Category Archives: Health

PBS interview misses the politics of motherhood

“If your only tool is a hammer, then every problem looks like a nail”

I thought of that old phrase while watching a segment of the PBS Newshour on the risk of postpartum depression among women. The featured guest on this segment was Dr. Hal Lawrence, CEO of the American Congress of Obstetricians and Gynecologists.

…we know that 20 percent of all women will have some depression during their lifetime, and so some women actually enter pregnancy with some signs of depression.

Some may have already had a diagnosis of depression or psychological illness, and those people are at increased risk. So, picking that up early, or if you don’t know about it, helps you be careful about those parents when they become postpartum.

So, screening during pregnancy is very important. Screening postpartum is very important, and screening, you know, earlier than even six weeks.

The frequent depression among mothers (and I think that they’re talking here about U.S. mothers) is reduced to a mental health issue that should be dealt with by beefing up mental health services to individual patients based on widespread psychological screening.

There are lots of mentions of the stress of pregnancy and motherhood.

Here’s Dr. Lawrence:

Well, it’s such a stressful time. And everybody looks at pregnancy as this joyous moment.

And it is joyous, and you have a healthy mother, and you have a healthy baby. But there’s also a lot of stress. That woman’s life has changed. She feels — she’s so dedicated to her baby. And then anything that makes her feel uncomfortable, she questions herself: Am I doing the right thing? Am I doing it good enough?

The issue of “stress” is again reduced to a psychological problem of the patient.

But what isn’t mentioned at all are the social and political dimensions of pregnancy and childbirth.

After all, as one study after another have quickly found, the United States is one of the only countries without paid maternity leave and other support services for mothers and families.

Here’s one summary:

Recently released reports show that the U.S. and Papua New Guinea are the only two nations to not guarantee paid maternity leave for working mothers, while Hungary and Slovakia give 160 or more paid weeks of leave, according to the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development.

There are lots of good articles to be found. Here are a few.

The US is still the only developed country that doesn’t guarantee paid maternity leave,” The Guardian.

Paid Parental Leave: U.S. vs. The World (INFOGRAPHIC), HuffPost Parents

Among 38 nations, U.S. is the outlier when it comes to paid parental leave,” Pew Research Center.

Lots Of Other Countries Mandate Paid Leave. Why Not The U.S.?”

Without the public services and support for mothers and families are routine in other developed countries, it’s no wonder that motherhood is an unusually stressful period in the United States.

It is a wonder, though, that the political aspects of motherhood were not even mentioned by the interviewer or his guest.

Ask a doctor, and he’ll tell you it’s a medical/psychiatric issue. Remember the hammer and all those nails….

From a “green flash” to comments on a couple of S-A stories

Kahala, Sept 2015

We learned something this morning. It was very clear, with almost no visible clouds. Seconds before this photo was taken, as the sun just began to clear the edge of Koko Crater, there was a clearly visible sliver of a green flash. For a fraction of a second, it clung to the visual edge of the crater before being overtaken by the emerging sunrise.

So we can see the green flash at dawn from Kahala Beach, even though the sun isn’t rising out of the ocean. It’s different from the situation in Kaaawa, where the flash came as the sun rose over the ocean.

A small thing, but it did provide us a moment of excitement.

And then a media comment. Here’s a story headline from the Star-Advertiser that got caught up in my “bad headline” filter.

The article describes a proposal by U.S. Rep. Mark Takai’s to utilize unspent federal highway funds to rebuilt Farrington and Kamehameha highways in Pearl City after construction of the city’s rail project is completed in the area.

It just struck me that the headline’s attribution of the idea to a “politician” was unnecessarily disrespectful to Takai, who represents Hawaii’s 1st Congressional District.


Yes, Takai is an elected official and, by definition, a politician. But he’s not any run of the mill politician. He’s our area’s elected representative in Congress.

Why not a headline that refers to his position, “Congressman,” or used his name, “Mark Takai,” or just last name, “Takai.”

Another story that caught my eye was Sophie Cocke’s investigative piece on overtime pay to several DOH accounting staff (“Several Department of Health workers have raked in overtime pay amid dubious circumstances“). It was a good piece of enterprise reporting, indicating that recruiting Cocke from Civil Beat will give the S-A a reporting boost.

It’s a solid story. Substantial overtime pay without adequate documentation of work done, hours spent, etc., etc.

But after reading the story, I did wonder whether this was one of those offices where budget and staffing was cut to the bone during the Lingle years and the rest of the 2008-2009 recession, leaving those remaining staff to somehow cover an increasing, and increasingly complex, workload, with millions of dollars at risk if the work didn’t somehow get done.

That would be a different story than the implied wrongdoing by DOH staff conveyed by Sunday’s piece.

Perhaps a follow-up is in order to fill in that piece of the puzzle.

UH administration pressed to improve responses to student deaths

Susan Schultz, a professor of English and editor at Tinfish Press, has created a petition pushing the University of Hawaii at Manoa administration to improve their handling of student deaths.

The petition will be closed on Monday and the signatures forwarded to the Board of Regents, so please review the petition and her background links, and add your signature if you’re so inclined.

This is taken from her email now being circulated.


I just created a new petition and I hope you can sign — it’s called: UHM administration: Develop student death protocol, mount suicide prevention activities

This issue is very important to me, and together we can do something about it!

Read more about it and sign it here.

Campaigns like this always start small, but they grow when people like us get involved — please take a second right now to help out by signing and passing it on.

Thanks so much,


PS For more of the backstory, please check out: (scroll down a bit)

A defense of Planned Parenthood by the respected New England Journal of Medicine

The New England Journal of Medicine published an editorial last week strongly supporting Planned Parenthood, which is again being attacked by the conservative Republican right wing (“Planned Parenthood at Risk“).

Here’s the lead paragraph:

Planned Parenthood is under attack — again. This time, a campaign of misinformation about the retrieval of fetal tissue used in research and therapy is the excuse. When women have made the decision to terminate a pregnancy, Planned Parenthood allows them the opportunity to have the fetal tissue that would otherwise be discarded be used by qualified researchers to help answer important medical questions. The organization does so carefully, following all applicable laws and ethical guidelines. In a Perspective article now published in the Journal, Charo presents compelling arguments defending these uses of fetal tissue. Planned Parenthood, its physicians, and the researchers who do this work should be praised, not damned. The research is not easy to do, but as Charo explains, it has benefited millions of people worldwide. If the antichoice forces were allowed to rule the day, these advances would never have been made.

And there’s this:

It is shameful that a radical antichoice group whose goal is the destruction of Planned Parenthood continues to twist the facts to achieve its ends.

The full NEJM editorial, and the linked Perspective article, are worth reading. Please share with others.

Feline Friday: Duke’s recovery leads the week in cats

Mr. DukeI tried to talk to Duke about what kind of image this little bit of cat yoga projects, but he didn’t want to talk about it. He was probably thinking, “When he ties himself up like this, then we can talk.”

Anyway, it’s almost a week since Duke’s collapse, and he seems to be doing progressively better. And he’s tolerating all the poking and prodding that he’s been getting since coming home. He has defeated my pill attempts several times, but eventually I manage to get it down. This morning I tried a little butter on the pill, and it slipped right down, much to Duke’s surprise. Unfortunately, he seems to learn, and seems to develop counters to my new moves. Hopefully the pills will be gone before I’m finally defeated.

But, as I say, he’s doing okay. His glucose levels are stabilizing, although they spike up a bit after the evening meal, for some reason. The other cats just seem happy that they aren’t the ones getting the pills and other unwanted attention!

–> Now, without further ado, just click to see all of today’s Fine Friday Felines!