Category: Health Promotion

Farm Health and Safety Awareness

September 17-23 marks National Farm Health and Safety Week 2017. As someone who grew up on a Dairy and Crop Farm, I am all too familiar with the dangers that come along with a life in agriculture. From close calls, to the injuries of family members, to the tragic passing and near death experiences of neighbors and others in the community, the risk of injury and death was always in the back of my mind. My parents still operate our family farm together, juggling the responsibilities of keeping the farm going, raising grandchildren, and navigating health issues that someone who has grandchildren often begin to deal with (sorry mom and dad!).

The National Education Center for Agricultural Safety uses each day this week to highlight a different issue that faces those who work in the agricultural industry, and today marks farmer health. Where I’m from in the Thumb of Michigan, many of the local farms are operated by an aging population, who along with the risks involved with a farming lifestyle, are also coping with diseases associated with aging, such as arthritis and cancer. I encourage you to take the time to learn more about the Health of Farmers, and to appreciate the unique challenges that accompany the large scale agricultural work, and the impact that farming has on a national and global scale. More information is sourced below!

 

Sources –

National Education Center for Agricultural Safety National Farm Health and Safety Week 2017 – http://www.necasag.org/nationalfarmsafetyandhealthweek/

Helping Out After Natural Disasters

In recent weeks, there have been several catastrophic natural disasters. Arshya recently wrote about the public health aftermath of such disasters. Recovery from natural disasters must be comprehensive in that the safety, sanitation, and welfare of the people, animals, infrastructure, and environment of the affected communities must be addressed.

It is likely that you or someone you know has been impacted by the hurricanes or earthquake, which might leave you wondering how you can help. If you cannot provide time, many local, national, international, and online organizations will accept your donations. Before committing your resources, take a few minutes to do a little research to check whether a charity is legit. Charity Navigator is a trusted source for identifying organizations responding to natural disasters.

The Federal Trade Commission (FTC) offers additional tips for wise giving after natural disasters:

  • Be wary of charities that seem to have appeared overnight.
  • Stick to charities that have a proven track record for dealing with disasters.
  • Designate the disaster so that your funds will be used directly instead of going in to a general fund.
  • When texting to donate, confirm the number with the source. Charges will show up on your phone bill but donations may not be immediate.

The FTC also offers tips for those affected by natural disasters:

  • Be skeptical of people or groups promising immediate clean-up or debris removal. Some may offer overly priced quotes for work, demand payment before ever doing work, or lack the necessary licenses or skills to complete the work.
  • Be on the lookout for rental listing scams that ask for sending money before actually visiting the property.
  • You may need to share personal information to gain access to resources, so make sure you know exactly who you are dealing with before sharing your social security number or financial information.

 

Sources:             

Federal Trade Commission. FTC Advise for Helping Hurricane Harvey Victims. August 28, 2017. https://www.ftc.gov/news-events/press-releases/2017/08/ftc-advice-helping-hurricane-harvey-victims

The Magic of Mindfulness

Do you ever feel overwhelmed with work, can’t stay focused in class, or simply feel down most of the time? If so, you may have gotten caught up in the whirlwind style of functioning known as “multitasking.” It is likely that we all have at some point or another and for some, there is no way around it, so what can we do to combat the stresses of the busy lifestyles of 2017?

You shouldn’t have to uproot your whole working style or job just to find peace of mind. Today I’m going to propose a solution that you may have overlooked, mindfulness meditation. The following are the benefits that we know of today:

  • Decreased anxiety
  • Decreased depression
  • Increased empathy
    • With decreased negative feelings like sadness, tension, and anger
  • Decreased stress
  • Increased focus
  • Decreased blood pressure
    • While also improving the transportation of oxygen and carbon-dioxide
  • Increased immune function

As you can see, mindfulness does a lot more than simply strengthen our ability to focus. While you will see some of these benefits after your first time, there is evidence showing that after 8 weeks of practice neurologists seen an increase in gray matter density in brain regions associated with learning, memory processing, and emotional regulation.

Mindfulness is just one style of meditation. There are myriad resources out there to help you get started, but Headspace is my favorite. Have you tried meditating before? If so, let me know your thoughts on the practice and your favorite style.

 

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PrEP for HIV Prevention? Here’s what you need to know

Pre-Exposure Prophylaxis, or PrEP, has changed the way in which we talk about HIV Prevention. After being approved for preventive use by the FDA in 2012, there has been a sharp increase in PrEP prescriptions in the U.S. over the past several years. Currently, the only prescription available for PrEP is Truvada, which also serves as a treatment drug for those who are HIV positive.

Truvada is a nucleoside reverse transcriptase inhibitor, or an NRTI. When exposed to HIV, a NRTI works by masking itself as a building block of the virus’s genetic structure. While our own cells are able to recognize and correct for this coding mistake, HIV cannot, and as a result is unable to replicate and mount a widespread infection.

A quick distinction: Truvada as a drug is a form of PrEP, PrEP is a general class of preventive measures. Birth control can be thought of as a form of PrEP, preventing a pregnancy before it occurs. Even sunscreen is a form for PrEP. You apply lotion to prevent sunburn before it occurs.

But PrEP only works if you take it. According to recent findings from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the majority of uptake of PrEP in the United States has been among middle-aged, white, gay men. But the HIV epidemic has shifted, with the CDC noting continuous inequalities in the southern states and among young African Americans.

More concentrated efforts need to happen to ensure that those who can benefit from PrEP are able to access and receive it. Gilead, the company that produces Truvada, has a copay card available, where they pay up to $3600 a year in copays for those living under 500% of the national poverty level. For more information on PrEP, UNC campus health also serves as a great resource on campus, and students can get more information by making a free appointment with Student Wellness by emailing LetsTalkAboutIt@unc.edu or by calling (919) 962-WELL(9355).

For additional Resources on what to know about PrEP, and how to have a conversation with your provider, please see the resources below for information from the CDC. For those looking for a PrEP friendly provider, here is a list of providers in the State of North Carolina who actively prescribe PrEP.

Sources –

Gilead Copay Card: https://www.gileadadvancingaccess.com/copay-coupon-card

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention PrEP Resources: https://www.cdc.gov/hiv/risk/prep/index.html

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention PrEP Information: https://www.cdc.gov/hiv/basics/prep.html

List of PrEP Providers: https://www.med.unc.edu/ncaidstraining/files/PrEPProvidersforDownload.pdf/view

Are you accepting toxic food advice?

If you’re a health junkie or on social media at all, you’ve probably seen these terms: registered dietitian, nutritionist, nutrition coach, food guru, etc.. With so much information flying around there’s a lot of confusion over what it all means and who to listen to when it comes to nutrition advice. My answer? It all depends! All of these titles embody a love of food but there are some big differences in who to look to for food advice. Let’s set the record straight.

Registered Dietitian

Registered dietitians (RDs), also called registered dietitian nutritionists (RDNs), are recognized as experts of food and nutrition in the medical field. This is largely because of the many years these professionals spend studying the science behind food and how it affects the body. The government has regulations on who can call themselves a “registered dietitian”. This is to protect the public from people who present themselves as nutrition experts, but who have no formal training. For example, if someone with diabetes accepts nutrition advice from a nutritionist and it hurts them the nutritionist can not be held accountable. Registered dietitians, on the other hand, can lose their license or suffer fines for providing poor nutrition advice.  This is because RDs go through extensive training before they can practice. As of 2017, RDs are required to complete the following:

  • a bachelor’s or advanced degree in food science or human nutrition
  • supervised training and internships
  • pass the RD exam

After RDs are certified, they also have to complete annual training to maintain their credentials. This is my field of study and the past two years I’ve spent work toward a masters in this field has not been easy, but I’m so close to the finish line! From my studies, it seems RDs are excellent in a number of areas. They really understand how to help manage medical conditions and weight loss. They also can point out what diet trends are completely bogus with science.

Nutritionists/Nutrition Coach/Food Guru

Terms like nutritionist, nutrition coach and the like are not regulated. Anyone can use these labels. This isn’t to say they don’t have valuable nutrition knowledge. Many nutritionists have a wealth of nutrition knowledge from experience and self-study. Some of my favorite nutritionist on Facebook and Instagram provide excellent recipe ideas and encourage their followers to make healthy choices with amazing food photography. On the other hand, following nutrition advice from individuals not formally trained in food science can be dangerous. A nutritionist might not fully understand nutrition information or they may be misinformed. This can be dangerous if a nutritionist misinforms a large number of individuals, especially through social media platforms. Misinformation is particularly harmful when individuals are looking to receive information around serious medical conditions like diabetes and weight loss.

The next time you’re in search of food advice think about what you need! If you have a medical condition or you’re looking for advice on how to lose weight in a healthy way, you might want to look for advice from an RD. If you’re looking for meal prepping tips or fitness inspiration, a nutritionist can certainly help. There’s space for both in this food lovers community.

Apps, Websites, mHealth, Oh My!

Mobile health applications have taken off as opportunities for public health intervention coinciding with the increasing usage of mobile phones and mobile phone applications in everyday life. A search for “mobile app” in the Journal of Medical Internet Research returns over 1,000 results.

While some of these applications are certainly changing the way we approach our health and lifestyles, some of them can also do more harm than good. As a result, the FDA has developed guidance for the development of these applications to ensure their safety.

However, mobile applications aren’t the only option for providing health information and interactive experiences to users on mobile devices, though they’ve become an incredibly popular option. Many mobile applications could likely be created as websites using responsive web design to make them easily viewable from computers, tablets, smartphones, and so on.

This is especially important when thinking about your target audience. While younger audiences might use their phones regularly, older individuals might be less inclined to use a mobile app, but they might visit a website from their computer or tablet.

A website with responsive web design will also work across platforms (so users can switch between their phone, tablet, computer, or other devices) and will likely take less time and money to develop. They’re also easier to update and maintain for longer periods of time.

Also, if any of your users are like me, they might hate downloading yet another app to take up space on their phone. Apps contribute to clutter on your mobile devices and take up storage space that could be used for pictures, music, emails, and other content.

In a rush to utilize new technologies and meet users where they are, some of these mobile health applications have come out poorly.

Turner-McGreivy, et al. (2016), available from PubMed Central, provide a great comparison of responsive-design websites versus mobile applications, including an easy-to-use table.

Narrative Reconstruction: a Lesson we can learn from Taylor Swift

This past Sunday, Taylor Swift premiered the music video for her latest single, Look What You Made Me Do, at the MTV Video Music Awards. The video went viral upon release, and subsequently has been the subject of a number of internet think pieces breaking down the star’s critiques on different personas of herself in the public eye over the course of her career. In case you missed it, you can find it here.

 But beyond providing a tongue in cheek look into the perceptions of a widely successful pop artist, the idea of reconstructing narratives for self-affirmation can be key to those who have suffered previous traumatic experiences.

 A study recently published in Qualitative Social Work studied the effect of narrative construction, or having an organized and logical story of their previous traumatic experiences, along with a clear sense of self throughout and a sense of how that experience has shaped them. They found that compared to those who had not constructed a narrative, those with a higher level of narrative construction noted an increased acceptance of their experiences, and being more likely to perceive life experiences as positive and significant. Those with an elevated sense of narrative construction credited their success to strategies such as reflective writing, informal conversations with supportive friends and family, and seeking professional help such as Cognitive Behavioral Therapy.

But often, the stressors of daily life are somewhere between trauma and celebrity feud. As summer is ending and the school year here again, it’s a great time to begin to regularly process emotions, especially with the seemingly constant stream of news and celebrity gossip. With September being Self-Awareness month, taking the time for some reflective journaling, or simply maintaining a strong support system of friends and family can set you up for success. If you feel like talking to a professional, the university has wonderful Counseling and Psychological Services, with walk in services regularly available. Beyond that, if you need additional help for figuring out to find a therapist, or if you’re curious about what therapy could look like, check out this article published by the New York Times – How to Find the Right Therapist.

 

For CAPS Walk-In Services:

Go to the 3rd floor of the Campus Health Services Building.

MON-THURS: 9 am – noon or 1 pm – 4 pm

FRI: 9:30 am – noon or 1 pm – 4 pm.

 

Sources-

Qualitative Social Work: http://journals.sagepub.com/doi/abs/10.1177/1473325016656046

New York Times Article: https://www.nytimes.com/2017/07/17/smarter-living/how-to-find-the-right-therapist.html?mcubz=1&_r=0

World AIDS Day

world-aids-day

What is World AIDS Day? World AIDS Day is held on December 1 every year, and is an opportunity for individuals worldwide to unite in the fight against HIV, show their support for people living with HIV, and remember those who have died from HIV. World AIDS Day was the first ever global health day, held for the first time in 1988.

HIV stands for human immunodeficiency virus. If left untreated, HIV can lead to the disease AIDS (acquired immunodeficiency syndrome). No effective cure for HIV currently exists, but with proper treatment and medical care, HIV can be controlled.

The CDC estimates that roughly 1.2 million people in the United States are living with HIV, and nearly 1 in 8 of these 1.2 million are not aware that they are infected. As many as 50,000 people become newly infected each year, with men who have sex with men and African American heterosexual women being the two groups with the most new HIV infections. The Southern United States experiences the highest number of new diagnoses each year followed by the Northeast, West, and Midwest.

Learn about the national HIV/AIDS strategy and prevention methods.

The only way to know if you have HIV is to get tested. You can get tested at your healthcare provider, and most medical clinics, substance abuse programs, community health centers, and hospitals offer them as well. Home testing kits are also available. On World AIDS Day, many community organizations host testing and awareness events in order to increase awareness of and decrease stigma surrounding HIV/AIDS.

Show your support with these social media resources and find a local testing site here.

Tips for Healthier TV Binge Watching

By: Aria Gray MPH: Maternal and Child Health candidate 2017

It’s about to get colder out, and I plan to spend some time this fall and winter on my couch covered in blankets, especially when the new Gilmore Girls episodes premiere. Yet this year I plan to plan ahead to make my TV and Netflix binge watching healthier, especially after reports that binge-watching and prolonged sitting have negative effects on your health. Binge watching has most commonly been linked to weight gain and obesity as well as an increased risk of type 2 diabetes and cardiovascular disease. While many experts recommend cutting TV viewing hours and limiting the number of hours you watch at once, sometimes there are rainy days or a new show that everyone will be talking about on Monday and you find yourself on your couch binge watching yet again.

Before you Netflix and chill, here are three tips to make your marathon a little bit healthier.

Choose Healthier Drinks and Snacks: Eat real meals with protein and vegetables to prevent too much snacking. For snacking, choose healthy options such as veggies and hummus, fruit, and nuts. Remember to stay hydrated, which will also get you up and moving!

Get Physical: Keep active while you are watching TV by doing stretches, yoga, or crunches. Also, instead of jumping right into the next episode, use the pause as an activity break and take a walk, complete a task in your house that requires movement, or try a two-minute workout like this. Keeping some exercise equipment or a yoga mat near your TV is a great reminder to stay active while watching your favorite show.

Set a Limit: We all know it can be extremely difficult to stop in the middle of a marathon (especially when the next episode auto plays!). Decide beforehand how long you will watch TV and set a timer, or set a bedtime for yourself if watching at night. Setting a timer will help the day from getting away from you without you realizing. Also, since screens can alter your production of melatonin, be sure to turn off the TV 30 minutes before you want to go to sleep.

When should you get tested for an STI?

By: Aria Gray MPH: Maternal and Child Health candidate 2017

If you are sexually active, getting tested for sexually transmitted infections (STIs) is one of the most important things you can do for your health. According to the CDC, there are about 20 million new STD infections in the United States every year. While many of us know that it is recommended to get STI tested, the rest of the details aren’t always so clear. When should you get tested and how do you get tested?

When?

  • If you have symptoms of an STI you should get tested. Common symptoms include sores on the genitals, discharge, itching, and burning during urination
  • Many STIs do not cause symptoms and many people have and spread STIs and never know it. Testing is the only way to know for sure. If you have had unprotected sex, you should get tested for STIs.
  • Preventative screening (Check out these screening recommendations from the CDC)

How?

  • Make an appointment with your health provider and ask for an STI test
  • Your health care provider will talk with you to decide what STI tests make the most sense for you
  • Potential STI tests can include
    • Physical exam
    • Blood sample
    • Urine sample
    • Discharge, tissue, cell, or saliva sample

Remember that many STIs are curable and all are treatable. The sooner you find out if you have an STI, the sooner treatment can begin.