October 18, 2011

Occupy Health

The occupy movement has reached more than 1,000 cities in the U.S and around the world. In her provocative blog post “What Think Tanks Owe the People in the Park,” Janice Nittoli asserts:

“It's never been the task of the people in the park to come up with the ideas.  It's their job to call attention to injustice, to demand that the powerful be held accountable, to just plain get angry at massive inequity.  It's the job of others to articulate an action plan for thinking progressives - and not just by repeating the same ideas that we had five, ten or even 15 years ago.”  

High rates of unemployment, foreclosure crises, homelessness, looming national concern about the economy, children living in poverty, educational gaps leaving too many left behind is moving young people to the street, too. The sick and the aging are living longer lives with fears and realities of financial ruin more grim than the end of life. While health professionals and institutions are facing burnout and closing doors. 

"Foreclosure is not just a metaphorical epidemic, but a bona fide public health crisis. When breadwinners become ill, they miss work, lose their jobs, face daunting medical bills — and have trouble making mortgage payments as a result." 
                                                                            —Pollack and Lynch, New York Times op-ed

Health is more than the absence of disease or cure. Health is about well-being and the quality of our lives. “Doctors for the 99% has become the name for an informal group of health activists who have set out to support the occupation.” A recent post by Dr. Matt Anderson offers a moving multimedia story about #occupy health professionals and organizations.

Last Saturday night, my commute was interrupted. The subway system rerouted trains, I had to get off and leave the station at Occupy Times Square (aka 42nd Street) to reconnect at another station located a few blocks away to reach my final destination. My short walk in the dazzle of Broadway’s flickering lights and bustling crowds included a brief occupy encounter, an experience that stirs my hope.

The twitter hashtag #OccupyHealth offers context to consider medicine, health, and health care. We should be inspired to imagine new possibilities for such a time as this. Huge drifts in differences have not always been offered with civility. Rising injustices leading a spirit of inequity should push us to listen, think, engage and act accordingly. 

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