Category: Recommendations

THAT SHIP HAS SAILED: Why the US should stop shipping American-grown food abroad

The development of the Food for Peace program was the US’s first program for fighting international hunger. This program focuses heavily on donating commodities to vulnerable populations abroad. Most donated goods are grown domestically and shipped to developing countries where over three billion people have received assistance since its inception. It is estimated that another eight to twelve million people could receive help by reforming US food aid policies. A major barrier to expanding reach is the shipment of US agricultural goods abroad. This is a practice that should be eliminated because it is harmful in the following ways:

1. It is time-consuming.

Shipping US grown goods abroad takes on average 126 days. In emergency situations, people are only able to survive for 12 days without foods. In many instances, waiting for US commodities to ship is deadly.

2. It wastes money on transportation fees.

Between 2003 and 2012, the US spent close to $18 billion on food aid. Over half of this money was used on international transportation fees. Money that could be used to feed millions was used to support US-based shipping companies and the transport of good.

3. It cripples international agricultural sectors.

US grown food is sold at a much lower cost than food sold by local farmers. This can put local farmers out of business if they are unable to compete with the sale of US products. Resultantly, communities become completely dependent on aid.

We should discontinue the practice of shipping US commodities abroad and instead support international agricultural ventures. Learn more about FY 2016 reform proposals here.

Do you have an Advance Directive?

Everyone deserves the right to make their own decisions about their health. But sometimes we may found ourselves in certain circumstances in which we are unable to do so, such as during a coma, terminal illness, or serious injury. An important way that we can communicate our decisions during these times, however, is by having an “advance directive” in place.

Advance directives are written, legal documents that outline your decisions regarding medical care when you are unable to make them. They assist doctors and caregivers in making medical decisions on your behalf, and they can be written at any age.

There are several types of advance directives:

Health care power of attorney (also called “durable power of attorney for health care” or “health care proxy”). This is a type of advance directive in which you appoint a person you trust to make medical decisions on your behalf when you are unable to do so. This may be a family member, partner, or friend.

Living will. This is a written, legal document that outlines your wishes for certain medical or end-of-life care treatments. These may range from mechanical ventilation to tube feeding, to even organ and tissue donations.

Do-Not-Resuscitate Orders (DNR). This order informs health care providers not to perform CPR if your breathing or heart were to stop.

While advance directives are not required, it may be a good idea to have one in place so that you can have peace of mind knowing that you’re in control of your health care in the event that you are unable to make decisions for yourself.

It should be noted that state requirements regarding advance directives, such as living wills, may vary, so be sure to check your local state laws if you decide to create one for yourself. Also, be sure to keep a copy of your living will for yourself, as well as provide copies to family members, health care providers, and your health care power of attorney. Advance directives can be changed at any time, but just be sure to redistribute copies as necessary.

For more information about advance directives, check out the following resource links:

Advance Care Planning | UNC Health Care: UNC Medical Center

Living Wills and Health Care Powers of Attorney | North Carolina Bar Association

Living Wills and Advance Directives for Medical Decisions | Mayo Clinic

References:

Advance care directives. (2017, September 5). Retrieved from https://medlineplus.gov/ency/patientinstructions/000472.htm

Advance directives. (2017, July 24). Retrieved from https://medlineplus.gov/advancedirectives.html#summary

Creating advance directives. (2014, November 11). Retrieved from http://www.mayoclinic.org/healthy-lifestyle/consumer-health/in-depth/living-wills/art-20046303?pg=2

Living wills and advance directives for medical decisions. (2014, November 11). Retrieved from http://www.mayoclinic.org/healthy-lifestyle/consumer-health/in-depth/living-wills/art-20046303

 

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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Organic by any other name: 2017 Dirty Dozen

You have two sets of potatoes in the grocery store.  One is $0.99/lb.  The other is $1.50/lb and has an organic sticker on it.  If you’re like me you sit there thinking, “Why would I pay more for a little sticker?  I’ll pay a little less and save the change.”  Now, let’s find out if we made the right choice.

Organic basically means that products including lotions, oils and produce are made with fewer chemicals.  (Note that I say fewer we’ll address this in a minute.)  This word is regulated by the USDA which means, unlike terms like cage-free and natural, not just anyone can slap the word organic on something to sell products.  There is a strict list of chemicals and pesticides that the USDA has approved for use on organic produce.  So, while organic isn’t always 100% chemical free, organic farmers do use a lot fewer chemicals than traditional farmers.  When it comes to produce, there is a huge difference in the chemical content.  A lot of food grown in our country is essentially doused in chemicals to keep rodents, fungus, and bugs at bay.  A list comes out every year noting the foods most heavily laden with harsh chemicals.  Allow me to introduce this year’s “dirty dozen”:

1. Strawberries

2. Spinach

3. Nectarines

4. Apples

5. Peaches

6. Pears

7. Cherries

8. Grapes

9. Celery

10. Tomatoes

11. Sweet bell peppers

12. Potatoes

(Source: www.ewg.org)

I can already hear people saying “What’s the point if chemicals could still be present?  “There are chemicals in everything so what’s the point of organic?”  Sure, but what if I told you some people have noted over 20 different pesticides on strawberries?  And that some of the pesticides used by traditional farmers are things like DDT, a chemical linked to cancer and reproductive issues. Other pesticides are linked to brain damage, birth defects and Parkinson’s.  Consumers have to look out for their own best interests.  We have to take responsibility for our own health by paying close attention to what we put in our bodies. Next time you’re out shopping, consider picking up the organic potatoes.  Selecting some organic items could help you live a longer more healthy life.

How to Have a Healthy Holiday Season

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

As the song goes… “It’s the most wonderful time of the year,” but is it? The holiday season is a wonderful time to enjoy time with friends and family, but it can also be a stressful time. Airports are crowded and you may be exposed to more people (and germs) than you are used to. I often forget to take care of myself and end each holiday season with a very memorable cold, and this year it is my goal to be as mindful as possible. It is also important to take care of not only your physical health but your mental health as well.

Below are some important tips to remember to have a healthy holiday season.

Holiday Health Tips

  • Wash your hands often
  • Stay warm
  • Manage stress
  • Travel safely
  • Handle and prepare food safely
  • Eat healthy
  • Be active

How to handle holiday stress

  • Take time for yourself
  • Volunteer
  • Have realistic expectations
  • Remember what is important
  • Seek support

What will you be doing to have a healthy holiday season this year?

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.

 

Technology and Sleep: Timing is Everything [Infographic]

GUEST BLOGGER: John Rehm

According to a poll conducted by the National Sleep Foundation, the average American looks at their phone 46 times day and uses gadgets for 11 hours a day. In addition, 90 percent of adults and 75 percent of children use their electronic devices within an hour of bedtime.

The result: Americans are being exposed to short-wavelength blue light that affects their circadian rhythm, which determines when we feel tired or awake. The infographic below was created by Nursing@Georgetown, Georgetown University’s School of Nursing and Health Studies’ online FNP program, to explain how light affects our ability to fall asleep. For more information, visit Nursing@Georgetown’s post here.

screens_and_sleep_infographic

Authorship of Medical Publications

Last week I briefly introduced the concept of professional medical writers. These individuals are hired to write or create medical publications (such as abstracts, journal articles, and conference posters or presentations) on behalf of, or in collaboration with the actual researchers. Medical writers are often used because researchers do not have the time, interest, or the writing expertise to create high quality, publishable work in a timely manner. However, the listed authors still need to be involved in the writing process, and have specific obligations to fulfil in order to qualify as an author.

The International Committee of Medical Journal Editors (ICMJE) recommends that authorship be based on the following 4 criteria: http://www.icmje.org/icmje-recommendations.pdf

  1. Substantial contributions to the conception or design of the work; or the acquisition, analysis, or interpretation of data for the work; AND
  2. Drafting the work or revising it critically for important intellectual content; AND
  3. Final approval of the version to be published; AND
  4. Agreement to be accountable for all aspects of the work in ensuring that questions related to the accuracy or integrity of any part of the work are appropriately investigated and resolved.

Authorship is one of the major ways in which researchers get credit for the work that they do, which in turn often leads to professional and financial benefits. However, being designated as an author also carries a level of responsibility, as it serves as a public acknowledgement that an individual is willing and able to vouch for a publication and field any questions or critiques that may arise after publication of the work. Therefore, it is important that ethical authorship practices continue to be upheld, and that medical writers are used appropriately.

Health Symptoms Men Shouldn’t Ignore

Although life expectancy is at it’s all time high of  78 years old, women are still expected to live at least five years longer than men. Why? The answer is simple: men just aren’t addressing their health problems. 

Studies show that men are half as likely to consult doctors than women, and were three times as likely to admit going more than five years without a visit! While this may not seem like a big deal to many, ignoring symptoms can often lead to worsening of health. Sometimes even the smallest symptoms can be signs of much more serious problems.

Here are just a few symptoms you should never ignore:

Problems in the Bedroom- Aside from causing obvious problems with performance, erectile dysfunction can be a sign of a much more serious problem that affects blood flow, like heart disease.

Chronic Snoring- While most people brush snoring off as a normal (and annoying) habit, it can actually be a sign of sleep apnea, a disorder where breathing is interrupted during sleep. Sleep apnea not only disrupts quality of sleep but can lead to an increased risk of high blood pressure, heart attack, and stroke.

Trouble urinating- If you find yourself getting up several times in the night to pee, or feel pain or a burning sensation while going, it could be a sign of an enlarged or enflamed prostate, which can also be a sign of prostate cancer.

So if you find yourself with any of these symptoms, or anything else that seems out of the ordinary, make sure to contact your healthcare provider immediately. The sooner you address these problems, the sooner you find a solution and live a longer, healthier life.