Wednesday, September 30, 2009

Seven Deadly Maps

I found this interesting series of maps first at Sociological Images, which has better images found here. It's an attempt to map out the seven deadly sins across the U.S. After taking GIS last year, I have to disagree with their use of color: Blue being considered Saintly, Red being considered Sinful. A monochrome scale would have been easier to understand.

Check out North Florida's coloring on Lust! Louisiana looks fairly sinful as well, but that's not a surprise. The whole "Bible Belt" is swathed in scarlet. Interesting, huh?

Wrath was calculated by comparing the total number of violent crimes — murder, assault and rape — reported to the FBI per capita.

Sloth was calculated by comparing expenditures on arts, entertainment and recreation with the rate of employment.
Lust was calculated by compiling the number of sexually transmitted diseases — HIV/AIDS, syphilis, chlamydia and gonorrhea — reported per capita.
Greed was calculated by comparing average incomes with the total number of inhabitants living beneath the poverty line.
Gluttony was calculated by counting the number of fast food restaurants per capita.
Envy was calculated using the total number of thefts — robbery, burglary, larceny and stolen cars.
Pride: the root of all sins, in this study, is the aggregate of all data.

Thursday, September 24, 2009

Thursday, September 17, 2009

Boys Should Be Feminists Too

I like this. I wish I'd ever actually seen this advertisement in real life, not just in class or my own blog. Mothers and Fathers, teach your sons to respect women. It's so simple. It's a value you learn, just like how to not burn your hands off or how study hard.

Sometimes, we have to be taught what's right. Humans are like that.

Sunday, September 13, 2009

Suriname: Cabana Fort / Vila Nova

One of the first places we went to on the Benzdorp Campaign was Cabana Fort (called "Vila Nova" by the Brazilians). On the Lawa River, across from French Guayana, miners came and went through this town often. It was similar to Benzdorp in that everything was priced in gold or euros (which people earned in Fr. Guayana) and the economy seemed based on providing garimpeiros with beer, prostitutes and temporary housing.

Many residents slept in hammocks with no nets, no walls, no protection against malaria.

The nastiest latrine I've ever seen. Ever.

The main road in Vila Nova.

Met klamboe...

...and without. This man had malaria and was spending all day and night in this hammock just waiting to get over it.

Rain coming in from French Guayana.


Saturday, September 12, 2009

Christianity and Health Care Reform


When I was teaching Spanish at a high school in Tallahassee, I took time to teach a lesson on poverty. I used "If the World Were a Village of 100" to get my students to think differently about the world's population and the distribution of resources. The whole idea behind reducing the world's population to 100 is to make the numbers more real, and hopefully, more empathetic. It's easy to ignore the poor on the other side of the world. But if you lived in a village with them, if they were your neighbors, wouldn't it be harder to ignore their poverty in contrast with your wealth?

Apparently, that depends. I asked my students if they lived in such a village and they had enough to eat (because, as Americans, of course they would) would they share it with those in the village who did not?

"That depends." one of my students said.
"On what?" I asked.
"It depends on why they're poor."
"Why they're poor? Would that matter?"
"Yeah, I mean, if they're poor because they're lazy and don't want to work, I'm not going to share my food with them."

This was disturbing to me. My student was 16, maybe 17, too young to be so cynical already. I imagined that his parents talked like this at the dinner table. That when his young mind wondered why there was such iniquity in this world, his parents told him poor people are poor because they are lazy. It couldn't be because they were born poor, because their parents were poor, because the system might be working against them, because they hadn't been born into privilege like my young student had been.

Cleary, he had never asked himself why he wasn't poor, or what he had done to deserve a car in high school or wondered if college was in the realm of possibilities. Of course it was.

I wonder what kind of conversations his family has at dinner now. Health care reform has suddenly become the emotional topic for conservatives. Tea parties and town hall meetings, I've never seen them so excited about our nation's health. Except that we all know this isn't really about health.

But I want it to be. I want them to be called out on the hypocrisy. Most of these people call themselves Christians. Most of them talk about this as a Christian nation, that the Republican Party represents "Christian Values." They call Obama a Muslim, as an insult, and cry that Christians in America are being "persecuted." But the question "Why should I have to pay for someone else's health care?" has a very Christian answer: Because it is the right thing to do. Christ
told us to do it.

As a Christian, these people anger me. They are misrepresenting my faith. I don't understand how we could possibly be reading the same Bible. Is there some special Bible out there just for Republicans who don't want to hear that Christ has demanded of us that we take care of each other? People who call themselves Christians are actively lying in public, they are denouncing any responsibility to the poor, sick and uninsured of this nation - as if it were God's commandment. They are disrespecting our democratically.elected.president. as if God Himself told them "It's okay, he's a Muslim anyway."

The Republican Party hijacked American Christianity a long time ago. So much so that when I tell people I'm a Christian, I also want to tell people I am a Democrat, just so they know what kind of Christian I am. As strange as it may seem to many, I understand letting your spiritual views form your political ones. It's just that my Bible isn't the Gospel of Wealth and my God isn't the one that "hates fags" and told Bush told to start the War on Terror. The Christ I believe in is the one that tells us when we take care of each other, we really take care of Him. Christians asking why they should pay for others' health care need to re-read this passage and then try and defend their current position:

The Book of Mathew, Chapter 25

34 Then shall the King say unto them on his right hand, Come, ye blessed of my Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world:

35 For I was an hungred, and ye gave me meat: I was thirsty, and ye gave me drink: I was a stranger, and ye took me in:

36 Naked, and ye clothed me: I was sick, and ye visited me: I was in prison, and ye came unto me.

37 Then shall the righteous answer him, saying, Lord, when saw we thee an hungred, and fed thee? or thirsty, and gave thee drink?

38 When saw we thee a stranger, and took thee in? or naked, and clothed thee?

39 Or when saw we thee sick, or in prison, and came unto thee?

40 And the King shall answer and say unto them, verily I say unto you, Inasmuch as ye have done it unto one of the least of these my brethren, ye have done it unto me.

Wednesday, September 2, 2009

Preconception Counseling: Part II

(Continued from Part I)

While preconception health should be a concern for everyone, the training I received was part of a campaign trying to improve the infant mortality rates specifically in the African American population.

Infant Mortality Rate (IMR) is the number of infants that die before their first birthday, usually expressed per 1,000 infants born. Data from the CIA Factbook, 2006.

United States 6.43 deaths per 1,000 births
Cuba 6.22 deaths per 1,000 births

Countries with excellent numbers would be:

Japan 3.24 deaths per 1,000 births
Sweden 2.76 deaths per 1,000 births

Out of all industrialized countries in the world, the United States has the worst IMR. When you stratify our numbers by race, an even more alarming picture appears:

White 5.5 deaths per 1,000 births
This is comparable to countries like Ireland and Greece.

Black 13.3 deaths per 1,000 births
This is comparable to some Caribbean countries like St. Lucia and Dominica.

(As a side note, the country with the worst IMR is Angola at 185.36.)

It's like White and Black Americans are living in two completely different countries when it comes to health. Socioeconomic status, access to health care and even the stress of racism are all factors in this health disparity. These numbers are absolutely shameful in the United States, one of the richest and most powerful countries in the world.

What can be done? Part of the training was encouraging peer-to-peer education. Trained counselors are going to colleges to spread the word about preconception health and the realities of infant mortality specifically in the African American population.

The A Healthy Baby Begins With You Campaign holds events and trainings around the country.

Tuesday, September 1, 2009

Preconception Counseling: Part I

Last week I took a two-day training on Preconception Health with the Office of Minority Health. It was a good way to supplement the obstetrics class I took in the spring. I wanted to share some of what I learned from this course:

Why is Preconception Counseling important?

Because 50% of all pregnancies are unplanned.

Women can go weeks- even months, without knowing they are pregnant. Just think of all the things you might not do if you knew you were pregnant right now! Hopefully you wouldn't smoke or drink alcohol. Hopefully you'd start to eat better and take folic acid and multivitamins.

But if a woman has gone say, two months without knowing she is pregnant, she's already missed an important window of time for her baby's development. Most birth defects begin in the first eight weeks after conception. A prenatal visit isn't going to be able to prevent or correct any problems that occured in those first two weeks.

That's why women need to think about their preconception health. Who is in the preconception phase of their life? Anyone who is sexually active and not pregnant. It doesn't work to say "I don't need folic acid right now, I'm not getting pregnant anytime soon." If 50% of all pregnancies are unplanned, we should at least encourage women to be healthy when the surprise comes.

Obviously it would be better if pregnancies were not surprises. That's where the above Reproductive Life Plans come in. These should be passed out in all high schools tomorrow! We should ask people at a young age, right around the time they start thinking about having sex, what they see for themselves in the future in terms of parenthood.

Everyone should ask themselves:

Do I want to be a parent? When do I want to be a parent?

How will I control when I become a parent?

How many children do I want? What will I do to determine the number of children I have?

What do I need to do before I have children?

This should be thought about and decided before the first sexual experience. But still, surprises do happen. For this reason all women should be encouraged to maintain their health.

What is good preconception advice?

All preconception-phase women should take
folic acid to prevent certain birth defects like spina bifida.

Women should be sure they have up-to-date
vaccinations before they become pregnant. Certain diseases like rubella and chickenpox can cause birth defects. Because those vaccines contain live virus, you should not be vaccinated while pregnant. Do it before you get pregnant!

Women should be tested for
high blood pressure and diabetes before pregnancy as these conditions can cause complications.

Women should be tested for
STIs. Many STIs can cause birth defects and/or can be passed along to the baby. It is very important to know the status of your sexual health before becoming pregnant.

Women should stop
smoking and drinking alcohol before getting pregnant. (This is why it's so important to know you are pregnant early on!) Tobacco and alcohol can cause preterm birth and low birth weight.

Women should be in
good general health prior to conceiving.

More on preconception training in Part II.

Wakulla Springs

Anyone who grew up in Tallahassee has been to Wakulla Springs at least once, probably more times than one can count including school and camp field trips. If you go, you must take the river cruise (or the glass bottom boat if it's running). You're almost guaranteed to see an alligator or two, and if you're lucky you might even see a manatee. This past Saturday, my cousin and I revisited a childhood delight:

An alligator hides in the duckweed.

An Inhinga drying its wings.

My favorite thing to do at Wakulla: jump off the platform right over the source of the freezing and clear water. It takes your breath away!

Turtles sunning on a log.

Visit the Official Wakulla Springs website for more details.
Compare this post with the Swamp Tour my mom and I took last summer in Louisiana.