The Politics of Child Health

Is it just me or does it seem like the politics of health are everywhere these days?

We have the attempt to remove the philosophical exemption for childhood vaccines, thwarted in part by the continued perception about the risk of autism.  There are the naturopathic clinicians who (ironically) want to be able to prescribe medications.  There is law enforcement trying to get access to prescription records without a warrant in order to fight drug abuse.   These efforts are all going on as Vermont works toward major healthcare reform. 

There was also a sloppy and (to me) bizarre front page article in the Burlington Free Press last Monday.  While the article began discussing an investigation of a single individual, it morphed into a condemnation about psychiatric medications while being amazingly full of mistakes (Abilify spelled Amblify twice, antipsychotics called antidepressants, wrongly implying that  physicians “bill” insurance for medications).  

What do all these things have in common?  To me, the thread is information: how one gets it, interprets it, and uses (or misuses) it.  Few would argue that information is easier to obtain now than it has ever been, but with that facility come hazards.  It can be refreshing to be able to access through the internet views other than the party line, but how do we know that these well produced bits have their facts straight?  

Issues related to child mental health are a hot topic right now.  That’s great in a way because people are listening but listening to whom?  Those of us in the mental health and primary care fields need to speak up and advocate for the children and families we serve.  We also can’t be complacent when we hear bad information being turned into poor public policy.   Such a task can be difficult, especially in instances when the information is exactly what we want to hear. 

I’ll end with my favorite bumper sticker – “Don’t believe everything you think.”

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