Category: Uncategorized

Health Literacy: The final healthcare barrier?

How can health professionals support and serve our most vulnerable populations? When discussing access to health care, income and location are generally agreed upon barriers to access. Populations who live just above the poverty line often do not qualify for government assistance; however, without it, they often cannot afford coverage. Similarly, populations that live in rural areas often have less lack access to health services. One barrier that accompanies these and is often overlooked is health literacy.

Literacy is not only an education issue it affects access to healthcare as well. When populations have difficulty reading, they may misunderstand health brochures or worse take medication incorrectly. According to Kelly Warnock, Program Manager at the Durham County Health Department, health professionals have a responsibility to reach populations where they are. After working for over 10 years with lower-income, low literacy populations, Ms. Warnock believes that it is possible to increase all communities’ access to healthcare and health information. For health professionals, that means being creative with communication techniques organizing information clearly, using visuals, and non-technical language. If you’re interested in learning more about health literacy and communication, check out this resource from the Food Research and Action Center.


Take a Walk

Walking is one of my favorite forms of exercise. It’s free, it’s easy to do, it requires no fancy gym equipment, and it can be done almost anywhere or anytime! I especially enjoy walking outside during the fall season, where the air is cool and crisp, and I am able to see the changing colors of the fall leaves.

As you may already know, walking can be a healthy form of physical activity. It can lower your risk of heart disease and type 2 diabetes as well as strengthen your muscles. Walking can also improve your mood and lower stress. Adults need 150 minutes of moderate-intensity aerobic activity per week, and brisk walking for just 30 minutes per day for 5 days a week can help meet this need.

Finding a friend or family member to walk with you or joining a walking club may be helpful ways to incorporate more walking into your life.

For more information about walking, check out these resources:

Fitness: Walking for Wellness | WebMD

Walking: A Step in the Right Direction | NIH

Happy walking!


Fitness: Walking for Wellness. (2015, July 10). Retrieved from

Walking: A Step in the Right Direction. (2017, April). Retrieved from

Sleeping Positions and Health

We all know sleep is important for our health… but what about our sleeping positions?

There are several sleeping positions we may find ourselves in. These may include sleeping on our side, our back, in a fetal position, or on our stomach. Each sleeping position carries its own level of health benefits.

Sleeping in a fetal position. This popular sleeping position is good for your spine, and it can also help prevent snoring. A loose (less tightly-curled) fetal position–particularly on your left side–is especially good for health, facilitating breathing and blood circulation.

Sleeping on your stomach. While this sleeping position may reduce snoring, it may not be the healthiest. Sleeping on your stomach can cause neck and back pain, and it can also put pressure on your muscles, causing numbness.

Sleeping on your side. This common sleeping position can be very healthy. Not only does it reduce neck and back pain, but it can also reduce snoring by keeping your airways open, helping you to breathe better. Additionally, placing a pillow between your legs in this sleeping position can provide extra support to both your hips and back.

Sleeping on your back. This sleeping position may be good for quality sleep – your weight is evenly distributed, and your head, neck, and spine are neutrally positioned. Additionally, placing a pillow underneath your knees while sleeping in this position can provide extra support for your spine. Also, using a pillow to support your head can be helpful when sleeping in this position. Sleeping on your back, however, can induce sleep apnea, as well as aggravate snoring and/or digestive problems such as acid reflux.

What’s your preferred sleeping position? What are your thoughts?

Happy Sleeping!


Sleeping Positions. (2017). Retrieved from

Starfish or Freefall? What Your Sleep Position Can Tell You. (2017). Retrieved from

The Best Sleep Position for Your Body. (N.d.) Retrieved from

What’s the Best Position to Sleep In? (2017). Retrieved from

Featured image taken from (user “Jon Huss”).

Normalization and Solidarity in Mass Communication–what are the impacts of the #MeToo posts?

As a student in health communication, I cannot help but be curious of the health impacts of the massive sharing of #MeToo stories on social media this past week. It’s rapid and broad spread globally is significant. The Hindustan Times reports that within 24 hours, the hashtag had been used more than 500,000 times and on Facebook an additional 12 million (the linked article is also an interesting take from a global perspective) . A few days later, this number was much closer to 10 million.

Here are some questions that have been floating around since last Sunday:

  • What is the impact for victims/survivors (source: CNN)?

For some, this may be therapeutic–it may create a safe space and a sense of solidarity that encourages catharsis and reflection on an often stigmatized and complicated issue. However, it can also be an emotional trigger for those who are not prepared to speak publicly or feel compelled to share a personal and traumatic experience.

  • How does this sentiment translate into action?

A Washington Post contributor discusses that while speaking out on social media is encouraging, it remains to be seen whether the dialogue initiated will lead to actual actions. It’s hard to  measure the how and if such a socially embedded problem changes. It is also worth considering social circles–the fact that while our friend groups on social media are supportive, in some cases they may not be the ones that need to hear the message most. As the Hindustan Times article linked above asked, what do we need to do to make sure there is no reason to tweet MeToo years from now?

  • What makes a movement viral, and how can this be harnessed to improve health outcomes?

This is non-specific to the topic of sexual abuse, but in general, what are the factors that made the MeToo hashtag catch on so quickly? It’s personal nature? It’s ubiquity? Recent news? Media studies say most hashtags are created ad hoc, perhaps that is more genuine and reflective of users’ needs, though efforts have been made to generate disease specific discussions…but I wonder what the role of these hashtags and surrounding dialogue will be in a few years. As people rely increasingly on social media for information in addition to sharing content, how will this be leveraged by those who wish to propagate information?

Interested to hear your thoughts about social media and health-related campaigns/movements–this one in particular, or others.

Fair and Scare

The end of today marks the start of Fall Break! As the weather grows chillier and the last of midterms are turned in, what are a couple uniquely fall activities you may want to check out?

Bring 5 cans of food and gain free admission to the N.C. State Fair.

Thursday: October 19, Raleigh

“Food Lion Hunger Relief Day at the Fair is one of the largest one-day canned-food drives in the state, held each year to benefit the Food Bank of Central and Eastern North Carolina. Since 1993, more than 4.4 million pounds of food have been donated by fairgoers. Food Bank volunteers and employees of Food Lion and the N.C. Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services will exchange cans for Fair tickets at each admission gate.”

Embrace the Halloween spirit at Carowinds amusement park.

Weekend Evening: October 20-22, Charlotte

“Fear rises when darkness falls when Carowinds is transformed from a ‘theme park’ into a ‘scream park’ during the annual haunt of SCarowinds. Experience the thrills of your favorite rides and the chills of over 16 terrifying haunted attractions and shows. With over ghastly 500 monsters waiting to feed off your screams, there’s no place to hide during the Carolinas largest Halloween event.”

Have a safe and fun Fall Break!

Updates on Food Labeling in the US

Along with household chores and laundry, grocery shopping is a part of my weekly routine. (Welcome to adulthood!) Meal planning saves me a lot of time and keeps me organized with my busy graduate school schedule. I don’t have to worry about what I’m eating on a daily basis because I planned ahead.  When planning meals and grocery shopping, I’m always sure to look for low-sodium and lower fat options that taste good and keep my body health. (If you haven’t tried Skinny Pop, you’re missing out!) Food labels make finding healthy options a lot easier because I can simply flip a box over to find the sodium, fat and calorie content along with vitamins and minerals. Easy access to information makes it simple to make healthy choices, but this could all change.

In 2016, the US Food and Drug Administration unveiled new food labeling requirements. These requirements are meant to give food shoppers, even more, access to information. The new labels will include details about added sugars and serving sizes that reflect what people generally eat instead of recommended serving sizes. The initial implementation date was set for 2018 but was extended to 2021 after organizations like the Grocery Manufacturers Association and the Food Marketing Institute petitioned for an extension. These organizations represent some of the largest trade organizations within the food industry. They are currently encouraging the use of SmartLabel, an online database that lists ingredient and nutrition information. While at first glance this initiative seems like a one-stop shop for desired food information, it’s not that simple. Check out what the Environmental Working Group has to say about these not so smart labels and let us know what you think in the comments below.

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.


Prevalence of Obesity among Adults and Youth: United States, 2015-2016. (2017, October). Retrieved from

Nutrition and Weight Status. (2017, October 13). Retrieved from

Eat Right. (N.d.). Retrieved from

Be Physically Active. (N.d.) Retrieved from

Maps are not uncharted territory!!

Ignoring how corny the title of this post is, you must admit it’s true. Odds are you have looked at a map sometime in the last week–probably on  a GPS, maybe in a research or news article, perhaps on the globe that sits idly in your office or living room? Did that map catch your eye?

A map is charted territory, but it doesn’t have to be limited to a Mercator projection showing geographic data. Maybe it’s been off my radar, but I don’t think I’ve reflected enough on just how powerful a map can be in communicating about health-related topics. In a public health seminar class this evening, our eyes were opened to just how much information can be presented powerfully by effectively manipulating a map. Here are a few of the maps we discussed:





If you’re interested in poring over a few more, this site has 38! Also, I know I’ve posted this TED talk on this blog before, but it really is pretty amazing for Hans Rollin’s remarkably effective story-telling using data. I’d go so far as to  say some popcorn wouldn’t be uncalled for –stat!–but data is just my opinion. (Sorry)


National Coming Out Day: Empowering, Heteronormative, or somewhere in between?

Tomorrow, on Wednesday, October 11th, the Human Rights Campaign (HRC) will commemorate the 29th annual observance of National Coming Out Day, to “celebrate coming out as lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer (LGBTQ)”. Many fine this day an opportunity to reflect back on and share their own coming out story, the HRC frames the day “as a reminder that one of our most basic tools is the power of coming out”. While my own process of coming out, at least in the sense mentioned above, I have some issues with this notion that it is a process with a shareable end goal, that I am able conveniently post to social media (based on the privilege I have in society), to remind my friends and family that I am queer, in case how I am living my life did not make that obvious enough.

On one hand, there is something to be said about the need for visibility, simply having a presence of owning your identity can be empowering, and it can help others in their process of finding their identity. But at the same time, I cannot help but wonder if the emphasis placed on coming out only serves to be heteronormative in nature, this need to distinguish yourself as the “other”. I also have issue with the idea that only LGBTQ+ individuals need to take the time to process what their sexual attractions and gender identities are, and more importantly how they define them and their place in the world. Why is it so normalized to own and share this counter narrative, when say, someone who identifies as a cisgender straight man is just accepted and believed in their identity?

Coming out also reinforces this idea that this process has an end goal, you spend some time, realize you’re not straight, share it with your friends and family, and done. This week, I want to encourage everyone to take a moment, think about how you feel with sexual orientation and gender identity, and consider how it positions you in the spaces that you occupy and the world around you, and the think about the ways that it can make it easier or more difficult for those in your circles who are not straight, are not cisgender. Does it give them space, and does it allow others to be open to themselves, and do you use your privilege to challenge that status quo to make that easier?

Eyes on the Road! Avoid Distracted Driving

Distracted driving involves any sort of activity that takes someone’s attention away from driving. This may be taking your eyes, your hands, or your mind off of the road. Some of us may find ourselves guilty of doing this, while some of us may have witnessed others involved in distracted driving. According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, 3,477 lives were lost due to distracted driving in 2015. That is 3,477 lives too many.

One main type of distracted driving involves texting or talking on the phone while driving. This is especially concerning among teens. In a 2015 National Occupant Protection Use survey, handheld cell phone use was found to be highest among 16-24 year old drivers. It’s important that teen drivers and their parents have conversations about safe, distraction-free driving.

Many states already have laws in place that ban texting while driving. As of June 2017, 14 states as well as the District of Columbia, have laws in effect that ban drivers from operating hand-held devices. Even using hands-free devices can be distracting while driving. Protect your life and the life of others—avoid distracted driving. If you need to answer a text or phone call, pull over to a safe place, stop, and then answer.

Check out some helpful resources below:

Traffic Safety Facts | National Highway Traffic Safety Administration

Distracted Driving | National Highway Traffic Safety Administration

Tips for Preventing Distracted Driving | The AAA Exchange

Learn the Causes and Dangers of Distracted Driving | Students Against Destructive Decisions

Distracted Driving. (N.d.) Retrieved from
Distracted Driving. (2017, June 9). Retrieved from

Driver Electronic Device Use in 2015. (2016, September). Retrieved from

Learn the Causes and Dangers of Distracted Driving. (2017). Retrieved from