Saturday, December 21, 2013

The intersection of public health and the environment

I already posted one of the stories that fit this description in Real-life tricorders for health and environment, but there were more where that came from in Overnight News Digest: Science Saturday (Jade Rabbit lands on Moon).  Using the “if it moves, it leads” criterion, I begin with KPBS’s Public Transit Improvements Benefit Public Health.

One thing that emerged at Wednesday's North County Transportation Business Summit is that improving public transit is one of the most effective ways to improve public health. Our car culture is dangerous in several ways, not least because it contributes to one of the nation's fastest-growing public health problems: obesity.
The story continues in Public Transit Improvements Benefit Public Health By Alison St John.
Nick Macchione, director of the county’s Health and Human Services department, is a strong advocate of finding ways to get people out of their cars and moving, whether it’s walking, bicycling or catching a trolley.

“We need to invest in good healthy transit systems and get people to be more active and walk more,” he said.

Macchione pointed out to the business leaders and policy makers at the summit that poor public health is one of the largest drags on our whole economy. Currently, it eats up 18 percent of our gross domestic product. In San Diego, he said, it costs $4 billion in direct expenditures and that doesn’t even take into account lost productivity.
See, improving sustainability improves health, too.

Follow over the jump for more stories about the intersection between public health and the environment from the University of Wisconsin.

First, my favorite Badgers describe how distubing the environment harmed public health in Intense human settlement and forest disruption linked to virus outbreak by David Tenenbaum.
Dec. 9, 2013
A new study in the American Journal of Tropical Medicine and Hygiene shows that the deadly Nipah virus in Bangladesh is infecting people only in areas with significant deforestation and high population density. Although the virus is spread by a common fruit bat, villages with fairly intact forest did not get Nipah virus infections.

Nipah virus kills more than 70 percent of cases, mainly due to convulsions and swelling in the brain, and there is neither cure nor vaccine. Since 2001, about 200 cases of the virus have appeared in villages within a section of Bangladesh scientists call the "Nipah Belt."

More than a decade ago, an outbreak in Malaysia was traced to fruit bats that defecated into pig pens. The infected pigs spread the virus to pig farmers and pigs throughout the country when they were transported to slaughterhouses. The outbreak ended with the culling of more than 1 million pigs.
Next, they explain how adapting to the environment (by adequately protecting oneself from it) can improve public health in Making a better flip-flop to overcome illiteracy and disease.
Dec. 13, 2013
In many parts of the world, a good share of the population wears flip-flops. In America, the candy-colored sandals are a ubiquitous herald of summer. In rural Uganda, kids wear them, adult men and moms wear them whether they're bopping around the compound, working in the fields or getting water.

For Professor Tony Goldberg and postdoctoral scholar Sarah Paige at UW-Madison, flip-flops present a challenge and an opportunity to overcome illiteracy and better combat helminths, the parasitic worms that can burrow into bare feet and cause gastrointestinal illness. Thanks to a recent $100,000 Grand Challenges Exploration grant from the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, they're developing the holoflop™ that protects feet from soil-borne parasites and encourages people to wear them.

The holoflop is a flip-flop with a hologram attached that will show the benefits of wearing sandals to people who cannot read, says Goldberg, associate director for research at UW-Madison's Global Health Institute (GHI), professor of epidemiology in the School of Veterinary Medicine, and director of the Kibale EcoHealth Project. Paige, a medical geographer, works with Goldberg at the university and has been part of the Kibale project since its inception.
There are more health stories from last week’s OND, but it’s time to collect the next batch for tonight’s compendium.  Stay tuned for more health stories during the next week.

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