Whose Fault Is It That I’m Fat?

We were talking in an epidemiology class the other day about the association between obesity and diabetes. It’s a pretty strong association, with a lot of good evidence that obesity causes diabetes. As the students and the professor talked about this, the other teaching assistant in the course took some pictures of us. I was standing at the podium as he took the pictures. When I saw the pictures… Well, I’d be dishonest if I didn’t admit that I was a little bit disgusted by my appearance.* I’m huge. I had managed to trend downward in my weight all of 2016 and some of 2017. But then the baby girl arrived and with her came very little sleep. That triggered habitual snacking, poor food choices for the main meals, and a total lack of will to go to the gym or head outside. Little by little, I gained back the weight I lost in 2016 and then some. Now, I’ve been

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Is Gun Violence the Symptom or the Disease?

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), there are about 33,500 firearm deaths each year in the United States. There are also within those about 21,300 suicides by firearm each year in the United States. That’s over 50,000 a lot of people each year whose lives are ended by firearms. (Edit: I corrected the numbers. See the comment by “Brett” — if that’s even his real name — below. Apparently, I can’t read tables at three in the morning while trying to feed my baby. I hope that “Brett” can relate.) Of course, the cynics out there will say that these people would have died by other means if guns were to suddenly disappear from existence. That logic doesn’t hold much water. Yes, people intent on killing someone will find other “tools” to achieve their purpose. So will people intent on ending their own lives. But here’s the thing: guns are very efficient while knives, ropes, rocks and baseball

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Epidemic Curves and Homicide Counts in Baltimore

One of the tools that we use in the investigation of outbreaks is the epidemic curve, or, as we say in the biz, the “epi curve.” An epidemic curve is a simple graphical representation of the number of cases per a unit of time over a span of time. For example, you could graph the number of new cases of diarrhea when you’re investigating an outbreak of cholera. You’d be able to see when the epidemic began, if it has peaked, and in which direction is it heading… Is it ending or continuing. Epi curves are also useful in helping epidemiologists understand what kind of outbreak they’re dealing with. For example, the epidemic curve below is a point source epidemic, where the source of the infection was one single source. The cases had one exposure to the causative agent, and the agent was somehow removed from the environment and did not cause any more cases. As you can see, the epidemic started

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America First by Neglecting the World?

As you may or may not have heard, Brenda Fitzgerald, the Director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), resigned from her post last week. Some point to her investment in tobacco and pharmaceutical companies as the reason why she left. Others don’t care why she left, as long as Anne Schuchat is Acting Director and not someone from the current Administration, and Administration that has promised to cut funding to CDC projects overseas because “America First” and other such nationalist nonsense. Speaking of nonsense, this opinion piece by Betsy McCaughey really scared the crap out of me. It scared the crap out of me because there are a lot of people (millions, probably) who think like her. Or, rather, who don’t think things through, like she seems to have done. Not only is she displaying the thinking of a nationalist and isolationist, she doesn’t seem to think that diseases overseas can come over and kill us. She starts

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The Imbalances of Violence

There’s a theory in criminology called the “Routine Activities Theory.” The theory posits that there are three factors that figure into whether or not violence happens in a particular place and time, and how much violence happens. The three factors are targets, guardians and villains (aka “motivated offenders”). I’ll explain the factors a little more in a little bit, but I wanted to clarify something. Many of the criminology theories place some burden of responsibility for a crime on the victim. This is different than blaming the victim. For example, if a man is murdered in a back alley at 3am in the morning, we can say that there was some responsibility on the victim when we ask why they were in that back alley at 3am in the morning. It goes without saying that the biggest part of the responsibility and all of the blame goes to the person committing the murder. The “Lifestyle Precipitation” theory is big on

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You’re Angry at the Wrong People

It’s very common for xenophobic people to say something like, “Illegals are taking are jobs.” They don’t care if it’s true or not because truth is not the primary aim of the xenophobe or the racist. Their primary aim is to get people angry at undocumented immigrants and then let the hate do the heavy lifting. Lately, the same people that say things like these are also saying that the economy is so much better now than during the Obama Administration, with low unemployment and higher consumer confidence. So, which is it? Either “illegals” are taking jobs, or there are more jobs than ever. Again, honesty and critical thinking are not the goals of those who would vilify and entire group of people for political gain. It’s a tried and true political maneuver by those without vision to find scapegoats and to play on the fears of the people. When you dig into the facts of undocumented immigrants and jobs,

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Immigration, Again

Slavery is “America’s Original Sin,” without a doubt. I think the way that the United States governments since Independence have treated immigrants is a close second. Time after time, the country seemed to settle on what being “American” was, and then the country rejected anyone not fitting the description until it was necessary to re-define the definition. The first post-independence wave of immigrants came in the early 1800s, and those immigrants were from eastern Europe and Ireland. The Irish immigrants left a very bad famine in search for survival in America. According to the History Channel: “Another major wave of immigration occurred from around 1815 to 1865. The majority of these newcomers hailed from Northern and Western Europe. Approximately one-third came from Ireland, which experienced a massive famine in the mid-19th century. In the 1840s, almost half of America’s immigrants were from Ireland alone. Typically impoverished, these Irish immigrants settled near their point of arrival in cities along the East

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The Adversity That Will Shape You

When I was four years old, my mother bought me an old red bicycle at a garage sale. I didn’t know how to ride a bicycle, but I wanted to learn so I could ride with the kids in my neighborhood. As you probably guessed, I hit the ground several times while learning to ride. A couple of those times drew tears. One or two drew blood. In a short time, however, I learned how to ride a bicycle. I didn’t just learn to ride the red bike, I learned to ride any bike. When mom and dad bought me a brand new bicycle for Christmas, I rode that sucker into the ground. In essence, those times I fell and cried and bled assured me of a lifelong lesson, and that was not the only lifelong lesson that came with a lot of pain. Mistakes, you could say, made me who I am today. One mistake after another allowed me

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