Friday, December 10, 2010

This Week: Poetic Justice

Everybody wants a taste of the ‘hood
Everybody sings a long with the songs about doing no good
But if you laid there, if you stayed there and couldn’t escape
How many hooks would you repeat about the dirty money you make?
When I was younger the cool thing was to wear baggy pants
Have a limp in your step til you hop up in mom’s minivan
Wearing And1’s and Polo, maybe a Nike wristband
Cuz you’re a baller, shot caller, right? That’s how the words go?
What if you knew they’re only expectation was you go to jail or go pro?

What if you did move on and upward, toward a college degree?
And you excel and do well despite their suspect on your pedigree
You’re all black in all-white schools
In the back but you’re no fool
But the last time you sat front row
The professor slowed down when he spoke to you
And every time you speak up they’re surprised at your eloquence
And should you let loose in front of friends
You hear gasps and “Oh my gosh, say that again!”
Like a puppet. A showman. Just a little more well-spoken than those crazy ones in the YouTube video they’re forwardin’

Is it fair for you to anger or be frustrated at this scene?
After all you were in the library with Soulja Boy on your laptop screen
And then your ringtone went off and Kanye crooned “ghetto university”
And that’s where you grew up, in the School of Hard Knocks
Rocks in palms on your block and you did your best to get out without a jump or gunshot
But, who said they needed saving? Who said they needed help?
Plenty are satisfied and don’t fold despite the hand that they’ve been dealt
When “experts” tell them it’s too much for them to bear
That someone must step in and show “the underprivileged” we care
We have what they don’t. We can succeed where they won’t.
They is not black, they is anyone who has ever been held back
And told that they were equal
They is anyone who was put up in a coop, or sat out on a stoop
‘Cause they were not welcome in buildings, though they paid taxes, too.
They is not Muslim, they is anyone who has ever been held back
When they just tried to move forward. But somehow every time they’re chosen from a random assortment
And then holed up in a room. Hold up. You’ll be released soon.
They is not Jew, they is anyone who was imprisoned in a place they were told would have enough room
But because of their looks, because they looked like they could be crooks
Even though they did no crime except to protest what sat on the books
Persecuted for money, of which they had none, and because they were broke the only choice for their first son
Was be cut up and dragged out, before he could witness the warm sun
There’s not enough room on this mattress for plus one
Not enough air in the casket you pay rent for every month
But somehow every Thanksgiving you fit the whole family in
Grateful at least for a meal and a place to block out the wind

So take back your advice and your Superman complex
That attitude is obtuse your spirit is convex
You’re thinking because you were schooled, because you read about it in school
That you know the rules and the needs and the way to save me from this cruel world
You school boy and school girl
you have attended university but still have no concept of adversity
No respect for diversity.  And you studied facts but you haven’t learned me
You can’t come in with your theories and stethoscope trying to cure
things of which you’re unsure

So be humble and open your eyes to the reason that I’m hurt, but don’t cry
I don’t have luxury to sit by. There are mouths to feed, clothes to dry
And I take the 6 bus to the Red line then walk a few blocks to the bread line
And get back in an hour so that I can pick my daughter up on time

I don’t lay hands except for prayer, so don’t assume I’ll fight back when you arrive
Come with an open mind. Although you’re degree says you’re qualified
You never lived and haven’t seen,
so step back before you step in to save me from misery
This isn’t a study…but you can learn a lot in this ghetto university.


Tuesday, December 7, 2010

The Great American SmokeOut

During the month of November, which is always reserved to promote lung cancer awareness, BPHSN participated in the Great American SmokeOut. Every year, the American Cancer Society designates a day to encourage people to start their smoking quit plan, or to plan ahead and make the Great American Smokeout day their quit date. Of course, BPHSN played an active role in the event that the Student Health Service and Office of External Relations hosted for a GW campus-wide SmokeOut.

Chidimma Acholonu, a BPHSN E-board member and Community-Oriented Primary Care MPH student, hosted a smoking trivia game table on University Yard during the event. Despite the chilly temperature, Chidimma represented BPHSN for 3 hours, asking questions of passers-by and handing out prizes for participants. 

Other tables at the event included a Wall of Reasons, where people wrote down why they smoke or don’t smoke and why they’d like to quit on faux bricks and help build a "support wall"; and various resource tables with snacks, prescription information, and other activities that quitting smokers can use to suppress their desires to smoke until the craving passes and addiction is broken. The entire University Yard was covered in bubbles, as people were encouraged to “blow bubbles, not smoke”, and the pathways were lined with interesting facts about the effects of smoking. 

Kudos to Ms. Acholonu for representing BPHSN at the SmokeOut! For those of you who would like more info about quitting smoking, visit the American Cancer Society’s website for some starting tips on how to quit; or if you’re a GW student, schedule an appointment with Student Health Service for personal counseling and assistance.

Do well on your finals everyone, and see you at the holiday party on Friday!

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

This Week: Food For Thought

Ladies and gents, it is my pleasure to introduce this week's guest blogger, class of 2010 MPH Candidate, Acasia Olson. As a member of the Metropolitan Washington Public Health Association's GetFED: Food Equality in D.C. subcommittee, Acasia has a unique and informed insight into a major health problem occurring right in GW's backyard.

A Google search of the 2010 national health awareness issues will direct you to a site listing a day, week, or month dedicated to over 100 public health issues. From Celiac Disease to nutrition awareness or minority health, individuals and groups alike have organized and rallied to bring attention to preventable and often overlooked health concerns. While some of us may have known that November was American Diabetes Month, how many of you can say you were excited in the days leading up to National Food Desert Awareness Month? No, seriously…For those of you who almost dropped that leftover turkey leg in surprise, I’m here to tell you that September is recognized as Food Desert Awareness Month. You may be wondering why I would be talking about an observance that took place three months ago. Food deserts are a social determinant that cause a huge disparity within the public's health.

The US Department of Agriculture defines food deserts (not to be confused with the decadent sumptuousness of pumpkin pie and peach cobbler), as geographic areas where access to nutritious, affordable, healthy foods is extremely limited, or absent. Instead of shopping at full scale grocery stores or in farmers’ markets, people trapped in food deserts must rely on an overwhelming supply of fast food, carry-out and cornerstore establishments for their daily source of pseudo-nutrients. Further, food deserts are most often found in communities with large minority populations and low-socioeconomic status. 

So what does this have to do with you, an aspiring or current public health professional in the nation’s capital? I’m glad you asked. I won’t belabor you with statistics which state that D.C. wards 4, 5, 7, and 8 have the highest proportion of overweight/obesity and diabetes. And, I don’t want to assume you’re oblivious of CDC data from 2010, which reports African-Americans as having a 51% higher prevalence of obesity than Whites, and that related illnesses have become increasingly endemic in low-income communities. You’re probably sharp enough to notice that these days, the “chocolate city” isn’t all that sweet. But it can be, and will be. 

The D.C. Council has taken legal action to eliminate the presence of food deserts, through the introduction of the Food, Environment and Economic Development of DC (FEED DC) Act of 2010. Non-profit organizations, such as D.C. Hunger Solutions and Healthy Solutions, D.C. are working with food businesses and residents to increase access to healthy affordable food. The Metropolitan Washington Public Health Association (MWPHA) has also taken action, through the tireless efforts of their GetFED: Food Equality in DC subcommittee, which currently consists of MPH students and interested community members. While members of these groups have made commendable strides, the work has only just begun. Though there may be a shortage of equal access to healthy food within the District, there isn’t a shortage of passionate members within the community of public health…can we count on you?

For more information on ways to eliminate food deserts, visit us at: GetFED, or send us an email at:

Thursday, November 18, 2010

This Week: Strictly for the Grown and Sexy

In '04, Usher, Lil John, and Ludacris sang (or yelled, in John's case) about 'Lovers and Friends', and gave casual sex partners a new anthem. They probably didn't anticipate finding a common ground with the 23% of the US population who was recently reported to be taking full advantage of that 'friends with benefits' package. The National Survey for Sex and Behavior reports that 50-somethings were "highly likely to engage in these casual sex encounters." That's right, folks. Swap mid-life crisis for mid-night coitus, and we may have a serious problem on our hands. Why? The study reports that these partners are very likely to engage in casual sex unprotected.

Down here in the District, HIV and AIDS have reached well over epidemic proportions. The generally accepted benchmark for a condition to reach severe epidemic concern is 1%- D.C. is at 3%. And to put this nearing-retirement trend in context, 70% of the people infected in the District are over the age of 40. D.C. officials are making concerted efforts to lower the rates of transmission. There are needle-exchange programs in place, and plenty of interventions to make adolescents and young adults more cognizant about safe sex practices. And, the message is spreading. The study, conducted at Indiana University's Center for Sexual Health Promotion, showed that 80% of male teens (14-17) who were sexually active used a condom the last time they had sex. But, how do we spread the word to those whose Viagra just kicked in and are ro-ar-ring to go? At their age, few are looking for everlasting love, and simply want to enjoy the company of another without any strings attached. The 50+ year-olds' rate for condom use the last time they had sex- a staggering (not!) 25%.

So, health promotion people, I'm talking to you! Do we put Rap-It-Up campaign ad's in More magazine? Offer "FREE CONDOMS!" incentives for prostate exams? There are lives at risk here, and something's gotta give!

Friday, November 12, 2010

This Week: Baby Mama Drama

"There is something very wrong when a man is good enough to father your children but not good enough to marry and build a life together." -Christelyn Karazin, founder of No Wedding, No Womb

"If you can't get a husband, who am I to tell you no, you can't be a mom?" -Demetria Lucas, relationship editor for Essence magazine, Blogger, A Belle in Brooklyn

In 1991, Tupac told the story of a fictional woman named Brenda, and how her unwed pregnancy "affects the whole community." By the time Fantasia Barrino's 'Baby Mama' hit the airwaves in 2005, many women rid themselves of shame or guilt, and instead sported single motherhood as "a badge of honor."

According to an article in yesterday's Washington Post, 72% of black babies are born to unwed mothers.* Per usual, the rate of this health outcome is higher in the black community than it is in either the white or any minority population. And what's the root of the problem? WaPo offers that it could be because black men constitute the majority of the incarcerated population in the States.** Furthermore, even if a young man doesn't have a record, if he's brought up in a low socioeconomic environment, his education likely won't be enough to get him any occupation paying above the poverty line. So, essentially, we end up with a lot of men who are capable of making kids, but incapable of supporting them.

But we can't just blame the men, can we? Of course not. Not when black women are increasingly adamant on proving themselves as independent women- what do they look like waiting around for a man to start a family? This is a common mentality shared by those who are financially stable enough to support an infant-sized addition to their lives. However, U.S. Census Bureau Statistics show that more often than not, single mother households are not run by mothers with a corner office. Most single black moms have no more than a high school education, and are working class women to whom another mouth to feed is simply an added stress. What other alternative is there but to raise the child as best they can, abortion or adoption?

It's not just an issue of having help, because there are countless friends, grandmothers, or babysitters probably watching babies at this very moment, because mom has to take night classes, or works a double shift to keep food on the table, (or go out to the club, but that's a whole 'nother blog post.) No, the issue is that "...a mother cannot give all that a man can give. A truly involved father figure offers more fullness to a child's life," OB-GYN Natalie Carroll noted in the WaPo article.

As public health professionals, we are supposed to have concern for the greater community, and prevent trends and behaviors that will contribute to allostatic load. Thus, one could ague that allowing women to have babies outside of a monogamous relationship is a failure from a public health standpoint. It is allowing the continued cycle of the proven effects of poverty to endure. The more babies out of wedlock, the more mothers on welfare, the less adequate health care they are able to afford, the more youths getting into a life of crime as a means to survive...and we're right back where we started. So, as supporters of No Wedding No Womb would argue, we need to stop this "problem" at the root. Is it our place to tell a woman not to conceive until she's [happily] married?

You tell me.

*CNN reported this data; their source was the National Center for Health Statistics, who completed the study in 2007
**3,161/100,000 black men were incarcerated in 2008, compared 1,200/100,000 Hispanics, and 487/100,000 whites.

Saturday, November 6, 2010

This Week: Mind Your Business

BPHSN family and followers, it is my pleasure to introduce this week's guest blogger, Jana Baldwin. Jana is the author of, an alum of George Washington's School of Public Health and Health Services, and most importantly, a founder of the BPHSN blog! I'll let her do the rest of the talking...

I have been told by many that I am “over-the-top,” “too pushy,” “crazy,” among many other things when I discuss the topic of mental health and illness.  I have personally experienced mental health issues in my own life since a young girl and it has been painful to watch my brother go through serious but different mental health issues as well.  I am grateful that my mother took me to see a psychologist since I was about 7 years old.  I felt like everyone in my class knew that I was different and I knew that I wasn’t “crazy.”  My mother always reassured me that I was going to the psychologist to discuss health issues and that was one way of breaking down the stigma.  At some point in my life I was diagnosed with ADD, Obsessive Compulsive Disorder, and Bi-polar to name a few.  At the end of the day I am sure I am all of the above and I am grateful for educating myself around how I can make better choices to treat my chronic illnesses- which happen to be in my brain.  I still find myself at 28 years old running into road blocks and getting into situations that I knew I should have avoided, but every time the situation is a little bit easier and a little bit better.  Frankly, the best psychiatrist I have ever had told me “fake it till you make it.”  I have been doing that very thing ever since.  I give a little background about myself before I make statements about anything involving the mental health so you know where I am coming from.

Living in DC for a few years, I have spent many a days, hours, jobs, internships, volunteering, or random conversations talking about mental health and the black community.  It is a topic that is near to my heart as I watch people close to me, and people I don’t know struggle to a point that I don’t think is necessary.  One could say (and people do) “Who is this white girl and why does she care about me or think she knows anything about me?”  Well, I don’t know too much in life but I will say that DC has one of the most comprehensive mental health services in the country.  When I was without insurance I was able to go to the local mental health community center and receive services including a case manager, a psychiatrist, Rx coverage etc.  In Utah, where I am from this is unheard of.  There are no wrap-around services for the poor (yes I just say poor instead of underprivileged).  So, I wonder how we as a community reduce the stigma in the black community to encourage people to seek treatment, to know that treatment is available, but mostly to understand the benefits of mental health in general.  I wonder how many young men would not meet law enforcement or get locked up,  how many more kids would graduate high school,  if there had been some kind of intervention.  Everyone can benefit from learning how to communicate more effectively, working through anger, etc.  Access in the District is available.  Sometimes even having an “intervention” doesn’t solve anything. I am not saying that only reducing stigma around mental health issues in the black community will change everything but, frankly, I think it’s a start.

The Substance Abuse Mental Health Service Administration recently launched a new campaign called “Stories that Heal” geared towards black young adults. Check out the link and tell me what you think!

For all you public health folks that are into stats:
  • Poverty level affects mental health status. African Americans living below the poverty level, as compared to those over twice the poverty level, are 4 times more likely to report psychological distress.
  • African Americans are 30% more likely to report having serious psychological distress than Non-Hispanic Whites.
  • Non-Hispanic Whites are more than twice as likely to receive antidepressant prescription treatments as are Non-Hispanic Blacks.
  • The death rate from suicide for African American men was five times that for African American women, in 2005.


Friday, October 29, 2010

This Week: Forgive...and Forget?

Acquaintance rape, or date rape, is "sexual assault by an individual known to the victim." The National Center for Victims of Crime reports that 77% of completed rapes are committed by non-strangers. This dispells the myth that sexual assaults are only carried out by crazed lunatics in a dark alley on the wrong side of town.

Less than 2% of women who are victims of acquaintance rape report their attack, compared to 21% of those who are raped by strangers. The following letter was written by a woman who falls into that 2%. She never reported the incident to the police, but asked for an outlet for her pain- here it is:

I can’t believe you said, “I love you.” I know it’s your first time saying that to a girl and everything, and I know I’ve only been in love twice before. But let me assure you, young man, that this is NOT what love feels like. Love is a listening ear. When I said no, you should have heard me, and obeyed. You should have climbed your scrawny limbs off of me, and gone to sleep. As a matter of fact, you should have gotten out of the bed and slept on the floor. Obviously you didn’t have enough self-control to lie in bed next to me.

 Love is a friend. We’ve known each other for almost two years, and before any romantic relationship, we were friends first. You knew how to make me laugh, and you knew what to say when I started to cry. And somehow tonight, you were the reason my cheeks had rivers of salt-water gushing toward my chin.

Of all the times to tell me that ‘love’ is what you’re feeling, you think this moment is appropriate? Just a few minutes ago, I was pleading you to stop trying to make love to me, and my screams fell on deaf ears. ‘I’m sorry’, and ‘I love you’, and ‘I didn’t mean it’ don’t fix what just happened. What if I’m pregnant? When is the last time you were tested? In a week I’ll go get tested and lose sleep until my results come back. And what will you do? Apologize a few more times, and go back to living your life?
I forgive you. I’m more upset at myself for even coming here, and trusting you, and kissing you. I can’t help but feel like I provoked this, like I asked for this disrespect and mistreatment. The long-hand kept ticking and the short-hand got closer and closer to 2, then 3, then 4am before I realized that this watch was telling me it was time to go. But, no. I stayed because I enjoyed your company. It’s like things were the way they used to be. That was back when we were friends, and when I felt like I was falling in love with you. I don’t feel like that any more. I feel angry, betrayed, and scared. So if you're wondering, the answer is no. I don't love you back. I don't hate you either. I forgive you. And I know one day, I'll be able to forgive myself, too. I don't care that you may never read this, or that we may never speak again. They say what doesn't kill you makes you stronger. They forget to mention the recovery portion that hurts like hell until you're healed. That's where I am now- getting stronger and stronger everyday.

I forgive you. But, I'll never forget.

Talk about it.

Saturday, October 23, 2010

This Week: Let's Talk About Sex....and Abortion

Since we were old enough to take sex education classes at school, or have “the talk” with our parents, we’ve discussed pregnancy, and abortion, too. We've experienced first-hand, or consoled a friend through the distress, confusion, shame and depression that accompany this decision. Aside from the political and religious pressures surrounding the pro-choice vs. pro-life debate, there are often familial and societal pressures that play into a woman's decision to abort her pregnancy. But, since it takes two to do the cliche tango, what role do men play in all of this? Some men feel that they have a right to have a significant role to play in the decision-making process. But others, like a college grad I recently spoke with on the issue, argue that “a man can voice his opinion, but it inevitably is the woman’s decision.”

The decision to terminate a pregnancy is sometimes only the beginning of the end. While women face symptoms of Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder and depression, men are left with feelings of inadequacy and emasculation. Men and women both experience declines in sexual libido and communication, and a sense of partnership is often lost. In fact, post-abortion studies have shown that 40 to 75 percent of romantic relationships end after a woman has an abortion. Another young man I spoke with believes that people don't think about these possibilities until it's too late, and wishes more would realize that "if you're brave enough to take on the risks [of unprotected sex] then you're brave enough to handle the consequences." 


*Names have been changed.

Friday, October 15, 2010

This Week: "Really Oprah? Six years have passed by, and you haven't learned jack-sh*t"

For the past 24 years, it’s been the O-way or no way. When Oprah Winfrey declares her favorite ice cream on an Oprah’s Favorite Things episode, it’s sold out and on backorder by week’s end. Oprah says stop texting while driving- we sign a pledge and put the phones down (at least until we reach a stop light). Now, during the finale season of the show that has brought to light so many “Aha!” moments in our lives, someone is calling Oprah’s bluff.

Dr. David Malebranche is an Internal Medicine physician, public health professional, and assistant professor at Emory University’s School of Medicine in Atlanta, Georgia. On Saturday, October 9, Dr. Malebranche posted an open letter to Oprah in a Note on his Facebook account. It was in response to the recent episode on the transmission of HIV/AIDS to a woman by her husband who was sleeping with men “on the down low”.

In Dr. Malebranche’s eyes, the story- while tragic- was depicted as one-sided. In his letter, Malebranche argued that “the show remained stuck in a metaphorical time warp.” During my interview with him this past Thursday, Dr. Malebranche pointed out that there is an incessant depiction of women as “innocent victims”, and of gay black men as the villains. “It’s HIV innocent versus HIV guilty,” Malebranche said. He argues that because of this sentiment, the rift between black gay men and women is irreparable. I asked if there was any way that this chasm could be bridged. “Not when shows like this keep airing," he responded. "I felt bad for the woman that was there. But, it was approached with a ‘this really shouldn’t happen to me’ attitude. Do you think any of these people across the world wanted [HIV]?"

Another area that was left untouched in the Oprah episode was why men feel the need to hide the truth from their heterosexual partners. At the root of these down-low brothers’ behavior, is perhaps a troubled past, and the fear and shame that are associated with being an openly gay black man. “How many people are just genuinely dishonest?” Malebranche remarked, “…you have to scratch beneath the surface a little bit.” Dr. Malebranche’s intention in writing the letter was simply to “be clear in my truth.” He received over 300 new Friend requests on Facebook, and 100+ messages in his Facebook inbox by the Sunday evening after he posted the letter. People thanked Malebranche for his voice, and for clarity, since many people got caught up in the sensationalism of the episode.

And where does the public health come into play? Dr. Malebranche suggests that, more so than personalized interventions, social media and mass marketing are the best ways to spread important information. His letter is a prime example- he posted the note at the suggestion of a friend, when he realized he had to stop waiting on “someone” to say something. That someone was him, and the response was viral (no pun intended). Dr. Malebranche’s letter allowed the public to gain a different perspective on a rarely visited, always divisive issue. “I got tired of it. I sat down and watched the show and I was bothered but the one thing that really stuck out in my mind was, 'Really Oprah? Have you really not done any research? Six years have passed by and you haven’t learned jack sh*t.”

Have you?

Friday, October 8, 2010

This Week: An Ode to the Ounces

First things first: the "This Week" series is a new addition to our blog. Every week, you can look forward to some commentary on a health issue affecting our community. Public Health is a broad field, so expect to see a wide range of topics covered. We only ask two things: if you want a certain topic discussed, email us your suggestions! And secondly, remember that these opinions are put out there to spur discussion , so please leave us your two (or twenty) cents in the comments section. Here goes the first edition of This Week.

An Ode to the Ounces

We’ve been told since the release of AOL 2.0, by computer un-savvy old heads, that ‘the media’ was destroying our generation. Blame WWF, blame Eminem’s first three albums, or blame Facebook- as each year goes by, something else is made a scapegoat for low performance in the classroom, or even lower baggy jeans. A consistent theme has been to blame hip-hop music for encouraging these infatuations with the wrong ideas, especially in the minds of young Black men. For once, the grown-ups might be right. Although they may not be able to appreciate the musical genius of Kanye West or Wale, there is a recurring theme in hip-hop music that may be encouraging a harmful habit – marijuana use. 

Take, for example, the huge buzz spurred by up-and-coming rapper, Wiz Khalifa. His most recent mixtape, Kush and OJ, was the number one download on Google’s hot search trends, and after the April 14th release of the mixtape, #kushandorangejuice became the number one trending topic on Twitter, and remained on the list for three days. The mixtape opens with a track entitled Waken Baken, and throughout the mixtape, Wiz Khalifa continues to hail marijuana use- “why can’t everyone smoke like me?/give me a quiet place let me roll my weed” he croons in Still Blazin’. Sure, we aren’t as naive as we once were, way, way back in our impressionable years (also known as, the ‘90s). But, what about the kids who are just now growing up, listening to artists like Wiz Khalifa and trying to emulate those habits? The voice of popular artists is sometimes louder than a parent’s or teacher’s voice; likewise, the messages that are spread will be taken that much more seriously, whether positive or negative in context. 

Wiz Khailfa can’t take all the credit, though. Even before the rapper bragged about his expensive taste- “I might spend 10 grand on weed a month,” he said in a recent interview- plenty of hip-hop artists were declaring their love for Mary Jane.  “I still stay high and I still got my diploma,” Weezy claims on Cali Dro released in 2006. (The NIH notes that marijuana affects judgment, memory, and coordination- good luck passing finals when you can’t remember what class you’re in). Some artists even glamorize the act, like Jay-Z on the 2003 track, Excuse Me Miss- “You can’t even roll a blunt to this one- you gotta light a J.”Artists spoke, and American youth listened- in December 2009, the University of Michigan reported that over the previous 12 months, marijuana use was at 12% among the nation’s 8th graders, 27% of 10th grades, and a third of 12th graders. Further, since marijuana use itself is still arguably dangerous, the behaviors accompanied with it can certainly pose serious health risks. In 2008, Emory University public health researchers presented a study which found that “black girls who used marijuana had significantly higher rates of incident STDs than non-marijuana users. They also had “more sex partners, and… more recent episodes of [vaginal intercourse] while their partner was under the influence.” 

What about taking a step away from adolescents, and looking at marijuana use among college-aged students and adults? A June 2008 report on a study of alcohol and marijuana use by HBCU students showed that violence-related problems appeared to be most frequent among students who used alcohol and marijuana, as opposed to alcohol alone. Another study, published in 2008 in the North American Journal of Psychology, showed that risky sexual behaviors often accompanied marijuana and alcohol use. Accordingly, rates of newly reported HIV infections in the state of study were “higher in black men of all age groups than white men overall.” 

Here are some more facts:
  • Marijuana can cause panic, anxiety, and paranoia; in large doses, it can cause temporary toxic psychosis
  • From 1993-2000, the number of emergency room marijuana mentions more than tripled
  • Someone who smokes five joints a week may be taking in as many cancer-causing chemicals as someone who smokes a full pack of cigarettes a day.
  • A Columbia University study showed that people who smoked one marijuana joint every other day for a year had a white blood cell count that was 39% lower than normal
This last fact may be the most relevant against arguments for the medicinal use of marijuana. Currently, there are 14 states (plus the District of Columbia) that have legalized a possession of certain amounts of marijuana. Oftentimes, marijuana is prescribed for patients who are dealing with AIDS (to increase appetite) and cancer (as a pain reliever). However, these patients are already immunocompromised, so smoking marijuana is in fact making them more susceptible to potentially life-ending disease. 

It wouldn’t be fair to blame hip-hop as an entire genre for the increased use of marijuana among our generation. However, it is important to shed light on the fact that these artists who kids (and even some adults) revere are not setting the best examples. Marijuana can be an expensive and harmful hobby. It alters our health, detracts from education, increases incidence of crime, and overall, leads to poor decision-making. The rockstar drug-filled lifestyle might not make it when the lights dim, and the rest of us are too high to notice.

What say you?

Thursday, October 7, 2010

One Saturday Morning

On Saturday, October 2nd, we could have been in the library. What with the looming threat of midterm exams, we SHOULD have been in the library, or at least had a book in front of us. Instead, the George Washington University BPHSN chapter decided to take some time away from our studies to address some major issues affecting our people, and our nation.

First up was the 24th annual AIDS Walk Washington. This 5K walk/timed run is a fundraiser hosted by and benefiting the Whitman-Walker Clinic. BPHSN President, Chinenye Anyanwu (or as we like to call her, ChiChi) walked for her second time this past Saturday. Despite the early wake-up call and long walk from the metro to Freedom Plaza where the walk began, ChiChi thoroughly enjoyed the event. Most notable to her was the solidarity among everyone who came to participate. "We saw past GW students...entire families came out, some people were wearing t-shirts in memory of loved ones...everyone came together to walk for a good cause," ChiChi commented. And, although the walk was long, there was plenty of laughter to keep people energized. When she reached the quilt at the end of the walk, ChiChi took a moment to inspect some of the patches. "Some were really detailed, others just had encouraging messages..." Although HIV/AIDS affects our community most detrimentally, to her, participating in the walk did not make for a depressing day. "It was fun," she said, and like the impact of HIV/AIDS in families across the world "there were happy moments and sad moments."

First-time AIDS Walk Washington participant, and BPHSN Logistics chair, Tinika McIntosh, had a personal attachment to the cause. In addition to supporting BPHSN, Tinika said, "I was walking for people who can't walk today." She has lost a number of family and friends to causes related to AIDS. Tinika was delighted to see that everyone had so much enthusiasm for the day's causes.  "What stood out to me was how much people supported both events," she said. "Everyone was really spirited, and people went straight from the walk to the One Nation Rally."

The One Nation Rally was attended by over 175,000 people. Liberals- gay rights groups, labor unions, and faith-based organizations came out in droves- showed up in response to the rising poll numbers for conservatives in the mid-term elections. According to an article in, the purpose of the rally was to "re-energize [Democrats'] political base." There was a controversial issue being addressed, and as ChiChi pointed out, "some people definitely didn't like what we had to say." BPHSN members stood just outside of the rally, holding up their picket signs. They addressed causes such as 'End racist unemployment NOW' and 'BPHSN says Job Loss = Bad Health'.

Overall, both Tinika and ChiChi were glad to spend their Saturday with "people who were like-minded" and attached to similar causes. Legs tired and spirits high, it's back to the library we go.

Tinika McIntosh posing with her One Nation rally sign

 Check out more pictures from the rally and AIDS Walk on our FB page

Wednesday, April 7, 2010

BPHSN Wednesday April 7, 2010

Event: Free Brown Bag Lunch DC - Working with Young MSM

Date: April 14, 2010

Time: 12-2PM

Location: 651 Pennsylvania Ave SE

Washington, DC

Sponsor: MetroTeen AIDS

A new study by the D.C. Department of
Health concluded that 14% of gay and
bisexual men in Washington D.C. are
living with HIV. This mini workshop
will explore best practices for
engaging young men who have sex
with men (MSM) in prevention efforts
in D.C. The session will also look at
community resources and include a
discussion on how partners can
collaborate to reach this population.
This Brown Bag is free and
lunch is provided.

Space is

To reserve your spot,
email an RSVP to

Contact: If you have any questions, comments, concerns, please visit

Internship: Open Internship Position at DC DOH

Intern with the Capacity Building and Community Outreach Bureau at the DC Department of Health HIV/AIDS, Hepatitis, STD, & TB Administration (HAHSTA)!

This is a great opportunity to get health promotion, marketing, and social marketing experience in a dynamic office.

Paid internship and practicum opportunity available!

Responsibilities would include (but are not limited to):

  • · Managing the new Wrap M.C. program and blog to increase condom access in DC Public and Charter High Schools
  • Working on materials and distribution of Routine HIV Testing campaign, Summer Youth STD Testing Campaign, Condom Distribution campaigns, and Hepatitis C campaigns
  • Developing condom and youth social marketing campaigns, including multimedia outreach strategies and materials design
  • Key point of contact between graphic designers, web designers and DC DOH

Flexible work hours in a fun, busy work environment!

Contact: If you have any questions, comments, concerns, please Megan Jacobs at or 202-671-5072, or Michael Kharfen at or 202-671-4809 if interested.

Job Opportunity: Public Health Analyst

Become a part of the Department that touches the lives of every American! At the Department of Health and Human Services you can give back to your community, state, and country by making a difference in the lives of Americans everywhere. Join HHS and help to make our world healthier, safer and better for all Americans.

CDOM (Center for Delivery, Organization, and Markets within the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality—AHRQ) is recruiting someone to oversee a $9 million contract to evaluate 5-year CMS Quality Demonstration Projects that were mandated by Congress in the Child Health Insurance Program Reauthorization Act. This is a civil service GS-12 position in CDOM.

For more information please visit:

“Ultimately, happiness rests on how you establish a solid sense of self or being. Happiness does not lie in outward appearances nor in vanity. It is a matter of what you feel inside; it is a deep resonance in your life. To be filled each day with a rewarding sense of exhilaration and purpose, a sense of tasks accomplished and deep fulfillment- people who feel this way are happy. Those who have this sense of satisfaction even if they are extremely busy are much happier than those who have time on their hands but feel empty inside.” – Daisku Ikeda