Tag Archives: Sanjay Basu

Even the wealthy can be impacted by the negative health effects of austerity

At first it was a mystery. How was it that during an excessively dry and hot 2007 summer that cases of West Nile disease had jumped in Bakersfield California by 276 per cent?

Dry weather is not normally associated with an abundance of mosquitos, which are transmitters of the disease from birds to humans.

Laboratories confirmed 140 cases in Bakersfield, a city of more than 800,000 in Southern California.

According to researchers at the University of California, aerial photography of the city showed something unusual – a high number of algae blooms in private swimming pools, hot tubs and ornamental ponds. One photograph showed 17 per cent of visible pools and hot tubs appearing green and likely producing mosquitos.

It turns out that Bakersfield was also at the epicenter of mortgage foreclosures, the downturn in the housing market leading to a 300 per cent rise in mortgage delinquencies.

Dr. William K. Reisen, a research entomologist with the Center for Vectorborne Diseases, had his team knock on the doors of these homes and found no one living there. The pools, hot tubs and water features were essentially abandoned and had become breeding grounds for the mosquitos.

The story, featured in a new book, The Body Economic: Why Austerity Kills by David Stuckler and Sanjay Basu, reminds us that we are ultimately all in this together.

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Academics present evidence that austerity really does kill

Ontario is presently entering year two of its austerity program, convinced that it is the only way out of an economic problem that wasn’t even created here.

We have previously highlighted economic arguments that suggest austerity creates a self-defeating “fiscal drag” that compounds debt and deficit problems. Now a new book by a pair of academics on either side of the Atlantic argues that not only is austerity self-defeating, but it is also bad for your health.

In The Body Economic: Why Austerity Kills, David Stuckler and Sanjay Basu present a convincing analysis that austerity policies have made citizens involuntary subjects of a grand experiment in public health. If you recently lived in the UK, Greece, Spain or Italy, you’ve likely recently witnessed very different population health outcomes than if you lived in Sweden, Iceland or Denmark.

The authors argue that this is not the first time this austerity versus stimulus experiment has taken place. In the U.S. States that adopted the depression-era “New Deal” stimulus programs had much better health outcomes than those that refused to do so.

“Economic choices are not only matters of growth rates and deficits, but matters of life and death,” the authors write.

In their peer-reviewed study, the pair of PhDs state that investment in the right programs can not only alleviate human suffering, but can itself spur economic growth. For every $1 invested in public health programs, the net benefit to the economy is $3. By anyone’s standards, that’s a sweetheart deal. Yet ideology prevents us from seeing the evidence before us.

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