Local social determinants in action!

Since I’ve been on a social media kick, my goal was to find any effective social media happening locally here in NYC. The Department of Health and Mental Hygiene’s tumblr caught my eye.

“Creating environments that make it easier and safer for communities to be physically active is a key health initiative for the Health Department.” I’m so happy to see NYC doing big things and really keeping social determinants of health as a guide in creating health programs. Here is a press release describing the event.


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Health gets techy

Last week I wrote a paper on a great tech startup. It made me wonder what else is around and it seems the health startup scene is off the charts. This article pointed me to a few that were noteworthy.

I.couch.me in this article, shows how using web conferences to remove barriers that keep people from getting the help they may need. However, there are serious checks and balances that need to be put into place to make sure this actually benefits the patients and makes sure that people aren’t just investing money into another thing that is suppose to help but doesn’t bc there is no quality assurance.
Another startup that I heard about at a recent tech start up fair was Medisafe. They actually have well written, simple blog. This post is worth highlighting due to a featured testimonial about Medisafe. I would say these are pretty strong communications for a fledgling company only opening within past three years, they have communications similar to big budget pharmaceutical company. I particularly like their mission statement that talks about their own family’s struggles with medications management here. It shares the founders fathers had mistakenly taken too much insulin which I thought was a powerful opening statement.


Lastly, they work to engage and empower users by asking for their input (below). This is rare for a health centered organization to ask for patient input, as often it tends to be a top to bottom approach in the health and medical field. This seems to be a great way to generate positive customer feedback, which can then be recycled into marketing materials.


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Bourdain: Reason 9999 I love New York City

I can’t wait until I meet Anthony Bourdain, its going to be a hoot and we are just going to hit it off. Until then, I’ll post about Tony’s journey from the kitchen to social issues. One of my favorite shows ever is “Parts Unknown.” I was fairly easily able to find a transcript of one of the most interesting episodes that highlights life in Mexico and struggles faced there. I know this article doesn’t specifically address health. However, there is something to be learned about the ease in which he is able to jump from something that can be considered more trivial, or less serious, like street food, to deeply rooted societal social issues. Here is a Washington Post article he wrote on his episode on Iran and I really enjoyed his Beirut article. He is the master storyteller, and if he could ever incorporate or tackle health issues, it would be amazing.

The one thing that is definitely health related is the food he showcases. As I’ve learned in class, often immigrants from across the globe come with protective factors, or otherwise known as behaviors that promote health. Often the ways foods are prepared and ingredients used are all local, but more importantly, they are super healthy. Once different groups come here, they lose these traditions, and sometimes end up eating really unhealthy fast food, simply because that is what is around, cheap and available. Bourdain does show there are other ways to healthy eating, that help to decrease obesity and show alternatives to the unhealthy food preparation techniques commonly used here in the US.

Got Music?

Another thing I love about this city is the music, everywhere, all day, every day. From riding the metro listening through earbuds to unparalleled, live concerts that have a medley of members from 4+ bands. It is a deeply musical city.  Just last night I went to the Bowery Ballroom at saw three amazing acts for $15, thats $5 a pop. Can’t beat that. Small Black featured below.



Over the years I’ve read countless articles on the benefits of music. Here are a mire 20 health related benefits. I personally would not have gotten through the GRE, grad school application process and transition to NYC without tunes flowing, and on repeat.

Here is one of my favorite and most creative music related applications. NPR writes about a film that shows how a cost effective music program seemed to improve functioning and quality of life in elderly patients with Alzheimers.

Make breakfast a priority

I have been volunteering at a nearby charter school and love it. Its so interesting to learn about their wildy diverse and challenging circuluum and to get a break from school work to make others do school work. However, I still haven’t learned much about their school meals or nutrition. I asked some students during my last visit  what they had for lunch and they reported options were pizza and some sort of veggie tofu option, so it looks like the school is on the right track.  Alas, the tofu w/ veg option was accompanied with a look of disgust.

I saw this interesting article on providing school breakfast to children. The most important take away I think is that no breakfast is always the worst option and promotes obesity. This seems to be proven again and again in study after study.

Everyone should always make room for breakfast. Here is a quick review of why breakfast is crucial and some tips on making it a part of your routine from the Johns Hopkins School of Public Health.

Colum McCan ALWAYS

One of my favorite modern writers is Colum McCan and I was able to see him a few weeks ago at NY presbyterian. He is hyper dope and I recommend to check out his books. My favorite is “Let the Great World Spin.” Seeing him in-person was surreal because a few years ago I was reading his book and googling him from afar, trying to envision how he was able to create these intricate and sensitive stories. His books often feature characters from various ages, background and cultures. I can tell you he was exactly how I envisioned him.

Since it was hosted at NY Presbyterian by the Columbia Narrative Medicine program it had a health spin. He explained that listening to patients is like storytelling. Although the patient may come in for cut on her arm, the factors may actually be the bills she can’t pay. I have never heard an author be so tuned-in to social determinants of health and its probably why he is such an excellent writer.  He stated to properly heal is beyond “recognizing the disease.” He shared in his own work, he had to learn about the health conditions to truly write so as to bring a character to life.

Additionally, he took at moment to highlight his nonprofit Narrative Four. There is a great video from the author explaining the storytelling mission of the organization.  You can find the video here Narrative Four Video.



Focusing on Ability in NYC

I have never been on a campus that has been so accommodating to individuals with disabilities. My higher education experience has not been extensive, but I have spent a fair amount of time in a small town in central VA and private university in DC for undergraduate and graduate coursework. My first hand account of Columbia incredible. Right way I noticed several students in wheelchairs. The school does an excellent job of placing ramps to every lecture hall and anywhere there is uneven terrain. I can’t help but feel very proud and lucky to be apart of a system that supports everyone. It truly keeps the school and city for everyone who wants to be here, and showing it is possible to have a space for all.

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This seems to extend past Columbia, as well. All around NYC I see blind individuals taking the subway alone and restaurants with similar accommodations (below).


Subway Signage gets an A +

According to the MTA, 4.5 million people use the subway every day. This is astonishing as the population of NYC is estimated to be around 9 million. This means there is high reliance on the subway, but also it serves as an excellent medium to communicate with a large number of people.

Personally I feel MTA does a great job. The figures are simple and clear. Riders aren’t distracted by the messenger as they use colorful cartoon figures. Having this an option to communicate to such a large number of people is vital to public health professionals the ability to disseminate information to people quickly.          



Here are a few more examples. You can see its well designed, has simple messaging. Even though the figures can be understood to people with varying English proficiency, these signs are great because they include multiple languages when they include additional information. The hoverboard example is a personal favorite.

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Parents can sneak in good eating habits

Another thing that surprised me about NYC was the number of young children and infants floating around the UWS. With the busy and hectic lives of NYC parents, I think that teaching strong eating behaviors is necessary. Living in a city that runs on convenience and has unhealthy food options everywhere,  children need to learn how to make the right choices. This is a great NPR article on creating consistency in a young child’s diet.

A second quick and easy read can be found on Wiki. This article highlights steps parents can take with children who are a bit older.

Sleepless nights are so 2015

When I first moved to the city, I was afraid of not being able to sleep due to the noise and just the craziness that can be NYC. However, once arriving, all the walking and monitoring my caffeine levels have really seemed to do the trick.

Here is a great resource on finding out what is keeping you from sleeping. For me, personally, it was drinking diet sodas throughout the day and into the night. Once I switched to one cup of coffee early in the morning, it seemed to really help.

On page 27 is a comprehensive list of things that prohibit restful sleep. A great suggestion which most people may not be aware of is avoiding certain OTC drugs after a specific time, or remembering to get enough sun every day. There are always articles on tips and tricks of getting enough sleep, but it’s always good to remember to go to the best sources like the CDC or NIH when looking for a definitive answer.

Check the rest out here.