August 28, 2008

Uninsured Americans on the Decline....well, sorta

According to a report released by the U.S. Census Bureau on August 26, 2008, the number of Americans with health insurance declined in 2007....but in order for this statistic to be ENTIRELY factual, you'll have to "ignore the man behind the curtain."

The Census Bureau's report states that, after climbing steadily for six years, the number of Americans without health insurance dropped by more than a million in 2007, to 45.7 million. What's the catch? Health care experts say that the drop was the result of growth in government-sponsored health insurance programs (like Medicare and Medicaid) AND, at the same time, the number of people covered by private health insurance continued to decline. Over all, the percentage of people covered by government programs increased to to 27.8 percent in 2007 from 27 percent in 2006, and private health insurance fell from covering 67.9 percent in 2006 to 67.5 percent in 2007. Additionally, employment-based coverage also continued its decline dropping to 59.3 percent from 59.7 percent.

So, yes, technically, there was a SLIGHT decline in the number of uninsured Americans. This also means: one-million uninsured Americans down, just 45.7 million more uninsured Americans to go......

To read the 8-27-08 NYT article:
A Decline in Uninsured Is Reported for 2007

To read the Census Bureau's press release (includes a PDF link for the report Income, Poverty, and Health Insurance Coverage in the United States: 2007):

August 13, 2008

For Better or Worse, For Richer or Poorer, For Co-Pays and Deductibles.....

"I [your name] take you [your partners name] for my lawful [wife/husband], to have and to hold, from this day forward, for better, for worse, for richer, for poorer, for co-pays and deductibles, in sickness and in health, until death do us part."

For co-pays and deductibles?? Could health insurance really be included in modern wedding vows? Well, maybe not in the wedding vow itself (unless you want to that is), but according to New York Times' reporter Kevin Sack, health benefits are inspiring many American couples to rush to the altar to marry or rush to the courts to divorce. Read Sack's Aug. 12, 2008 article "Health Benefits Inspire Rush to Marry, or Divorce" to learn more.

In a country where insurance is out of reach for many, what things would you do to obtain health insurance? Is marriage or divorce one of them?

A Riddle or A Hug? Lifestyle Factors That Can Prevent and/or Treat Dementia

I'd unravel ev'ry riddle,
For an individ'le
In trouble or in pain.
With the thoughts you'd be thinkin'
You could be another Lincoln,
If you only had a brain.
- Scarecrow, The Wizard of Oz

Just to register emotion
"Jealousy," "devotion"
And really feel the part.
I could stay young and chipper
And I'd lock it with a zipper
If I only had a heart.
- Tin Man, The Wizard of Oz

It seems that the Scarecrow and the Tin Man may have been on to something....Although modern medicine has yet to find a cure for dementia, it appears that the prevention and treatment of dementia fall within the areas of cognitive fitness (a.k.a. the power of thinkin') and social interaction (a.k.a. the ability to register emotion). Now, the Scarecrow may have been cravin' a brain and the Tin Man a heart, but in the real world of medicine, it's likely that both the brain and the heart hold equal sway over dementia.

The August 12, 2008 article published on, "Is It Really Smart to Teach Old Brains New Tricks?", discusses the recent marketing and popularity of computer brainteasers. What the Post calls "the brain-game craze," first began with the 2005 launch of Nintendo's Brain Age. Inspired by the work of prominent Japanese neuroscientist Dr. Ryuta Kawashima, Nintendo advertises that its Brain Age games feature activities designed to help stimulate your brain through cognitive exercise that will improve blood flow to the brain and, therefore, help increase and maintain brain function in aging brains. But as neuroscientist Denise C. Park says in the article, even though epidemiological studies suggest that people who are mentally engaged tend to get Alzheimer's later than others, it's too soon to know if there are long-term gains from computer brain teasers. Additionally, Park worries that "if people get too engrossed in these computer games, maybe they're not exercising or engaging with other people."

This then leads us to an alternative method of healing: the power of the human heart and social interaction....

In an August 10, 2008, Boston Globe article, Neil Munshi profiles 89-year-old Sol Rogers who uses a lot of hugs and kisses to help cope with his 61-year-old, Alzheimer-stricken wife. By singing his wife old songs, taking her out to the garden, or simply lying in bed with her and telling her how much he loves her, Sol has not only boosted his own ability to cope with her dementia but he has also increased his wife's communication and mobility skills. Furthermore, according to a new study reported by the Alzheimer's Association, regular social interaction can be so helpful as we age that those who are unmarried or not living with a partner in midlife could have an increased risk of developing Alzehimer's.

So what does this all mean? Rather than suggesting we all run out and purchase a Nintendo or make a quick dash to the altar, I believe that these articles and studies suggest that, although aging maintains its mysteries, research shows that our brains' destinies don't lie solely with our genetics--we also have the power to make lifestyle decisions that can help maintain healthy brains.

To read the above mentioned articles in their entirety:

August 12, 2008

Lower Quality of Healthcare Also Means a Lower Quality of Life for Many TennCare Enrollees

As discussed in our July 31 blog post, TennCare (Tennesse's Medicaid managed care program that provides health coverage for 1.2 million low-income children, pregnant women and disabled Tennesseans) will soon receive drastic cuts in its benefits. As of September 8, 2008, if a person's healthcare services are deemed medically necessary but too costly then he or she will no longer qualify for private duty nursing and will either have to forego at-home treatment or move to a nursing home to receive state care. Despite the severity of the topic however, this new healthcare cut is receiving little (if almost any) national media coverage. To learn more, read the Aug. 11 article TennCare enrollees brace for home health cuts posted on

August 11, 2008

The Digital Journalist

Curse of the Black Gold:
Photographs by Ed Kashi
August 2008
by Dirck Halstead

As anybody who has filled up his or her SUV recently, and watched the cost to do so rise to over $100, is painfully aware, a part of our daily ritual has become prohibitively expensive. All the warnings that went unheeded about our dependence on petroleum becoming unsustainable are now a fearful reality.

Click here to read the rest of the article.

The Digital Journalist featured Curse of the Black Gold with an article, a photo gallery and a video interview. Be sure to take a look at this thorough feature!

August 9, 2008

Niger Delta up on Moving Walls 14 Website

Moving Walls 14, the Open Society Institute's current exhibition, includes my work on the Niger Delta. They have just put up the websites with myself and the other photographers in this exhibition. There is a lot to see and listen to, including a trailer of our Curse of the Black Gold multimedia piece and in interview with me.

Moving Walls