Dec 23, 2009

Poor Face Greater Health Burden Than Smokers or the Obese

ScienceDaily reports (article here) that according to a study published in the Dec. 2009 issue of the American Journal of Public Health, in the United States those who are poor or are school dropouts face lowered life expectancies comparable to that experienced by smokers.
The average low-income person loses 8.2 years of perfect health, the average high school dropout loses 5.1 years, and the obese lose 4.2 years, according to researchers at Columbia University's Mailman School of Public Health. Tobacco control has long been one of the most important public health policies, and rightly so; the average smoker loses 6.6 years of perfect health to their habit. But the nation's huge high school dropout rate and poverty rates are typically not seen as health problems.
The study was conducted by Peter Muennig, Kevin Fiscella, Daniel Tancredi, and Peter Franks and is titled "" The full study is available in PDF form here. (subscription required)

It looked at the individual behaviors and activities of people in advantaged and disadvantaged social groups as well as looking into policy goals directed towards these individuals in the fields of "smoking prevention, increased access to medical care, poverty reduction, and early childhood education".
"While public health policy needs to continue its focus on risky health behaviors and obesity, it should redouble its efforts on non-medical factors, such as high school graduation and poverty reduction programs," according to Peter Muennig, MD, assistant professor of health policy and management at the Mailman School of Public Health and principal investigator of the study.

Dec 20, 2009

Reproductive Health Resource - Adolescent Sexual and Reproductive Health Toolkit for Humanitarian Settings

While browsing the United Nations Population Fund website, I came across a recent news item detailing a new reproductive health toolkit for social development workers. From the blurb,
This Toolkit is intended to guide humanitarian programme managers and healthcare providers to ensure that sexual and reproductive health interventions put into place both during and after a crisis are responsive to the unique needs of adolescents.
With the recent debacle on HB 5043, otherwise known as the Reproductive Health Bill here in the Philippines, I thought that this document would be an interesting read for social workers engaged in providing maternal and reproductive health services in the country. Dubbed the "Adolescent Sexual and Reproductive Health Toolkit for Humanitarian Settings" toolkit, the PDF document (available from this page) is a useful guide in the planning, implementation, execution, and assessment of reproductive health programs. Also included in the document are links to documents relating to reproductive health program planning for special sectors such as migrants, youth, and people in crisis situations. This document may come in handy whether or not the future leaders of this country will include reproductive health in his or her priority list of programs to implement.

Copenhagen Climate Change Talks Likely to End On A Sour Note - What Now?

Bulatlat News reports that a tentative agreement has been reached between the major countries participating in the Conference of the Parties 15 (COP15) Climate Change Conference. (read the article here)
Last night a tentative agreement was reached between major parties at the COP15 climate change talks in Copenhagen, but will need to be approved by the 193 nations at the gathering. Initial word is that the “Copenhagen Accord” falls short of the already low expectations set for the talks.
The 12-point draft agreement (PDF file) mostly focuses on the need to limit the increase of global average temperatures to 1.5 degrees Celsius, and for countries to begin major adaptation strategies (and some mitigation as well) in light of this increase. Furthermore, the draft proposes a cash pool amounting to $30 B to be created by developed nations before 2012 that would fund "balanced allocation between adaptation and mitigation, including forestry".

GMA News also reported that Gloria Macapagal Arroyo has returned from Copenhagen bringing along "$310 million worth of funds for 'green' projects".
Of these funds, a bulk – at $250 million – came from the Clean Technology Fund, a program jointly funded by both the World Bank (WB) and the Asian Development Bank (ADB).


The fund intends to invest in renewable energy projects, including those involving solar, wind, hydropower, geothermal, and others, the ADB said in its Web site.

The fund will also increase efficiency and cut emissions of the Philippines’ “existing gas plants," improve public transportation in major metropolitan areas, improve fuel economy standards or switch to cleaner fuels, and assist in the adoption of energy-efficient technologies in buildings, industries, and agriculture.
At the same time, Press Secretary Cerge Remonde, speaking upon Arroyo's return to the Philippines, hinted that a binding treaty was not reached at the time of Arroyo's early departure from the talks.
While the summit was a step in the “right direction," the results were still “not enough," Remonde, who accompanied Mrs. Arroyo in the trip, said on government-run dzRB radio.

“The Philippines will continue to do its part through advocacy and support for a global treaty for the reduction of gas emissions," Remonde said. “This is the only way forward if we are to make a real difference."
What will be the implication of the possible failure of the Copenhagen talks on social development practitioners here in the Philippines? For one, the lack of a non-binding international agreement shifts the pressure to plan and implement concrete environmental solutions away from national governments towards the institutional and community levels. With resources being managed and allocated by the national government however, this might just be an uphill battle for new and existing projects for the environment. Then again, the 2010 Elections might be an opportunity to ease the tension between the government as a funding agency and NGOs and communities with regards to allocating resources for projects effectively.

Another implication that a botched international agreement on us would be a repeat of recent natural calamities here in the Philippines. As such, community workers and social development specialists will now need, more than ever, to come up with innovative disaster risk and damage management plans. We already know this by experience = typhoons Ondoy and Pepeng demonstrated the severe impact of climate change-induced shifts in weather, and the effect of not preparing for such calamities. The Philippine Blog Awards has come up with a bloggers' network they call TechTanod. This project has the potential to form a network of empowered bloggers capable of working in their communities to teach - and learn - information advocacy. Eventually, I envision those same bloggers/community organizers mobilizing for change as well.

Lastly, climate change will cause organizers and communities to reassess the current direction of sustainable environmental projects and community-based resource management plans. In coastal regions for instance - where increasing sea levels, rising water temperatures, decreasing fishing yields and declining social conditions are likely to be more pervasive in the next few years - there will be a sudden need to reassess the viability of the local community and its populace. While the effects of a failed climate change treaty aren't likely to be seen or felt immediately, they will be as soon as global temperatures hit the 1.5 degree threshold mandated by the draft agreement. And that's not going to be very pretty for those coastal communities. How will these communities survive?

In light of all of these possibilities, I ask one more question: what else can we do from here?

(Credits to darkly_seen from Flickr for the photo)

Dec 18, 2009

Simbahang Lingkod ng Bayan Offers Training for Voters' Education Trainors

I am reposting in full an invitation I received from the Simbahang Lingkod ng Bayan (SLB) or "Church that Serves the Nation", a "non-partisan, Church-based organization that functions as part of the socio-political ministry of the Society of Jesus (the Jesuits)" according to its website. SLB is extending an open invitation for community workers and interested individuals to attend their voters' education trainors' training session in January (see below).

While I would take SLB's claims of non-partisanship with a large pinch of salt (this is a church-sponsored establishment, mind you,) I can't discount their role in bringing voters' education services to the grassroots level. Shortly after my birthday in 2006, I joined the one day training session and was happy to learn that many of the participants worked and learned directly with their constituents in their parishes and communities. And I was even happier to find out later that the program did have an impact in redefining voters' perspectives on the value and power of the electoral process.

And without further ado, here is the text of SLB's invitation:

In a few months’ time the entire nation will be thrown into the midst of election frenzy. We can get lost amidst all the campaign jingles, taglines, slogans and promises. Thus we need to search for a firmer foundation on which to ground our vote – the self.

PVA 2010 Edition: Ang Bagong Botanteng Pinoy (BBP) is a political education program that shifts the focus from the candidate to the voter. It consists of the following modules:

MODULE 1 - Ang BBP: Kumikilos sa isang Konteksto

Oftentimes, our choices and decisions are done out of context and thus we end up adding to the problem rather than solving it. Thus, the voter must be aware of the current national social, economic and political situation which will serve as the context for his/her vote.

MODULE 2 - Ang BBP: Karapatan Kong Tunay

The voter has an important responsibility to protect our democratic institutions. To carry this out, s/he is given the power to choose public officials and his/her power to choose is protected by rights.

MODULE 3 - Ang BBP: Hi-Tech Na!

The voter must be familiar with the automated process to ensure that his/her vote and those of the rest of the electorate are correctly counted.

MODULE 4 – Ang BBP: Gusto Ko ‘To!

Political engagement does not end with casting one’s vote. The Filipino Voter actively engages in the socio-political affairs of the country even beyond elections. This module will show how!

By January 2010, Simbahang Lingkod ng Bayan (SLB) is planning to conduct the 1st of a series of Trainers Training for the PVA 2010 Edition. Hence, we are calling for volunteers to make these endeavors of ours possible.

We invite everyone to take an active part in our campaigns for the coming elections. We will be deploying facilitators, speakers and volunteers to help out in the cascading of the voters’ education.

Should you be interested to participate in the PVA 2010 Edition Trainers’ Training on 23 January 2010, please send us an email indicating your name, affiliation, address, and contact information at

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Dec 17, 2009

Welcome to the Barefoot Scientist!

Not-so-Twin Towers
"The Barefoot Scientist" is the brainchild of a one-time scientist turned community worker/social development activist who has a penchant for emerging technologies and bringing those same technologies to the masses. Thus, this blog will focus on how science, technology and public policy affect the marginalized sectors of society.

The moniker "barefoot scientist" was once ascribed to the Soviet-era agronomist Trofim Lysenko who once embodied the concept of the peasant genius - one who used his or her knowledge in the pursuit of the proletariat revolution. While his methods of agriculture were eventually discredited and rejected as being fraudulent, the ideal of scientists using their knowledge to improve the lives of the most downtrodden people lives on.

In keeping with the ideals of the barefoot scientist, this blog is unabashedly highly political and the ideas presented here may not sit well with a number of people. With that in mind, I do moderate the comments here for the sake of cutting out profanity and spam, but do know that I allow all other comments otherwise. It may take time for you to see your comments, so please be patient.