Author: Candice Alick

Save 2nd Base? In a String Bikini?

In a recent post entitled Rethink Breast Cancer, UNC student Jaya Mathur blogged about an application from, a Toronto-based charity, Rethink Breast Cancer, that recently sent out an update advertising an application called You Man Reminder. One selling point of the app from the site boasts— “Hot Video Messages – You’ll love the attention our hot guys give you as they remind you to show your breasts some TLC.” Mathur suggest that some may find this approach controversial despite that it engages a population that far too often neglects to address this type of health problem- it captures the attention of the young! It opens up a difficult conversation for some and provides support for those who are concerned. Win- win, right?

Wrong! Campaigns like Save the Ta-Tas and Feel Your Boobies are taking on a little heat, according to US TODAY. Breast cancer survivors are complaining that these campaigns make light of disease and demean women.  Is there validity in their argument?

If women, more specifically, breast cancer survivors are being offended by the outpour of these new catchy slogans and gimmicks, should they stop? I personally see both sides. On one side, the pop culture messages are bringing not only awareness but aiding in raising funds to combat breast cancer. But is there a line that should not be crossed?  In Las Vegas, a restaurant, displayed a poster for a “Save 2nd Base” fundraiser…it had an image of a curvy model in a string bikini. Does this take it too far? Is it possible to find a balance?


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Monster Energy and Cigarettes

Monster Energy, 5 hour Energy and Red Bull. Hot sellers on the market claiming to give consumers a MEGA boost of energy. These drinks provide a quick solution for the busy body AND the parent taking the kids to basketball practice, cooking dinner and checking homework after a 9 hour work day. But how safe are these energy shots in a bottle? Is the boost of energy worth the dangers that lay ahead? The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has found that companies like Monster Energy have not been reporting adverse events associated with consumption of their products despite a 2007 mandate requiring such reporting.  While Monster has reported only one since the mandate (after the incident had been highly publicized), over 20 reports have been submitted from consumers, physicians and others (including 4 additional deaths). Some feel the FDA is not doing its job.

However, the bigger question is why the information has not been more publicized? According to the New York Times, the FDA is “working” on a system to make the information available to the public; with no reported date of completion. The FDA has also taken the position that the adverse reports do not warrant the need for action to be taken against these companies but stated they would continue to investigate the reported deaths.

What message does this send to the public?

(You allow us to buy them even though you know it can kill us!)

Well, they are STILL letting us buy cigarettes!… What do you expect?

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Filling a Gap: Heidi Hennink-Kaminiski

Heidi Hennink-Kaminski considers herself an “agnostic to issues” using her senior marketing experience to address a range of health related problems from choking baby syndrome to HPV vaccines in girls. Before her transition to health communication, Heidi jetsetted across the country for over 15 years building her skills in marketing and strategic communication in her roles as director and/or manager of divisions within companies like Steelcase and Macy’s.  However, Heidi warned her husband that she would soon be looking for a change of pace.

In 2006, Heidi earned a PhD in Marketing and Advertising from the University of Georgia, after which she accepted a faculty position at UNC, where she currently teaches concepts of marketing and strategic communication.  Dedicated to providing an opportunity for her students to apply the concepts of social marketing, students develop campaigns for real world agencies putting in practice the 4 P’s- product, price, promotion and place. In addition to her teaching responsibilities, her research focuses on using her “toolbox” of expertise to assist other researchers in developing appropriate health promotion campaigns; utilizing an interdisciplinary health communication approach.  Heidi fills a gap not only at the university but in the world of health communication.

Heidi admits that her path has had unexpected twists and turns but it has never served as a deterrent. Heidi credits her faith as a motivator to her drive to push forward.

Heidi Hennik-Kaminiski, Ph.D. is an Assistant Professor at the School of Journalism and Mass Communication at UNC-Chapel Hill.


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An enema? of Alcohol? Really?

A University of Tennessee student was recently hospitalized after partaking in a night of butt chugging. Butt chugging? You read it correctly. This is a term used to describe when an individual uses a funnel or tube as an enema and transfers alcohol directly into the blood stream; this apparently allows the alcohol to bypass the stomach and in turn gets the person drunker at a faster rate. Unfortunately, soaking candy and fruit in alcohol (as I did in college) no longer excites the average college student and they have begun seeking alternative drinking methods. According to Discovery Fit & Health, parents now in addition to worrying about beer bongs and drinking games, have to worry about their children ingesting liquid nitrogen or soaking tampons in alcohol and inserting them in their bodies.

How can we relay the dangers of these new drinking methods to students? Recently, there has been a campaign to stop teens from playing the choking game. By simulating suffocation through strangulation individuals get a “rush”. The Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) report children as young 6 years old have been dying from playing the game since 1995. Why has it taken so long to address the problem nationally?

Underage drinking on college campuses is darn near impossible to stop. However, it may be worthwhile to encourage safer drinking methods. Let’s hope it does not take 10 years to address THIS problem. What will students come up with next? Butt-chugging I think tops the cake!


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Just Grow It

After coming across a recent article on the recall of peanut butter, I remember through the past year there being a recall of spinach, cantaloupe, salmon and countless other foods.  As a public health student who attempts to influence those around her to eat certain foods and promotes going to the grocery store to buy food, I often get backlash that the foods in the grocery store are just as bad as the food at McDonald’s.

According to the article, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) issued a statement that recalled the following: Peanut Butter, Almond Butter, Cashew Butter, and Tahini products, Roasted Blanched Peanut Products and several varieties of flavored butters and spreads. Additionally, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) reported the number of people getting sick is rising.

This is quite frightening; the very foods I tell my mother to buy at the market are the foods that are getting people sick across the country. The big joke in my household is you just can’t eat anything these days unless you grow it yourself. Maybe that’s the big message from these countless recalls…just grow it!

Plan B? or A?

According to Discovery Fit & Health, thirteen schools in New York City enacted the program CATCH, Connecting Adolescents to Comprehensive Health in January of 2011. After reading this article, I am quite conflicted with my position on the subject. It seems public health has moved from promoting practicing safe sex to something else; well at least in NYC. By providing teenage girls access to birth control and the plan B pill without parental consent, identification or a prescription, what is our public health message(s) to teenage girls?

Have we found that condoms do not work anymore? Unfortunately, we might be diluting the condom use message if we start promoting Plan B as an option. Not only that but we are taking away the STD prevention message as well.   I think CATCH might need to rethink their approach. I’d rather they have buckets of free condoms in the girls and boys bathrooms for the students to take at their leisure or give boxes of condoms each week in homeroom.

Is it really time to change our message to birth control and Plan B?  Or is Plan A still a better option?


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We need to talk about our relationship…

Sometimes medical doctors get a bad rep for not being progressive. I was proud to read a blog from, Claire McCarthy, M.D., a pediatrician from Boston Children’s Hospital advocating for the use and importance of social media. She said, “Social media takes science and technology and mixes it with two fundamental human needs, relationships and communication.” She explains that it allows for relationships to be built between provider and patient and media being a vehicle for more frequent and fruitful communication; something we all complain is lacking in the medical field.

Patient-provider communication is a predictor for many health outcomes. Sadly, the frequency in which many of us go to the doctor is quite low; especially for high risk populations i.e. minorities, men, etc. Interestingly, the use of social media is quite high. Social media allows health care professionals to meet individuals where they are eliminating some barriers to receiving medical attention.

The details are still fuzzy but the prospects are exciting. It will take all of us, patients, medical doctors, public health professionals, health communicators and informational technologists, to come to the table and figure out how to make it all work. The product could revolutionize the health status of the nation.

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Sex tape….I mean sex video

In my weekly quest to find what’s new in the world of health communication, I stumbled across this pretty neat video, “What’s Really Happening: Having Sex,” on the Discovery Fit & Health website. At first I brushed it off and thought, “This is so silly”. However, the next day I occurred to me, if I did not have background in physiology (how the body works: cells and organs function) and endocrinology (study of the endocrine system: hormones), then I would have walked away with new found knowledge about sex.

The narrator clearly convened what happens during copulation; from the super sensitive nerves in the lips that ultimately trigger suppression of cortisol in the brain to why men want to sleep and eat post coitus. Using both scientific and colloquial terms and quirky pictures and animation, this 4 minute and 28 second video is an excellent health communication tool. The intended audience is questionable, but Discovery may be on to something.

Gone are the days when we prescribe medicine or give a health recommendation without background or context; at least they should be gone. The majority of health theories echo that knowledge increases the likelihood of compliance with health recommendations. We might see a decline in prevalence of the nation’s top diseases and unhealthy behaviors if we get individuals to comprehend what is going on in their bodies and why they should exercise or put down the gong. The definition of sex tape…I mean sex video is changing…

mHealth: 300 and counting…

According to the Pew Research Center, 50% of adult cell phone users have downloaded applications on their phones; “11% of all adult cell phone users” have reported downloading “an app that helps them manage their health. Researchers are predicting mobile applications are the next line of action in public health. Versani, a marketing and public relation company, conducted a study evaluating the types of mobile health applications being downloaded on two platforms: Andriod and iOS(iPhone). Weight loss and exercise applications were among the top health applications downloaded. Click here for the study.

Unfortunately, there is no data on whether these applications are actually being used and their impact on individual health status. Fortunately for public health researchers and professionals, the study suggests people are interested in being healthy. That’s half the battle! The task now is to optimize the utility of these applications that have the capability of reaching and impacting not only individuals in the United States but worldwide.

The only scary fact is one hundred and fifty applications on each of the platforms (n=300) were reviewed; showing there are plenty voices out there directing people on their health behaviors and giving recommendations. Are these applications public health appropriate? You don’t have to have health certification to create an app!

Researchers and public health agencies now have to pick up the pace to create applications to meet the needs of the public…

Elmo works for NIH?

In the midst of the current obesity epidemic, researchers are making no concessions on combating the deadly condition affecting millions. Much research has targeted ways to change the behaviors of children as a form of prevention and control. The Center for Disease Control and Prevention’s (CDC) VERB campaign was a social marketing campaign to increase physical activity in children 9-13. First Lady Michelle Obama’s Let’s Move campaign is another example of using social media to communicate health messages. Their impact of childhood obesity? The verdict it still out.

However, this has not stopped the creative juices from flowing- Researchers at Cornell branded apples to get kids to eat them! Fast food restaurants and cereal brands use characters to entice kids daily to eat their foods. So, why don’t we use kid show characters too?  By placing an Elmo sticker on apples, double the amount of kids chose the apple during lunch over cookies in this study.

Can we get Elmo on a 15 second commercial to say French fries are nasty and soda is gross?  Or a commercial with Beyonce eating an apple?  Well, the health message may not be clear to the recipient, but do we care as long as we get them to eat more apples and stop eating French fries and drinking soda? Maybe the National Institute of Health (NIH) should hire Mickey Mouse to help solve the obesity epidemic! We need all the help we can get.