Category: Women’s Health

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.

October is Breast Cancer Awareness Month: Which charities should you donate to and which ones to avoid?

It’s that time of the year where we start to see a little more pink in our daily lives: NFL players wearing pink shoes, pink garbage cans along the side of the road and the infamous pink ribbon: October is Breast Cancer Awareness Month! This month many organizations will advertising all over their websites and social media to donate money to their worthy cause but who should you donate to? This is a growing concern not only for breast cancer organizations but charity organizations overall. There is an increasing number of individuals that are trying to capitalize on these types of campaigns to try to scam people.  We have seen this all over social media recently with Hurricane Harvey and Irma.

USA Today recently published an article about who to donate to and who to avoid donating for breast cancer advocacy and research. They rated these organizations based on mission, program expenses (the amount of money that that the charities spends on programs and services) and the cost to raise $100 (how much money it spends to get donations).

Here is a list of the top charities (according to USA Today):

  • Breast Cancer Research Foundation
  • National Breast Cancer Coalition Fund
  • Breast Cancer Prevention Partners
  • National Breast cancer Foundation

Here is a list of the charities to avoid (according to USA Today):

  • National Cancer Center
  • Walker Cancer Research Institute
  • American Brest Cancer Foundation


For further information about the criteria that the article used to rank check out the USA Today article. Happy Breast Cancer Awareness Month!

Could food stamps cause low test scores?

Going without food has serious implications on your health, mood, and if you’re someone who gets hangry, you know that combination of hungry and angry, your social interactions. Research from the University of South Carolina (USC) has recently shown that the effects of hunger might not end there. It could also play a role in the academic performance of students from low-income communities who receive food assistance.

In the state of South Carolina, families receive government food assistance once per month. These benefits are administered in the first ten days of the month. This means that many families can run out of benefits towards the end of the month. When researchers from USC examined math scores of students from families who receive food assistance, they found something interesting. When students take exams on a date far away from when their family received benefits, their test scores are significantly lower than when exams are administered toward the beginning of the month. This can also mean that a child who is tested earlier in the month generally performs better than a child tested toward the end of the month.

It is unclear if this relationship is because of hunger or some third factor; however, we clearly need to give more attention to supporting families with inadequate access to food and resources.



Lady Gaga Reveals Battle with Fibromyalgia

This past week, music sensation Lady Gaga revealed on her Twitter account that she has been battling fibromyalgia, and was recently taken to the hospital for severe pain, leading her to cancel one of her performances. While it may not have been easy to do, Lady Gaga’s decision to open up about her condition sheds an important light on the debilitating condition that is fibromyalgia.

According to the Centers for Disease Control, fibromyalgia affects about 4 million US adults. It is a chronic condition characterized by widespread pain and can include symptoms of fatigue, depression, and headaches that can negatively affect quality of life. While it is unclear what causes fibromyalgia,  some possible risk factors include age, stressful or traumatic experiences, family history, and sex. According to the Centers for Disease Control, women are twice as likely to have fibromyalgia as men.

Treatment for fibromyalgia often involves a team of different health professionals, and can be effectively managed with a combination of medication, exercise, and stress management techniques.

Check out the following resources for more information about fibromyalgia and how you can get involved in raising awareness of this condition:

The National Fibromyalgia Association

The American Fibromyalgia Syndrome Association, Inc.

Fibromyalgia | Centers for Disease Control and Prevention

Questions and Answers about Fibromyalgia | National Institute of Arthritis and Musculoskeletal and Skin Diseases  

Note: Lady Gaga has been working on a documentary entitled “Lady Gaga: Five Foot Two,” in which she discusses her battle with fibromyalgia. This film will be available on Netflix on September 22.  


Fibromyalgia. (2017, September 6). Retrieved from

Park, Andrea. (2017, September 13). Lady Gaga opens up about having fibromyalgia.

Questions and Answers about Fibromyalgia. (2014, July). Retrieved from

PrEP for HIV Prevention? Here’s what you need to know

Pre-Exposure Prophylaxis, or PrEP, has changed the way in which we talk about HIV Prevention. After being approved for preventive use by the FDA in 2012, there has been a sharp increase in PrEP prescriptions in the U.S. over the past several years. Currently, the only prescription available for PrEP is Truvada, which also serves as a treatment drug for those who are HIV positive.

Truvada is a nucleoside reverse transcriptase inhibitor, or an NRTI. When exposed to HIV, a NRTI works by masking itself as a building block of the virus’s genetic structure. While our own cells are able to recognize and correct for this coding mistake, HIV cannot, and as a result is unable to replicate and mount a widespread infection.

A quick distinction: Truvada as a drug is a form of PrEP, PrEP is a general class of preventive measures. Birth control can be thought of as a form of PrEP, preventing a pregnancy before it occurs. Even sunscreen is a form for PrEP. You apply lotion to prevent sunburn before it occurs.

But PrEP only works if you take it. According to recent findings from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the majority of uptake of PrEP in the United States has been among middle-aged, white, gay men. But the HIV epidemic has shifted, with the CDC noting continuous inequalities in the southern states and among young African Americans.

More concentrated efforts need to happen to ensure that those who can benefit from PrEP are able to access and receive it. Gilead, the company that produces Truvada, has a copay card available, where they pay up to $3600 a year in copays for those living under 500% of the national poverty level. For more information on PrEP, UNC campus health also serves as a great resource on campus, and students can get more information by making a free appointment with Student Wellness by emailing or by calling (919) 962-WELL(9355).

For additional Resources on what to know about PrEP, and how to have a conversation with your provider, please see the resources below for information from the CDC. For those looking for a PrEP friendly provider, here is a list of providers in the State of North Carolina who actively prescribe PrEP.

Sources –

Gilead Copay Card:

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention PrEP Resources:

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention PrEP Information:

List of PrEP Providers:

What’s the Deal with Male Birth Control?

By: Aria Gray MPH: Maternal and Child Health candidate 2017

I have been on many different types of birth control in the past 10+ years, all with varying levels of success and each with a new set of side effects including migraines. It has never been a question of if I should try a new method since no there is no effective reversible male birth control available.

Recently, it has made headlines that a male birth control shot has been found to effectively prevent pregnancy in a newly published study. Unfortunately, participants in the study reported adverse side effects including mood changes, depression, and increased and 20 participants dropped out of the study leading researchers to stop the study earlier than planned.

These reports come very soon after another recently published study that was in the news, which cited that hormonal birth control can cause depression in women.

While this particular study was cut short, it is my hope that research continues to search for a safe and effective method of male birth control. Over 80% of the male participants in the study responded that they would use this method of contraception outside of the study, which is hopeful for the future, and a sign that this method is very much wanted and needed. Both women and men deserve to have reproductive freedom without having to jeopardize their health or mental health.

But for now, until male birth control that is safe and effective is developed and approved, women must bear an unequal burden to prevent unwanted pregnancies.

Read more about this interesting topic here.

Could Your Birth Control be Making You Depressed?


By: Aria Gray MPH: Maternal and Child Health candidate 2017

Could your birth control be making you depressed? A new study was released a few weeks ago claiming just that.

A nationwide study in Denmark was conducted to analyze the potential link between depression and hormonal birth control. What was found was that users hormonal birth control were more likely than non-users to be prescribed anti-depressants, though the risk is very small. The main conclusion of the study found that use of hormonal contraception, was associated with the subsequent use of anti-depressants and a first diagnosis of depression, and the authors of the study concluded that depression might be a potential adverse effect of hormonal contraceptive use. Currently, mood swings, and not clinical depression are listed as a potential adverse effect of hormonal birth control.

When this study was first published, I woke up to see news articles about it posted all over my Facebook timeline and my Twitter feed. Many of the people posting about this study felt vindicated after not feeling believed about how their birth control was making them feel. I also felt like my past bad experiences with hormonal birth control could potentially be explained by this study. For years, doctors had told me that there was no way that my birth control could be making me depressed, but my doctor’s explanation did not seem consistent with how my friends felt on their birth control or how much better I have felt after discontinuing certain methods in the past.

What I also saw online was great dissent and controversy about the study and the reporting about the study online from various news organizations and outlets.

While I did not agree with some of the comments I read online, I do agree that further research needs to be done on this topic, but I am excited that steps are being taken to further understand women’s health, especially in this context, and hope that this study sparks more research and discussion on this topic.

October is Domestic Violence Awareness Month

By: Aria Gray MPH: Maternal and Child Health candidate 2017

What is Domestic Violence? Domestic violence is the willful intimidation, physical assault, battery, sexual assault, or other abusive behavior as part of a systematic pattern of power and control perpetrated by one intimate partner against another. It can include physical violence, sexual violence, psychological violence, and emotional abuse. Domestic violence affects individuals in every community regardless of age, economic status, sexual orientation, gender, or other demographic factors. However, domestic violence is most commonly experienced by  women between the ages of 18-24.

Domestic violence is preventable. Part of domestic violence prevention includes talking about this issue and reducing the stigma associated with it as a community. While all of October is Domestic Violence Awareness Month, the National Network to End Domestic Violence is hosting a week of action from October 16-October 22.

Here are some ways that you can get involved during the week of action and throughout all of October. You can also search for events that may be happening in your community with local organizations.

  • Wear purple for #PurpleThursday on Thursday October 20
  • Speak Out: Talk with a friend, family member, or colleague about domestic violence to help eliminate stigma and show survivors that they are supported.
  • Follow the National Network to End Domestic Violence on social media (Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram and change

For anonymous, confidential help available 24/7, call the National Domestic Violence Hotline at 1-800-799-7233 (SAFE) or 1-800-787-3224 (TTY) now.

The Morning After Pill (and more): options for emergency contraception


Did the condom break? Did you forget to take your pill a few times this month and have unprotected sex? Were you somehow coerced into having unprotected sex? Did you know that you can stop a pregnancy before it starts using emergency contraception? Here’s a quick guide to the available methods listed in order of effectiveness.

Copper IUD (ParaGard IUD)

  • The most effective form of emergency contraception
  • Can be inserted within 5 days of unprotected sex
  • Will lower chance of pregnancy by 99.9%
  • You can keep using this to prevent pregnancy for up to 12 years after insertion


  • Newest form of emergency contraception in the United States
  • Blocks the hormones your body needs to conceive
  • Requires a prescription from a doctor or nurse
  • Works up to 5 days after unprotected sex and does not decrease in effectiveness over those 5 days
  • After using, use back-back up birth control (such as condoms) for 14 days
  • May not work as well if you need emergency contraception because you made a mistake with your birth control pills

Plan B or Next Choice

  • Available over the counter or online without a prescription
  • Works up to 5 days after unprotected sex, but effectiveness decreases each day
  • Do not use if you have already used ella since your last period

Remember that you cannot use two different kinds of emergency contraceptives at the same time and that you should not take more than one dose of emergency contraception. Also remember that this is emergency contraception, and these methods should not be used as your normal contraceptive method (unless of course you choose to leave the copper IUD in). Also, emergency contraception is intended to prevent a pregnancy before it starts and is not intended to terminate an already existing pregnancy.

Visit the Planned Parenthood website for more information.

Do I have a UTI? How do I get rid of it?

Week 11 Blog

The first time I ever heard of a urinary tract infection (UTI), it was my freshman year of college and my suite mate was doubled over in pain crying. The group girls from our hallway who assembled to help out in her time of need were convinced that we needed to call an ambulance. This was during the dark ages before smartphones and Wi-Fi in our dorm, so after tracking down the graduate student that lived in our hallway, she told us that it was probably a UTI and that our suite mate should go to the doctor or urgent care as soon as possible.

A few years later, when I was experiencing the same symptoms for the first time and was also doubled over in pain, it was only because of that experience that I had any idea of what was happening to me. I knew to get to a doctor immediately even though many of the websites I was frantically searching told me that my UTI could be cured by drinking lots of pure cranberry juice and resting.

My health classes in middle and high school didn’t talk about UTIs at all, and I have heard that same story from others as well. Here are some tips for detecting, treating, and preventing UTIs.

What are the symptoms of a UTI?

  • It burns when you pee
  • You feel like you need to urinate constantly, but when you go not much comes out
  • When you do pee it is cloudy, strangely colored, and/or smells bad
  • You feel sleepy and achy

How do I treat a UTI?

  • If you think you may have a UTI, make an appointment with a health care provider right away. They will have you pee in a cup and if you test positive for a UTI, you will soon be on your way home with antibiotics to rest and get better very quickly.
  • Your friend or the internet may tell you that you can cure a UTI at home, but most things like drinking cranberry juice or taking over the counter medicine are either preventative or meant to minimize your symptoms until you are able to see a healthcare provider.

How can I prevent getting a UTI?

  • Pee after sex!
  • Never hold it
  • Always wipe from back to front
  • Keep it clean down there with water in the shower or bath (no soap!)
  • Drink real cranberry juice (with no added sugar) to prevent future UTIs. There are also cranberry pills available at any pharmacy.
  • See a healthcare provider if you are getting frequent UTIs