The Situationist

Posts Tagged ‘environmental health’

Can The Law Go Upstream?

Posted by The Situationist Staff on December 22, 2011

Roger Magnusson, Lawrence O. Gostin, and David  Studdert recently posted their paper, “Can Law Improve Prevention and Treatment of Cancer?” on SSRN:

The December 2011 issue of Public Health (the Journal of the Royal Society for Public Health) contains a symposium entitled: Legislate, Regulate, Litigate? Legal approaches to the prevention and treatment of cancer. This symposium explores the possibilities for using law and regulation – both internationally and at the national level – as the policy instrument for preventing and improving the treatment of cancer and other leading non-communicable diseases (NCDs). In this editorial, we argue that there is an urgent need for more legal scholarship on cancer and other leading NCDs, as well as greater dialogue between lawyers, public health practitioners and policy-makers about priorities for law reform, and feasible legal strategies for reducing the prevalence of leading risk factors. The editorial discusses two important challenges that frequently stand in the way of a more effective use of law in this area. The first is the tendency to dismiss risk factors for NCDs as purely a matter of individual ‘personal responsibility’; the second is the fact that effective regulatory responses to risks for cancer and NCDs will in many cases provoke conflict with the tobacco, alcohol and food industries. After briefly identifying some of the strategies that law can deploy in the prevention of NCDs, we briefly introduce each of the ten papers that make up the symposium.

You can download the paper for free here.

Related Situationist posts:

Posted in Abstracts, Deep Capture, Environment, Law, Public Policy | Tagged: , , , , | Leave a Comment »

The Stressful Situation of Disease

Posted by The Situationist Staff on October 26, 2010

Here is a synopsis of a recent article, titled “Do neighbourhoods matter? Neighbourhood disorder and long-term trends in serum cortisol levels (published in the Journal of Epidemiology and Community Health), by Patrick H. Ryan (for Environmental Health News):

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Children – especially African Americans – who live in disadvantaged neighborhoods have consistently low levels of the stress hormone cortisol, according to a study that examined children in Alabama.

Cortisol is an important stress hormone associated with good physical and mental health and well-being. The low levels of cortisol measured in the study were in children living in neighborhoods with high unemployment, poverty, female heads of households and vacant housing.

The study’s findings are significant because extended exposure to low cortisol levels may increase immune responses, leading to inflammation and the risk for some chronic childhood diseases. The results add more details to a growing number of reports that link exposure to chronic stressors – including noise, violence and poverty – to negative health effects, such as asthma.

The body’s mechanism for dealing with stress is one explanation for the links. When exposed to a stressful event, a hormonal signaling system called the hypothalamic-pituitary-adrenal axis – or HPA axis – causes cortisol hormone to be released into the bloodstream. However, long-term chronic exposure to stress can disrupt the normal functioning of the HPA axis and result in an opposite reaction – lower than normal levels of cortisol.

In this study, researchers at the University of Alabama at Birmingham recruited 148 African and European-America children about eight years of age. Children were seen up to five times during a period of nine years. At each study visit, cortisol was measured in the children’s blood samples. Unemployment, poverty, female-headed households with children and vacant houses were used to determine neighborhood environments. Researchers adjusted for differences, including age, weight, gender and other personal factors.

Overall, children who lived in disadvantaged neighborhoods had lower levels of cortisol. When the researchers looked closer at the role of race on the results, they found that the association between neighborhood and decreased cortisol was greatest in African-American children. The trend between disadvantaged neighborhoods and decreased cortisol was evident in European-American children, but was not as strong and could be due to chance. Gender did not appear to play a role in the levels of cortisol.

The results demonstrate that the physical environment in which children are raised plays an important role in their well-being. In addition, the measure of cortisol provides objective evidence of the body’s physiologic response to chronic stress, which has previously been shown to be associated with health effects including childhood asthma.

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For a sample of related Situationist posts, see “The Situation of Depression,” “The Stressful Situation of Religious Zealotry,” “The Situational Consequences of Poverty on Brain,” The Interior Situation of Intergenerational Poverty,” Some Situational Effects of the BP Gulf Disaster,” “The Situation of Mental Illness,”Inequality and the Unequal Situation of Mental and Physical Health,” “The Situational Consequences of Uncertainty,” “The Disturbing Mental Health Situation of Returning Soldiers,” The Toll of Discrimination on Black Women,” The Physical Pains of Discrimination,” The Depressing Effects of Racial Discrimination,” and The Cognitive Costs of Interracial Interactions.”

A new blog and website, Upstream, provides daily posts and regular interviews with scientists about environmental causes of disease.

Posted in Abstracts, Distribution, Life | Tagged: , , , | Leave a Comment »

The Situation of Illness

Posted by The Situationist Staff on October 4, 2010

Situationist readers may want to check out a new website and blog devoted to the problem of environmental sources of illness.  The website is devoted primarily to video interviews of experts studying, and activists fighting, the effects of environmental toxins.  So far, the Upstream website has fascinating interviews of Columbia University’s Dr. Frederica Perera and of Drs. Carlos Sonnenschein and Ana M. Soto from Tufts University. The Upstram Blog contains regular updates of environmental-health news stories.

In a culture and policy regime that focuses on individual causes and cures of disease, the Upstream project seems like a promising and worthwhile resource for those interested in a more situationist perspective.

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To review a sample of related Situationist posts, see “The Situation of Depression,” “The Toxic Situation of Cosmetics,” Our Carcinogenic Situation,” “The Situation of Bottled Water,” “‘Flow’ and the Situation of Water,” Denial,” and  The Need for a Situationist Morality.”

Posted in Education, Environment | Tagged: , | Leave a Comment »

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