July 18, 2017

London Pride, Disparate Suicide Rates, Black Childbirth-Mortality and Urban Dangers.

This July, London’s Pride was particularly stirring as this year’s pride marked 50 years since the decriminalization of homosexuality in England (see 1). Vito Ward was one attendee who recounted her experience of being ejected from the Navy after 10 years of service because she was gay. Ward commented on the importance of pride: “It’s about making sure that we do this for people elsewhere in the world who don’t have rights.”

According to a study published by the British Journal of Psychiatry, not all people are equally affected by economic recessions. Studies show that rates of suicide increase in women and men, however, “these increases are about fourfold greater among men, widening the pre-existing gap in suicide rates” (See 2). One reason for this incredible disparity is because, according to the national director of Strategic Initiatives for the Canadian Mental Health Association, Mark Henick, male sense of self-worth is often threatened by “devastating financial losses.” Reporter Erika Alini notes that when men lose their jobs, they often feel as if they have lost their masculinity. She further notes that the effect of this factor will be minimized once all genders are viewed as being equally capable of providing for themselves. According to Henick, the phenomenon that men are less likely to seek help when struggling with a mental illness also contributes to higher suicide rates. The effect of this factor would be diminished if men were not regularly expected to repress emotions. The societal expectation that is often placed upon men to be the ‘one true provider’ of a household, and to refrain from obtaining help is ultimately life threatening. 

Black women, too, are dying in unequal numbers. Black women are three and a half times more likely to die during childbirth than white women (See 3). According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, during 2011 to 2013, the pregnancy-related mortality ratios were 12.7 deaths per 100,000 live births for white women and 43.5 deaths per 100,000 live births for black women. Reporter Najja Parker notes that “black women experience unique stress levels that white women do not” and that it is believed that “race disparities and underlying health differences between the two groups play a role.” Hope comes from North Carolina where intentional efforts were made to close this gap. In 2013, the pregnancy-related mortality ratios were the same for black and white women. North Carolina’s Medicaid program “Pregnancy Medical Home,” aims to reduce the incidences of preterm birth, and is one factor that may be helping to reduce this racial disparity.

Other forms of inequity related to mortality are those that originate from the environment. Yvette Cabera of “ThinkProgress” conducted an in-depth study, and we now know that when children in urban areas of California play outside, the soil under their nails and in their lungs may contain lead (see 4). At a rental property at Santa Ana, California, soil tests showed that “lead levels … were as much as ten times higher than what the California Office of Environmental Health Hazard Assessment (OEHHA) considers dangerous for children.” According to Cabera, the number of children who have dangerous levels of lead-blood concentration is a whopping 64% higher than the average for the state of California. Nicholas F. Stump notes that the United States has “lagged behind” in making laws out of the fact that all people deserve clean air and water.

In North Carolina, steps have been taken to reduce the number of lead-related incidences. Greensboro won a grant to address lead problems in houses, and the Board of Health “unanimously passed an ordinance that required doctors to test all children who are younger than 6 for lead poisoning.” 37 children had already tested positive to lead poisoning in 2015. It is clear that this ordinance is supremely necessary – it is the “first and strongest of its kind” in North Carolina. Other states have established similar regulations, but in order to keep children safe, more states should be held to this standard.

Written By: Faith Lewis, LLS Contributor


(1) London’s Pride



(2) Disparate Suicide Rates






(3) Black women in danger






(4) Health is a Human Right




(5) Successful Lead Removal



Written By: Faith Lewis, LLS Contributor


July 11, 2017

Climate-Catalyzed Income Gap and Suffering, Australians’ Same-Sex Marriage, Mistreatment of Migrants, London Pride and Diversity on Sesame Street.

Scott Neuman of NPR reported last week that one of the impacts of climate change in the coming years is going to be both an increase in poverty and a widening income gap. This is largely due to the impact of natural disasters which climate change exacerbates (see 1). For example, the data show that “each big catastrophe like a hurricane increases a U.S. county's poverty by 1 percent.”

Income inequality is not the only negative effect of climate change. In Australia, for example, in 2014, at least 167 people died from complications relating to the heat wave that occurred at the time; children and the elderly were most at risk (see 2). Fortunately, Australia recognizes the huge implications of climate change and thus has signed a new “Framework for a National Strategy on Climate, Health and Well-being”, which is designed to help the government prepare for ameliorating the effects of climate change on public health.

In other Australian news, last week Australian Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull refused to allow a Liberal Senator to present a bill to allow members of Parliament to take a “conscience vote” on same-sex marriage (see 3). This was viewed as disheartening to many as polls show that 77% of Australians want the vote to occur, and 72% of Australians would vote in favor of legalizing same-sex marriage. Executive director Tiernan Brady of Australian Marriage Campaign stated, “Our message is clear to all federal [members of parliament] – it’s time to do your job and introduce marriage equality in line with the clear wishes and values of the Australian people and we won’t give up until they do.”

The Washington Post has reported on widespread abuse of migrants in Libyan migrant detention centers (see 4). These centers are supported by European countries that have contracted with Libya to slow the flow of migrants to Europe. Reporter Sudarsan Raghvan describes a Libyan migrant detention center as cramped spaces with foul odors where migrants are barely fed and clothed. Many refugees don’t even make it to this detention center; last week 35 refugees are feared to have drowned off the coast of Libya. However, Raghvan maintains that for these people who are fleeing “poverty, war, or persecution”, tragedy strikes well before they reach these substandard facilities. Many of the migrants were tortured, beaten, sexually assaulted, forced into prostitution and traded as slaves to work on farms and houses without pay. They are “bought and sold by smugglers who operate freely in the lawless areas of [Libya]’.

Negative stereotypes about refugees are widespread, making it difficult to reach a consensus about how to help them. As part of a BBC Arabic digital project exploring migration from Syria, researchers have created an online simulation program where participants become Syrian migrants (see 5). In this simulation participants must make the same impossible choices of “routes, options and outcomes” as real Syrian migrants have faced. It is the researchers’ hope that this exercise will help others gain an understanding of the dilemmas that migrants face, the desperation and hope behind the migrants’ actions, combat inaccurate beliefs and stereotypes about migrants, and most importantly, encourage others to help.

The new Sesame Street character from Afghanistan, Zeerak, is making headlines (see 6). He is four years of age, and is excited to attend school with his older sister in the future. Jen McGuire of Roper writes that the intention, in itself, is profound: “60 percent of children in Afghanistan do not attend school, and two-thirds of those children are girls.” Studies show that among child TV viewers in Afghanistan, 80% watch the show, and “more than 70% of parents and caregivers” watch the show with the kids. Chris Higgins of Mental Floss writes, “It’s hard to overestimate the impact of this TV show on Afghan children.”

Written By: Faith Lewis, LLS Contributor

Edited By: Carí Jackson Lewis, J.D., LL.M


(1) Climate-Catalyzed Catastrophes



(2) Australia’s Health



(3) Australian Same-Sex Marriage




(4) Mistreatment of Migrants




(5) A Treacherous Journey for Syrian Refugees: “Choose Your Own Escape Route”



(6) Diversity on Sesame Street




Written By: Faith Lewis, LLS Contributor

Edited By: Carí Jackson Lewis, J.D., LL.M