Author: Arshya Gurbani

UNC alumnus writes about journalism’s role in stopping stigma against obesity

Chioma Ihekweazu is a recent doctoral graduate from our very own School of Media and Journalism here at UNC. Not only was I thrilled to see a kind peer’s work showcased in my newsfeed, I was also drawn in by her accurate criticism of how we talk about weight–obesity in particular.

She makes the very important point that while it’s not likely to hear patients who are suffering from cancer referred to as “cancerous” or “diseased”, it is quite common, even among respected news sources, to see the descriptor “obese people”. Chioma advises us to avoid playing into shaming language and “put the person before the condition”.

Please read her article here, though a few key takeaways are outlined below:

  • Avoid headless imagery (this is a form of shaming)–if needed, use non-stigmatizing stock photos
  • Recognize that weight loss is influenced by many factors–such as location, time, and access to food/physical activity
  • Do not use value-laden language; use “classes”, based on BMI, defined by CDC and NIH to talk about obesity
  • Have an appropriate headline
  • Report on facts

Chioma also provides some great examples and resources in her article, to not only help writers and reporters change their words, but also to recognize the flaws in our perspective.

 

 

A generation’s view on HIV

Last week, Josh wrote an informative post on World AID’s Day, in which he brings up a key point about how HIV is perceived, and how stigma and discrimination dissuade an at-risk population from getting testing and treated. This points to a real need to understand how the population understands HIV, and what their attitudes are towards it. Kaiser Family Foundation recently wrapped up a study that could be insightful in this area.

In an article published on Nov 30th, they write ” an entire generation has been born and grown up without ever knowing a time when HIV did not exist” but that “they may be the first to see it end”.  KFF conducted a survey in which they interviewed (online and by telephone, in English) 1,794 18-30 year olds between January 25th and February 16, 2017. Of note, they “oversampled” Black and Latino populations, as these groups are disproportionately affected by HIV.

Here are some key findings from their report:

  • young people of color are more personally concerned about HIV, know more people who have HIV, and  are more worried about getting HIV than are whites
  • most young adults are not super aware of advances in HIV prevention and treatment (13% of respondents knew about PrEP–a pill taken daily as a preventative measure against the disease) and only 10% believe modern treatment is “very effective” in preventing HIV
  • stigma is still real: most young people would be comfortable having a friend or colleague with HIV, but many/most are uncomfortable having a roommate with HIV, having their food prepared by someone with HIV, or having a sexual partner with HIV
  • misconceptions: 38-58% of respondents believe that HIV can be spread through plates, glasses, toilets, spitting, or kissing–none of these are true
  • 54% majority of respondents have never been tested for HIV and 63% have never talked to a health care provider about it

Their results are consistent with other findings that advances in HIV prevention and treatment have not been effectively communicated, at least not to young adults.

The Youngest and Brightest in Healthcare Reform

“When I was your age…”

takes on a whole new meaning when the person saying it has made Forbe’s 30 Under 30 list. A little intimidating, a lot impressive!

The 30 Under 30 2018: Healthcare  list features entrepreneurs, physicians, and even a few students. The youngest honoree appears to be Cathy Tie from Toronto, Canada. She published her first research paper at the age of just 16! Five years later, she owns the company Ranomics, which tracks gene variants to facilitate healthcare organizations and clinical labs with their information management.  Another organization, Healthify, was founded by 4 young visionaries (Manik Bhatt, Eric Connor, Daniel Levenson, and Alex Villa) and works with the nations largest insurers to connect Medicaid recipients with social services.

The list of impressive contributors goes  on and on- research into non-hormonal male contraceptives, a diagnostic test to measure drug adherence, testing nanoparticles to reverse muscle atrophy, a wearable device to discourage smokers from lighting up when they are about to relapse,  the streamlining of patients for clinical trials, and altering your own white blood cells to target cancer…

I had a pretty fun time scrolling through these projects–it’s encouraging to see the heart, smarts, and collaboration towards truly life-changing work.

 

An electric dressing to help prevent bacterial infection?

If you read that title and thought I was talking about a sci fi movie, I’d be right there with you. What are these scientists talking about?

They’re talking about a film, alright, but not the cinema. It’s biofilm–when bacteria grow in clumps in a slime-like substance inside an infected cell. When this happens they find it a lot easier to avoid your immune system trying to kill them off, and unfortunately, they’re often resistant to antibiotics as well. This is a huge problem. According to an article published by Contagion, it’s the cause of more than 75% of bacterial infections in the US. However, scientists discovered in the early 90s that they are still sensitive the bio electric environment.

An article published this month in the Annals of Surgery journal discusses the results of a study that tested the efficacy of WED (weak electroceutical dressing) in preventing biofilm from forming on recent wounds. The study tested WED on burn wounds on pigs to observe differences if it was applied 2 hours after infection versus 7 days after infection (or versus a placebo). Good news-the results were promising, for both preventing bioflim development and also in “disturbing” existing biofilm.

While this niche of anti-bacterial therapy is still new, Contagion reports that human clinical trials will be conducted soon.

 

A Toast to the Fall Roast

Hey there,

Happy Fall! Just here to give a quick plug for a hearty fall roast as a delicious and nutritious, easy-to-make-a-vegetarian’s day option. The best part? It’s seasonal and local-find friendly.  Whether you’re at the store or a farmer’s market, go ahead and pick out:

  • the best lookin’ squash you see (be warned–as I recently discovered, a butternut squash is much easier to cut than an acorn squash–and a spaghetti squash may be better suited for other Fall meals given it’s stringy texture once cooked)
  • Complement that rich squash flavor with a sweet potato or two, rich in anti-oxidants, and plenty filling
  • See any fresh beets? Doubling up on antioxidant power and also vitamin-rich (particularly Vit C, Vit B6, iron, and folate) plus you get a gorgeous, deep purple to balance your fall colors–remember, you eat with your eyes first. Bonus–you can use beet leaves and another leafy green of your choice for a quick side salad!
  • No beets? No sweat! See any carrots calling to you? Maybe a red bell pepper? Cauliflower steak, anyone?
  • Chickpeas/beans of choice. Adding a can of beans to your roast is a quick way to add in a hearty amount of protein and a welcome contrast in texture
  • Seasoning is always in season! A little salt helps accentuate flavors, but you really don’t need too much to let these veggies sing. I like to add a generous amount of a fresh herb if you can find some (loving rosemary right now)

Nothing like letting the scent of roasting vegetables and fresh herbs envelop your kitchen and living room 🙂 Happy roasting!

 

Conscientious Campaigning-how we talk about Breast Cancer.

A short post this week from me–but a strong urge for you to read a well-written and important article about the way organizations dedicated to fighting and preventing breast cancer choose to push their messages. This article from Elite Daily centers around the question ” Pushing all marketing and advertising efforts aside, what is the most effective and respectful way to educate women about breast health and cancer awareness?”

picture taken from Elite Daily

They highlight the work of The Get In Touch Foundation, with it’s unique focus on educating young women to conduct self breast exams, empowering young women to engage in what is a life-saving and often under-articulated habit. Check out the article, their website, and one of their key educational tools, the Daisy Wheel here.

Wishing you all a beautiful start of the new month!

Normalization and Solidarity in Mass Communication–what are the impacts of the #MeToo posts?

As a student in health communication, I cannot help but be curious of the health impacts of the massive sharing of #MeToo stories on social media this past week. It’s rapid and broad spread globally is significant. The Hindustan Times reports that within 24 hours, the hashtag had been used more than 500,000 times and on Facebook an additional 12 million (the linked article is also an interesting take from a global perspective) . A few days later, this number was much closer to 10 million.

Here are some questions that have been floating around since last Sunday:

  • What is the impact for victims/survivors (source: CNN)?

For some, this may be therapeutic–it may create a safe space and a sense of solidarity that encourages catharsis and reflection on an often stigmatized and complicated issue. However, it can also be an emotional trigger for those who are not prepared to speak publicly or feel compelled to share a personal and traumatic experience.

  • How does this sentiment translate into action?

A Washington Post contributor discusses that while speaking out on social media is encouraging, it remains to be seen whether the dialogue initiated will lead to actual actions. It’s hard to  measure the how and if such a socially embedded problem changes. It is also worth considering social circles–the fact that while our friend groups on social media are supportive, in some cases they may not be the ones that need to hear the message most. As the Hindustan Times article linked above asked, what do we need to do to make sure there is no reason to tweet MeToo years from now?

  • What makes a movement viral, and how can this be harnessed to improve health outcomes?

This is non-specific to the topic of sexual abuse, but in general, what are the factors that made the MeToo hashtag catch on so quickly? It’s personal nature? It’s ubiquity? Recent news? Media studies say most hashtags are created ad hoc, perhaps that is more genuine and reflective of users’ needs, though efforts have been made to generate disease specific discussions…but I wonder what the role of these hashtags and surrounding dialogue will be in a few years. As people rely increasingly on social media for information in addition to sharing content, how will this be leveraged by those who wish to propagate information?

Interested to hear your thoughts about social media and health-related campaigns/movements–this one in particular, or others.

Maps are not uncharted territory!!

Ignoring how corny the title of this post is, you must admit it’s true. Odds are you have looked at a map sometime in the last week–probably on  a GPS, maybe in a research or news article, perhaps on the globe that sits idly in your office or living room? Did that map catch your eye?

A map is charted territory, but it doesn’t have to be limited to a Mercator projection showing geographic data. Maybe it’s been off my radar, but I don’t think I’ve reflected enough on just how powerful a map can be in communicating about health-related topics. In a public health seminar class this evening, our eyes were opened to just how much information can be presented powerfully by effectively manipulating a map. Here are a few of the maps we discussed:

Source: https://www.businessinsider.com.au/countries-that-drink-the-most-2015-1

source: http://brilliantmaps.com/population-circle/

source: https://www.vox.com/2014/8/26/6063749/38-maps-that-explain-the-global-economy

 

If you’re interested in poring over a few more, this site has 38! Also, I know I’ve posted this TED talk on this blog before, but it really is pretty amazing for Hans Rollin’s remarkably effective story-telling using data. I’d go so far as to  say some popcorn wouldn’t be uncalled for –stat!–but data is just my opinion. (Sorry)

 

CHIP in or out?

When it comes to healthcare coverage in the US….well, let’s just say it hasn’t had a historically smooth path. Among the political debates have been to whom the government should provide aid, how much, and how for how long…but everyone agrees that children should be have health insurance. Politically speaking, they are an easy group to support.

CHIP, The Children’s Health Insurance Program, was  created in 1997 as part of the Balance Budget Act of 1997. By 2000, every state had enrolled in CHIP-financed coverage. The cost of the program is split between states and the federal government via a formula called the Medicaid Federal Medical Assistance Percentage. But the split is actually more 71-29ish than 50-50, as Congress had also enhanced funding to match 15% more than what a state would cover–basically giving states a bigger incentive to enroll in the program.

Funding for CHIP expired on September 30th. The Affordable Care Act extended CHIP and further enhanced the federal matching rate, which should have continued through September 2019. Many states relied on this in their budgeting, and will face huge shortage if Congress does not extend federal funding.While Congress tries to pass legislation to rescue the program, states like Minnesota and Utah have already applied for emergency funding, and 27 additional states are expected to need more funds by March.

Legislation went through the Senate earlier today, but financial negotiations will need to be sorted across party lines before the vote can pass in the House.

Kaiser Health News  is a reliable source to stay up-to-date on the progress of the bill. It’s unlikely that a final decision will be made before the end of this month, but the bottom line is–nearly 9 million children’s insurance status depends on a successful resolution of this bill.

Emerging Emojis–the fight for a seat at the table

Do you sometimes feel like an emoji is the only way to perfectly embody the message, or the face, you are trying to convey?

It’s no secret that emojis are changing the way we communicate. They don’t just appear on our phones, either. Popularized emojis are iconic, appearing on clothing, in advertisements, and other outlets. They allow for a creation of meaning and personalization, as a readily accessible tool with which to join a dialogue.

Marla Shaivitz, a communication specialist at Johns Hopkins University’s Bloomberg School of Public Health, and Jeff Chertack, a malaria expert with the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, are appealing to the Unicode Consortium–an organizing body that approves characters an emojis for standardized usage–to consider adding a female mosquito to the list of emojis that will be added to smartphones next year. Apparently, the mosquito is among a list of 67 finalists that will be further considered.

Anticipated uses of the emoji include pairing the image with other symbols–a rain cloud, for instance, to encourage people to stay dry indoors and to encourage insecticide application–or to indicate that eradication efforts are under progress. As mosquitoes are key in infectious disease transmission (for viruses including dengue, Zika, malaria, and yellow fever), a recognizable symbol might encourage more dialogue about preventative behaviors or information-seeking behaviors.

Shaivitz and Chertack make their case by estimating seven times more usage of the mosquito emoji than of the beetle emoji on Twitter. In fact, they claim there is a pretty high demand for it.

When you think about the truly random emojis that do exist, it would seem far-fetched not to include one that has the potential to actually make a  positive change. Time will tell if Unicode bites.

Sources:

http://www.latimes.com/science/sciencenow/la-sci-sn-moquito-emoji-health-20170922-story.html

hhtps://ccp.jhu.edu/2017/09/18/creating-buzz-proposing-mosquito-emoji-public-health/