Author: Candice Alick

Wine your waistline? or Wine or Waistline?

Wine or Waistline? No, this is not the latest dancehall rhythm from Bennie Man! That is the catchy title to an article on CNN Health, detailing the effects of wine on your waistline. The theme throughout most articles about wine and weight are pretty much consistent, one drink after a long day should not be a death sentence. However, going over that limit increases the chances of unwanted  health risks. Sunny Sea Gold, author, of Wine or Waistline, warns that not only does drinking more increase the chances of an altered waistline but slows down one’s ability to metabolism consumed food and results in increase storage of calories as fat. Gold describes the biochemistry of the phenomena; explaining the caloric value of alcohol compared to other macronutrients and further enlightens that alcohol presses “pause” on metabolism. Furthermore, Gold gives tips on balancing having a drink or two with maintaining a healthy standard of living:

  1. Always eat when you drink
  2. Know that some drinks make you hungrier
  3. Stick to a drink or two, tops
  4. Beware that gnawing, starving feeling the next day

The information presented in the article was digestible to a wide variety of audiences. The comprehensive explanation (macronutrient to the aftershock of consumption) helps to answer the “who, why, what, where and when” asked when attempting to translate health information to empower people to make decisions that improve their quality of life. Science blogging is an effective approach to increasing awareness on many health topics and is a way to affect behavior change by providing the information in digestible pieces on familiar and unintimidating platforms, I know Bora Zivkovic: The Blogfather, would agree.

What are the science blogs you frequent to get the latest information?

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Doctors and Patients Smoking Together

I often find myself berating people to “practice what they preach,” followed by “how can you tell me what to do and you are not taking your own advice?” The bottom line is: actions speak louder than words- if I see you do it I am more likely to follow suite. This holds true for doctors as well. According to Time, a study examining health records of over 1.9 million patients and 1,488 doctors in Israel,  found that doctors who engaged in preventive care were more likely to have patients engage in similar practices.  Unfortunately, preventive practices are low among physicians. Theoretically, increasing doctors’ healthy behaviors may have a ripple effect on their patients.

Screening and vaccinations were highlighted behaviors in this study assessing data from Clalit Health Services, Israel’s largest health maintenance organization insuring over 50% of Israel’s population. Dr. Erica Frank of the University of British Colombia’s School of Population and Public Health in collaboration with three Israeli researchers focused on mammography, blood pressure measurement, colorectal screening, annual influenza vaccinations and other preventive services.

It will be interesting to see if this holds true for other behaviors. I have been to many doctors sporting, how do you say…a potbelly! As you are advising an overweight patient at risk for diabetes to lose weight, you are currently labeled overweight with a BMI of 27 kg/m2. I always find it strange to see the patients, nurses and doctors smoking together outside the hospital. Communication comes in all forms; even in health communication. What message is your health professional sending by their actions?


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Bye Bye Nanny McBerg: The Countdown Begins

There are always at least two ways to look at a situation: mechanical problems on a plane leads to a cancelled flight and no trip or the opportunity to sit in on a session lead by Cathy Nonas, who directs the New York City Health Department’s Physical Activity and Nutrition program and who has worked on many of the policies I have written about regarding Mayor Bloomberg. Well, my traveling woes enabled me to attend my Nutrition Advanced Methods course at the Gillings School of Global Public Health at UNC and have the opportunity to hear from one of the Nanny’s helpers. My post comes a little later than usual because I thought it quite cool to end my series with commentary from this experience.

Right at the beginning, Nonas jokingly states that Bloomberg has a countdown clock of how many hours they have left “to make a change” under his administration. She also adds that they [government employees] are not able to accept compensation for talks like this and that it is a part of the job description.[Please note: she was not complaining]  For a good 2 hours, Nonas takes us through several policies and programs she has worked on from the restriction of trans fat to a school based program seeking to integrate physical activity into daily classroom instruction by training teachers to increase the amount of minutes of moderate to vigorous activity of students in K-3. She even mentions the “Big Gulp” fight in NYC where the first 3 judges assigned to their appeals case had to recuse themselves because they had stock in soda companies.

From her few statements and a glimpse of statistics comparing NYC to the nation, NYC is a leader in the fight against obesity. However, the yelps and screams from the public to give them the right to choose are quite loud. Bloomberg, as an elected politician, is supposed to represent the views of his constituents.  From the outside looking in, his constituents are not happy. Are they? Well, he is serving his 3rd term and won the third term after he fought to change the term limits.  Maybe it is just a rowdy few causing all the ruckus. Persons like Nonas and Bloomberg appear to be fighting to put in place polices to get and keep NYCers healthy. Do you think Bloomberg  needs a couple more hours as the Nanny? What will happen after his administration?

The Super Nanny- Bloomberg Strikes Again Part 2

Yes, I have come back with a second installment of Nanny Bloomberg. The use of the term “nanny” is a form of endearment. I applaud his efforts despite the criticism he has been facing. After state Supreme Court Justice Milton Tingling blocked the a citywide ban on the sale of sugary drinks in containers holding more than 16 ounces, an appeal was filed by the New York City Law Department as New York City’s Mayor  Michael Bloomberg had  promised. I find it difficult to take an objective approach when discussing this topic. In identifying the parties behind the opposing sides, as a public health enthusiast but also a recent small business owner, the health of the nation trumps all my money making desires. The appeal filed by the Law department was backed by dozens of community groups and minority organizations as they signed on to amicus briefs in support of the appeal. Early this month, the lawsuit against the citywide ban was filed by a group of business associations — including the National Association of Theatre Owners of New York State and the American Beverage Association. Note, Bloomberg’s ban did not eliminate the sale of sugary beverages, it called for portion control- a technique used throughout weight loss lifestyle interventions. At the end of the day, businesses will still make a profit off the purchase, but New Yorker’s will be consuming less- doesn’t that sound like a win-win?

A ray of sunshine gleams in some parts of NYC, where some business owners have decided to stick with the ban despite the ruling. Lucky’s Cafe in Midtown Manhattan, owner Laki Anagnostopoulos, is complying with the beverage restrictions- eliminating the sale 24-ounce to-go cups and 20-ounce bottles of soda.

See, business and public health can co-exist people.

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The Nanny- Mayor Bloomberg

Michael Bloomberg has been described as a “nanny state” politician. “Nanny state” is British jargon suggesting a government or its policies are overprotective or controlling like a nanny to a child- no personal choice. Bloomberg has been on a public health crusade to make New Yorkers healthier and safer by attempting to ban the sale of  large sugary drinks, increase gun control, and crackdown on tobacco sales to the most vulnerable populations.

While being a nanny to adults may seem absurd, because clearly they can make their own choices on what to eat, what to buy and what to smoke, let’s look at the evidence behind Bloomberg’s  seemingly unwelcomed attempts. According to several health behavior theories like the socio-ecological model and Bandura’s Social Cognitive theory, though we have individual choice, the environment in which we exist influences our choices.

Bloomberg  says, “If we can get you to have less in front of you, then you’ll probably eat less, and you’ll be healthier for it. Heath promotion programs and intervention often loose effectiveness  because all the knowledge and strategies individuals learn are buffered by external cues. Seems like Bloomberg has been reading Glanz’s Health Behavior and Health Education, considered a bible in some schools of public health.

Health promoting legislation often arises from the work of the people at “the bottom.”  While the masses are screaming “nanny” at Mayor Bloomberg, activists and researchers are most likely screaming “thank you, we need a little help down here.”

Nannies are hired to protect us, isn’t that what Mayor Bloomberg is doing?

Spotlight: Melanie C. Green

With a Bachelor’s degree in Literature from a small liberal arts college in St. Petersburg, FL, Eckerd College, Melanie was surprised she would be using her undergraduate education in her graduate studies at Ohio State as she pursued a Master’s in social psychology.

Now, Dr. Melanie C Green is an Assistant Professor at UNC in the Department of Psychology where her research focuses on the power of narratives to change beliefs, including the effects of fictional stories on real-world attitudes; what she calls the persuasive impact of narratives. While Dr. Green is not credited for being the first to examining narrative communication, she is credited for operationalizing the Transportation theory and her and her colleagues empirical studies have been used to support and measure transportation variables, increasing the use of transportation in narrative and persuasive research. Her theory of “transportation into a narrative world” focuses on immersion into a story as a mechanism of narrative influence. Dr. Green has examined narrative persuasion in a variety of contexts, from health communication to social issues. She has also investigated the influence of technology (in particular, television and the Internet) on social capital.

Her work is innovative and fascinating.  From using video games to teach the signs of a heart attack to examining the effects of entertainment ads on tobacco use, Dr. Green’s research is on the cutting edge of social psychology.

Find out more about Dr. Green here.

Back to the kitchen women!

All this equal rights mess has really messed things up! While you feminists fought for the right to vote and go to work and all that other crap, you have gotten a little round in the tummy! Don’t call NOW (National Organization for Women), I just wanted to get your attention. That might be what some pig head would say with this recently posted article stating there is a marked difference in women’s habits in the 1960’s to now that has affected their weight status. More specifically, in the 1960’s women spent an average of 25.7 hours a week cleaning, cooking and doing laundry and in 2010 they spent an average of 13.3 hours per week according to a study based on 2011 U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics data .

Fortunately, the article is not calling for women to quit their jobs and slip on the apron. There is another solution. Technology has caused the shift in women’s behavior and reduced the calories expended during the day. Spending countless hours in front of the television and tablet has increased sedentary behavior; a well-documented predictor of becoming overweight. In the 60’s, women could not occupy their free time with computers and iphone apps.  Women (and men) now have to make a concerted effort for “deliberate exercise to overcome the decrement in daily activity.”

More interesting about the study is its primary objective was to investigate how the evolution of technology increases obesity in future generations. Pregnant overweight women have offsprings with more fat cells.  We must alter the health messages to pregnant women now; “ No drinking, no smoking and no sitting!” Get up off that thang!

Got eggs? Got drugs?

In the late 1980’s a drug campaign featured an egg being scrambled in a frying pan with the slogan, “This is your brain, this is your brain on drugs; any questions?” Growing up in the 80’s, most if not all children remember seeing this commercial and would probably say today that it was effective in its message of anti-drug usage.  On the other hand, some say commercials or campaigns similar to “eggs” actually spark their curiosity and in turn provoke them to experiment to determine the accuracy of the claim. Others simply do not believe that the brain is actually being altered by drugs at all. Yesterday, a column by fellow blogger Diane Francis, discussed the boundaries of graphics used in public service advertisements. The featured ad campaign displays a cancerous tumor growing on the side of a cigarette someone was smoking. Though the image maybe disturbing, it may capture those two groups mentioned above who felt the message portrayed in the anti-drug campaign was not realistic enough. Francis, stated the Advertising Standards Authority received over 60 complaints regarding the cigarette ad, stating it was too graphic. However, how do we interpret these 60 complaints? On possible interpretation is the campaign is being noticed and getting the attention of the public; the graphics are meant to be disturbing in order to prevent initiation of behavior or quitting of the behavior because of the grotesque consequences. While frying eggs may have gotten the few of us “fraidy cats” like myself in the 80’s, we may need more commercials of people with breathing stomas to relay the severity of their bad health habits.

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Will you join in?

According to the Centers for Disease Prevention and Control (CDC), childhood obesity has doubled in children and tripled in adolescents in the last 30 years.  The country is pulling out all stops to combat this epidemic. First Lady Michelle Obama’s Let’s Move campaign is sweeping the nation, McDonald’s has reduced the serving size of French fries in the Kid’s Meal and gaming systems like Wii have installed motion detectors to get the youngsters off their bum bums. In Georgia, Strong4Life, sponsored a graphic ad campaign to bring awareness to the growing problem; showcasing overweight and obese children and their parents. Controversial or simply stated, all hands are on deck to get our children on the right track. Dr. Robert A. Pretlow, a pediatrician and founder of eHealth International, has joined the battle and created an online social network, Weigh2Rock, to help children and adolescents better manage their diet, resist food temptations and lose weight. The website includes a weight calculator, a parents section, success stories and other helpful components. New to the site is a section dedicated to individuals age 18+.  In this network, anonymous members are paired with a buddy for social support and motivation.  The anonymity is being praised because overweight children tend not to want to discuss their weight or eating and/or physical activity behaviors. Sites like Weigh2 Rock provide a safe space for those who may otherwise feel ostracized. However, the prospect of spending countless hours in front of the computer may counteract the benefits of the network.  On the flipside, social networks provide immediate conversation surrounding the pressing issues of being overweight and obese; conversations the youngster will not have when visiting a physicians or a support group.

What are you doing to help our children?

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Social Marketing: Spare Change or Mortgage Payer?

Simply Hired, the employment website for job listings, has 17,066 jobs listed for “Social marketing coordinator”. According to Nedra Weinreich, founder of Weinreich Communications, only in recent years has this job title become more common. In my own quest to identify potential opportunities in health communication, more specifically social marketing, coming across her website Spare Change: Making a difference with Social Marketing was insightful. Many of us find the field health communication intriguing but are unaware of where it will take us- whether it’s a spare change job or pay your mortgage career. Indeed, another employment website, lists 206,661 related results for “Health Communication,” job titles include: Director, Marketing and Communication, Department of Health – Communications Director and Marketing Communication Copy Writer. Salaries range from $20,000 to +$100,000. Needless to say, the prospects are both promising and exciting.

Weinreich goes on to explain the preparation for a career in social marketing is quite variable but with its growth in popularity; programs are sprouting up in universities everywhere. A great school of public health (like the UNC’s Gillings School of Global Public Health) and a stellar marketing department are at the top of the list of essential experiences. Obviously, course work in quantitative and qualitative research methods, evaluation design, and behavior change theory add to your portfolio which will lead to employment at public relations/marketing agencies, international development organizations, government agencies, nonprofit organizations and schools and universities!

However, the most important advice that I have found is to seek experience BEFORE you graduate from your degree program. This will facilitate landing a job upon graduation.

Do you have any advice for us newbies anticipating a career in social marketing?


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