Author: Andrew Bradford

Big Tobacco Back In Schools

At the time of this writing, Big Tobacco is in the execution phase of their rebranding process. Some of you may be asking, why is Big Tobacco rebranding? In short, to regain popularity among youth populations. Decades of great Public Health work has done a great job of restricting tobacco companies from advertising to young people and fostering a negative stigma with using tobacco products. However, Big Tobacco is not going to roll over that easily.

The introduction of e-cigarettes and vaporizer products have created a whole new problem for those battling against Big Tobacco and the health issues associated with tobacco use. The vast array of flavors paired with the myth that these electronic devices are healthier than cigarettes have positioned Big Tobacco in a positive light for the youth intrigued by the new products.

The NPR article Teenagers Embrace JUUL, Saying It’s Discreet Enough To Vape In Class provides highlights of the buzz the JUUL brand has created in youth populations. The article shows how easily the vapor product can be brought into schools, and even includes examples of teachers mistaking them for feminine hygiene products. Obviously, this is going to bring about unique difficulties to the tobacco regulation systems.

This is a major concern because there is quite a bit of positive data linking the use of these electronic products to eventual cigarette use. Are you aware of the many different electronic nicotine options available to our youth? Is this something you are concerned about? Let us know in the comments below.

A Very Vegan Christmas – Pro Tips

The number of American’s participating in a Vegan diet has risen to new heights in the year 2017. In response to this, below is a list of tips to hopefully make that trip home to visit our non-Vegan family easier to handle. The following were adapted from Romesh Ranganathan’s Christmas survival guide for vegans:

  1. Accept you will be asked a lot of questions
    • Veganism is an unusual thing. Regardless of how many celebrities take it up, the fact is, you have chosen an extreme standpoint so be prepared to explain yourself.
  2. Accept that you are a difficult guest
    • The dietary limitations should speak for themselves as to why Vegans are difficult to cook for.
  3. Don’t let anyone touch your food
    • With fewer options comes less food available, protect your food at all costs.
  4. Pretend your food is disgusting
    • This goes for those who bring a Vegan dish to the meal. You love your creation and want to ensure it isn’t wasted by those just going for a taste.
  5. Avoid vegan cheese
    • Basically, cheese cannot be replicated for Vegans while keeping the same taste we grew up on. Save yourself the disappointment.
  6. Take your own dessert
    • This goes without saying, we all love dessert, so make sure you have something tasty there when the time comes.
  7. Be ready for some terrible jokes
    • Brace yourself, the lack-of-protein jokes are coming.
  8. Do not preach 
    • We make the decision to practice Veganism based on many factors. Most people know why we make this choice, so lecturing them during this time of celebration and time with family often does not get far.

I hope these help some of you Vegans out there this holiday season. Let me know if you have any other tips that could complement these listed please share in the comments!

An Unlikely Victory in Alabama

Something happened in Alabama this week that has not been seen for quite some time now. Doug Jones became the first Democrat elected to the Senate from Alabama in 25 years on Tuesday night when he beat the controversial Republican former judge Roy Moore. Despite multiple claims against Senator Moore building up over the past weeks he was still favored to remain Senator, thanks to the support of President Trump. However, the state of Alabama made sure its voice was heard.

Thankfully, a stage set to remain central to sexual misconduct has turned to a more empowering story of the power of voter turnout. Senator Doug Jones spoke to those in the state that felt underserved and under-respected, and in return won 95% of the African American voters in the state. While many people saw this election as a lose-lose situation, this is a great example of how elections can change when everyone shows up to the voting polls.

With a history of voter suppression throughout America, it is truly great to see a state empowered to show up at the polls like Alabama did in this election. Hopefully, it will serve as an example to other states of what can happen when everyone is able to participate in our Democracy.

What do you think played the biggest role in the voter turnout in Alabama?

Responding to the Ebola Outbreak

The unexpected and rapid advance of the Ebola Virus outbreak of 2014 caught the entire world off guard. Not only did the virus take hold of one of the most vulnerable areas of the world, but it also exposed a major weakness in the global infectious disease control process.

At the time the outbreak took place, current technologies still took up to five days to properly test for the Ebola Virus. Luckily, in the few years since the crisis, there has been a lot of thought put into how we could address a similar global issue more effectively.

Enter FieldLab, a solar-powered lab-in-a-box created by two graduate students at Rhodes University in South Africa. This new technology will simplify the process of conducting laboratory tests out in the field. Designed to be carried like a briefcase, FieldLab was created specifically for the issues that Africa faced trying to test individuals for the Ebola Virus; affordability, mobility, and robustness.

With successful execution and new technologies, hopefully, we will be able to manage disease outbreaks better than how we did with the Ebola Virus. What are some ways you think we could improve response time to global issues of this stature?

A Blueprint to “Win” the War on Drugs

What can the United States learn from Portugal about the war on drugs?

A Guest Post by Becca Fritton.

On October 26, 2017, Trump declared the opioid crisis a National Public Health Emergency. As Andrew Bradford discussed in his October 27 post, while a first step, this announcement does not immediately open up additional funding for the crisis, but instead gives access to funding that already exists. Unfortunately, this funding is almost running out. [1] It is important to note that while this announcement raises the voice of the conversation around opioid use in the United States, many do not even consider this a beginning of a plan to address the epidemic.

Any discussion or solution proposed around addiction is remiss without discussing criminalization. Nicholas Kristof of the New York Times put forth a stunning summary of how Portugal has managed to “win” the war drugs. While drug dealers still go to prison in Portugal, they have made it an “administrative offense” to possess or purchase a small quantity of drugs. Instead of going to jail or to trial, offenders attend a meeting with social workers who work towards preventing a casual user from becoming dependent on drugs. Rather than viewing an individual as a criminal, officials in Portugal focus on the individual’s health and help them find resources they need to stay healthy.

Those who are dependent on drugs need medical care, not punishment. The Health Ministry of Portugal also targeted certain neighborhoods and populations for passing out clean needles and encouraging methadone instead of heroin. At large events or concerts, the ministry would offer to test individuals’ drugs to advise if they were safe or not. Portugal’s government has also funded widespread use of methadone vans that supply users with a free and controlled amount of methadone.

This approach has worked extremely well for Portugal and now they have the lowest drug mortality rate in Western Europe, and one-fiftieth the latest count in the United States. [2] The United States should take note and begin moving in a different direction. Instead of funding prisons and jails, the government should place more funding and infrastructure in place to address addiction from a mental and public health standpoint.

Becca can be contacted via email at: rfritton [@] berkeley [dot] edu

 

[1] Allen, G. and Kelly, A. (2017). Trump Administration Declares Opioid Crisis a Public Health Emergency. National Public Radio. Retrieved from: https://www.npr.org/2017/10/26/560083795/president-trump-may-declare-opioid-epidemic-national-emergency

[2] Kristof, N. (2017). How to “Win” the War on Drugs. New York Times. Retrieved from: https://www.nytimes.com/2017/09/22/opinion/sunday/portugal-drug-decriminalization.html

Pssht.. it’s time to enroll

It’s November, so you know what that means. Enrollment is now open on HealthCare.gov to sign up for health insurance for 2018. Former President Barack Obama took to Twitter yesterday to promote the Affordable Care Act (ACA) and encouraged Americans to shop around for health insurance.

The enrollment period is only 6 weeks long so there is no time to procrastinate! Okay, you can procrastinate a little bit, take some time to explore the various options on HealthCare.gov, sleep on it, and then take action! There has been a lot of work put into the website to ensure it is as easy to use as possible.

With the scrutiny that has been placed on the ACA by the Trump Administration I was happy to see Barack Obama again spreading word to us Americans about the importance of getting healthcare insurance. This action by the former President is likely due to Trump cutting the advertising budget for the ACA by 90%.

If you haven’t seen the video yet (it’s only 2 mins) hop over to Twitter and check it out. In case you didn’t know, his Twitter handle is @BarackObama and he only tweets high-quality tweets, so he’s worth the follow. Then after you watch it, hop on over to HealthCare.gov and see which plan is best for you!

President Trump Declares an Emergency

The opioid crisis is now a National Public Health Emergency under federal law.

For those on the front lines of the opioid epidemic this is great news, but what exactly does it mean? While there is no quick fix to an epidemic of this proportion, the announcement made Thursday by President Trump will make the lives easier for those who have been battling the epidemic.

Trump, through the Public Health Services Act, directed his acting secretary of health and human services to declare a national health emergency, a designation that will not automatically be followed by additional federal funding for the crisis. Instead, the order will expand access to telemedicine in rural areas, instruct agencies to curb bureaucratic delays for dispensing grant money and shift some federal grants towards combating the crisis.

Overall, this is a win for Public Health and the families and communities that have been affected by the opioid epidemic. It is important to note that since the government is not simply throwing funds to states efforts to combat opioids need to be used strategically and effectively. There is still concern this announcement will be used to boost the production of life-saving antidotes only and ignore the need for addiction treatment for those still abusing opioids.

Only time will tell if we as a Nation respond correctly to this emergency, but this is a promising first step to ending the opioid epidemic.

The Newest Style of Sex Education

About a week ago, our class had the pleasure of listening to Alexandra Lightfoot, EdD discuss her involvement in one of the more revolutionary forms of public health circulating the block. As a professional, she has focused on the intersection between the arts and public health and how the two can be combined to create more effective health messages.

The topic of her discussion was the Arts-based, Multiple-component Peer Education (AMP!) Program that first came to UNC from UCLA a few years ago. AMP! utilizes interactive theatre techniques with college students who create scenarios to deliver sex-ed to 9th grade students in a novel way, especially down here in the South.

The critical component of this program is its use of satire, humor and storytelling to disseminate knowledge and start discussions about sexual and reproductive health with high school students and their health teachers. Research has shown that this traditionally complicated conversation is facilitated by this arts-based approach and the AMP! intervention has significantly increased student knowledge about how to prevent HIV and maintain sexual health.

Given that the live performance model of AMP! is delivered by college student “near peers” in locations close to their universities, it has been difficult to scale the program here in North Carolina. However, it has scaled well in the Los Angeles Unified School District, so hopefully that will provide a blueprint for sharing this creative and fun program to more youth in North Carolina. Lightfoot and her partners at the UCLA Art and Global Health Center are currently developing a compendium of video scenarios made by NC-based college students and a manual for teachers so that the intervention can be implemented more widely via digital delivery in classrooms across the state. The team is currently applying for funding to further refine the digital model and pilot and evaluate the implementation process and impact on student outcomes.

What do you think? Is this something you feel is appropriate for NC high school students? What do you think are the barriers and challenges such a program might encounter here? What are the positives about this kind of approach to sex education? Let us know below in the comments.

Should you sleep naked?

As someone who traditionally loves wearing pajamas to bed at night I have always wondered about the question: is it better to sleep naked than in pajamas? A lack of sleep over time has been shown to increase the risk for stroke, diabetes, cognitive decline, depression, and obesity, so it’s important to determine what’s best for yourself to get a good night’s rest.

Rather than sit around and continue to wonder, I decided to do some research on the topic and solve this dilemma once and for all. In the US, around 10% of the population admit to sleeping naked; which is actually kind of low considering about 30% of our friends in the UK do so. Now that I know some people in the world actually do sleep naked, what are the benefits of doing so?

The most scientifically sound reason I could find for sleeping naked was to better regulate your body temperature overnight. If you sleep in pajamas and have heavy covers it can be easy to overheat and disrupt sleep accordingly. The Sleep Council has determined that 68°F is the ideal sleeping temperature for a high-quality night’s rest.

Personally, this just tells me to make sure my thermostat is set to 68°F at night before going to bed. I normally don’t have trouble sleeping at night, but I know that is not always the case. It seems there is more research needed to truly determine its effect, but do you think sleeping naked actually helps sleep quality?

 

AB

Reverse Type 2 Diabetes?

Yes, you read the title correctly. Researchers from the UK published a report in the British Medical Journal (BMJ) a couple weeks ago revealing they have had success with patients Beating Type 2 Diabetes into Remission.  Dr. Mike Lean, who co-authored the publication, spoke with an editor at the BMJ about the study which can be heard here.

Type 2 diabetes mainly stems from having excess body fat but once diagnosed, treatment usually ends at a tablet you take for the rest of your life to control your blood sugar. Very rarely do treatments take into effect the vascular issues or decreased life expectancy also experienced by those with diabetes.

So what is the miracle cure? Well as is the case for most chronic diseases, the cure is not locked inside a pill, rather within the contexts of a healthy lifestyle. A consistent exercise regimen coupled with a diet strategic to losing weight is the secret. Put simply, if you can lose weight and keep it off long enough remission can be possible.

Shockingly, they said reaching a healthy weight wasn’t the hardest part, but that maintaining a healthy weight is where people usually fail when striving to beat diabetes into remission.

So what do you think about this? As an optimistic health professional, this gives me hope for the future of our nation and globally in dealing with this chronic disease. Do you have any tips for maintaining a healthy weight? If so, share below!

 

AB