Introducing WebMD’s 2008 Health Heroes
Four ordinary Americans who are doing extraordinary things for the health of others.
Environmental Justice, Health Justice
When Jane L. Delgado, PhD, is not running the National Alliance for Hispanic Health (as she has for 23 years), brainstorming ways to improve services for the 100 million helped annually through its national members, hosting health fairs across the country, or updating Salud: A Latina's Guide to Total Health, she's thinking about air. And water. And how to clean up some of the dirtiest cities in America to give urban kids a better future.
This is why she is outfitting young people with state-of-the-art mobile Eco-Pac pollution monitors in Brooklyn, N.Y.; Brownsville, Texas; Detroit; and Watsonville, Calif. These kids are taking part in her Health and Environment Action Network, launched in 2007. "Each area was picked because the pollutants there are very different," she says. The data, videos, and maps documenting the pollution will be posted at HEANaction.org and sent to the Environmental Protection Agency as an official first step in calling for national and local action. "Getting kids involved in health and the environment has been something that I have believed in a long time," Delgado, 55, says. "It's our world, it's our health. And their future."
Standing Up to Cancer
For five years, Laura Ziskin tried to get diagnosed with breast cancer. She just knew something was wrong. But doctors, mammograms, and even an ultrasound declared the Pretty Woman and Spider-Man series producer cancer-free. Then one day in 2004, her breast looked different: It had a dent. When she showed it to her ultrasound radiologist, "the woman went white as a sheet," she recalls. A mastectomy, chemo, and radiation followed. Ziskin slowly allowed herself to believe she would survive. And then she got mad. "Why can we go to the moon and split the atom, but not solve cancer?" she wondered.
Every day more than 1,500 people in the United States die of cancer. For Ziskin, now 58, a way to fight back came when she produced the 2007 Academy Awards, which honored An Inconvenient Truth, the movie that catapulted "going green" into the zeitgeist. "I decided that I was going to make the Inconvenient Truth of cancer," she says. This Sept. 5, Stand Up to Cancer aired on the three major networks and raised more than $100 million for research and treatments. Says Ziskin, "I believe if one new drug comes out of this process, we will have been a success." And, she predicts, "that will happen."
Colleen Paretty, Kim Caviness, and Andrea Gabrick contributed to this report.