Archive for February, 2011

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Official Covenant

February 17, 2011

Phoenix Urban Health Collective

Action ° Outreach ° Advocacy

1.      The Phoenix Urban Health Collective (PUHC) is a non-institutional collective of healthcare professionals and community health organizers who are dedicated to promoting community health among vulnerable populations in the Greater Phoenix Area.

a.       The PUHC recognizes that poor health is not evenly distributed within our Valley: minorities, the poor, and immigrant populations suffer from a disproportionate share of the public health burden.  If these disparities are to be resolved, we must understand and address the socio-political determinants of poor community health status.   Factors such as (but not limited to) environmental pollution, inadequate public investment in education, a shortage of affordable housing, lack of access to primary care, and  the criminalization of homeless and immigrant populations all serve to perpetuate and expand these health disparities.

b.      In addition to the services generally recognized as being fundamental to public health – such as access to healthy food and primary care —  the PUHC believes that healthy communities cannot exist without the following:

i.      Economic justice: In this country, poverty is the most significant risk factor for negative health alterations.  A community that cannot afford healthy food, or that lacks access to quality primary care or safe, healthy jobs & housing, can never be truly healthy.

ii.      Community organization and empowerment:  Members of healthy communities know what their rights are, know how to identify and articulate problems within their communities, and are empowered to advocate for their own interests, and the interests of their communities.

iii.      Education: healthy communities have access to quality education that provides people of all ages with the ability to understand the world around them, and to advance themselves and their communities economically, spiritually, and socially.

iv.      Safety: Healthy communities do not face disproportionate risk of violence. Whether a community is struggling with domestic violence, gang violence, or state sponsored violence such as police brutality or raids that separate immigrant families, communities must be empowered to work together to secure their ability to live together without fear.

2)   Membership:  As medical professionals and community health organizers, we are committed to supporting – through direct action, public outreach, and political advocacy – underserved communities who are struggling to remove the structural barriers to improved community health status.

a.    The PUHC shall be organized into three teams: Action, Outreach, and Advocacy. All PUHC members are members of one or more teams.  While many members may not be directly involved in all of the above groups, all members commit to maintaining an awareness of the work that all three teams are doing.

b.     In order to become official members, prospective members must attend a training session for the team they are joining, and assist in one PUHC supported action.

c.     Members are expected to attend at least two PUHC supported events per year in order to maintain active membership.

d.     When representing the PUHC,  members shall act professionally at all times.

e.     Membership may be suspended or revoked by the consensus of the rest of the group.

3.     Action:  When large groups of people are mobilized in protest, EMS response times may be delayed due to logistical difficulties secondary to the crowds themselves, or due to protocols that prevent them from entering a situation “Until it has been secured”.    Furthermore, many members of marginalized communities may be uncomfortable interacting with EMS.  For this reason PUHC Action team will, when possible, organize a team of protest medics as a solidarity presence in support of marginalized communities that are asserting their rights.

a.     The PUHC Action team shall consist of medical professionals with current licensure and/or EMT certification.  Exceptions may be made by consensus.

b.     The PUHC is not neutral in issues of structural injustice, believing that neutrality always benefits the oppressor — never the oppressed.  Nevertheless, PUHC members commit to offering quality care to any person who is injured at an action, regardless of the patient’s ideology or role.  This includes counter-protestors, law enforcement, and bystanders.  When the number of people injured exceeds our capacity to serve, members shall triage based on their best clinical judgment, without regard for the patients ideology.

c.     The Phoenix Urban Health Collective is non-hierarchical.   Every member practices within the scope of their own training and/or licensure, and each is independently liable for their own actions.

4.     Outreach: The PUHC seeks to provide community health outreach for underserved communities.

a.     The PUHC Outreach Team shall consist of medical professionals, dietitians,  psychiatric health professionals, social workers, and others  who are committed to providing a community health presence for underserved communities.

b.     The PUHC Outreach Team seeks to support underserved communities through screenings, public health education, and community health support.

5.    Advocacy: Often, poor community health is the product of public policies that are reactionary, rather than evidence based, and which result in the structural oppression of certain subsets of the population.  The PUHC seeks to promote evidence based solutions to public health challenges.

a.     The PUHC advocacy team shall consist of community organizers and logisticians who are interested in organizing around issues at the intersection of community health and human rights.

b.     The Advocacy Team shall work to organize marginalized communities around community health issues.

c.     The Advocacy Team shall work to educate society about how poor community health is constructed, and to create dialogue around issues of structural oppression, racism, empowerment, and their relationship to community health status, as well as the role, practice, and definition of liberation medicine.

6.     Structure:  The PUHC is consensus based, and non-hierarchical.

a.     PUHC shall have general meetings on an as-needed basis.  Reasonable effort shall be made to provide adequate notice to all members.

b.     Each team shall, by consensus, chose a convener who shall serve a one year term. The Convener shall have no power or authority above the rest of the team, but shall be responsible for the following tasks:

i.      Promoting communication within their team

ii.      Promoting communication between teams.

iii.      Ensuring that the consensus process is honored, and that all voices are heard.

iv.      Scheduling meetings, and managing their teams’ list-serve.

c.     Changes or exceptions to this covenant, and official position statements may be suggested by any member of the Collective by writing the proposed minute in a Google Doc and e-mailing a link for the document to the PUHC list-serve for peer-review.   All minutes must pass the peer-review by consensus in order to become official.  Any member who does not respond to the proposed minute within five days forfeits their right to participate in the peer-review process for that minute.

d.     Decisions other than the approval of position statements and changes or exceptions to the covenant may be made by the process described in 5(b), or in an open meeting by consensus of the members present.  Decisions made in an open meeting shall be disseminated via the PUHC list-serve within 48 hours after the meeting.

7.     Protocols:  All members agree to adhere to the following protocols when representing the PUHC.

a.     When representing the PUHC, members are expected  to limit public statements to the following:

i.       Talking points informed by official position statements (see section 5(b) for information about position statements).

ii.      Statements informed by clinical knowledge and direct observation – eg. “At this point we can confirm that six people were injured, including two children.”  or “Significant exposure to pepper spray can lead to serious complications, especially among  children, the elderly, and those with pre-existing cardio-pulmonary illness”.

b.     When serving at a PUHC supported action, all members agree to act within the limits of their training and competency.

c.     When providing patient care, members are expected to make every reasonable effort to protect the privacy and autonomy of our patients.

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Official Minute on SB1405

February 17, 2011

Phoenix Urban Health Collective

Action • Outreach • Advocacy

Official Minute on SB1405:

The Phoenix Urban Health Collective is a coalition of medical professionals committed to reducing health disparities in the Phoenix Metropolitan Area.

As medical professionals, we view our relationship with our patients as a sacred one, built on trust and a shared commitment to health.
While we oppose any legislation that has the effect of criminalizing vulnerable populations, we find bills such as SB1405 — which would turn every hospital in the state of Arizona into a de facto immigration agency — to be especially repulsive.

SB1405 would further erode the trust between our patients and the medical resources that we all depend on. This would undermine community health efforts and inevitably lead to an increase in avoidable suffering and mortality.

As medical professionals, we are bound by our professional codes of ethics to do no harm to our patients.  We cannot, therefore, comply with any law or regulation that asks us to participate in the criminalization of our patients, particularly when such policies serve no discernible purpose in promoting community health or public safety.

We are medical professionals; not immigration agents.  No act of the legislature will compel us to violate our professional ethics by blurring that line.

We call on our elected representatives to desist from such harmful and frivolous distractions and return to work on legislation that will address actual problems facing our state.

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Official Minute on the Falsification of Public Health Data

February 15, 2011

Phoenix Urban Health Collective

Action · Outreach · Advocacy

As medical professionals, we understand that successful public health efforts depend on the accurate and timely dissemination of public health information.  Falsification or misrepresentation of public health data poses a threat to the health of our communities, and betrays a concerning lack of respect, not only for those who are working to promote public health, but also to the populace that is being lied to.
The Phoenix Urban Health Collective (PUHC) condemns, in the strongest terms, the practice of misrepresenting and/or falsifying public health data to further a political agenda.
The Phoenix Urban Health Collective is committed to holding public figures accountable for any falsification and misrepresentation of public health data.  In order to avoid such embarrassment, community leaders who intend to place the blame for public health problems on the vulnerable populations existing within our community need to first read the following steps:

If you intend to sound the alarm about a public health problem, first make sure that the problem you are referencing actually exists.

An epidemic is defined as a statistically significant increase in the incidence of a disease.  If county, state, or federal officials have not declared an epidemic, it probably doesn’t exist.  In recent years, we have heard local community leaders cite numerous non-existent epidemics, ranging from malaria to leprosy, to beheadings.   Likewise, several community leaders have recently stated that immigrants from Mexico lack immunization, while the Pan American Health initiative lists Mexico as having a better immunization rate than the US (1).

If an increased incidence of a specific disease is found to be present within a vulnerable population, please be prepared to explain why you chose to frame the members of said populations as being the perpetrators of the problem, rather than the victims of failed public health policy.

Public health is a policy issue.  Poor public health is a policy failure.  To claim that the populations with the least voice in how our public institutions are structured and funded are somehow more culpable for public health failures than those who wrote and implemented the failed policy is a remarkable claim.

If you are a policy maker who has recently voted to cut funding for public health programs, please be prepared to explain why you feel that the victims of public health failures are more culpable than you.

Please be prepared to cite sources

This should go without saying.  Reliable public health data is remarkably accessible: the  CDC, as well as state and county health departments perform and publish detailed studies when there is a statistically significant increase in a disease that has been deemed to be of epidemiologic import.   These reports are written by trained epidemiologists with many years of academic preparation.

If the data from public health agencies is in conflict with the claims of an organization that is not recognized as a valid academic source, please do not expect to be taken seriously if you cite the latter – especially if the source you are citing has been recognized as a hate group by the SPLC (2).  It greatly disappoints us that we must specifically state this.

References

1. Pan American Health Organization.  http://ais.paho.org/phip/viz/cip_coverageandsanitation.asp
2. Southern Poverty Law Center. http://www.splcenter.org/get-informed/intelligence-report/browse-all-issues/2002/summer/the-puppeteer

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