Sunday, January 27, 2008

Human Rights, Suicide, and Mental Health

Recently there have been some very interesting posts on The Langar Hall related to health and human rights that I wanted to highlight.

The first post is about the impact of torture on the health of individuals, specifically discussing an article, “The Effects of Torture-Related Injuries on Long-Term Psychological Distress in a Punjabi Sikh Sample” by a group of health professionals from Bellevue Hospital at NYU and Ensaaf. The article discusses the debilitating physical and psychological distress experienced by torture survivors. Many Panjabi Sikhs experienced various human rights violations at the hands of the Panjabi police, yet little information was gathered on their experiences (making it virtually impossible to offer them treatment). The article states that,
These findings emphasize connections between physical and psychological trauma and the importance of an interdisciplinary approach to torture treatment.
Another post highlighted the first People's Tribunal on Farmer Suicides in Panjab which allowed for an opportunity for men and women to openly relate their frustrations around the agrarian crisis leading to their relatives committing suicide. It was suggested that,
Indebtedness is the primal cause of farmers’ suicide in most parts of India, including Punjab.
The third is about how accessible mental health services are for the Panjabi community. It is quite clear to many contributors and readers of The Langar Hall that the prevalence of mental health issues within our community is increasing, and yet there is a disparity in the availability of culturally sensitive services for this community. In the past, our blog has highlighted various mental health issues inflicting our community and it is clear that we are only beginning to see the effects of not providing adequate care to a population at risk.

Another post was about Jaswant Singh Khalra, a human rights activist who I believe is one of the most important figures in Sikh history. Shaheed Jaswant Singh Khalra was instrumental in bringing the brutalities of the Panjab police to the surface. He advocated for Sikh men who had “disappeared” and was a voice for the many mothers and fathers who were missing sons. The blog highlights Shaheed Jaswant Singh Khalra’s final speech. Later that year,
Indian security forces abducted human rights defender Jaswant Singh Khalra because of his work exposing the disappearances and killings of thousands of Sikhs in Punjab. [Link]
He was subsequently tortured and murdered.

I hope you find these posts interesting and I encourage you contribute to the dialogue around these issues.

Monday, January 21, 2008

Bag For Life

Here's a great reason to go shopping! The Body Shop is selling these totes where $2 from every bag sold goes to the National Coalition Against Domestic Violence, an organization working to stop violence in the home.

There's nothing better than shopping for a good cause!

Monday, January 14, 2008

Student Internship: Eliminate Health Disparities

I received this email announcement from a listserv I subscribe to and thought it was a great opportunity to share. The University of Michigan School of Public Health is accepting applications for a dynamic internship program for undergraduates who are committed to eliminating health disparities.
Simply stated, health disparities mean that, in the U.S., people of color and the poor experience lower health status than Caucasians and higher-income Americans. These disparities represent inequalities in that people of color and low-income people should be able to enjoy the same health status as whites and more affluent Americans, but they are systematically exposed to conditions and situations that have negative consequences for their health.
Here's some more information:
These internships are part of the University of Michigan's Summer Enrichment Program in Health Management and Policy (SEP)...The SEP encourages undergraduates (current second and third-year students) to consider health management and policy as an attractive career option through which they can address health disparities in communities of color. Students work in hospitals, health departments, health centers, community-based organizations and other health agencies in Southeastern Michigan during the 8-week program (June 3, 2008-August 1, 2008). They also attend seminars on health disparities, visit a variety of health institutions and agencies, meet with leaders in the health field and complete the Princeton Review GRE Preparation Course. Students accepted by the program receive paid housing, a food allowance, and travel expenses to and from Ann Arbor, in addition to a $3000 stipend. The ultimate goal is to increase participation of students committed to eliminating health disparities in public health graduate programs.
This sounds like a really wonderful opportunity with actual hands-on public health experience (often hard to come by). Please refer to the website for application instructions and let me know if you decide to apply!

Thursday, January 10, 2008

HIV in India - A Downsized Epidemic

This week's New England Journal of Medicine has an article on HIV in India and speaks to the recent controversy and disputed numbers of people living with HIV in India. In 2006, the UNAIDS and WHO estimated that 5.7 million people in India were infected with HIV suggesting that India had more people infected with HIV than any other country.
In 2007, however, the estimate was revised downward to 2.5 million (range, 2.0 million to 3.1 million) — a revision so large that it reduced by nearly 10% the estimated number of people living with HIV globally and reinforced ongoing concerns about the validity of methods for producing such epidemiologic estimates.
The revised numbers for India suggest that the epidemic is less generalized than originally thought and thus allowing for the opportunity for it to be more controlled. Most importantly,
The new estimate changes little, however, in terms of prevention efforts geared toward persons at high risk for infection, such as injection-drug users, men who have sex with men, sex workers and their clients, and long-distance truckers. Nevertheless, it should now be easier and less costly than was previously anticipated to provide treatment, including second-line regimens, to those who need it
As in most developing countries, previous estimates were based upon pregnant women attending government prenatal clinics capturing high prevalence areas. The new estimates were based on a National Family Health Survey which examined a nationally representative sample of households.

Domestic Violence Research

The Asian & Pacific Islander Institute is looking for Filipina, Indian, and Pakistani women to participate in research. Here are the details:

18 – 60 years old.
Who have experienced abuse in current or past relationships.
Living in the Bay Area at the time of the abuse.

Participants will be provided $75 token of appreciation for their time. Tagalog, Hindi, Urdu and Punjabi speaking interviewers are available.

Your participation in this interview is voluntary. You will not be identified in any reports on this research study. Your participation will help understand women’s experiences and develop more effective policies and agency responses.
Please click here for more information.

Wednesday, January 09, 2008

Impossible is Nothing

After reading a recent post on The Langar Hall about Fauja Singh, I was reminded about how important it is for our community to have role-models like him to look upto and to inspire us to get into shape. His accomplishment's are amazing but so is his mentality. I remember an interview with him from a few years ago where he outlined (in Punjabi) his very simple diet and routine. Many people my age found Fauja Singh to be incredibly inspiring and I just hope he had the same impact on our parents' generation since they often need the most motivation!

The global obesity problem should be no surprise to anyone now, as it has been receiving a lot of attention lately. The numbers are staggering:
The World Health Organization predicts there will be 2.3 billion overweight adults in the world by 2015 and more than 700 million of them will be obese.
Whoa, that's... a lot. So I wonder how we, as a community, are addressing this rising concern. A recent study in India found Punjab to have the highest prevalence of obesity among women. Experts are worried that the increase in obesity will lead to more health problems as people who are overweight have a higher risk of heart disease, Type II diabetes and other diseases including some cancers. Clearly there's a need to encourage our community to shed their sedentary lifestyles and rethink their diets. For the time being, we have Fauja Singh and Milkha Singh to keep us on our toes.

Thursday, January 03, 2008

Cardiac Program for Punjabi-Speaking Patients

Surrey Memorial Hospital has announced the implementation of an education program specifically for heart patients who are Punjabi speakers. The eight session course is designed to meet the needs of a population at high risk:
Persons of South Asian descent are considered "two to three times more likely to develop the disease than the general population. They are also affected at a younger age."
The pilot program will be tailored to patients who have either suffered a heart attack, had heart surgery, or are considered at high risk. The latter part of this is the most important to me as i strongly believe preventing a heart attack from happening is where we have to concentrate efforts. This program will be aimed at helping Punjabis make lifestyle and behavioral changes to benefit their heart. This program was funded by a $100,000-donation from Sun Life Financial, which is a pivotal point because without the monetary support, many of these program specific to minority and non-English speaking groups will not be developed.