Category: Lifestyle

Dr Lisa on the Streets: An approach to improve health literacy

Health literacy has become a buzzword not only in the public health world but in general. As the technologies, treatments and advancements are improving the quality of medicine, the way that these new discoveries are communicated are not. One physician and public health professional has made it her mission to increase the awareness of the health literacy crisis here in the United States by taking it to who it affects the most, Americans. She has launched a “Dr. Lisa on the Streets” campaign to increase awareness and gather support to improve the way health information is communicated. In her TedX talk “Are you confused about health information? You’re not alone” she discusses the economic consequences of low health literacy and how as a nation we can attempt to improve this. She refers to the “grapevine” (casual conversations, internet etc.) as one of the most powerful educators and needing to capitalize on this as a means of sharing health information.

Here are few strategies mentioned in the video about improving health literacy:

  • Manage the grapevine, it’s like ivy if it isn’t maintained it will get out of control
    • Need grapevine to counteract misinformation through verification before spreading information
  • Doctors need to embrace technology
    • Change is inspired by the masses
  • Health literacy is up to you!
    • Avoid gaps in care
    • Find your provider
    • Be persistent

To learn more about this movement and health literacy watch the full TedX talk: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-x6DLqtaK2g

“Organic Pesticide” Feels Like an Oxymoron

North Carolina was in the top ten states (we were number 10, but still) of certified organic commodity sales in 2016. People purchase organic because they believe that it is healthier and safer. How true is this? Admittedly, this is an overwhelming question. My primary response is that more research is needed. Until then, here is a general synthesis of what we know so far.

Nutritionally speaking, some research has found higher levels of nutrients/vitamins in organic while other research has found no significant different to nutritional quality. The jury is out on that—did I mention the need for more research?

Pesticide wise, just because something is “natural” does not mean that it is safe. Arsenic is natural. Here is an excerpt from the National Pesticide Information Center:

Organic foods are not necessarily pesticide-free. The pesticides that are allowed for organic food production are typically not manmade. They tend to have natural substances like soaps, lime sulfur and hydrogen peroxide as ingredients. Not all natural substances are allowed in organic agriculture; some chemicals like arsenic, strychnine and tobacco dust (nicotine sulfate) are prohibited.

Well thank goodness they don’t allow arsenic, I would’ve thought that went without saying.

The EWG’s Dirty Dozen list we talked about a few weeks ago only noted the presence of residue, not the amount or the type. In 2011, Winter and colleagues published a paper in the Journal of Toxicology in response to these lists. Their conclusion was that exposure to the 12 most commonly detected pesticides in conventional farming pose negligible risks to consumers and that substituting organic pesticides does not decrease this negligible risk.

After trying to make sense of this issue of whether organic is objectively (and empirically) better than convention, my sentiment is mixed. Organic farming methods have been shown to be better for the environment, they have not been confirmed to be better nutritionally, and they have not been shown to be safer. A common notion I came across in researching this was that the dose amount of pesticide is what makes the difference in toxicity. The naturally-derived substances seem to have the capability of being toxic just like the conventional ones.

So what should the takeaway be? Rinse your produce, just rinse it no matter what you buy.

Bring on the zinc oxide!

As the temperatures begin to rise and the sun starts to shine means many of us will be flocking to the nearest body of water whether that’s the neighborhood pool or the breezing beach. As I am getting ready for my beach weekend, I head to the nearest drug store to stock up on all the essentials: diet coke, snacks, trashy tabloids and of course sunscreen. I always look dumbfounded in the sunscreen aisle since there are so many to pick from and how do you know which one works best? For those with fair skin like me I burn fairy quickly after being in the sun so I’m always looking for the highest SPF to protect my skin. Many dermatologists such that any SPF over 50 doesn’t significant protect much more against UVA/UVB rays and folks using the higher SPF sunscreens and feel more protected and therefore don’t practice other protective behaviors such as wearing hats and seeking shade. However, there is a new mineral that provides your skin an additional layer of protection, zinc oxide. Zinc oxide provides a physical barrier between your skin and the sun and deflects the sun off your skin while traditional sunscreens absorb the rays. So next time you are purchasing sunscreen make sure to check out those with zinc oxide!

 

References:

http://www.businessinsider.com/do-high-spf-sunscreens-work-better-50-2017-5?r=UK&IR=T

https://www.huffingtonpost.com/entry/mineral-sunscreen_us_591e8d33e4b03b485cb0543b

“Is it organic?”

No those aren’t transformers you’re not about to be Michael Bae-ed. Last week we talked about the EWG’s Dirty Dozen and Clean 15 lists of produce with the most and least amounts of pesticide residue found on them. And as promised, let’s take a closer look at what exactly that USDA organic label provides (does peace of mind count).

Below is a very useful breakdown from the Mayo Clinic.

What is organic farming?
The word “organic” refers to the way farmers grow and process agricultural products, such as fruits, vegetables, grains, dairy products and meat. Organic farming practices are designed to meet the following goals:
• Enhance soil and water quality
• Reduce pollution
• Promote a self-sustaining cycle of resources on a farm

Materials or practices not permitted in organic farming include:
• Synthetic fertilizers to add nutrients to the soil
• Sewage sludge as fertilizer
• Most synthetic pesticides for pest control
• Irradiation to preserve food or to eliminate disease or pests
• Genetic engineering, used to improve disease or pest resistance or to improve crop yields

Organic crop farming materials or practices may include:
• Plant waste left on fields (green manure), livestock manure or compost to improve soil quality
• Plant rotation to preserve soil quality and to interrupt cycles of pests or disease
• Cover crops that prevent erosion when parcels of land are not in use and to plow into soil for improving soil quality
• Mulch to control weeds
• Predatory insects or insect traps to control pests
• Certain natural pesticides and a few synthetic pesticides approved for organic farming, used rarely and only as a last resort in coordination with a USDA organic certifying agent

Me again. So what are those benefits? Organically grown crops have been shown less likely to contain pesticides and 48% less likely to test positive for cadmium (toxic heavy metal). The jury seems to be out on whether organic compared to conventionally grown impacts the level/quality of nutrients in the produce. As mentioned last week it’s a good idea to give produce a good rinse before consuming; it may also be a good idea to peel/remove the outer layer of conventionally grown produce that made the Dirty Dozen to limit pesticide injection. This may in turn then decrease the level of nutrients the produce provides. Next post, let’s explore the research on pesticides.

Health Benefits of Video Games

For years, video gamers have gotten a bad rap.  They’re viewed as pasty hermits hiding in their parents’ basements, living off of cheese puffs and Mountain Dew.  However, the growing popularity of online cooperative games is finally overturning this stereotype.

Ten years ago, many of my friends played World of Warcraft, the ultimate stereotypical “gamer nerd” game.  Though these friends would wear the title “nerd” with honor, they didn’t fit the loner typecast that the media portrays.  For them, games were just another outlet for their already rich social lives.  Research has shown us that loneliness and social isolation can be detrimental to health by increasing stress hormones and inflammation (1).  My friends rightfully felt that they were caring for themselves by playing games.

The social benefit of games shouldn’t come as a surprise.  Kids started gathering to play Nintendo and Atari decades ago.  I spent much of my childhood getting laughed at by a cartoon dog because I was a poor shot in Duck Hunt.  Advances in internet technology now allow people to play together without sharing the same space, and this has led to a proliferation of online gaming.  Some say the explosion began with Call of Duty 2 in 2005, which has sold over 5,800,000 copies to date (2), and it continues with Fortnite: Battle Royal, which gained 10 million players in its first two weeks (3).  With these ever-increasing numbers, we can assume that players are getting something positive from their experiences.

As online gaming expands, more and more people are scrutinizing its possible health effects.  Critics often ignore games’ social benefits and fear that by exposing children to violent games, they may become violent themselves (4).  However, this theory has been debunked, and games are no more harmful than TV or movies (4).  Plus, some evidence suggests that games may actually be beneficial to health.  According to an article by the American Psychological Association, video games likely increase learning, health, and social skills (2).

So, if you’re wanting to pick up a copy of the next hot game, go for it.  It may be good for your health.

 

 

References

  1. Kluger, Jeffrey. 5 Ways Loneliness Can Hurt Your Health. Time.com. [Online] November 13, 2017. http://time.com/5009202/loneliness-effects/.
  2. Murphy, Richard. How significantly has Call of Duty changed gaming? Games Radar. [Online] November 1, 2013. https://www.gamesradar.com/how-significantly-has-call-duty-changed-gaming/.
  3. Lumb, David. ‘Fortnite: Battle Royale’ claims 10 million players. Engadget. [Online] October 11, 2017. https://www.engadget.com/2017/10/11/fortnite-battle-royale-claims-10-million-players/.
  4. Gentile, Douglas (interviewee) and Shapiro, Ari (host). What Research Says About Video Games And Violence In Children. All Things Considered Radio Program. [Online] National Public Radio, March 3, 2018. https://www.npr.org/2018/03/08/592046294/what-research-says-about-video-games-and-violence-in-children.
  5. Bowen, Lisa. Video game play may provide learning, health, social benefits, review finds. Monitor on Psychology. February 2014, Vol. 45, 2.
  6. Gerencer, Tom. How Much Money Has Every Call of Duty Game Made? Money Nation. [Online] December 23, 2015. http://moneynation.com/how-much-money-has-every-call-of-duty-game-made/.

 

 

 

 

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

Headache Me This

What causes headaches? I find myself Googling this at least once every few months when a particularly nasty or persistent headache of my own decides to show up. And I think it’s because I never really get a satisfying explanation from my searches, likely due to the fact that there are hundreds of headache types and only 10% have a known cause. Let’s focus on primary headaches, ones not caused by an underlying condition.

There are a lot of culprits for primary headaches. Nerves/blood vessels/tissue around the skull, muscles of the head/neck, and chemical changes within the brain can spur on that pain. So what triggers these physical pain signalers? It is probably no surprise that stress or alcohol are included. Skipping meals, poor posture (thanks, laptops), disrupted sleep patterns, and changing weather as well.

Some of these triggers are outside of our control like the weather, but there are measures we can take for prevention. Even though yes, easier said than done, try to avoid known stressors where possible. Eat low-processed meals at regular intervals and prioritize consistent sleep habits. Deficiencies in magnesium may play a role so eat some avocado and nuts. And when all else fails, put the screens away, take a warm shower, apply a soothing compress to the neck, and go the heck to sleep. Admittedly just writing about all the things that I should be doing right now has not made my headache go away, so off to self-care I go.