How Is Your State Doing at Preventing Deaths?

Preventable DeathsEarlier this month the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) published a report Potentially Preventable Deaths from the Five Leading Causes of Death — United States, 2008–2010.

In 2010, the top five causes of death in the United States were 1) diseases of the heart, 2) cancer, 3) chronic lower respiratory diseases, 4) cerebrovascular diseases (stroke), and 5) unintentional injuries. The rates of death from each cause vary greatly across the 50 states and the District of Columbia. An understanding of state differences in death rates for the leading causes might help state health officials establish disease prevention goals, priorities, and strategies. States with lower death rates can be used as benchmarks for setting achievable goals and calculating the number of deaths that might be prevented in states with higher rates.

I took the numbers from the charts in the report to create this visualization.

The report also included this chart of potentially preventable vs observed deaths.

Preventable Deaths chartTwo things stood out:

  • The regional differences on the map
  • The low number of potentially preventable deaths vs observed in the chart above – especially for heart disease and cancer

The regional differences may have to do with diet and levels of smoking, drinking and lack of exercise. Some have made the case that many of these states with lower rates of preventing deaths in the South, like Tennessee, Alabama, Mississippi and Georgia, have made it difficult for low income residents to get affordable health insurance and have not expanded Medicaid (see map below). This makes it more likely that people won’t get preventive care or physicals and wind up in the emergency room with a life threatening chronic illness.

But the most frustrating aspect of all of this is that these chronic diseases – especially heart disease, stroke and cancer – could be drastically reduced by dietary changes. Many doctors – as I’ve pointed out many times – have shown that a whole food, plant-based diet will reduce the risk of these diseases and reverse them if they have already started impacting people.

Our vegan book club is currently reading Meatonomics: How the Rigged Economics of Meat and Dairy Make You Consume Too Much by David Robinson Simon. The title sums up the book, which looks at the way our government (using our tax dollars) is subsidizing and helping to promote the meat and dairy industry, while at the same time other parts of our government (but without the same amount of dollars or clout) are telling us to eat less of these foods. The result is that Americans eat more protein from meat and dairy products than anyone else in the world, and it’s literally killing us. Finally, through Medicare and Medicaid, the government is paying to treat the illnesses caused by eating too much meat and dairy.

Why do we accept the fact that each year almost 50,000 will die from stroke, 300,000 will die from heart disease, and 400,000 will die from cancer? Where is the will – political, social or otherwise – to do all we can to prevent these diseases? Can we save lives and the billions of dollars spent each year on the health and environmental impacts of this unsustainable way of living before it’s too late?

Where the States Stand

Via: The Advisory Board Company

The Sound of Silence

Quiet, peaceful forest

When was the last time you were in the presence of quiet, of silence? I had that experience yesterday, and it was wonderful. It happened because of a sequence of events that were unplanned.

On Mother’s Day we drove down Highway 1 to Pigeon Point Light Station State Historic Park hoping to see some whales. The park is about 20 miles south of Half Moon Bay. We also had planned to picnic there. We did see some whales migrating north, about a mile off shore. It was very windy at the park, so sometimes it was hard to tell what was a wave and what was the spray from the whales.

It was too windy at the park to have a picnic, so we went to Butano State Park, nearby to find a sheltered area from the wind. Although we were only a few miles from the ocean, Butano’s picnic area was quiet and peaceful, and not windy at all.

redwood forestAfter lunch we decided to walk through the forest. Some folks who were having lunch suggested a route and we started walking. It wound up being a 2 1/2 hour walk through the forest, along a fire road and then back through the forest.

Butano is tucked away off the road and it doesn’t get a lot of visitors. We came across only a handful of people while we were walking.

In Muir Woods there is an area called Cathedral Grove, but in the redwood forest at Butano, it felt like the whole forest was a cathedral. It was so quiet. No sounds of cars and trucks, no crowds of people talking, no planes flying overhead. Just the sound of the forest breathing. Sometimes a bird, especially owls, could be heard. But mostly what you heard was the silence. It took a moment to get used to it and appreciate it.

It was a wonderful experience and we look forward to going back again to our new cathedral grove.

whale and sprayAfter we left Botano, we went back to Pigeon Point. Shortly after getting there we saw a group of whales in the little bay near the park heading out to the ocean. They were about a half mile away and it was easy to spot them and see their sprays and backs.

We felt so blessed to have these wonderful experiences. This was our first time whale watching and we saw 5 or 6. My wife wants to make this outing our annual Mother’s Day event. I’m looking forward to next year.

Vermont Governor Signs GMO Labeling Law


Vermont Gov. Peter Shumlin on Thursday signed Vermont’s first-in-the-nation GMO labeling bill into law on the Statehouse steps in Montpelier. Joining him was Brigid Armbrust, 11, of West Hartford (in black), who launched a letter-writing campaign in support of GMO labeling. Photo by John Herrick/VTDigger

The Vermont Legislature passed and the Governor has signed the first GMO labeling law that does not have a trigger mechanism – for example, other states have passed GMO labeling laws that only take effect if neighboring states also have these laws.

From an article by VTDigger, a statewide news website:

Vermont will be the first state in the nation to require food manufacturers to label products containing genetically modified ingredients. It will also likely be the first state to defend the GMO labeling law in court, state officials say.

“Vermonters have spoken loud and clear: They want to know what’s in their food,” Gov. Peter Shumlin said. “We are pro-choice. We are pro-information. Vermont gets it right with this bill.”


Sen. David Zuckerman, P/D-Chittenden, was the lead sponsor of the bill to require manufacturers to label products containing GMOs. Photo by John Herrick/VTDigger

Leading the charge for this legislation has been State Senator David Zuckerman, an organic farmer who I would regularly see selling his produce at the Burlington Farmers Market, who has worked nearly two decades while a legislator and now senator to pass a GMO labeling law. He believes Vermont’s law will cause a “domino effect” across the country.

“This is one of the cases where grassroots democracy really did win the day and hopefully we can carry it on into the future,” Zuckerman said.

The bill sets aside funds to cover the expected lawsuits from seed, chemical and food companies. The law is set to take effect July 1, 2016.

If you live in California, there is a GMO labeling bill, SB 1381, that needs a push from citizens to get it to the floor of of the Senate. The Organic Consumers Association has information on senators to call to make this happen.

Vermont was also the first state to call for an amendment to the Constitution to reverse the Citizen United ruling by the Supreme Court allowing unlimited campaign contributions and to put language in the Constitution that corporations do not have the same legal rights as persons.

Once again, the work of one person made this happen.

Earlier in the session it appeared there was no appetite in Montpelier for such a resolution, but a call to Sen. Dick Sears, D-Bennington, from one of his constituents got the ball rolling, he said.

“Dr. Steven Berry is a minister in Manchester,” Sears said. “He contacted me, and I’ve known him for several years, and we talked about it, and the more I heard, it made sense to me.”

Sears said he decided to put the resolution back on the “fast track” by holding hearings on the topic and eventually bringing it to the Senate floor for a vote where it passed 25-2.

“I think it’s an important resolution,” Sears said. “Congress isn’t going to act, and we’ve got to do something to get this country back under control.”

I hope this will get other states to pass similar calls for this amendment. It takes 34 states to call for a convention to add amendments to the Constitution and 38 states to ratify them.


Gluten- and Soy-Free Adonis Cake

Gluten Free Adonis CakeRecently my wife made a gluten- and soy-free version of the Adonis Cake recipe from Engine 2.

It tasted great and was a big hit at the celebration at our church. Here’s the recipe.

Gluten-Free Vegan Adonis Chocolate Cake

This recipe makes one layer – double it for two layers.

2 cups gluten-free oat flour
3 Tbsp unsweetened cocoa powder
1 tsp baking soda
2 ½ tsp baking powder
2/3 cup maple syrup
6 Tbsp unsweetened apple sauce
1 Tbsp white vinegar
1 tsp vanilla extract
¾ cup cold water
Mini chocolate chips (0ptional)

Preheat oven to 350°. Set out a 9-inch round or 9×9 nonstick or glass cake pan. (We do not grease or flour the pan at all!)

In a mixing bowl, sift flour, baking soda and baking powder; then add cocoa and mix.

Add the maple syrup, applesauce, vinegar, vanilla, and water and mix well to combine.

Pour the batter into the cake pan. If you’d like extra chocolate, sprinkle some chocolate chips on the top. (If you mix them into the batter, they will sink to the bottom.)

Bake for 30 minutes. While the cake is cooking, make the frosting. When the cake is done, remove it from the oven and set aside to cool. When cooled, frost with Adonis Frosting.

Store in the refrigerator.

2-Ingredient Chocolate Fudge Frosting

Makes enough to generously frost the tops of 2 layers.

1 can (400 ml) full-fat coconut milk
1 bag chocolate chips (Enjoy Life brand is vegan and gluten free)

1. Chill can of full-fat coconut milk in the fridge overnight. (Chilling for 2 nights works best in my fridge.) Put all of the chocolate chips into the pot and gently melt. Flip the coconut milk can over (yes, really!) and open with can opener. Pour off the water. Add the white coconut cream to the chocolate chips. Mix the coconut cream and the chocolate chips together over low heat, stirring frequently, until chips are completely melted. Be careful not to burn.

2. Transfer this mixture into a bowl, cover, and place in the fridge for 7 hours (or overnight). It will get firm.

3. When ready to use, whip it with electric beaters until smooth and creamy.