Posts Tagged ‘Public Health’


Bringing Public Health to the World’s Poorest: An Interview with Joan Van Wassenhove

Pin It

By Laura Reynolds

Name: Joan VanWassenhove

Affiliation: Partners in Health

Partners in Health delivers health care, education, and employment to impoverished communities. (Photo credit:

Bio: Joan VanWassenhove is the Assistant Coordinator for Nutrition in Haiti at Partners in Health (PIH), a health care organization that fights poverty by providing education, medical care, and employment in disadvantaged communities worldwide. VanWassenhove holds a dual Masters in International Affairs and Public Health at Columbia University, and is currently pursuing a doctorate in Food Policy and Applied Nutrition at the Tufts University Friedman School of Nutrition Science and Policy.

What inspired you to become involved in global health and development?

In 2007 I was doing graduate work at Columbia University, studying international affairs and public health,and I interned at Partners in Health during that summer. I never really saw myself working in the medical field because I had no plans to go to medical school, but while I was interning I saw how broad PIH’s approach to health care and poverty alleviation was, and I wanted to stay involved.



Honoring Grassroots Environmental Leaders

Pin It

By Alison Blackmore

This is the second post in our 2-part series on the 2012 Goldman Environmental Prize. Click here to read the first post.

Earlier this week, we featured three of the six 2012 recipients of the prestigious Goldman Environmental Prize winners. Today, we highlight three more of these inspiring environmental leaders: Edwin Gariguez of the Philippines, Caroline Cannon of  Alaska, and Sofia Gatcia of Argentina.

Winners at the San Francisco 2012 Goldman Environmental Prize Ceremony. (Photo Credit: Goldman Environmental Prize)

In 2009 Intex, a Norwegian mining company, planned to build an open-pit nickel mine on the Philippine island of Mindoro, home to Catholic priest Edwin Gariguez. The project would produce several million tons of toxic waste, contaminating the island’s water resources and destroying the tropical forests. In order to protect the well-being of his community, Gariguez co-founded the Alliance Against Mining, a coalition of thousands of indigenous peoples, farmers, and local and provincial political leaders. Mindoro led communities in numerous protests against the mining project, even in the face of violence and verbal harassment from mining officials and the military. In 2002, Gariguez took his fight to the Norwegian parliament, bringing international attention to the mining project. In 2010, this pressure led to an investigation into the mine’s environmental and social violations by the Philippine government, who consequently revoked Intex’s permit for the mine.



New Government Proposal Threatens Food Safety

Pin It

The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) plans to fully implement a high-speed poultry production model that allows industry and private companies to take over inspection at poultry production plants. The model includes cutting 1,000 USDA poultry inspection employees and replacing them with plant inspectors who have to examine 165–200 birds per minute (bpm), from the original 140 bpm. That’s the inspection of more than three chickens per second.

Poultry inspectors protest inspection proposal at USDA (Photo credit: Food Safety News)

The proposal, formally known as the HACCP Based Inspection Models Project, or BIMP, will improve food safety and save taxpayer dollars, according to the USDA’s Food Safety and Inspection Service (FSIS). But under the proposed rule, the USDA would shift federal inspectors away from quality inspection tasks, allowing slaughter lines to speed up production.

The FSIS is responsible for ensuring public health and food safety by examining all poultry for feces, blemishes, or visible defects before they are further processed.

About 1.2 million cases of food poisoning are caused by salmonella each year from contaminated chicken, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).

The program could pose a serious health risk by allowing a greater chance for contaminated meat to reach consumers. In affidavits given to the Government Accountability Project, current inspectors say the proposal speeds up assembly lines so much so that it hampers any effort to fully examine birds for defects.



William Albrecht: Unhealthy Soil, Unhealthy People

Pin It

By Jenny Beth Dyess

William Albrecht (1888–1974) cared about the link between soil health and people’s health. As he witnessed the rise of industrial agriculture, he became deeply concerned about the negative impacts of profit driven farming on the soil. Chairman of the Department of Soils at the University of Missouri in the 1950s, Albrecht desired, as a scientist, to understand the complexities of soil health and how that might impact humans.

William Albrecht was fascinated by the link between soil fertility and public health. (Photo credit: Bernard Pollack)

Fascinated by the link between the health of people and the soil, he reviewed the dental records of 70,000 U.S. sailors from the World War II era. Using cavities as indicators, he found that nutritional deficiencies, particularly in calcium and potassium, in the sailors’ dental health records correlated with insufficient fertility of the soil in the region of the U.S. they were from. For example, someone from the more weathered and nutrient deficient lands east of the Mississippi River had more cavities than someone from Hereford, Texas where soil nutrition was significantly higher.

While dental hygiene has drastically improved American teeth there are other health problems which may still be linked to the soil. In 2003, Surgeon General Richard H. Carmona stated that nearly two out of every three children are overweight or obese. Currently, 33.8 percent of American adults are obese, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, and numbers are on the rise. In 2000 no state had an obesity rate of 30 percent or more but by 2009, 9 states had obesity rates of 30 percent or more and in 2010 that number had risen to 12 states.

Compared with the early 1900s, not only has food per capita available to Americans increased, Americans are eating more nutrient dense foods. Meat consumption has quadrupled and cheese consumption is seven and a half times what it was in the early 1900s, but fresh fruit and home grown vegetable consumption have decreased. In 1919, about 25 percent of vegetables consumed were from a home garden, by 1998 that had dropped to less than 3 percent.



Antibiotic Overuse in Animal Agriculture

Pin It

Antibiotics, a class of drugs used to treat bacterial infections, are becoming less and less effective in human medicine because of the emergence of resistant bacteria. An estimated 70 percent of all antibiotics used in the United States are for livestock, not humans.

An estimated 70 percent of all U.S. antibiotics are used nontherapeutically in animal agriculture. (Image credit: Keep Antibiotics Working Coalition)

Factory farms, or concentrated animal feeding operations (CAFOs), use antibiotics to help animals increase weight quickly and to keep them alive in crowded, stressful, unsanitary conditions.

When bacteria are routinely exposed to antibiotics, they become resistant and harder to treat. As a result, drug choices for treatment of common infections are diminishing and becoming more expensive. According to the World Health Organization, an estimated 38 Americans die each day from hospital-acquired antibiotic-resistant infections.

This month, the Keep Antibiotics Working Coalition, along with Pew Charitable Trusts and the American Academy of Pediatrics, launched a “We the People” petition to voice concern to the White House that there is widespread overuse of antibiotics in industrial animal farming. The campaign is collecting signatures to compel members of the White House to address this critical issue. After the petition gets 25,000 signatures by March 16th, the White House will be obligated to review the petition and issue a response to the public.

To sign this petition urging the Obama Administration to end antibiotic overuse in animal food production click here.

To purchase State of the World 2011: Innovations that Nourish the Planet please click HERE. And to watch the one minute book trailer, click HERE.


Climate, Climate Change and Public Health Workshop at Johns Hopkins University

Pin It

Next week, from April 12-14th, Johns Hopkins University (JHU) is hosting its “Climate, Climate Change and Public Health Workshop” in Baltimore.

GAIA_Global_Assimilation_of_Information_for_Action_Johns_Hopkins_University_JHUThe conference is part of JHU’s new initiative, Global Assimilation of Information for Action (GAIA), which is designed to focus on extreme weather events brought on by climate change and their impact on society, as well as to build connections between decision-makers and the research community. The workshop, focusing on the intersection between health and climate change, aims to bring together members of the academic, scientific, health, and grassroots activist communities to identify and prioritize research and policy needs that can help people working to address climate change and public health at the practical level. Registration is available online at the GAIA website.


Audubon Magazine Lists ‘Eat Here’ as a Top 10 Sustainable Food Book

Pin It

Check out Audubon Magazine’s list of Top 10 Sustainable Food Books featuring Nourishing the Planet co-Project Director Brian Halweil’s Eat Here: Homegrown Pleasures in a Global Supermarket.


The list was compiled by a wide variety of food experts, including Small Planet Institute Co-Founder and State of the World 2011: Innovations that Nourish the Planet contributing author, Anna Lappe. Eat Here was selected for the list by Marion Nestle, Professor of Nutrition, Food Studies, and Public Health at New York University, and author of What to Eat. Nestle writes that she chose the book because, “Halweil was way ahead of the curve in writing this book, which predates the many books on eating locally that soon followed.”


Reducing Emissions: It’s Not Just About Climate Change

Pin It

I recently posted the blog below on, an organization devoted to supporting small scale projects in the developing world that empower communities, protect public health, and ensure sustainable livelihoods (and 1well’s director is my good pal, Dan Morrison). Worldwatch also cares deeply about highlighting the role of gender when we write about environmental issues. State of the World 2009: Into a Warming World highlights the toll climate change will have on vulnerable groups, including poor women in developing countries who are responsible for growing and preparing food and who will likely be the most adversely affected by changes in weather patterns and water scarcity that are results of climate change. (more…)