By Anjali Oberoi

A man on the Madrid Metro with a toddler on his lap shifted, listening to the unfamiliar dialect as I recounted the events of my week to my mom over the phone in whispered Hindi. When the train entered the station, he shot me a glare before standing up to leave. As he rushed past me he pulled his toddler tightly closer to his chest. I don’t look like a Spaniard.

His marked disapproval reflects a shift throughout Europe as humanitarian crisis sweeps the continent. The world currently faces the largest refugee crisis since World War II, as conflicts around the globe continue and worsen1. Continue Reading »


By Maria Paez

At the beginning of the week I read an article in the New York Time titled HPV Sharply Reduced in Teenage Girls Following Vaccine, Study Says, and was pleasantly surprised. But the statistics lingered in my mind. Yes it was great! But I am sure that lower prevalence rates would be easily attainable if the vaccine achieved higher immunization rates or was mandatory. It is incredible that scientists have gotten so far in cancer research and, although still uncertain, the so desired “cure” might not be impossible.

I find it rather contradictory that we, Americans, hope for a cure for cancer yet we fail to embrace a vaccine that can prevent multiple forms of cancer like cervical. Continue Reading »

By Virginia Jewell

As a public health advocate and nutrition and health enthusiast, I have been studying the obesity epidemic in America for years. Last week, in a Boston University Introduction to Nutrition class, Professor Joan Salge-Blake ran a straw poll. “Raise your hand if you know one person who is obese.” Nearly every hand in the room shot into the air. “Keep your hand raised if you know five people who are obese” The majority of the hands stayed in the air. Even in a straw poll in an introductory level college class, it is clear there is an obesity problem in America. According to the CDC Fact Sheet on Obesity and Overweight, 35.1% of Americans are obese (2015). One of the leading causes of obesity is poor food and beverage intake, but what is the US government doing to combat the American diet? Continue Reading »

By Cinthia Aquino-Sandoval

Let me paint a scene that may seem familiar to many of you: You are either in class, at work or staying up late to finish an assignment and you begin to feel a sensation of overwhelming tiredness. You struggle to stay awake, you try with all your might to pay attention and have this on going battle with tiredness. You combat the nodding sensation but eventually you cave and the nodding off stops and the sleep begins. This battle of retaining consciousness is a battle we face briefly. We go to sleep and wake up at some point and we are completely fine. Now imagine having this fight to stay conscious every day, no chance of relief. This nodding struggle is one of the characteristics of a disease that is plaguing the children of Northern Uganda, Southern Sudan and Tanzania. This disease is called nodding disease. Continue Reading »

By Neha Malrani


Since as long as I can remember, mosquitos have been known to have a bad reputation. Aedes aegypti is just one species that is known for spreading the recently talked about Zika virus, which has since been infecting humans with dengue fever, yellow fever, and chickungunya. The author brought up a good point regarding what would happen if we were to eradicate such a species for good, and this is something I have thought of as well, especially after being prone to dozens of mosquito bites every summer. It is important to note that many species of animals, not just mosquitos, are consistently becoming extinct, estimating about 150 species per day. However, these species are not lost intentionally; rather, this is occurring because humans are taking over their habitats.

Wiping out Aedes aegypti specifically would of course help decrease the spread of disease, but this would not occur without consequence. One entomologist made the point that eradicating this species would potentially cease the production of chocolate, because these mosquitos are the main pollinators of the cacao plant in tropical environments where they are found. I did not know that there had been much debate occurring within the last debate regarding whether or not mosquitos should be eradicated, if not all, then at least the 100 species that are actually able to spread infections to humans. It was interesting to note that even many scientists believe that eradicating mosquitos is possible without causing much harm to the environment, and is feasible because they do not really contribute to society in a positive way. Even after all the discussion regarding the elimination of these vectors of disease, the priority tends to remain as getting rid of the actual disease first.

I found this article to be very important, especially in regards to the many parasitic infections that still impact our world today. Being born and raised in the United States, I have not really had to deal with many infectious diseases, but this continues to be a prevalent issue that the developing world has still not been able to eradicate. In the absence of a vaccine that can help treat an infection, other efforts need to be promoted in order to lessen the spread of infection, such as improved public health education. A video that I found online from the IBT times showed that the Aedes aegypti species was once declared eliminated in 18 countries within South America, an effort that took 15 years and included high levels of insecticide DDT and vast amounts of funding. However, the species was able to reemerge, because vector control is only effective in the time that it is occurring, and as we have seen with the Zika virus, it is very possible that these pests can reemerge and cause seriously harmful effects on the human population. Another video I found that was extremely interesting was able to portray the hypothetical situation of what would happen if there were no mosquitos anymore, and that even if this were to happen, it would be an extremely long-winded effort that would cause damage to the environment, so it may honestly be better leaving the situation as is and focusing on improving the state of disease first.


Fazekas, D. (2014, May 29). What If there were No Mosquitoes? Retrieved February 26, 2016, from http://news.yahoo.com/blogs/what-if-abc-news/what-if-mosquitoes-were-anihilated-194753142.html


Gharib, M. (2016, February 20). Would It Be A Bad Thing to Wipe Out A Species … If It’s A Mosquito? Retrieved February 26, 2016, from http://www.npr.org/sections/goatsandsoda/2016/02/20/467094440/would-it-be-a-bad-thing-to-wipe-out-a-species-if-its-a-mosquito


Whitman, E. (2016, February 16). How Zika Virus-Carrying Aedes Aegypti Mosquitoes Were Eradicated, And Then Returned. Retrieved February 26, 2016, from http://www.ibtimes.com/how-zika-virus-carrying-aedes-aegypti-mosquitoes-were-eradicated-then-returned-2309666

By Adrianna Wurster

Over the past several years there has been a large increase in heroin distribution and use throughout smaller cities, and recently, the drug has made strong appearances in surrounding suburbs. Rochester, New York and its surrounding suburbs have seen a forty percent increase in heroin related overdoses from 2014 to 2015. As a resident of Rochester, I have become increasingly aware of its availability outside of the city limits. I have heard high school age students openly talking about getting their next bag, calling it “that Lady H”.  Heroin use is now a local threat which is part of a greater national trend throughout the United States.

Production of opium is on the rise and it is much purer than it was back in the late 1960’s and 70’s according to Rochester’s forensic chemist supervisor, James Wesley. The purity level allows the drug to be snorted, which can be more appealing to some that would otherwise be turned off by the idea of having to inject. In Rochester, it is not uncommon for users to be in their late teens and early twenties. A recent department of health report found that heroin accounted for 34 percent of addiction treatment admission in 2013 as compared to just 1 percent in 2000.

I found myself asking, “Why Rochester?” It stems from the socioeconomic climate that surrounds the city, with the tenth highest poverty rate in the nation and over 30 percent of its residents living below the poverty line. According the the U.S. census, American Community Survey for 2009-2013, Rochester has the highest rate of extreme poverty of any comparable sized city in the United States. (Extreme poverty is defined as below 50% of the poverty level). In addition, Rochester’s poor were affected by a lack of long-term full-time employment opportunities. Some 57.3 percent of Rochester’s poor were classified as “not in the workforce.” Among the 42.7 percent “in the workforce,” also known as the “working poor,” 76.9 percent were only able to work part-time jobs or work in seasonal temporary jobs. Only 13.6 percent of Rochester’s poor were employed full-time.


Extreme Poverty Rates Among Cities of Rochester’s Size
Rank City Extreme Poverty Rate*
1 Rochester 16.2%
2 Hartford 16.0%
3 Buffalo 15.1%
4 Richmond 13.9%
5 Birmingham 13.7%
6 New Orleans 13.6%
7 Fresno 13.2%
8 Grand Rapids 11.9%
9 Tucson 11.8%
10 Bridgeport 10.9%

*Courtesy of Benchmark Rochester’s Poverty Report


Table 6: Workforce Participation and Work Experience of the Poor
1. Workforce participation:
Number of Poor People Percent
Poor – In the workforce 18,672 42.7%
Poor – Not in the workforce 25,067 57.3%
Total poor population over age 16 43,739 100%
2. Work experience of those in the workforce:
Worked full time, full year 2,540 13.6%
Worked part time of part year 14,360 76.9%
Did not work 1,772 9.5%
Total poor in the workforce 18,672 100%
*Courtesy of Benchmark Rochester’s Poverty Report



With widespread poverty and unemployment, it sparks interest in doing illegal activity, like drug distribution, just to make that “quick buck”. “The other problem is that for every drug dealer we arrest, three replace them. If you drive up Clinton Street, you will find a drug dealer on every corner for two miles. In some cases, there can be 5 or 6 drug dealers on one block. We are overwhelmed” said Gonzalez, a Rochester police officer.  There is always another person looking for the money.

Most of the heroin that has been found in suburbs has come from city dealers. In contrast, the towns with the highest prevalence of drug use tend to be more affluent. Pittsford, NY is one of the surrounding suburbs with the highest heroin abuse among young adults and teens according the Monroe County Sheriff’s office. There is a direct correlation between access to the drug and wealth of the family of the user. Most of the young adults have the drug readily available to them but are also able to pay the cost per increase dosage to feed the fast addiction.

Another element to heroin drug use among young adults is the notion that the drug is “chill.” The stereotype surrounding the non-injectable heroin is that it is not scary, it won’t make you do crazy things or stay up all day and hallucinate like amphetamines or coke. People tend to just think “oh it’s a nice happy drug that costs $10”.  After first use however, the feeling is not quite the same and a higher dosage is needed to feel that same high. A tolerance for low dosage is built fast which only fuels the addictive nature.

Progress has been made to stop the distribution of heroin around Rochester.  In July 2015, Monroe county police arrested and charged 3 people with possession and distribution of heroin, one of the people being a distributer from Philadelphia. Although there are programs and different policies regarding the drug, progress is slow and more direct action must be made to ensure the safety of residents and also the health of users.


Spacking Up

By Douglas Lappe

“If a wheel-chair user can’t play Beyoncé, then Beyoncé can’t play a wheelchair user,” states Maysoon Zayid in her TED Talk back in 2014. She goes on to say that “people with disabilities are the largest minority in the world and [they] are the most underrepresented in entertainment.” For many years Hollywood has consistently used able-bodied actors to play people with disabilities in television, movies, and many other forms of entertainment and media. Actors like Eddie Redmayne and his portrayal of Stephen Hawking in James Marsh’s The Theory of Everything, Jessica Lange’s portrayal of Madame Elsa in Ryan Murphy’s American Horror Story: Freak Show, and Matthew Gray Gubler’s role of Dr. Spencer Reid in Jeff Davis ‘Criminal Minds, are all examples of able-bodied people playing people with a disability, otherwise known as “spacking up.” Many wonder why this is a problem. Why should it matter that the disabled are portrayed by non-disabled? Who does it really affect?

Cambridge University student Stephen Hawking was diagnosed with Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis, otherwise known as ALS at the age of 21. He was also portrayed by Eddie Redmayne in the recent Hollywood film The Theory of Everything. John Belluso, a disabled writer discusses Redmayne’s portrayal by citing a specific scene where he (Redmayne), is “suddenly free of his disability and once again a handsome movie star.” He goes on to discuss how all able-bodied actors who portray a character with disability perform this same scene but it is usually after the film is over. He discusses how society has a collective “phew” when they see their favorite actors come out of character and everyone sees that it was all just an illusion. It’s like society fears disability. Stephen Hawking was an incredibly successful physicist and a lead researcher in the field of cosmology, relativity, and quantum mechanics. He is not defined by just a man with ALS. Why in a movie about his life should the viewers be getting this collective phew? Why does society need to be reminded that this is just a movie and Redmayne truly is not disabled?

Set in the 1950s in Jupiter, Florida, American Horror Story: Freak Show follows the story of one of the last remaining freak shows in the United States and their struggle to survive as a show. BuzzFeed News Reporter Ariana Lange discusses how the show is fundamentally wrong and is designed to make able-bodied people to feel good about themselves. Lange states that “audiences confirmed their own normality through viewing these ‘abnormal’ people.” One of the characters in this season of American Horror Story is Elsa Mars who is portrayed by the able-bodied actress Jessica Lange. Throughout the show, Elsa tries to make the audience feel good about their own normality by added more and more factors to abnormality of the “freaks”. One of the main things that Elsa focuses on is the sexual nature of her fellow performers in the freak show. She encourages the “normal” viewer to learn “How things work?” for people with disabilities. Elsa asks Bette and Dot Tattler, conjoined twins in show, questions like if they have ever had a boyfriend or ever been in any type of sexual encounter very early on in the show. These questions add to the entitlement of the viewer’s deserving to know what it would be like to have a sexual encounter with a “freak” or someone with a disability. Why do we deserve to know? Why do we use the abnormal to make ourselves feel more normal?

Criminal Minds is a television show that follows the Behavioral Analysis Unit of the Federal Bureau of Investigation and the cases that they work. Dr. Spencer Reid is one of the detectives in this show and he has Asperger’s Syndrome, although many do not feel like he does have Asperger’s. A Criminal Minds blog discusses Dr. Spencer Reid as a character and several commenters discuss how they are so certain that Reid does not have Asperger’s Syndrome. They argue back in forth with certain commenters who have been diagnosed with Asperger’s and are sure that Dr. Reid is not disabled; they cannot have a beloved character who has a disability because that is just wrong. Society sees disability as something to fear and loathe, according to John Belluso, our disabled writer that was cited above. Specifically, people with Asperger’s are seen as lonely misfits and in some cases even “pricks”, according to Hanna Rosin in her article about her son and his Asperger’s. Hanna goes on to say that no one wants all that baggage with just a label, which seems to be why people do not want Dr. Reid to have Asperger’s. Why should we let a label describe someone? Why should we like a character any more or less if they have a disability?

Why should it matter that the disabled are portrayed by non-disabled? Why should a movie deviate away from the story just so the audience knows that their favorite actor is not actually disabled? Why do we use the abnormal to make us feel more normal? Why do we care if our favorite character has a disability? Who does it all really affect? All these questions have been proposed above and all of them stem from the misrepresentation of people with disability in television and movies. Scott Jordan Harris, a writer for Slate, puts this problem in a very understandable realm through comparison. “Imagine what it would feel like to be a woman and for the only women you ever saw in films to be played by men. Imagine what it would feel like to be a member of an ethnic minority and for the only portrayals of your race you ever saw in films to be given by white people.” Why should it be any different for those who are disabled? The answer is it should not. Actors with a disability are consistently robbed of the chance to portray disability accurately onscreen and even more important; those in the disabled community are not able to see positive role models of the disabled community in television or movies. The word “disabled” inherently has a negative connotation because of its definition and its portrayal in the media, we need more positivity within the disabled community so that disability is not looked at as something to fear and loathe but rather as something to embrace. We are all different from one each other and that difference should not make us look down upon those who are not like us, because as it is for disability, it is a community that we will all be a part of at one point in our life or another; it affects us all and it needs to change.