Category: Uncategorized

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.

References

Prevalence of Obesity among Adults and Youth: United States, 2015-2016. (2017, October). Retrieved from https://www.cdc.gov/nchs/data/databriefs/db288.pdf

Nutrition and Weight Status. (2017, October 13). Retrieved from https://www.healthypeople.gov/2020/topics-objectives/topic/nutrition-and-weight-status/objectives

Eat Right. (N.d.). Retrieved from https://www.nhlbi.nih.gov/health/educational/lose_wt/eat/index.htm

Be Physically Active. (N.d.) Retrieved from https://www.nhlbi.nih.gov/health/educational/lose_wt/physical.htm

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:

Source: https://www.businessinsider.com.au/countries-that-drink-the-most-2015-1

source: http://brilliantmaps.com/population-circle/

source: https://www.vox.com/2014/8/26/6063749/38-maps-that-explain-the-global-economy

 

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

References:
Distracted Driving. (N.d.) Retrieved from https://www.nhtsa.gov/risky-driving/distracted-driving
Distracted Driving. (2017, June 9). Retrieved from https://www.cdc.gov/motorvehiclesafety/distracted_driving/index.html

Driver Electronic Device Use in 2015. (2016, September). Retrieved from https://www.nhtsa.gov/sites/nhtsa.dot.gov/files/documents/driver_electronic_device_use_in_2015_0.pdf

Learn the Causes and Dangers of Distracted Driving. (2017). Retrieved from https://www.sadd.org/what-we-care-about/traffic-safety/teens-distracted-driving/

CHIP in or out?

When it comes to healthcare coverage in the US….well, let’s just say it hasn’t had a historically smooth path. Among the political debates have been to whom the government should provide aid, how much, and how for how long…but everyone agrees that children should be have health insurance. Politically speaking, they are an easy group to support.

CHIP, The Children’s Health Insurance Program, was  created in 1997 as part of the Balance Budget Act of 1997. By 2000, every state had enrolled in CHIP-financed coverage. The cost of the program is split between states and the federal government via a formula called the Medicaid Federal Medical Assistance Percentage. But the split is actually more 71-29ish than 50-50, as Congress had also enhanced funding to match 15% more than what a state would cover–basically giving states a bigger incentive to enroll in the program.

Funding for CHIP expired on September 30th. The Affordable Care Act extended CHIP and further enhanced the federal matching rate, which should have continued through September 2019. Many states relied on this in their budgeting, and will face huge shortage if Congress does not extend federal funding.While Congress tries to pass legislation to rescue the program, states like Minnesota and Utah have already applied for emergency funding, and 27 additional states are expected to need more funds by March.

Legislation went through the Senate earlier today, but financial negotiations will need to be sorted across party lines before the vote can pass in the House.

Kaiser Health News  is a reliable source to stay up-to-date on the progress of the bill. It’s unlikely that a final decision will be made before the end of this month, but the bottom line is–nearly 9 million children’s insurance status depends on a successful resolution of this bill.

Superfood Spotlight: Chia Seeds

A member of the mint family, chia seeds are a nutrition-packed superfood. These tiny black seeds are a great source of fiber, protein, and omega-3 fatty acids that help to support digestion and blood sugar management. In just 1 ounce of chia seeds you can find a hefty 11 grams of fiber, 4 grams of protein, and 5 grams of omega-3 fatty acids! Not to mention, chia seeds are also rich in minerals such as calcium, iron, and magnesium.

Chia seeds can be eaten raw or they can be added to other dishes, such as soups, salads, and even baked goods. They can also be soaked in water where they form a gel-like texture that resembles that of tapioca. Because of this, one of my favorite uses for chia seeds is making chia pudding. While both nutritious and delicious, chia pudding is also super easy to make! I often prepare it at night so that I have it ready to eat for breakfast in the morning. Here is a delicious recipe for chia pudding (courtesy of MinimalistBaker.com).

Check out the following resources for more information about chia seeds:

Healthy Food Trends – Chia Seeds | MedlinePlus

National Nutrient Database for Standard Reference | USDA

References:

Basic Report: 12006, Seeds, chia seeds, dried. (2016, May). Retrieved from https://ndb.nal.usda.gov/ndb/foods/show/3610

Gunnars, K. 11 Proven Health Benefits of Chia Seeds. (2017, May 30). Retrieved from https://www.healthline.com/nutrition/11-proven-health-benefits-of-chia-seeds#section7

Healthy Food Trends – Chia Seeds. (2017, September 5). Retrieved from https://medlineplus.gov/ency/patientinstructions/000727.htm

Lewin, J. (2017, April 27). The health benefits of chia seeds. Retrieved from https://www.bbcgoodfood.com/howto/guide/health-benefits-chia-seeds

Weil, A. What is Chia? (2006, May 15). Retrieved from https://www.drweil.com/diet-nutrition/nutrition/what-is-chia/

Wolfram, T. (2017, June 1). What are Chia Seeds? Retrieved fromhttp://www.eatright.org/resource/food/vitamins-and-supplements/nutrient-rich-foods/what-are-chia-seeds

Teal Pumpkin Project: Promoting fun and safe Halloween treats for all

As my little one tries new foods, I pay close attention for any strange reactions that might indicate a food allergy. Food allergies are the result of an immune response to proteins found in food. The immune response can cause mild symptoms such as redness on the skin or an itchy mouth. Or it can cause more serious, life threatening symptoms, known as anaphylaxis, like trouble swallowing, shortness of breath, or loss of consciousness.

While more than 170 foods have been identified to cause allergic reactions, eight allergens are responsible for the majority, and the most severe, reactions in the United States. The ‘big’ eight include: egg, milk, peanut, tree nut, wheat, soy, fish, and shellfish.

It is estimated that upwards of 15 million people in the United States have food allergies, and that number is on the rise. A Centers for Disease Control & Prevention report states there is increasing prevalence of food allergies among children, and a recent media headline shared that insurance claims for anaphylactic (severe) food reactions are going up in adults too.

Although the reason(s) or cause(s) for these increases is unknown, what is known is that food allergies impact quality of life. Holidays can be a particularly challenging time for people with food allergies, but Food Allergy Research & Education (FARE) has initiated a worldwide movement to create a safer, happier Halloween for all. To support the movement, all you have to do is offer non-food treats, like bubbles or stickers, and place a teal pumpkin on your doorstep as a way to let families know you are safe for children with food allergies or other health concerns.

If Halloween is one of your favorite celebrations during the year, think about how a small change in what you hand out can allow others to experience the fun and tradition of trick-or-treating.

The TEAL PUMPKIN PROJECT and the Teal Pumpkin Image are trademarks of Food Allergy Research & Education (FARE)

 

Sources:                     

NIAID-Sponsored Expert Panel. Guidelines for the diagnosis and management of food allergy in the United States: Report of the NIAID-sponsored expert panel. J Allergy Clin Immunol. 2010; 126(6):S1-58

Jackson KD, Howie LD, Akinbami LJ. Trends in allergic conditions among children: United States, 1997-2011. NCHS data brief, no 121. Hyattsville, MD: National Center for Health Statistics. 2013. Retrieved from http://www.cdc.gov/nchs/products/databriefs/db121.htm.

National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, National Institutes of Health. Report of the NIH Expert Panel on Food Allergy Research. 2006. Retrieved from www.niaid.nih.gov/topics/foodallergy/research/pages/reportfoodallergy.aspx

United States Census Bureau Quick Facts (2015 estimates).

Shemesh E, Annunziato RA, Ambrose MA, Ravid NL, Mullarkey C, Rubes M, Chuang K, Sicherer M, Sicherer S. Child and parental reports of bullying in a consecutive sample of children with food allergy. Pediatrics 2013; 131:e10-e17.

Herbert L, Shemesh E, Bender B. Clinical management of psychosocial concerns related to food allergy. J Allergy Clin Immunol Pract. 2016; 4(2):205-213.

Bollinger ME; Dahlquist LM, Mudd K; Sonntag C, Dillinger L, McKenna K. The impact of food allergy on the daily activities of children and their families. Ann Allergy Asthma Immunol. 2006; 96:415-421.

Food Allergy Research & Education. Teal Pumpkin Project. https://www.foodallergy.org/education-awareness/teal-pumpkin-project

Reverse Type 2 Diabetes?

Yes, you read the title correctly. Researchers from the UK published a report in the British Medical Journal (BMJ) a couple weeks ago revealing they have had success with patients Beating Type 2 Diabetes into Remission.  Dr. Mike Lean, who co-authored the publication, spoke with an editor at the BMJ about the study which can be heard here.

Type 2 diabetes mainly stems from having excess body fat but once diagnosed, treatment usually ends at a tablet you take for the rest of your life to control your blood sugar. Very rarely do treatments take into effect the vascular issues or decreased life expectancy also experienced by those with diabetes.

So what is the miracle cure? Well as is the case for most chronic diseases, the cure is not locked inside a pill, rather within the contexts of a healthy lifestyle. A consistent exercise regimen coupled with a diet strategic to losing weight is the secret. Put simply, if you can lose weight and keep it off long enough remission can be possible.

Shockingly, they said reaching a healthy weight wasn’t the hardest part, but that maintaining a healthy weight is where people usually fail when striving to beat diabetes into remission.

So what do you think about this? As an optimistic health professional, this gives me hope for the future of our nation and globally in dealing with this chronic disease. Do you have any tips for maintaining a healthy weight? If so, share below!

 

AB

 

Emerging Emojis–the fight for a seat at the table

Do you sometimes feel like an emoji is the only way to perfectly embody the message, or the face, you are trying to convey?

It’s no secret that emojis are changing the way we communicate. They don’t just appear on our phones, either. Popularized emojis are iconic, appearing on clothing, in advertisements, and other outlets. They allow for a creation of meaning and personalization, as a readily accessible tool with which to join a dialogue.

Marla Shaivitz, a communication specialist at Johns Hopkins University’s Bloomberg School of Public Health, and Jeff Chertack, a malaria expert with the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, are appealing to the Unicode Consortium–an organizing body that approves characters an emojis for standardized usage–to consider adding a female mosquito to the list of emojis that will be added to smartphones next year. Apparently, the mosquito is among a list of 67 finalists that will be further considered.

Anticipated uses of the emoji include pairing the image with other symbols–a rain cloud, for instance, to encourage people to stay dry indoors and to encourage insecticide application–or to indicate that eradication efforts are under progress. As mosquitoes are key in infectious disease transmission (for viruses including dengue, Zika, malaria, and yellow fever), a recognizable symbol might encourage more dialogue about preventative behaviors or information-seeking behaviors.

Shaivitz and Chertack make their case by estimating seven times more usage of the mosquito emoji than of the beetle emoji on Twitter. In fact, they claim there is a pretty high demand for it.

When you think about the truly random emojis that do exist, it would seem far-fetched not to include one that has the potential to actually make a  positive change. Time will tell if Unicode bites.

Sources:

http://www.latimes.com/science/sciencenow/la-sci-sn-moquito-emoji-health-20170922-story.html

hhtps://ccp.jhu.edu/2017/09/18/creating-buzz-proposing-mosquito-emoji-public-health/