A Canary in a Coal Mine, COVID-19 Tests our Ability to Respond to Crises

Covid-19 Test Kit

What COVID-19 shows us about the preparedness and response of our health care and public health systems to this pandemic foretells our ability to withstand other more complex and looming issues, like climate change. We don’t know for sure whether climate change had a hand in the development of the novel COVID-19 virus. What we do know is that climate change has the ability to make the development of novel viruses and the spread of disease more or less likely by impacting animal behavior and migration, and the seasons in which particular diseases are more prevalent.

So ensuring we are prepared in the face of something like COVID-19 is essential to withstanding future crises – whether that’s 5 years from now, 10 years from now, or 50 years from now. We should be able to look back on this time and say, we took this seriously and did everything in our power to further prepare our society for just such another emergency.

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“It’s Just Business” and Other Warning Signs of a Society in Crisis


How many of you have heard or been told at some point in the span of your career, “it’s just business” or, another favorite, “it’s not personal”? Have you ever walked away slightly perplexed by this seemingly innocuous statement, one that somehow seems like just another day within American working society? While it may seem like nothing, I would argue that this and other trends are acute warning signs of a society in deep imbalance and moral crisis, compounded by and perpetuating the very real threats of climate change, chronic illness, divisiveness, and debt. We are actually gaslighting ourselves into apathy.

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How an Emerging Field and Dominant Social Forces Changed the Face of America…And Still Are


Just Over a Century Ago

From 150 years ago to today, the face of America has changed dramatically. The majority of U.S. workers used to be farmers – mom and dad canned tomatoes and broke down meat in the kitchen while the children fed the calves in the field. Communities featured prominent town squares with markets in proximity to the places people lived and gathered. Fast forward through the last century and the rise of industrial agricultural has both enabled the production of a surplus food supply and led to a convenience culture featuring processed and highly refined food products. The creation of the national freeway system and suburbia paved the way for the car as the primary mode of transportation, and a necessary one for accessing goods and services outside the suburban grid.

What spurred these changes in American society and what has been the impact?
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In Their Shoes: Why the Stories People Tell Matter More than Your Statistics

Pairs of shoes on a door mat from Public Health Image Library

Everything that’s happening today, whether it’s chronic disease, measles outbreaks, fake news, climate change response or immigration raids, can be thought of as consequences of two underlying forces – the stories we learn to tell ourselves about our society (ideology), and the meaning, purpose, and place we give ourselves in it (cosmology).

Is that a bold statement?

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Turning the Tables on Systemic Injustices: How Health in All Policies Can Promote Equity

If we knew the secret to getting everyone at the table and on the same page toward the realization of a goal, we’d already be well on our way to the livable, healthy, and equitable communities many of us dream of. In reality, the dynamics of human social relationships and the transactions they impact are seldom easy or clear-cut. And even once we’ve brought everyone to the table, how do we then turn the tables on the issue we seek to address?

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Topeka Bike Share Health Impact Assessment

Topeka Bike Share HIA Report 2015

Photo by Megan Rogers.

Bike share programs provide bicycles to the public for short-use trips through a paid membership or pay-as-you-go fee structure, but how do such programs impact community health, if at all?

A Health Impact Assessment was undertaken for the Topeka Bike Share program between Dec. 2014 and Dec. 2015. The final report is now available and can be downloaded by clicking the link below.

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What’s for Lunch? Choice and Health in the Modern Work Environment

Cake in the Break Room

Photo by WWStarBuckD

The thing about food is that we all eat. It’s not like smoking or alcohol, substances that can be quit cold turkey. Quitting food isn’t an option and unlike smoking that has laws governing where people can light up, food is everywhere. From the fast food restaurant on the corner to the cheap vending machine and the company break room exploding with cake at every birthday, it has become increasingly difficult to stay healthy in the modern work environment. So what tactics can employees take to avoid overindulging in the guilty stuff, while still satisfying the urge to snack?

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The Wasteful Business of Thanksgiving: Taking a Page from The Hunger Games

Last Thursday I went to the premiere of Catching Fire, the second story in the Hunger Games trilogy by Suzanne Collins. In it, our two victors from coal-mining District 12, Katniss and Peeta, dine at the cosmopolitan Captiol at the end of their victory tour. Food is stacked high on every table and, already full from trying one too many treats, Katniss and Peeta are offered the Capitol fix – a  little cocktail intended to “make you sick” so you can keep on eating. Katniss and Peeta, being from a district where hunger runs rampant, decline.

This story (and the Capitol in general) offers a great analogy for the general excess indulged in by wealthier nations on a year-round basis but which becomes exaggerated during the holiday season. It’s easy to become caught up in the festivities surrounding Thanksgiving, Christmas, and other winter holiday traditions, and to overdue it. It turns out that more is at stake than just a few wasted turkey bits when we throw out uneaten leftovers after the holidays. Continue reading

What Boomers Want


Over the next few decades 50% of the U.S. population will be 60 years of age or older. As Dr. Dennis Domer explains it, we will have a gerontocracy run mostly by women. But we’d be mistaken if we think the boomers are going to move quietly into nursing homes. Domer and the team he works with have something different in mind. Continue reading