Category: Lifestyle

Top 5 “Wins” for Health in 2017

2017 has been one for the books! Our country inaugurated a new president, two major hurricanes swept through the South, the first solar eclipse in a 100 years, the riots in Charlottesville, and most importantly the royal engagement of Prince Harry and Meghan Markle. In the health-related realm there were many notably scientific and policy advances that occurred this year. Here is my top 5 list of these occurrences.

  1. US Federal Court requires tobacco companies to put out corrective statements about harmful health effects of smoking as a consequence for misleading the public about this through advertisements
  2. First diagnosis of CTE in an alive patient (traumatic brain injury typically seen in football players)
  3. First baby born from a uterus transplant
  4. Development of a digital ingestion tracking system. This is a new technology with the ability to monitor drug adherence after the pill has been taken
  5. Decrease in daily consumption of sugary beverages consumed by Americans since 2014

There were many more significant health-related achievements over this year. What is your top 5 list?

 

References:

https://www.nytimes.com/2017/11/14/health/soda-pop-sugary-drinks.html?rref=collection%2Fsectioncollection%2Fhealth&action=click&contentCollection=health&region=stream&module=stream_unit&version=search&contentPlacement=2&pgtype=sectionfront

 

http://abcnews.go.com/US/nfl-player-confirmed-1st-diagnosis-cte-living-patient/story?id=51181721

 

https://www.cbsnews.com/news/first-baby-born-from-a-uterus-transplant-in-the-u-s-delivered-in-texas/

 

http://www.cnn.com/2017/11/14/health/fda-digital-pill-abilify/index.html

 

https://www.tobaccofreekids.org/media/2017/corrective-statements

New Year’s Resolutions: How to achieve them in 2018

As the holidays are quickly approaching, schools are letting out for their winter breaks, work holiday parties are filling up our weekends and everyone is ready to put behind this year and begin anew.  Over the years my resolutions have been the stereotypical ones: eat healthier, go to the gym and usually tend to break them by the end of January along with the majority of Americans.  About 40% of Americans make resolutions each year with only about 8% achieving their goals. How do we go about making our resolutions more successful?

A CBS News article published some tips on how to make your resolutions more achievable:  

  • Be honest with yourself
  • Stick to one thing
  • Make your goals SMART (Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Realistic and Timely)  
  • Adapt your environment
  • Track your progress
  • Celebrate with success and be compassionate with setbacks

Happy resolution making!!

Cigarette package

Federal Courts Take on Big Tobacco

It’s been a big week in terms of wins for public health and tobacco control. On November 26, 2017, tobacco companies such as Phillip Morris USA and RJ Reynolds were mandated by the US federal court to place full page corrective statements about the negative health effects of tobacco products. These ads will be placed in newspapers, magazines and television ads. The corrective statements are black and white ads that detail effects of smoking, addictiveness of smoking and lack of significant health benefit of switching to low tar and light from regular cigarettes. The tobacco companies have been advertising false information for years about their products which lead to these mandated statements.

These mandated statements came out of lawsuit that began in 1999 where the Justice department sued these major companies of civil fraud and racketeering violations. For those of us (myself included) not familiar with the legal jargon it means lying (or misrepresenting) information to the public and when organizations run illegal businesses. Now eighteen years later, these companies are required to make up for these actions.

As a current health communication student though my initial thoughts are these basic ads enough? It seems very intentional by these companies who have developed colorful and intricate ads to sell their products are using plain black and white ads for their corrective statements. It definitely is a step in the right direction but will be interesting to see how these simple ads impact attitudes towards their products.

 

“I’ll have a blue christmas without you”

This time of the year is it hard not to get swept up in the Black Friday and Cyber Monday sales, extravagant amount of food and the hustle and bustle of the holiday season. As we move through these next few weeks, it’s important to consider this time is not always merry for those around this. The holiday blues is a term coined to those who have feelings of anxiety and depression around the holidays due to the extra stress and expectations from this time of year. It differs from clinical anxiety and depression due to its temporary state. Holiday blues can look like fatigue, tension, loneliness, isolation and sadness. There are many triggers associated with them as such as less exposure to sunlight, changes in your diet and exercise routine, or inability to be with loved ones during the holiday season. Particularly those with pre-existing mental health conditions are at risk for the holiday blues.

The National Alliance on Mental Health (NAMI) has provided suggestions on how to avoid the holiday blues

  • Stick to normal routines
  • Sleep
  • Eat and drink in moderation
  • Exercise
  • Set goals and reasonable expectations for holiday shopping, cooking, entertaining etc.
  • Listen to music or other outlets for relaxation

To those experiencing the holiday blues, remember that this time of year is temporary and these feelings are short term. Happy Holidays!

The Glamorization of Murder

After many hours of class, homework, and work, I always look forward to my nightly routine of sitting down to watch Law and Order before going to bed. One may question, why are you excited to watch a show about solving murder cases? I ponder this myself about why do I enjoy this show? It makes me contemplate how murder has rapidly infiltrated our media channels and completely transformed media content. Murder in these contexts is not only considered a crime but into one of the most popular plot twists to our favorite television shows and movies. Our society has become obsessed with finding out the motive and understanding why the perpetrator killed the person. This obsession is not only seen all over television programs and movies but in our daily new outlets as well.  Is this obsession and constant perpetration of violence in our media glamorizing murder and in turn making this crime more socially acceptable?  I am guilty of this myself when I hear my friends discussing a new television show that they have been binging about solving a murder and I am immediately intrigued and want to know more. Through this glamorization process do perpetrators want the fame and recognition and to become the next plot line of the Law and Order or 60 minutes? While this has been my own anecdotal thoughts, there is a recent research that has found that contagion (exposure in media about previous incidents) predicts mass shootings and school shootings. Further research is need to explore this and better understand this phenomenon. In the meantime, let’s think about the implications of this type of obsession on our society.

A Toast to the Fall Roast

Hey there,

Happy Fall! Just here to give a quick plug for a hearty fall roast as a delicious and nutritious, easy-to-make-a-vegetarian’s day option. The best part? It’s seasonal and local-find friendly.  Whether you’re at the store or a farmer’s market, go ahead and pick out:

  • the best lookin’ squash you see (be warned–as I recently discovered, a butternut squash is much easier to cut than an acorn squash–and a spaghetti squash may be better suited for other Fall meals given it’s stringy texture once cooked)
  • Complement that rich squash flavor with a sweet potato or two, rich in anti-oxidants, and plenty filling
  • See any fresh beets? Doubling up on antioxidant power and also vitamin-rich (particularly Vit C, Vit B6, iron, and folate) plus you get a gorgeous, deep purple to balance your fall colors–remember, you eat with your eyes first. Bonus–you can use beet leaves and another leafy green of your choice for a quick side salad!
  • No beets? No sweat! See any carrots calling to you? Maybe a red bell pepper? Cauliflower steak, anyone?
  • Chickpeas/beans of choice. Adding a can of beans to your roast is a quick way to add in a hearty amount of protein and a welcome contrast in texture
  • Seasoning is always in season! A little salt helps accentuate flavors, but you really don’t need too much to let these veggies sing. I like to add a generous amount of a fresh herb if you can find some (loving rosemary right now)

Nothing like letting the scent of roasting vegetables and fresh herbs envelop your kitchen and living room 🙂 Happy roasting!

 

Pop Up Museums: Public Health Edition

Pop ups are the newest trend today whether it’s a Game of Thrones bar in Washington D.C. or a boutique clothing pop-up in Chapel Hill. Now the pop-up concept has entered the public health realm in the form of pop up museums. This month in London, there is a pop up museum all about global drug policy. The Museum of Drug Policy is a free museum located in the heart of London that is only open for three days. This exhibit has been featured in other cities such as Montreal and New York City in accordance with the UN Assembly and the Harm Reduction Conference. The museum exhibit is a cultural focus on how drug policies impact local communities and the harmful side effects of these policies. The exhibit has a global focus and will transform you to different parts of the world to understand how drug policies differ based on region and country in the world. While many museums/exhibits leave you feeling negative and powerless, this exhibit is different in terms of learning about new approaches to address this problem that would eliminate the community problems and be more mindful to human rights. London

If you are in the London area this week, check out this exhibit and hopefully we will begin to see this exhibit in future cities and other similar exhibits like this!

Smoking Disparities among LGBTQ Populations

Recently, I was in a LGTBQ establishment, having a conversation with a friend during a night out, when a tobacco company representative kindly offered us a $2 off coupon for a pack of cigarettes. Needless to say, I accepted the coupon out of curiosity, having had similar experiences in other Queer spaces previously. For those that are not aware, tobacco is fairly engrained in Queer nightlife, most of the people that I know personally who smoke are either LGBTQ identified, or those who live back home in rural Michigan.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, about 1 in 6 heterosexually identified adults in the United States are smokers, compared to Lesbian, Gay, and Bisexual adults where the smoking rate is nearly 1 in 4. For transgender individuals, there is little research to know what the smoking prevalence is.

The research on smoking rates among LGBTQ individuals in general has grown more recently, with one study noting the overlap between LGBTQ individuals living in rural Appalachia. Bennett, Ricks, and Howell found that among the LGB individuals, many of them lived with high levels of stress due to their isolated location and living within their identities in those rural areas. Many of those interviewed noted that tobacco smoking is connected to both stress and social structures, though did not seem as aware of how their LGBTQ identity and ability to be “out” as something that may contribute to smoking.

I may be one to have to occasional cigarette, and like my love for sugar, I’m aware of how that makes me appear as a hypocritical public health professional. On the flip side, I think we can all agree that nobody is perfect, and I hope that my owning of my imperfections highlights the level of transparency that I try to bring into my work.

 

Sources:

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention: Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, and Transgender Persons and Tobacco Use: https://www.cdc.gov/tobacco/disparities/lgbt/index.htm

Bennett, K., Ricks, J. M., & Howell, B. .. (2014). ‘It’s just a way of fitting in:’ Tobacco use and the lived experience of lesbian, gay, and bisexual Appalachians. Journal Of Health Care For The Poor And Underserved25(4), 1646-1666. doi:10.1353/hpu.2014.0186

Impostor Experience: The Advice I Keep Giving Myself in Graduate School

Impostor experience is characterized as having an inability to internalize one’s accomplishments, where those who experience it feel that they are a fraud, that they have somehow deceived others to believe that they are smarter than they actually are. These feelings occur even when contradicted by success, often crediting luck or good timing over their own hard work and effort. And it is quite prevalent in academic spaces.

When I started my graduate career, I was lucky enough to have professors who were well aware of this topic, encouraging students to reach out when they needed to, reminding us that we all have expertise to contribute to the classroom, we all have a space.

As a first generation college student, I still have moments almost daily where I feel like I don’t belong, that this isn’t really the place for me. Sometimes it’s a simple comment, someone in class sharing an experience, like “Oh my dad’s a doctor”. Don’t get me wrong, my parents are two of the hardest working people I know. But there are constantly reminders for me that in pursuing a graduate degree, I’m taking a career path that not many people who knew me as a child could even imagine.

Below I’ve attached some resources that I have found particularly helpful at some low points in my academic career. But what has helped the most for me is opening up to my friends and classmates, and realizing that I am not the only one having these feelings. I’m writing this because I’m not perfect at taking my own advice, I still need to step back and use some of these strategies, and I still need to practice opening up when I’m struggling.

Sources:

APA Cover Story: Feel like a fraud? http://www.apa.org/gradpsych/2013/11/fraud.aspx

The Chronicle of Higher Education: Impostor Syndrome is Definitely a Thing: http://www.chronicle.com/article/Impostor-Syndrome-Is/238418

Recent Data on Obesity Prevalence in the U.S.

The National Center for Health Statistics (NCHS) recently released a data brief on recent estimates for obesity prevalence in the United States. These estimates are from the most recent National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey for 2015-2016. Some key survey findings showed that in 2015-2016, obesity prevalence was 39.8% among adults and 18.5% among youth in the U.S. Additionally, obesity prevalence was found to be 13.9% for children aged 2-5 years, 18.4% for children aged 6-11 years, and 20.6% for children aged 12-19 years.

While there was not a significant change in obesity prevalence among U.S. adults and youth between 2013-2014 and 2015-2016, obesity continues to remain an important public health concern.

Obesity prevalence rates in the U.S. do not currently meet national weight status objectives set forth in Healthy People 2020, a 10-year national agenda for improving public health in the U.S. These objectives are to reduce the proportion of U.S. adults that are obese to 30.5%, as well as reduce the proportion of U.S. children aged 2-5 years, 6-11 years, and 12-19 years that are obese to 9.4%, 15.7%, and 16.1%, respectively, by the year 2020.

Obesity can lead to serious health effects, such as: high blood pressure, heart disease, and even type 2 diabetes. However, maintaining a healthy weight through eating right and staying physically active can prevent these negative health outcomes.

References

Prevalence of Obesity among Adults and Youth: United States, 2015-2016. (2017, October). Retrieved from https://www.cdc.gov/nchs/data/databriefs/db288.pdf

Nutrition and Weight Status. (2017, October 13). Retrieved from https://www.healthypeople.gov/2020/topics-objectives/topic/nutrition-and-weight-status/objectives

Eat Right. (N.d.). Retrieved from https://www.nhlbi.nih.gov/health/educational/lose_wt/eat/index.htm

Be Physically Active. (N.d.) Retrieved from https://www.nhlbi.nih.gov/health/educational/lose_wt/physical.htm