Collateral Damage

I got a 7 out of 10 on the health quiz. I was surprised to see that generally speaking recent Latino immigrants have the best overall health in the U.S. I assumed it would have been Native-born Asian Americans, considering the higher life expectancy mentioned in the quiz previously. Unfortunately there is the “Latino paradox” where the longer Latino immigrants stay in the U.S the worse their health gets, but an interesting statistic nonetheless.

The case study I examined was the example of the Marshall Islands, titled collateral damage. The Republic of the Marshall Islands (RMI) contains hundreds of small islands, approximately halfway between the United States and Australia. The United States invaded the RMI during WW2. After the war the United States moved hundreds of Marshallese people off their home island to make way for nuclear weapons testing. From 1946 to 1958 the U.S detonated 67 nuclear weapons, a combined power of 1.7 Hiroshima blasts a day, for 12 years. In 1954 nuclear fallout landed on three inhabited Marshallese islands after a malfunction during an H-bomb test. Residents were treated and later studied by U.S military to see radiation exposure on humans. The second major U.S involvement with the RMI is the Ronald Reagan Missile Base on the second largest island, Kwajalein. Again, Marshallese people were moved off the island to make way for the military base. Today conditions for military service workers and families are similar to middle-class American mainlanders. Over 1000 Marshallese people have low wage service jobs on Kwajalein, but are not allowed to live on the island. This has increased population density levels to extreme heights on other islands. This has led to poverty and malnutrition. The spread of disease is a major concern. TB rates in the U.S are 4 per 100,000 people, in the RMI 220 per 100,000. In 1986 the U.S Congress granted the RMI independence and financial assistance for compensation for the nuclear testing and the continuing military base.

Non-genetic factors played a huge role in the current health disparities of the RMI. The U.S involvement with nuclear testing and the military base completely changed the cultural and economic traditions of the people. While the U.S military men and women experience acceptable standards of living and health qualities, the Marshallese people are now faced with extreme poverty and greater risk for infectious disease. The U.S involvement, political and economic decisions not genetic factors has caused the health disparities seen in the RMI.

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