Raise the Minimum Wage (Photo credit: CT Senate Democrats)
There’s a lot of talk about increasing the federal minimum wage from $7.25 to $10.10 by 2016 – including its impact:
- Approximately 16.5 million low-wage workers would directly benefit from the proposed increase
- Roughly 900,000 people living below the poverty line would move above the poverty threshold
- Both low-and-middle-income families’ incomes are projected to rise, 2.8% for the poorest families to .4% for middle-income families
- Employment would be reduced by about 500,000, or .3% of total employment
- Wealthy families with an average income of $180,000 can expect a .4%, or $700, reduction
In addition, Kaye Gooch aptly describes the current “Inequality Boom” as it relates to this endeavor in her Eyes Wide Open blog post.
While the pros and cons of increasing the federal minimum wage continue to be weighed, I know there is a “blame the victim mentality,” as explored by Julia Krieger in her Poverty Brain Drain blog post. Those who do not truly understand poverty wonder, “Why can’t they just pull themselves up ‘by their bootstraps’ to create a better life for themselves and their families?” or some version of that question/statement.
Hearing this, I am reminded of How Poverty Taxes the Brain, a scientific study proving that those living in poverty don’t have the mental bandwidth to exalt themselves financially. Specifically, this study asserts that “… poverty imposes such a massive cognitive load on the poor that they have little bandwidth left over to do many of the things that might lift them out of poverty – like go to night school or search for a new job.” The reality of poverty actually makes it harder to execute fundamental life skills.
Knowing how I feel when overwhelmed with tasks and responsibilities – I can understand where it’s impossible for people living in poverty to thrive; they are simply doing everything they can to survive.
With this in mind – wouldn’t the benefits of increasing the federal minimum wage extend beyond … increasing low-and-moderate income families’ incomes and advancing 900,000 people above the poverty line … and begin to make a meaningful difference in peoples’ lives? Investing in people so that they can spend their hard-earned energy being better mothers and fathers, and spouses and partners, and friends and community members? So they can thrive within Well-communities rather than simply surviving?
What do you think?
The No Smoking sign, designed by one of the members of AIGA (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
If you’ve been following the WellPower blog this month, you know that we’ve been focusing on tobacco use as a health issue, and debating the implications of raising the smoking age to 21. Aside from the controversy surrounding the legal age of smoking, I think one thing that we can all agree on is how effective anti-tobacco education and awareness programs have become over the past two decades.
The ‘Truth’ anti-tobacco campaign has had a big impact: evaluations show that 90% of youth aged 12-17 felt that these advertisements were convincing, and they resonate so deeply that 75% could accurately describe one or more ‘Truth’ ads when asked. From 2000 to 2002, cigarette smoking among high school students fell by more than one million, due in part to this campaign.
…Compare these outcomes with those of the unsuccessful ‘War on Drugs’ campaign in the 1980’s.
Since the early 2000’s, momentum has grown. According to the American Nonsmokers’ Rights Foundation, over 80% of Americans live in states, commonwealths or localities with smoking bans in workplaces, restaurants and/or bars as of January 2, 2014.
Some communities have taken these smoking bans one step further to encompass outdoor spaces. Last week, Baltimore County announced that smoking will be banned in the county’s parks. This bill, supported by the American Cancer Society Cancer Action Network, focused on alleviating tobacco use in areas where children gather.
Another big piece of news that came out this month was the decision by the CVS pharmacy chain to stop selling cigarettes and other tobacco products by October 1st of 2014. This is significant, as it reflects CVS’s values
as a company. President Obama has applauded CVS’s landmark resolution, stating, “As one of the largest retailers and pharmacies in America, CVS Caremark sets a powerful example.”
CVS estimates that it will take an annual loss of $2 billion from tobacco shoppers once tobacco is removed from stores. However, I would bet that this decision could convince many shoppers who are opposed to the tobacco industry to patronize CVS over other pharmacies.
It remains to be seen whether this business decision will pay off financially as well as ethically. If CVS can make a business case for removing tobacco products, other companies may follow suit… prompting yet another big win for the war on tobacco.
Is there another smoking-related topic that you would like for us to explore in the future? Let us know by commenting below.
As you may know, during the month of February the WellPower blog team has been considering the pros and cons of raising the legal age of cigarette smoking from 18 to 21. Our fellow colleagues at Campaign Consultation weighed in to let us know what they think about the Maryland Smoking Age debate.
I don’t think that the legal age to smoke should be raised from age 18 to age 21. Adults should continue to make decisions for themselves and deal with the consequences accordingly. – Adiyah Ali
I think smoking is a dangerous habit, especially for young people. However, I respect the right of adults to make their own decisions. Eighteen year olds can choose to go to war. If they are considered sufficiently adult to make that choice, then they have the right to be considered sufficiently adult to make their own decision about smoking. – Alice Kallaugher
I do not believe the smoking age should be raised to 21. If we are considering those who are 18 adults then they should be free to make their own decisions regarding their habits and health like any other adult. – Andrea Perri
Yes, I think that the legal age should be raised from 18 to 21. At 18, often young people are still motivated by being cool and doing what their friends are doing. By 21, many young people come into their own, figure out who they are, and make their own choices. If the legal age is 21, young people will have a chance to make a decision that is more about themselves than about peer pressure. – Arthurine Walker
I don’t think the smoking age should be raised from age 18 to age 21. If you’re old enough to die for your country, you’re old enough to choose to take up smoking. – Hieu Truong
I do not think that the smoking age should be raised. The appeal of cigarettes is far more powerful than the risk of breaking the law. The problem is not that youth can buy cigarettes but that they want to. It’s the culture of smoking that needs to be curbed and the raised age might not be the most effective policy to achieve that goal. – Robyn Stegman
No, the smoking age should not be raised. If we, as a governing body, proclaim 18 years old to be legally responsible to work, vote, have consensual sex and join the military, we should also consider them old enough to decide to smoke or not. We should continue to provide all people in this country with the information necessary to make an informed decision about the hazards of smoking – but ultimately, it’s a choice they can make for their own well-being. – Suzanne Knizner
Do you think that the legal age of cigarette smoking should be raised from age 18 to age 21? You can join the debate by commenting on this blog post or tweeting us @WellPowerBlog #SmokingAge with your thoughts and opinions about raising the smoking age to 21 in Maryland.
English: Herbal Cigarettes (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
While in college, I once asked my professor how he had stopped smoking cigarettes. In his British accent he answered, “Well, when I went to buy cigarettes I would find myself at the shop counter asking for Marl-bor-lo, Marl borrow, Marlbro…I eventually just gave up!” I know my professor was kidding…but I really do wish smoking habits could be so easily dropped. Smoking tobacco is extremely addictive, and starting at a young age can cause detrimental health effects in the future.
I am not illustrating my own opinions about Senator Jennie M Forehand’s smoking bill and whether or not it is a good decision to pass into law. However, I will explain why smoking, especially at a young age, is a serious issue worth discussing. Finding solutions to combat harmful, addictive substances from becoming so widespread should be a priority for all of us.
Patterns of cigarette usage:
- “The earlier a kid first tries smoking, the higher his or her chances of ultimately becoming a regular smoker, and the less likely he or she is to quit.”
- As expressed in the earlier post, an average of 90% of smokers start smoking before the age of 20.
- Though it’s not clear why, the combined addictions of alcohol and cigarettes seem to go hand and hand. Yet the legal age of each substance is different, urging smokers to start drinking underage. One study showed that “roughly 90 percent of people who were severely dependent on alcohol were also dependent on tobacco.” A theory is that alcohol and tobacco somehow interact in the brain to increase dependency on both substances.
- “Cigarette pack health warnings ‘have little impact on teens ’ ” (However, these are not graphic warnings on cigarette packages, like those used in Australia, Canada, and some other countries. Now there’s an idea…)
- Marlboro, Newport, and Carnel are the most advertised cigarette brands. Over 85% of underage smokers preferred one of these brands, as found in the 1994 Center for Disease Control report.
As if we need anymore reasons…here are more facts on the health effects of smoking:
Prevention is clearly key… raising the following questions:
How can we prevent young people from smoking? Do you think that the new proposed smoking bill for Maryland is the answer, or is it something else? How can we incentivize young adults from saying “No” to smoking?
We would love to hear your thoughts. Comment below or tweet @WellPowerBlog #SmokingAge.
its hard keeping this one on one hand and the camera on the other. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
Senator Jennie M. Forehand (D-District 17) is retiring this year and her new bill is evidence she wants to end her tenure with a bang. Sen. Forehand is introducing a bill that would further restrict young adults in Maryland from purchasing cigarettes by three years – raising Maryland’s legal smoking age to 21.
Advocates for this bill are likely to argue the severe health detriments caused from first and second-hand smoke warrants such a law:
I am not disputing the hazards of smoking – rather, I want to scrutinize this bill as it relates to what it means to be an adult in the United States. The age at which one becomes a legal adult in the United States – and largely throughout the world – is 18. At age 18, men and women in the United States are able to legally:
- participate in contracts
- give sexual consent
- join the military
According to Wikipedia, “… a legal adult is a person who has attained the age of majority and is therefore regarded as independent, self-sufficient, and responsible.”
My question is this – if we, as a governing body, proclaim 18 year olds responsible enough to … work, vote, have sex and join the military … why are we considering a law that undermines individuals’ right to make responsible decisions?
I would argue that if women and men turning 18 are expected to contribute to society, either by advancing their education or entering the work force, and are encouraged to participate in our nation’s democratic election process, as well as legally-permitted to have consensual sex, and most significantly, join the military – potentially putting their life on the line – they should be legally allowed to make decisions for their own well-being, including whether or not to smoke or not.
Smoke (Photo credit: AMagill)
During the month of February, the WellPower blog team will be considering the pros and cons of raising the legal age of cigarette smoking from 18 to 21. This debate was prompted by legislation that will be introduced this year by Maryland State Senator Jennie M. Forehand (A Democrat from District 17 in Rockville) to raise the smoking age.
We’ll be blogging about the smoking age debate from different perspectives, and inviting others to weigh in on this issue throughout the month.
We would love to hear from you! Please tweet us @WellPowerBlog #SmokingAge with your thoughts and opinions about raising the smoking age to 21 in Maryland. Or, join the conversation by commenting on our blog posts about the issue.
The matter of when (and if) to terminate life support has long been a matter of debate among the medical community. Currently, patients and their families have the power to choose whether to remain on life support or to have it cut off, based on their medical situation.
But, what if the patient is in the early stages of pregnancy? What happens to her right to choose in that scenario?
As a pregnant woman myself, I was surprised to first hear about the case of Marlise Munoz … a sentiment that later turned to distress and sympathy for the family, and finally a sense of dismay as the weeks turned to months. Mrs. Munoz was rushed to the hospital in November after suffering a blood clot in her lungs. Although she was brain-dead, the hospital refused to remove her from life support because she was 14 weeks pregnant, despite the requests of the husband and family.
Hospital (Photo credit: José Goulão)
Instead of allowing them to bury their dead wife/daughter, the hospital forced the family to wait for two months – powerless – as the body of Mrs. Munoz was kept on life support to continue growing the fetus within. Not only was this decision incredibly painful for the family, but the fetus could not properly develop without a living mother to support the process.
During pregnancy, the feeling of coexistence is all-encompassing. What I eat and drink – the actions that I take in my daily life – all influence my baby’s development. A fetus cannot develop without the mother prior to 23 weeks, the time that medical science now considers ‘the age of viability’ – the earliest that a preemie can be born and hope to live with medical assistance.
So, if there is no mother to enable the fetus to grow beyond 14 weeks, it shocks and baffles me that the hospital would attempt to incubate a fetus through life support. It is no surprise that the fetus was pronounced ‘not viable’ at 22 weeks, suffering extreme brain damage and deformations.
There are human rights – and legal issues – to be discussed here. If an American female can legally choose whether to deny life support and whether to terminate a pregnancy, why would she (and/or her next of kin) not be allowed to choose whether to deny life support and terminate a pregnancy at the same time?
I felt a huge sense of relief on Friday when a state district judge ordered the hospital to remove Mrs. Munoz from life support, thus allowing her to be buried in peace … finally giving her family the opportunity to stop fighting the hospital and begin the grieving process.
What was your reaction to the hospital’s decision to keep Mrs. Munoz on life support? Let us know your opinion by commenting below.
Health disparities are most prevalent among marginalized communities, including communities of color. African-Americans historically have been barred from accessing health care or have been violated instead of receiving care (think Tuskegee Experiment).
African-American men, in particular, have a well-grounded fear or mistrust of modern medicine because of the aforementioned systemic disparities that exists within the African-American community.
However, just because doctors’ offices often will not have many African-American men in the waiting rooms ready to receive preventive care, this does not mean that they are not finding alternative ways to ensure that they remain healthy and receive the healing that their bodies need.
Below Kevin McIntosh, a social entrepreneur, educator, artist and founder of Rhythm N’ Dance, an arts education organization for youth and adults, discusses what he describes as the healing aspects of rhythm and dance.
Kevin McIntosh – Cultural Anthropologist, Dance Ethnographer, Teacher
Although there are clear disparities with African-American men and the way we approach our personal health and wellness, there is also a move in many different communities to look at African holistic approaches to the aisles of the African- American man.
One of the best ways of introducing people to the topics of holistic health is through the lens of traditional performing arts.
As an educator of cultural anthropology and dance ethnography, I focus on bringing African-American men to a place that allows for open discussion regarding not only holistic approaches to health disparities, but also the healing aspects of the African diasporic performing arts.
In the traditional African community, there’s a dance for everything from getting married to having a child. For men, there are specific dances dealing with the notions of initiation and rites of passage. We understand that not everyone is an athlete. Not everyone likes going to the gym.
Using these traditional art forms within a contemporary environment can address several of the disparities that affect African-American men and the larger community they are a part of. A steady regiment of dance classes can be a good solution in dealing with obesity, as well as a great way of dealing with stress.
In looking at the healing aspects of rhythm and dance, the dance is nothing without the drum. Drum classes provide an alternate (but no less important) option to those not comfortable with dance. Drumming also helps with rhythm, coordination, and computational efficiency in a way that complements and parallels the dance aesthetic.
It is also understood that the best drummers are dancers and that the best dancers are drummers, giving the ample opportunity for young men to excel in both art forms with the right guidance.
Both drumming and dancing within the African diasporic arts community provides a viable foundation on not just the healing aspects of rhythm and dance, but it can also be the foundation within the discussion on the holistic approaches to a healthier lifestyle for African American men.
If you are interested in African dancing and/or drumming and would like some suggestions of venues in your area, please email me at email@example.com
When MCHM, a chemical that is used to clean coal, spilled into the water of West Virginia, it resulted in an inconvenient, though very necessary water ban during the cleanup process. While the ban from using tap water is slowly being lifted, many of the state’s residents are still struggling to go about their daily routines faced with the restriction. In the meantime, much anxiety has been stirred about the immediate and future health problems that this spill may have caused.
Water drop (Photo credit: @Doug88888)
Unfortunately, there is much that is unknown about how MCHM affects humans. This is largely due to relaxed regulations of chemical use that stem from the Toxic Substance Control Act (TSCA) of 1976, which allows the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to regulate chemical substances. According to the TSCA, the EPA has 90 days to test compounds and chemical substances before they are allowed for public use.
After the 90 day time limit is over, the tested chemical is deemed shelf ready and companies are free to use it at will. However, experts have stated that “the EPA is not typically able to properly assess new compounds within that time frame.”
Many people who have had direct contact with the polluted water have ended up in hospitals with head to toe body rashes. If external symptoms are this serious, what are the other internal health effects?
It’s time that we advocate for more regulations when it comes to chemical use, and demand more transparency about the chemicals we are being exposed to on a day-to-day basis that may also be, at times, too loosely controlled. Only then can we know how to protect ourselves more effectively against each substance.
What do you think about the chemical regulation procedure? And, what else do you think we should learn from this tragedy in West Virginia? Please comment below.
Sesame Street (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
The percentage of children with an incarcerated parent has increased nearly 80% since 1980, yet few resources exist to support the 2.7 million children who have a parent in state or federal prison. Recognizing that children need tools to express emotions around an incarcerated parent, Sesame Street addressed this issue head-on by creating a toolkit within their Little Children, Big Challenges program and adding Alex, a Muppet whose parent is incarcerated, to the cast.
The Little Children, Big Challenges program strives to provide adults and children with coping strategies and emotional resources to feel comforted and secure during difficult times. Little Children, Big Challenges: Incarceration supports young children and families as they attempt to cope with this life-changing circumstance – allowing children to express their emotions and helping caregivers maintain routines and establish age-appropriate communication around incarceration. The program is designed to:
- Support, comfort, and reduce anxiety, sadness, and confusion that young children (ages 3-8) may experience during the incarceration of a parent
- Provide at-home caregivers with strategies, tips, and age-appropriate language they can use to help communicate with their children about incarceration
- Inform incarcerated parents that they can parent from anywhere, and provide them with simple parenting tips highlighting the importance of communication
Sesame Workshop worked closely with advisors and partners who aim to help families cope with the incarceration of a loved one, including those specializing in early childhood education, mental health and counseling, parenting programs and foster care. Together, they created a variety of multimedia resources for caregivers and children with an incarcerated parent, using the following platforms:
- App: A Sesame Street: Incarceration App for adults to use on tablets and phones, available on Google Play™, the App StoreSM, and the Amazon Appstore for Android on Kindle Fire
- DVD: A Sesame Street DVD featuring a Muppet story, live-action films showcasing real children and families, and an animated segment
- YouTube: A Sesame Street YouTube page featuring playlists of videos related to the initiative
- Facebook: A Sesame Street Facebook site for sharing Sesame Street’s free educational resources with adults
- Website: A Website featuring these resources:
- Guide for parents and caregivers
- Online toolkit with downloadable versions of all materials and links to training webinars
- Tip sheet for incarcerated parents
- Training webinars to educate service providers on how to use the resources with children and families
- Children’s Storybook – A Sesame Street Storybook aimed to educate children, available to download or view online
BRAVO to Sesame Street for evolving their curriculum to address our nation’s most pressing issues – and for providing tools and resources for children and families to create a well-community!