A summary of important health news from the past week.
Can This Judge Solve the Opioid Crisis?
Judge Dan Aaron Polster of the Northern District of Ohio wants to quickly settle more than 400 lawsuits against drug makers and distributors in wake of the national opioid crisis. Many lawyers are skeptical that he can pull off this difficult feat. The lawsuits are being brought against the makers of prescription pain killers, companies that distribute them, and pharmacy chains that sell them.
Gerontologists tackle social isolation, increasingly a public health concern
The latest issue of Public Policy & Aging Report focuses on the importance of social connectivity and social engagement for aging populations. A lack of social connectivity is associated with risk factors such as obesity, inactivity, and smoking as well as early mortality. The issues includes innovative approaches to address isolation in aging, such as providing free transportation and technology based services to remind people of events of interest.
Severe Shortage Of Psychiatrists Exacerbated By Lack Of Federal Funding
Despite continued interest in psychiatry among emerging physicians, there is a shortage of psychiatrists in America. This shortage is partly explained by a growing population of people 65 and older, who have high mental health concerns. Further, there is a cap of federally funded psychiatric residence program, which are required for physical training.
The most recent Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report (MMWR) podcast from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) focuses on causes and prevention of hypertension, or high blood pressure. Follow the links below for a short overview or a more in depth discussion.
A Minute of Health (1:00)
A Cup of Health (4:58)
By: Lamar Greene
Last week, the Center for the Study of Human Health and the Candler School of Theology hosted a talk from Dr. Marie Marquardt and I had the honor of interviewing her about her research, community work, and new book centered around immigration reform in the United States. Dr. Marquardt is a Scholar in Residence at Emory University’s Candler School of Theology. She is an advocate for social justice of Latin American immigrants in the South for two decades and serves as a chair of El Refugio, which is a non-profit organization in Georgia that serves detained immigrants and their families. Her new book, Flight Season (Wednesday Books, 2018), is Dr. Marquardt’s third young adult novel, which focuses on the intersection of two broken systems in the United States: the immigration system and the healthcare system. It is now available for purchase.
Below are exerpts from my interview with Dr. Marquardt.
You have multiple roles including being a young adult author, a professor, and an immigration reform advocate. How do you balance all your roles?
That’s a great question. That sort of depends on the day of the week. I think that in the time that we are living in now I really let my work to promote immigration reform come to the front burner. It’s such an important time now, and there’s so much happening. We all need to be paying attention and doing what we can, so I really try to focus a lot on that work. I’m so thrilled that my fiction writing can tie in with that work and help me do what I want to do in expanding the voice for change and the need for change.
What would you say drew you to the work with immigrants and immigration reform, overall?
For about twenty years now I have been working with immigrants from Latin America, and that work began as academic work. I am a sociologist of religion by training, and I came to Emory for my PhD back in 1997. I was planning to do research with immigrants from Latin America. Atlanta, at the time, was what we called a “new destination” because there wasn’t a long history of migration, the demographics of the communities were changing very fast, and there was a lot of tension around that change. As I dove in as a sociologist to understand what was happening, I also dove in and started building some amazing friendships and relationships with people who were themselves undocumented and had no way of adjusting their status to become permanent residents or citizens.
What makes this work worthwhile, yet challenging for you?
Some of the most gratifying and heartbreaking parts of those friendships that I’ve built is that I’ve had the chance to watch young adults who were brought here as children (often referred to as the dreamers, now DACAmented students) grow up and be with them through the process of overcoming a lot of incredible barriers. I struggle to see that many of them are still facing barriers that are insurmountable. However, I feel fortunate and blessed actually to have some amazing friendships and relationships with people that not everyone in the United States gets a chance to know well, love, and understand. I wanted to be able to share that love and affection in different ways.
Can you speak more to how your research and advocacy work surrounding immigration is related to human health?
I think of human health as this question of thriving. Although I am not a person who studies healthcare or the medical field, I have always been concerned as an ethicist for what are the ways we can build a society that create the capacity for people to thrive. I’m also really interested in community building, and I believe we are all better in our health when we are embedded in our community. So, I’ve been trying hard to support efforts to build community and relationships. For Flight Season, I became interested in the converging of two very broken systems: one is healthcare and the other is immigration. When those two intersect, it’s just a rough place to be. It’s costly both for taxpayers and for the health and well-being of our communities. It is a problem that needs to be addressed directly.
What would you say, in talking about dreamers and DACA recipients, are the biggest obstacles for immigration reform in this country?
This has been a rough week, so I’ll try not to get too emotional. Right now, the obstacles are enormous. It’s hard to believe that when survey after survey shows that the American public wants to see a pathway to American citizenship that the federal government just cannot get it done. Depending on which survey you look at, we see 86%, 87%, and 90% percent of Americans want to see this happen. It’s heartbreaking and angering. One of the things that I am really trying to do to support both DACAmented and unDACAmented young adults is trying to help all of us understand the ways in which our lives are intertwined.
This isn’t a problem of them. It is a problem of us and our future. When I talk about the 24,000 DACA recipients here in Georgia and the possibility that they are facing that as of March 5th they can begin to go out of status with the capacity to be deported potentially, that’s a problem that is going to affect all of us in so many ways. It is going to affect us here on Emory’s campus and throughout the city and the state. I’m just trying to show that we are all trying to thrive together.
Can you speak more about your role as a professor at the Candler School of Theology and your “Church on the Border” class or other courses that you are heavily invested in?
I’ve been around Candler for many years, starting as a T.A. when I was in graduate school. My favorite course that I teach is this “Church on the Border” course. What we do is we go to the U.S.-Mexico border for a week before the semester begins in the January term. It’s not a service trip. It’s really a trip for us to understand what is happening on the border, what issues exist on both the U.S. and Mexico side, and what social movements and organizations are developing to address those issues.
This year, I just did it with a group of students in January. Our goal with that trip is to see and experience and to analyze what we experienced. We bring these experiences with us when we can come back to Georgia to see how this is affecting our communities here and how we can address these issues. We talk about bringing the church to the border and then bringing the border to the church.
What made you interested in turning some of your experiences with immigration reform into stories as you have done with Flight Season and some of your earlier works?
I have written academic nonfiction about immigration and immigration policy. My research and the things that I have written have been around undocumented immigration and what work are religious organizations and social movements doing to address the problems that undocumented immigrants face. When speaking about my research and immigration, I found that I could present people with data and facts in this myth busting type of context.
What I realized is that people aren’t going to seek solutions until they are compelled by their hearts and they have entered a relationship with someone who is deeply affected by this. I decided to try fiction to see if fiction is a better place for us to step aside from the politics and media and just dwell for a while in the story and in empathy. Good fiction builds empathy, and I think we have a profound shortage of empathy in our society these days. I am in fiction for empathy building and because I love writing.
Note: Please note that the responses written in this article are paraphrased responses of some of answers that Dr. Marquardt gave in the interview.
A summary of important health news from the past week.
Uber launches Uber Health, a B2B ride-hailing platform for healthcare
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