Thursday, September 07, 2017

Black Americans Got Left Out Of This New Deal Policy and Program


nakedcapitalism |  Hookworm, a disease of extreme poverty thought largely to have been eradicated in the United States, persists as a public health problem in some populations, according to a peer-reviewed paper, Human Intestinal Parasite Burden and Poor Sanitation in Rural Alabama, published yesterday in the American Journal of Tropical Medicine and Hygiene.

The disease affects 430 million people worldwide, largely in Africa and Asia, causing iron deficiency, impaired cognitive development, and stunting in children, and is considered a neglected tropical disease (NTD).

The study, the first of its kind in modern times, was carried out by the National School of Tropical Medicine at Baylor College of Medicine in conjunction with Alabama Center for Rural Enterprise (ACRE), a nonprofit group seeking to address the root causes of poverty. In a survey of people living in Lowndes County, an area with a long history of racial discrimination and inequality, it found that 34% tested positive for genetic traces of Necator americanus.
As recently as the 1930s, the southern United States had a high prevalence of hookworm infections, which affected intellectual performance and caused lethargy, according to How a Worm Gave the South a Bad Name. Initial surveys of populations at that time found that as much as three-quarters of the populations of certain areas were infected.

“Hookworm is a 19th century disease that should by now have been addressed, yet we are still struggling with it in the United States in the 21st century,” said Catherine Flowers, ACRE’s founder, as quoted in The Guardian.

New Deal Eradication Efforts
During the New Deal, the federal government launched a public health initiative to control hookworm infections:
To control the disease, thousands of individuals were treated, decreasing prevalence to 39%. After these interventions, there were increases in school enrolment, attendance, and literacy, and those within the treated cohort had substantial gains in long-term incomes. However, because of posttreatment reinfection and widespread transmission, hookworm infection and disease continued to persist in the southern United States, especially in areas of extreme poverty. According to a study in the 1950s, rural Alabama still suffered from a high prevalence of hookworm infection in schoolchildren, with some counties having 60% infection. With improved sanitation and waste disposal infrastructure, in association with aggressive economic development in the southern United States, the prevalence of hookworm infection decreased (paper, p. 2, citations omitted).
The conditions that cause hookworm infections have not vanished, yet contemporary researchers have largely failed to investigate how prevalent they may remain: