Category Archives: Health and Medicine

Confronting Child Death

Late last year, the Journal of the History of Childhood and Youth published a special issue which took a look at the thorny subject of child death. Kathleen Jones organized a discussion of young people and death at the 2013 conference for the Society for the History of Children and Youth, the sponsoring organization for the journal. This event drove the creation of the special issue. Jones, Associate Professor of History and Director of Graduate Studies at Virginia Tech, served as guest editor for the issue with Vassar College Associate Professor of History and Director of Victorian Studies Lydia Murdoch and Tamara Myers, Associate Professor of History at the University of British Columbia. The trio provided collective answers for a Q&A session.

This issue emanated from 2013 conference panel. How gratifying is it to see some of that work published?

hcy.8.3_frontImmensely gratifying. For the seventh biennial meeting of the Society for the History of Children and Youth, we proposed a group of panels about child death. The conference theme, “Space,” shaped our panels – the papers explored the places of death, the ways that space and place of death shaped the cultural meanings attached to dead children. Publication gave us the opportunity to collect ideas from the conference papers, expand and develop them, and, most importantly, share them widely. The opportunity to publish them also reinforced for us how important, and yet still relatively understudied, the responses to the deaths of children are for the history of childhood. Death provides a cultural frame for the value attached to children. It’s a point Viviana Zelizer made so clear over thirty years ago in her discussion of life insurance for children (Pricing the Priceless Child, 1985) It’s a perspective that the journal publication now invites others to build from and add new understandings to in the future.

In the introduction, it was mentioned that response to the original panel was overwhelming. Why do you think that this area has so much interest?

As the history of childhood has developed in the last thirty years or so, the field has been shaped by questions about agency – questions about what role children played in the past, about what they experienced as they grew up, and about how adults interpreted those experiences and used childhood for political purposes. Getting away from seeing the child as “victim” or “object” has been a part of the rationale for the history of childhood and youth. The same perspective permeates new studies of child death. Earlier histories tended to focus on the question of whether parents developed affective bonds with children and mourned those who died in periods or places with high child mortality. Following Linda Pollock (Forgotten Children: Parent-Child Relations from 1500 to 1900, 1983), numerous scholars have demonstrated that parents deeply mourned the death of children in the past, leading us to explore new types of questions. Whereas death has often been blended into a history of medicine and disease or the history of mourning rituals, the conference theme opened the possibility of exploring the political, social, cultural, and emotional issues associated with risk and death, whether the death of one or of many children. Historians have shown how adults used the threat of death to discipline the young, and how state interventions developed at moments of heightened awareness of child endangerment. At the same time, historians of child death have tracked the emotional loss attached to the death of a child and the ways death has been rendered meaningful for children as well as for adults at both a cultural and a personal level.

Interest was also generated because of child death’s contemporary relevance and our (western) perspective that any young death is premature and demands explication. While death in childhood is an unusual occurrence in many cultures in 2016, it is an all-too-prominent part in others where disease and violence relentlessly attack the young. Where growing into adulthood is the norm, representations of dead and dying children pull at heartstrings, making those images powerful tools for political agendas. Current interest in the history of child death can’t be divorced from the powerful imagery in these contrasting life experiences of children and their prospects for growing into adulthood.

How hard was it to choose what would end up in the journal issue?

Our goal for the issue was to include articles that looked at death in different times and places; we were fortunate to work with panelists who brought such diversity to the conference. In identifying a table of contents that would ensure an issue with broad appeal we also invited additional contributions – notably David Pomfret’s reflective essay on the state of the field. But the underlying theme in the issue was always one of meaning. When a child dies, how is that death explained? When many children die in similar circumstances, how and why are the deaths given a purpose? We think the articles in this collection demonstrate the historical contingency of answers to questions about how we understand and process child death and the ways child death shape the life experiences of children.

We also wanted to show with the issue how researchers are approaching issues of childhood and death from a variety of methodological perspectives. The essays in the volume defy easy categorization, blending methodologies from cultural and social history, oral history, visual arts and material culture, archival studies, and social work. Taken together, though, they suggest the many opportunities for further research on the history of child death.

What did you three learn from working on the issue?

One of most important takeaways from editing this issue is how little we know about the experience of and the meanings attached to child death. The articles here only begin to scratch the surface and leave us with more questions than answers: How did young people themselves understand death? What were the ways that death was made real to them? How did they weave the prospect of death into expectations of their adulthood? We are particularly interested in how answers to these questions changed over time, or in different contexts. For historians of childhood, the role children played in history may well be found in the ways they balanced the prospect of the future with the possibility of death.

How important will it be to revisit this topic in the future?

We hope the experiences of death in childhood and the meanings adults and children give to those experiences will be revisited often as we continue to write the history of children and youth. The articles in this issue remind us that even though death is our universal fate, how we die and how the living are affected by death cannot be captured by that one word. The meanings we attach to death are bounded by the many adjectives we call on to distinguish one death from another… violent death, self-inflicted death, accidental death, epidemic death, slow death from disease or neglect. The articles in this issue begin to address the complexity of this multifaceted word. We expect that scholars will build from these articles to explore the range of experiences, emotions, and meanings associated with child death, and show us the many ways the deaths of some children have shaped the lives of others.

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Filed under Cultural Studies, Health and Medicine, History, Journals

Lyme Disease update: A second deer tick microbe causes Lyme in North America

Guest post by Alan Barbour, MD

(With Lyme disease on the move and in news, we invited Lyme Disease author Dr. Alan Barbour to contribute regular updates to the JHU Press blog. His posts will highlight the latest findings on Lyme and other deer tick-associated infections and share insights on diagnosis, treatment, and prevention that are reported in the medical literature and other sources. For more frequent short updates and tips, follow Dr. Barbour on Twitter: @alanbarbour.)

Adult_deer_tickFrom the time of our discovery of it in 1981 and for the next 34 years, B. burgdorferi was the only known cause of Lyme disease in North America. That’s no longer the case. A second species–named B. mayonii after Minnesota’s Mayo Clinic–has been identified as a human pathogen in patients in the upper Midwest. In Europe and Asia, a more complicated situation has been the norm for many years. Besides B. burgdorferi, three other species cause Lyme disease on the Eurasian continent. As discussed in the book, this is of more than academic interest because the two most common Eurasian species, B. afzelii and B. garinii, differ in important ways. Both are transmitted by ticks, but B. afzelii more commonly has a rodent as a carrier, while B. garinii has a greater predeliction for birds. In addition, B. garinii is more associated with invasion of the nervous system while B. afzelii is more likely to be confined in its manifestations to the skin. In comparison to those two species, B. burgdorferi more commonly results in arthritis in infected people.

There is only one medical journal article to date about B. mayonii in humans, so there is still much to be learned. But so far, there is evidence that B. mayonii may achieve higher levels of bacteria than B. burgdorferi in the blood during infection. This may be associated with a higher frequency of multiple skin rashes and a greater likelihood of hospitalization. The report focused on cases from the upper midwestern United States. In this region B. mayonii was identified in deer ticks, but it was less common than B. burgdorferi in ticks collected at the same locations and time. Whether B. mayonii occurs in other parts of the United States or Canada is not yet known.

Effective antibiotic treatment of Lyme disease caused by B. mayonii probably will not differ from treating disease caused by B. burgdorferi. But the discovery of a second Lyme disease species may cause a re-evaluation of some diagnostic assays. There may be enough differences between the two bacteria that an antibody test that solely uses B. burgdorferi cells as the target for the patient’s antibodies may have somewhat lower sensitivity when the patient has been infected with B. mayonii.

Since both B. mayonii and B. burgdorferi are carried by the deer tick Ixodes scapularis, the effective measures for reducing the risk of tick bites (which are described in the book) should suffice for protection against both pathogens. A possible exception among prevention options may be canine Lyme disease vaccines that are based on B. burgdorferi or one of its purified protein. Whether there is cross-protection is not known.

barbourAlan G. Barbour, MD, is a professor of medicine and microbiology at the University of California, Irvine School of Medicine, a co-discoverer of the cause of Lyme disease, and a leading Lyme disease researcher. He is the author of Lyme Disease: Why It’s Spreading, How It Makes You Sick, and What to Do about It.

 

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Filed under Animals, Health and Medicine, Nature, Public Health

An Examination of Diagnosis

pbm.58.1_frontAt first glance, medical diagnosis might seem like a cut-and-dry topic. However, much more goes into this aspect of medical practice than most people think. Annemarie Jutel, co-editor of Social Issues in Diagnosis and author of Putting a Name to It, recently served as guest editor for an issue of the journal Perspectives in Biology and Medicine. The first issue of Volume 58 took a special look at diagnosis through a combination of traditional articles, 55-word stories and images. Jutel, a professor in the Graduate School of Nursing, Midwifery and Health at Victoria University of Wellington in New Zealand, Jutel joined our podcast series to talk about diagnosis and the special issue.

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Filed under Health and Medicine, History of Medicine, Journals, Medical Education, Podcasts

Spring books preview: politics and policy

We’re excited about the books we’ll be publishing this spring—and we’re pleased to start off the new year with a series of posts that highlight our forthcoming titles. Be sure to check out the online edition of JHUP’s entire Spring 2016 catalog, and remember that promo code “HDPD” gets you a 30% discount on all pre-publication orders. Today we feature spring books on policy and politics; click on the title to read more about the book or to place an order:


taylorJust and Lasting Change
When Communities Own Their Futures
second edition
Daniel C. Taylor and Carl E. Taylor


diamondAuthoritarianism Goes Global
The Challenge to Democracy
edited by Larry Diamond, Marc F. Plattner, and Christopher Walker


rojeckiAmerica and the Politics of Insecurity
Andrew Rojecki


sovacoolFact and Fiction in Global Energy Policy
Fifteen Contentious Questions
Benjamin K. Sovacool, Marilyn A. Brown, and Scott V. Valentine


whiteheadIlliberal Practices
Territorial Variance within Large Federal Democracies
edited by Jacqueline Behrend and Laurence Whitehead


Use discount code “HDPD” to receive a 30% discount on pre-publication orders for JHUP’s spring 2016 titles.
To order, click on the book titles above or call 800-537-5487.

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Filed under Current Affairs, Politics, Public Health, Publishing News

Spring books preview: health & medicine

Seasonal catalog cover spring 2016We’re excited about the books we’ll be publishing this spring—and we’re pleased to start off the new year with a series of posts that highlight our forthcoming titles. Be sure to check out the online edition of JHUP’s entire Spring 2016 catalog, and remember that promo code “HDPD” gets you a 30% discount on all pre-publication orders. Today we feature spring books on health and medicine; click on the title to read more about the book or to place an order:


dawes150 Years of ObamaCare
Daniel E. Dawes
foreword by David Satcher, 16th US Surgeon General


Guinan_jkt.inddAdventures of a Female Medical Detective
In Pursuit of Smallpox and AIDS
Mary Guinan, PhD, MD
with Anne D. Mather


grantWhy Can’t I Stop?
Reclaiming Your Life from a Behavioral Addiction
Jon E. Grant, JD, MD, MPH, Brian L. Odlaug, PhD, MPH, and Samuel R. Chamberlain, MD, PhD


goldenOvercoming Destructive Anger
Strategies That Work
Bernard Golden, PhD


trainorCalming Your Anxious Child
Words to Say and Things to Do
Kathleen Trainor, PsyD


noonanWhen Someone You Know Has Depression
Words to Say and Things to Do
Susan J. Noonan, MD, MPH
foreword by Timothy J. Petersen, PhD, Jonathan E. Alpert, MD, PhD, and Andrew A. Nierenberg, MD


grimesSeductive Delusions
How Everyday People Catch STIs
second edition
Jill Grimes, MD


trimbleThe Intentional Brain
Motion, Emotion, and the Development of Modern Neuropsychiatry
Michael R. Trimble, MD


slavney16Psychiatric Polarities
Methodology and Practice
Phillip R. Slavney, M.D., and Paul R. McHugh, M.D.


Use discount code “HDPD” to receive a 30% discount on pre-publication orders for JHUP’s spring 2016 titles.
To order, click on the book titles above or call 800-537-5487.

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Filed under Consumer Health, Health and Medicine, Neuroscience, Psychiatry and Psychology, Public Health, Publishing News

A checkup of Late Antiquity

In late 2015, the Journal of Late Antiquity published a special issue on the intersections of religion, medicine, health, healing and disability in Late Antiquity. Guest edited by Kristi Upson-Saia and Heidi Marx-Wolf, the issue featured 10 essays on this growing area of research. Upson-Saia and Marx-Wolf joined us for a Q&A about the special issue.

JHUP: How did the issue come about?

Eds: This special issue is an outgrowth of ReMeDHe, the working group for Religion, Medicine, Disability, and Health in Late Antiquity, that we co-founded in 2013 and have co-directed since.  Both of us were starting new projects in these research areas. And we were also both looking to work collaboratively in order to figure out how to address gaps in the scholarship and  to overcome some of the more isolating aspects of academic life. We wanted to work in a more dialogic way right from the start of these new projects and we soon encountered a number of other scholars who felt the same way. We began by proposing a series of four panels at the 2014 meeting of the North American Patristics Society, as well as a pre-conference workshop. Some of the papers in this special issue were originally presented in those inaugural sessions. Since then, we meet regularly at NAPS. We have also created a listserv, website, and Facebook page to communicate with each other, and we have created a Zotero group to share our primary and secondary source bibliographies. We now have over 130 members, and we believe this signals how important and vibrant these research areas are right now, as well as a desire for cooperative modes of research.

JHUP: What drew you to this area of research?

Marx-Wolf: I was drawn to this area by way of my work on late Roman philosophy. In antiquity, the lines between religion, philosophy, and medicine are difficult to draw. So it wasn’t surprising that I kept encountering doctors when studying late ancient philosophers. I thought the connections warranted a closer look. I’ve also taught pre-modern cosmology and history of science for a number of years, and I so enjoy teaching the history of ancient medicine. So I knew that this was a direction I wanted to head in my research.

Upson-Saia: I began reading Greco-Roman medical sources in graduate school and was hooked right away. I was particularly fascinated with discussions of wounds and scars, which seemed to me to have been understudied. In addition to my research, I have enjoyed teaching courses like “Magic, Miracle, and Medicine in Antiquity” and “Health and Humanity,” a course I’ve team-taught with a health care economist and bioethicist.

We were both surprised to find that, despite robust interest in earlier and later epochs in the history of medicine and the history of disability, few scholars were focused on these topics in Late Antiquity. And yet, it is one of the most interesting and dynamic historical periods when it comes to social, cultural, and religious change. This dynamism is also apparent when one looks at topics related to health, illness, healing, and so forth. However, as we hypothesize in our co-authored essay on the “State of the Question,” this period has often been viewed using an outdated lens of decline and devolution when it comes to medicine. The aim of the ReMeDHe working group is to look at this period with a different lens, one that focuses on the aforementioned dynamism. Hopefully, readers will catch more than just a glimpse of that when they explore the essays in the volume.

JHUP: What does it mean to take these discussions from smaller groups to a larger stage in this journal?

Eds: We are very excited to continue the kinds of conversations and collaborations characteristic of the working group with an even larger group of scholars whose interests intersect with our own, even if but peripherally. We’re also hoping to entice more people to consider working in these areas and strongly encourage them to join the ReMeDHe working group (remedhe.com).

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Filed under Ancient, Health and Medicine, History, History of Medicine, Journals, Uncategorized

Five steps to survive the holiday blues

Guest post by Merry Noel Miller, MD

I was a Christmas baby, was given a Christmas-y name, and have always considered it “my” time of year. And yet this was the period of the year that I most dreaded after losing my husband.

millerThe holidays are supposed to be the happiest time of the year. But for many they are the hardest. For some they can trigger depression and anxiety.

For those who are alone, who have suffered losses, whose relationships are not what they want them to be, it can be very difficult to get through this “merry” time of year. They may long for holidays past, and feel surges of grief for those who are gone. Loneliness may feel more intense.

I hear it from my patients every year. Some feel sad that their lives are not what they want them to be. They compare themselves to others that they see around them and the idealized images depicted in the media. They wince inside as they hear others talk about their holiday celebrations.

Others are overextended both emotionally and financially at this time of year. They feel drained, exhausted, and eager for the holidays to pass. They may feel obligated to attend gatherings that they do not enjoy. They dread the possibility of family conflicts. They may feel inadequate as they encounter family and friends. They may eat too much, drink too much, sleep too little, and neglect to exercise.

Here are strategies on how to get through the holidays emotionally intact:

  1. Plan ahead. Seek balance between times with others and time alone. We vary in terms of what we need to refuel ourselves. Think about what your individual needs are. Avoid the urge to withdraw excessively, or the sense of obligation to do too much. Say no to invitations if you do not want to go, without guilt, and leave parties when you are ready. You have the right to make choices.
  1. Set limits on your spending, your eating, your drinking. Make a budget and stick to it. Be conscious about your diet and alcohol consumption. Many who are down are tempted to drink and eat more, and may temporarily feel better while drinking, but it tends to worsen the mood and can lead to depression.
  1. Make time to exercise. A daily walk can do wonders for your mood. If it is too cold outside, you could find indoor locations (e.g. the mall) where you could walk. Something as simple as a 30-minute walk can really boost your spirits.
  1. Reach out to others. Invite a lonely neighbor to do something with you. Consider volunteering. There are many others who struggle with the holidays, too, and you can get a boost from the pleasure of helping others. Don’t wait for others to approach you, let your friends and family know if you would like to do more with them during this time of year.
  1. Indulge yourself in healthy pleasures. Read that book you’ve been wanting to find time for. Watch movies during your off time. Consider taking a drive or a trip somewhere.

I have both personal and professional experiences that have opened my eyes to the emotional challenges that we face throughout our lifetimes. This motivated me to spend my life as a psychiatrist specializing in women’s mental health, and to write the new self-help book Finding Your Emotional Balance: A Guide for Women. During the stressful periods of our lives, we can find ways to keep ourselves balanced with some healthy strategies.

Merry Noel Miller, MD, is a professor of psychiatry at Quillen College of Medicine, East Tennessee State University and the author of Finding Your Emotional Balance: A Guide for Women.

 

 

 

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Filed under Emotional Health, Holidays, Mental Health, Psychiatry and Psychology