This post was written by Laura Malavé-Seda and Rebecca Reingold.
When Carmen Vasquez was 17 years old, a neighbor of the house where she worked as a maid sexually assaulted her and she became pregnant as a result. During the final trimester of her pregnancy, Carmen began to bleed but her employer did not allow her to leave the house to access medical care. She gave birth alone, in the house where she worked, and the baby boy she delivered died shortly thereafter. Her employer then took Carmen to the hospital because she did not want to “deal with two dead in my house”. Carmen woke up the next day, handcuffed to the bed. The policemen told her, “ if this was my woman, I would have blown her brains out.” Carmen was ultimately sentenced to 30 years of jail time for aggravated homicide.
Many of us have seen the signs at work, gotten the emails from our health care insurer, or heard the ads on the radio telling us that it is flu season, and thus time to get an annual flu shot. Many Americans will comply with this yearly health edict, but many will challenge medical wisdom and opt to face their impending exposure to an onslaught of sneezes, coughs and sniffles without the shield of vaccination. In fact, the CDC estimates that only 42% of adults ages 18 and older received the flu vaccine for the 2015-2016 flu season. This results in many adults getting sick, causing lost days from work, health care expenses, and even death for those highly susceptible, such as the elderly.
Vaccines are available for prevention of many illnesses, and most Americans get a thorough course of vaccinations as children. There are also vaccines that the CDC recommends for adults, such as those for influenza (flu), HPV, hepatitis A and B, and meningococcal disease. As we age, our susceptibility to certain illnesses increases, so the CDC urges older adults to get immunized against pneumonia, shingles, and influenza, which are particularly dangerous to the elderly. Younger adults in late teens to early twenties are strongly urged to get vaccinated against human papilloma virus (HPV), which is sexually transmitted and so common that most American adults will contract a strain of it at some point in their lives. College-aged adults are also urged to get the meningococcal vaccine, which protects against a potentially deadly infection that causes swelling of the protective coverings surrounding the brain. Many universities require this vaccine for incoming students prior to allowing them to register or move in to on-campus housing.
Despite the proven efficacy and minimal risks associated with vaccines, many American adults continue to forgo getting vaccinations, usually due to doubt of effectiveness, concerns of the safety of the vaccines, or just a lack of consistent follow-up on their personal health care needs. The result is costly health and economic losses, both to themselves and to the general public. A recent study revealed that illnesses attributable to vaccine-preventable diseases in the U.S. caused a $9 billion economic burden in 2015. Ninety-five percent of these costs ($8.3 billion) were health care expenses, with the remaining 5% ($700 million) representing productivity losses, such as lost income during treatment. The majority of these costs, approximately $5.8 billion, was attributed to influenza illnesses alone, even though flu shots are readily available at low or no cost to both the insured and uninsured in the U.S. Many employers offer shots free of charge to employees during flu season, and many health care providers and pharmacies make the vaccine available at convenient times by holding special flu shot clinics in evenings and weekends and at community-based locations during flu season.
In addition to the personal health toll vaccine-preventable illnesses can make on the individual, unvaccinated adults put others at greater risk of illness through exposure to the diseases. Children, the immune-compromised, or others who have health conditions that preclude them from receiving certain vaccinations are put at unnecessary risk of exposure to illness by the unvaccinated who become sick. In a place such as Washington, DC, where there is close contact with many people in crowded public venues or through the use of public transportation, these risks of exposure and disease spread are amplified and further illustrates the need for all those who can to get properly vaccinated.
Vaccines are available to adults for the following 14 illnesses: HPV, Herpes zoster (shingles), varicella (chicken pox), pneumococcal disease (pneumonia), meningococcal disease (meningitis), influenza (flu), Measles, Mumps, and Rubella, Tetanus, Diphtheria, Pertussis (whooping cough), and hepatitis A and B.
To find a location where flu shots are available, use this link. Many locations also offer vaccinations for the other 13 diseases for low cost, and health insurance will cover most or all of these shots as well.
You can also test your Flu I.Q. by taking this CDC quiz.
This post was written by Gian Luca Burci, Distinguished Visitor from Practice, Georgetown Law and Adjunct Professor of International Law, Graduate Institute of International and Development Studies, Geneva. Any questions of comments can be directed to email@example.com.
The global epidemic of non-communicable diseases (NCD) is in good part caused by unhealthy consumption of food and drinks loaded with sugar and artificial sweeteners, trans-fatty acids, salt and a number of flavourings and additives. The lowering of trade barriers, the explosion in direct foreign investment, and the globalization of unhealthy consumption models has contributed to the current dire situation, especially in developing countries. 71% of Mexican adults are overweight or obese, for example.
On October 13, 2016, amfAR, the Foundation for AIDS Research, released a new report, “Curbing the HIV Epidemic by Supporting Effective Engagement in HIV Care: Recommendations for Health Plans and Health Care Purchasers,” which highlights the critical role of health plans and health care purchasers, including Medicaid and Medicare programs, marketplaces, and employers, in moving the nation toward ending the domestic HIV epidemic. The report was written by Jeffrey S. Crowley of the O’Neill Institute for National and Global Health Law, Dr. Rivet Amico of the University of Michigan, and Dr. Michael Mugavero of the University of Alabama at Birmingham.
In the United States, 1.2 million people are living with HIV, and an estimated 44,000 new infections occur annually. In recent years, the share of people with HIV who are aware of their status has risen to record levels. However, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, almost half of all people diagnosed with HIV in the U.S. are not receiving regular HIV care, and account for roughly seven in ten HIV transmissions. Moreover, while more people with HIV in the U.S. are on effective antiretroviral treatment, only 30 percent remain in care and are virally suppressed.
The report outlines a relatively small number of actionable and meaningful steps that health plans and health care purchasers can take that will improve health outcomes, reduce preventable HIV-related health spending, and contribute to the development of more tightly integrated systems of care. These steps fall within three primary domains: 1) better monitoring of engagement in HIV care; 2) intervening to support continuous and sustained engagement in care and HIV viral suppression; and 3) supporting policy changes at all levels of government to strengthen engagement in HIV care.
The report is intended to be one more tool to help the U.S. health system adopt proven measures to strengthen monitoring, engage people in care, and re-engage people after an interruption in care so that all people living with HIV are supported in maintaining viral suppression. The O’Neill Institute’s National HIV/AIDS Initiative continues to work with an array of policymakers and stakeholders, including the White House, federal agencies, state and local officials, and community members and advocates, to support effective engagement in HIV care and treatment. In addition to its collaboration on the amfAR report, the Initiative’s reports, policy briefs, and guides provide information, research, technical analysis, and recommendations so that policymakers and health officials can streamlines policies and services to better support people living with HIV and so community stakeholders have the tools they need to advocate for the health and quality of life of people living with HIV.
On June 16, despite vehement opposition from the beverage industry, the City of Philadelphia adopted a 1.5 cent per ounce tax on sweetened beverages that will take effect in January 2017. A new poll by Pew, found that Philadelphians support the tax by 54 percent to 42 percent. The tax is particularly popular among young people aged 18-34. Millennials endorse the tax by a 2-1 ratio, with 64 percent in support and 31 percent in opposition. The poll also confirms that Philadelphians hold strong views on the tax. Three-quarters of supporters reported that they “strongly favor” the tax, while four-fifths of those against say that they “strongly oppose” it.
The tax has twin objectives: improving public health by discouraging consumption of sweetened beverages and raising funds for pre-kindergarten and improvements to city infrastructure. Opponents, led by an American Beverage Industry-funded front group known as Philadelphians Against the Grocery Tax, claim that the tax unfairly targets the poor, hurts small businesses, and infringes on individual’s right to choose what they drink. The Pew poll shows that industry-led opposition is not resonating with most Philadelphians, especially young people. Young Philadelphians – and other supporters of the tax – appear to value public health and pre-K more than cheaper sodas, which are predicted to increase in price by up to 30 cents for a 20-ounce drink.
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The views reflected in this blog are those of the individual authors and do not necessarily represent those of the O’Neill Institute for National and Global Health Law or Georgetown University. This blog is solely informational in nature, and not intended as a substitute for competent legal advice from a licensed and retained attorney in your state or country.