Category: Research Findings

Health Benefits of Going Green

House plants have always been a staple of many people interior and exterior design. Our fascination and attraction to greenery is long-ingrained in human history. However, new research is show that there may be serious health benefits to being exposed to greenery. A UCLA study has shown that increasing “greenness” in urban settings can improve mental health.

In addition to this, there are a number of other studies which suggest positive relationships between greenness and a number of disease outcomes, such as obesity, preterm birth outcomes, depression and Alzheimer’s disease. These studies provide interesting and exciting glances into an emerging field, which highlights the importance of greenness and preserving natural landscapes. These things can improve public health, and likewise benefit our natural environment.,_Air.4.aspx





A Need to Address Student Stress

For both collegiate and graduate students, stress is a commonplace experience. Research findings are showing that students are experiencing anxiety at troubling and increasing rates. Nearly one in five American college students is burned with an anxiety disorder. Stress – specifically financial stress – is expected to be one of the factors underwriting this epidemic.

Although stress is traditionally defined as “how the brain and body respond to any demand”, particularly those which are negative – such as traumatic events, major life changes, etc. However, with stress can come a range of unexpected physical side effects. This includes but is not limited to: headaches, low energy, aches and pains and insomnia. Over time, when someone endures prolonged stress, it can lead to more serious consequences, such as anxiety and mental health deficits.

Experiencing some stress is a normal and necessary part of everyone’s lives. However, as mentioned above, excess stress can yield serious adverse health consequences. It’s important to keep one’s stress in balance, and has provided a short list of ways to help reduce stress:

  • Talk about your stress to a friend, or family member
  • Listen to music
  • Eat nutritious food
  • Exercise
  • Be mindful
  • Get better sleep




Sweet Savings: The Impact of Added Sugar Labels

In 2016, The FDA announced that manufacturers were going to be required to share the amount of added sugar on nutrition labels. A new report from Tufts University indicates that the health related savings of this new regulation will be significant. Researchers used mathematical modeling to predict how much the labels would reduce sugar intake—and consequently, how much of a decrease in diabetes and heart disease the U.S would see.

Over the next 20 years, they predict that it will prevent more than 350,000 cases of heart disease and more than 600,000 cases of type-2 diabetes. The health impact is significant, but the economic impact is staggering. Following the implementation of these new nutrition labels, we can expect to see more than THIRTY ONE BILLION dollars in healthcare savings.

Further, this estimate is conservative. If, like when the FDA ruled that trans fats had to be better labeled, companies respond to the rule by reducing the added sugar content of their products, the impact will be even greater.

Sometimes, small changes can make a big impact. Health communication for the win!

What do you think about the change in nutrition labels? Should the government be doing more to limit the sugar intake of Americans? Leave us a comment!

Allergies on the Rise Alongside Global Temperatures

It is becoming well-known that the impacts of climate change will extend far beyond environmental damages. Climate change is anticipated to affect many different aspects of human health. Infectious disease, temperature related illness and injury, and food safety are just a few areas which may be prone to yield serious consequences for human health. Within this, we are already seeing the impacts of climate change on health now.

Allergy season is upon us and is also vulnerable to on-going changes in our climate. It is understood that climate change is and will continue to affect air quality in a number of ways. These damages include increases in levels of regional ozone, particulate matter, and even allergen production. Rates of allergies have been on the rise – and while there are many theories as to why this may be, these rates have increased alongside rising temperatures. Increasing levels of CO2 and rising temperatures have been shown to amplify the allergenic effects of pollen and mold spores. Much of this is due to warmer temperatures, as it allows trees to be able to pollinate earlier in the season and for longer periods of time.

These events highlight the importance of supporting policy which acknowledges and addresses global warming as a threat. Climate change is not just an environmental issue – it is an issue of human health and quality of life. As we continue to see environmental changes and damages from climate change, we can expect to see continued impacts on human health.






The bond market, public health, and the future

Some may view public health and the bond market as opposites, but they are surprisingly intertwined.  This week the yield curve inverted, meaning that yields from long-term bonds dropped lower than those from short-term bonds.  Historically, this inversion signals a likely recession in the next 1-2 years.  While this news may lead to thoughts of recession preparation tactics such as getting a side job or diversifying investments, it may not necessarily trigger public health concerns.

However, this is a time to build our public health programs.  Higher unemployment numbers often accompany recessions.  These higher unemployment numbers are associated with individuals choosing fast food and junk food over fruits and vegetables.  Additionally, without jobs (and their associated health insurance), people seek medical and dental care less often.  Job loss, including recession related loss, is associated with increased housing and food insecurity– both of which are associated with poor health outcomes.  Suicide rates also increase during recessions.  Therefore, it may be time to start investing in programs for mental health, nutrition, and housing stability.  Surprisingly, during recessions all-cause mortality typically decreases. Some predict that this is due to fewer accidents, including on the job and commuter traffic accidents.

Though people face negative health effects associated with economic hardship during recessions, some evidence suggests they try to mitigate these issues through increased exercise and appropriate sleep habits.  Public health practitioners should find this news encouraging as unemployed people may have time to adopt and normalize healthy behaviors into their lifestyles (action or maintenance stage of the transtheoretical model for the theory fans out there).  However, the focus shouldn’t end there.  Though there is a dearth of literature outlining the impact of job re-entry on the healthy behaviors adopted during unemployment, it is plausible to believe that if available time led to healthier behaviors, then additional time devoted to a job may impede continued behavior practice.   As we want people to return to work, public health practitioners may focus on interventions that include implementation intentions, specifically “if-then” statements championed by P.M. Gollwitzer.  For instance, If I get a full-time job, then I’ll exercise after work.  These statements have been shown to help people overcome changes that would otherwise be barriers to maintaining health lifestyles.

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!


For more information, check out:

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

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.



Storytelling in the Clinic

Going to the doctor often seems like a process of repeating yourself over and over. You explain what’s wrong to the front desk, to the nurses, and to your doctor. Often, I leave the office more confused and overwhelmed than I did going in! Surprisingly, my best experiences with doctors have happened during routine check-ups when I’ve had the chance to just chat with my healthcare provider about everyday things unrelated to my visit. Yet our healthcare system incentivizes spending less time with more patients rather than spending more time getting to know them. As patients and health professionals, we should consider the many ways we can use storytelling to improve healthcare.

A study in 2018 of 102 articles that used storytelling in health care showed that we are primarily using different methods of storytelling to:

  1. Examine health risks and experiences,
  2. Engage and educate populations,
  3. Inform public health practice, and
  4. Educate clinical professionals and organizations.1

Storytelling can also be used to advance policy and advocacy, for conscience-raising, community-building and shifting the narrative from populations to individuals beyond the clinic room.

Creating spaces for providers and patients to exchange stories within healthcare enriches and empowers narratives of pain and triumph that are often bogged down in language of symptoms and diagnoses.

For more information, check out:

Tsuei, E.K. & Starecheski, A. (2018). Uses of oral history and digital storytelling in public health research and practice. Journal of Public Health (154), 24-30.

-Joanna Ramirez