Category: Health Promotion

Health and the midterm elections

Today is election day. Across the country there are numerous elections which are weighing in on important health issues. There are several important health topics in the ballots, including: abortion rights, Medicaid expansion, marijuana usage, grocery taxes, and laws related to drug use and possession charges. Due to the political leanings of the current national administration, abortion rights are particularly vulnerable during this time.

Alabama, West Virginia, and Oregon are voting on legislation which will seriously affect access to abortion. On Alabama’s ballot, a newly proposed Amendment 2 is trying to change the wording which defines a fetus’ rights on the state Constitution. The amendment is aiming to grant a fetus the same rights and protections as a baby who has been born. If passed, this issue could have serious implications on further legislation which may eventually outlaw abortion in the state. In addition, this ballot measure doesn’t include the right to an abortion in the case of rape, incest, or if the mother’s life is at-risk.

West Virginia and Oregon are voting on measures which attempt to withhold state funding for abortion cases in respect to state employees and Medicaid recipients. However, in contrast to Alabama’s measure, these states do grant the right to victims of rape, incest, or when the mother’s life is in danger.

It is important to consider how our votes can act as determinants for health issues like these and many others. Voting at a state level can have a much larger impact on both national and local issues – especially pertaining to public health and medicine. Go out and vote today!

Look up your registration status, local polling place, and sample ballot here:

https://vt.ncsbe.gov/RegLkup/

 

 

https://www.cnn.com/2018/11/05/health/health-ballot-initiatives/index.html

https://ballotpedia.org/Alabama_Amendment_2,_State_Abortion_Policy_Amendment_(2018)

 

Run Long, Live Longer?

Everyone knows that regular exercise is good for you – it controls your weight, helps you combat disease, improves mood and energy, and many other benefits. However, the extent to which exercising can improve and lengthen your life is still being discovered. Now, a new literature review has shown that exercising regularly can generously lengthen life expectancy.

The review found that people who engage in the highest levels of physical activity lived up to 5.5 years on average longer than those who did not. A different study discovered similar benefits. Researchers found that women who regularly exercised were at a 31% lower chance of dying prematurely.

These results show that exercise may be a crucial tool to living a longer life. The Centers for Disease Control (CDC) has published physical activity guidelines which can help people improve their health by exercising. Following these recommendations can help anyone engage in this healthy behavior, and get them on track for a longer, healthier lifestyle.

 

https://www.mayoclinic.org/healthy-lifestyle/fitness/in-depth/exercise/art-20048389

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6139866/pdf/ms115_p0098.pdf

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/25844730

https://www.cdc.gov/cancer/dcpc/prevention/policies_practices/physical_activity/guidelines.htm

 

 

Student Develops Jelly Drops to Support Dementia Patients Like his Grandmother

As we age, we naturally lose our sense of thirst, increasing our risk of dehydration. This risk is even greater among older individuals living with dementia. Individuals with dementia may experience trouble swallowing thin liquids as well as memory loss. This was true for Lewis Hornsby’s grandmother, Pat, who struggled with dehydration. After an unexpected rush to the hospital, Lewis found his grandmother had been severely dehydrated, and it took 24 hours on IV fluids for her to return to her normal state.

Recognizing his grandmother’s struggle with dehydration, Lewis, an innovative engineering student at the Imperial College of London, developed “Jelly Drops.” These colorful, jelly-like treats contain over 90% water as well as other ingredients that give it its solid state. This solid state allows the body to slowly break down the Jelly Drop, maximizing hydration. But Lewis’  innovation does not end with the Jelly Drop alone. The Jelly Drops are stored in a clear box so that you can see the colorful treats. The box also contains a booklet with talking points to encourage social interaction between care home residents and their caretakers. Lewis’ innovative Jelly Drops is a result of thoughtful research. Some of this research involved living in his grandmother’s care home and observing the behaviors of residents as well as meeting with dementia psychologists and doctors.

Lewis has already received two awards for his Jelly Drops invention: the Helen Hamlyn Design Award – Snowdon Award for Disability as well as the Dyson School of Design Engineering DESIRE Award for Social Impact. According to his Facebook page, Jelly Drops are not available for purchase at this time as he is conducting further research and trials using the product.

What an exciting, real-life example of public health innovation! – To read more about Lewis’ Jelly Drops project, visit his project page on The James Dyson Award website.

References

Nelson, Elizabeth. (N.d.). Young Man Invents “Water You Can Eat” to Help Dementia Patients Like His Grandma Stay Hydrated. Retrieved from https://blog.thealzheimerssite.com/jelly-drops/

Royal College of Art. (N.d.). Lewis Hornsby. Retrieved from https://www.rca.ac.uk/students/lewis-hornby/

The James Dyson Foundation. (2018). Jelly Drops. Retrieved from https://www.jamesdysonaward.org/2018/project/jelly-drops/

Tuchtan, Vicki. (2016). Dehydration: how it affects the elderly and what to do about it. Retrieved from http://www.sageagedcare.edu.au/blog/dehydration-how-it-affects-the-elderly-and-what-to-do-about-it/

Yogurt: a health food packing stealthy sugar

It seems as if everyone is always trying to find foods that are both nutritious AND delicious. Recently, it seems as if yogurt has become many people’s go-to option. Yogurt is praised for its nutritious profile: it’s high in protein, calcium, and “healthy” probiotics. While all this remains true, it’s important to consider the looming sugar content within these products.

A new study is criticizing many popular yogurts for their deceptively high sugar contents. Within the study – which examined over 900 yogurt brands found in UK grocery stores – only 9% of general yogurts can be considered low in sugar. What’s worse, only a measly 2% of yogurts marketed exclusively to children can be classified as low sugar.

Along with these findings, it became apparent that products marketed as “organic” may be among the worst offenders. Organic is a term used to described the processes behind a food’s production. Although items which are USDA Organic Certified may be produced ethically, this label does not have specific nutrition implications. Despite this, people often think an organic product is healthier than a non-organic option. The study found quite the opposite: that organic yogurts have substantial amounts of sugar, especially when compared to their natural and Greek yogurt counterparts.

As a snack, yogurt is not a bad choice. The health benefits prevail, and it often beats out many other sugary snack options. But when picking out your next yogurt at the store, it’s worthwhile to pause and consider the varying sugar contents. This way, you can pick the healthiest option… or just call it dessert.

 

https://invisiverse.wonderhowto.com/news/yogurt-isnt-just-probiotic-its-unique-proteins-kill-bad-bacteria-0178030/

https://bmjopen.bmj.com/content/8/8/e021387

https://www.foodandwaterwatch.org/about/live-healthy/consumer-labels?gclid=Cj0KCQjwuafdBRDmARIsAPpBmVXF1IT7cB-KLvFRhzGXTiRjwaGDyUr5wOmO3zPqDxUJn8YLRswira4aAgHiEALw_wcB

 

 

 

Dr. Leana Wen Selected as New President of Planned Parenthood

Last week, it was announced that Dr. Leana Wen, Baltimore City Health Commissioner, will serve as the new president of Planned Parenthood Federation of America, an organization that provides vital sexual and reproductive health care and education to millions of people around the world. Dr. Wen will be the first physician in almost 50 years to serve in this role. She will succeed Cecile Richards, who has served as president of Planned Parenthood for the past 12 years.

Dr. Wen, an emergency medicine physician, has led the Baltimore City Health Department since January 2015. She is a passionate public health leader and active champion for communities and patients. During her tenure as Baltimore City Health Commissioner, Dr. Wen led a lawsuit against the Trump administration after its abrupt decision to cut funding for teen pregnancy prevention programs, resulting in $5 million of funding being restored to two of these programs in Baltimore. Additionally, Dr. Wen has fought to preserve Title X in Baltimore, which funds a variety of health care services for low-income women.

Dr. Wen is no stranger to Planned Parenthood. After she and her family immigrated to the U.S. from China, they depended on Planned Parenthood for their health care. Dr. Wen also volunteered at a Planned Parenthood health center in St. Louis during medical school.

In a recent statement posted on the Baltimore City Health Department website, Dr. Wen wrote:

“A core principle in public health is to go where the need is. The single biggest public health catastrophe of our time is the threat to women’s health and the health of our most vulnerable communities.”

She continues, in referring to Planned Parenthood, writing:

“I have seen firsthand the lifesaving work it does for our most vulnerable communities. As a doctor, I will ensure we continue to provide high-quality health care, including the full range of reproductive care, and will fight to protect the access of millions of patients who rely on Planned Parenthood.”

Dr. Wen’s last day as Baltimore City Health Commissioner will be Friday, October 12th, where she will then begin her new role as President of Planned Parenthood.

References:

Planned Parenthood. (N.d.). Dr. Leana Wen. Retrieved from  https://www.plannedparenthood.org/about-us/our-leadership/dr-leana-wen

Planned Parenthood. (N.d.). Cecile Richards. Retrieved from  https://www.plannedparenthood.org/about-us/our-leadership/cecile-richards

Zernike, Kate. (2018, September 12). Planned Parenthood Names Leana Wen, a Doctor, Its New President. Retrieved from https://www.nytimes.com/2018/09/12/us/politics/planned-parenthood-president-wen.html?rref=collection%2Fsectioncollection%2Fpolitics

Wen, Leana S. (2018, July 6). Trump’s family planning dystopia. Retrieved from http://www.baltimoresun.com/news/opinion/oped/bs-ed-op-0708-wen-dystopia-20180703-story.html

Baltimore City Health Department. (2018, September 12). Statement from Baltimore City Health Commissioner, Dr. Leana Wen. Retrieved from https://health.baltimorecity.gov/news/press-releases/2018-09-12-statement-baltimore-city-health-commissioner-dr-leana-wen

Deaths from Synthetic Opioids outnumbered those from Prescription Opioids for the First Time in 2016

In a research letter published by the Journal of the American Medical Association, researchers noted that overdose deaths from synthetic opioids, such as fentanyl, surpassed prescription opioids and heroin as the leading cause of overdose deaths in the United States. There has been an increasing trend of fentanyl and other synthetic opioids being found in illicit supplies of heroin, cocaine, methamphetamine, and other drugs. Utilizing data from the National Vital Statistics based on death certificates including information on all deaths in the US, Jones et al were able to examine overdose related deaths. While there has been an increasing trend in the number of opioid overdose deaths, previously these have been primarily related to prescription opioids. Of the 42,249 opioid related overdose deaths that occurred in 2016, Jones et al found that 19,413 involved synthetic opioids, while 17,087 involved prescription opioids, and another 15,469 involved heroin. Of the 19,413 deaths related to synthetic opioids, the majority (79.7%) involved another drug or alcohol, with the most common being another opioid. There are some limitations regarding the completeness of data, and the authors suggested that the increase may be due to an increase in testing for synthetic opioids. Still, this data paints a startling picture of the state of the opioid epidemic, showcasing a need to move beyond prescribing habits in order to reduce overdose deaths.

 

Sources –

Jones CM, Einstein EB, Compton WM. Changes in Synthetic Opioid Involvement in Drug Overdose Deaths in the United States, 2010-2016. JAMA 2018;319(17):1819-1821. doi:10.1001/jama.2018.2844.

Free Lyft to the Pharmacy

Blue Cross and Blue Shield Institute has started a partnership with the ride sharing company Lyft to provide their members with free rides to pick up their medications. The Blue Cross Blue Shield Institute is a new organization that’s mission is to reduce the barriers of accessing healthcare. One of the largest identified barriers to accessing healthcare is transportation. Last year, their big initiative was a similar program with Lyft to provide free transportation for their patients to their doctors’ appointments. By investing in these types of programs, the organization is hoping to reduce costs in the long -term and improve the health outcomes of their consumers. With this newest imitative they are also partnering with pharmaceutical organization such as CVS Health and Walgreens to increase medication adherence. These programs are still under pilot testing and are currently funded by CVS and Walgreens in Chicago and Pittsburgh with patients who are living in “transportation deserts”. These types of unique partnerships are allowing for creative solutions and addressing the social determinants of health in order to solve the most dire healthcare problems. Let’s hope to see more of these types of collaborations in the future.

References

https://www.forbes.com/sites/brucejapsen/2018/03/14/cvs-and-walgreens-partner-with-lyft-to-get-blue-cross-patients-to-pharmacies/#34f4fa0f76c8

https://www.bcbs.com/news/press-releases/blue-cross-and-blue-shield-and-lyft-join-forces-increase-access-health-care

RICE your knees…How to care for a sports injury

As the weather is starting to warm up, many of us are thinking about getting outside and getting active.  With this increased movement, it’s no wonder that a search of google trends from 2004-2016 showed that April of each year is the most common month for searches related to knee injuries (1).

The R.I.C.E. method is one of the most commonly recommended ways to treat sports injuries to joints and muscles.  It has even received a stamp of approval from the American Orthopaedic Foot and Ankle Society (2).  This method has 4 steps:

 

R is for Rest  Try to avoid using the injured area and putting weight on it for 24-48 hours if possible (3)

I is for Ice Every 4 hours, put rice on the injury for 20 minutes at a time (3).  For comfort, you can place a thin cloth between the ice bag and your skin (2).

C is for Compression Wrap the area with a bandage, like an ACE wrap, in order to gently compress the injured area.  This will help control swelling.  Just be careful not to wrap it too tight and cut of your blood flow (3).

E is for Elevation This is your opportunity to sit and prop your feet (or other injured spot) up.  Use pillows or other comfortable items to try to keep the area above the level of your heart.  This can reduce swelling (3).

 

Once you start feeling better, you can SLOWLY and GENTLY start using the injured area again.  Also, if you’re not sure how bad you’ve hurt yourself, be sure to get it checked out by a medical provider.

 

References

  1. Using Google Trends To Assess For Seasonal Variation In Knee Injuries. Dewan, Varun and Sur, Hartej. February 21, 2018, Journal of Arthroscopy and Joint Surgery.
  2. American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons. How to Care for a Sprained Ankle. American Orhopaedic Foot and Ankle Society. [Online] http://www.aofas.org/footcaremd/how-to/foot-injury/Pages/How%20to%20Care%20for%20a%20Sprained%20Ankle.aspx.
  3. Sports Medicine at the University of Pennsylvania Medical Center. How to Use the R.I.C.E Method for Treating Injuries. UPMC Health Beat. [Online] August 27, 2014. https://share.upmc.com/2014/08/rice-method-for-treating-injury/.

 

 

What you need to know about SESTA and the recent seizure of Backpage

Late last week, classified ad website Backpage.com went offline after being seized and disabled due to an “enforcement action by the Federal Bureau of Investigation, the U.S. Postal Inspection Service, and the Internal Revenue Service Criminal Investigation Division”. Backpage.com is known for personal ads, and was considered by many to be the dominant online platform for sex workers to advertise their services.

Various websites have been shutting down their personal ads section in response to the Stop Enabling Sex Trafficking Act (SESTA), which has taken aim at online platforms as a playing a perceived role in sex trafficking and prostitution. While many advocates have been fighting SESTA for a large part of the year, awareness seems to be low of the laws implications among the general population.

Advocates against SESTA argue that the act will do more harm than good in regards to the safety of sex workers. Online platforms for sex work have been viewed as safer than street based sex work, allowing for screening of potential clients. Others have argued that SESTA would limit online free speech, arguing that it would require platforms to put strong restrictions on users’ speech, extending beyond the space of personal ads. If you’re interested in seeing what you can do stop SESTA, check out https://stopsesta.org for more information on how to contact your elected officials.

 

Sources – Buzzfeed News: Backpage Has Been Taken Down By The US Government And Sex Workers Aren’t Happy – https://www.buzzfeed.com/blakemontgomery/backpage-service-disruption?utm_term=.mceyodXp#.bkjAQmNK

App Grindr under scrutiny over privacy concerns

In an article published yesterday by BuzzFeed News, it was released that Gay Dating App Grindr has been sharing its users’ HIV status with two outside companies, a move which many consider dangerous to the queer community that the app claims to serve.

The sites, Apptimize and Localytics, work with Grindr to optimize the app and user experience. While it has been noted that these companies do not share information with third parties, there are still concerns with the sharing of sensitive information of a historically vulnerable population. This could raise flags for users sharing their HIV status on the app, which could negatively impact public health interventions that work to reduce HIV transmission and stigma.

Grindr recently announced that they would remind users to get tested for HIV every three to six months, offering a cue to action for users to be more aware of their HIV status. Knowing ones status is a crucial component for reducing the number of new HIV infections, such as by offering the opportunity to those who are living with HIV to be connected to care and achieve viral suppression.

 

Sources:

BuzzFeed News: Grindr Is Sharing The HIV Status Of Its Users With Other Companies –https://www.buzzfeed.com/azeenghorayshi/grindr-hiv-status-privacy?bfsplash&utm_term=.eu9v16ZaQ#.akvOQgNJj