These experts from the UW-Madison faculty and staff have agreed to comment on breaking news, ongoing developments and trends in their areas of expertise. If you need help arranging interviews, email University Communications.
Experts on today’s news…
Erin Barbato on: Trump declares national emergency to build wall
Erin Barbato, an expert on immigration law and director of the Immigrant Justice Clinic, can comment on President Trump's announcement that he would declare a national emergency in order to get funding for a wall between the United States and Mexico.
Barry Burden, an expert on American politics and director of the Elections Research Center, can also discuss. "Democrats at all levels will oppose this action, so the interesting responses will be among Republicans who had previously criticized President Obama for taking unilateral executive actions without congressional approval."
Tracy Saladar on: Vaccinations
Tracy Saladar, an expert on pediatric primary care, can discuss vaccinations. While all states require immunizations for children to attend school, 47 states -- all but California, Mississippi and West Virginia -- allow parents to opt out of vaccines if they have religious beliefs against immunizations, according to the National Conference of State Legislatures. Among those 47 states, also allow parents to opt out of vaccines if they have personal, moral or philosophical beliefs against immunizations. Washington and Oregon are two of those states and both are experiencing a measles outbreak. The other 16 are Arizona, Arkansas, Colorado, Idaho, Louisiana, Maine, Michigan, Minnesota, North Dakota, Ohio, Oklahoma, Pennsylvania, Texas, Utah, Wisconsin and Vermont.
"Vaccines are shown by scientific evidence to be safe and effective," Saladar says. "When the vast majority of the population is vaccinated, it creates what is known as 'herd immunity.' This means that high vaccination rates offer protection to individuals who are not vaccinated because they are too young or too vulnerable. The best way to protect yourself and your children from infectious diseases like measles is to be fully vaccinated."
Jirs Meuris on: Impact of shutdown on workers
Jirs Meuris, an expert on financial wellness and HR practices, can comment on how the government shutdown may impact workers in the longterm. His research shows a link between employees’ financial worry and their performance. A recent report by consulting company Mercer found that employees on average spend approximately 150 hours per year thinking about their finances at work, which translates into roughly three weeks’ worth of work time annually.
“Based on my research, we should be worried about the impact of the current shutdown on our national security and health as thousands of government workers including those at the FBI, DEA, FDA, Border Patrol, and TSA work to protect us from threats while going without a paycheck and living in a state of financial uncertainty," Meuris says. "As their financial insecurity grows, we can be sure that our own security falters along with it. We need to recognize that a shutdown over border security may actually do more harm to it than what there may be to gain from it.”
Lisa Cadmus-Bertram on: Staying active in winter
Cold weather, icy sidewalks, and short daylight hours can make it hard for people to stay as physically active as they should be. Physical activity expert Dr. Cadmus-Bertram says it’s critical to find activities that you truly enjoy and focus on near-term benefits like stress reduction so that exercise doesn’t feel like a chore. "Engaging your family and friends to exercise with you is another great way to stay on track," she says and suggests looking for free or low-cost indoor options at local community centers, schools, and shopping malls. Dr. Cadmus-Bertram is available to comment on any topics related to getting and staying physically active, including the role of technologies such as fitness trackers and smartphone apps.
Hilary Dugan on: Environmental impact of road salt
Road salt helps keep our streets and sidewalks clear each winter, but it comes with a cost - North America's freshwater lakes are getting saltier. What does that mean for the plants and animals that call them home? Can we put winter road maintenance on a "low-salt" diet? Hilary Dugan, an expert on lake water quality, can talk about what can be done to be "salt smart," and how innovative advancements and low-tech approaches are helping solve the problem.
Jonathan Patz on: Climate change hearings.
New committee leadership in the U.S. House of Representatives is taking up climate change in hearings to begin Wednesday. Patz, a contributor to U.N. Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change reports, has produced extensive research on the health impacts of climate change, and can discuss the role policy plays in mitigating those impacts.