Okay. Enough people in Congress despise Obamacare (aka, the Affordable Care Act) enough that they’re willing to shut down the government and perhaps disrupt the national (and even world) financial system to try crippling its rollout. But Obamacare, unfortunately, isn’t the only policy target the fate of which has major public health implications. So-called “hard Right” Republicans seem insistent on dismantling what’s left of the economic and social safety net protecting society’s most vulnerable – the poor, disabled, children and elderly.
A key component of this (badly frayed) net is the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), still commonly known as “food stamps.” House Republicans are demanding major cuts to SNAP as part of a general strategy of forcing reductions in federal expenditures. Advocates of SNAP cuts will point to the rapid increase in expenditures and invoke anecdotes of waste and fraud in the operation of the program. Regarding the spike in spending, the reason is evident – poverty rates are going up, making more people eligible for assistance. As for instances of waste and fraud – they are beyond question the exception, not the rule, and surely no justification for damaging reductions in spending.
Make no mistake about it – Cuts to SNAP will hit the growing number of the nation’s poor (nearly 50 million at this point) very, very hard, and will undermine the public’s health by depriving tens of millions (many of the them children and the elderly) of support for sound nutrition, and, it follows, good health. We should be expanding, not contracting, health services and supports for the poor and vulnerable, especially during a period of protracted economic downturn. It’s sound policy based on good science, and, in the long run, good economics.
Not to mention good morality. According the “Feeding America,” a national food bank organization, 20% of our children do not know where their next meal is coming from; cuts to SNAP will bump that number up significantly. Anyway you slice it, that is a moral outrage.
It has been an exciting beginning to the fall semester and things have been busy in the college. We have a number of College of Science and Technology events this week.
Faculty/Staff College-Wide Meeting and Address
Sept. 27, 2013 | 3:30 p.m. Walker Science Building 120. We will video conference to multiple coast locations this year: Long Beach, GCRL, and Stennis.
This annual meeting gives faculty and staff a chance to hear from the dean about progress in the college and plans for the future. A reception for faculty and staff follows immediately afterward. To learn more visit: http://www.usm.edu/science-technology/annual-address-and-college-wide-meeting
USM Heart Walk
September 28, 2013 | Pride Field 9 a.m.
The Heart Walk is an event the entire University of Southern Mississippi faculty, staff, and students support. The College of Science and Technology participates by putting together a Heart Walk Team. The non-competitive, three-mile walk is on the Hattiesburg campus at Pride Field. To register and join the CoST team visit http://forrestlamarheartwalk.kintera.org/usmscienceandtechnology
Wildflower Walk at Lake Thoreau Environmental Center
September 28, 2013 | 9 a.m. to noon
The Mississippi Native Plant Society and USM are sponsoring the Wildflower Walk. Dr. Mac Alford, Associate Professor of Biological Sciences, will lead the walk which will include bluestem grasses, sunflowers, bonesets, Joe-Pye weed, ironweed and goldenrod. Participants will meet at the Center’s Museum Building. Directions can be found at www.usm.edu/biological-sciences/lake-thoreau-center. To learn more email or call Dr. Alford at 266-6531 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
Hope to see you at one or more of these events.
The Robert Wood Johnson Foundation for Nursing recently released a featured article on the national need for younger nursing faculty (September 9, 2013). The article called attention to the mass retirement of nursing faculty that will occur in the next 10 years and the lack of young nurses moving into faculty positions. In fact only 14% of the current faculty in the nation are under the age of 40. This data suggests that urgent and thoughtful actions must be implemented to ensure that sufficient faculty are employed to educate the next generation of nurses.
An appropriate question would be why aren’t young nurses choosing nursing education as a career choice. Multiple reasons exist such as, nurses practicing in health care agencies receive higher pay than faculty, the amount of time that it takes to graduate from doctoral programs of nursing is longer then required in other fields, the rising cost of education, and the expectation that nurses should gain clinical practice experience before beginning to teach nursing.
It is important to the future nursing workforce that strategies are developed that will attract younger nurses into academic teaching. The Robert Wood Johnson Foundation has championed this initiative by marketing media interviews with faculty describing the benefits of teaching nursing and by providing stipends and other financial support for nurses pursuing faculty positions. Yet, existing nursing programs in preparing the next generation of nursing faculty must do more.
This semester Southern Miss nursing implemented a BSN to PhD program to facilitate the seamless transition of recent graduates to the terminal degree. This pathway to the PhD degree will decrease the amount of time to graduation and will also provide students with funding as graduate assistants. It will also provide opportunity for mentoring these students in the faculty role. In addition, we are providing opportunities for our current BSN students to develop the skills needed for future employment as a faculty through a focus on undergraduate research, opportunities for undergraduate students to publish with faculty, and to attend professional conferences where faculty are in attendance.
A new report by the National Academy of Science’s Institute of Medicine provides some welcome news on child abuse – over 20 years, awareness is up and the incidence of abuse is down.
But abuse – both physical and sexual – is only part of the big picture of child risk, and that picture is far from rosy. Neglect – highly correlated with poverty – continues at an undiminished rate, and reports of psychological and emotional abuse to state child protective agencies in fact are rising.
The best epidemiological evidence suggests that at least 1.25 million children (17.2 per 1000) suffer abuse in any given year, with several times that number at risk of abuse. Given the well-documented long-term, cumulative, and lasting damage inflicted on individuals, families, and communities, child maltreatment rates as one of our greatest public health issues.
Need more evidence that our politics have become dysfunctional in the extreme? Probably not. But here’s some more anyway – Budget cuts tied to sequestration (itself a sign of serious political dysfunction) are driving some of our best scientists out of the U.S. So says the chief of the National Institutes of Health, anyway.
Dr. Francis Collins has sounded the alarm, pointing to a recent study by the American Society for Biochemistry and Molecular Biology (ASBMB). Among the study findings: 80% of university-based scientists report more time writing grants than they did three years ago, with over 2/3 suffering federal funding cuts for their research. Universities don’t have the means to take up the slack, spelling disruption or elimination of research projects. More than half the scientists report, moreover, knowing colleagues who have been laid off. As a result, close to 20% of scientists are now thinking seriously about trying to move their work out of the U.S. to a country with more reliable support for research.
The sequester – there’s a mandated 5% cut to non-military spending – could suck up to $1 billion for research out of the federal budget. The damage will not be limited to sending some research colleagues abroad, but will carry forward in the form of fewer, smaller grants awarded and fewer students accepted to science doctoral programs.
If this seems like the intellectual equivalent as failing to repair our decaying physical infrastructure of roads and bridges, it is.
Dr. Collins isn’t afraid to tell it like it is to anyone willing to listen, and especially austerity-minded politicians - “If you want to convert this into real meaningful numbers, that means people are going to die of influenza five years from now because we don’t yet have the universal vaccine,” Dr. Collins said. “And God help us if we get a worldwide pandemic that emerges in the next five years, which takes a long time to prepare a vaccine for.”