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When Cultural Practices Affect The Treatment Of Patients

In quite a few of the cultures in south africa people tie ribbons, strings and tassels around their own and their children’s wrists and waists. These tassels are imbibed with power to keep evil spirits at bay, I am told. If these tassels come off then the patient is completely unprotected from any and all marauding evil spirits that may be lurking around. Of course, not wanting to be responsible for the unopposed assault by multiple evil spirits, most people are fairly reticent to remove these things. I saw it slightly differently.

As a student I took my lead from my senior. If he removed the tassels then I would be ok with it. If he felt that we should respect the culture of the patient and sort of try to move the tassels out of the way of the operating area or even operate around them, despite the increased infection risk, I sort of reasoned it was his patient and even if I medically didn’t agree with him, the reasoning of respecting the patient’s culture surely held some water at least and I didn’t argue. The fact of the matter was that a number of the sisters would become quite aggressive with the doctor if they thought he was going to remove the tassels and strip the patient of his evil spirit protection, and I think some of the doctors were scared. Then one day something happened that cemented my views and actions for the future. Read more »

*This blog post was originally published at other things amanzi*

How Our Progress Since 9/11 Has Benefitted Public Health Efforts

The events of 9/11 will forever be engrained in our memories. The attacks on the twin towers, Pentagon, and the anthrax attacks which followed were unimaginable at the time. Ten years after these tragic events, what’s changed?

September 11 Newspapers and Headlines

We now know that terrorist threats are ever present and that our nation must be in a constant state of vigilance in order to protect our communities. We’ve come a long way since 2001 in bolstering our nation’s ability to prepare for and respond to catastrophic events whether natural, accidental, or intentional. We are also learning more and more every day that the resources we need for the big disasters are much the same as the ones we use for everyday public health activities.

Check out my list of top 5 accomplishments in the years after the 2001 attacks: Read more »

*This blog post was originally published at Public Health Matters Blog*

What Do Monks, Psychiatric Patients And Prison Inmates Have In Common?

I’ve always been struck by the similarity between solitary confinement inmates and monks. Historically, monks were kept under the vow of silence. They could only leave their cells to attend religious services. The only visitors they were allowed tohave were their religious advisors. (If any of you have seen the movie Into Great Silence you’ll know what I’m talking about.)  The idea of the modern penitentiary came from this ‘penitence’ process: put someone in a room by himself, give him religious guidance while he’s there and he’ll reflect, repent and reform. This was how prisons were run in the Nineteenth Century too: prisoners were kept under the rule of silence and they could only come out of their cells for religious services or for work. No one ever alleged that monks became psychotic because of this though.

Then there’s the psychiatric seclusion room. Again, a bare cell with a bed or a mattress, no visitors, no clothes except a hospital gown. There is no ‘vow of silence’ or ‘rule of silence’ though.

So what makes the difference between the prison segregation cell, the monk’s cell and the psychiatric seclusion room? Read more »

*This blog post was originally published at Shrink Rap*

Avoiding Wild Animal Attacks

Photo of a brown bear (grizzly) in the wild.By now, most everyone is familiar with the tragic circumstances in which a visitor on a trail in Yellowstone National Park on July 6, 2011 surprised a brown (grizzly) bear with cubs, provoking a fatal attack. Fortunately, events like this are rare. At the same time, they are also predictable by virtue of our understanding of bear behavior, particularly in the wildland-urban interface. It was not the victim’s fault, and our hearts go out to his family and friends. For the benefit of others who will backpack and explore in bear country here is an excerpt about avoidance of hazardous animals, in particular bears, adapted from the book Medicine for the Outdoors:

Avoidance of Hazardous Animals

Most wild animal encounters can be avoided with caution and a little common sense. Follow these rules: Read more »

This post, Avoiding Wild Animal Attacks, was originally published on by Paul Auerbach, M.D..

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