Health and Medical News and Resources

General interest items edited by Janice Flahiff

[Conversation Invitation] Military Interventions in the Broader Middle East: Effects on Nation Building and Education

Why am I posting this?
Because this is a public health issue.

From the Brookings Institution Upcoming Event summary

Events in Afghanistan, Iraq, and Libya have raised questions about the extent to which military intervention promotes nation building. As the prospect of military involvement in Syria seemingly draws inexorably closer, the urgency in accurately framing and seeking answers to this question through robust and frank debate is becoming increasingly clear.

Clear also is the crucial role of quality education in nation building, in combating poverty and promoting peace, social justice, and human rights.

Too frequently overlooked however, are the forms and consequences of military interaction with education when intervention is debated, authorized or takes place. In times of conflict education will suffer – and will do so through a myriad of ways: teachers and students may be killed, injured, imprisoned, or threatened; children may be recruited into the militaries of states and non-state armed groups; and schools and universities damaged or destroyed, deliberately or as collateral damage. Educational premises may, also, be used by military forces as barracks, for storage of munitions or even as firing positions and, in so doing, render them vulnerable to attack by opposition forces. Military support to education through construction of education facilities can sometimes be problematic. Individually and combined, all have the potential not only to harm education specifically, but also to undermine a commonly expressed motivation for military intervention: to facilitate nation building. The protection of education is inseparable from such endeavors.

The Brookings Doha Center – in partnership with the Protect Education in Insecurity and Conflict, a programme of the Education Above All Foundation – is pleased to invite you to a conversation with General Sir David Richards, former Chief of Defense Staff of the British Armed Forces and former principal military advisor to the British Prime Minster from 2010–2013. General Sir David Richards played a leading role in the UK’s military operations in Afghanistan and Libya and throughout his distinguished career at the very top of the UK armed forces and government.

To reserve a place for yourself and/or a guest, please RSVP with the names of those who wish to attend to dohacenter@brookings.edu.

 

For those wishing to view/listen to this event, here’s the email response I rec’d (within 24 hours!) from the Brookings Doha Center.

Please note that the full audio of the event will be made available within 48 hours of the event, the full transcript within 72 hours, and the full video of the event will be up approximately one week after the event. We will also have an event summary that will be posted in a week. All materials can be found on the event’s website page.

EVENT AGENDA

October 29, 2013 Posted by | Public Health | , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Nurturing May Protect Kids from Brain Changes Linked to Poverty

Seems the key is not poverty per se, but parental stress. Not that poverty is OK!
Thinking back to my Peace Corps days in Liberia, West Africa.  Almost all the villagers lived in poverty (according to American standards). Yet I observed very little depression and much resilience in dealing with stress.  I attribute it to the support network  (largely nurturing)  of family, kinship and tribal ties. While there was some behavior that seemed petty to me, there was a strong sense of community where people’s basic needs were largely met.  Don’t have any studies to back me up on this, just personal observation.

An MRI scan highlights the hippocampus (pink) in a child’s brain. Washington University researchers found that poor children with parents who were not very nurturing were likely to have a smaller hippocampus than those raised by more attentive parents. (Credit: Washington University Early Emotional Development Program)

From the 28 October 2013 article at ScienceDaily

Growing up in poverty can have long-lasting, negative consequences for a child. But for poor children raised by parents who lack nurturing skills, the effects may be particularly worrisome, according to a new study at Washington University School of Medicine in St. Louis.

Among children living in poverty, the researchers identified changes in the brain that can lead to lifelong problems like depression, learning difficulties and limitations in the ability to cope with stress. The study showed that the extent of those changes was influenced strongly by whether parents were nurturing.

The good news, according to the researchers, is that a nurturing home life may offset some of the negative changes in brain anatomy among poor children. And the findings suggest that teaching nurturing skills to parents — particularly those living in poverty — may provide a lifetime benefit for their children.

The study is published online Oct. 28 and will appear in the November issue of JAMA Pediatrics.

Using magnetic resonance imaging (MRI), the researchers found that poor children with parents who were not very nurturing were likely to have less gray and white matter in the brain. Gray matter is closely linked to intelligence, while white matter often is linked to the brain’s ability to transmit signals between various cells and structures.

The MRI scans also revealed that two key brain structures were smaller in children who were living in poverty: the amygdala, a key structure in emotional health, and the hippocampus, an area of the brain that is critical to learning and memory.

“We’ve known for many years from behavioral studies that exposure to poverty is one of the most powerful predictors of poor developmental outcomes for children,” said principal investigator Joan L. Luby, MD, a Washington University child psychiatrist at St. Louis Children’s Hospital. “A growing number of neuroscience and brain-imaging studies recently have shown that poverty also has a negative effect on brain development.

“What’s new is that our research shows the effects of poverty on the developing brain, particularly in the hippocampus, are strongly influenced by parenting and life stresses that the children experience.”

..

Luby’s team found that parents living in poverty appeared more stressed and less able to nurture their children during that exercise. In cases where poor parents were rated as good nurturers, the children were less likely to exhibit the same anatomical changes in the brain as poor children with less nurturing parents.

October 29, 2013 Posted by | Medical and Health Research News, Psychiatry | , , | Leave a comment

[Press release] FDA issues proposed rule to help ensure the safety of food for animals

Screen Shot 2013-10-29 at 4.53.02 AMFrom the FDA press release

FDA issues proposed rule to help ensure the safety of food for animals

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration today issued a proposed rule under the FDA Food Safety Modernization Act (FSMA) aimed at improving the safety of food for animals. This proposed regulation would help prevent foodborne illness in both animals and people and is open for public comments for 120 days. The proposal is part of the Food Safety Modernization Act’s larger effort to modernize the food safety system for the 21st century and focus public and private efforts on preventing food safety problems, rather than relying primarily on responding to problems after the fact.

The proposed rule would require makers of animal feed and pet food to be sold in the U.S.to develop a formal plan and put into place procedures to prevent foodborne illness. The rule would also require them to have plans for correcting any problems that arise.  The proposed rule would also require animal food facilities to, for the first time, follow proposed current good manufacturing practices that address areas such as sanitation.

“The FDA continues to take steps to meet the challenge of ensuring a safe food supply,” said FDA Commissioner Margaret A. Hamburg, M.D. “Today’s announcement addresses a critical part of the food system, and we will continue to work with our national and international industry, consumer and government partners as we work to prevent foodborne illness.”

The proposed rule would help ensure the safety of food for animals and prevent the transmission of agents in food for animals that could cause foodborne illness in both animals and people. People can get sick by handling contaminated food, such as pet food.

“This proposed rule on animal food complements proposed rules published in January 2013 for produce safety and facilities that manufacture food for humans to set modern, prevention-based standards for food safety,” said Deputy Commissioner for Foods and Veterinary Medicine Michael R. Taylor. “They also work in concert with standards proposed in July 2013 to help ensure that imported foods are as safe as those produced domestically.”

The FDA will hold three public meetings on the Proposed Rule for Preventive Controls for Animal Food Facilities. The first meeting will be held on November 21, 2013 at the FDA Center for Food Safety and Applied Nutrition in College Park, MD. The second meeting will be on November 25, 2013 at the Ralph H. Metcalfe Federal Building in Chicago. The third meeting will be held on December 6, 2013 at the John E. Moss Federal Building in Sacramento, CA. For more information, visit http://www.fda.gov/Food/GuidanceRegulation/FSMA/ucm247568.htm.

The FDA, an agency within the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, protects the public health by assuring the safety, effectiveness, and security of human and veterinary drugs, vaccines and other biological products for human use, and medical devices. The agency also is responsible for the safety and security of our nation’s food supply, cosmetics, dietary supplements, products that give off electronic radiation, and for regulating tobacco products.

And from http://www.fda.gov/ForConsumers/ConsumerUpdates/ucm371395.htm

….The proposed rule has been published in the Federal Register, with a 120-day public-comment period. The rule is filed in FDA’s official docket at www.regulations.gov and can also be accessed at www.fda.gov/fsma

 

And from http://www.fda.gov/ForConsumers/ConsumerUpdates/ucm371395.htm

For the first time, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) is proposing preventive measures to protect all animal foods from disease-causing bacteria, chemicals and other contaminants.

This includes the food that pet owners give their dogs, cats and other companion animals, and the feed that farmers give their livestock.

Preventive Controls for Food for Animals is the fifth rule that FDA has proposed this year as part of the food-safety framework envisioned by the 2011 FDA Food Safety Modernization Act that focuses on preventing foodborne illnesses.

Daniel McChesney, Ph.D., director of the Office of Surveillance and Compliance at FDA’s Center for Veterinary Medicine (CVM), explains that this rule proposes establishing a whole new set of protections for animal foods. Currently, the agency primarily gets involved when there is evidence of contaminated animal food on the market.

“Unlike safeguards already in place to protect human foods, there are currently no regulations governing the safe production of most animal foods. There is no type of hazard analysis. This rule would change all that,” says McChesney.

McChesney notes that human and animal health are intertwined. People can get sick when pet food is contaminated by disease-causing bacteria like Salmonella. When such food is handled by pet owners and placed on kitchen surfaces, the bacteria can spread to foods consumed by their family.

And if an animal has eaten feed contaminated with a chemical like dioxin and then enters the food supply, consumers could likewise absorb the chemical, putting their health at risk.

By helping to prevent the contamination of animal foods, the proposed rule protects pets and people alike, he says.

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Requiring a Safety Plan

This proposed rule would create regulations that address the manufacturing, processing, packing and holding of animal food. Good manufacturing practices would be established for buildings, facilities and personnel, and would include cleaning and maintenance, pest control, and the personal hygiene of people who work there.

It would also require facilities to have a food safety plan, perform an analysis of potential hazards, and implement controls to minimize those risks. Those controls would have to be monitored and corrected as needed.

While this rule is similar in many ways to the Preventive Controls for Human Food rule that FDA proposed in January 2013, McChesney explains that it is different in a number of ways because animals face different hazards.

For example, he says, the proposed animal rule doesn’t address allergens—substances that could cause an allergic reaction. That’s because animals don’t get the kind of life-threatening allergic reactions that people do. They might get a skin reaction but not the kind of physical shock that a food allergen could trigger in a person.

On the other hand, contaminants that endanger animals are sometimes tolerated better by people and were not as great a concern in crafting protections for human food. For example, some animals are much more vulnerable to aflatoxin, a toxin caused by mold, and could die after consuming food containing the toxin.

The animal rule is also designed to prevent nutrient imbalances in animal foods. Unlike people, who get their foods from many sources, an animal’s food is meant to be a complete and balanced diet, explains McChesney. If a food doesn’t have enough of a particular nutrient, the animal has no way to make it up. For example, cats need thiamine (also known as Vitamin B1) but their bodies don’t produce it. If they don’t get enough in their food, they can suffer severe neurological problems.

The proposed rule has been published in the Federal Register, with a 120-day public-comment period. The rule is filed in FDA’s official docket at www.regulations.gov and can also be accessed at www.fda.gov/fsma.

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Import Rules Add Safeguards

The proposed animal rule would work in concert with two rules proposed in July 2013 to help ensure that foods exported to the United States are held to the same FDA food safety standards applied to foods produced in the United States. Together, the three rules would help ensure the same level of safety for domestic and imported foods for animals.

In one of the most infamous examples of pet food contamination, dogs and cats across the country were sickened and killed in 2007 when melamine, a chemical used to make plastic, was added to pet food ingredients imported from China. McChesney noted that FDA received about 18,000 calls from anxious pet owners at the time.

The requirements proposed in both the animal and import rules are designed to help prevent that from happening again, he says.

Overall, McChesney says that the animal food supply is very safe. However, with the marketplace becoming more global and more diverse, more protections are needed. When you buy food for your animals, those ingredients could come from anywhere in the world, so animal food producers and their suppliers, no matter where they are based, have to be held to the same high standards, he says.

“Whether in the home or on the farm, people take the safety of their animals very seriously, and so do we,” says McChesney.

This article appears on FDA’s Consumer Updates page, which features the latest on all FDA-regulated products.

Oct. 25, 2013

October 29, 2013 Posted by | Nutrition | , , , , , , | Leave a comment

   

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