Harrison, Joel A.


Joel A. Harrison, PhD, MPH, a native San Diegan, is a semi-retired epidemiologist. He has worked in the areas of preventive medicine, infectious diseases, medical outcomes research, and evidence-based clinical practice guidelines. He is currently active in supporting the adoption of a single-payer health care system in the U.S. For more information on single-payer go to Physicians for a National Health Program’s website at www.pnhp.org

Should Employers Be Able To Exclude Birth Control From Health Insurance Coverage?

By Joel Harrison, PhD, MPH

In November, the Obama administration asked the Supreme Court to decide whether for-profit companies can be forced to provide full contraceptive coverage for their employees despite religious objections from their owners. Many people believe that health insurance is something offered by employers, a sort of bonus. In fact, it is part of what I have known as ones “wage package.” Wikipedia calls it “Salary Packaging: a term used to refer to the inclusion of employee benefits (also called fringe benefits) in an employee remuneration package in exchange for giving up part of monetary salary. Such arrangements are entered into most commonly if there are tax or other benefits to be derived by the employer or employee from the arrangement.”

Reflections on Killing a Pit Bull to Save a Pet

By Joel A. Harrison, PhD, MPH

Lee Patisson, a young Navy diver, bitten himself while trying to protect his dog, was recently forced to kill a pit bull that was attacking his pet dog.

According to a San Diego U-T story:

“Pattison said he wants to make it clear that he did not shoot the dog without exhausting what he felt was every other means.

Freedom vs. Gun Control: An Absurd Dichotomy

By Joel A. Harrison, PhD, MPH

Since the tragedy at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Connecticut the news and internet has been abuzz with some variant of "Freedom vs. Gun Control," as if no reasonable rational alternative exists beyond this absolute dichotomy. In the mix is always the Second Amendment: "A well regulated Militia, being necessary to the security of a free State, the right of the people to keep and bear Arms, shall not be infringed." The Second Amendment has been interpreted both as a right to individual self-defense and, by some, as a check on government, i.e. a right to use force to overthrow a "tyrannical" government.

Who Was Standing His Ground? The Case of Trayvon Martin

By Joel A. Harrison, PhD, MPH

By now most people know the basic facts of the Trayvon Martin case. On February 26, George Zimmerman, member of a neighborhood watch, spotted Martin entering a gated community where Martin and his father were visiting the father’s fiancé. Martin was returning from purchasing Skittles at a local convenience store and was talking with his girlfriend on his cell phone.

Zimmerman phoned the police dispatcher about seeing someone acting suspicious in the rain, “just walking around looking about.” The dispatcher asked if Zimmerman was following him and advised, “You don’t need to do that.” Zimmerman said “Okay”; but didn’t stay put.

There are various versions of what happened next. According to Martin’s girlfriend, Martin told her there was a man he described as "crazy and creepy” watching him. In any case, it was Zimmerman who followed Martin. Zimmerman was not a uniformed police officer and had no legal authority.

SDG&E's Latest Attempt to Exploit Its Monopoly Status & Corporate Power

By Joel A. Harrison, PhD, MPH

“If we had free market competition, SDG&E would have to absorb the costs of the fire. Quite simply, if they raised their rates, consumers would switch to other providers.”
Sempra-owned utility San Diego Gas & Electric wants “San Diego-area utility customers to pay for nearly all of an estimated $463 million in cost not covered by insurance from the catastrophic 2007 wildfires that were triggered in large part by its power lines,” the San Diego Union-Tribune reported. “At stake is who ultimately pays for the fire’s destruction — ratepayers or shareholders.” SDG&E wants the ratepayers to cover 95 to 100 percent of excess wildfire and related litigation costs.

Does Medicare's Use of Social Security Numbers Enable Identity Theft?

By Joel A. Harrison, PhD, MPH

Identity theft, a growing problem, is regularly in the news. We are warned to keep our Social Security numbers safe, to not carry our SSN cards with us. But recently, I joined the ranks of Medicare recipients and, to my surprise, found that my Medicare number is my SSN number--and we are instructed to carry it with us at all times.

I’ve done everything possible to minimize my exposure. I purchased a cross-cutter, better than a shredder, and use it for all papers with personal information. I purchased a sturdy lock mailbox. I keep no passwords or personal details on my computer, keep my firewall and virus programs up-to-date, and obtained a second credit card with a low maximum for online purchases. I never give out information on the phone and I placed a security freeze on all three credit reporting agencies.

Medical Benefits of Marijuana vs. Alleged Risks

By Joel A. Harrison, PhD, MPH

In an earlier OpEd I pointed out that according to the U.S. Constitution, the Federal government has no legal right to impose criminal law on marijuana both grown and sold within the State of California (Medical Marijuana and States Rights) Representative Bob Filner called on President Obama to reclassify medical marijuana as a legitimate controlled substance for medicinal purposes.

Medical Marijuana and States Rights

By Joel A. Harrison, PhD, MPH

The citizens of California voted to legalize medical marijuana, but the feds are now raiding our local shops. As a disclaimer, I have never used marijuana or any other recreational drug; but see its value in alleviating human suffering. 

In a comprehensive review of the science the prestigious Institute of Medicine found that marijuana does alleviate several medical problems: “Marijuana and Medicine: Assessing the Science Base” (1999) and the following year published a version for the general public: “Marijuana As Medicine? The Science Beyond the Controversy (2000).” Subsequent research has only strengthened the IOM findings. 

However, I am not writing about the pros and cons of medical marijuana; but about our Constitution.

Penny Wise Pound Foolish – Cuts in Free Flu Vaccines

By Joel Harrison
East County Magazine

According to an article in Friday’s Union-Tribune (Aug 12), “State to reduce supply of free flu vaccines,” San Diego County will receive ca. 30,000 “fewer free flu vaccines available for low-income adults than in previous years.”

During an average flu season between 5 and 20% of the population gets the flu. According to one study, if none of these 30,000 low-income adults manage to get vaccinated, on average 10 – 15 will be hospitalized for pneumonia and 27- 30 for respiratory and circulatory conditions. Those above 60 will have higher rates of hospitalization.

Corporate Power, Walmart and the Undermining of the Democratic Process

By Joel A. Harrison
East County Magazine

On February 1, the San Diego City Council repealed its recently passed “Big-Box Statute” which required an economic and environmental impact study precede approval to build stores of 90,000 or more square feet with 10 percent of floor space dedicated to nontaxable items such as groceries and prescription drugs. Similar ordinances exist around the nation. While currently this only applies to the City of San Diego, the basic principle affects us all. Prior to and following passage of the “Big-Box Statute” Walmart has spent millions of dollars on ads, full-page, radio and TV, created a front group “San Diego Consumers for Choice,” and a signature drive to get it on the ballot.