Archive for the ‘Public health education’ Category

By: Samantha Metlitz

Period, menstruation, time of the month, crimson tide, whatever you call it, most of us know something about periods and fifty percent of the world’s population have firsthand experience with it. Women get it once a month for the majority of their lives, yet all around the world periods are a taboo subject. People become uncomfortable talking about periods and women feel the need to hide when they get theirs like it’s something embarrassing and shameful to have. While in high school, I would try to hide tampons and pads in pockets or sleeves or bring my whole backpack to the bathroom. I felt the need to hide the fact that I was on my period as if it was shameful in some way. In other countries, the stigma surrounding menstruation and menstrual hygiene causes bigger issues. In some places, women are isolated during their periods or are forced to leave schools because of lack of proper sanitation and access to sanitary products. According to a World Bank blog post, girls in Sub-Saharan Africa miss 20% of a school year because of menstruation (Lusk-Stover, 2016). Lack of access to proper menstrual hygiene products, water, and sanitation is a major issue for women. A study on this issue found that menstrual hygiene in refugee camps was not being properly addressed because the emergency response workers were uncomfortably about the subject, causing them not to properly address the issue (Schmitt et al., 2017). Menstrual hygiene and menstruation need to become normalized so that they’re no longer taboo.


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By: Gopika Das

India is home to 1.3 billion people, accounting for 17.5% of the world’s population . It is also home to 27% of deaths caused by cervical cancer worldwide (Cousins 2018). Despite cervical cancer having the best chances of secondary prevention, it remains a leading cause of female mortality globally. The burden of the disease is especially heightened in developing countries like India and Pakistan. In India, lack of the HPV vaccine in governmental immunisation programs and inadequate access to screening for the disease, are major contributors to the extremely high incidence rate.

It is agreed that the HPV vaccine along with early screening for cervical cancer, can prevent upto 70 percent of new cases (Swaminathan 2016). The HPV vaccine has been approved for use since 2006, and as of 2017, 71 countries have included it in their vaccine programs. India however has been extremely reluctant. While the government has severely dragged its feet on providing adequate resources, societally there is a negative association with the vaccine. In 2009 funded by the Bill & Melinda Gates foundation, the NGO PATH, launched a $3.6 million HPV program. However within a year, there was an uproar over the deaths of seven girls following the vaccine, effectively halting the program. Despite officials declaring that the deaths were not caused by the vaccine, people got scared and the aversion to the vaccine stuck.


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By: Sonya Ajani

In 2008, the National Cancer Institute (NCI) published an article entitled Cancer Health Disparities. It defined cancer health disparities as adverse differences in incidence (new cases) and prevalence (new and existing cases), mortality, cancer survivorship, and burden of cancer among various population groups in the United States. The NCI concludes that African Americans in the US are disproportionately diagnosed with breast cancer than their white counterparts.

Experts attribute this particular conclusion to two distinct factors: lack of access to health coverage and low socioeconomic status (SES). SES is primarily attributed to low income, low education, occupation, as well as most importantly built environment. As of 2014, the CDC[1] reports that the incidence of breast cancer among young African American females aged 25-45 is 125 cases per 100,000 people.

Upon reading the article from the National Cancer Institute and researching the epidemiology further, I was especially alarmed by the rates of breast cancer diagnosis among African Americans in the US. Although it is almost equal to the white population, the stark disparity of the two populations makes up for the difference. Supplementary analysis confirmed that built environment: the physical and geographical space where people live significantly contributes to the incidence and prevalence of the disease. In the age of chronic diseases the built environment can be an incredibly crucial determinant in community healthcare. I found it interesting just how much the built environment affects the incidence of breast cancer in African Americans with lower socioeconomic status.


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By Evelyn Hitt

Even if you were lucky enough to go to a school that offered comprehensive sex
education as opposed to an abstinence only platform, you probably never heard about anything other than heterosexual sex. Most likely you were taught that sex is between two consenting adults (one male and one female) who were married or at least in a monogamous relationship. But what about all the people who have sex who don’t fit into those neat definitions of sexuality? What about students who identity as lesbian, gay, bisexual, or queer/questioning? Even further, what if you are a student who doesn’t conform to the gender binary? In the current American curriculum, if you fall into one of the categories I mentioned, you are denied a legitimate sexual identity.
Let’s start with a quick definition of heteronormativity. According to Merriam-Wesbster,
heteronormative means something “of, relating to, or based on the attitude that heterosexuality is the only normal and natural expression of sexuality.” Schools today perpetuate heteronormativity through sexual education that solely concentrates on heterosexual sex without considering the sexual practices of anyone else along the spectrum of gender and sexuality. Here you might pause and protest that none of your instructors ever directly told you that heterosexuality was the only normal kind of sexual expression; perhaps that is the case. However, by omitting the discussion of the sexual practices and possible protective measures of sex outside of the traditional male-female relationship, schools enforce heteronormativity with deleterious results for LGBTQ+ youth.
Without sexual education students who identity as LGBTQ+ are taught that their sexual
practices are alien and illegitimate. The effects of heteronormative sex education include feelings of exclusion, increased stigma and prejudice at LGBTQ+ students, a denial of the existence of transgender individuals, and a lack of accurate information that can lead to adverse health outcomes for students who engage in sexual behavior outside of the planned curriculum.  Though the emotional stress and social anxiety that this lack of sexual education causes is nothing to be scoffed at, more frightening still is the fact that many students don’t receive the sex education they need to prevent them from contracting Sexually Transmitted Infections and other venereal diseases. Studies have shown that youth use condoms more infrequently when they are
depressed or anxious. Thus, LGBTQ+ students who may be targeted by their peers and thus moreprone to depression in a non-inclusive environment are more likely to develop an STI. A study completed by the Williams Institute found that an estimated 3.5% of all adults
identify as lesbian, gay, or bisexual with an additional 0.3% of adults identifying as transgender. As we continue to fail LGBTQ+ students by refusing to acknowledge and validate their sexuality, as a society we run the risk of perpetuating stigma and alienating our youth subjecting them to violence and exclusion by their peers. It’s clear that something must be done without delay to modify high school curricula to break free of heteronormative standards to protect our population and empower them in their sexuality.
Where can we turn? Maybe we should look to our neighbors to the north because the
Canadian curriculum introduces youth to homosexual couples in Grade 3 and gender identity in Grade 9. The opposition may be strong as conservative groups from all denominations could come together to prevent an education which they suggest is too sex positive. But I believe there is an equally large group of parents, students, and activists who will demand that youth are taught to respect and take care of their bodies and each other safely no matter what their sexual identity may be. Curriculum changes take time and are inherently political and emotional. In the meantime, you can work on stimulating conversation about the issue of heteronormative sexual education and promoting the use of language that isn’t alienating for LGBTQ+ individuals. For
example, don’t assume that everyone fits neatly on a gender binary so consider asking a person their preferred gender pronouns when you meet them. If you have kids, raise them in an environment that encourages them to be open-minded, critical thinkers with the understanding that not everyone is going to want to get down with people of the opposite gender—and that’s just fine by you.
Works Consulted:
Boskey, Elizabeth. “Heternormative” January 3, 2016. Accessed February 24, 2016. http://std.about.com/od/glossary/g/Heteronormative.htm
Gates, Gary J. “How many people are lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender?” The Williams Institute. April 2011. Accessed February 24, 2016. http://williamsinstitute.law.ucla.edu/wp-content/uploads/Gates-How-Many-People-LGBT-Apr-2011.pdf
Hune-Brown, Nicholas. “The Sex Ed Revolution: A Portrait of the Powerful Political Bloc that’s Waging War on Queen’s Park.” Toronto Life, September 3, 2015. Accessed February 25, 2016. http://torontolife.com/city/ontario-sex-ed-revolution/
Merriam-Webster Dictionary, s.v. “heteronormative”. Accessed February 25, 2016. http://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/heteronormative
Smith, Cara. “Texas sex education leaves LGBT students in the dark” The Cougar, October 8, 2014. Accessed February 25, 2016. http://thedailycougar.com/2014/10/08/texas-sex-education-leaves-lgbt-students-dark/

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By Brady Moses

In February 2016, United Kingdom Prime Minister David Cameron announced that he would block compulsory sex education in British public schools – despite the fact that his Education Secretary, Nicky Morgan, continually emphasized the importance of these programs. Until this point, Britain had prescribed mandatory personal, social, health, and economic education (PSHE) from age eleven for students in maintained (public) schools, not the academies (private schools) that make up the majority of secondary schools in the country.[1] With regards to sexual health, it seems as though an already imperfect educational system has taken a step backward rather than progressing forward.

From the standpoint of many British educational executives, the repeal of mandatory PSHE classes in public schools is a necessary step in focusing on the Rigour Agenda set by Michael Gove, Nicky Morgan’s predecessor as Education Secretary. The Rigour Agenda is similar to the American concept of STEM education – zeroing educational focus in on “core subjects” that are strictly academic in the traditional sense, subjects that are covered in standardized testing systems.[2] In the eyes of these officials, PSHE education is merely an obstacle to be swept out of the way so that British students can be ranked higher among the world’s “smartest.” However, what these anti-PSHE executives fail to acknowledge is the immense public health benefit of compulsory sexual health classes for adolescents.

Countless studies support the notion that comprehensive sex education among young people offers significant societal benefits. One of the positive affects that adequate sexual health classes produce is a reduction in the observed level of sexual violence. According to an article by the Telegraph, “Mary Bousted, general secretary of the Association of Teachers and Lecturers, points out that that ‘report after report’ into the sex abuse cases in Rotherham and Oxford suggests decent PSHE ‘keeps children safe.’”[3] This observation is reflected in other studies. A 2009 investigation by UNESCO indicates that sex education produces a number of positive effects that contribute to reducing sexual violence, such as better understanding about sex and laws regarding sex, the nature of sexual abuse, and what to do in situations of sexual abuse; the propensity to explore and clarify feelings, values, and attitudes towards sex; and the ability to tap into skills like saying “no” and resisting peer pressure.[4] In addition, the development of any one of these skills helps reinforce the development of others. Similarly, a 2009 article in The Guardian indicates that classes centered about sexual health are important because they help individuals recognize what constitutes sexual abuse. That is, if somebody knows they are being abused they will be more likely to tell someone it is happening so that the abuse will stop.[5]

Various studies also link comprehensive PSHE-type education to reduced prevalence of sexually transmitted diseases among young adults. According to data from the Center for Disease Control and Prevention, nearly half of the 20 million new cases of STDs in the United States occurred among people aged 13-24.[6] The organization stresses the importance of sexual health classes in reducing this percentage. A review of 48 research studies by the CDC indicates that sexual health programs are key in preventing HIV and other STDs among youths. The review indicates that well-designed programs delivered by trained instructors result in students exhibiting higher rates of sexually safe behaviors, including delaying first sexual intercourse (even in courses that encourage condom use); reducing number of sex partners; decreasing the number of times students have unprotected sex; and increasing condom use.[7]

These studies suggest that not only should David Cameron resist blocking personal, social, health, and economic education programs in the United Kingdom, but rather that he should be fighting to improve and expand these programs across the entirety of Britain. Of course, there are many facets to these decisions. As previously mentioned, many educational executives in UK feel that the government would be better off spending its finite resources funding the Rigour Agenda, which focuses on traditional “core subjects.” However, as time progresses, so do the values of the world around us. As scholars, scientists, and pundits delve deeper into the realm of progressive education, they continually find that education on sexual health has benefits beyond improved test scores. Study after study reveals that PSHE-style education is immensely effective at reducing STD rates among young adults, as well as significantly dropping incidents of sexual violence. Because a government’s job is ultimately to promote the welfare of its people, it is imperative that David Cameron reconsider his move to block sex education in British public schools.

[1] http://www.telegraph.co.uk/women/life/david-cameron-just-blocked-compulsory-sex-education—and-the-wo/

[2] Ibid.

[3] Ibid.

[4] http://data.unaids.org/pub/ ExternalDocument/2009/20091210_international_guidance_ sexuality_education_vol_2_en.pdf

[5] http://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2009/apr/30/sex-education-children-primary-school

[6] http://www.cdc.gov/healthyyouth/sexualbehaviors/

[7] http://www.cdc.gov/healthyyouth/sexualbehaviors/pdf/effective_hiv.pdf

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-By Sarah Esselborn

The consequences of the devastating earthquake in Haiti on January 12, 2010 are still felt today. Specifically, the cholera outbreak brought by U.N. Peacekeepers from Nepal in October of 2010 has had serious effects on the people in Haiti (NBC News 2014). As of March of 2013, more than 650,000 cases had been identified and 7,441 deaths (Grandesso 2014). By contrast, in the United States, the average number of cholera cases per year is 6 (and these are non-fatal). I have spent time in Haiti, my last visit returning the day before this devastating earthquake. These Haitian people getting cholera and dying are people I deeply care for. I want to bring hope to this seemingly devastating situation. (more…)

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-By Natalia Lopez

When the World Health Organization (WHO) defined health, it made sure to include mental health. WHO defines health as “a state of complete physical, mental, and social well-being and not merely the absence of disease.” However, most public health measures focus on physical health—eating well, exercising, ensuring having a healthy heart and cholesterol levels, etc. Mental health is just as important as physical health and Americans are suffering from mental illnesses more than ever. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) estimates that one in ten Americans report having some form of depression (or unipolar depression as it is sometimes referred to) (2011a). This statistic rings very true as I am one of those Americans that has suffered from the disease for the last four years. Moreover, Marcia Angell, former editor-in-chief of the New England Journal of Medicine, stated how 46% of Americans fit a diagnosis for one form of mental illness. Recently, the Lancet published a study that found that mental disorders and substance abuse combined were the leading causes of non-fatal illness worldwide in 2010 (Mercola, 2013). In other words, these contributed to nearly a quarter of the total global disease burden. In addition, this study found that mental illnesses were the fifth leading cause of death and disease worldwide. In all, mental disorders and substance use disorders were responsible for higher global death and illness rates than HIV/AIDS, tuberculosis, diabetes, and car accidents (Mercola, 2013).  (more…)

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By Kimi Sharma
As it was every Sunday morning, my e-mail inbox had been inundated with TED talks that my father thought would explore the untarnished brilliance of individuals in society and help incite my dormant passion to bring about change. I was expecting the usual group of talks by respected and inspiring doctors through which my father hinted at his burning desire for me to attend medical school despite my fervent rejection of the idea. So on that Sunday I watched a TED talk that largely reinstated my faith in an individual’s undying determination to aid others (https://www.youtube.com/watch?feature=player_embedded&v=6qqqVwM6bMM). (more…)

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The secret to success in applying to public health programs is understanding what motivates admissions officials at US schools of public health.  All of them want to rise in the (really useless, but really influential) US News and World Report (aka Useless News and World Distort) standings, or to stay at the top if that is where they are lucky enough to be.  Here are the most recent (2011) rankings: http://grad-schools.usnews.rankingsandreviews.com/best-graduate-schools/top-health-schools/public-health-rankings  (note that Harvard is not #1…)  I don’t think these rankings are very accurate, or even very useful, but I do admit that almost everyone uses them and thinks they’re important, so I’ve reluctantly drunk  the Coolaid (but only a small sip!), and am writing to help you understand the system and make it work for you. (more…)

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