Category: Lifestyle

Fewer Pink Ribbons in 2013?

It’s Pinktober. Or as the cancer industry would remind us, “October is Breast Cancer Awareness Month!”

As one patient-friend recently called it, we’re nearing the end of what is usually quite a Pepto Bismol colored month. Or to put it differently: what is pinkwashing, and how might it affect us, as people targeted by breast health communication campaigns? ….Let’s explore further.

Originally sponsored by pharmaceutical company AstraZeneca and dedicated to breast cancer awareness/advocacy since the 1980s October is now frequently referred to as “Pinktober,” due to the ubiquity of “pink ribbon” paraphernalia throughout the month. On one hand, these campaigns may variously pump up legions of pink ribbon supporters, who engage in community fundraisers, buying products via corporate sponsorships, and partaking in “awareness” campaigns for breast cancer detection, or raising research funds for “the cure.” Or Pinktober may make many others of those who’ve been through the rigors and poisons of cancer diagnosis need a little dose of anti-nausea medication themselves. A growing movement of women who’ve been through breast cancer are speaking up to say “Pink Ribbons don’t represent me!” These current and former patients take a little more critical look at the health inequities and toxic pollutants they argue “pink ribbon campaigns” may in fact mask over.

However, this year, there seem to be substantially fewer pink ribbons than normal*. Have our readers noticed fewer pink ribbons, too?

– Could it be because of the controversy with Susan G. Komen For the Cure TM and the organization’s proposed defunding of Planned Parenthood last year?

– Could it be because of the increased scrutiny on charitable spending associated with Pink Ribbons?

For example, on the Pink Ribbon (Official) Website, the homepage banner features an articulation of the protocols and regulations of how fundraised dollars will and will not be spent. This is likely a result of increased scrutiny as to how pink ribbon dollars are being spent, following the work of campaigns like Breast Cancer Action.

– Breast Cancer Action has also inspired many with their “Think Before You Pink” campaign, which works to illuminate the stinky ties between companies that sponsor breast cancer awareness campaigns, while at the same time making products which contain chemical components causally linked to breast cancers. This is called pinkwashinga form of “bait and switch” in health communication-related advertising which has come under increasing fire in the last several years.

I am glad to see fewer pink ribbons on the shelves — if they are a part of eclipsing more substantive conversations about why so many people are getting hormonally related and “lifestyle” cancers in the US and in global cosmopolitan centers with rising rates of “life style disease.”

But I am hopeful that consumers are aware of the reasons why pink ribbons are, for many, not an ideal form for communicating support of (breast) cancer patients we care about, or marking our status as family members who’ve lost someone to serious cancer. Perhaps the industry is laying lower this year. But will corporate sponsors and “girly pink” slogans be back — with yet more plans for selling “pink ribbon” products as their main goal in this endeavor for “cancer awareness”?

What do you think? If you’ve never noticed pink ribbon campaigns before, what has your experience of them been so far this year?

 

 

 

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*Post-Script: Here’s how my 2013 Pink-quest started….

Several weeks ago, I visited my local “big box” store in search of pink ribbon products (working with metastatic cancer patients as research partners, I am always curious….). In Octobers-past I’ve called in to local Wal-Marts and gotten an extensive, often hilarious report on their multitude of “Pink Ribbon” lines: Pink Doritos, Pink bubble wrap, Pink Ribbon underwear lines, Pink jewelry lines, Pink teddy bears, Pink t-shirts, Pink hand-tools/drills, Pink bakeware, and more. This year, however, in the entire store’s warehouse, I found only 1 dish detergent with a pink ribbon seal, and an NFL-sponsored Pink Ribbon Pepsi case. Asking the store manager what “pink” products were in stock for “breast cancer awareness” this October, she looked at me with confusion, and said, “I don’t know what you mean by ‘pink ribbons’?”

Pink Ribbons are certainly not “gone” from the scene of our consumer landscape, however.

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On the way home, I noticed a local real estate agency will have a “PIG OUT FOR CANCER AWARENESS” Barbecue fundraiser, with a 20-foot pig structure calling out “We are Tickled Pink!” (For reference, see the China Study controversy, for linkage between fatty meat consumption rates and hormonal and “lifestyle” related cancers).

The local BMW retailer had its entire building uplit with pink lighting and a banner asking its patrons to “Turn Us Pink,” ostensibly by buying a BMW and donating a portion of proceeds to a pink ribbon charity for breast cancer (For reference, see the controversy over whether car exhaust is a contributor to spiked cancer prevalence in the US and global cosmopolitan centers).

Though many of my research partners have gotten fewer fundraiser emails with “Think Pink” in the tagline this year — or seen fewer t-shirts with “I heart boobies,” and other tags, such as “Save a Life, Grope Your Wife” — we have noticed many companies are still on board with sponsorships “for the cause.” These are sponsorships which allow them to rack up brownie points for “Corporate Philanthropy” and “Social Giving.” As consumers, we still get to decide whether or not to support their “support” by buying into, or avoiding such potentially troublesome health campaigns.

Fighting to Get Fit: Overcoming the 7 Most Common Barriers to Exercise

Last week we looked at 7 of the most common barriers to making physical activity happen on a regular basis, and found out that the first key to overcoming those barriers is to understanding which one(s) most affect us.

This week we have a few strategies and tips to fight the good fight and conquer those obstacles.

Obstacle #1:  I don’t have time

How to Conquer:   

  • You do have time.  When is it?  Keep track for one week of your free time slots, be it 10 minutes, 30 minutes, or an hour.  Pick 3-4 of those time slots and designate them for physical acivity
  • Multi-task.  If you can, walk or ride your bike to work, to do errands, to school.  If you have a favorite TV show, exercise while you’re doing it.  Even small decisions like choosing the stairs instead of the elevator, or parking further away from the store, will make a difference if you do them consistently. Also check out these tips to get a Workplace Workout.
  • If you only have small bits of time, make that time count.  Running or biking a few miles is often less time than going to the gym, getting on a machine, lifting, etc.  There are pilates and even 14-minute basic yoga workouts.

Obstacle #2: No motivation

How to Conquer:

  • Plan ahead.  Put it on the calendar, and make it happen
  • Don’t do it alone.  Make plans to exercise regularly with a friend.  Two are better than one, and you’re less likely to skip out if there’s someone else holding you accountable.
  • Are you a morning person?  Set your alarm for 30 minutes earlier and go for a brisk walk or jog then. Do you feel more awake at night?  Set aside time right before or after dinner to work out.  Schedule your workout for times when you typically feel energetic, and you’re much more likely to make it happen.

Obstacle #3: It’s not fun

How to Conquer:

  • Join an exercise group or class, even something creative.  There’s Crossfit, Yoga, Pilates, Zumba, Kick-boxing, and a smorgasboard of other options.  Find something that you’ll have fun with and get excited to learn.
  • Don’t do it alone.  Almost anything is more fun with a friend.

Obstacle #4:  I can’t do it

How to Conquer:

  • Know that yes, you can.  Rome wasn’t built in a day, and if you’ve been pretty sedentary for the past few weeks/months/years, you shouldn’t try to go and run 10 miles tomorrow.  And then start small.  Start with activities that you already know how to do, like walking, climbing stairs, or jogging.
  • Consider taking a class to learn a new skill, as long as it’s something that also sounds interesting and that you’ll want to keep going.

Barrier #5: It’s going to hurt

How to Conquer:

  • Learn how to warm up and cool down.  This will GREATLY reduce your risk of injury.
  • Depending on your fitness and skill level, and age, choose an appropriate and achievable exercise goal.
  • Be smart, and start with low-risk activities like walking or swimming.

Barrier #6: I can’t manage it

How to Conquer:

  • Get organized.  See tips for overcoming Barrier #1 above.

Barrier #7:  There’s no place to do it

How to Conquer:

  • If you’re facing a lack of resources, choose activities that require little to no financial investment, like walking, jogging, jumping rope, or calisthenics.  There are likely  plenty of free resources in your community, including community recreation programs or programs at your work.
  • Activities like jumping rope take up very little space, or, try hitting up your local mall and walking there for 30 minutes.  Although you may not have a state-of-the-art gym at your fingertips, there is likely at least one location, indoor or outdoor, that you can access.

A huge player in a lot of these strategies is social motivation.  Make sure to communicate your physical activity goals to your friends and family, and ask them to help motivate you in those goals.  They might even be interested in exercising with you, and planning fun social activities (hiking, walking, swimming) that incorporate physical activity.

Not sure where to find the social supports?  See if there’s a Meetup in your area that is centered around physical activity.  Even something like the Dog Training, Hiking and Fun Meetup, Kickball, or the Parkour, Barefooting & Natural Method Meetup will help get you more active, and you’ll meet some like-minded people along the way.

What could you try this week to begin to overcome one of these barriers?

 

Photo courtesy of: http://blog.ilcwriters.org

Why Working Out Isn’t Working Out

Is your attempt to work out just not working out?  You’re not alone.

Last week I posted on “The Best Medicine? Exercise.”, and we know that physical activity is very important to living a long and healthy life.  If we know that, why is it so hard to work out?  I thought it could be helpful to highlight some of the most common barriers we face trying to get in a routine of regular physical activity.

As you contemplate going on a walk/run/swim/bike ride/to the gym/etc., have you ever said any of the following?

1.  I don’t have time – I’m busy.  I have a job. I’m a full time student, I have a family and a wealth of other commitments, and there just are not enough hours in the day.  Time is the leading reason that many of us struggle to exercise.

2. No motivation – Okay, I finally have a Saturday morning with no plans.  The weather is beautiful, and the temperature is perfect.  But there is nothing pushing you to get off your couch, and in the end that’s where you stay for the better part of the day.   Getting up for snacks and bathroom breaks counts for something, right?

3.  It’s not fun – For some people, going out for a 10-mile run is the best thing they could do with their morning.  I am not one of those people, and even the sight of my running shoes elicits internal groans.

4.  I can’t do it – I literally can’t even run a mile.  How in the world will I be able to run 3 miles, 3-5x a week?  People who do triathlons are impressive, but I know I could never anything like that.

 5.  It’s going to hurt – Whether you’ve been injured recently or are sure that your first lap around the block will leave you with a sprained ankle, torn meniscus and probably a headache, if you’re being completely realistic.

 6.  I can’t manage it – I can get to the gym or out for a brisk walk or run on occasion, but have no idea how to set goals, keep myself going, or figure out if I’m doing well enough.  If I’m going to exercise, I want it to be good and productive, but how do I know and keep track of what that is?

 7.  There’s no place to do it – I live in a city and there are cars everywhere.  I live in the middle of nowhere and there are no sidewalks or shoulders on the roads. My neighborhood is dangerous.   I would go to the gym, but the few I know all seem to be either over-priced or run-down, and just aren’t a comfortable place to be.

If you find yourself saying any of the above when thinking about exercise, you’re in the majority.   The CDC reports these as some of the most common barriers, and everyone struggles with one or more of these things when it comes to trying to make physical activity a regular part of your day.

Understanding which barriers affect you most will allow you to create strategies to jump over them, and ideally make exercise a regular part of your life.  Check out Harvard Medical School’s “Barriers to Being Active” quiz if you’re not sure exactly which barriers are stopping you.

And check back next week for some concrete and creative ways to overcome these barriers.

 

Photo courtesy of:   http://creativebioscience.com

Smart Skin

Does our skin have a biological clock of it’s own?

According to scientists at Barcelona’s Institute for Research in Biomedicine the answer is a resounding: yes.

How does this work?  Our skin cells take on different tasks, depending on the time of day.  For instance, during the day when UV exposure is a likely occurrence, skin cells work to protect us from the damaging consequences of UV light.  At night, skin cells that were damaged during the day by UV light regenerate themselves – this cycle repeats, much like our bodies’ other circadian rhythms.5108104005_f7c2a5b9b8_z

This information is powerful in that, it provides us with an opportunity to protect ourselves from health issues, such as skin cancer, during situations in which we do not realize our vulnerability.  For example, when traveling abroad for a beach vacation be sure to apply extra sun screen, as your body may not have adjusted to the time difference.  Tanning beds are also very disruptive to our skins’ circadian rhythm – stepping into a tanning bed for an expedited tanning experience spanning 2- to 15-minutes is equivalent to taking in the UV rays you would get standing in direct sunlight at the equator at noon, two or three times over.  By damaging our skin cells, we take away the cells’ ability to perform their normal protective functions, thereby leading to premature aging or worse, skin cancer.

What’s so exciting about this research is that it is only the first step of many in understanding how skin cells work to protect us from skin cancer and premature aging by seeking to understand how these processes start and how they progress.

Prevent Food Poisoning!

Take a guess as to how many people suffer from food poisoning every year. 10 million? 25 million? Nope, even higher – According to the Center for Disease Control (CDC), an estimated 48 million people experience food poisoning every year, and that’s only the number of reported cases.

Despite the extensive safety measures food processing companies take, foodborne illnesses remain a large threat in our meats and produce, and unfortunately, the problems only continue to grow. Recent research produced data showing that certain foodborne illnesses are on the rise, calling for consumers to take action in preventing their exposure to dangerous and stomach-turning bacteria.

So what can consumers do? It all starts at the store.

To begin with, keep your meat and poultry separated in your basket or cart as much as possible. Placing raw meats on top of your produce in your cart puts you at risk for cross-contamination while you make your way over to the ice cream isle. Also, in the hustle and bustle of paying for your groceries, take a moment and ask to have your meats put in a separate shopping bag. Having each raw meat in its own individual bag will prevent any meat juices from falling onto any of your other purchases, keeping your food safe from bacteria.

Then, once you return home, make the effort to store your meats in a leak-proof container. Again, this will help prevent any juices from falling onto your other foods and save you from possible contamination. Also, double check that your fridge is staying cold enough – to store meats in the fridge the temperature needs to be 40 degrees (Fahrenheit) or lower, and to freeze meats the freezer temperature needs to be 0 (zero) degrees or lower.

Then finally, preparation. As always, wash your hands before AND after you handle any raw meats – transferring bacteria from food to food is very easy if you don’t wash your hands. And on the topic of washing, DO NOT wash/rinse your meats. Experts say that rinsing your meats in the sink is a great way to spread juices and bacteria to places that are not visible. Then finally, make the effort to use different cutting boards and utensils when cutting your meats and other foods. A quick wash with soap and hot water over your cutting board and knife after cutting up your poultry or meat is another great way to prevent bacteria from getting to the other parts of your meal.

Simple right? Sure, there are a few more steps when it comes to bagging your groceries and cutting up your ingredients, but in the long run isn’t it better to enjoy your meal than regret it later? I’ve suffered from food poisoning before and if there is something I’ve learned it’s that I can never eat hardboiled eggs again…and that it’s worth every step to prevent never feeling like I once did from food poisoning.

 

 

Post courtesy of: “Food Poisoning: What you need to know” By Miriam Flaco

http://www.cnn.com/2013/10/08/health/foodborne-illness-101/index.html?utm_source=pulsenews&utm_medium=referral&utm_campaign=Feed%3A+rss%2Fcnn_health+%28RSS%3A+Health%29

Fashion Meets Ovulation

Check-marks on our calendars, applications on our phones, and monthly alarms – whatever technique we count on the goal is the same, to map out our periods.

The term ‘cycle’ is not used to simply explain ‘on’ or ‘off’ our periods, but rather to show that every day women experience different hormone levels, all of which affect feminine processes. In particular, a few days of every cycle are seen as the most important for many women, our days of ovulation. For a brief moment women are at an optimal high of balanced hormones to create the ideal environment for conception. However, not all women seek to conceive and therefore utilize a variety of tools to inform themselves of not only the time of their periods but also of their days of possible ovulation.

Recently, a new tool for following our flow has hit the market, it’s called Feby. Also known as the Female Empowerment Bracelet, Febys are a color-coded bracelet that women wear to help keep themselves aware of where they are in their monthly cycle. The colors of the bracelet consist of red, white pink and black. Red represents the days of a woman’s period; white is used for “neutral days,” in which a woman cannot get pregnant; pink indicates day of ovulation and high fertility; and black signifies the dark day of premenstrual syndrome (PMS). The instructions then tell users to move the knot of their bracelet through one bead every day to help them keep track of where they are in their cycle and to help them prepare for what will be coming in the following days, particularly when it comes to preventing pregnancy.

So if you are looking for something a bit more fashionable and functional than a smiley-face on your calendar, then the bead-a-day tricks and styles of a Feby just may be for you.

 

This clip made by Feby.com provides further information about how the bracelet works, in addition to instructions of how to make your very own Feby according to your personal cycle.

**Kits for your own Female Empowerment Bracelet can be bought from Feby.com**

Post credit and source is from: Feby.com

Image credit source: https://www.google.com/search?site=imghp&tbm=isch&source=hp&biw=1366&bih=667&q=Feby.com&oq=Feby.com&gs_l=img.3..0i24.10553.12588.0.12838.10.6.1.3.3.0.151.598.4j2.6.0….0…1ac.1.27.img..2.8.369.3LMXm7oQGM8#facrc=_&imgdii=_&imgrc=ZnWYw7zxpHLnNM%3A%3BpOvKSxcVUPooTM%3Bhttp%253A%252F%252Fwww.shamelessmag.com%252Fmedia%252Fcontent%252F2012%252F10%252Ffeby.jpg%3Bhttp%253A%252F%252Fwww.shamelessmag.com%252Fblog%252F2012%252F10%252Fproduct-review-the-female-empowerment-bracelet%252F%3B932%3B700

 

 

HAHA!

Have you laughed lately?

I’m not talking about a polite giggle or an uncomfortable “I-don’t-get-this-joke-but-everyone-else-is-laughing” type of laugh – I’m talking about a straight from the gut, roll on the ground, teary eyed type of laugh.

If you answered “No,” you should really think about giving it a try.  It’s good for your health.  An outlined in an article from the Discovery Channel, here is a look at laughter and health from neuroscience perspective:

Laughter decreases stress:

It’s true! Laughing decreases the level of stress hormones that impare immune system function.

Laughter helps you cope with the tough things in life:

While we can’t control all of the difficult things life throws at us, we can control how we choose to react.  The Cancer Treatment Centers of America hold group laughter therapy sessions to help cancer patients and their family members cope throughout the cancer trajectory.  

 

Laughter improves blood pressure:

The University of Maryland found that laughter could be responsible for the promotion of better blood flow and oxygenation through expansion of the blood vessel tissue.

Laughter is exercise!:

Don’t feel like spending a monotonous ten minutes on a rowing machine or exercise bike?  Try laughing 100 times instead! 

Laughter positively affects blood glucose levels:

A study on the effect of long-term laughter therapy in individuals with type 2 diabetes suggested that laughing might reduce microvascular complications due to the reduction of

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plasma renin levels.

Laughter helps with pain management:

Since the 13th century, surgeons have been using laughter as a way to distract their patients from the pain and discomfort of various surgeries.  Even today, surgeons are using a distraction method of local anesthetics and laughter as opposed to the sedation methods that often cause drowsiness, confusion, and other adverse reactions.

Laughter can help create lasting social relationships:

Laughter can be a great icebreaker; much like a smile, laughter is a universal symbol of communication.

Laughter can disarm aggression:

Laughter promotes muscle relaxation, calmer affect, and a clearer perspective.

Laughter energizes organs:

Take lungs, for example: abnormal breathing patterns due to laughter can lead to coughing or hiccupping that may dislodge mucus plugs in the airway.

Laughter can create a better overall sense of wellbeing:

Laughter is a healthy outlet for releasing pent up anger and frustration.  Additionally, laughter can create bonds between individuals that can lead to more sources of social support.  

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Not sure how to start laughing?  Here are a few tips to get you started:

  1. What makes you laugh?  Whatever that is, read it and/or watch it more often
  2. Surround yourself with people who enjoy a sense of humor
  3. Be a responsible jokester and recognize that some jokes just aren’t funny to others.  Be sensitive to the beliefs and cultures of others.
  4. Try not to be too annoying – Sure, sitting in an awesome parking spot at the mall with your reverse lights on during the holiday shopping rush may be hilarious to you, but it is very unlikely that other commuting shopperswill appreciate your sense of humor; which means you probably won’t be making any friends at the mall that day.

5 Tips& Tricks To Correct Your Healthy Diet And Get More Energy

Have you ever noticed that even the healthiest of people are tired? No matter how much an individual runs, sleeps, and stays away from sugar, healthy individuals can suffer from exhaustion just as much as anyone. But why is this? – The answer is in the diet.

Every day it seems that nutrition science has a new answer for a healthy diet: don’t eat carbs, only eat carbs, get 5 servings of fruit, fruits have bad sugars – on and on they go with the contradicting facts and fads of diets that make our heads spin. But thankfully, there is hope. A recent article published by Health.com listed 5 healthy eating tricks to boost your energy and correct any false ideas you may have about healthy eating. So take a look and give these few tips and tricks a try – your energy may depend on it.

1. You have to go long stretches without eating: WRONG

The key to any healthy diet is to eat early and eat often. According to the article, “every time you go more than two hours or so without eating, your blood sugar drops – and that is bad news for your energy” (Dworkin-McDaniel, 2013). So do yourself a favor and keep your body going by keeping it fed; grab a bite to eat every 2-4 hours and see if you notice a change in your afternoon slump.

2. Just eat breakfast every morning: WRONG

The answer is not simply to eat breakfast; your breakfast needs to contain soluble fiber. Pancakes or muffins are filled with sugar, which has actually been shown to slow your start to the day, not jump it. According to the article a smart breakfast should include a cereal that has at least 5 grams of fibers per serving and a whole-grain bread that has 2 grams of fiber per slice (Dworkin-McDaniel, 2013). So start your day with some oatmeal instead of a doughnut and see if you can tell a difference in the middle of your morning.

3. Eat any vegetable so long as you get in your vegetables: WRONG

Like the breakfast tip, don’t just eat veggies; eat the ones that will give you the energy you’re missing. Incorporate veggies such as broccoli, cabbage, Brussels sprouts, cauliflower and kale, for they contain the much needed nutrients to keep your body going, even at your lowest points of momentum. Keep in mind that there is no such thing as a ‘wrong’ veggie, but the consuming the ones previously listed will maintain your energy more than any other option.

4. Avoid red meat: WRONG

I know, I didn’t believe it either, but it turns out we need our red meats. Iron is the source of the body’s strength and stamina, and according to the article, “Beef is the best source of heme iron, the form most easily used by the body” (Dworkin-McDaniel, 2013). So the next time you think you want to ‘splurge’ on a red meet meal, go for it! Because, as we now know, red meat is not the enemy, it is actually the key to our energy.

5. You can’t cut too many carbs: WRONG

As if we were not confused enough with the battle over consuming carbs, one thing has been made known: our bodies run on carbohydrates. While the debate is still out on the different fad diets, you can take relief in the fact that carbs help your body burn fat and they provide energy as they are digested (Dworkin-McDaniel, 2013). So do your body a favor and give it the energy it needs – eat some whole-wheat pasta or potatoes and quit counting your carbs.

Post source:

Dworkin-McDaniel, N. (2013, Sept. 19). 5 ways a healthy diet is making your tired. Retrieved from http://www.health.com/health/gallery/0,,20723556,00.html

Image Retrieved from Google Images:

https://www.google.com/search?site=imghp&tbm=isch&source=hp&biw=1366&bih=667&q=brocolli+rocket&oq=brocolli+rocket&gs_l=img.3…10596.13539.0.13712.15.13.0.2.0.0.138.1129.10j3.13.0….0…1ac.1.27.img..4.11.1021.-lDjw-H-8Nw#q=tired+person+eating&tbm=isch&facrc=_&imgdii=_&imgrc=LyzkWkokoHAgIM%3A%3ByR14NR14ooUP1M%3Bhttp%253A%252F%252Fwww.howitworksdaily.com%252Fwp-content%252Fuploads%252F2012%252F12%252Fdreamstime_l_26338541.jpg%3Bhttp%253A%252F%252Fwww.howitworksdaily.com%252Fscience%252Fwhy-do-we-feel-sleepy-after-eating%252F%3B616%3B408

 

Med Students in the Kitchen! Practicing what they preach.

“Cut out the sugars.”

“You need to lower your carb intake.”

“White flour…stay away from that, too.”

 

Doctors tell patients these things all the time, but do they truly understand what their instructions entail or how to counsel a patient on dietary restrictions?  Tulane University School of Medicine recognized the gap between physician directives and understanding in relation to the dietary needs of their patients and decided to do something about this issue.  In 2010, Tulane teamed up with the prestigious College of Culinary Arts at Johnson and Wales University to create a teaching kitchen to allow medical students to, in a sense, practice what they preach.

Situated in an area where obesity and diabetes rates are among the highest in the nation (New Orleans, Louisiana), medical students at Tulane are constantly trying to counsel patients against the traditional foods that are dear to their hearts.   Because of this, Tulane adopted a teaching model that opens up the teaching kitchen to members of the community, thereby providing students with the opportunity to learn how to counsel a patient on dietary needs in a way far more effective than reading from a textbook.

Patient counseling is not the only great benefit of this program – during the two to three hour sessions, students, physicians, culinary experts and community members engage in discussions about how different lifestyle factors influence disease processes and how embracing practical culinary skills can mitigate the long-term effects of unhealthy habits.

The program also creates a strong connection between the school and the community by investing in the people they see on a day-to-day basis.

Down the Pipeline: Early Childhood Education Means Better Health in Old Age

Our country is in the midst of urgent political debates about inequality. Income inequality is tied to educational inequality. Educational inequality is linked to unequal access to emotional/cognitive skills which promote “well-being.” And, as it turns out, this educational inequality is also tied to health inequality, and starts as young as preschool.

In a recent NY Times Opinion, “Lifelines for Poor Children,” we are urged to consider policy shifts toward early-childhood education. This is in direct relationship to our debates about how to address the exorbitant “income inequality” gaps currently in the national U.S. spotlight, and which are increasingly stark in the so-called “developed” world; income inequality does not just point to “developing” nations’ need for policy change. What I find most fascinating for people interested in health policy, however, is that early education impacts all sectors of our life, including our health.

This is evidenced by the ABC Project, or the “Carolina Abecedarian Project”, which offered treatment and control groups of economically oppressed kids differing access to early childhood education. The program included: “cognitive stimulation, training in self-control and social skills, and parental education starting in the first few months of life”; importantly children were also offered health check ups  (Heckman, NY Times).  This is a comprehensive approach to early childhood education, inclusive of parents, and social capital, as well as basic health resources  for children otherwise at a serious disadvantage economically. The downstream effects were not only shifts in IQ, and income/well-being determinants over the child’s lifetime — but also shifts in health, over 30 years later.

The Op-Ed reports ABC’s findings:

“Now, over 30 years later, those treated in ABC have lower blood pressure, lower abdominal obesity, less hypertension and less likelihood of metabolic syndrome and cardiovascular conditions as adults. This evidence clearly shows the power of quality early childhood programs for producing flourishing people with healthier lives, which increases productivity and lowers health care costs.”

 These shifts to early-life focus in education and health — including early education/care from infancy through pre-k or age 5 — are cost-effective. (ie savings in health costs over an entire lifetime, savings in potential social welfare costs, special needs education costs to school districts, and even prison costs, as a part of an educational-prison-industrial complex).

So — what amazing downstream effects can finally influence us, as a citzenry, in our political culture, to advocate for upstream shifts in policy for comprehensive early education reform?

Perhaps by showing how linked equal educational access is to future health outcomes, we can create a few sites of momentum in the “Health Communication” world, too.