Last week when the country erupted over Susan G. Komen’s decision to yank funding for Planned Parenthood, one key element was missing from all the shouting: how many cancer organizations are talking about the very real dangers and causes of cancer resulting from how our food is produced, and what is in the air and water we rely on?
Genes play a part in one’s proclivity for disease in many cases, but what we eat, the air we breathe, and the water we drink play a large part in our health. Exercise does too, but if you have asthma or respiratory problems, being outside on a bad air quality day isn’t an option.
Why aren’t more health and disease focused groups insisting that these contributors to poor health status be addressed? Before quitting my job as the Executive Director of the Georgia Rural Health Associaction (GRHA), I made mention of my volunteer work, more than once, with the Fall-line Alliance for a Clean Environment (FACE). My “hobby” fighting coal was just that, a volunteer thing I did on my own time and dime.
I would go to meetings with state partners fighting three proposed coal plants in Georgia and folks would ask why, if GRHA was working on behalf of better health for rural Georgians, wasn’t the organization speaking up to protect the air and water sheds in the threatened communities? That remains a mystery to this day.
Standing up to new coal, AND talking about the problems already plaguing rural communities from existing coal plants, would have been appropriate and right. I couldn’t make my personal agenda GRHA’s, but it still begs the question: why aren’t more health care advocacy organizations speaking up for what lies at the root of so many health problems? The silence from the Department of Community Health in Georgia is stunning.
While so many of us focus on how Komen let politics get in the way of delivering preventive health screenings to undeserved women, we shouldn’t forget that our environment and access to healthy foods play a part in good health too. When you consider where to donate, think about what isn’t being said publicly. Better yet, ask them why before you sign the check.
(Read a 2011 post asking if any state agency in Georgia is protecting citizen health here: http://ruralandprogressive.blogspot.com/2011/10/why-isnt-department-of-public-health.html)