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“Reflections and Review”,
Family Healing Session will be held on the bus. Bus will leave from Tuskegee University
Kellogg Hotel Conference Center at 7:00 a.m. sharp! Registration is now open.
Save the Date: April 11 2016
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The Tuskegee University National Center for Bioethics in Research & Health Care (the National Bioethics Center) was established on May 16, 1997, as part of the Presidential Apology given by President William J. Clinton for the United States Public Health Service Syphilis Study at Tuskegee. The Syphilis Study is one of the most egregious human subject violations in history. Since the official opening of the National Bioethics Center in May of 1999, a Com-memoration of the Presidential Apology is held each year on the campus of Tuskegee University. The theme for the 19th Annual Commemoration events held April 11-16, 2016 is: Healing the Family through Social Justice.
In 2012, the event was expanded to include a Public Health Ethics In-tensive Course designed to broaden participants’ understanding of the ethical, social and political aspects of public health policy and practice. In addition, the Public Health Ethics Intensive Course helps build on the theoretical founda-tions and principles of public health ethics by critically engaging practical deci-sion-making and public health issues enabling participants to articulate how determinative factors such as race/ethnicity, sex and class play significant roles in public health ethics and social justice.
The two-and-a-half-day Public Health Ethics Intensive Course is de-signed for a trans-disciplinary group of scholars, researchers, policy officials, community advocates and students. Health Care Professionals, Social Workers and other professionals have the opportunity to earn up to 22.5 continuing education credits after the completion of the entire two-and-a-half-day course.
The city of Flint, Mich., is in the midst of a water crisis several years in the making. The city opted out of Detroit’s water supply and began drawing water from the Flint River in April 2014, part of a cost-saving move. Eighteen months later, in the fall of 2015, researchers discovered that the proportion of children with above-average lead levels in their blood had doubled.
The city reconnected to Detroit’s water system in October, but the damage was done. Water from the Flint River was found to be highly corrosive to the lead pipes still used in some parts of the city. Even though Flint River water no longer flows through the city’s pipes, it’s unclear how long those pipes will continue to leach unsafe levels of lead into the tap water supply. Experts currently say the water is safe for bathing, but not drinking.
A group of Virginia Tech researchers who sampled the water in 271 Flint homes last summer found some contained lead levels high enough to meet the EPA’s definition of “toxic waste.”
The researchers posted their test results online, which I represent graphically below with other visuals to help understand just how high above normal Flint’s lead levels really were.
Lead in water is measured in terms of parts per billion (ppb). If a test comes back with lead levels higher than 15 ppb, the EPA recommends that homeowners and municipalities take steps to reduce that level, like updating pipes and putting anti-corrosive elements in the water when appropriate.
But 15 ppb is a regulatory measure, not a public health one. Researchers stress that there is no 100 percent “safe” level of lead in drinking water, only acceptable levels. Even levels as low as 5 ppb can be a cause for concern, according to the group studying Flint’s water.
So let’s start with Flint’s neighboring cities. At the city level, public health officials are most concerned with the 90th percentile level of lead exposure in homes they test — that is, 90 percent of homes will have a lead level belowthis threshold, while 10 percent will register above it.
West Central Alabama is dealing with an outbreak of Tuberculosis. APR’s MacKenzie Bates went to the city of Marion to find out what officials are doing to contain the respiratory disease…
The community of Marion is tucked in to Perry County. It might seem like a quaint town–very rural, not a lot of traffic lights and a small population. Less than 36-hundred people live here, to be exact. If anything happens in Marion, no matter how big or small, the folks hear about it. That includes Tuberculosis
“In the state of Alabama the case rate is 2.8. It’s 253 here in the town of Marion.”
That’s Pam Barrett. She’s the director of the division of TB control for the Alabama Department of Public Health. The rates in Marion alone are 100 times greater than the state average, and worse than many developing countries like Kenya, Bangladesh and China.
“I would say that there are probably not very many towns at all in the United States that have a case rate that high,” Barrett says.
“Why do you think it’s so high?”
“Because of the number of cases that have not shared their contacts and people have not come forward to be screened and be treated preventively.”
That’s despite the fact that Tuberculosis can be fatal. Since January of 2014, 20 people have tested positive for “Active TB” in Marion alone and six more in the surrounding counties. Three of those patients have died. Since persuasion wasn’t working, health officials resorted to Plan-B. B as in bribery. The state is offering $20 to anyone in Marion to get tested at the Health Department.
“When they sent the flyer out paying people to come and be tested, I’m thinking we’ve got something bad going on here.”
That’s Bennie Royster. She attended a town hall meeting last week along with about 50 other residents at Francis Marion High School’s auditorium. She hasn’t been tested for TB but she wanted to come to the meeting for a better understanding of the disease.
“Listening at them tonight, I’m less afraid,” Royster says. “And if I were to come down with TB, because I asked this question about the privacy act like they said because we’ve had so many people that have already died in Perry County, I wish I knew the person. Because if I knew the person, then I know to go and be tested.”
Fellow Marion resident Cynthia Bagley…says she took her and her family to get tested for TB at the Perry County Health Department not to just grab a quick buck but to be on the safe side.
“I got there a little after one and I stayed until 25 after three,” Bagley says. “I was the last one.”
“I wanted to make sure my grandkids are also tested because with me just getting tested we still wouldn’t know. With my grandkids in the family, they’re around me so I don’t feel like it would be right for me to be tested and my grandkids not get tested.”
The results are still coming in but just short of 800 people have come in to the Health Department in a week to be tested. Of those tested, they have identified 37 people infected with the TB bacteria, but they’re not infectious. More results are expected to be released in the coming days.
That’s about $16,000 in a week of testing and it’s expected to climb this week as more people come in to get tested. Pam Barrett says the money handed out to people for the tests are provided by grants from the Center for Disease and Control and Prevention. People can also earn more money with follow-up visits, getting a chest x-ray and anyone infected who completes treatment.
Bennie Royster saw the long lines at the Health Department and was concerned she might not be able to find time to get her and her family tested.
“The first day, there were so many people at the health department it scared me,” Royster says. “So I got all of my grandbabies and I called my primary doctor in Hale County and see if I could bring them over to be tested and they told me it was going to stay contained to Marion.”
Barrett says the Health Department is still looking for the cause of the outbreak.
“We believe there are possibly two or three that could have been the initial cases that kind of started that,” Barrett says. “But because of the lack of them giving contact information in people that they have been around, that just made it more difficult for us.”
So Barrett and the rest of the Alabama Department of Public Health are relying on its citizens to get the word out about being tested. Cynthia Bagley of Marion knows one of the three people who died. She is doing her part to help eradicate the outbreak.
“I did encourage them to go get tested and they was also when I went do so hopefully everything with them will turn out okay,” Bagley says.
With appropriate antibiotic treatment, TB can be cured in most people. For active tuberculosis patients, it can take longer than six months. Preventive treatment for people who test positive for tuberculosis but don’t show symptoms can take up to six months.
By MACKENZIE BATES • JAN 18, 2016
To uplift the legacy of the USPHS Syphilis Study at Tuskegee by honoring
the men in the study and convening their families as a means to preserve
history and enrich education in clinical and public health research.
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As I ponder the future of the Affordable Care Act or Obamacare as we know it, several questions come to mind. Will it evolve in such a way as to change the lives of Americans – to reduce disparities in access to care? Or, will it be repealed if a republican candidate gets voted into office as the next US president? Should it be compared to slavery?
In January 1964, President Lyndon B Johnson declared a “War on Poverty,” and introduced initiatives designed to improve health, education, skills, jobs, and access to economic resources that would better the lives of the poor. Since then, there has been improvement in the status of those who are struggling to make ends meet.
According to the White House Council of Economic Advisers, progress has been made; however, in 2012 there were 49.7 million Americans grappling with the economic and social hardship of living below the poverty line, including 13.4 million children. As a result of this, President Barack Obama introduced the Affordable Care Act which was designed to ensure affordable access to health care and its expansion that accommodates the poor.
However, there are many republican representatives who believe that this is one of the worst decisions ever made. Their position on the issue has resulted in many southern republican states opting-out of Medicaid expansion. Additionally, the Affordable Care Act has been stated as the worst thing to have happened since slavery was abolished.
While there is a political divide with the Affordable Care Act, take a moment to consider my postulated findings that I collated as I worked as a Public Health Ethics Intern at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
- There are over 309 million people living in the United States of America and of that amount approximately 115 million are Southerners.
- Minorities make up the majority of this 115 million.
- In the states that have expanded Medicaid, we are seeing millions of poor individuals who now have access to better healthcare.
- Among the states that have the opportunity of helping millions to have access to better healthcare and refuse are Texas, Florida, Alabama and Georgia – republican led states.
- These states have the highest ratio of low income individuals that would qualify for the health care coverage that is offered by Medicaid expansion.
From the work that I have conducted, I have found that the expansion of Medicaid is a good thing. It is nowhere close to the slaughter of our black men, the raping of our black women and the child labor abuses of our black children that occurred during the 250 years of slavery. It is very sad that minorities once again – which includes blacks – are caught in the midst of a political battle, while many poor individuals are perishing. Let’s all work together to better the healthcare system and create the best opportunity of a “lifetime” that will benefit all Americans.
Royan Reddie, A.A., B.S.
Student, M.S. degree in Medical Biotechnology
Forthcoming article, “Medicaid Expansion: An Urgent Message for Unwilling States to Expand” in December 2015, Journal of Healthcare, Science and the Humanities
I was fortunate along with four surviving wives and other descendants of the 623 African American men in the United States Public Health Service Syphilis Study in Tuskegee to be present at the 1997 Presidential Apology by then President William Clinton in the White House. The National Apology to the 8 surviving men and all of the men descendants as well as the nation was personal and started the journey to healing and forgiveness. The apology pulled out some deep rooted myths many people had about Our Fathers, such as they were lazy,
uneducated, and uncaring. Today, their descendants through Voices of Our Fathers Foundation are beginning to tell and share their stories. These were men of courage and dignity, hard workers and deeply spiritual, They wanted the best for their families and the small county of Macon.
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Transracial, a word unfamiliar to some, ridiculous to many, and understood by few has recently taken the media by storm. Rachel Dolezal, a now former National Association for the Advancement of Colored People Chapter President has unintentionally brought attention to a subject that indeed deserves real discussion. Dolezal is defined racially by society as a Caucasian American Woman, but identifies herself definitely as a Black woman. Her Caucasian American parents revealed that their daughter has been “deceiving” her peers for a very long time, her birth father wonders why she cannot do the same work and good she has been doing for years but as a Caucasian American. In here lies the ethical problem.
Some may see what Rachel did as deception, but the fact of the matter is it can’t be considered that on the basis of what she believes; this mother of two boys, that look just like myself and millions of other African American men, identifies herself as Black. It was not her intention to approach this as a mockery, as most of society perceives it, but simply as her way of life. Who are we, as Americans to tell another person that their race is not what they say it is based on what society defines race to be? Transgenders are allowed to identify with the gender that they feel they are, they choose the restrooms that they enter, the clothes that they wear, and in some instances have even been incarcerated in the facilities that they identify with. If society can gradually become accepting of transgenders, I see no reason that the rules should change for the now, transracials.
On the other hand, what if she is indeed a con artist, someone who has been planning this “revealing” for years, can we blame the mass majority of people for not agreeing with this new way of life? Although identity includes how one views self, it is also important to realize it has a lot to do with how society views. To be clear, the ethical problem here lies not in Rachel Dolezal’s actions but the society we live in. It could be argued that this woman has done more positive for the Black community than those that criticize her story. Society dictates social norms. The ethical problematic here is quite simple, it is society telling her she is not what/who she says she identifies with. I say that the ethical problem here, is “us” as Americans.
Public Health Ethics Fellow
National Center For Bioethics in Research & HealthCare
Rachel Dolezal began connecting with the African American community at an early age in her life. In a recent interview with NBC, she mentioned identifying herself as Black by drawing herself with a brown crayon instead of peach crayon at the age of five.
Naturally she began identifying herself as one within the community and chose a life of advocacy and empowerment to become an American Civil Rights activist. As a self-proclaimed academic expert of African American culture, President of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP) chapter in Spokane, Washington as well as chairwoman of the police oversight committee tasked with overseeing police fairness, Rachel Dolezal created a reputation for achieving such equality among African Americans. However, would all her progressive accomplishments be thwarted due to the depth of deception she was able to keep up for years?
Born of Caucasian ancestry, Rachel Dolezal created and lived a life as an African American woman. Among few who have the ability to live in both worlds of being black and white, Rachel Dolezal possesses the fluidity to move in and out of privilege when convenient. Does this promote an ethical dilemma? Is it illegal and morally wrong to identify yourself as another race in a country considered a melting pot?
In light of her recent controversy, her passion for advocacy and empowerment does not have to stop here. Can she have the same influence and impact as a Caucasian woman in the African American community? Her parents surely believe in her. Only time will tell but one must be confident in who they are and what they are to create a deep and long lasting legacy they aspire and live for.
Public Health Ethics Fellow
National Center for Bioethics in Research and Healthcare at Tuskegee University
Morehouse School of Medicine MPH Student