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Disability - A Common Experience for the Majority

Author: Wendy Taormina-Weiss

Published: 2012-02-21 : (Rev. 2013-06-12)

Synopsis and Key Points:

Nearly everyone is likely to experience a form of disability at some point during their lifetime due to illness accident or aging.

Main Digest

Many of the factors involved with living in a modern, industrialized society create hazards which find nearly everyone likely to experience a form of disability at some point during their lifetime due to illness, accident, or aging.

Disability - Disability groups and other organizations may have their own definitions of disability. The concept of disability is complex, and there are historical, social, legal and philosophical influences on its interpretation. The experience of disability is unique to each person but there are common impacting factors. There are common aspects also in the rights of people to access specific disability services provided directly or indirectly by governments. The need for some agreed definitions, largely to ensure that disability support programs are fair about who is to receive benefits and why, has prompted much discussion and debate.

Among these factors are forms of diseases that are increasingly antibiotic resistant, faster moving and more densely-packed roadways, and longer life spans; among other things. Additional factors include pollution, foods that may not be the best for people to consume, as well as medications with destructive side-effects.

Antibiotic-resistant Diseases

In the world today there exist a growing number of disease-causing organisms, also referred to as, 'pathogens,' which are resistant to one or more types of antimicrobial drugs. A vast number of these pathogens, to include the bacteria that cause tuberculosis, the parasites that cause malaria, the viruses that cause influenza, and the fungi that cause yeast infections, are becoming increasingly resistant to the antimicrobial agents the health care field uses to treat them. Examples of these pathogens include the following:

Acinetobacter: Acinetobacter is a group of bacteria commonly found in soil and water.

Anthrax: Anthrax is a serious disease caused by Bacillus anthracis, a type of bacterium that forms spores.

Gonorrhea: Gonorrhea is caused by Neisseria gonorrhea, a type of bacterium that can grow and multiply easily in the warm, moist areas of the reproductive tract.

Group B Streptococcus (group B strep): This type of Streptococcus is a type of bacteria that causes illness in newborn babies, adults, and the elderly with other illnesses such as diabetes or liver disease.

Methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus (MRSA): Serious or life-threatening occurrences of "Staph" infections, including MRSA, happen most often among persons in hospitals and healthcare facilities such as nursing homes and dialysis centers who have weakened immune systems.

The list does not stop with just these; there are many other forms of antibiotic-resistant diseases in the world today. Further examples include Tuberculosis, Vancomycin-resistant Enterococci (VRE), Candida, and Malaria.

Roadway Dangers

The roads in America can be very dangerous places. There are a number of reasons the roads, highways, and freeways in America have the potential to be dangerous. These reasons include drivers who are distracted, drugged, drunk, or who are driving aggressively.

Distracted Drivers

Driving while distracted involves any activity that may divert a person's attention from the main task of driving. Any distractions endanger not only the driver, but their passengers and bystanders as well. Distractions drivers commonly experience while driving on America's roads include the following:

Text messaging, a common distraction too many drivers on America's roads pursue unfortunately, requires a driver's visual, cognitive, and manual attention and presents the greatest risk to not only the driver, but their passengers and people on the side of the road.

Of the crashes in the year 2009, 20% of them involved reported distracted driving. During the month of June in 2011 alone, greater than 196 Billion text messages were either sent or received in America - an increase of nearly 50% from June of 2009. Drivers who use hand-held devices are 4 times more likely to be involved in accidents serious enough they will involve an injury to themselves.

Use of a cell phone while driving; whether it is hands-free or hand-held, delays the reactions of a driver as much as having a blood alcohol concentration equivalent to the legal limit of .08 percent. Driving while using a cell phone reduces the amount of a driver's brain activity related to driving by 37%.

Drivers who are Drugged or Drunk

Even though most people are aware of a drug's potentially lethal effects on their ability to drive as well as other concerns that have been expressed by everyone from public health officials to constituent groups - drugged driving laws in America have lagged behind those related to alcohol use while driving. The reason for this is because determining a driver's drug level and their resulting impairment is difficult due to limitations in available technologies.

Where alcohol detection is concerned the process is fairly simple; concentrations in excess of 0.08 percent in a driver's blood have been demonstrated to impair their ability to drive. As for illicit drugs there is no common agreed upon limit related to a driver's impairment that has been reliably demonstrated. Determining current drug levels in a driver is also made more difficult by the fact that certain drugs remain in a driver's body for a period of days or even weeks after they are originally ingested.

Aggressive Driving

People who drive aggressively have become a serious problem on American roadways. The majority of people in this nation recognize aggressive driving when we see it. Some examples of aggressive driving may include:

One recent incident in the State of Colorado involved a person who was nearly run down by a person in a truck. When the pedestrian slapped the truck to warn the driver, the driver returned, grabbed the pedestrian by their jacket, and dragged them for a block - leaving the pedestrian with a broken jaw and a deep wound on their back, as well as the need to wear a neck brace. The driver of the truck has yet to be found. Aggressive driving may be defined as, 'an individual who commits a combination of moving traffic offenses so as to endanger other persons or property.'

Longer Life Expectancy

Due to decreasing age-specific mortality, life expectancy has risen dramatically in America over the past 100 years. Life expectancy at birth for the entire population of America has reached an all-time high of 77.5 years, up from the 49.2 years prevalent at the turn of the 20th century in this nation. Combined with decreasing fertility, life expectancy gains have lead to rapid aging among Americans, something that is reflected by increases in the numbers of persons who are age 65 and older. A lively debate exists among researchers in this nation concerning whether or not the biological life spans have been reached, and whether increases in life spans in the future are probable.

As people age, they also experience a wide range of forms of disabilities. The health care field's knowledge of ways to treat forms of health issues continues to increase. In short - people in America are aging, experiencing forms of disabilities as they age, and the health care industry's ability to treat them is also increasing.

Pollution and Disability

People who are affected by issues related to pollution are also far more susceptible to contracting additional forms of diseases, such as damaged immune systems, neurological developmental issues, and long-term health problems. Children are physiologically unique and are therefore more vulnerable to the effects of pollution than adults. Children may experience higher exposures to pollution because they drink, eat, and breathe more per kilogram of their body weight than adults do, and also tend to ingest far more household dust and dirt than adults from activities such as crawling around and playing outside.

Even though children make up only 10% of the population of the world, greater than 40% of the world's burden of disease involves children. In excess of three Million children under the age of five die every single year due to environmental factors. Many children around the world experience forms of disabilities each year due to environmental factors as well.

Questionable Food Products

In America today there are fast food restaurants everywhere. These fast food restaurants serve everything from hamburgers to chicken to somewhat Chinese food. An average adult requires approximately 2000 calories each day.

A hamburger from a fast food restaurant may contain 236 calories a very forgiving example. A mid-sized serving of French fries may contain 470 calories, while a can of cola may have 178. A chicken wing might have 350 calories, and a cup of ice cream - 205 calories; a nice lunch at a fast food restaurant. The total number of calories in such a lunch? A whopping 1439 calories, and breakfast wasn't even counted; a snack, as well as dinner, weren't either.

Should a person consume a snack such as a pack of potato chips (555 calories), or some popcorn (459 calories), they have already eaten more calories than they need in a day. Questions need to come to mind, such as the amount of cholesterol that is in such fast foods, or the amount of salt. Heat disease, which is the number one killer in America, as well as diseases like arthritis and diabetes, have all been linked to the excessive consumption of fast foods.

Medication Side-Effects

A combination of two medications, both of which are widely used in America, have the potential to cause unexpected increases in a person's glucose levels according to a study performed by the Stanford University School of Medicine, Harvard Medical School, and Vanderbilt University. The researchers involved were actually surprised with their findings because neither of the medications involved presented a similar effect on their own. The two medications? One is marketed as, 'Pravochol,' and the other is marketed as, 'Paxil,' an antidepressant.

The increase in people's glucose was more pronounced in those who experience diabetes, an in whom control of blood sugar levels in very important. The researchers involved speculated that between 500,000 and 1 Million people in America may be taking the two medications simultaneously. Dr. Russ Altman, a professor of bioengineering involved with genetics and medicine at Stanford stated, "These kinds of drug interactions are almost certainly occurring all of the time, but, because they are not part of the approval process by the Food and Drug Administration, we can only learn about them after the drugs are on the market.

Drug interactions involve the specific chemistry of the individual. While medications are evaluated on a stand-alone basis, many people in America are taking more than one medication at a time. Understanding the complex interactions between medications, as well as an individual's specific body chemistry, in conjunction with the ways they interact is something that is apparently not being pursued to the degree it should be. The potential for resulting disability or health issues is certainly present.

What Does All of This Mean

Despite traditional, able-bodied perspectives in America, the overall population in the United States is becoming increasingly aware of the fact that nearly everyone will experience a form of disability or illness at some point during their lives. What this means is the perspectives towards People with Disabilities, Seniors, Veterans, and Children with Disabilities in America must and are changing as well.

While the Americans with Disabilities Act provides certain levels of rights and protections in America, pursuit of the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities has become absolutely essential. The reason for this is ever-present; every American will most likely experience a form of disability or illness at some point during our lives, and we must be afforded the greatest amount of protections and rights possible.

Antibiotic Resistance

"Antibiotic resistance is a worldwide public health problem that continues to grow. It occurs when strains of bacteria in the human body become resistant to antibiotics due to improper use and abuse of antibiotics."

Alcohol Problems and Solutions - Driving

"Driving while either intoxicated or drunk is dangerous and drivers with high blood alcohol content or concentration (BAC) are at greatly increased risk of car accidents, highway injuries and vehicular deaths."

Life Expectancy in the United States (PDF)

Top Ten Toxic Pollution Problems 2011

A series of fact sheets presenting the most serious toxic pollution issues. These issues involve things such as mercury, lead, pesticide, arsenic, and chromium pollution.

Fast Food Danger Facts: 10 Dangerous Diseases

"According to one study, U.S. researchers found that people who live in neighborhoods with many fast food restaurants are more likely to suffer a stroke (CVA). Another investigation showed that excess fast food decreases our digestion process of proteins."

Dangerous side effect of common drug combination discovered by data mining

"Because most drugs are tested and approved independently, it can be difficult or impossible for clinicians to predict the effects of drug combinations."

"Helping Consumers Affected by Dangerous Drugs. If you take a prescription medication, odds are, you are unknowingly a human test subject..."

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