Author: Candice Alick

If it doesn’t make dollars, it doesn’t make sense

As an individual who is interested in how social media can be a tool for reaching the masses to impact and engage around the health issues of today, coming across this blog by Jay Parkinson, CEO and co-founder of SHERPPA; caused me to reevaluate the role of social media in public health.  Parkinson suggests social media , or in his words, the social web, is a way to fix our communication problems along with smoke signals, and unfortunately spread both NEW ideas AND drivel. He further states social media requires daily engagement and goes on to identify three target populations that make mixing social media and health impossible- FOR A BUSINESS.  As the co-founder of a company which creates a real time command center to address an individual’s health needs and an individual who has been medically trained and has a Masters in Public Health, I would have guessed his stance would have been a tad bit different.

It was my false assumption that his training would lend him the insight that addressing just one health issue, like screening for prostate cancer, requires several packagings and adaptations to meet the needs of a diverse set of people.  While the financial profiting from social media may be questionable, the presence of certain groups on Facebook and the re-tweets of health headlines are indicators that health messages are reaching the masses. Instagram pictures of someone’s healthy lunch as a symbol of a transition to a healthier way of living is impactful. Unfortunately, social media is still in its infancy and we cannot assess the long term effects it will have on our health. However, I do agree with Parkinson in that it provides a tool for better communication and for spreading ideas and information.  Contrary to Parkinson, I’m focusing on the health impact- for some, I guess if it doesn’t make dollars, it doesn’t make sense.

Image source:

Keep Your Gym Bag Handy

It is still January and hopefully, you have kept your New Year’s resolution to lose weight. After the holidays, many of us have popped a button or two on our favorite jeans from indulging in those tasty holiday meals and treats. Unfortunately, now we are paying the price and must embark on the arduous task of losing those extra pounds. Weight watchers, lean cuisine, gold’s gym…in the words of a timeless holiday character…bah humbug. Sometimes it is all about reframing the task to make the goal appear more attainable. Drastic lifestyle changes are more often less sustainable than simple alternations to daily living. In perusing around for simple weight loss tips, I found this cool article 7 ways to revamp your space for weight loss success. One of the first tips is to DO A FRIDGE MAKEOVER; place your fruits and vegetables at eye level in your refrigerator and hide the less healthy foods in the back- they will be harder to find. Repeat with your pantry. The seventh tip is KEEP YOUR GYM BAG HANDY. I find this one very useful. I often find myself wanting to take a brisk run/walk around the office parking lot; however, heels and run/walking could result in an UH OH.  These simple changes can be effective, however, if weight loss milestones are not reached, you may have to amp up your weight loss regiment. What are some tips you have found helpful in your weight loss journey or simply maintaining your ideal size?


Image Source:

My Doctor says NO to the Flu Shot

Influenza is rapidly spreading across 47 states according to CNN Health.  Have we reached the peak of flu season? Apparently, we will not know for a couple of weeks.

However, should we be surprised at the wide spreading of these nasty coughs and sneezes? Shouldn’t we see less and less of these outbreaks with the introduction of the flu vaccine? The answer is NO for two obvious reasons- 1. The flu vaccine is not mandatory like other vaccines i.e. measles, mumps and rubella (MMR) vaccine and 2. The effectiveness of the vaccine is quite controversial; even in the medical field.

At the end of the CNN article, they posed the question, “Did you get vaccinated? Tell us why, or why not…”  212 comments have already been posted. The most interesting was from two commenters; one explaining that he informed his doctor he would not get the flu shot because he was not convinced it was effective and the doctor retorted him either. In obvious disagreement, another commenter replied that THIS doctor should have his license revoked and was incompetent.

Is commenter two fair in their judgments? Medical doctors take the Hippocratic Oath and pledge to basically protect and preserve the well-being of their patients. We often crucify MDs for just wanting to dope us up and send us on our way. However, when we come across a physician who listens to us and communicates their own reservations- we want to revoke their license?

What do you do when your doctor says something that goes against the medical norm?


Image Source:

Got a Hangover?

In the season of merriment, some of us like to partake in a certain type of holiday cheer. Some of us indulge to a level of intoxication. Yes! Ladies and gentlemen…I am talking about drinking so much that a night (or day) of libations can result in a hangover. Appropriately, CNN Health, addressed the topic of myths surrounding hangovers, in time for the holiday season. Some of you might find this information helpful, while others of you not so much. See if you can identify which statement is fact or myth.

  1. Stay hydrated
  2. Pain medicine before or after bed
  3. Eat beforehand
  4. Caffeine cures all
  5. Waking up drunk
  6. Sleep, eat well


  1. Fact: Drink alcoholic drinks with nonalcoholic ones — ideally, water. It speeds up the rate of alcohol absorption.
  2. Myth: Taking an acetaminophen-based medicine (such as Tylenol) can cause liver damage, with heavy daily alcohol use can increase bleeding risks.
  3. Fact: Eat something either before or during a night of drinking: it slows alcohol absorption. Fatty foods are best.
  4. Myth: Caffeine may help relieve a side effect (in this case, the sleep deprivation that can come with a late night party) without battling the main problem.
  5. Myth:
  6. Fact: Sleep and eat as you are able to fuel to absorb alcohol and sleep to re-energize the body.


What other advice have you heard to combat a hangover?


Image Source:

Botox for kids?

In 2012, the journal Headache, published an article on a 2-part clinical trial testing the effects of injecting the drug Botox in to head, neck and shoulder muscles in over 1,400 patients. This research helped build the case for the approval of Botox being used as a treatment for chronic migraines in the United States later than same year. This nerve paralyzing drug which contains a toxin produced by the bacterium Clostridium botulinum is being used to treat cross-eyes, abnormal squinting and eyelid twitching as well as neck and shoulder muscle spasms and severe sweating. According to CNN, to reap the benefits of this therapy to treat chronic migraines, 31 injections in seven different locations on the head and neck have to be administered. Despite the daunting requirements of the procedure, the study found that 70% of patients had at least half as many days with migraine.

When I was in middle school, one of my classmates, Amanda, suffered from chronic migraines. She was on medication that she took every day it seemed. As an outsider, she looked as if she was in excruciating pain and it would often scare me.  Her quality of life seemed so poor back then. I do not know how common chronic migraines present in young children, but I wonder if she could have benefited from such a therapy.

Would you let your child get Botox injections? Would she or he end up look like one of the Housewives of Miami?

Image source:

Pinocchio rated R?

Earlier this year a study was published confirming an association between adolescent smoking initiation and smoking seen in PG-13 movies; including smoking seen in background shots, and other passing instances. Dr. James D. Sargent, of Dartmouth Medical School, in Lebanon, New Hampshire and lead author of the study, suggest movies with smoking should be rated R because of their potential negative influences on adolescents.  Dr. Michael C. Fiore, director of the University of Wisconsin Center for Tobacco Research, in Madison agrees with Dr. Sargent. Interesting since 2007,  the Motion Picture Association of America (MPAA), an organization that assigns movies ratings, has included smoking in its key criteria rating. However, when considered- there are several factors that come in to play when assigning a rating: the broader context, how frequent it is visible, the extent of glamorization, and/or its historically relevance. Though smoking has become increasing rare in R-rated movies, it is still present and has an influence on adolescent smoking initiation.

Should we smack the R on Shrek 7 if donkey has a cigarette after a duel? (Shrek should be rated R for other reasons but we will not get in to that). MPAA does not tell moviemakers what they can and cannot put in their movies , but could we see freedom of speech and artistic expression be challenged as public health prevention strategies? Guess we need to go back and change Pinocchio to rated R.


Image Source:

Ecstasy? for PSD?

In a 3 part series, Caleb Hellerman of CNN, wrote a piece inspired by Rachel Hope, who sought out South Carolina psychiatrist, Dr. Michael Mithoefer, in 2005 for an experimental treatment for her posttraumatic stress disorder (PSD). Dr.Mithoefer was offering a treatment that prescribed 3,4-methylenedioxy-methylamphetamine (MDMA), what we commonly call ecstasy, as an adjunct to psychotherapy. Hope, has suffered from PSD for years due to sexual abuse as a child and a nearly fatal car accident. Like other PSD victims, she tried all the conventional methods to no avail. After another incident  and a coworker confronting her, Hope sought an alternative which led her to Dr. Mithoefer. Fortunately, Mithoefer had recently received the go ahead to test out the effect of using the controversial agent. The results have shown promise with a sample size of19; interestingly, the subjects report a sustained affect for 3 years.

The Multidisciplinary Association for Psychedelic Studies (MAPS) seeks to develop “medical, legal and cultural contexts for people to benefit from the careful uses of psychedelics and marijuana”  – Ecstasy appears to be on their short list. This past election we witnessed two states legalize the sale of marijuana. It was initially allowed to be prescribed to treat medical conditions such as glaucoma, now, we are seeing a trend on the question of legalization on ballots across the country. Scientists like, Mithoefer, want to turn mind-altering drugs like Ecstasy into prescription medicine as well. With the support of organizations like MAPS, we could ultimately see the legalization and medical distribution of other illegal drugs.

Mithoefer says though his patients are women who have usually experienced sexual trauma, he feels it can be used for veterans returning home as well as for police and fireman who experience/d atrocities on a regular basis.

Image Source:

What do you think? Is this dangerous? How will our health messages shift?

A Cure for Laconesi

Recently, Upstream blogger Diane Francis brought to our attention “crowdsourcing” as an emerging approach companies, organization as well as individuals are using to solve a proposed problem or design products, but with a unique twist—using the ideas and expertise of an online community. Salvatore Laconesi, a 39-year-old Technology, Entertainment, Design (TED) fellow and the artist and technologist behind Art is Open Source, posted his medical records online after being diagnosed with a brain tumor in attempt to use crowdsourcing to in his words “…find the best cure…, and in the process to produce substantial social change by redefining the word “cure.” This has caused frenzy in the online world; sparking intense debate over the value of making his information available on the Internet.  However, Laconesi states his main objective is to have “people of multiple cultures, skills, professions and inclinations… access, use, recombine and redistribute… “ his information to stimulate active participation sharing techniques and technologies for cancer treatment. He reports that through the collaborative work stemming from his post, his cancer growth had stopped and is currently waiting on lab results to see if he needs to proceed to surgery.

This is truly amazing. In reading some of the highlighted comments, there are certainly mixed feelings from the potential dangers of not listening to the primary physician to applauding his efforts and highlighting that the social support is beneficial (provides a way to learn about potential surgeries or drugs to discuss with the doctor and find alternative coping strategies).

What do you think? Is this dangerous or a move in the right direction?


Image source:

First Lady Michelle Obama Arms…Yes!

Have you noticed your 14 year old brother has a little more pectoral muscle than you remember the boys did in your middle school class? Check the pantry! Check the medicine cabinet! George may be drinking protein shakes or taking steroids. According to CNN Health, parents should be conscious that teens are trying to increase their body mass and strength to be like their idols. The Journal of the American Academy of Pediatrics just reported that more teens are using muscle enhancing products. Survey data from 2793 diverse adolescents, muscle-enhancing behaviors were common among both boys and girls–34.7% used protein powders or shakes and 5.9% reported steroid use, average age 14.4. Sports team participation was highly correlated with usage.

As media images of men and women become increasingly muscular, we are seeing a rise in these behaviors. However, it is important to stress the right way to achieve these physiques. Parents must not buy these protein shakes or even energy drinks for their kids, according to Dr. Jennifer Shu, a pediatrician in Atlanta, but should make sure they  are getting these nutrients from their diet.

There is a call for interventions to alert pediatricians, parents and coaches of this rise in usage, especially because these behaviors can lead excessive use and use of illegal substances.

However, it is important to emphasize the right way to enhance muscle- EXERCISING. While it is not the role of these idols to educate adolescents on proper health practices, they can lead by example. Look at First Lady Michelle Obama and Tennis Goddess Serena Williams.

Drink soda to lose weight?

Wouldn’t it be great if you could drink as much soda as you wanted and not gain weight? And the soda would prevent you from gaining weight from eating other foods as well? Wait no longer, Pepsi has developed a “fat-blocking” soda. The Pepsi Special claims to reduce the absorption of fat with the help of the fiber-rich starch, dextrin—this claim stems from the idea of an association between fiber-rich foods and weight loss.

Do we think this will work? Will people lose weight? History tells us that the equation is not that simple. For some reason, when some individuals read that a food item is low-fat that means that you can consume more of it. Overconsumption of anything is bad! We can predict this will be the case with the Pepsi Special. Ordering a large Pepsi Special with a Double Whopper and a large fry will not lead to weight loss.

Unfortunately, commercial products like these with outrageous health claims, take away from the message to eat right and exercise to maintain proper health and fitness. We are always searching for a quick fix. Fortunately, this product has not made it to the United States shores as of yet. In the event, that we see it pop up on your local Wendy’s menu, let’s hope it will not be labeled as a fat-blocking soda.


Image Source: