US Customs and Border Protection turned away doctors who wanted to provide flu vaccines to children in a San Diego detention facility this week, despite at least three children in US immigration custody dying from influenza over the past year—and predictions that this flu season will be particularly severe. “Licensed physicians arrived at the Chula Vista border patrol station in San Ysidro prepared to operate a free flu clinic for the detained migrants, but CBP would not let them inside, claiming it was not “feasible” to provide the medical care… For more than a month, a group of physicians has been urging the US to vaccinate migrants in custody, and in November they formally offered to set up a free pilot clinic. CBP, however, has rejected the proposal by arguing that there are logistical challenges and that because CBP operates short-term detention, a flu clinic is not feasible. “More people will die without the vaccine,” said Dr Hannah Janeway, an emergency medicine physician turned away by CBP. “There’s no doubt. They are being locked in cages in cold weather together, without any vaccination, in a year that is supposed to bring a horrible flu epidemic.”
NPR reports on how a construction company is trying to provide mental health support to workers: “It has been five years, but the memory still haunts construction superintendent Michelle Brown. A co-worker ended his workday by giving away his personal cache of hand tools to his colleagues. It was a generous but odd gesture; no one intending to return to work would do such a thing. The man went home and killed himself. He was found shortly afterward by co-workers who belatedly realized the significance of his gifts. "It's a huge sign, but we didn't know that then," Brown says. "We know it now." The suicide of that construction worker for RK in 2014 became a pivotal event for the company, shaking its 1,500 employees, including co-owner Jon Kinning. The death brought home some painful facts. Construction and mining (including oil drilling) have the highest suicide rates of all occupations, according to data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. And the suicide rate for working-age adults has been rising in the U.S., increasing by 34% to 17.3 suicides per 100,000 in 2015 from 12.9 in 2012… "If somebody didn't show up in the past, we'd be like, 'You've got a job to do — get in here,' '' he says. "We've just changed our tone and our culture. I talk about mental health nearly every time I have a group of employees." That outreach has prompted workers to take advantage of therapy and other benefits. "We've averted probably 15 suicides since 2014," says Kinning. "That's a pretty good success rate." Other companies — in construction and in other industries that also face high suicide rates — are now copying RK's approach. But the struggle is ongoing. Risk factors for suicide in the industry are still numerous, and even RK is not immune to them. Most construction workers are young and middle-aged men — the same population that is likely to die by suicide. Unhealthy substance use runs high, especially where opioids are prescribed for workplace injuries. Lots of military vets work in construction, and many struggle with past trauma.”
Jennifer Gaddis, assistant professor of civil society and community studies at the University of Wisconsin-Madison and author of "The Labor of Lunch: Why We Need Real Food and Real Jobs in American Public Schools," calls on the National School Lunch Program to provide free lunches to all students: "Since the National School Lunch Program was created in 1946, it has had a flawed funding model that relies on children’s payments to supplement federal funding. This ultimately puts pressure on local school administrators to go after families with unpaid school lunch bills, or “lunch debt,” to balance budgets.But when benign tactics for collecting payment like sending notices to a child’s parents or guardian fail, schools may resort to a set of practices widely referred to as “lunch shaming.” Forcing students to wear wristbands or complete chores in front of their peers, weaponizing a tuna sandwich as a “badge of shame,” publicly dumping lunch trays filled with uneaten food into the trash can and preventing students from participating in extracurricular activities are just a few of the tactics that schools have used to pressure families into paying up.While some states are enacting laws to prohibit lunch shaming, and both charities and individual donors have stepped to the plate to pay student debt, the real solution is one that has been bouncing around for over a century: free school lunches for all children. Only this will remove the stigma from poor children and ensure no children go hungry.
Vox reports on the health risks associated with air pollution, including findings that
- “Exposure to fine particulates over the long term leads to increased incidences of dementia and Alzheimer’s disease in the elderly (a second study confirms this).
- A study of 20,000 older women found that 10 micrograms of additional long-term particulate exposure is equivalent, across the board, to about two additional years of aging.
- The impacts are not limited to the elderly, however, nor are they exclusively long-term. A range of specialized professionals also seem to suffer short-term impairment due to air pollution. Skilled chess players, for example, make more mistakes on more polluted days. Baseball umpires are also more likely to make erroneous calls on days with poor air quality. Politicians’ statements become less verbally complex on high-pollution days, too.
- Ordinary office workers also exhibit these impacts, showing higher scores on cognitive tests when working in low-pollution ( or “green”) office environments. Individual stock traders become less productive on high-pollution days.
- The same also appears to be true for blue collar work. A study of a pear-packing factory found that higher levels of outdoor particulate pollution “leads to a statistically and economically significant decrease in packing speeds inside the factory, with effects arising at levels well below current air quality standards.”
- Last but by no means least, the cognitive impacts appear to be present in children, with a Georgia study that looked at retrofits of school buses showing large increases in English test scores and smaller ones in math driven by reduced exposure to diesel emissions.”