We as society can do much to control the lifelong health of our community members

Submitted by Norm Roulet on Sat, 07/29/2006 - 15:00.

There is a very interesting article in the NYTimes on line today observing "one of the most striking shifts in human existence — a change from small, relatively weak and sickly people to humans who are so big and robust that their ancestors seem almost unrecognizable." The lengthy article, found here, concludes: "Today, Mr. Keller says, he is big and healthy, almost despite himself"... "Maybe it was his good fortune to have been born to a healthy mother and to be well fed and vaccinated." "I don’t know if we have as much control as we think we do”.

I find the point of the article is that we as society can do much to control the lifelong health condition of our community members, if we focus on controllable factors like prenatal environment and health care - especially addressing pollution exposure for pregnant women. While leaders and citizens of NEO hate to think and talk seriously about such issues as pollution and our environment (hell, the powerful Ohio coal industry lobby still challenges the finding there is human behavior related global warming),  the NYTimes article cites research that indicates Northeast Ohio is a place where lifelong good health and longevity of life are especially controllable, as we have a most unhealthy environment and so more, higher risk factors than most regions of our country. From the City Mayors website: "Parts or all of 11 Midwest cities (in Illinois, Indiana, Michigan, Minnesota, Missouri, Ohio and Wisconsin) rank among the 25 worst for year-round particle levels, while six also rank in the 25 worst for short-term particle pollution."

New research from around the world has begun to reveal a picture of humans today that is so different from what it was in the past that scientists say they are startled. Over the past 100 years, says one researcher, Robert W. Fogel of the University of Chicago, humans in the industrialized world have undergone “a form of evolution that is unique not only to humankind, but unique among the 7,000 or so generations of humans who have ever inhabited the earth.”

The difference does not involve changes in genes, as far as is known, but changes in the human form. It shows up in several ways, from those that are well known and almost taken for granted, like greater heights and longer lives, to ones that are emerging only from comparisons of health records.

The biggest surprise emerging from the new studies is that many chronic ailments like heart disease, lung disease and arthritis are occurring an average of 10 to 25 years later than they used to. There is also less disability among older people today, according to a federal study that directly measures it. And that is not just because medical treatments like cataract surgery keep people functioning. Human bodies are simply not breaking down the way they did before.

Even the human mind seems improved. The average I.Q. has been increasing for decades, and at least one study found that a person’s chances of having dementia in old age

The example of environmental change leading to measurable human life improvements with increasing I.Q., in recent decades, may have many factors but is certainly a benefit of the elimination of lead in gasoline and reducing other lead exposure sources like pollution and paint in homes. Current initiatives to further eradicate lead poisoning in America will improve these good outcomes, especially in toxic communities like Greater Cleveland. The most dangerous poisoning risk is in the womb, where toxins are mainlined into developing fetuses.

The NYTimes article concludes that the measurable improvements in overall human longevity and lifelong health conditions are attributable to healthy pregnancy, as study results quoted below proved. Thus, it is clear, society and expectant mothers must optimize prenatal care, and society must focus more attention on health risks impacting pregnant women. One way is to truly protect pregnant women from lead exposure, and it is very worth analyzing other risks in the environment here that may harm long term health of our community members resulting from unhealthy starts in life... the costs of failure far greater than most people really care to consider.

Here is a basis for such conclusions - read the NYTimes article for more consideration:

The flu pandemic arrived in the United States in October 1918 and was gone by January 1919, afflicting a third of the pregnant women in the United States. What happened to their children? Dr. Almond asked.

He compared two populations: those whose mothers were pregnant during the flu epidemic and those whose mothers were pregnant shortly before or shortly after the epidemic.

To his astonishment, Dr. Almond found that the children of women who were pregnant during the influenza epidemic had more illness, especially diabetes, for which the incidence was 20 percent higher by age 61. They also got less education — they were 15 percent less likely to graduate from high school. The men’s incomes were 5 percent to 7 percent lower, and the families were more likely to receive public assistance.

The effects, Dr. Almond said, occurred in whites and nonwhites, in rich and poor, in men and women.