and Afghanistan have brain injuries. This story from September explains how the problem is insidious and how the effects can be long term.

So yes, the war in Iraq is a “demonic, destructive suction tube” destroying the lives of our young people who are fighting as well as hindering education of students not yet old enough to be sucked in.

There are so many ways in which this war is wrong, and Dr. King would be one of its most outspoken critics. Unlike the ever changing heated rhetoric that we hear on a daily basis (from presidential candidates), his words are set, his opposition is unchallengeable, and his positions unchangeable. And they apply today.

Some of the information I used here comes from Soulforce , an organization whose mission statement reads:

“The mission of Soulforce is to cut off homophobia at its source – religious bigotry…We apply the creative direct action principles taught by Gandhi and Martin Luther King, Jr. to peacefully resist injustice and demand full equality for LGBT citizens and same-gender families.”

Information on sanitation and control of infectious diseases and public health can be found here.

>Martin Luther King Jr: Pro Public Health and Anti-War

January 21, 2008

>Since 1900 the average life expectancy in the United States has increased 30 years. Of that, 25 years can be attributed to advances in public health, and the other five years to advances in medicine.

The differences might not be readily apparent, but in general, public health initiatives that contributed to extended life include things like food safety and better understanding of nutrition, decrease in tobacco use, improvements in workplace safety, family planning, maternal and child care, water safety and fluoridation, vaccination programs, seat belt use and sanitation.

Advances in medicine, while important from an individual standpoint, do not contribute that much statistically. These include things such as the development of new diagnostic equipment, advanced procedures and new drugs to treat illnesses.

Today we honor the life and achievements of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Dr. King understood the importance of public health and the role that it plays in the health of our nation. Consider the following:

“One day our society will come to respect the sanitation worker if it is to survive, for the person who picks up our garbage is in the final analysis as significant as the physician, for if he doesn’t do his job, diseases are rampant. All labor has dignity.”

(Martin Luther King, Jr., The Autobiography of Martin Luther King, Jr., ed. Clayborne Carson (Grand Central Publishing, 2001), pp. 352-35)

King was referring to the low wages the sanitation workers received and was fighting against the institutionalized poverty forced upon blacks by their own government. But he also made the point that in the control of disease, sanitation is a must. In the 19th century immigration and urbanization caused a population shift that led to overcrowding in cities with inadequate waste disposal systems. Often garbage was piled in the streets or thrown over a fence giving food and shelter to vermin and contributing to disease outbreaks.

By 1900 public health departments had been established in 40 of the 45 states. From the 1930’s through the 1950’s, great strides were made in solid waste disposal, as well as sewage and water treatment and hygiene practices. Vermin control, related to garbage control, also contributed to the reduction of disease.

I believe King would also be an outspoken critic of the war in Iraq. Here is what he said about the Vietnam War:

“And I knew that America would never invest the necessary funds or energies in rehabilitation of its poor so long as adventures like Vietnam continued to draw men and skills and money like some demonic, destructive suction tube. So I was increasingly compelled to see the war as an enemy of the poor and to attack it as such.”

(Beyond Vietnam speech delivered April 4, 1967. The quote can be found in A Call to Conscience: The Landmark Speeches of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., ed. Clayborne Carson and Kris Shepard (Warner Books, 2002), p. 142)

To the left of this column you can see the Cost of the war. $487 billion. Almost half a trillion. Consider the job training and education that could be provided with that money. Not to mention the cost in lives lost or damaged. One example is the number of men and women returning with traumatic brain injury, and an army task force suggests that 10 to 20 percent of those returning for Iran and Afghanistan have brain injuries. This story from September explains how the problem is insidious and how the effects can be long term.

So yes, the war in Iraq is a “demonic, destructive suction tube” destroying the lives of our young people who are fighting as well as hindering education of students not yet old enough to be sucked in.

There are so many ways in which this war is wrong, and Dr. King would be one of its most outspoken critics. Unlike the ever changing heated rhetoric that we hear on a daily basis (from presidential candidates), his words are set, his opposition is unchallengeable, and his positions unchangeable. And they apply today.

Some of the information I used here comes from Soulforce , an organization whose mission statement reads:

“The mission of Soulforce is to cut off homophobia at its source – religious bigotry…We apply the creative direct action principles taught by Gandhi and Martin Luther King, Jr. to peacefully resist injustice and demand full equality for LGBT citizens and same-gender families.”

Information on sanitation and control of infectious diseases and public health can be found here.

Are You Prepared? Is Birmingham losing ground?

April 5, 2007

Remember: This is National Public Health Week. And I have been promising something about disaster preparedness. Well here goes.

Disaster can happen at any moment. We can be forewarned, or it can occur without warning. We each need to have an Emergency Supply Kit. This is recommended by the U.S. Department of Homeland Security, and brought to you by the UAB School of Public Health, at which I am a student.

Items to Include in a Basic Emergency Supply Kit

Water, one gallon of water per person per day for at least three days.

Food, at least a three day supply of non-perishable food.

Battery powered or hand crank radio and a battery powered NOAA Weather Radio with tone alert and extra batteries for both.

Flashlight and extra batteries.

First Aid Kit.

Whistle to signal for help.

Dust mask to help filter contaminated air and plastic sheeting and duct tape to shelter-in-place.

Moist towelettes, garbage bags and plastic ties for personal sanitation.

Wrench or pliers to turn off utilities.

Can opener for food.

Local Maps.

To this I would add:

Pet Food for at least three days.

Chewing gum.

Paper towels.

A disaster can be a hurricane, for which you might think you are prepared, but they don’t always behave as predicted. A tornado or storm that disrupts your utilities, for which you might have just a few minutes warning. A terrorist attack, for which there would be no warning. A fire…grab the kit as you are leaving. A blizzard that disrupts power, not likely, but remember 1993?

For more information visit:
Alabama Department of Public Health www.adph.org/CEP

Alabama Homeland Security www.homelandsecurity.alabama.gov

American Red Cross www.redcross.org/services/disaster

Department of Homeland Security www.ready.gov

Birmingham, The Shrinking City

Today’s Birmingham News reports that the Birmingham areas population growth is trailing other cities in the south, and we rank 27th among the Southeast’s 30 largest metro areas. Don Bogie, director of the Center for Demographic Research at Auburn Montgomery, said these census numbers represent a weakness in the Birmingham economy. It’s not always the economy, you know. There is the issue of image, and Birmingham just showed the nation of relocating businesses and employees that this is not where they want to be by refusing to pass the resolution of inclusiveness (see “Birmingham Falls Flat on its Face”). Maybe it is the economy, indirectly. If people are leaving to a more inclusive area (and don’t say they don’t. I get emails from such people every time I publish something about it), they are taking their skills and earning their high wages in other places. That affects the economy. If businesses decide not to locate in our city because they want their employees to feel safe and to have a voice in the city, then that affects the economy. Birmingham had better wake up, or they will continue to move down the scale in this category and many others.



Local film artist Alex Traywick has an episode of Stranger Things TV viewable online at http://strangerthings.tv/. It last about 13 minutes, and is titled “Discontent.” Scroll down to Episode 2A by that title and enjoy. Don’t play it in front of your kids, the f word is used in part of the dialogue. Haven’t heard of Stranger Things TV? Well, if you like your world the way it is, stop now. Stranger Things is about ordinary people stumbling into the secret worlds of the demons, aliens, shamans, and angels. The stories expose the bizarre and the extraordinary things happening all around us, everyday. Good job, Alex.

>Are You Prepared? Is Birmingham losing ground?

April 5, 2007

>Remember: This is National Public Health Week. And I have been promising something about disaster preparedness. Well here goes.

Disaster can happen at any moment. We can be forewarned, or it can occur without warning. We each need to have an Emergency Supply Kit. This is recommended by the U.S. Department of Homeland Security, and brought to you by the UAB School of Public Health, at which I am a student.

Items to Include in a Basic Emergency Supply Kit

Water, one gallon of water per person per day for at least three days.

Food, at least a three day supply of non-perishable food.

Battery powered or hand crank radio and a battery powered NOAA Weather Radio with tone alert and extra batteries for both.

Flashlight and extra batteries.

First Aid Kit.

Whistle to signal for help.

Dust mask to help filter contaminated air and plastic sheeting and duct tape to shelter-in-place.

Moist towelettes, garbage bags and plastic ties for personal sanitation.

Wrench or pliers to turn off utilities.

Can opener for food.

Local Maps.

To this I would add:

Pet Food for at least three days.

Chewing gum.

Paper towels.

A disaster can be a hurricane, for which you might think you are prepared, but they don’t always behave as predicted. A tornado or storm that disrupts your utilities, for which you might have just a few minutes warning. A terrorist attack, for which there would be no warning. A fire…grab the kit as you are leaving. A blizzard that disrupts power, not likely, but remember 1993?

For more information visit:
Alabama Department of Public Health www.adph.org/CEP

Alabama Homeland Security www.homelandsecurity.alabama.gov

American Red Cross www.redcross.org/services/disaster

Department of Homeland Security www.ready.gov

Birmingham, The Shrinking City

Today’s Birmingham News reports that the Birmingham areas population growth is trailing other cities in the south, and we rank 27th among the Southeast’s 30 largest metro areas. Don Bogie, director of the Center for Demographic Research at Auburn Montgomery, said these census numbers represent a weakness in the Birmingham economy. It’s not always the economy, you know. There is the issue of image, and Birmingham just showed the nation of relocating businesses and employees that this is not where they want to be by refusing to pass the resolution of inclusiveness (see “Birmingham Falls Flat on its Face”). Maybe it is the economy, indirectly. If people are leaving to a more inclusive area (and don’t say they don’t. I get emails from such people every time I publish something about it), they are taking their skills and earning their high wages in other places. That affects the economy. If businesses decide not to locate in our city because they want their employees to feel safe and to have a voice in the city, then that affects the economy. Birmingham had better wake up, or they will continue to move down the scale in this category and many others.



Local film artist Alex Traywick has an episode of Stranger Things TV viewable online at http://strangerthings.tv/. It last about 13 minutes, and is titled “Discontent.” Scroll down to Episode 2A by that title and enjoy. Don’t play it in front of your kids, the f word is used in part of the dialogue. Haven’t heard of Stranger Things TV? Well, if you like your world the way it is, stop now. Stranger Things is about ordinary people stumbling into the secret worlds of the demons, aliens, shamans, and angels. The stories expose the bizarre and the extraordinary things happening all around us, everyday. Good job, Alex.