How to Fight the Next Epidemic

The Ebola epidemic, which has claimed 10,000 lives in West Africa, has served as a point of analysis of current public health and disease control systems: namely, their lack of presence. This has served to highlight the need for increased preparedness and protocol in the case of future epidemics which have the potential to be even more lethal. Ebola, Gates notes, requires physical contact for transmission as well as active symptoms. Drawing comparisons to the Spanish flu which killed approximately 30 million people in 1918, diseases that are either airborne or are contagious before the onset of symptoms are a great threat to our increasingly mobile society and require adequate systems in place to control an outbreak in the future. While conversations about Ebola have centered primarily on whether the WHO or the CDC responded effectively do not highlight the fact that there are very rudimentary and ill structured systems to address a crisis of this size. The Ebola crisis made clear that there is little protocol for essential functions of disease control in vulnerable regions such as volunteer deployment, transportation of patients, diagnostic procedures, and data collection.

Gates calls for increasing infrastructural capacity and encouraging the development of global warning symptoms for epidemics. Local health systems need to be adequately prepared and strengthened in order for these measures to be effective. In addition, there must be a  more efficient way to have medical professionals and experts on call, standard deployment measures, organized data collection measures, and emergency resources ready and accessible. More>>

Learn more about SPHTM’s efforts in the Ebola Outbreak.




Ban on Fast Food in South L.A. Has Not Cut Obesity

A recent study has shown that the ban on fast-food restaurants in South Los Angeles has not been effective in reducing obesity. Despite the ban—which was put in effect seven years go—fast food consumption in South L.A. has increased. The percentage of people who are overweight or obese in the area affected by the ordinance has also increased from 63% to 75%, mirroring trends throughout L.A. county. Councilman Bernard C. Parks, who co-wrote the zoning restriction, is not discouraged by the lack of results, and remains confident that the ban was a necessary step for long term reductions in obesity. Parks stated that the ordinance was only the first move in attempting to have these establishments replaced by farmers’ markets and grocery stores: a step which has proved more difficult to accomplish.

The 2008 law was the city’s landmark attempt at tackling fast-food restaurants. Supported by a grant from the National Cancer Institute, the ordinance targeted the predominantly African American neighborhoods in South L.A. which has a higher rate of obesity and diabetes. More>>

Tulane University School of Public Health and Tropical Medicine currently conducts interdisciplinary research on obesity and food policy. Learn more about Tulane research projects.