Category: Uncategorized

Surgical training goes online

The University of East Anglia is now offering an online course in breast cancer and breast reconstruction surgery.   Eighty percent of the course is taught through online videos and the other 20 percent involves in person practical skills instruction from local trainers. The course also encourages students to learn from one another in online chat sessions.

Providing such a course online means that students don’t have to spend time or money traveling to and from London to receive training. 

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A cheese by any other name…

Most Saturday mornings when I lived in Charlottesville, Virginia, I would head downtown to shop at the Farmer’s Market.  My first stop? “The Free Cheese Guy.”

John Coles could reliably be found at the first stall in the market, in front of a small white box truck that he drove in from his farm.  He was always wearing the same T-shirt, beside him a sign read: “Free Cheese.”  Coles’ T-shirt depicted federal agents charging in on a shocked farmer, whose hands were raised as they shouted, “Give us the milk!”

Coles gave away his goat cheese (often in return for a donation) because the government forbade him to sell it. It is unpasteurized, or raw, depending on which ideo-semantic camp you fall.

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Health communicators, meet OpenIDEO is a collaborative innovation platform for social good. Logo image from

How do you come up with a good idea? Where does innovation in communication and health promotion come from?  Do we strive for evidence-based practice? Or break all of the rules and start fresh?  How about some of both — from creative folks all over the world?

This week at Upstream, we were inspired by an optimistic, brilliant young project called OpenIDEO, brought to the globe by the design and innovation firm IDEO.

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Facebook and loneliness: Is the evidence really there?

Photo by Johan Larsson. From Flickr.

Time had an article last week that talked about a study out of Stanford that found that certain positive perceptions of others’ lives and experiences can “exacerbate feelings of loneliness, isolation and dissatisfaction.” The article linked such feelings to Facebook.

The Stanford study consisted of four studies and found that people can erroneously perceive the lives of others by underestimating others’ negative experiences and overestimating others’ positive experiences. According to the authors, “these errors are associated with loneliness, rumination, and reduced satisfaction with life…”

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Politics, business meet your mouth with front-of-package labels

Food makers and grocers, guided by the Grocery Manufacturers Association and the Food Marketing Institute, made a sprint to the finish and beat the Food and Drug Administration in a big race. The race was to make rules about front-of-package labels on packaged foods.

Nutrition Keys

The industry-designed voluntary labels are called "Nutrition Keys," and must include total calories, fat, sodium and sugar, but may also include one or two "positive" ingredients, such as calcium or fiber. Image provided by the Grocery Manufactures Association.

By preemptively striking before the federal government could take even more drastic measures, such as ban front-of-package labels (FOPs), some experts and policy makers fear consumers will only be more confused. I mean, who cares if a half-pint of ice cream has more than half a day’s recommendation for fat and sky-high amounts of sugar when it has calcium to strengthen your bones, right?

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Soda pop? No, soda POT!

Canna Cola, Doc Weed, Sour Diesel, Grape Ape, Orange Kush- the names of beverages from a new line of marijuana soda.

lit up medical marijuana sign

A California-based company is launching the Canna Cola drink line in medical marijuana dispensaries in Colorado next month and hopes to introduce it to those in California sometime this spring. However, this could be difficult with the passing of the “Brownie Law” in the Senate last year. This law, as Time reports, would enforce harsher penalization of the producers of goods that combine marijuana and a candy-like product or anyone who markets these types of products to minors.

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Carbs: Friend or foe? And, how do we know what to eat?


Bagel-eaters, beware: Researchers are finding that the physiological changes in our bodies from over-indulging in simple carbohydrates are more dangerous over time than eating fatty foods.

To eat carbs, or not to eat them? That is the question for many people concerned about their diets, weight and overall health. A Los Angeles Times article discusses the growing body of scientific evidence pointing to the dangers of consuming too many carbohydrates, especially the refined carbohydrates that are so prevalent in the American diet.

But the issue goes deeper than whether to have pancakes or eggs at breakfast. We are barraged with health messages every day, many of them right on the front of food containers: “low fat,” “low carb,” “whole grain,” “high in fiber,” “natural.” Commercials for weight loss and magazine articles about diets focus on women, so how are men supposed to know what to eat other than burgers and pizza?

Part of the healthcare reform act passed in March of 2010 (and being challenged now by Republicans) requires chain restaurants to begin posting the calorie content of menu items.

However, some research shows this information may not be effective for people who don’t know much about nutrition. What is a health communicator wanting to convey good nutritional habits to do in such a confusing environment?

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Smokers are suckers: How far is too far?

A recent French campaign (photo below) against adolescent smoking has caused an international debate on the use of what are called ‘incongruous metaphors’ in public health prevention.  In this case, the metaphor – though not explicit – is highly suggestive of what amounts to a submissive sexual act between an adult and a minor.

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Arizona shootings and mental health awareness

In the midst of the Arizona tragedy, I hope that there is at least one lesson that comes out of the horrific situation. The act that Jared Loughner allegedly committed is undeniably sad and inexcusable, but draws attention to the need for mental health awareness.

As also iterated in the Santa Barbara Independent, although we are not able to understand the motivations behind the shootings on Sunday, attention should be drawn to the fact that those living with mental illness, as it has been suspected that Loughner was, are no more likely to commit violent acts than the general population. A small group of individuals with specific types of mental illness that are left untreated are those that are more prone to violence.

Attention should also be drawn to the issues of funding and education related to mental health. Loughner never received treatment for mental illness, even after his behavior was deemed a problem by teachers and others at the community college he attended, as reported on CBS. But one may wonder- were any of the people in contact with this young man even aware of the mental health services available in their community? Were they educated in the warning signs of mental illness?

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