The Truth about Vaccines

One of the things that irks me to no end is writing a perfect blog post, the edge of your hand grazing the side of your touchpad, and blog post disappearing into oblivion.  I’ve learned my lesson WordPress App, you shall never be used again.  Though I am sure I will not be able to recreate that masterpiece, the show must go on despite my waning motivation.

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What I meant to start off with was the fact that people who adamantly oppose vaccines irk me to no end.  I am not talking about those few people who have a religious objection or those children who have other medical issues that make administering vaccines an unwise decision.  I am talking about those people who follow the celebrity news over the scientific news, those who listen to Jenny McCarthy’s bogus rants on vaccines causing autism without bothering to discover why she feels that way, and frankly, why she is wrong.  But I am getting ahead of myself.  First, for those who are not familiar with the debate, here is a history lesson. 

In 1998, the British Dr. Andrew Wakefield and a team of twelve co-authors published a report in the medical journal The Lancet claiming that the MMR (measles, mumps, and rubella) vaccine was directly linked with autism.  This was a huge claim and was immediately questioned by fellow scientists.  In 2004, ten of those twelve co-authors came out and said that the claims were false; 2009– evidence appeared to prove that the data was manipulated; 2010– The Lancet retracted the report; and in 2012 the BMJ called the study an “elaborate fraud”.  Legitimate scientific studies that have been done since show no evidence of a link between the MMR vaccine and autism.

With this evidence we should all be able to agree that vaccines most certainly do not cause autism.  For some reason though, people keep thinking there is a connection.  I doubt most of the people that are so opposed to vaccines have taken the time to research for themselves.  But we will get to that in a minute.  First I would like to address the concern of “It’s my child.  It is my decision whether or not to vaccinate and it has no effect on anyone else.”  Well remember those people I mentioned in the beginning, those with a religious exemption and those with medical problems who cannot be vaccinated?  These children rely on the vaccines of others to keep the diseases away from them.  This is called herd immunity.  If we have a herd immunity, or vaccination rate, of 80% then those who cannot be vaccinated should be safe.  You ask for some stats on this?  Here you go… “[In 2010] 10 children died in California in the worst whooping cough outbreak to sweep the state since 1947. In the first six months of 2011, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recorded 10 measles outbreaks—the largest of which (21 cases) occurred in a Minnesota county, where many children were unvaccinated because of parental concerns about the safety of the standard MMR vaccine against measles, mumps and rubella. At least seven infants in the county who were too young to receive the MMR vaccine were infected.”  To say that the decision not to vaccinate your children will effect no one else?  Well I’ll let you tell that to the mothers of these children…

And now for my challenge, don’t just listen to those that speak the loudest, do the research on your own.  Hey, I’ve done 90% percent of it for you here!  And I will make it even easier for you by linking many other reliable sources, besides the ones linked above, for you to ponder.  I am all about people making their own decisions once they have been informed of the truth.  If you have all the evidence of how helpful vaccines are and still decide against them, well that is your prerogative.  But, just make sure you are making an informed decision on something that can change your child’s life.  And while I hope to do a post on autism specifically in the near future, here’s a preview: Most experts agree that autism begins before birth, in the first week of gestation.  Show me how a vaccine can alter that…

Achievements in Public Health 1900-1999

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention

Health.com 

Jenny McCarthy’s Vaccination Fear-Mongering and the Cult of False Equivalence||The Nation

ImmunizeForGood.com

Aftermath of an Unfounded Vaccine Scare|| New York Times

Study Linking Vaccine to Autism Is Called Fraud|| New York Times

Every Child by Two

 (picture source: Scientific American)

50 Years of Newborn Screening!

Before I graduated I had to complete an internship.  I chose to move to Washington DC and intern at Genetic Alliance.  I was able to work with their newborn screening program, Baby’s First Test.  I accepted this internship because I was interested in maternal and child health and I knew I could gain valuable experience here.  This internship was an amazing opportunity for me to learn all I ever wanted to about newborn screening.  I was surprised that I never learned about it in class, so I came in as a true rookie.  I was able to write an article for the APHA Maternal and Child Health Spring 2013 Newsletter on 50 years of newborn screening.  I thought this was a great way to summarize the importance of getting all children screened for genetic conditions.  Here is the article (and a great infographic from BFT)

“This year we celebrate 50 years of newborn screening and in turn, 50 years of healthier babies!  The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention named newborn screening as one of the top ten public health achievements of the last decade, an exciting success.  According to APHL, “newborn screening saves and improves lives of more than 12,000 babies in the US each year.”  Because symptoms of the conditions screened for usually do not show until it is too late, it is important that all babies are screened within 24-48 hours after they are born.

“Newborn screening began in 1963 when Dr. Robert Guthrie discovered that newborns could be screened for phenylketonuria (PKU) with a simple blood sample.  This finding started a bunch of research into what other diseases could be tested for in such a simple way.  Since that breakthrough, scientists have found 60 serious, but treatable, conditions that newborns can be screened for; diseases like cystic fibrosis, sickle cell anemia, and congenital hypothyroidism.  Two new tests have also been added to newborn screening, a hearing test that checks to make sure the brain/ ears are receiving sound; and in some states, pulse oximetry, which checks for critical congenital heart defects.

“In 50 years of newborn screening we have seen huge improvements in infant mortality and quality of life.  In the last ten years specifically, newborn screening has reached even greater heights.  In 2003, 46 states were only screening for six disorders.  The CDC reported in 2011 that all states screened for at least 26 of the 30 conditions recommended by HRSA.  Newborn screening saves thousands of babies’ lives each year, and it is only going up. Research is continuing on more conditions that we can screen for and add to the recommended panel.”

To learn more about newborn screening visit: Baby’s First Test, Association of Public Health Laboratories, or the CDC

 

Recognizing the Relationship Between Health and US Economic Competitiveness

Poor health of a country’s citizens also has great impact on its economy.  Companies are sending their jobs to country’s where the cost of healthcare for its employees is lower.  Workplace injuries for the unhealthy are far greater and more expensive than they are for the healthy.  Healthcare costs of obese workers are 21% higher than those of a normal weight.

Besides health affecting the economy, the economy affects health.  The bad economy puts people out of a job, causes them stress and raises prices on essential items.

Preventing Tobacco Use and Exposure

Everyday 4000 kids in America try their first cigarette.  They do it because they want to be in the in-crowd, they want to look cool.  We need to teach them before it’s too late that they don’t.

Smoking and other tobacco products have countless bad effects and no good ones.  It causes 5 million deaths a year.  It triples the risk of dying from heart disease.

Some states are passing laws where tobacco products are required to have a image of the consequences of using the product.  I know if it was me I would be less likely to buy products that have a picture of my baby suffering.

There are also new tactics being used by companies to get young children involved.  They have started making packaging that looks like gum and mints, in hopes that they will think it is OK because those other things are.

The tobacco companies need to be stopped if our children are going to have a bright healthy future.  Initial steps are being taken, but much more legislation and activist groups need to come about before the problem is ousted.

 

Managing the Changing Health Care Needs of Seniors

Because of the baby boomers and less of an importance being on family, our nation is getting older.  There are many new diseases that come with old age.  Arthritis, Alzheimer, Parkinson, heart disease are all diseases that are more prevalent in the aging generation.

In order to reduce the rates of these disease there are many things that the elderly can do.  They need to have something they do everyday to keep their mind and body active.  Many will do the sudoku or crossword that comes in the newspaper everyday.  To just go on a walk everyday can help immensely in fighting off these diseases.

For inspiration on getting screenings, check out out the last video on the videos link at the top!

For more information on protecting your health as you age visit:

http://eldercare.lifetips.com/cat/55257/diseases-of-the-elderly/index.html

http://healthyamericans.org/assets/files/TFAH%202010Top10PrioritiesSeniors.pdf

Combating the Obesity Epidemic

Over 2/3 of Americans are overweight or obese.  This is a scary statistic.  Children are becoming increasingly large and living their whole lives with health problems that could have been avoided.  Rates of childhood obesity have tripled since the 80’s. Obesity is a risk factor in many chronic diseases.

The University of California, San Fransisco created SHAPEDOWN, a weight loss program for children and families.  This program is good because it involves the whole family, encouraging them to make healthy decisions together.  There are no crazy low-calorie diets , so it is a gradual but effective change.

I think that programs like this are the way to go.  It gets the whole family working so the kids don’t feel singled out in their fight.

Also a great inspirational blog is one by David Kirchhoff, the CEO of Weight Watchers.  He talks about his weight issues and how he overcame them.

Promoting Disease Prevention

While this comic may strike us as funny, it is true for many Americans.  We need to start focusing on disease prevention rather than just disease treatment.  America could save billions of dollars if they had prevention programs rather than had to treat millions of people.  According to the CDC and HealthyAmericans.org: reducing smoking rates by just 1% could save the US $1.5 over the next five years!  And if just 1/10 of Americans started a regular walking routine, $5.6 billion could be saved in heart disease treatment.  Yet out of the $1.7 trillion being spent on health care annually, less than $.04 per $1 is spent on prevention.

Besides the monetary savings there would be immense numbers of lives saved.  7 out of 10 deaths are from preventable chronic disease, and more than half of Americans suffer from at least 1  chronic disease.

With all these savings, how can we afford not to put money into these programs?  These simple things could put an end to all our government budget issues!