Public health

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June 1,

The NewBostonPost’s June theme is public health. As the weather turns warmer and ripe for outdoor activity, it seems only natural that we should delve into questions regarding the physical and mental health of both small and large communities, as well as the nation at large:  Are Americans healthy? Who is healthy and who is not? How do our local habits affect our health?

Public health is an area that involves a multitude of entanglements between the public and the private sector, between individuals and the market, between local communities and the state, between business interests and private safety, between science and consumption. The NewBostonPost will try to untangle some of these relationships, and we will report on organized measures (both public and private) to prevent disease and improve the health of our community.

Looking at these different components of public health reveals some contradictions. On the one hand, 21st century America is incredibly health conscious. Americans are obsessed with regular workouts at fancy gyms, balanced nutrition and organic diets, body fat indexes, smoke-free zones, etc. On the other hand, we are experiencing a national obesity crisis and, closer to home, a shocking opioid epidemic.

This month, the NewBostonPost will consider whether much of what constitutes general health crises — obesity, illegal drug use, and the over-prescription of legal drugs — might have more to do with deeper social pathologies than physical illness. And we will ask whether temporary relief sold as medical antidote is always the best cure for deeper cultural problems. The NewBostonPost will investigate whether some things that ail us require long-term cultural change.

Here in Massachusetts, voters are evenly split on an initiative that will likely appear on the ballot this fall to legalize the recreational use of marijuana. This month, we will examine the issue of legalization from a public health perspective, considering whether Massachusetts education, health care, and traffic safety professionals are prepared to adequately address the consequences of legalization. We also hope to consider the broader questions of why people revert to drugs and whether their needs can be met in other ways. And we hope to point to the great dangers of allowing and tolerating drugs that might lead to stronger drugs in a society that seems to lack the capacity to provide meaning and purpose, especially among the vulnerable young.

The topic of public health raises vital questions about public policy and the fragility of our society. Public health has to do with promoting health and prolonging life. But what makes a life worthwhile? Medicine and drugs are not always the answer. According to the United Nations’ World Health Organization, the dimensions of health can encompass “a state of complete physical, mental and social well-being and not merely the absence of disease or infirmity.” We will take that as a starting point for further investigation and discussion.

Tina McCormick

Tina McCormick

Tina McCormick is Publisher of the NewBostonPost. Read her past columns and messages here.