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Heat Advisory: Protecting Health on a Warming Planet
by Dr. Alan Lockwood

Drawing on peer-reviewed scientific and medical research, Dr. Lockwood meticulously details the symptoms of climate change and their medical side effects.

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Panels and Plenaries

RX For Survival: Social Justice and Medical Advocacy


Plenary and Panel List 2011



DYING FOR GROWTH: Industrialization, Climate Change, and Health Effects

Description: Levels of several greenhouse gases have increased by 25% since industrialization began in the West. Now, nations such as China, India and Brazil are undergoing their own ‘industrial revolution’ and increasing their demand for oil, coal and other fossil fuels.  The U.S., meanwhile, remains the highest per capita greenhouse gas producer as our SUV/flat screen TV lifestyle offsets gains in energy efficiency.  Global consumption of coal, oil, gas, and electricity is expected to triple within the next 30 years. What effect will this have on climate change?   On health?  What can we do to reverse this trend?

Goal: The U.S. and other industrialized nations must lead the way and set examples for responsible growth. This panel will present expert speakers to explain what efforts you can support at the international, national and local levels to reduce CO2 emissions.

HOLD YOUR BREATH: Effects of Air Quality on Health

Description: Air pollution poses a major environmental risk to health and is estimated to cause approximately 2 million premature deaths a year worldwide. Exposure to pollutants is largely beyond the control of individuals and requires legislative action to lessen the global burden of disease from respiratory infections, heart disease, and lung cancer.  WHO guidelines predict that by reducing particulate matter (PM10) pollution down to 20 micrograms per cubic meter, public health authorities can cut air quality-related deaths by approximately 15%. Significant reduction of exposure to air pollution can be achieved through lowering the concentrations of several of the most common air pollutants emitted during the combustion of fossil fuels, but industries are unlikely to comply without a fight.

Goal: Politicians and professional lobbyists swing votes in favor of big industries at the expense of public health. Air quality legislation is always up for review - get involved to provide an opposing voice through lobbying, letters, and education.

FOOD POLICY: The Health Effects of America’s Corporate Controlled Food Industry

Description: We are all familiar with the saying, “You are what you eat.” While the correlation between food and health may seem obvious, the policies surrounding food development and growth have had a chilling effect on the country’s environment, economy, and workers’ rights. Straying far from idyllic rural farmlands, we now see ‘factory farming’ run by a handful of large corporations that control farmers with debt and contract termination threats, pollute the environment with runoff from concentrated animal feeding operations (CAFOs), and destroy consumers’ health with animal conditions that foster E. coli 0157:H7 and Salmonella.  This panel will delve deeper into America’s corporate-controlled food industry and the effect that it is having on the health of our patients and our planet.

Goal: Although the food industry is a big business, they must tailor their products to meet consumer demands to profit. With an enlightened view on food, purchasers can change what sells in the market. This panel aims to educate more people on how to select healthier, more environmentally-safe foods to shift the industry to supply products that will lead to better health. Participants will also hear about how they can affect food policy in the United States, and current legislation in the US Congress for nationwide change in production conditions.

CODE GREEN: Greening Hospitals and Healthcare        

Description: The health care industry exists to save lives with a history of sparing no resources to achieve this goal. But with dwindling resources and global efforts for sustainability, the connection between healthcare and the environment is beginning to change. In light of ironic findings of medical waste incineration producing the largest source of dioxin, PVC equipment exposing faculty to hazardous chemicals, and $5 billion/year energy use contributing to climate change, it is clear the health care industry now needs to heal itself. As health coverage expands to 30 million more Americans under the new bill, huge expenditures on sustainable development will occur within the next several years for new health facilities, while responsible changes improve the old.

Goal: Healthcare has always been a huge consumer of resources and producer of waste; it is important for the next generation of healthcare faculty to heal responsibly. Students and faculty should join green efforts to implement changes on campuses and within their community to preserve the environment.

CONFRONTING TOXICS: The Contamination of America

Description: There are thousands of chemicals in commerce, most of which have never been tested for safety. Our exposure to these chemicals is ubiquitous: many of them can be found in the blood, urine, and hair of Americans from around the country. Although exposure is ubiquitous, it is not equitable. The chemical contamination found in urban, low-income communities from industrial uses, poor quality housing stock, and transportation-related pollution layers an additional burden of exposure on low income and communities of color. At the same time, diseases and disorders with environmental risk factors or suspected environmental causes--including some cancers, asthma, diabetes, obesity, several measures of fertility, and heart disease--are increasing in incidence. How can healthcare professionals effectively address chemical exposure of their patients, as well as ensure that our nation’s chemical policies embody the principles of social justice?

Goal: Healthcare professionals must raise their voices to help protect vulnerable populations from the adverse health effects of toxic chemicals. Students will learn about the resources available to them as clinicians as well as opportunities to get involved in improving chemical policy at the federal level.

ENVIRONMENTAL RACISM: The Disproportionate Effects of Environmental Degradation on Socioeconomically Disadvantaged Populations

Description: Petrochemical production along the Mississippi River in Louisiana, uranium mining in New Mexico, and organophosphate pesticide use in California are all examples of environmental degradation where minority racial groups (African American, Native American, and Latino, respectively) were disproportionately affected by these environmental disasters.  Although still popular among many mainstream environmental groups, the idea of environmentalism as only wilderness protection and wildlife preservation is outdated.  It is critical that we redefine environment as where we live, work, and play-- and acknowledge that the people who are affected most by environmental destruction are minorities.  Who benefits from the continued omission of issues of racism, wealth, and power in the discussion of environmental degradation?  How can we reframe the conversation so that we examine the problem in its entirety?  What are the best ways to discover innovative solutions?  

Goal: Environmental degradation is experienced more by minorities and poorer countries. Selectively reserving dangerous projects for the most economically strained population is a great social injustice. In this discussion, experts will address why environmental degradation is an issue and what you can do to improve its effects.


SICK WITHOUT PAPERS: The Undeniable Link between Healthcare and Immigration Reform

Description: As the health care debate continues in Congress, immigration policy has become an explosive topic. The Obama administration struggles to draw lines on who stands to benefit under the new bill as activists on either side of immigration reform fight each provision. With arguments themed on the humane treatment for all or the economic breakdown with immigrant inclusion to health care, the issue remains at a standstill. Considering the bill implements changes up to 2018, how will the reform affect future physicians? As additional taxes, penalties, and exclusions come into effect, will health care change for better or for worse, and for whom?  

Goal: For many years, physicians have allowed the steady takeover of health care to politicians and businessmen. Considering such a monumental health bill is making its way through Congress, medical students and professionals must stay current and involved on how their profession is changing

WEALTH WITHOUT HEALTH: Economic Inequalities and the Social Determinants of Health

Description: Society takes for granted that the poor have poor health; following similar logic, one would expect the rich to have good health, but studies have shown this to be a false assumption.  Indeed, many argue that, above a threshold of income, the most important determinants of a population’s health are not the quality of health care available to an individual or an individual’s personal behavior, but rather the level of hierarchy in the society.  The larger the gap between the richest and the poorest, the worse a society’s health appears to be. How do we know this to be true? Why is this the case?  Knowing this, how can we decrease inequality and improve the health of our world?
Goal: In most discussions about what determines health, we ignore the single most important factor - socioeconomic disparity.  People in the community need to shift their focus onto these societal elements if we want to improve the overall health of our world.  This panel will explore ways to expand and act on these ideas.  


SPOILS OF WAR: The Social and Health Costs of a War Economy

When we discuss the atrocities of war, we usually limit our conversation to the readily apparent tragedies - loss of life, disability, collateral damage.  Rarely mentioned are the significant, long-reaching consequences of diverting human and fiscal resources from much needed social services to military spending.  More money spent on preparing for war means less money used towards addressing the problems of poverty, our education system, unemployment, public health, homelessness, and other socioeconomic and sociopolitical problems, which pose both immediate and long-term consequences for our society.  The burdens of war are not shared equitably across the economic, racial, and gender divisions in our society.  With past and current military spending closing in on approximately 50% of income tax dollars, what is the true immediate and long term cost of war to our societies?  How can we increase the awareness of the public?  How can we reassign funds to where they belong?

 Goal: As our economic woes increase and the fabric of our society unravels, we need to re-examine our financial spending and the long term consequences of what is becoming a permanent war economy. Conference attendees will learn from expert speakers about the true social, environmental, and health consequences of war and what we can do to rearrange our priorities.

THE BOMB IN THE OR:  Implications of Using Highly Enriched Uranium in Nuclear Medicine

Description: Technological breakthroughs in the area of imaging and nuclear medicine have revolutionized the way we are able to diagnose and treat patients. However, most physicians and healthcare professionals remain oblivious that more than 95% of the world’s radiopharmaceuticals used in Nuclear Medicine are derived from bomb grade Highly Enriched Uranium (HEU) – the same material used to build and deploy military nuclear weapons. As healthcare professionals, it is our responsibility first to “do no harm.” As such, we may need to look to other sources of radioisotopes to remove potential terrorist exploitation of HEU in radiopharmaceuticals.

Goal: Participants will be equipped with the knowledge to educate their colleagues and administrators in their healthcare system to reduce the demand for HEU isotopes. Attendees will also learn about current US legislative initiatives for phasing out the HEU supply, and what action to take to transform these initiatives into law.