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Elemental
Your life, sourced by science. A publication from Medium about health and wellness.

Equality

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Experts are calling for stricter regulation of these endocrine disruptors

If you’ve ever explored the world of so-called clean beauty products, you’ve probably heard about phthalates, a family of endocrine-disrupting chemicals. These “plasticizing” agents were historically added to nail polish to prevent cracking and to hairspray to add flexibility, but now they’re in a variety of personal care products — shampoo, perfume, sanitary pads, and so on — as well as household items like vinyl flooring and food packaging. Research has linked them to learning, behavioral, and attention disorders in kids.

For these reasons, some scientists have called for tighter regulation of these chemicals, but to limited success: As Dana…


A myriad of systematic and social factors fueled the lack of vaccines in Black and Latino communities

Elizabeth Griffin, 86, is given her first dose of the Moderna coronavirus (COVID-19) vaccine by Anya Harris at Red Hook Neighborhood Senior Center in the Red Hood neighborhood of the Brooklyn borough on February 22, 2021 in New York City. Photo by Michael M. Santiago/Getty Images

Covid-19 vaccines emerged as a medical breakthrough, but like many other innovations, they have been disproportionately helping white Americans as compared to other racial and ethnic groups.

As of February 2021, a stark Covid-19 vaccine disparity remains. In Delaware, Black people account for 24% of statewide Covid-19 cases, yet only 9% have received the vaccine. Similarly in Colorado, Hispanic people account for 36% of Covid-19 cases, but only 6% have been vaccinated.

“I’ve heard from [Black and Latino] patients that they want the vaccine, but there is a supply issue and that will continue to be an issue over the…


The Election & Your Health

A look at what’s at stake for America’s gaping health disparities

Illustration: Olivia Fields

As the country careens towards a presidential election in the midst of a raging pandemic, the dueling headlines on public health and politics are a stark indication that, no matter who wins in November, this election will have profound, far-reaching consequences for your physical health and well-being. All this week, Elemental is running a series of stories detailing what’s at stake, from insurance coverage to plans for a pandemic still in progress. Here’s what you should know about the implications of the election on health for people of color and the LGBTQ+ community.

Social determinants of health — including education…


Let’s be careful about how we define ‘progress’

Eat for your health and the next generation. Illustration courtesy of the author

This is a story of another time, of a plausible future 30 years from now, give or take, in which the human experience of life and health (and perhaps even of who we are) will unfold unlike anything known before. The citizens of this future will learn early in life — through some combination of next-next-next-generation genetic testing and intelligence gleaned from their smart accessories — whether they are heading toward disease: depression, dementia, diabetes, what have you. More important, they will be offered an exit strategy.

This is the opening of a January 2020 article in UCSF Magazine. It…


A physician checks herself and her profession

Photo: Jose Luis Pelaez Inc/Getty Images

I have always been a humanist. I was raised Buddhist, don’t typically buy into bipartisan politics, and work hard to resist the reflex of “othering” those who have different opinions. I have been challenged recently, however, to understand how peacefulness can be a slippery slope to complacency.

As many sectors of society show humility during a global call for racial justice, the field of medicine (my domain) is frustratingly vain. The health care industry as a whole could stand to take a page from this moment in history. The following list of lessons is by no means exhaustive. …


They’re in higher demand than ever — and dealing with many of the same stressors as their patients

Photo: SDI Productions/Getty Images

During a recent therapy session, Boston-based psychiatrist Cecil Webster, Jr., MD, had to answer a seemingly impossible question. His patient, a 9-year-old Black boy, asked him: “Will white people be afraid of me when I grow up?”

“As a therapist and as a Black man, how are you supposed to answer that?” Webster asks. He’s been providing therapy and medication management to adults, adolescents, and children — most of them Black — for eight years. But over the past few weeks, the deaths of George Floyd, Breonna Taylor, and Ahmaud Arbery and the resulting protests have led to a noteworthy…


Why is it so hard for white folks to be wrong?

Photo: Ira L. Black/Corbis News/Getty Images

If there’s one thing white people have (hopefully) come to understand over the last month, it’s that we have a lot to learn about anti-Black racism and a long way to go to achieve racial equity in this country.

White folks are also discovering how uncomfortable it is to be called out as wrong — whether we’re being told that a comment we made was racist or that we shouldn’t center ourselves in the conversations around #BlackLivesMatter on social media.

All of this begs the questions: Why is it so hard for white folks to be wrong? And how can…


Why removing health care protections for transgender patients is inhumane and dangerous

Photo: Zackary Drucker/The Gender Spectrum Collection

Transgender people have specialized health care needs and face disproportionate barriers to accessing proper treatment. The Obama administration attempted to address these challenges by extending nondiscriminatory protections to transgender patients in a 2016 provision in the Affordable Care Act. Trump has declined to enforce that legislation, and this month finalized a rule expressly removing protections for transgender patients against discrimination by doctors, hospitals, and insurers.

A landmark decision from the U.S. Supreme Court, also released this month, interprets sex discrimination to include gender identity and sexual orientation when it comes to workplace protections, and will likely have far-reaching implications, including…


Body positivity changed my world. Why didn’t I do more to make sure it changed things for Black women, too?

Photo: Luis Alvarez/Getty Images

It was March 2017, and I was sitting on stage at SXSW, arguing with a men’s rights activist. I’d been invited to host a panel called “My Body Is NSFW,” about the issue of censorship and erasure of fat bodies in media. I’d pitched the panel based on an article I’d written for my column, The Anti-Diet Project. Beside me sat Nicolette Mason and Gabi Gregg — both iconic media figures and personal heroines of mine — whom I’d invited to join as my panelists. As a fangirl, it was the thrill of a lifetime. Furthermore, they’d been speaking out…


Racism is a public health crisis. These organizations are here to help.

Illustration: Dani Pendergast

Racism is a public health crisis. These were the words of Michelle Williams, dean of the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health, in an op-ed she co-wrote in early June in response to the death of George Floyd. There are numerous connections between racism and negative health outcomes for Black people. Specifically, research has shown a connection between incidents of police violence and adverse mental health among Black Americans. …

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