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Chronic Health Needs Must Be Addressed After A Natural Disaster

Sichuan earthquake rescue workers carrying an injured person. Sichuan earthquake rescue workers carrying an injured person. In light of the widespread media coverage of natural disasters, such as the earthquake in Haiti and the tsunami in Japan, the public and medical professionals are aware of the anticipated immediate medical needs in these kinds of emergencies. However, it is less well known that after the initial management of life- and limb-threatening injuries, there may be an enormous need to provide care to persons with chronic illnesses. This is because they are displaced from their homes, become exposed to adverse environmental and socioeconomic hardships, lose access to healthcare, are deprived of their sources of medications, and so forth.

Some of my colleagues were allowed to enter Japan after the tsunami, and their observations agree with this assessment, which was also confirmed in a recent paper, “Chronic health needs immediately after natural disasters in middle-income countries: the case of the 2008 Sichuan, China earthquake,” authored by Emily Chan and Jackie Kim (Eur J Emerg Med 2011;18:111-114). The authors considered physical, social and public health preparedness. Read more »

This post, Chronic Health Needs Must Be Addressed After A Natural Disaster, was originally published on by Paul Auerbach, M.D..

Is Radiation Good For You? Ann Coulter Got It Wrong

Sometimes when a pundit or politician makes claims that are either contrary to or distort science for ideological or political advantage, I feel the need to discuss those claims, sometimes even sarcastically. Such was the case last week, when Ann Coulter wrote a blisteringly ignorant column, entitled A Glowing Report on Radiation. She wrote this article in the wake of the fears arising in Japan and around the world of nuclear catastrophe due to the damage to the Fukushima nuclear power plant caused by the earthquake and tsunami that hit northern Japan on March 11. Coulter was subsequently interviewed by Fox News pundit Bill O’Reilly on The O’Reilly Factor on Thursday evening:

Yes, according to Coulter, radiation is good for you, just like toxic sludge! Even more amazing, in this video Bill O’Reilly actually comes across as the voice of reason, at least in comparison to Ann Coulter. He’s very skeptical of Coulter’s claims and even challenges her by saying, “So by your account we should all be heading towards the nuclear reactor.”

So, fellow SBM aficionados, is Coulter right? Are all those scientists warning about the dangers of even low-level radiation all wrong? Should we start hanging out in radioactive mine shafts, as Coulter mentions in her column (seriously) in order to boost our health and decrease our risk of cancer?

Not so fast, there, Ann. Here’s a hint: If Bill O’Reilly can lecture you on science and look more reasonable than you, you’re off the rails. Read more »

*This blog post was originally published at Science-Based Medicine*

Inside A Haitian Medical Clinic

Dr. Jon LaPook visits one of Haiti’s medical clinics nearly three months after the country’s devastating earthquake:

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Small Miracles In Haiti

Seven days ago, at a mission in the north of Haiti, I watched a nurse remove oxygen from a premature baby boy in order to give it to a woman in labor. The heartbeat of the baby who was about to be delivered had dropped dangerously low and there was only one working oxygen machine.

Perhaps the cord was wrapped around the baby’s neck or there was some other problem. A Caesarian section — which can quickly and safely deliver a baby who is in trouble — was not an option. The public hospital was at least an hour’s drive away over bumpy roads.

These kinds of cruel triage decisions are commonplace in Haiti and existed long before the earthquake struck on January 12th. The poorest country in the Western Hemisphere has never had an effective public health system. Thousands of non-governmental organizations (NGOs) — by some counts more than 10,000 — are trying to plug holes in the ship. What’s really needed is a new ship. Read more »

Dr. Paul Auerbach’s Update From Haiti

Today was another remarkable day. Here are some of the highlights:

The team continues to be incredibly strong and we are receiving reinforcements from all directions, both from International Medical Corps and from many other NGOs. Before I go any further, I want to express my appreciation for the incredible effort from the U.S. Army, which has provided protection, supplies, transportation, medical assistance and most important, peace of mind. This is not an easy situation, and having a compassionate and responsive military, never shirking a task when we need their help, is incredible.

We continued to triage, operate on and otherwise treat approximately 700 patients, with injuries that will change their lives forever. We have seen countless amputations, disfigurements and open fractures, and face wounds that are in some circumstances infected to the point of gangrene. The medicine is intense, but we are up to the task most of the time. It is quite hot outside and there is little time to eat, drink or go to the bathroom, so by the end of the day we are quite tired and bit dehydrated. But we do not complain, because these people are so strong and now so disadvantaged. Read more »

This post, Dr. Paul Auerbach’s Update From Haiti, was originally published on by Paul Auerbach, M.D..

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Latest Book Reviews

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The Spirit Of The Place: Samuel Shem’s New Book May Depress You

When I was in medical school I read Samuel Shem s House Of God as a right of passage. At the time I found it to be a cynical yet eerily accurate portrayal of the underbelly of academic medicine. I gained comfort from its gallows humor and it made me…

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