Category: In the News

Early Dietary Interventions May Reduce Allergy Development

With increasing rates of allergies in kids, it’s not surprising that parents are looking for more information on how to reduce their child’s risk. The determinants of a child’s potential allergic development are still unclear. However, a youth’s surrounding environment, pharmaceutical intake and lifestyle are suspected to play major roles in this narrative. Specifically, food allergies are on the rise, and affect 5.6 million children in the United States alone. Many of these allergies are to common foods – like dairy, fish, and peanuts – and can be life threatening.

Early diet is suspected to play a role in allergy development, and new parents are desperate to know how introducing foods at specific times may or may not prevent food allergies. This dynamic can be difficult to navigate, but fortunately there is an abundance of research and literature on this topic. Just recently, the American Academy of Pediatrics has published a report which can serve as a guide for nutritional interventions in the context of allergy prevention. The report shows that there is no evidence to support that waiting to introduce allergenic foods beyond 4-6 months might prevent allergy development. Rather, on the contrary, an earlier introduction of such food to high-risk children (with a family history of allergies) may in fact be protective to allergy development. Overall, the study promotes that habitual eating habits and diversity in food choice are the best way to promote an infant’s healthy diet and reduce risk of allergies.





Social Media is Encouraging Your Kids to Eat Junk Food

Social Media Influencers (SMIs): individuals who have broad audiences on social media platforms like Instagram, Twitter, and Youtube.

A new study published in Pediatrics has revealed that the impact of SMIs on children’s eating habits varies based on the type of food. Children who see SMIs endorse junk food, either openly or through brand placement, are more likely to eat more calories and more junk food. However, when these influencers endorse healthy foods, children show no difference in their eating habits.

Researchers think that this might be because junk foods are more likely to be eye-catching, and our bodies are already primed to crave sugars and fats.

Parents are often concerned about their children’s viewing habits. Platforms’ ability to control the content of videos is limited—just look at the recent outcry over children’s videos having suicide instructions in them—and the way that influencers market various brands is less regulated than other forms of marketing. For parents with children who are at risk of becoming overweight or obese, these videos present a threat that is hard to counter.

So what solutions are there? Is this a threat that we can counter? How? Leave us a comment with your solutions!


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New Study Confirms No Link Between MMR Vaccine and Autism


A Danish study released Monday found no evidence to support a link between the vaccine that protects against measles, mumps and rubella (MMR) and autism.

The connection between the MMR vaccine and autism was first introduced in a fraudulent, but well-publicized, 1998 study by British doctor Andrew Wakefield. Despite decades of research and messaging to inform parents on the safety and importance of vaccination, a 2014 national study found that one-third of parents in the US still believe that vaccines can cause autism.

“The idea that vaccines cause autism is still around despite our original and other well-conducted studies,” the study’s first author, epidemiologist Anders Hviid, wrote in an email to National Public Radio. “Parents still encounter these claims on social media, by politicians, by celebrities, etc.”

This is not the first study of its kind to disprove Wakefield’s claims, but it is one of the largest MMR studies in history. Researchers collected data from over 650,000 children born in Denmark between 1999 and 2010. Throughout the study, 6,517 of these children were diagnosed with autism. However, researchers found that children who received the MMR vaccine were not at increased risk for autism, compared to those who did not.

The publication comes at a time when vaccination rates in the United States have dipped, and there have been recent outbreaks of measles, mumps, whooping cough and chicken pox in the US. Hviid and the other researchers hope that this evidence will continue to educate and encourage parents to vaccinate their children against these and other diseases.



Brittany Frew

What’s Actually Bad For Our Skin?

In today’s age, it’s hard to keep up with what things are good for our skin, bad for our skin, or don’t affect it at all. Skin care is tied into beauty, and thus many people are often searching for a “secret trick” or “hack”. Due to this, many different products and techniques have been recommended. Many of these approaches have are rumored to provide drastic improvements in one’s skin clarity, texture, and overall health. Alongside these claims, we see many people generating fear around certain exposures, and it’s important to examine what can actually harm our skin.

There are many negative things in our lives that can have unexpected side effects. Stress, for one, can play a large role in the health of one’s skin. Experiencing excessive stress can prompt new outbreaks or aggravate pre-existing conditions, like psoriasis, eczema and hives. As many already know, smoking is a habit with many negative health outcomes. However, few often attribute smoking to skincare, and are unaware of the damage it can cause. Nicotine reduces blood flow to one’s skin, and thus smoker’s often have skin which is more wrinkled, thin and less likely to heal if injured.

Alongside these negative factors, there are those which are a bit more complicated. UV rays – coming from sunshine – are a mixed bag. A little sunlight is good for you, it prompts one’s skin to make Vitamin D, which is essential to many bodily processes. However, without proper protection , sunlight can be extremely damaging to skin. Excess exposure to UV rays can cause mutations in your DNA, which can later lead to cancer. Because of this, it’s important to wear protective sunscreen, clothing, and protective gear when exposing oneself to strong sunlight for long hours.









Picture of the North Carolina State flag in the shape of the state

NC Medicaid Expansion- A quick look at pros and cons

In North Carolina’s State of the State address Monday night, Governor Roy Cooper encouraged the state legislature to expand Medicaid.  Among other reasons,  he cited that North Carolinians federal tax dollars pay for Medicaid expansion in other states, so our residents should have access to those services as well.  Medicaid expansion has been on many people’s minds since the Affordable Care Act made it possible in 2014.  In honor of this, let’s highlight some of the arguments for and against it in North Carolina.

Against Expansion

For Expansion

These are some of the main pros and cons to Medicaid expansion.  What are some other arguments, both for and against, that you’ve heard?






Debate Over Genetic Testing

Genetic testing is one of the newest and most powerful medical advancements of our time. With this privilege, comes promising opportunities to predict, diagnose, treat and even cure certain diseases. One of the most common applications of this testing is in breast cancer patients. Understanding a patient’s genetic lineage can tell doctors a lot about the cancer they are treating.

Some sources  insist that all breast cancer patients should be genetically tested – although there is still quite a bit of debate over this stance. Although there are a lot of perks to genetic testing, some believe it’s an elaborate standard to adhere by, and don’t believe that all providers can or will offer this option.

These conflicting messages are confusing, and creates dynamics which are difficult for patients to navigate. Despite some disagreement, a number of well-respected scientists and clinicians insist that these tests can save cancer patients’ lives.  Dr. Mary-Claire King is a renowned geneticist who discovered the BRCA gene mutation in 1990 and its links to breast cancer. She is one of the many scientists who has come out to speak about the importance of genetic testing in cancer patients. She advocates for the utility of these tests, and insists they are necessary to help prevent and reduce risk of cancer threats.



To Talk About Health, We Need To Look Outside Our Field

To find innovative ways to communicate complex health topics, we need to look outside of public health. Communication is a human experience—one that takes on many forms—and we can learn to better communicators by looking beyond the communication strategies that are typical to our field.

For example, the Alamance County Children’s Museum has been running a “listen to your heart” exhibit. Visitors’ heartbeats are registered by sensors and then transformed into a drum beat that they can hear. While interacting with this exhibit, one visitor noticed that his heartbeat was significantly different from those of the people around him. He visited a doctor to figure out why and was diagnosed with atrial fibrillation.

In another case, researchers in South Africa disseminated their results using theater. By using theater to share results, researchers made abstract ideas seem more concrete. They were able to encourage audience engagement with their data and to validate their findings effectively. Beyond this, it is effective in populations with low health-literacy or where there may be language barriers between the participants and the research publications.

Using innovative mediums like theater and art to communicate about health gives us the opportunity to reach wider populations and to be more effective in what we teach.

For some more examples of innovative health communication, check out:

Food for Thought: How Our Diet Affects Our Mental Health

Few would argue that a healthy diet can provide a wide variety of physical health benefits, such as reducing risk of heart disease, protecting against certain cancers, and preventing obesity and type 2 diabetes. However, few have talked about the potential mental health benefits that may go hand-in-hand with a nutritious diet. Now, research is showing that a diet full of fruits and vegetables may influence an individual’s life satisfaction.

The study was based in Australia and followed a large cohort of nearly 40,000 individuals who increased fruit and vegetable consumption. Over the course of five years, this work showed that individuals reported increased mental well-being and life satisfaction as they ate more fruits and veggies.

Although this study is quite recent, the idea that a healthy diet might impact our mental health is not new. Mental Health America, a community-based nonprofit, has been promoting similar messages for quite some time. Their group has shown that involving key nutrients in your diet and avoiding negative substances can have huge impacts on mental health. These messages promote a healthy diet, but do not advocate that this is curative or causative. It’s important to take these things into consideration when choosing a meal, and to never discount the power of nutrition.



Get Outside to Absorb Vitamin D

Some 75% of US teens and adults are Vitamin D deficient. Vitamin D, also known as the sunlight vitamin, is associated with obesity, heart disease, and cancer. People with low Vitamin D are more likely to deal with these issues and many more than those with normal or above normal levels.

What can you do to increase your Vitamin D levels?

Scientists say that getting just 10 minutes of exposure to the sun is enough for most people to maintain appropriate vitamin D levels. But it’s not enough to sit in front of a window on a sunny day. Our bodies use UVB light to help us process vitamin D, and unlike UVA light–the light associated with aging– this light doesn’t make it through windows. So take advantage of any sunny days we get this spring and spend a few minutes basking in the sunshine. Your body will thank you.


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FDA Crackdown on Misleading Dietary Supplements

The United States is in the midst of a scientific wave. We are lucky to live during a time where new and effective medicines have changed the way we can prevent and treat chronic disease. However,  we have begun to see that fraudulent claims and products accompany this innovation. Amongst these deceptive products, dietary supplements are amongst the guiltiest parties.

The dietary supplement industry is extremely prosperous, with a market size of nearly $112 billion. Although some dietary supplements are effective, there are many which provide no benefit or can even cause harm to a consumer. Many false products make sweeping claims which have absolutely no backing evidence – such as dietary supplements which advertise that they can prevent Alzheimer’s Disease. Dietary supplements do not have to be reviewed by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) before hitting the market. They can only be taken down afterwards if they have shown to cause adverse health outcomes or if the product is fake/misleading.

Just this week, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has released a statement regarding just this. This press announcement calls for a new, massive regulation of dietary supplements. The FDA is addressing this issue because they believe ineffective dietary supplements can cause a great deal of harm when people take them as alternatives to approved treatments. This new statement provides a hopeful potential of establishing a more honest and less misleading supplement market.