( – promoted by buhdydharma )
A new study has been released by Lancet, The public health effect of economic crises and alternative policy responses in Europe: an empirical analysis, written by Dr. David Stuckler PhD et. al., which contends that the current economic crisis is having an adverse effect on public health. The findings from their research show that increased unemployment rates correlate to “significant short term increases in premature deaths from intentional violence.” The study also shows that labor market protection through government programs can reverse this terrible trend.
This scope of this study was the European Union nations. A brief google search didn’t reveal any similar recent studies conducted in the US, though there was an informal study conducted by a Doctor from Johns Hopkins, who reported his findings at a “After Peak Oil” Conference in the spring of this year.
More detail below
In today’s NY Times Op Ed pages, Paul Krugman writes about Boiling the Frog a concept most who read progressive blogs should be familiar with as it has been discussed at Dkos and elsewhere often during the Bush era. For those unfamiliar, here’s his explanation,
I’m referring, of course, to the proverbial frog that, placed in a pot of cold water that is gradually heated, never realizes the danger it’s in and is boiled alive. Real frogs will, in fact, jump out of the pot – but never mind. The hypothetical boiled frog is a useful metaphor for a very real problem: the difficulty of responding to disasters that creep up on you a bit at a time.
And creeping disasters are what we mostly face these days.
He discusses the slow creeping crises that are the dwindling economy with its jobless so called recovery and the slow motion environmental train wreck that is the climate crisis. With regard to the economy he says,
Most economic forecasters now expect gross domestic product to start growing soon, if it hasn’t already. But all the signs point to a “jobless recovery”: on average, forecasters surveyed by The Wall Street Journal believe that the unemployment rate will keep rising into next year, and that it will be as high at the end of 2010 as it is now.
Now, it’s bad enough to be jobless for a few weeks; it’s much worse being unemployed for months or years. Yet that’s exactly what will happen to millions of Americans if the average forecast is right – which means that many of the unemployed will lose their savings, their homes and more.
To head off this outcome – and remember, this isn’t what economic Cassandras are saying; it’s the forecasting consensus – we’d need to get another round of fiscal stimulus under way very soon. But neither Congress nor, alas, the Obama administration is showing any inclination to act. Now that the free fall is over, all sense of urgency seems to have vanished.
This ties back into the study mentioned at the beginning about the likelihood of increased suicide and violent death and the need for additional funding and action to deal with unemployment. The Lancet Study can only be accessed in full with a subscription, but there is a good summary of the paper here: Financial crisis increases suicides and homicides Here are the important statistics:
Researchers at London School of Hygiene & Tropical Medicine and Oxford University estimated that soaring stress brought on by job losses could prompt a 2.4% rise in suicide rates in people under-64 years of age, a 2.7% rise in heart attack deaths in men between 30 and 44 years, and a 2.4% rise in homicides rates, corresponding to thousands of deaths in European Union countries, such as the UK.
Government spending to keep people in employment and quickly get them back to work when they lose jobs could prevent these rises in deaths from occurring, the study says. When spending on such “active labour market programmes” is above US $190 (£115; €135) per person, financial crisis would not be a major killer.
The report also suggests that in poor countries, where investments in active labour market programmes are much lower or virtually non-existent, the death toll brought on by the financial meltdown would be much worse.
I’m going to extrapolate here a bit to suggest that given the results of this study one might find that not only in poor countries, but in poor states in the US or in poor counties and poor districts within larger communities, one would likely find higher death rates. That seems to be a common sense assumption to me.
There obviously needs to be a formal scientific study conducted in this country, but in the short term we have this informal study The Economic Crisis Impacts on Public Health conducted by Dan Bednarz, PhD of John Hopkins, was discussed at the “After the Peak Oil” Conference in March this year. His report is summarized at the above link at the Oil Drum blog. Bednarz informally surveyed by phone a number of Public Health officials by asking the following questions:
1. What are the impacts of funding cutbacks on public health systems, e.g., staffing, performance, morale, and coverage? Anticipated and occurring.
2. Are you seeing changing epidemiological patterns and emerging threats to the social determinants of health? Are there any not yet visible that concern you?
3. Are there consequences of cuts for specialized or localized health threats and needs, e.g., rural-urban differences; water shortages, urgent toxic wastes abatement, climatic, population, demographic vulnerabilities and pressures, and so on?
4. Do you have ideas or strategies for the short and long-term regarding system viability and even preservation? For example, are you thinking about closer coordination and integration of treatment (acute and chronic medical care) and preventive medicine (public health)?
5. Focusing on the concept of societal sustainability, what role can public health play in contributing to a national long-term response to the series of ongoing crises the nation faces?
6. What are the ethical issues you see in fulfilling the public health mission (its 3 core functions and 10 essential services) under conditions of resource scarcity and economic contraction?
See the link above for summaries of the responses he gathered. I think they are best summarized by this single statement:
We’re rationing toilet paper and ball point pens…We are so low in staff levels that cutting one more person would affect two or three programs…The county commissioners are actively contemplating informing the state that we do not have the funds to meet our matching revenues requirements.
In other words, public health agencies are paddling up a river without any oars and there are rapids and rocks ahead of them.
There needs to be additional stimulus money allocated immediately towards saving existing jobs, putting people out of work back into work and on an immediate and massive scale. There is no time Mr. President and Congress. The water is boiling, damn it!