Week in Review: September 21-27

The Autism-Vaccine Debacle
Remember Andrew Wakefield, the physician who fudged studies and almost single-handedly launched one of the biggest medical conspiracy theories of our time?  Well, he was in the news again.  The 3rd Court of Appeals in Texas ruled last week that Wakefield cannot sue a British magazine, editor, and journalist for defaming him in their exposé of his work.  Read more about the ruling here.

Disability, Work, and Poverty
The U.S. Senate Committee on Health, Education, Labor, & Pensions, chaired by Tom Harkin, recently released an important study on the significant barriers to employment and financial independence among people with disabilities, “Fulfilling the Promise: Overcoming Persistent Barriers to Economic Self-Sufficiency for People with Disabilities.”  One key finding: nearly one-third of all adults with disabilities live in poverty.  You can read more from Disability Scoop and the Huffington Post.

The American Journal of Epidemiology published a new study, “Maternal Intake of Supplemental Iron and Risk of Autism Spectrum Disorder.”  The original study is paywalled, but you can read a summary of the findings and argument here.  Although this is a potentially important development, I am always alarmed by the slippage between attributing disability to maternal actions and traditional mother-blaming.  This study sets of red flags for me, since it focuses in part on women’s iron intake prior to pregnancy and during breastfeeding, thus making some big assumptions about reproductive and decision-making.  For some thoughts on nutrition, disability, and mother-blaming, I strongly recommend this piece by a blogger and mom of a little girl with spina bifida.

The Ebola outbreak rages on in West Africa as the international community wonders what to do.  The always incredible team at Somatosphere has launched “Ebola Fieldnotes,” a series highlighting the possible and actual role of anthropologists and other scholars in curtailing the epidemic.  “Notes from Case Zero: Anthropology in the Time of Ebola” is an eye-opening piece by three anthropologists working on hemorrhagic fevers in the region, including on the current Ebola outbreak.  This fantastic piece would make an excellent short add-on to any medical anthropology syllabus and was even picked up by NPR. Additional pieces in the series include:

Down Syndrome
Data indicate that adults with Down syndrome develop Alzheimer’s at rates higher than previously realized, according to Disability Scoop.  Read more about the relationship between Down syndrome and Alzheimer’s here, here, and here.

Community Living
Last but not least, the Austin Chronicle recently published a shockingly one-sided cover story about the closure of a local State Supported Living Center.  I will write more on this shortly, but for now suffice it to say that I’m extremely alarmed that (liberal, Austin-dwelling, alternative weekly-writing) Texans seem to think that Olmstead never happened.  Indeed, the entire article made no mention whatsoever of Olmstead, community living Medicaid waivers, or even the ADA.  Unbelievable.


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