With the end of the second World War, North America saw a spike in its birth rate, resulting in a populous generation that would not only bring about vast social and economic changes, but also enjoy one of the most prosperous times in human history. It would appear though that World War 2 didn’t just give the Baby Boomers their beginning, it may have also brought about an epidemic. The battlefield medical procedures and flow of troops from around the world converging together from the war gave rise to a spread of disease, one of which was Hepatitis C (1). Studies now show that the reuse of needles and lack of screening blood products allowed for the spread of the virus (1). Despite having a stereotype of being contracted primarily by IV drug addicts or sexual promiscuity, 75% of the 6 million adults in North America infected with Hep C were born between 1945-1964 (1).
Approximately 80% of people infected with Hep C do not exhibit any symptoms (2) making it possible to go 15 years or more before being diagnosed (3). Hepatitis C is a disease caused by a virus that infects the liver and over time can lead to cirrhosis, cancer, or failure of this vital organ (3). The virus is spread through contact with infected blood; for example sharing or reusing of needles, blood transfusions prior to 1992, tattoos or piercings given with infected equipment, shots given with infected needles, and more rarely mother to baby or sexual intercourse with infected parties (3). The disease presents itself in one of two forms, either acute or chronic. Acutely the disease is rarely life threatening and is asymptomatic, spontaneously clearing within 6 months without treatment in 15-45% of cases (2). Chronic is more common, affecting 55-85% of those infected and carries a 15-20% risk of liver cirrhosis within 20 years (2). The disease is often diagnosed by accident. It is common for the infected individual to be donating blood and have the screening process show elevated liver enzymes (3). This leads to further blood work and liver biopsy to confirm the diagnosis (3). Of the 170 million people infected worldwide, between 250 000 and 300 000 are Canadian (4,5) and 4.1 million are American (6). In America, Hepatitis C is next after Alcoholism for the leading cause of liver disease and the leading reason for liver transplants. Between 1-5% of those infected will die of liver disease or liver cancer, with 10 000 – 12 000 people dying yearly from Hepatitis C (6). This number is expected to triple in the next two decades however due to the aging baby Boomer population (6).
A recent Canadian study out of B.C. was able to determine time sequencing (origin, introduction and speed of spread) for the disease through the study of virus mutations (5). The evidence showed that the peak of the spread of Hep C was in 1950 when most Baby Boomers were only children, which would negate them from the once presumed behavioral practices that spread the disease, like sexual promiscuity and needle drug use (5). This put the spread of the disease 15 years earlier than was first thought (5). With the plateau of the spread being between 1960-1990, consistent with changes in injection technology, the evidence became more clear that the medical practices of reusing and improperly sterilizing medical equipment to be the main culprit of allowing the disease to spread, and the prevalence of it in the Baby Boomer generation (5). Add to this the fact that blood screening practices from blood donations for blood products and transfusions didn’t come into effect until 1992, and you have a recipe for unchecked transmission of blood borne diseases like Hepatitis C (5).
In May of 2012 the American Centre for Disease Control recommended that all Baby Boomers be tested for Hepatitis C in light of this new information (7). The Canadian government, however has been behind in acknowledging this epidemic and as a result a recent Liver Foundation survey showed that 80% of Canadians in the Baby Boomer age bracket are unaware of the risk and only 25% of them have been tested for the disease (8). Personally it was not until recently seeing an ad in a National Geographic magazine for Baby Boomers to be tested that I became aware of any such issue. Had my curiosity not been peaked, I would not know about this very important issue. Having parents that are Baby Boomers and working in the health care industry I can see how this is a subject that should be addressed. What will this mean for our health care systems in the very near future? Will they be equipped to handle it? And how many will die, unnecessarily because of lack of knowledge? This disease has a 95% success rate with medical cures now (5), so would education not prevent deaths?
You can find the links for all the sources used here on the Resources tab on the website. I encourage you to take a look at them as there is more in-depth information on the symptoms, diagnosis and treatment of the disease. There is also more information on publicly funded drug coverage for Canadians and a free online course (4). I think it also important to note that this disease isn’t an exclusively Baby Boomer issue. The disease does also affect IV drug users and those in inner cities and prisons, and of course there are those that are younger and have contracted it from other sources. In America IV drug users have a 60% infection rate and prisons have a 50% infection rate (6). Overall this is a disease that deserves our attention and where education and awareness play a key role in the diagnosis and treatment of it.
Being at the top of the food chain brings with it great responsibility and privilege; like intelligent thought for instance. And although we are still very much prone to compulsive behavior, we have the ability to take responsibility for not only the consequences but the changing of that behavior, if need be. It is ultimately the individual’s responsibility for their actions, but there are external factors that present options that may not otherwise exist. So, in this era of social media where there is more networking, connecting and sharing; do the agents of social media share in the responsibility for what the individual does?
I don't think anyone could deny that social media has many positives. It has made communication not only easier but accessible, as families and friends can share across the country or the world. Sharing content and views with likeminded people does not have to be confined to your hometown any longer. With ease, you can find information on just about anything, or anyone. Great for bloggers and researchers alike. However, as a parent of children about to reach the age of social media accounts, I worry about the negative aspects of this widespread sharing. The statistics are clear, the question is no longer IF adolescents and adults are being bullied through social media, one studying showing 23% of all teen social media users reporting cyberbullying, and 15% of them reporting having bullied others (1). FACEBOOK alone having 87% of its teen users reporting cyberbullying, with most of those being teenage males, and TWITTER having one-fifth of its young users reporting cyberbullying (2). I won’t list all the statistics here as there are many articles out there that cover this. The two links used above can be found in the resources section of the webpage and are only the tip of the iceberg when it comes to data and opinion on the subject. I encourage you to read them as it is disturbing to see how prevalent this really is. Instead I would like to focus on who is responsible for controlling this medium for bullies. In our society when you commit a crime you are personally held responsible for your actions, with perhaps the exception of psychological reasons. So why would bullying be any different? Is anyone but the bully themselves responsible for their behavior?
Many people feel that social media itself holds some responsibility for what occurs on their platform, I therefore decided to research how two of the biggest social media sites (FACEBOOK and TWITTER) handle it. Neither take full responsibility for the issue but both address it as an issue on their sites. FACEBOOK appears to have a better hold on the issue having even teamed up with anti-bullying campaigns. They have a comprehensive reporting policy and blocking options that allow a victim to put distance between themselves and the bully. Facebook says that it’s their “mission is to give people the power to share and make the world more open and connected” (3) and to facilitate this they have set out a “Community Standard” (3) which can be found as the third link on the resources page of the website. It is here that you will see their process for reporting abuse. Although this process doesn’t’ signal out bullying, if you did a little deeper on the FACEBOOK website you will come across my next link, which specifically geared towards it. “[T]he Bullying Prevention Hub is a resource for teens, parents and educators seeking support and help for issues related to bullying and other conflicts. It offers step-by-step plans, including guidance on how to start some important conversations for people being bullied, parents who have had a child being bullied or accused of bullying, and educators who have had students involved with bullying.” (4) Among other things the hub gives teens and parents the tools to recognize bullying and how to best react to being bullied or having a friend who is bullied. The hub is in conjunction with Yale. But is it enough. Does this help to prevent, deter or address existing bullying? Should FACEBOOK be held accountable when a person goes to the extreme of taking their own life because of the cyberbullying they receive online? TWITTER does not presently have these options and is in the process of developing better reporting. They in fact admit that they are lacking in dealing with the problem (5). One issue that both sites have is that of hacked or fake accounts. Let’s face it, creating an account is not a hard task and can be done with anyone that has an email account; neither of which has to be made in your real name. So how can these sites protect us from would-be predators, and should they have to?
Personally, I am a big believer in personal accountability. However, in a society of the size of the online community there are bound to be those who need more reminding of good humanly behavior. Still would we hold the business owner who has a bulletin board in his shop responsible for a hateful message left on the board? Well actually yes. Most of us would rally to have the owner take down the message in the interest of all those viewing the board. But what if there are millions of messages, how do you filter them then? And what if some find the message distasteful or hateful and others agree with it or find it funny? Freedom of speech is a right that is unique to only some of this worlds countries and although it is a shame that some choose to use this right as a means to hurt others, what do we lose by breaking down that freedom? One cannot condone however a purposeful act to hurt another fellow human being. We lose far more by this than any other action or non-action. So as a community of people should we not all take on the onus of looking out for one another? Or has social media become too big of a beast to control now, leaving it up to the individual to be responsible for their own welfare?
If you scream loud enough in a crowd, will your voice be heard?
Sometimes it may seem that political election campaigns would answer yes to this question. But for all the show, name calling and finger pointing; what does an election mean to an average person? Does voting mean something? Many sacrifices were made historically, not that long ago in fact, to secure the vote for the majority of populations in the USA and Canada; but does that equal to an actual feeling of power among the people? Do we care what our politicians do, or are we complacent, fed up, or out right done with the "democrat" process we hold dear in both of our societies? Perhaps we feel lucky to have such a process in place, whereas many places in our world do not. I wonder what an examination of the recent past and present would reveal to ourselves about our political competency.
The most recent federal elections in Canada and USA have been historically different from years past. In Canada the 43rd federal election was held after one of the longest running campaigns in history, with the then current Prime Minister being the first since 1979 to try for a fourth consecutive term. (1) With many major issues like health care, government spending and security on the table (2), Canadians showed up to vote in records numbers at 68.3% of the eligible voters; the best turn out since 1993. (3) Were the issues enough to draw people to the polls? It would appear that voter turn out does affect a change in the ruling party. (3) For instance the voter turnout increased by almost 4% in 2006 from 2004 in order to change the governing party from Liberal to Conservative. (3) Perhaps our allegiances align more with the issues than party, unless motivated by these issues we apathetic to our democratic rights.
The USA has a vastly different election process than Canada. It is a complex system that sees fewer voters in federal elections than Canada. This month at the recent election despite a long and arduous campaign that engaged, enraged and enticed the country and the world, voter turnout was still only 56.9%(4), only slightly up from 54.8% in 2012(5). In fact since 1968 the voter turnout in the USA hasn't reached 60% (5). Unlike Canadian voter turnout that on average hovers in the 60% range (3), Americans seem to hover around half their eligible voting population (5). For Americans though, turnout does not seem to affect the changing of parties, mostly because the parties take a more even sharing of power. So even in the face of vital social and economical crises, it would appear that voting is not reflected as an agent of change for the average person.
Numbers are only half the story though. It is what the average person thinks and feels about the amount of power the vote gives them to affect change in their society. The numbers reflect a large portion of the population in both countries that are apathetic to voting. That most people believe that their vote will not change their lives. It could very well be argued that it takes a need to affect a movement. People need the motivation and belief that their actions will make a difference. It would appear that many people do not believe that the vote will do this.
What do you believe? Do you think that voting in federal elections gives you the power to affect change?
Written by Amanda Todd