Population Health Blog

Population Health Blog

Why It Matters

WATER Act of 2018: Is this a solution whose time has come?

By Khawla Rahman

Watching Flint crisis news spew out through media nearly every other day has naturally brought heightened caution to the average homeowner, whether or not they live in Flint itself. Representatives Keith Ellison of Minnesota and Ro Khanna of the San Francisco Bay Area have introduced the Water Affordability, Transparency, Equity and Reliability (WATER) Act of 2018. The WATER Act calls for the creation of a trust fund that would provide $35 billion a year to community drinking and wastewater needs. It will also create approximately 1 million new jobs across the entire economy. The plan would push back a certain amount of the Trump Administration’s corporate tax cuts, while simultaneously increasing corporate income tax by 3.5 percentage points. The Act would do the following:

  • Fully fund the Drinking Water and Clean Water State Revolving Funds
  • Provide additional technical assistance to rural and small municipalities and Native American governments
  • Increase funding to construct, repair, and service household drinking water wells
  • Create a new grant program for the repair, replacement, or upgrading of household septic tanks and drainage fields
  • Increase funding to Native American governments for water infrastructure
  • Require EPA to coordinate a study about water affordability, discrimination by water and sewer providers, public participation in water regionalization efforts, and water shutoffs
  • Restrict drinking Water SRF funding to publicly or locally owned systems
  • Provide funding for public schools to test and replace drinking water infrastructure
  • Provide grants to replace lead service lines serving households

In addition to all of the above, the EPA will conduct a nationwide survey on water affordability. The study will examine rates for water and sewer services: increases over the 10-year period preceding the study and effectiveness of funding. The study, in collaboration with the Civil Rights Division of the Department of Justice, will also explore discriminatory practices of water service providers. Plans that factor in many variables to increase effectiveness and reliability of water are important. This one is worth considering.

 

Khawla Rahman is a Communications student at Wayne State University. She is completing a public relations internship at Authority Health.

Is risk aversion safe for child development?

By Khawla Rahman
Growing up when a fellow child got hurt by an object, one of two things tended to happen often. Either the parent would tell them to get back at whatever it was that hurt their little one, or they would advise him or her that he or she is strong and much tougher than the pain. The parent would then go on to purchase multiple corner guards or place extra carpet over any inch of hard wood in sight.

This begs the question, do we as a society shelter our children too much? Meghan Talarowski, an American landscape designer who has compared British and American playgrounds https://www.nytimes.com/2018/03/10/world/europe/britain-playgrounds-risk.html thinks so. She says that the appearance of a marketplace for high safety play equipment has lead to a gradual sterilization of child play. Characteristics like rubber floors on drop zones or “boulders” made of fiberglass create a “play jail.”

Her observations support this stance as well. They show that British playgrounds, which are known to intentionally place controlled risks like spiky bushes or big trees for climbing, had 55 percent more visitors overall and teenagers were 16 to 18 percent more active. Features like grass, sand, and high swings were what held the most attention. This is in stark contrast to American playgrounds where these ingredients are used minimally.
Britain isn’t the only country who believes in bringing in more risks to build resilience in children. Germany and Switzerland have more than 1,000 forest kindergartens where students, as the name may suggest, learn in the forest using sticks, sharp knives, and fire.

Nature engrossed learning is not nonexistent here but is definitely confined to the borders of extracurricular activities or summer camps. As Talarowski’s article suggests, does sense stimulation need to be incorporated more into the American lifestyle? Is it possible that we could be preventing children from being resilient by cocooning them?

The numbers give a firm “yes”.

Khawla Rahman is a Communication Studies student at Wayne State University. She is completing a public relations internship at Authority Health this spring.

Counseling, a critical component of housing security, is at risk in Detroit

By Dennis Archambault
Coming off a population health forum dealing with the broad impact of toxic stress among people existing in the health and social safety net, it’s not very comforting to realize that a major ally in the housing area is at risk of a significant funding hit. In August, United Community Housing Coalition will lose two HUD grants totally $1.1 million – about 90 percent of its housing placement funds. Housing placement (which includes tenant organizing in the senior high rise buildings in Midtown and Downtown) is a very important service that helps people navigate the process of saving a house from tax or mortgage foreclosure, or even finding a place to live. Ted Phillips, executive director of UCHC, says HUD doesn’t think counseling has merit. We’ve seen how counseling directly applies to moving people who are evicted from a gentrified building, or helping building managers do the right thing.

Housing is a critical social determinant – so much so that Housing First advocates believe that it’s at the top of the social determinant scale. (Although it’s hard to say that food security, transportation, public safety, built environment, and other determinants are that far down the list.) As the movie, “Ghostbusters” popularized, “Who you gonna call?” UCHC and other agencies are in business to take the call and help people made vulnerable by social circumstance meet their basic needs, and ultimately, live healthier lives.
Check out this Detroit Free Press article for details on the UCHC situation: https://www.freep.com/story/news/local/michigan/detroit/2018/04/09/united-community-housing-coalition-hud-funding/482323002/

Dennis Archambault is vice president, Public Affairs, for Authority Health.