Pregnant woman with three sets of arms around her

Surrogacy Demand Surges Despite Resistance

May 16, 2017

Gestational surrogacy has been available in the US since at least 1976, and over the past 40 years an increasing number of people have sought women willing to carry a baby to term for them. According to an article in The Economist, "Though the number of children born globally each year through surrogacy is unknown, at least 2,200 were born in America in 2014, more than twice as many as in 2007" – despite calls by feminists and religious leaders to regulate or ban the practice outright because they consider it exploitative. Among the reasons is the lack of clear regulations across state and national lines, which allows those who want to hire a surrogate to move their search to different countries when they confront obstacles; the article notes, "rather than ending the trade, tighter rules are simply moving it elsewhere." Read the entire piece here


Black mother holding a young baby on her shoulder

Racial Disparities in Infant Mortality Examined

February 16, 2017

An article in The Nation, "What’s Killing America’s Black Infants?" provides a sobering analysis of the disproportionately high death rate among African-American babies. Despite decades of interventions and public health initiatives, the racial infant mortality gap actually grew during the 1980s and 90s: during that time, "Black women who received prenatal care starting in the first trimester were still losing children at higher rates than white women who never saw a doctor during their pregnancies." This led to research into whether black women have a genetic predisposition to poor birth outcomes, which was largely disproven. However, more recently, "a growing body of evidence points to racial discrimination, rather than race itself, as the dominant factor in explaining why so many black babies are dying." The article profiles efforts in Milwaukee, Wisconsin, which has one of the worst infant-mortality rates of all US cities, to reverse the trend.


Gaetan Dugas

Vindication of "Patient Zero" Highlights Power of Disease Narratives

November 21, 2016

In the early 1980s, during the initial throes of the AIDS epidemic, a flight attendant named Gaetan Dugas came to be identified as "Patient Zero" because he was represented in popular culture as the person who brought HIV to North America. A recent study published in Nature used genomic data to map the spread of HIV during that time, demonstrating conclusively that Dugas was not the North American index case as previously depicted. An analysis of the case by Greg Clinton explores "the spectacle of disease narratives, not only what they emphasize, but what they tend to obscure." Drawing on the groundbreaking work of Priscilla Wald and others, Clinton describes how epidemiological narratives, most famously that of Typhoid Mary, are "typically bound up with literary concerns, such as the assignment of 'hero' and 'villain' status to a person or group." He argues for consumers to apply "critical consciousness" to such media-driven spectacles, resisting the all-too-human temptation to passively absorb narratives that assign meaning, "even if that meaning is false and only serves to perpetuate fear of the Other." Read the entire article here


Gender card from Nagano winter olympics confirming an athlete is female.

Rio Olympics Raise New Questions About Sex-testing Athletes

August 4, 2016

Controversies about athletes' gender have been part of the Olympic Games since the "Nazi Olympics" in Munich, 1936. That's the year two runners, Stella Walsh of Poland and Helen Stephens of the United States, were rumored to be men because of their "remarkable athleticism, 'male-like' muscles and angular faces," according to the New York Times Magazine. 80 years later, our culture seems to be more aware of the complex nature of gender expression, but woman athletes are still subjected to testing to insure they're sufficiently female. Concerns abound that high levels of testosterone can provide an unfair advantage for women competing against other women. In the current Rio Olympics two runners, Caster Semenya of South Africa and Dutee Chand of India, have been required to undergo "gender verification" and have been subject to unwanted, intrusive media attention as a result. A new article in JAMA reviews the history of gender determination in Olympic sport and discusses the science behind what are termed "disorders of sex development," which can lead to intersex people being raised as a gender that doesn't necessarily match their chromosomes. For this year's games, rules around gender verification have been suspended, so Semenya and Chand will be able to compete. 


Mustache Dash fun run

Mindy Kurzer-led Research Inspires Major Prostate Cancer Trial

June 3, 2016

In 2013, Mindy Kurzer, PhD, published research demonstrating that "aerobic exercise influences the way our bodies break down estrogens to produce more of the ‘good’ metabolites that lower breast cancer risk." Kurzer, director of Consortium member center Healthy Foods, Health Lives, is a professor in the Department of Food Science and Nutrition. The results of her 2013 study are now being deployed to see whether they can be applied to the treatment of advanced prostate cancer. “We want to actually prove [exercise] does more than just makes you feel better and actually prolongs your survival,” explained Dr. Fred Saad, MD, of the University of Montreal Hospital Research Centre. The University of Minnesota is leading a coalition of more than 100 researchers around the world, including those in Australia, Ireland and several Canadian provinces. The clinical trial is funded by the Movember Foundation, which raises money by sponsoring mustache-growing contests each November to foster men's health, particularly the fight against prostate and testicular cancers. Read more about the study here


Graphic on elements of CBPR

Course on Community-based Participatory Research Announced

April 15, 2016

Starting Sept. 12, a course in Community-based Participatory Research (CBPR) will be offered to graduate students and community practitioners who want to know more about this powerful approach to understanding and addressing health and social disparities. Each Monday from 4-6, the class will explore the purpose and applications of CBPR; partnership formation and maintenance; issues of power, race, class, and social justice; conflict resolution; ethical issues; and CBPR's relationship to cultural and community knowledge systems. Please note this course can either be taken for academic credit (tuition costs apply) or for free by community practitioners seeking a certificate.