Category: Uncategorized

Vaping on the Rise

In 1965, the National Health Interview Survey (NHIS) began tracking cigarette smoking in the United States. Although it is still a widespread and serious problem in the US, the rates of traditional cigarette smoking have steadily declined. Now, in 2018, our nation is faced with a new tobacco use: vaping.

A new statement by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) states that adolescents are vaping at a dangerous level. From 2017 to 2018, the FDA found an 80% increase in the number of high schoolers vaping, and a 50% increase in middle schoolers. In total, the FDA and the Centers for Disease Control found that one out of five high schoolers have vaped in the last month.

Many people worry that the spike in adolescent vaping is a result of youth-targeted branding by e-cigarette companies. In particular, many people have pointed fingers at the e-cigarette brand “Juul”. In the recent past, Juul’s advertising campaigns contained images full of young faces, bright colors, and several fruit-flavored vaping options. Now, due to a series of initiatives from the FDA, Juul has recalled many of these campaigns and suspended sales of untraditional flavors.

Evidence does suggest that e-cigarettes should be safer than traditional tobacco cigarettes. However, these products are still new to the market and health-associated risks have not been fully evaluated.  In addition, when adolescents vape they are still being exposed to nicotine. This is a dangerous and addictive substance which can be harmful to a developing brain.

 

 

https://www.cdc.gov/media/releases/2018/p0118-smoking-rates-declining.html

https://www.fda.gov/NewsEvents/Newsroom/PressAnnouncements/ucm625884.htm

https://www.cnn.com/2018/11/15/health/fda-vaping-ecigarette-regulation/index.html

https://www.nytimes.com/2018/11/13/health/juul-ecigarettes-vaping-teenagers.html

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4110871/

https://e-cigarettes.surgeongeneral.gov/knowtherisks.html

 

 

 

Health and the midterm elections

Today is election day. Across the country there are numerous elections which are weighing in on important health issues. There are several important health topics in the ballots, including: abortion rights, Medicaid expansion, marijuana usage, grocery taxes, and laws related to drug use and possession charges. Due to the political leanings of the current national administration, abortion rights are particularly vulnerable during this time.

Alabama, West Virginia, and Oregon are voting on legislation which will seriously affect access to abortion. On Alabama’s ballot, a newly proposed Amendment 2 is trying to change the wording which defines a fetus’ rights on the state Constitution. The amendment is aiming to grant a fetus the same rights and protections as a baby who has been born. If passed, this issue could have serious implications on further legislation which may eventually outlaw abortion in the state. In addition, this ballot measure doesn’t include the right to an abortion in the case of rape, incest, or if the mother’s life is at-risk.

West Virginia and Oregon are voting on measures which attempt to withhold state funding for abortion cases in respect to state employees and Medicaid recipients. However, in contrast to Alabama’s measure, these states do grant the right to victims of rape, incest, or when the mother’s life is in danger.

It is important to consider how our votes can act as determinants for health issues like these and many others. Voting at a state level can have a much larger impact on both national and local issues – especially pertaining to public health and medicine. Go out and vote today!

Look up your registration status, local polling place, and sample ballot here:

https://vt.ncsbe.gov/RegLkup/

 

 

https://www.cnn.com/2018/11/05/health/health-ballot-initiatives/index.html

https://ballotpedia.org/Alabama_Amendment_2,_State_Abortion_Policy_Amendment_(2018)

 

Run Long, Live Longer?

Everyone knows that regular exercise is good for you – it controls your weight, helps you combat disease, improves mood and energy, and many other benefits. However, the extent to which exercising can improve and lengthen your life is still being discovered. Now, a new literature review has shown that exercising regularly can generously lengthen life expectancy.

The review found that people who engage in the highest levels of physical activity lived up to 5.5 years on average longer than those who did not. A different study discovered similar benefits. Researchers found that women who regularly exercised were at a 31% lower chance of dying prematurely.

These results show that exercise may be a crucial tool to living a longer life. The Centers for Disease Control (CDC) has published physical activity guidelines which can help people improve their health by exercising. Following these recommendations can help anyone engage in this healthy behavior, and get them on track for a longer, healthier lifestyle.

 

https://www.mayoclinic.org/healthy-lifestyle/fitness/in-depth/exercise/art-20048389

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6139866/pdf/ms115_p0098.pdf

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/25844730

https://www.cdc.gov/cancer/dcpc/prevention/policies_practices/physical_activity/guidelines.htm

 

 

October is Health Literacy Month!

Founded in 1999 by Helen Osborne, Health Literacy Month is all about promoting understandable health information. This information is critical in order for individuals to make appropriate health decisions.

Health literacy is the ability to obtain, process, and understand basic health information and services. This includes reading, writing, and numeracy of health information. Sometimes, health information can be difficult to understand and communicate among different audiences. This can make navigating the healthcare system challenging.

According to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, 77 million U.S. adults have basic or below basic health literacy. Low health literacy can lead to poor health outcomes, such low uptake of preventive health services and/or greater use of treatment health services. This can lead to high healthcare costs.

There are many factors that can affect health literacy. Some of these factors include: education, age, language, and culture. Culture can play a key role in how one understands and responds to health information. Culture involves certain beliefs, values, communication styles that all can affect how one processes health information. Therefore, it is important that health information is communicated in a way that is culturally appropriate for the individual or audience.

One key setting for health literacy is that of patient and health care providers. Patients may have difficulty understanding complex medical information, while providers may have difficulty communicating complex medical information. It is important for providers and patients to work together in order to ensure that health information is understood and communicated effectively, so that the best health care decisions are made for the patient.

Interested in learning more about health literacy? Check out the following resources from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention:

Additional resources from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services:

References:

Kindig, D. A., Panzer, A. M., & Nielsen-Bohlman, L. (Eds.). (2004). Health literacy: a prescription to end confusion. National Academies Press.

National Institutes of Health. (2017, May 31). Health Literacy. Retrieved from https://www.nih.gov/institutes-nih/nih-office-director/office-communications-public-liaison/clear-communication/health-literacy

U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. (2008). America’s Health Literacy: Why We Need Accessible Health Information. Retrieved from https://health.gov/communication/literacy/issuebrief/

U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.  (N.d.). Quick Guide to Health Literacy: Fact Sheet – Health Literacy Basics. Retrieved from https://health.gov/communication/literacy/quickguide/factsbasic.htm

U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.  (N.d.). Quick Guide to Health Literacy: Fact Sheet – Health Literacy and Health Outcomes. Retrieved from https://health.gov/communication/literacy/quickguide/factsbasic.htm
U.S. National Library of Medicine. (N.d.). Health Literacy: Definition. Retrieved from https://nnlm.gov/initiatives/topics/health-literacy

Yogurt: a health food packing stealthy sugar

It seems as if everyone is always trying to find foods that are both nutritious AND delicious. Recently, it seems as if yogurt has become many people’s go-to option. Yogurt is praised for its nutritious profile: it’s high in protein, calcium, and “healthy” probiotics. While all this remains true, it’s important to consider the looming sugar content within these products.

A new study is criticizing many popular yogurts for their deceptively high sugar contents. Within the study – which examined over 900 yogurt brands found in UK grocery stores – only 9% of general yogurts can be considered low in sugar. What’s worse, only a measly 2% of yogurts marketed exclusively to children can be classified as low sugar.

Along with these findings, it became apparent that products marketed as “organic” may be among the worst offenders. Organic is a term used to described the processes behind a food’s production. Although items which are USDA Organic Certified may be produced ethically, this label does not have specific nutrition implications. Despite this, people often think an organic product is healthier than a non-organic option. The study found quite the opposite: that organic yogurts have substantial amounts of sugar, especially when compared to their natural and Greek yogurt counterparts.

As a snack, yogurt is not a bad choice. The health benefits prevail, and it often beats out many other sugary snack options. But when picking out your next yogurt at the store, it’s worthwhile to pause and consider the varying sugar contents. This way, you can pick the healthiest option… or just call it dessert.

 

https://invisiverse.wonderhowto.com/news/yogurt-isnt-just-probiotic-its-unique-proteins-kill-bad-bacteria-0178030/

https://bmjopen.bmj.com/content/8/8/e021387

https://www.foodandwaterwatch.org/about/live-healthy/consumer-labels?gclid=Cj0KCQjwuafdBRDmARIsAPpBmVXF1IT7cB-KLvFRhzGXTiRjwaGDyUr5wOmO3zPqDxUJn8YLRswira4aAgHiEALw_wcB

 

 

 

Dr. Leana Wen Selected as New President of Planned Parenthood

Last week, it was announced that Dr. Leana Wen, Baltimore City Health Commissioner, will serve as the new president of Planned Parenthood Federation of America, an organization that provides vital sexual and reproductive health care and education to millions of people around the world. Dr. Wen will be the first physician in almost 50 years to serve in this role. She will succeed Cecile Richards, who has served as president of Planned Parenthood for the past 12 years.

Dr. Wen, an emergency medicine physician, has led the Baltimore City Health Department since January 2015. She is a passionate public health leader and active champion for communities and patients. During her tenure as Baltimore City Health Commissioner, Dr. Wen led a lawsuit against the Trump administration after its abrupt decision to cut funding for teen pregnancy prevention programs, resulting in $5 million of funding being restored to two of these programs in Baltimore. Additionally, Dr. Wen has fought to preserve Title X in Baltimore, which funds a variety of health care services for low-income women.

Dr. Wen is no stranger to Planned Parenthood. After she and her family immigrated to the U.S. from China, they depended on Planned Parenthood for their health care. Dr. Wen also volunteered at a Planned Parenthood health center in St. Louis during medical school.

In a recent statement posted on the Baltimore City Health Department website, Dr. Wen wrote:

“A core principle in public health is to go where the need is. The single biggest public health catastrophe of our time is the threat to women’s health and the health of our most vulnerable communities.”

She continues, in referring to Planned Parenthood, writing:

“I have seen firsthand the lifesaving work it does for our most vulnerable communities. As a doctor, I will ensure we continue to provide high-quality health care, including the full range of reproductive care, and will fight to protect the access of millions of patients who rely on Planned Parenthood.”

Dr. Wen’s last day as Baltimore City Health Commissioner will be Friday, October 12th, where she will then begin her new role as President of Planned Parenthood.

References:

Planned Parenthood. (N.d.). Dr. Leana Wen. Retrieved from  https://www.plannedparenthood.org/about-us/our-leadership/dr-leana-wen

Planned Parenthood. (N.d.). Cecile Richards. Retrieved from  https://www.plannedparenthood.org/about-us/our-leadership/cecile-richards

Zernike, Kate. (2018, September 12). Planned Parenthood Names Leana Wen, a Doctor, Its New President. Retrieved from https://www.nytimes.com/2018/09/12/us/politics/planned-parenthood-president-wen.html?rref=collection%2Fsectioncollection%2Fpolitics

Wen, Leana S. (2018, July 6). Trump’s family planning dystopia. Retrieved from http://www.baltimoresun.com/news/opinion/oped/bs-ed-op-0708-wen-dystopia-20180703-story.html

Baltimore City Health Department. (2018, September 12). Statement from Baltimore City Health Commissioner, Dr. Leana Wen. Retrieved from https://health.baltimorecity.gov/news/press-releases/2018-09-12-statement-baltimore-city-health-commissioner-dr-leana-wen

Soot Happens

A new study released from the Queen Mary University of London has shown for the first time that air pollution exposure can affect a pregnant woman’s placenta. The placenta is a vital organ which develops during a woman’s pregnancy. It is responsible for providing nutrients and oxygen to a developing baby. In addition, it also serves as an immune system barrier for the baby, which is vulnerable during pregnancy. Any injuries inflicted on the placenta can have serious health effects on the unborn child.

The Queen Mary study examined placenta cells of five women who were exposed to air pollution. Within the samples, researchers found evidence of the presence of soot. Soot is a common air pollutant classified as particulate matter. This type of pollution is made of large damaging particles, and can often be found coming from power plants, manufacturing sites, and motor vehicles. Soot exposure is dangerous, and it is the cause of thousands of premature deaths annually. The findings of this study are novel and alarming – it demonstrates that inhaled particulate matter can travel from the lungs to the placenta.

Placental immune cells are necessary to keep an unborn baby healthy. If the placental immune system is compromised, so is that of the growing baby. It is still unclear what this study’s findings mean for fetal-placental health in the long term. However, researchers on this study are particularly concerned about how soot exposure may disrupt this system.

One thing is clear – this news is disturbing. The study demonstrated that air pollution damage does not stop at the lungs. The conversation about air pollution is not always an environmental one; many pollutants like soot affect human health dramatically. Going forward, it is important to consider how these findings should influence policy. Regulating air pollution is a necessary step to take in order to protect the health of people worldwide.

 

 

https://www.momscleanairforce.org/soot-facts/

https://www.qmul.ac.uk/media/news/2018/smd/first-evidence-that-soot-from-polluted-air-may-be-reaching-placenta.html

https://www.mayoclinic.org/healthy-lifestyle/pregnancy-week-by-week/in-depth/placenta/art-20044425

https://www.nichd.nih.gov/research/supported/HPP/default

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3025805/

 

 

Faculty Spotlight: Dr. Maria Leonora “Nori” Comello

Our IHC Colloquium class was recently joined by none other than Dr. Maria Leonora “Nori” Comello, Associate Professor in the School of Media and Journalism at The University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.  Dr. Comello spoke with our class about her research and work at UNC, describing her path to research and academia.

Dr. Comello’s research involves the intersection of strategic communication, health, and identity. Some of her most recent research (1) has focused on the role of intrinsic motivation in recreational videogames and its effect on psychological outcomes among cancer survivors. Dr. Comello and her team found that cancer survivors were motivated to play videogames for “intrinsic rewards” such as stimulation and having a sense of accomplishment, as well as for development of self and a sense of community.

Outside of her research, Dr. Comello has also taught several courses in the UNC School of Media and Journalism, including: PR Campaigns, Advertising & PR Research, and the Interdisciplinary Health Communication Seminar.

Dr. Comello completed her M.S. degree in Technical Communication and Ph.D. in Communication at Colorado State University and The Ohio State University, respectively. She joined the UNC School of Media and Journalism in 2010.

References:

1. Comello, M. L. G., Francis, D. B., Marshall, L. H., & Puglia, D. R. (2016). Cancer    survivors who play recreational computer games: Motivations for playing and associations with beneficial psychological outcomes. Games for health journal, 5(4), 286-292. DOI:10.1089/g4h.2016.0003

Hurricanes & Our Health

As Hurricane Florence approaches, there are many worries on the minds of those who live in its path. Residents in the South Eastern United States are anxious about the wellbeing of their property, belongings, surrounding environment and loved ones. Along with these concerns, it’s important to be weary of how a destructive hurricane can also have serious implications on medicine and public health. Considering these risks before the onset of the storm could eliminate smaller preventable problems and render larger issues easier to address.

Before the hurricane arrives, it’s advised that any medical prescriptions be refilled and retrieved promptly. Resultant power outages and infrastructural damages may limit a pharmacy’s ability to operate and supply their patients’ needs. If you know you are at risk of power outages, it’s important to stock up on non-perishable foods, water, and anything else necessary for your individual health. Along with this, following proper safety precautions to protect your home from water and wind damage can also prevent a number of storm-related injuries.

In North Carolina, the magnitude of rain expected to come with Hurricane Florence is especially worrisome. Excessive rainfall could cause flooding in farmland which contain animal manure lagoons. Such lagoons could overflow, spreading waste and increasing risk of disease transmission. Additionally, North Carolina is home to a number of dangerous coal-ash ponds. If these sites flood, it could unleash this waste into the surrounding environment. Coal-ash is toxic, and if released from ponds could contaminate people’s public drinking water.

 

https://www.wltx.com/article/news/local/make-preparations-for-your-health-ahead-of-hurricane-florence/101-592900265

 

http://time.com/5392478/hurricane-florence-risks-sludge-manure/

 

https://www.nationalgeographic.com/environment/natural-disasters/hurricane-safety-tips/

 

 

 

New things to know about your cup of joe

The general public loves to scrutinize the coffee drinking habit. Multitudes are drinking it (in relatively large amounts) – so what does that mean for us? In recent years, research and public opinion has begun to favor the pros of drinking coffee. Some studies have even shown that there are significant health benefits which may be associated your daily cup of joe.

Despite this trend, news has recently surfaced which may upset these well-received findings. When coffee beans are roasted at a high temperature, they produce a chemical called acrylamide. It has been shown that higher doses of acrylamide can be harmful, and has been linked to cancer. This chemical cannot be separated from a coffee product; if someone drinks coffee, they are likely exposed to the chemical.

This evidence appears grim, but don’t dismay coffee drinkers. There are a few silver-linings to this story. The formal research on acrylamide is still inconclusive, as exposure has not been directly linked to any specific cancer. Along with this, the amount of acrylamide in coffee appears to be minute. Due to this, California has recently pushed back against labeling coffee as a cancer-causing substance. Acrylamide intake can also be avoided by considering the amount and type of coffee consumed. Drinking a little less coffee means a little less exposure. Additionally, opting for dark-roasted beans tends to minimize exposure to chemical.

https://www.bmj.com/content/359/bmj.j5024

http://time.com/5222563/what-is-acrylamide/

https://www.healthline.com/nutrition/acrylamide-in-coffee#section3

https://www.usnews.com/news/healthcare-of-tomorrow/articles/2018-09-04/cancer-schmancer-in-california-coffee-is-king