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Update and Trump’s ADA

I wish I had the time lately to post more here, but between a 80 mile round trip commute, 12+ hours of classes, a internship, and life in general.. it’s hard! But this is the last push and I hope to be graduating in May. In the meantime, let’s talk politics. Specifically things like the Affordable Care Act, Americans with Disabilities Act, and our current president.

It’s no lie that politics are confusing, nor is it dishonest to say we all have different opinions on the matter. The fact of the matter is politics plays a part who gets what and how they get it on the most basic of levels. Yes, I know there are other factors going on, but we’re going to keep it simple.

Recently there has been outcry with President Trump’s rollbacks, ranging from net neutrality to EPA regulations. I know a lot of us are wondering just how this begins to affect or even what effect it will have on our lives. For some people it might not be a very big impact, but for individuals in a population covered by the vital rights that the American’s with Disabilities Act of 1990 protects, it’s a pretty big impact. (Aljazeera, 2018)

If you don’t already know what the Americans with Disabilities Act is, then allow me to give you a brief summary. The ADA or Americans with Disabilities act is a civil rights law that prohibits any discrimination against individuals with disabilities in all areas of public life. (ADA National Network) This can mean that individuals with disabilities will have the same rights and opportunities as everyone else gets. This doesn’t necessarily mean less rights for those not covered under the ADA, it just means that persons with disabilities have a chance at some of the same opportunities as the rest of everyone else.

So let’s now let’s think about this using a phrase that’s been going around in regards to many issues that LGBTQ+ face, “Equal rights doesn’t mean less rights for you. It’s not pie.” More rights for someone else who might be marginalized, doesn’t mean you have less rights. It means that they get the same right as you to be treated as a valued individual; and none of us like being thought of as a number, condition, or something that isn’t even remotely a human being.

Equal Rights Pie
Image from Speakupshop on Redbubble.

For those who the ADA does cover, this essential piece of law can mean the difference between being able to work, go to school, or even get proper medical care. As a public health student, I know that there is a lot at risk here for a vulnerable population. Just last year the administration stopped action on changes that would allow for accommodation under the Affordable Care Act.

I don’t always agree with either side of the aisle when it comes to politics, but I have friends and loved ones that this is going to affect. These are people that have health issues that the ADA covers, and for them to not be able to receive the proper care frightens me like nothing else. Let’s use this example, you know you’re sick but you can’t get the help you need to get better because you can’t access it.

It’s essentially saying, “Here’s the help, now do it our way.” When you think about it for  many patients, this really can mean the difference between treatment or no treatment. Sometimes these treatments make their quality of life millions of times better, sometimes they make it possible for these people to hold a job, travel, make friends. Things that most able-bodied people take for granted. Some people with physical disabilities say that a doctor’s visit is a joke. They don’t check how much they weigh, or height. Both things that many nurses and doctors should know will impact how well a medication is tolerated. (Bluth, 2018)

The World Health Organization defines access to medical care as a fundamental human right, “No one should get sick and die just because they are poor, or because they cannot access the health services they need.” (WHO, 2017)

If you ask me, and for whatever my thoughts are worth… we’re beginning to setting a precedent for treating people with disabilities as less than human.

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Finding My Immunization Records

 

Public Domain Image, no known copyright restrictions.
Collection: Public Health Nursing Files and Photographs Call number: Series 1863 System ID: 73620. Nurse immunizing young girl in dress, 1930’s.

Something happened when I moved from Tennessee to Texas with my parents, my childhood immunization records got lost. It happens, so what’s big deal? That’s what most people likely think, right? Well come to find out these things were more important than I or anyone else thought.

Last year, I applied for a position with a company, and they requested that I submit a copy of these records confirming that I’ve all my childhood immunizations. When I was a kid these were usually Polio, Measles, Mumps, Rubella, and a few other things; all good things to keep children healthy and happy (let’s not address the issue of Autism yet, that’s a topic for another time).

With an interview looming and panic setting in as I tried to find these records, I did what most people do when looking for a childhood document; I asked my mom. I asked her if she had any idea of where they were, or who I needed to contact; she suggested the school district I was with when we first moved here. After a few frustrating calls and wondering if I would have to call the state (I didn’t), it soon turned out that Texas school districts don’t keep student records much past ten years. Thinking about this, I knew that my primary care physician wouldn’t have much beyond my annual flu shot and the meningitis vaccination I had needed to have for college; I was now out of luck and potentially defeated.

So I turned to the internet out of frustration, hoping that a little googling on how to retrieve lost immunization records would provide me the answer I needed. Let’s just say right here and now that most of the results were far from helpful, and some were only moderately helpful. The best I had found by far was going by CDC’s own instructions, on who to call and what to ask for.

I started out on the CDC’s site, which I know it can be hard to navigate, but once you get the hang of it it’s pretty handy.

From here I went to “Adult Vaccination Records” since we couldn’t locate mine anywhere.

CDC’s suggestions are:

  • Ask parents or other caregivers if they have records of your childhood immunizations.
    • Nope, no luck here.
  • Try looking through baby books or other saved documents from your childhood.
    • I don’t think I even know where this is.
  • Check with your high school and/or college health services for dates of any immunizations. Keep in mind that generally records are kept only for 1-2 years after students leave the system.
    • It’s been over 15 years since I left the ISD, so no luck here.
  • Check with previous employers (including the military) that may have required immunizations.
    • I’ve never been in the military, or worked for anyone who required these records before now.
  • Check with your doctor or public health clinic. Keep in mind that vaccination records are maintained at doctor’s office for a limited number of years.
    • They had the record of my meningitis, tetanus, and flu vaccines; but nothing else.
  • Contact your state’s health department. Some states have registries (Immunization Information Systems) that include adult vaccines.
    • Here we go! Now wait, which state? Texas, Tennessee, or Alabama?

Now having determined that I needed to contact my state’s health department, I had to figure out which one, as I had received to the best of my knowledge, immunizations in two different states as a kid.

Over the course of the next week, I looked into retrieval from both Texas and Tennessee. Texas would require a form filled out and mailed in, with no real assurance that they would tell me yes or no that they had the records. Tennessee just required a short phone call to Lincoln County Health Department… and I hate phone calls.

Calling the health department I found out that they did indeed have several records and would I like to come pick them up myself or have them mailed? As much as I would love to go visit friends back east, I had them mail them to me. The records came in a very non-descript white envelope the type you get junk credit offers in. Had I not looked at the return address I likely would have lost these again.

In the end I didn’t the job, but I did learn that replacing childhood records isn’t hard. But it sure can be confusing, if not more complicated than you expected; especially if you’ve lived in more than one state.

Updates and TASH 2019

Looking at my last post date being some time back in April, I’ve been pretty horrible about keeping this updated. But I have a good excuse! Since the last post, I’ve graduated with my Bachelor’s of Science in Public Health, begun a disability law fellowship with the amazing Coelho Center at Loyola Law in California (FYI.. they’re accepting applications for the next round!), helped start UTA’s BSPH Alumni advisory board, and more recently I was given the opportunity to attend the annual TASH conference in Phoenix, AZ where I was this week.

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In case you were wondering just what the heck TASH is exactly, it’s an organization focused on advocacy for individuals with significant disabilities and supportive needs. Often it’s this population in the disability community that faces some of the biggest challenges to obtaining care, education, and work. Basically, TASH pushes for full inclusion of both children and adults with disabilities.

I don’t know about you, but my twitter feed has been vocal on some of the messed up things our current administration has put persons with disabilities through. The ADA, affordable care act, social security/assistance, and insurance companies are pretty hot topics if I open my twitter app and any given moment.

During my time at TASH, I caught up with my good friend Lydia X. Z. Brown of Autistic Hoya fame, and met with many other people whose names after 2 flights and one very strange layover in Yuma, AZ escape me.

six people sitting at a table having dinner, with a shelf behind them holding christmas decorations
Ethiopian with friends from TASH Image is courtesy of Lydia Brown.

But what doesn’t escape me is the wonderful things that organizations like TASH are doing. They are vocal proponents of disabled persons being able to earn a decent wage (more than just $2.50/hr USD), get and education, and lead fulfilling and even independent lives. All things that historically those with disabilities have been, and I’ll be honest here, frankly robbed of.

During the length of the conference, I attended several workshops and breakout sessions talking about access and inclusion. Often these are things that don’t always occur to us that are necessary to navigate the world, and for people with disabilities it often means they’re not included or treated as less than human.

 

Flu Season is Nothing to Sneeze At!

This article was previously published in the University of Texas Shorthorn Community Voices section.

In case you hadn’t noticed, the flu season is soon to be upon us all here in Texas. We’ve already had the back to school strep, the quarter term creeping crud, and the terrible allergies we all get here in Texas. Now I don’t mean for this to sound like the flu is lurking around every corner, but you really should be prepared to not get sick. Especially when being prepared is so easy too, just get yourself a flu shot; I know I did.

Before you run out to get your flu shot, you likely have questions. What’s in it? The flu shot is an inactivated influenza virus; which means it’s killed by a method like heat, it’s not alive. What does it do? The flu shot is an instruction set for your body about what’s good or bad, or in this case what will make you sick or not sick. To use an example most everyone will understand, not having the flu vaccine is a lot like not having an antivirus program on your computer. It may seem like a good idea at the time, at least until you get a virus that deletes your hard drive, changes your password, and messes your computer. Let me tell you that flu can get that bad, I’ve been there. One year I had it and then a week later contracted pneumonia during final exams; I didn’t have the flu shot.

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Graph courtesy of the Centers for Disease Control weekly U.S. Influenza Surveillance Report https://www.cdc.gov/flu/weekly/index.htm

I do want to point out that even with the shot, you could still get the flu, but it’s pretty uncommon. If this happens, be sure to see your doctor or go to an urgent care if it’s outside of normal office hours. My purpose here isn’t to scare you but make you think about taking care of yourself. No one likes being sick, and especially no one likes having the flu! To get your shot, you can contact your doctor and often they’ll have walk-in appointments and the shots are usually $25 or free, depending on your insurance.

Sure, might be a little tired, sore or a bit achy afterward. But that’s normal! It’s your body saying, “Hey we’ve got new instructions, it’s going to take a while to process, so sit tight. We’ll get everything back to normal ASAP.” If you have any other questions, check out the CDC’s web resources ( https://www.cdc.gov/flu/index.htm), or ask your doctor.

 

Unlikely Hikers at REI Dallas

I apologize for the lack of posts, I’ve been finishing up an Emergency Management Course, FEMA certifications, and getting all my things in order for my last two semesters. But, recently I was invited to a REI Plus Women’s trunk show at REI Dallas put together in conjunction with REI’s Force of Nature campaign and Jenny Bruso from Unlikely Hikers1|2|3|

Part of the reason I accepted the invitation and attended was I have some fit problems myself, and it’s hard to find something that doesn’t look frumpy or isn’t exacerbating fit issues I already struggle with.
So why is or even how is this a public health issue? Because getting moving, being able to do things leads to a healthier population. It lowers risks of heart or cardiovascular disease, diabetes, and increases bone density in at risk individuals; among other things. (Whitbourne, 2012)4

But there’s also the problem of not being able to find comfortable clothing if you’re above a size 0. It’s either frumpy, or just doesn’t come in the desired size. Now I’m not saying that people who are a size 0 don’t have issues, I’m saying that currently our society is more than happy to market to them; instead of women and individuals who might be a bit “squishy” to use my friend’s favorite polite society term.
The event was really great, and we were given the chance to talk to reps from popular brands like Columbia and Brooks about many of the challenges we faced as women or persons who identified as women (not what your chromosomes identify you as, just so we’re clear).

Many of us had the same issue, where we wanted to be active.. but companies just weren’t providing us with gear that would be comfortable, fit correctly, and last long enough for us to go on our adventures. Me personally? I go jeeping, camping, hiking, biking. All really fun adventures that are definitely worth writing home about, but at the same time it’s a struggle to find something that I will feel confident I can accomplish these things in.

So, going back to why this is an issue for Public Health. It’s about inclusiveness, it’s about encouraging populations to become active and healthy along the way. It’s about getting out there and accomplishing something, even if it’s just a walk around the block! It’s not a cure all, but it can certainly be helpful, and it might even be fun.
If your curious for more info, give Jenny’s site a look, and maybe become an unlikely hiker yourself.


1Jenny Bruso’s Website and Blog
2Unlikely Hiker’s Offical Facebook
3Unlikely Hiker’s Official Meetup

From Rock Bottom: One Crisis from Disaster

Recently my family was saddened by the death of a close friend and member of our community. For some time he had struggled with diabetes, heart problems, and the complications associated with.

I believe that in this there is an important story to tell because of our current state of affairs with healthcare, and how many of us simply cannot afford what we need to stay healthy. It’s not a matter of many of us being cheap; it’s a matter of the fact that the money simply isn’t there to either pay for the care, or the insurance that would allow us to receive the care.

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What follows will be will the story of Mr. Acme and his companion Ms. Pink**, two individuals who did tried to do the best with the cards they were handed.

For the past twenty years they had been gainfully employed, happy, and with few real issues to worry about. But then like many people in recent years, they were laid off. The reasoning? The company that they had worked for for the past two decades decided that they would move out of country, to Canada no less. During this process, Mr. Acme and Ms. Pink were asked to train their replacements, and not to expect a severance. Having spoken with Mr. Acme, he said that he was given the impression that, “They were too damn old… ” and ““Somebody younger, cheaper, more..”

While this may be frustrating, there’s no real law to protect workers in certain age brackets from this type of discrimination. Mr. Acme and Ms. Pink were now jobless and uncertain as to what would happen next. They had had good health insurance with their previous job, but soon without insurance their health problems began to pile up; making it impossible to stay gainfully employed. At this time they weren’t able to pay for the COBRA (Continuation of Health Coverage) on their insurance or pay into the Affordable Care system.

obamacare-medicaid-expansion
Number of Uninsured Circa 2012

Eventually they cashed out stocks, bonds, and savings in an attempt to keep debt collectors and bills at bay. When that didn’t work, valuables were sold piecemeal in an effort to raise cash in any way they could. This unfortunately has become common, and it’s gotten to the point where everyday on places like FaceBook, or Reddit I see people trying to offload what they feel are valuable in effort to make a little cash, so they can go a little longer. I admit to doing this myself as a student even, because let’s face it books, parking passes, and school supplies aren’t cheap.

During all of this Ms. Pink suffered a series of strokes, leading her to spending the large majority of her time with a walker or wheelchair; and eventually Mr. Acme had no choice but to become her full time caregiver, responsible for meals, medication, and anything else she might need. Because of the lack of insurance, Mr. Acme had not been able to receive medications to keep his heart issues and diabetes under control. Even if his health had permitted him to hold a job, there would have been no one else to care for Ms. Pink.

current-status-of-the-medicaid-expansion-decisions-healthreform4
Medicaid Expansions circa 2016

They were still in the same boat from when the layoff had started, except this one now had leaks and was needing a bucket for bailing. But there wasn’t a bucket, either with insurance, medicare/medicaid, or the ability for Mr. Acme to hold a part time job.

Their situation wasn’t a good one, and it had yet to get better.

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** The names in this series have been changed. Because this is a public blog and website, I have done this to protect the privacy of their families and their community.

Mad for Mading: A Glimpse Into the Past of Public Health

This is so cool! I didn’t know that we had anything like this here in Texas!

The Black Bag: Foundations of Medicine

Keya Gokhale
Special Collections Intern

Are you a current public health student or researcher? Do you just love old books? Come check out the Mading collection at the McGovern Historical Center! It is a one-stop shop for information regarding the worldwide history of public health. It has works dating back as far as 1767, all the way up to the mid 20th century. Topics covered include yellow fever, cholera, public sanitation, typhoid, epidemics, typhus, sex education, and infant nutrition. It is fascinating to see how attitudes and information regarding these topics have changed over the last couple of hundred years. Notable authors include Daniel Defoe, Absalom Jones, and Benjamin Rush.

Titles available include:

Dreadful Visitation: in a Short Account of the Progress and Effects of the Plague, the Last Time it Spread in the City of London, in the Year 1665. By Daniel Defoe. | This pamphlet is the oldest…

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