Public health and Occupy

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By Sasha J. Cuttler

OPINION On November 17, Mayor Ed Lee's administration declared OccupySF a "public health nuisance." The mayor and other city officials are using this declaration as a justification to evict the OccupySF camps.

But rather than being a nuisance, the Occupy camps are reclaiming public space and voices while making health disparities more visible. Dozens of health organizations are making statements of solidarity, including the American Public Health Association, with more than 30,000 members, which recently passed a resolution with overwhelming support of the Occupy movement.

San Francisco officials say that overcrowding and inadequate sanitation are causing a threat to public health and safety. But as noted by public health nurse Martha Hawthorne, "When is the last time city department heads have left their offices and taken a walk through the Tenderloin, just minutes away from the San Francisco Occupy site? Smells of human waste? Evidence of street drug use? Garbage on the street? It's there and has been for years, the inevitable consequence of the lack of affordable housing and years of cutbacks to mental health and substance abuse funding in San Francisco."

As far as overcrowding of tents, Hawthorne goes on to note: "Overcrowding? Go anywhere in the city with a public health nurse. You'll see multiple families living in one flat, sharing a kitchen, having their own tiny room if they are lucky and can afford it. People sleep in shifts and live elbow-to-elbow in garages, basements, closets, old office spaces — and they are the ones we nurses can see, because at least they have an address. "

The one percent is attempting to maintain control by blaming the victim. Rather than blame the marginalized for their misery, the Occupy movement opens an opportunity for dialogue and mass mobilization while providing tangible assistance to those in need of help right now. Homeless and mentally ill individuals have been receiving food and shelter at Occupy encampments everywhere.

The Occupy movement is making visible the public health consequences of insatiable corporate greed. Income inequality is closely paralleled, unsurprisingly, by poorer health outcomes. The rich are not only getting richer, they are living longer, healthier lives than the majority of us in the 99 percent.

Despite months of Occupy experience world-wide, the only evidence of ill health and injury directly related to the camps can be found in the hundreds of nonviolent activists exposed to clouds of tear gas, fountains of pepper spray, myriads of beatings, and volleys of rubber bullets. These incidents of state-sponsored violence can cause lasting health impacts on the individuals who are exercising their right to free speech and assembly.

We can do better than this. We need to use this gathering as a reminder that health care is a human right and do everything in our power to help, not hinder, the populations we serve.

Like thousands of other public health workers, I believe that the Occupy movement is creating an incredible opportunity that needs to be protected and expanded. Public health does need to be protected — and one of the best ways is through engagement with the Occupy movement, not through its eviction. 2

Sasha J. Cuttler, R.N., Ph.D, is a nurse and SEIU Local 1021 activist

Comments

gota agree with those nurses. along with a walk in the tenderloin, walk any SF neighborhood and keep ur eyes on the sidewalk cause the dog popper scooper law is NOT being enforced. we all know the "phony "health concerns" are a ruse.

lets face it folks, we been robbed by the Wall street gangsters, the oild barrons and the health insurance/drug corporartions aided and abetted by most Democrat and republican politicians.
The state and congreesional politicians and the past Presidents have all been bought off by the for profit health care industry and should be in prison for giving and recieving bribes.

Those who robbed us do not want folks speaking out about the 1%ers looting of America,
that might lead to the criminals' imprisonment.

Thank you occupy folks for keeping up the pressure and putting a light on those criminals and their politician henchmen/women.

a note on health care;
I disagree with many things the SF Government does but gota admit that San Francisco is one of very few government entities that has tried to provide health care to all its citizens and should be loudly applauded for doing so.

Single PAYER health care for all Americans!

Posted by sf T party on Nov. 30, 2011 @ 11:34 am

Great editorial Sasha! But there is one change I would make in it. Where you say:

"We need to use this gathering as a reminder that HEALTH CARE is a human right and do everything in our power to help, not hinder, the populations we serve,"

I would say, "HEALTH is a human right."

Yes, health care is a right, but health care alone can't change the huge inequalities in health status your editorial points out. Health status is determined by the conditions in which we are born, live, work and play and fundamentally by the degree of inequality in our society. The right to health (from the Convention on Economic Social and Cultural Rights) requires creating the conditions for health for all - a healthy environment, good education, adequate housing, healthy food, strong family and community relationships, etc, in addition to healthcare - the things we have modeled, however imperfectly, in the Occupy encampments.

Posted by Oakland Occupier on Nov. 30, 2011 @ 3:47 pm

Great article and very needed since a lot of media is ignoring this angle. The Occupy/Decolonize movement is already making progress in getting people to talk about wealth inequity and is helping move forward solutions will decrease wealth and health inequities!

Posted by Kat on Nov. 30, 2011 @ 9:42 pm

I was delighted to see Sasha Cutler's comment on the Occupy movement as I had noticed the same thing myself during my own visits to the SF encampment. The place was as neat as it could be under the circumstances and the folks forthcoming and open. I am especially appalled when cities such as San Francisco claim that closing down the encampments are a public health issue. Really! It reminds me of when the right put measures on the ballot to prevent LGBT folks from teaching in the schools because children were allegedly at risk from being contaminated by those who were different. Save Our Children, they cried. Please! Or when blacks were not allowed to sit in restaurants with whites for any number of ugly reasons. Stop this fear mongering! Let those involved exercise their Constitutional right to free speech and assembly and listen to the message!

Posted by Guest Susan Englander, RN on Dec. 05, 2011 @ 10:14 pm

Is This Part of the 99%?

There was a precious little boy not quite three years old, when his mother was struck down by a pick up truck in a Kentucky Fried Chicken parking lot.
His step-father hung in there and helped the young boy until he was eleven years old. The boy’s older sisters moved on and made wonderful lives for themselves. The eleven year old son chose to stay behind and help his brain injured, epileptic mother every step of the way.
In December of 2011, when the boy was a man of 25 years and a father with sole custody of his own son, the Department of Rehab fired him after 6 years of employment. This left his mother with no home health care plan or supervision. He was fired based on his statement to his mother’s caseworker that he could not care for her for any fewer hours. After his termination this wonderful young man still stayed by his mother’s side. Thank God he did, or I, his mother would not be alive. I would have died last week when I had to be intubated due to a seizure that caused me to stop breathing. My son found me unconscious on the bathroom floor.
This is a sad story anytime of the year but especially at Christmas time. The real sadness I feel as this young mans mother is that he has donated years of his care for free. He once again donated his care for free, since he had been fired as my personal assistant.
Now, this grown man is fearful of leaving the house. He is having nightmares, and wakes up to come and see if I am still breathing. He has been totally traumatized by the Department of Rehabilitation’s push for budget cuts.
I am all for budget cuts in the right places. However, when families are torn apart as a result of so called budget cuts someone needs to know. Now YOU do know what is going on in Jackson County, IL.
If you have any questions or comments you can email me at debbiewilson9@yahoo.com.

Posted by Guest Debbie Wilson on Dec. 22, 2011 @ 3:03 pm

Is This Part of the 99%?

There was a precious little boy not quite three years old, when his mother was struck down by a pick up truck in a Kentucky Fried Chicken parking lot.
His step-father hung in there and helped the young boy until he was eleven years old. The boy’s older sisters moved on and made wonderful lives for themselves. The eleven year old son chose to stay behind and help his brain injured, epileptic mother every step of the way.
In December of 2011, when the boy was a man of 25 years and a father with sole custody of his own son, the Department of Rehab fired him after 6 years of employment. This left his mother with no home health care plan or supervision. He was fired based on his statement to his mother’s caseworker that he could not care for her for any fewer hours. After his termination this wonderful young man still stayed by his mother’s side. Thank God he did, or I, his mother would not be alive. I would have died last week when I had to be intubated due to a seizure that caused me to stop breathing. My son found me unconscious on the bathroom floor.
This is a sad story anytime of the year but especially at Christmas time. The real sadness I feel as this young mans mother is that he has donated years of his care for free. He once again donated his care for free, since he had been fired as my personal assistant.
Now, this grown man is fearful of leaving the house. He is having nightmares, and wakes up to come and see if I am still breathing. He has been totally traumatized by the Department of Rehabilitation’s push for budget cuts.
I am all for budget cuts in the right places. However, when families are torn apart as a result of so called budget cuts someone needs to know. Now YOU do know what is going on in Jackson County, IL.
If you have any questions or comments you can email me at debbiewilson9@yahoo.com.

Posted by Guest Debbie Wilson on Dec. 22, 2011 @ 3:03 pm

Is This Part of the 99%?

There was a precious little boy not quite three years old, when his mother was struck down by a pick up truck in a Kentucky Fried Chicken parking lot.
His step-father hung in there and helped the young boy until he was eleven years old. The boy’s older sisters moved on and made wonderful lives for themselves. The eleven year old son chose to stay behind and help his brain injured, epileptic mother every step of the way.
In December of 2011, when the boy was a man of 25 years and a father with sole custody of his own son, the Department of Rehab fired him after 6 years of employment. This left his mother with no home health care plan or supervision. He was fired based on his statement to his mother’s caseworker that he could not care for her for any fewer hours. After his termination this wonderful young man still stayed by his mother’s side. Thank God he did, or I, his mother would not be alive. I would have died last week when I had to be intubated due to a seizure that caused me to stop breathing. My son found me unconscious on the bathroom floor.
This is a sad story anytime of the year but especially at Christmas time. The real sadness I feel as this young mans mother is that he has donated years of his care for free. He once again donated his care for free, since he had been fired as my personal assistant.
Now, this grown man is fearful of leaving the house. He is having nightmares, and wakes up to come and see if I am still breathing. He has been totally traumatized by the Department of Rehabilitation’s push for budget cuts.
I am all for budget cuts in the right places. However, when families are torn apart as a result of so called budget cuts someone needs to know. Now YOU do know what is going on in Jackson County, IL.
If you have any questions or comments you can email me at debbiewilson9@yahoo.com.

Posted by Guest Debbie Wilson on Dec. 22, 2011 @ 3:04 pm

...and will continue to stand up, speak up, talk back, fight back and not back down.
Thank you Sasha.

Posted by Patrick Monk. RN on Dec. 22, 2011 @ 3:21 pm