NYC’s synthetic MJ public health problem

In a class last semester, we did an observational assignment on the subway to report on rider behaviors. We then used this information to make a recommendation to a fictional client. The subway assignment showed this is a concrete way to reach people. Since people are literally stuffed to the brim on the train, people are fairly often looking around.  In our assignment we were able to indemnify a particularly distinct segment. We proposed to tart middle school age children for either healthy eating or possibly anti bullying campaign. We noticed around 3 they often travel together, engaged in conversation with peers and often still have high energy compared to the other riders.

 

Below is a subway public advertisement that caught my eye and I thought would potentially be targeted for high school students. Most people, including myself before reading this, don’t know why synthetic marijuana is so dangerous. Here is a Forbes article explaining how it is very different than regular marijuana. I was surprised to see public health officials fear tactics, which tend to have mixed results in effectiveness, but this article states there reports of the average ages of users is 26. It goes on to explain why De Blasio has recently banned these products. The article states users assume its safe and similar enough to natural marijuana, but there have sharp spike in ER visits and 15 deaths in the first half of 2015. The severity and misconception of the drug may warrant a harsher, scare tactic if the campaign is trying to get the word out ASAP. It definately got my attention right away.

 

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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.          

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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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Weightymatters matters

I wanted to do an individual post about the Weigthymatters blog. Here Professor and MD, Yoni Freedhoff, covers behavior change,  policies and the commercial food industry.

Simply by checking out his site I was able to find other well maintained blogs.

  • Science Based Medicine serves a more of a watch dog on health and medical related news and events.
  • Fooducate also has an excellent blog that is updated daily. It even goes a step further to provide a diet tracking tool, an internal rating system for various foods and healthy eating suggestions.

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.

Time and Weightymatters get it right

Readers should always be skeptical of health studies. It seems like every time I open any news outlet there there is a new finding. Like high fat is good for you, coffee is bad for you.  One of my professors has said when reading about data findings, always see who is publishing or funding the study and what the motivation may be behind the findings. In this post I wanted to highlight two studies that are on opposite sides of the spectrum.

Time does an excellent job of reporting on and discussing a recent study on Diet Coke. Not only do they say the number of people and the ages, they also include excellent background information. They include multiple studies to reinforce the first study. Additionally, they give tips on how to cut back on soda, and help provide context. They lists the severe consequences to weight gain that it is beyond just cosmetic reasons. Also, it includes biologically what happens to to body after ingesting soda and the complicated relationship you can have with these “fake”healthy options.

I think the worst part is that this is particularly harmful to those over 60, who are not only likely to be dealing with age related alignments, a decreasing metabolism, leaving them even more vulnerable. Particularly that people may be trying to make better decisions with low calorie options, but in the long run setting themselves up for failure.

In contrast, here is another beverage study about Welch’s grapefruit juice in a blog post by Weighty Matters. The sample size is 25, of 19 are mothers who work. This sample size is not only too small but they are most likely using a demographic that they are attempting to market. My professor says for market research a study should be at least 100, at the minimum. Here are some guidelines I found on Health study sample sizes. Additionally the Calorie Control Council has an incredibly deceiving name. It sounds like its a health or diet task force, but no, it is a lobby for low calorie drinks.

The author does an excellent critique of the study which of 25 participants who begin to drink grape juice for 12 months. From this limited sample, they made a huge leap stating that he took verbatim from a press release, “New research by the University of Leeds in the UK suggests that drinking Concord grape juice daily can benefit certain aspects of memory and everyday tasks in people with stressful lifestyles – specifically working mothers.”

The company closes out by including Welch’s history and that it has been around for 150 years. Not only is this a plug, but its trying to establish credibility from the fact its been around for a while. None of this is relevant to the presented information. The upside is if companies do present information like this, its easier to spot illegitimate studies.

There is nothing wrong with drinking Diet Coke or Welch’s but the discussion needs to be re-framed, and these drinks should be considered a treat, or used for special occasions. People should not be lead to believe if they began to drink diet coke, or grape juice that they are it is in some way, “ beneficial” as this article states the company claims. I do believe there should be room for these products on the counter, however, there should be better marketing guidelines on how products are marketed, especially when produced in tandem with health studies.

 

Public Health 101

When I say I’m from the public health field, I get blanks stares 33% of the time. That means a) public health is not enough on the radar b) people in the public health field need to have a better elevator pitch. I think the difficulty lies in the fact that there are so many different fields, it really should be called life health. 

Here is a great definition. I have always liked the idea of public health because health truly should be a non-polarizing, non-political issue when framed the proper way. I like that it supports that we are all connected and issues have ripple effects that impact everyone. 

Zipcodes and why they matter

A perfect example of social determinants of health is highlighted in the idea that life expectancy can vary by zipcode. This article succinctly describes why life expectancy can depend so much on area of residence. It highlights an almost 20 year difference in New Orleans from one zipcode to the next. This reviews all of the social elements that work together to contribute to either higher or lower life expectancies and is truly one of the best ways to understanding social determinants of health.

 

What is a food desert?

 

I, myself, was not familiar with this term until I read an article a few years back.  Very often eating healthfully is framed in a way that requires extreme discipline and self control, putting the onus on the individual. It is framed, simply, to just eat less to lower the amount of calories you are getting. However, there are structural and environmental obstacles to eating and choosing healthy, like access to healthy foods. Food deserts can be described as areas that don’t have enough easily accessible, healthy food options. To get a sense of how common this term is I polled 4 friends at dinner last night to see if they were familiar with this term. As I suspected, only one had heard of this term before.  As I dug a little deeper I found some interesting stuff.

The USDA website has a resources that allows you to find food deserts. There is a map that allows you to enter geographical information to find areas classified as food deserts, based on low access to food and low income.  As I entered a nearby NYC zipcode, I had no idea I would be so close to a zone as 125 and Broadway are extremely busy hubs of activity.  There is was at 126 and Morningside,  a food desert. Just to give some context, this is only a few blocks from Columbia. This goes to show something could be happening right next to you and you don’t even realize it.

HX behind Urban Health

Introduction to social determinants of health:

As I christen this blog, I wanted to review the term social determinants of health which is where the idea for this blog sprouted. First, let’s un-jargon this term…social determinants of health means your environment plays a large role and can even dictate your health status. One’s environment includes more obvious elements like your social networks and background, to other less obvious ones like, where you work, or where you play and in which park. All of these factors combine to work towards either promoting your health or act as barriers to a healthful lifestyle. For this blog I hope to review various underrepresented and less talked about issues that go unnoticed. Additionally, 2010 figures reported about 80% of the US lives in  cities. This helped me to further hone in on the issue, as I will focus on urban health.