Hey y'all. As we all know, access to the healthcare system only impacts the health of our patients by, like, 20%, if that. What really impacts health outcomes are education, housing, food security, and, well, not getting shot. If you care about health, you need to care about politics.
One of my favorite parts of being a family med doc is talking with kids. During the routine preventative visits I ask them what they want to be when they grow up, not just as a way to get to know them better, but also to be another small voice telling them that they are worth believing in.
Yesterday, the most astonishing thing happened. I asked QiLing, a 7-year-old with bright eyes, that very question and she responded, “I want to teach ignorant people about race so the world will be better for my children.”
I told her that she should consider the field of medicine instead because it would be more relaxing and pay more.
Right. No one believes that happened.
It didn’t happen. Why? Because nobody grows up wanting to be a race educator. Sometimes a child might say they want to fight “bad guys” when they grow up, but not once have I heard any child dream about addressing race inequities.
So it’s shocking to me that some white folks see people of color who do race work as self-promotional. It’s not self-promotion; it’s self-preservation. We’re forced into this work because we see no other course of action when racism is thrown up in our face constantly. Back thousands of years ago children did not say to themselves, “I want to be a gatherer!” They just needed food so that’s what they did.
But that self-preservation, attempting to address injustice can simultaneously be self-destructive.
Zika has been described as extraordinary in so many ways. But the only thing that’s really extraordinary about the whole thing is how incredibly dispassionate I am about it.
At this point, even extraterrestrials have probably heard that the World Health Organization declared the recent spread of the Zika virus an international public health emergency. That sounds pretty scary. It’s only the fourth time that the WHO has ever declared a PHEIC (Public Health Emergency of International Concern) so it seems like it ought to be a big deal.
However, it’s important to keep things in perspective. As of May 4, there were 1,278 confirmed cases of microcephaly, the birth defect linked to Zika virus infection that causes an abnormally small head and brain. There are approximately 250 suspected neonatal and fetal deaths. In comparison, the last PHEIC was the Ebola virus outbreak of 2014. The current total number of reported cases of Ebola is 28,616 causing 11,310 deaths. Finally, the WHO estimates that the annual run-of-the-mill flu season –not famous epidemics like the Swine Flu – causes 250,000 to 500,000 deaths every year around the world.
I understand how Zika tugs on our heartstrings. Babies are precious, innocent, and full of potential. But I would like to point out that children are also precious and worth protecting and I have yet to see a media blitz or public outcry as passionate for the over 300,000 children who suffer from physical abuse every year in the United States alone
What I've been reading:
by Viet Thanh Nguyen
about this blog
A place where I can write my thoughts on race, on privilege, on class, on being a doctor. Part of the endless struggle to become a little bit more enlightened and feel a little less alienated.
Agree with me. Call me out. Pass it on.
I post once or twice a month with smaller comments on mini-blog.
My name is Jess. In the interest of full disclosure: I'm a 30-something-year-old Chinese American and believer that the quest for social justice and equity must be an intentional and active one. I'm a Family Medicine physician. I'm queer. I'm a radical. I grew up in a mostly white suburb and my parents are white-collar workers. And I don't eat meat, but I miss it sometimes.
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