Author: Shauna Ayres

Old-fashioned Soap & Water

Suppose you just sneezed into your hands. I would recommend trying to sneeze into the elbow crease, but things happen. Anyway, now that your hypothetical hands are sneeze covered, what do you do? Of course, you need to clean them. You have two options, use the hand sanitizer nearby or go to the bathroom and wash them with soap and water. Which do you think is better at sanitizing the hands, killing the germs, and preventing the spread of disease?

The CDC recommends washing hands with soap and water when it is available because it is the most effective method for reducing the number of microbes. Hand sanitizers without alcohol do not kill all germs, can promote germ resistance, reduces the growth of the germs without killing them completely, and may cause skin irritation. Hand sanitizers with alcohol are better, but still do not eliminate all types of germs including Cryptosporidiumnorovirus, and Clostridium difficile. If you are going to use hand sanitizers, opt for hand sanitizers containing at least 60% alcohol.

When your hands are visibly dirty, always use soap and water to clean them. The CDC and numerous studies support evidence that hand sanitizers are effective when used on slightly dirty hands, such as after daily activities in typical hospitals or office settings, but are ineffective when used after dirtier activities, such as playing sports, gardening, or camping. If hands are exposed to hazardous chemical substances, use soap and water to wash your hands; hand sanitizers were not made to remove or neutralize chemicals and they may be ineffective or exacerbate skin irritation or damage.

So, in our hypothetical sneeze situation, find a sink and wash your hands correctly. If that is not an option, use the hand sanitizer; it’s better than nothing. Just remember to wash your hands as soon as soap and water is available, avoid contact with public surfaces, and don’t touch your face. Other ways to reduce the spread of disease include:

  1. Get vaccinated, including yearly flu vaccinations and booster shots
  2. Use antibiotics sensibly, don’t take antibiotics to fight a viral infection
  3. Disinfect bathrooms and kitchens regularly, such as wiping surfaces and washing towels
  4. Practice safe sex, such as using a condom
  5. Stay home when you’re sick, both from work and going to public spaces
  6. Be smart about food preparation, such as cooking meat thoroughly
  7. Don’t share personal items, such as toothbrushes or lipstick


University of Puget Sound (n.d) Preventing the Spread of Infectious Disease.

CDC (2016, Feb 22) Show Me the Science-When & How to Use Hand Sanitizer.

Spaghetti Squash Lasagna with Broccolini

By EatingWell Test Kitchen (

Total time: 1 hr 10 mins



1 2 1/2- to 3-pound spaghetti squash, halved lengthwise and seeded

1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil

1 bunch broccolini, chopped (or just regular fresh or frozen broccoli)

4 cloves garlic, minced (amount is optional depending on how much you like garlic)

1/4 teaspoon crushed red pepper (optional)

2 tablespoons water

1 cup shredded part-skim mozzarella cheese, divided

1/4 cup shredded Parmesan cheese, divided

3/4 teaspoon Italian seasoning

1/2 teaspoon salt

1/4 teaspoon ground pepper



  1. Position racks in upper and lower thirds of oven; preheat to 450 °F.
  2. Place squash cut-side down in a microwave-safe dish; add 2 tablespoons water. Microwave, uncovered, on High until the flesh is tender, about 10 minutes. (Alternatively, place squash halves cut-side down on a rimmed baking sheet. Bake in a 400 °F oven until the squash is tender, 40 to 50 minutes.)
  3. Meanwhile, heat oil in a large skillet over medium heat. Add broccolini, garlic and red pepper (if using); cook, stirring frequently, for 2 minutes. Add water and cook, stirring, until the broccolini is tender, 3 to 5 minutes more. Transfer to a large bowl.
  4. Use a fork to scrape the squash from the shells into the bowl. Place the shells in a broiler-safe baking pan or on a baking sheet. Stir 3/4 cup mozzarella, 2 tablespoons Parmesan, Italian seasoning, salt and pepper into the squash mixture. Divide it between the shells; top with the remaining 1/4 cup mozzarella and 2 tablespoons Parmesan.
  5. Bake on the lower rack for 10 minutes. Move to the upper rack, turn the broiler to high and broil, watching carefully, until the cheese starts to brown, about 2 minutes.


Original recipe can be found at


Financial Toxicity

By Shauna Ayres MPH candidate 2017

CDC data estimates that 26.8% of families report significant financial burden due to medical costs (Cohen & Kirzinger, 2014) and this figure is expected to grow as insurance premiums, drug prices, medical procedures, and health facility overhead costs continue to rise each year. In addition, the aging US population is using more health services which drives everyone’s costs higher (Patton, 2015; Mitka, 2013).

Unfortunately, cancer is one of the most common and most expensive medical conditions. Cancer diagnosis, treatment, and rehabilitation are all lengthy, complex processes that require a variety of medical experts (Mitka, 2013). All of the visits, time, supplies, machines, therapies, medicines, personnel, etc. required adds to a patient’s out-of-pocket costs. (Zafar & Abernethy, 2013). However, there are not just monetary costs. Depending on the type and stage of cancer, thousands of dollars of lost wages can accumulate due to the time taken off from work to travel to appointments and receive treatments. This causes more financial stress on the patient because they are earning less income while their expenses are increasing (Zafar & Abernethy, 2013).

In the cancer community, the term financial toxicity has gained popularity. Financial toxicity refers to how the cost of a disease and its treatment impacts quality of life (University of Chicago, 2016), like how chemical toxicity effects health. Financial toxicity encompasses all aspects of wellness: physical, emotional, social, occupational, financial, and spiritual. Increased medical costs, and thus financial toxicity, is associated with decreased treatment adherence, worse patient outcomes, and lower self-reported quality of life (Shankaran & Ramsey, 2015; Zafar & Abernethy, 2013).

Financial toxicity should be treated as a symptom of cancer. Discussing personal finances in America is largely taboo, but this cultural norm should be challenged in the healthcare field. Doctor’s should assess the financial situations of their patients and use that information to help inform what the best mode of treatment will be (Shankaran & Ramsey, 2015). There are numerous ways to treat cancer and some are drastically more expensive than others. People may argue that the price tag of a treatment can never outweigh the price of life and that is valid; however, a health professionals must assess each patient’s priorities, both personally, medically, and financially to determine the healthiest individualized treatment path (Emanuel & Steinmetz, 2013; Shankaran & Ramsey, 2015). This does not necessarily mean that poor patients with receive cheaper and lower quality care. If a doctor is aware of a patient’s financial status, he/she can refer the patient to a hospital social worker who can assist in securing charitable funding or grant money to help pay for treatment (Shankaran & Ramsey, 2015). Until the issues of medical spending and insurance are solved, which will unfortunately not occur overnight, health professionals and patients must communicate more effectively to find the optimal comprehensive treatment to achieve the best overall quality of life for each individual (Emanuel & Steinmetz, 2013).


Cohen, R.A. & Kirzinger, W.K. (2014) Financial burden of medical care: A family perspective. NCHS data brief, no 142. Hyattsville, MD: National Center for Health Statistics.

Emanuel, E.J., & Steinmetz, A. (2013) Will Physicians Lead on Controlling Health Care Costs?. JAMA; 310(4):374-375.

Mitka, M. (2013). IOM Report: Aging US Population, Rising Costs, and Complexity of Cases Add Up to Crisis in Cancer Care. JAMA; 310(15):1549-1550.

Ramsey, S., Blough, D., Kirchhoff, A., Kreizenbeck, K., Fedorenko, C., Snell, K., Newcomb, P., William Hollingworth, W., & Overstreet, K. (2013) Washington state cancer patients found to be at greater risk for bankruptcy than people without a cancer diagnosis. Health Aff; 10.1377/hlthaff.2012.1263.

Shankaran, V. & Ramsey, S. (2015) Addressing the Financial Burden of Cancer treatment from Copay to Can’t Pay. JAMA Oncol; 1(3):273-274.

Shankaran, V., Jolly, S., Blough, D. & Ramsey, S. (2012). Risk factors for financial hardship in patients receiving adjuvant chemotherapy for colon cancer: A population-bases exploratory analysis. J Clinical Onclology; 14:1608-1614.

Zafar, S.Y. & Abernethy, A.P. (2013). Financial toxicity, part I: A new name for a growing problem. Oncology; 27(2):80-149.

University of Chicago (2016). Financial toxicity facts. Cost of Cancer Care.

Patton, M. (2015, Jun 29) U.S. health care costs rise faster than inflation. Forbes.

Quinoa Breakfast Pots

By: Wendy Polisi
Servings: 4

4 cups almond milk
1 cup mixed quinoa (equal parts of white, red, and black varieties)
10 oz fresh strawberries, sliced (16-20 strawberries)
2 tbsp pistachios, slivered
honey to sweeten (I use approximately 2 tbsp.)

1. In a small saucepan, warm the almond milk on low heat. After 2 minutes, add the quinoa and stir gently so the quinoa doesn’t clump together.
2. Cook on low heat for 15 minutes, or until the quinoa is cooked through.
3. Remove from heat, and divide among bowls or jars for an easy breakfast to-go!
4. Top with the strawberries and pistachios, and drizzle the honey on top.

Original recipe can be found at

What’s For Dinner?

By Shauna Ayres MPH candidate 2017

VTT Technical Research Centre of Finland Ltd. is innovating the first home appliance for growing edible cell cultures. The CellPod prototype looks like a cylindrical lamp that is designed to be kept in the kitchen. Researchers are excited because it has the potential to grow only the healthy, nutritional parts of plants rather than the entire plant. In fact, the cells are genetically identical to the real plant and can produce the exact same antioxidants and vitamins. Cells could even be engineered to have increased or added nutritional value to meet every person’s specific dietary needs or deficiencies. For example, a diabetic could grow cells with a lower glycemic index which would assist in managing insulin levels or pregnant women could harvest cells with vitamins that improve fetal development and health. Theoretically, every culture from a CellPod could be tailored for the exact needs of each consumer.

Currently, the CellPod can harvest plant cells in about a week. However, the taste is mild and needs development. So far VTT has successfully grown Arctic bramble cells, cloudberry cells, and stone bramble cells.

This concept sounds great. We can now grow only the food we need. This will reduce food waste, improve human health, decrease supply chain pollution and cost, restore agriculture land to its natural state, and solve famine. Right? Well, like most things, it’s much more complicated. The largest hurdle for VTT will be convincing people that eating bland cells out of a petri dish is exciting and the newest culinary trend. Food is culture and giving up traditions of cooking, feasting, and celebrating in families, communities, and other social contexts is unlikely. Additionally, there is already enough fear around GMO products that still look like the original food source. I can’t imagine the outcry that will occur when people are spooning the GMO cells into their own mouths or their children’s mouths.

Plus, the global food industry is enormous! McDonald’s has over 36,000 restaurants in over 100 countries, Starbucks has over 24,000 coffee shops in over 70 countries, and Coca-Cola recorded $43.5 billion in revenue between April 2015-April 2016. These food giants have the power of a thick pocket book to influence policy makers to ban or over-regulate CellPod technologies as well as to influence consumers through clever advertising that convinces them they want and need a brand. If CellPod is the kitchen gadget of the future, VTT will need to partner with large food giants to develop a market base and establish a strong brand relationship with consumers. I’m unsure any company would be gutsy enough to take that risk. So don’t clear off a space in your kitchen for the CellPod just yet. But if this sounds great and you just can’t wait, try taking a baby step and eat your meals off petri dishes.



White Bean Turkey Chili

By: MyFitnessPal

Total time: 1 hr 15 min

Servings: 8 (1 cup)



1 tablespoon canola oil

2 cups diced yellow onion (about 2 medium)

1 1/2 tablespoons chili powder

1 tablespoon minced garlic

1 1/2 teaspoons ground cumin

1 teaspoon dried oregano

3 (15.8-ounce) cans Great Northern beans, rinsed and drained (certified gluten-free if necessary)

4 cups fat-free, less-sodium chicken broth

3 cups chopped cooked turkey

1/2 cup diced seeded plum tomato (about 1)

1/3 cup chopped fresh cilantro

2 tablespoons fresh lime juice

1/2 teaspoon salt

1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

8 lime wedges (optional)



  1. Heat oil in a large Dutch oven over medium-high heat. Add onion; sauté 10 minutes or until tender and golden. Add chili powder, garlic, and cumin; sauté for 2 minutes. Add oregano and beans; cook for 30 seconds. Add broth; bring to a simmer. Cook 20 minutes.
  2. Place 2 cups of bean mixture in a blender or food processor, and process until smooth. Return pureed mixture to pan. Add turkey, and cook 5 minutes or until thoroughly heated. Remove from heat. Add diced tomato, chopped cilantro, lime juice, salt, and pepper, stirring well. Garnish with lime wedges, if desired.


Original recipe can be found at

Personal Hygiene

By Shauna Ayres MPH: Health Behavior candidate 2017

One should practice basic hygiene not just as a courtesy to others, but also for themselves. Personal hygiene is much more than just showering and using deodorant, although those are very important. In fact, personal hygiene is just another term for healthy lifestyle. Below is an elementary personal hygiene checklist. See what areas you are already doing well, what areas you could modify, and what other aspects of your life could use some personal hygiene. Remember personal hygiene is not about egoism, it is about ridding your body, mind, and life of harmful toxins. As the stressful holidays approach, this will be even more important. Although it is a time of giving, don’t forget to make time for yourself.

  1. Clean your ears. Excess ear wax can build up in your ear canal and diminish hearing. Use a ear cleaning solution to remove earwax, not a cotton swab.
  2. Brush & floss. Poor oral health can lead to cavities, bad breath, and in the worst cases cause sepsis and death. Brush twice a day, floss daily, rinse your mouth after meals, get a new toothbrush every 3-4 months, visit your dentist twice a year, and avoid high fat or acidic foods/drinks. Remember to scrub your tongue too.
  3. Shower. Sweat, dead skin, microorganisms, dirt, and odors build up on your skin throughout the day. Shower daily with soap and water. Remember to wash your entire body: face, feet, and genitals too! Also, wash or change your towel once or twice a week.
  4. Wash your hands. Our hands are the dirtiest part of our bodies because we are constantly touching things—door knobs, money, cellphones, etc. Always wash your hands before and after using the restroom, eating, and touching animals. Regularly disinfecting commonly used object such as cellphones and keyboards is good hygienic practice as well.
  5. Trim your nails. Unclipped fingernails collect dirt and can be just as harmful as not washing your hands. Clip nails as needed and clean them with a brush whenever you wash your hands. However, avoid biting your nails.
  6. Wash your hair. Unwashed hair can be smelly and cause itchy scalps. Depending on the length and dryness/oiliness, as well as your activity level, you may wash your hair daily or just once or twice a week. Limit the use of hair dryers, flat irons, dyes, and other chemicals to maintain strong, healthy hair.
  7. Do your laundry. Keep your clothes clean and change our basics daily (underwear, bras, undershirts, socks, etc).
  8. Don’t “just do it.” Know who you are having sex with and use condoms and other contraceptives. Sexual monogamy is the healthiest, but if you do engage in casual sex always use condoms, disinfect your genitals with antiseptics to help prevent sexually transmitted infections (STIs), get tested for STIs regularly, and get the HPV vaccine.
  9. Be active. Regular physical activity promotes immunity, rids the body of toxins, and clears pores. The recommended amount of activity is 150 minutes per week or 30 minutes per day.
  10. Sleep. Not enough or too much sleep can cause a wealth of problems. Establish a regular bedtime routine and aim for 6-8 hours of sleep per night. Also, make sure to wash or change your sheets weekly to prevent body acne and bad odors.
  11. Eat clean. Good nutrition makes you look and feel healthier inside and out. Drinking more water will also cleanse the body. Remember to clean out your refrigerator periodically and remove expired or spoiled foods.
  12. Keep it tidy. Disinfect surface areas regularly, especially in the kitchen and bathroom to prevent harmful microbial buildup. Ventilate your home with outside air and let natural light in when possible; this will naturally reduce the number of microbes and bacteria. Also, declutter your environment; it helps with reducing stress and anxiety.

More resources for personal hygiene tips: Personal Hygiene ChecklistFeminine HygieneTips for Guide to Good Hygiene