Category Archives: Exclusion. Risk. Vulnerability.

Systems and self-esteem: Being helpful and constructive on obesity.

By Ashley White

I am not sure it’s possible to better articulate exactly how far off the mark anti-obesity campaigns tend to be that in the way Jezebel’s Lindy West has done right here:  It’s Hard Enough to Be a Fat Kid Without the Government Telling You You’re an Epidemic

She writes, “But first of all, though weight loss can certainly improve some people’s health, “fat” does not universally equal “unhealthy.” Health itself is a much more effective and specific goal. And campaigns like this—which target fat people instead of the system that makes them fat—do nothing but hurt that supposed cause. An anti-fat-people campaign is still an ANTI-PEOPLE CAMPAIGN.”

But, after this piece was published, West herself commented first, “Question. So, okay, if I’m saying that these ads are NOT HELPFUL–and a lot of you are agreeing with me–can anyone come up with a pro-health ad that would be genuinely helpful and constructive? Thoughts? What would that look like?

And so, I’ve been thinking on it.  Aside from killing subsidies to corn, boosting subsidies to a diverse array of plant crops, creating better ways to get good and affordable food to the North – which definitely must happen – and addressing poverty, education deficits, and infrastructure problems, what would be a radical approach to helping people attain healthy weights?
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Anti-Trafficking Initiatives Hurt the Fight Against HIV/AIDS

By Kerry Porth

Recently, Washington DC hosted the 19th International AIDS Conference.  This was the first time the conference had been held in the United States since 1990 as the US had barred entry to any HIV-positive visitors for 22 years – this ban was lifted by President Obama in early 2010.  Sadly, the US chose not to lift two other immigration bans which precluded the involvement of two of the three “high-risk” groups, namely sex workers and drug users. Regardless, many sex work and drug policy activists managed to attend the 5-day conference and protested the US immigration ban and other ideologically-driven policies that are harming the fight against HIV/AIDS.

They found many opportunities to raise awareness of the harms that US policies, anti-trafficking initiatives, and stigma are having on sex workers (protest starts at 1:30).

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Narrowing Our Moral Community of Concern: A Critique of Canada’s New Refugee Policies

By Bengo

Here is an excerpt from an article I wrote for the blog AccessDenied, with the same title as the post.  The blog’s approach is from the social sciences, especially medical anthropology, and it attempts to seriously engage both theory and practice in its articles.  It is well worth perusing.  In the article, I attempt to deal with the fact that Canada’s debate over refugee care is not only, or even primarily, about legal, economic, or efficiency issues.  It is primarily about inclusion and exclusion, and drawing boundaries around who is “deserving” of our care.  Since the struggle is one over narrative, debating data and legal arguments needs to be complemented by the generation of a powerful discourse, a narrative into which we place ourselves that includes the provision of care regardless of arbitrary boundaries of status.

Willen recently wrote of unauthorized migrants that, “they are excluded not only from the political community, but also from the moral community of people whose lives, bodies, illnesses, and injuries are deemed worthy of attention, investment, or concern” (2012: 806). Only by portraying these extremely vulnerable people as “undeserving” (Willen 2012) can Canada deny them care while at the same time maintaining an air of generosity. And according to the new policy, these “undeserving” people should be detained, deported as quickly as possible, and denied access to health care.

This discursive manoeuvering imagines refugee claimants from DCOs, no matter what their personal situation, as bogus claimants trying to take advantage of Canada’s generosity. Regardless of the hardship of their lives and their journeys, those arriving in ways deemed “irregular” are imagined as immigration queue-jumpers – as people who freely choose a quick and easy route to Canadian protection and citizenship. Health care professionals, medical anthropologists, and others who care for asylum seekers and refugees and hear the intimate details of their stories are the most obvious candidates to combat these portrayals, which we know from our daily work to be both wrong and demeaning.

Only by telling – and listening to – stories like these will Canadians become attuned to the profound cognitive dissonance between how we want to see ourselves and current Canadian government policy. Pregnant women with high blood pressure, children with asthma, and men with diabetes have all lost access to care. We must repeatedly remind ourselves that they could be our siblings, parents, or children. Through this visceral, narrative approach, we can rehumanize the people most affected by these regressive policy changes and wake ourselves from our complacence. In short, we cannot convincingly declare ourselves generous while denying care to those who deserve it.

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Seniors Get It On Safely in Florida

By Ashley White

An independent collective of professional sexuality educators, researchers, authors, trainers, counselors, and therapists have gotten together in Florida to address the significant rise (over 70%) in sexually transmitted infections experienced among seniors. is getting the message out in an open, sassy and living way.  Seniors have sex too, often with more than one partner in a short period of time, and may hold different views about protection than the Gen-Yers.   The organizations latest promotional video, shown below, boasts clothed senior couples posing a la Kama Sutra to raise awareness.

At least we don’t have to worry about Seniors and contraception.

The end of the journey to safe, regulated markets for sex work? No. It’s more like a stop-over.

For me, it’s been a passionate and outspoken six year crusade to improve the human rights, safety, and dignity of Canadian sex workers.  For others, it’s been decades.  For some, the issue is just beginning to register as mainstream.  On Monday, March 26, 2012, there was yet another exciting stop-over in a journey that has yet to reach an end.

I was up at 5:45am and sitting across from Rick Cluff at the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation (CBC) at 6:40am to discuss the constitutional challenge to Canada’s Prostitution Laws in Ontario.  Justice Susan Himel struck down three laws relating to sex work in September of 2010:  Keeping a Common Bawdy House (Section 210), Living off the Avails (subsection J of Section 212), and Communication for the Purposes of Prostitution (Section 213).  This was a historic victory for Canadian sex workers as these particular laws work both individually and collectively to prevent sex workers from taking safety precautions while engaged in an exchange of sex for money – an exchange which has NEVER been illegal in Canada.

Working at an indoor location, rather than on the street, is much safer and this is backed up by reams of evidence, both qualitative and quantitative. Working indoors means that sex workers have better control over their working environment including having someone else present if anything goes wrong.

The Living off the Avails law was enacted, in part, to protect sex workers from exploitative pimps.  In reality, this law can apply to ANYONE who receives financial support from a sex worker, including her partner or her children.  This law also prohibits sex workers from hiring individuals to provide additional safety such as security guards, drivers and receptionists.  I would also point out that there are violent, exploitive men living off the avails of women in a variety of professions – the financial exploitation of women is not restricted to the sex trade. Continue reading

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Plans to Close Thistletown

By: Ingrid Giesinger

Somehow it seems fitting that my first post to Radical Public Health is about one of my first teaching experiences.

Thistletown Regional Centre, located near the Kipling and Finch intersection in the NW of Toronto, serves children, adolescents (and their families) who are dealing with complex mental health, behavioral and developmental challenges.[1]

In 1995, plans to close the centre, initiated under the Rae government, were thwarted by parental pressure. These plans are back on the agenda, under the McGuinty government[2].

The current plan to close Thistletown follows a very similar plan to that proposed under the Rae government, transferring the responsibility to community programs. Many children end up at Thistletown, because the community agencies were not able to serve them in the first place.

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The Tricky Business of Reducing Risk

The Tricky Business of Reducing Risk: Canada’s drug policy pits evidence against ideologues

Megaphone Magazine, Vancouver’s street newspaper, takes a look at drug treatment vs. harm reduction in the downtown east side.

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