Get your popcorn.* The O’Neill Institute goes to the movies [Part I]

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*you may want to wait until after you see these films to decide whether your popcorn of choice is safe to eat.

Each summer, staff at the O’Neill Institute gather to informally enjoy and discuss films covering events in public health.tumblr_me4acpbrBb1qav5oho1_500

In Part I of this season’s film series, we will focus on the role of the food industry in shaping American eating habits. Big Food, Sugar, Human Rights are among the common themes explored in the documentaries described below. If you are a person living in the US who eats every day, then each of these documentaries is a must see. Don’t have time to watch the whole film? Get a taste of many crucial issues impacting America’s food supply by following the link to each film’s two minute trailer.

Food, Inc.

This film tells the story of the rise of the processed food industry and its tremendous influence on consumer preferences, health and well-being.

Fed Up

This documentary exposes the role of sugar and Big Food in creating the obesity epidemic now plaguing America.

Food Chains

This exposé chronicles a modern slavery network providing agricultural products for America’s supermarket industry. The narrative of the film follows the Coalition of Immokalee Workers - a group of tomato pickers from Southern Florida – who were once among the most exploited and abused laborers in modern American history. The film chronicles their story and triumph over a corrupt industry.


Caution: Each of these films may cause major behavioral changes in your general food consumption habits.

Stay tuned for Part II.

Posted in FDA, Global Health, Human Rights, Uncategorized, Updates; Tagged: , , .


Cardiologist and Knitters Come Together to Save Lives

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From: www.vincetmanu.org

From: www.vincetmanu.org

In Bolivia, knitting and weaving are ancient craft skills that have been developed over centuries and even predate the Incan Empire. Today, Bolivian women are  knitting high-technology devices known as "occluders" to combat a type of congenital heart disease in children. Developed by cardiologist Franz Freudenthal, the device is an inexpensive alternative to the standard devices that are industrially produced. With Bolivia being one of the poorest countries in the Americas and with one of the highest infant mortality rates in the region, the device has the potential to save hundreds of children's lives.

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Posted in Global Health, Human Rights; Tagged: , , , , .


What the World Health Organization Executive Board resolution got wrong on humanitarian assistance

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You may have seen the January 2015 WHO Executive Board resolution on Ebola, which calls for many important things, including a global health reserve workforce, a contingency fund, and human resource management reform. All could help develop a smarter global health system.

But did you see this paragraph on humanitarian asssitance, which points decidedly in the wrong direction?

Emphasizing also the fundamentally civilian character of humanitarian assistance, and reaffirming, in situations in which military capacity and assets are used as a last resort to support the implementation of humanitarian assistance, the need for the use to be undertaken with the consent of affected States and in conformity with relevant provisions of international law,

Fortunately, this is in the preamble, and in the present context, has no impact. The countries affected by Ebola welcomed international support, including military capabilities; "consent of affected states" was not at issue. Yet this is a misleading statement as a matter of law that I believe ought not pass silently. It is a reminder of the struggle to ensure global priority of human rights over assertions of sovereignty, of the need of constant vigilance to ensure that old, destructive norms do not re-emerge. Read More

Posted in Global Health, Human Rights, WHO; Tagged: , , , , , , , .


Trade leaks and litigation funds: how the tobacco industry reels us into more pointless battles

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Image courtesy of www.levinlaw.com

Image courtesy of www.levinlaw.com

A few weeks ago, I expressed my frustrations at the endless cycle of the tobacco industry demanding more and more evidence to justify simple tobacco control measures – and governments around the world giving in. Yesterday, parts of the Trans-Pacific Partnership’s (TPP), a trade agreement currently being negotiated between 12 countries including the US, were leaked. The leaks show that if the investment chapter of the TPP is enacted in its present form, it would provide another avenue for large corporations to sue governments when they try to pass laws protecting the public health (such as tobacco control). Read More

Posted in Global Health, Tobacco, Trade; Tagged: , , .


Understanding a Framework Convention on Global Health

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This post by Yanzhong Huang, senior fellow for global health at the Council on Foreign Relations, originally appeared on The Internationalist blog.

Lawrence GostinFor years, a group of global health scholars and practitioners have been pushing for the idea of a legally binding global health treaty—a framework convention on global health (FCGH). Grounded in the right to health, FCGH is anticipated to close the health gap between and within countries. The 2014 Ebola outbreak has highlighted the health disadvantages experienced by marginalized and poor populations in West Africa. Last week, Lawrence Gostin, University Professor and founding O’Neill Chair in Global Health Law at Georgetown University, and Lance Gable, associate dean for academic affairs and associate professor of law at Wayne State University, visited the Council on Foreign Relations to share their views on the prospects for FCGH and what it could accomplish in the realm of global health governance. Listen to this podcast for a “to-the-point” discussion of these issues and the important insights of Professors Gostin and Gable.

Posted in Uncategorized;


So what exactly is in our legal pot?

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On Monday, a marijuana-testing lab in Colorado presented data on 600 samples of legal recreational marijuana. The results show cause for concern: three times the potency that marijuana had in the 80s, a decrease in CBD levels—the ingredient attributed to medical marijuana success—and the presence of contaminants such as butane and fungus.

Marijuana has been under-rese121913_cannabisarched, in great part due to the illegality of the drug. Most research has been stigmatized and the medical community has been heavily restricted in gaining access to research materials due to the Schedule I classification of the drug. The lack of scientific information we have on marijuana—and its effects or health consequences—is now becoming evident; the legalization of recreational marijuana in four US states (plus those that have legalized medical marijuana) has given way to the growing availability of a wide array of marijuana consumer products that are not properly regulated. Growing data, such as that presented on Monday at an American Chemical Society meeting shows that consumer protection is an area where legal marijuana regulation is still not up to par and where additional research and marijuana lab testing is strongly needed. Read More

Posted in Uncategorized; Tagged: , , , .


The O’Neill Institute Summer Program Is Back!

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Screen Shot 2015-03-26 at 11.29.01 AM

It's that time of year! Join us for our 2015 O'Neill Institute Summer Program on Infectious Diseases.

Apply now at: www.oneillinstitute.org/summerprogram/2015

Posted in Global Health;


Injecting Compassion into the Vaccine Debate

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Photo courtesy of the LA Times

As a child I was surrounded by vaccine resisters. Nearly everyone I knew was vociferously opposed to the practice. We were particularly galled by the mandatory nature of vaccination—it seemed beyond the pale that such an invasive and traumatic procedure would be conducted without our consent.

There was one ringleader in particular who spurred on the rest—my sister. She believed firmly in leading by example. Her (not-so-passive) resistance to vaccination was legendary. She would run away, hide, scream, fight, and employ whatever other strategies she could devise in an attempt to avoid the needle. My dad, a pediatrician, was completely fed up. She made such a scene at his office that he began bringing the vaccine home to catch her off guard, leading to a betrayal of trust that took years to overcome.

My sister worked through her hatred of needles, eventually becoming a nurse, and all of us grew up to be regular injection-accepting (if not loving) adults. We ultimately recognized that our parents were not sadists, but understood, as a child can’t, that a small amount of pain is necessary to prevent far greater harm. In other words, we finally comprehended that vaccination was not a betrayal of trust but rather an act of love.

All that to say: None of us start out in the pro-vaccine camp; we are all converts. I am belatedly working my way through Eula Biss’s superb book, On Immunity. For anyone with an interest in the history, politics, and cultural implications of immunization, this is the best account of the subject I’ve seen. In particular, reading On Immunity has caused me to reflect on why some of us outgrow our innate fear of vaccines, while others don’t. Read More

Posted in Global Health; Tagged: , , , .


At the Intersection of Abortion, Advocacy & Pop Culture

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Image courtesy of Feministing.com

Image courtesy of Feministing.com

Even in countries where abortion has been legalized, women face numerous barriers when attempting to access the procedure. These include provider, facility, commodity, procedural, economic, information and stigma barriers. Stigma barriers are arguably the hardest to tackle, since they reflect deep-seated cultural values and judgments. Pop culture, however, can serve as a powerful tool for reducing the societal shaming of women who seek abortions and health care providers who perform them. Here are just a few examples:

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Posted in Global Health, Human Rights; Tagged: , , , , , , .


Women and noncommunicable diseases in the United States

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Women runningInternational Women’s Day on March 8 caused me to reflect on the impact of non-communicable diseases (NCDs) on the lives of women in the United States.

Four principal NCDs – cardiovascular disease, cancer, diabetes, and chronic lung disease are largely caused by four shared and modifiable risk factors: tobacco use, harmful use of alcohol, poor diet, and physical inactivity. These modifiable risk factors pose serious and sometimes unique challenges for women and girls.

NCDs as a cause of death among females in the United States

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s (CDC) latest statistics (2011), cardiovascular disease (heart disease and stroke) is the leading cause of death of females in the United States, resulting in 29% of all deaths. Nearly 22% of females die from cancer, 6 % from chronic lower respiratory diseases, and 2.8% from diabetes. Read More

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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.

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