Author: Guest Blogger

Meditation and Stress Relief

Earlier this semester, I heard about Transcendental Meditation (TM) for the first time. It’s defined as a technique that trains one to turn “attention inwards towards the subtler levels of a thought until the mind transcends the experience of the subtlest state of the thought and arrives at the source of the thought” (Mahesh Yogi, 1969). A distinguishing characteristic of this form of meditation is the carefulness with which the pedagogy is preserved–requiring a training process to certify preservation of fidelity to the method. (Wallace, 1970).

An early and foundational study noted physiological changes attributed to practicing TM.  These included decreased heart rate and oxygen uptake, and changes in EEG frequency (Wallace, 1970). Generally, as we’ve heard in class from various individuals who practice, these manifest themselves as lower stress levels, in creased focus, and increased clarity and decision-making power.

Other positive benefits have been described in a variety of populations. TM has been suggested to facilitate decreased drop-out rates from urban schools, improve quality of life in children living with Autism Spectrum Disorder ,  boost immunity levels , and generally improve mental health and well-being.

This New York Times article chronicles the experiences of schools implementing TM in classrooms around NY, largely featuring success stories, while still noting that research on the use of TM in an academic setting is not yet conclusive.

There is room to speculate whether TM is radically different form other forms of inward reflection. Surely, there are many ways to reduce stress and enhance productivity, of which TM is just one. With TM on my radar, I look forward to seeing if research can discern TM as a distinctively beneficial.

 

Non-linked References:

M. Mahesh Yogi, The Science of Being and Art of Living (International SRM, – London, rev. ed., 1966), pp. 180-209.

Wallace, R. K. (1970). Physiological effects of transcendental meditation. Science, 167(3926), 1751-1754.

*credit for articles/reference guidance to EPID799c course resources made available to students

Nothing but Nets-Challenges to Inspiring Behavior Change

GUEST BLOGGER: Carolyn Windler

Carolyn Windler is a member of The United States Peace Corps, currently serving in Togo, West Africa as a Community Health and Malaria Prevention Volunteer

Equity vs Equality: Understanding the Difference in Health Communications

GUEST BLOGGER: Julie Potyraj

In any type of communication, choosing the right words makes a big difference—and this is especially true when it comes to health. Unfortunately, some terms are often interchanged that don’t have the same meaning. That’s why MPH@GW, the online MPH program from The Milken Institute School of Public Health at The George Washington University , worked with an illustrator to visualize commonly confused terms in public health. Two of these, equity and equality, are particularly important in health communications. Here we’ll examine why that’s the case.

Defining the Difference

In the context of education, The Education Trust says that “making sure all students have equal access to resources is an important goal. All students should have the resources necessary for a high-quality education. But the truth remains that some students need more to get there.” This perspective demonstrates that while an equal approach ensures that all parties receive the same resources—an equitable approach considers which resources most effectively support the unique needs of each party.

According to the World Health Organization (WHO), such equity is “the absence of avoidable or remediable differences among groups of people, whether those groups are defined socially, economically, demographically or geographically.” The WHO highlights the fact that health inequities involve more than a lack of equal access to needed health resources, “They also entail a failure to avoid or overcome inequalities that infringe on fairness and human rights norms.”

Why It Matters

Understanding how health equality and health equity are different is essential to ensuring that consumer needs are adequately assessed and met. When issues of equity are addressed, then resources can be directed in the most effective manner to optimize health outcomes. Providing equal resources to all isn’t the answer to reducing the health disparities gap. Instead, the underlying issues and individual needs of underserved and vulnerable populations must be effectively addressed, as well.

As the Boston Public Health Commission notes, “Achieving health equity requires creating fair opportunities for health and eliminating gaps in health outcomes between different social groups. It also requires that public health professionals look for solutions outside of the health care system, such as in the transportation or housing sectors, to improve the opportunities for health in communities.”

Implications for Health Communications

Health communications play a critical role on a variety of fronts—including those which touch consumers, providers, public health advocates and those involved in policy development and implementation. As such, it’s essential that equity and equality be discussed in the correct contexts to help ensure the effective assessment and delivery of appropriate resources. According to the CDC, “Effectively making the case for health equity requires an understanding of the community context and intended audiences, an appropriately framed message that appeals to core values, and increased awareness of existing health inequities among stakeholders.”

Equity and equality not only affect the messages themselves, but also the way they are delivered and received. Issues such as language, literacy, and access to electronic communications impact the meaning and effectiveness of health communications. If communication equality takes priority over communication equity, too many will fall through the gaps—unable to access the information they need the most.

 

Julie Potyraj is the community manager for MHA@GW and MPH@GW, both offered by the Milken Institute School of Public Health at the George Washington University. She is currently an MPH@GW student focusing on global health and health communications.

Hope for Rare Cancers with the Moonshot Program

by Emily Walsh, an advocate of the Mesothelioma Cancer Alliance

January 12th marks the one year anniversary since the start of the Cancer Moonshot Initiative under President Obama and headed by Vice President Joseph Biden. Similar to the “moonshot” that put a man on the moon in 1969, this plan hopes to achieve the seemingly insurmountable by finding a cure for cancer by the year 2020.

Since it was announced, companies and governmental organizations around the country have begun to form partnerships that will be critical to the Cancer Moonshot in the years to come. In September, the Blue Ribbon Panel, a group formed from industry professionals including cancer research, doctors, and patient advocates from both sides of the red tape came together and released their guidelines for the Cancer Moonshot. Their recommendations will pave the way for this initiative moving forward, and rare cancers like mesothelioma stand to benefit more than they usually would.

With an increased focus on immunotherapy, those who suffer from rare cancers that don’t typically react as favorably to traditional treatments will have more windows of opportunity to not only help themselves, but help others. As it stands, more funding for research, and volunteers for clinical trials are critical. Without the cross-organization improvements in communication fostered by the moonshot, this likely wouldn’t be possible.

Already, $4.8 billion has been promised over the next ten years for the National Institutes of Health, much of which will help support the drive for high-risk high-reward cancer research. As a rare disease, mesothelioma receives very little funding. Currently, 95% of rare diseases have no FDA approved treatment or cure. Any cancer, rare or common, stands to gain just as much from the continual support and drive of the Cancer Moonshot Initiative.

We look forward to what 2017 will bring for cancer patients and their families.

Meso Shield

 

 

 

 

 

The Mesothelioma Cancer Alliance is dedicated to sharing valid and up-to-date information with those whose lives have been affected by all types of cancer. Learn more about cancer treatments and potential advancements at their site here.

Networking the New Normal: Confronting Illness through Social Media

GUEST BLOGGER: Terri Beth Miller, PhD

This is not how you expected life to be. You’re run down. You’re hurting. You’re physically and emotionally drained. And it feels as though those closest to you are a million miles away, as though you’ve suddenly found yourself stranded on a desert island with no hope of rescue.

This is what it can feel like when you are confronting illness, when a diagnosis suddenly transports you to a new world you never wanted to visit, let alone permanently inhabit.

The truth is that illness, whether physical or psychological, chronic or acute, can be one of the most frightening, disorienting, and isolating experiences a person can face. And yet, if we live long enough, we will all confront this experience. After all, ain’t none of us getting out of this life alive.

But diagnosis doesn’t have to mean disaster. Our 21st century world offers resources once unimaginable to those seeking health information and support. Few are more potent than the vast social media networks available to connect people in the most far-flung corners of the globe with the simple click of a button.

This seemingly limitless connection can be an infinite comfort for those who are suffering from illness, allowing survivors to reach out to fellow survivors, who often can understand illness in a way that those who haven’t experienced it simply cannot. After all, family and friends may empathize. They certainly can provide a love and comfort that the virtual world cannot replace. But there is a special and necessary connection shared by those have felt the gnawing at the bones, the torment of the mind—by those who have the visceral, intimate experience of real, bloody, hand-to-hand combat with illness. This is the connection that social media can offer to those suffering from illness, a means to overcome the isolation that can cut as deeply as sickness itself.

In addition to the opportunity to connect with fellow survivors, social media is an exceptional outlet for sharing health information and resources, from exploring treatment options to connecting with care-providers. After all, an informed patient is an empowered patient. Because those who are suffering from ill health often feel a tremendous lack of control and a vast feeling of uncertainty for the future, this access to knowledge can restore the sense of self-determination and understanding that survivors knew before diagnosis. These resources can restore some normalcy, or at least something of a return of the survivor’s sense of self.

Nevertheless, extreme caution must be practiced. We are perhaps never more vulnerable than when we are battling illness, and unfortunately those who would prey on the hopes and fears of the desperate are legion. So while it is healthy—and, indeed, essential—to seek out all the knowledge and resources possible when battling illness, it is equally essential to be wary of promises that are simply too good to be true. Vet the company you keep and the treasures you store up in the virtual world just as you do in the physical one.  Avail yourself of the immense resources available to you online as you wage your battle with sickness. But do so from a position of strength and discernment. This is your body. This is your mind. This is your spirit and your life. Harness the best and highest powers of social media. There is tremendous solace, solidarity, and support to be found online for those battling illness, but only for those who use it wisely.

For more information on the most beneficial mental health online resources, please visit: https://openforest.net/4-best-mental-health-bloggers-period/

Terri Beth Miller completed a PhD in English Language and Literature at the University of Virginia. She has taught writing and literature courses for more than a decade and is a regular contributor to the http://openforest.net mental health self-help portal. View her profile on LinkedIn at https://www.linkedin.com/in/drterribethmiller.

Spotlight on Men’s Health [infographic]

Guest Blogger: John Rehm

According to cancer.org, cancer is the second leading cause of death in men and that 1 in 7 will be diagnosed with prostate cancer. However, prostate cancer survival rates increases significantly if detected and treated early.

To increase public understanding of the disease, prevention tips, treatment options, and encourage men to proactively manage their health, the American Cancer Society has dubbed September as National Prostate Cancer Awareness Month.

The graphic below created by Nursing@Georgetown, Georgetown University’s online FNP program, breaks down the U.S Department of Health and Human Services health guidelines for men to improve overall health and wellness throughout their lifespan.

menshealth_infographic

Technology and Sleep: Timing is Everything [Infographic]

GUEST BLOGGER: John Rehm

According to a poll conducted by the National Sleep Foundation, the average American looks at their phone 46 times day and uses gadgets for 11 hours a day. In addition, 90 percent of adults and 75 percent of children use their electronic devices within an hour of bedtime.

The result: Americans are being exposed to short-wavelength blue light that affects their circadian rhythm, which determines when we feel tired or awake. The infographic below was created by Nursing@Georgetown, Georgetown University’s School of Nursing and Health Studies’ online FNP program, to explain how light affects our ability to fall asleep. For more information, visit Nursing@Georgetown’s post here.

screens_and_sleep_infographic

Antibiotic-Resistant Bacteria: What You Need to Know (Infographic)

GUEST BLOGGER: John Rehm

Antibiotic resistance is a continuous and growing concern, especially in the United States. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), approximately 2 million people in the United States are diagnosed with antibiotic-resistant bacterial infections annually, and at least 23,000 die due to these infections.

But how does resistance against these lifesaving drugs occur and how can we prevent its spread?

The leading cause of resistance is through overconsumption or incorrect prescribing of antibiotics. According to the CDC, approximately 30 percent of all antibiotic use is unnecessary. In response, health care and patient advocacy organizations are pushing for patients to have an open dialogue with their health care provider, such as a Family Nurse Practitioner, about appropriate antibiotic use.

To aid in this effort, Nursing@Georgetown, Georgetown University’s School of Nursing and Health Studies’ online nursing program, created the following infographic that addresses sources of exposure, trends in resistance, and encourages patients to speak with their care providers about antibiotic use. For more information, visit Nursing@Georgetown’s post here.

GU_antibiotic_resistance_infographic

The Dangerous Myths Behind Indoor Tanning [Infographic]

GUEST BLOGGER: Sophia Bernazzani

While everyone wants a beach-ready body by the start of summer, you may want to reconsider that next indoor tanning session. Although the risks associated with excessive exposure to ultraviolet (UV) rays are well documented and include everything from sunburns to skin cancer, according to the World Health Organization, myths still abound about the supposed safety of indoor tanning. Indoor tanning is thought to be safer than traditional sun tanning, to help prevent sunburns and to be completely unrelated to melanoma, the most dangerous form of skin cancer, according to the Skin Cancer Foundation. Besides, only women and old people are at risk for skin cancer, right?

Wrong. Just like sun tanning, indoor tanning involves UV rays, which are the primary culprit Georgetown Tanning Graphicbehind melanoma, according to the American Cancer Society. Research from the journal Photodermatology, Photoimmunology & Photomedicine indicates that indoor tanning slightly increases your risk of subsequent sunburns. Not only does research from the American Journal of Public Health find indoor tanning partially to blame for an increase in melanoma among young adult women over the last decade, but it’s men, not women, who have the highest risk for skin cancer, according to the Skin Cancer Foundation.

“The Truth About Indoor Tanning,” an interactive graphic from Georgetown University’s online family nurse practitioner program, explodes these myths about indoor tanning and UV rays just in time for summer. Share it with the misinformed, young tanners in your life today

STI or STD: What Is The Difference?

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If your work involves talking to people about sexual health, you must be talking to them about STDs. Or STIs. Or both. Right?

As the great STD-STI terminology challenge continues, just about everyone has had to choose one term or the other. Well, everyone except for the people who use both interchangeably to mean the same thing. Or those folks who use each in distinct ways to mean different things.

Many well-informed experts make absolutely no distinction between STI and STD. Others feel the distinctions are real and important.

For those who make a distinction, most would say STD describes a condition with visible signs and describable symptoms—a drip, an itch, a bump, fatigue. STI encompasses the broader spectrum of conditions both with and without symptoms.

There was some idea that using STI would make it clear to everyone that sexually transmitted conditions often have no symptoms. It might also lessen the stigma people frequently feel about having these conditions, making them more amenable to testing and treatment.

In actual practice, I’m not at all sure that’s happened. We now have reports that many young people believe STD refers to illnesses that can’t be cured, and STI refers to illnesses that can be.

There are sound reasons for choosing either term, or both. Which is working for you right now? Why is it best for your purposes? We’d love to hear your thoughts.

Marcia Quackenbush, MS, MFT, MCHES, is Senior Editor at ETR. You can view this article in its entirety at http://www.etr.org/blog/my-take-std-sti/