Author: Guest Blogger

The Importance of Adult Vaccination: observes National Immunization Awareness Month

GUEST BLOGGER: Sophia Bernazzani

In the interest of promoting more robust discourse around the importance of regular vaccinations for serious but preventable contagious conditions, MHA@GW is hosting a guest post series in honor of National Immunization Awareness Month (NIAM). During the month of August, they featured blogs from thought leaders and advocates who were asked to answer the question, “Why immunize in 2015?” You can read an excerpt of one Editor-in-Chief Ashley Huntsberry-Lett’s guest blog here, and be sure to read on to explore more posts. MHA@GW is the online master of health administration from the Milken Institute School of Public Health at the George Washington University.

“For many people, the topic of vaccinations evokes memories of anxious trips to the doctor for shots as young children. However, keeping up with recommended vaccine schedules through adulthood and old age is just as imperative as receiving initial doses in childhood.

As we age, our immune systems begin to function less efficiently. Healing and immune responses slow significantly because the body produces fewer immune cells and antibodies. This increases the likelihood of older individuals falling ill. According to the Census Bureau’s 2014 National Population Projections report , the projected number of Americans ages 65 and older is 82.3 million by 2040. With the elderly population surging as baby boomers age, the looming health implications are a point of substantial concern for the entire country.

Proper nutrition, regular exercise, adequate sleep and a positive mental state can all help keep an individual’s immune system in top condition. However, an all-around healthy lifestyle is not the only way to reduce the age-related risk of getting sick. Vaccinations play an important role in keeping each and every part of the population healthy — especially those with susceptible immune systems.” Read the rest of her post here.

Sitting or standing: things you need to know

Fiona Erickson is the community relations manager with Nursing@Georgetown, Georgetown University’s masters of science in nursing program. She shared this infographic with us. 

A recent infographic compiled by Nursing@Georgetown illustrates the impacts of these two work styles on our health, and supports the old adage that everything in moderation is best.

According to the graphic, excessive sitting has been linked to increased risk of dying from diabetes, heart disease, or obesity, and standing has been shown to increase your risk of stroke, as well as cause spine and joint degeneration. Read on below to explore the other risks, and possible solutions, so that you can live a healthier lifestyle.

Brought to you by Nursing@Georgetown: Family Nurse Practitioner program.

Brought to you by Nursing@Georgetown: Family Nurse Practitioner program


Milad Minooie is a doctoral student studying mass communication at UNC. He recently started a wheat-free diet. In this blog post, he explains what motivated him. 

My aunt has a condition that makes it hard for her to digest gluten, which is a protein found in wheat, barley, and rye. She also has a hard time digesting fatty foods and milk, and is allergic to scented candles and tobacco, which I’m not going to get into here. Of course, she lives in California!

However, during a recent visit to North Carolina, I got to witness first-hand how she goes through labels one by one in grocery stores, diligently reads restaurant reviews on Yelp, and asks servers if what she is about to order has gluten. I was amazed by how much mental and physical effort she was putting into something that came to me effortlessly – eating!

Like – or unlike – many of you, I would decide what I wanted to eat at the very last minute. Most of the times I am still undecided when the server is ready to take my order. The phrase “do you need more time with the menu?” would usually elicit the untruthful “no, I’m ready to order” response. I would, then, proceed to order the very first menu item that popped into my head, not knowing if I really wanted it.

My aunt, however, could never order like me. For her, a simple task of ordering food requires a conscious and cognitive process of researching all the ingredients, weighing the nutritional value of each, and making an informed decision.

Knowing the fact that if you can’t eat gluten, you can’t eat bread – the conventional bread anyway – I asked her what she would do if she was stuck somewhere with no fancy gluten free restaurants and she had to make do with a fast food chain. She said, “ I order an open sandwich and don’t eat the bun.” “So much for a sandwich,” I thought at the time!

A few months later, through no fault of my own (the idea came from an episode of South Park), I was prompted to see if, contrary to the common belief, grains should constitute little to no portion of your daily diet. In my search for answers, I encountered a book called “Wheat Belly” by William Davis, MD. Ironically, Cartman was right! Here’s the proof:

Davis argues, “With few exceptions, foods made of wheat flour raise blood sugar higher than nearly all other foods. Yes, that’s true for even whole grains. More than table sugar, more than a Snickers bar. Organic, multigrain, sprouted–it makes no difference.” Thus, cutting out bread reduces the risk of diabetes.Wheat

Moreover, wheat is addictive. When exposed to stomach enzymes and acids it breaks down into polypeptides – whatever that is! “Once having gained entry into the brain, wheat polypeptides bind to the brain’s morphine receptor, the very same receptor to which opiate drugs bind,” Davis writes, basing his claim on well-founded research. This process makes you crave wheat more and more. If you eat wheat you are an addict!

“There is no doubt: For some people, wheat is addictive. And, in some people, it is addictive to the point of obsession,” Davis writes. This explains why, even when you’re feeling full the smallest piece of bread makes you feel hungry – hence the breadbasket appetizer at fancy schmancy restaurants! It also explains how cutting wheat may help you lose weight.

Having read the book – which I think should be a required reading for every American – I decided to try a diet that excludes wheat. “How hard could it be?” I thought. How naïve I was!

Well, pretty hard as it turned out. Not just because I miss my two pieces of toast every morning, my pizza night, my pasta night, my New York bagels with my afternoon Pike Place Roast, my occasional visits to the Cheesecake Factory and Dunkin’ Donuts, and the breading on my fried chicken, shrimp and fish sticks, but also because it’s really hard to find something that doesn’t contain wheat! Only now I can truly sympathize with my aunt.

On the plus side, however, it has made me more aware of what I eat. Reading labels has taught me that there are some things that I don’t want in my body even though they may not contain wheat.

It has been well over a month since I started this diet and I can say with confidence that it hasn’t impacted my weight per se, but rather my body fat percentage. While I haven’t scientifically measured my body fat, I feel leaner, but not necessarily thinner. I encourage anyone reading this to check out “Wheat Belly” and decide for themselves if they want to cut out wheat, or not. I intend to continue, even if it means ordering an open sandwich and ditching the drool-inducing bun! Partly because of the health benefits, but mostly because I’m awesome!





Getting old may cost more than you think

What’s the price of getting old? The Milken Institute School of Public Health at the George Washington University demonstrated some of the serious issues that the aging population have to face, such as rising health care expense and vulnerability to diseases. You can access their work “The Cost of Aging in America” and the cool infographic here.

On the other hand, will seeing your doctor online become a trend in the future and make it easier for patients to access health care and save money?

Are there any other issues related to aging we should think about?

Apple’s Healthbook Primed to Change Mobile Health Habits

This post authored by: Emily Vardell

Health and medical apps are some of the most popular apps out there, and it appears that Apple is poised to enter the fray. As recently reported in 9to5mac, Apple is currently developing a Healthbook app that will enable users to track their health and wellness information over time (similar to Apple’s Passbook).

Current prototypes of Healthbook indicate that the app will allow users to track a host of information, including heart rate, blood pressure, activity, nutrition, and sleep.

It’s unclear how the information will be collected, but many experts suspect that Apple has tools in development that will enable users to easily track much of this information. One example is the iWatch, which may have health sensors built in. Some of the types of information appear to be a little trickier to track – like blood levels.

While it may currently feel like science fiction to imagine our smart phones being able to process blood work, it is possible to imagine this may be a reality in the near future.

Perhaps a bigger concern is the safety of this information. Who will the recorded information belong to? The person entering it into their phone? Apple itself?

At this point ownership of mobile data is something that is not written in stone. Apple’s recent hire of Sabrina Ross as privacy council may indicate that Apple is gearing up to enter this new frontier.

Will you be joining them?

Consider this: Social Media and Cocaine have something in common

By Khou Xiong

This recent Upstream post stated that there has been a recent exodus of Facebook users and shared the Huffington post article that listed a variety of reasons for why Facebook users should abandon their Facebook account to pursue other social media platforms.

Considering the rapid changes in how social media is being used, it is not surprising that this shift is occurring, despite a recent 2013 report by the Pew Research Internet Project that Facebook is the most popular social media platform.

The previously mentioned post specifically discussed the “crushing weight of comparison” that occurs over Facebook. This infographic further describes the negative impacts that Facebook and other social media sites can have on individuals.

The infographic starts out with the question, “Is Social Media Bad for Your health?” and ends with a clear directive for you to “Sign off of social media, and sign on to a healthier you”.

While the sources of the evidence presented in the infographic are not clearly listed, most people will likely agree with the messages it is trying to communicate:

  • Social media is extremely time-consuming
  • One’s mental health can be negatively affected by social media
  • Social media interferes with everyday life
  • Time spent on social media could be better used doing other things, such as exercise

Most alarming however, is the evidence that social media has an addictive component.  The infographic reveals that self-disclosure on social media activates the same part of the brain that is activated during cocaine use!  This part of the brain, the Nucleus Accumbens, is also associated with addiction and the sensation of pleasure.

It is a scary thought to consider that social media has the potential to negatively impact our lives in destructive ways. Yet, even when armored with this knowledge, the irresistible sense of pleasure that is activated when using social media will lure us to continue consuming social media.

I do not believe that social media is evil and am not advocating for the end of social media use.  However, I would encourage social media users to reflect on how is has affected your life.

Does spending time on Facebook make you feel bad about yourself? Has it interfered with your personal and/or professional relationships?  Does it take up too much of your time?

If the answer is yes to any of these questions, consider making a lifestyle change and reduce your social media use.  As the infographic suggests, time spent on social media can be used for exercise instead. This could result in an overall healthier lifestyle.

The Doctor Will See You Now…Online

Gina Tripicchio is a nutrition doctoral student interested in childhood obesity intervention, school-based wellness programs and technology integration for health promotion. 

Everyone has felt the dread of the unknown while waiting in the doctor’s office. How long will this take? How much will this cost? The new movement of Telemedicine could be a solution to the expenses and inefficiencies of the current healthcare system.

Telemedicine (also called TeleHealth, Connected Health, TeleNursing) is the use of technology to deliver healthcare remotely. Patients save time commuting and can choose providers based on comfort or experience, rather than location. Costs are much lower, averaging $40 per visit.

The ubiquitous nature of technology, of course, applies to telemedicine. Services are available from computers, tablets and smartphones, making care-on-the-go truly possible. The potential to reach rural communities and developing countries where care is often most needed is also exciting.

Telemedicine services are ideal for common illness such as allergies, respiratory infections, pink eye, and minor injuries. Doctors can diagnose and prescribe medications, and insurance companies are rapidly providing telemedicine options for their clients. Patients can access doctors for chronic disease management and preventative care, reducing overall healthcare costs and reserving emergency rooms for urgent medical needs.

Challenges do exist, such as scheduling virtual patients, reimbursing practitioners and ensuring patient confidentiality. As with any novel approach to care, there are physicians who support the use of telemedicine and those who feel that losing face-to-face contact will disrupt the valuable relationship between physicians and their patients.

As people continue to rely on technology more, will telemedicine become the prescription for the ailments of the current healthcare system?


When domestic violence goes viral: One woman shares her experience on social media

This post authored by Diane Francis, a doctoral student at the School of Journalism and Mass Communication at UNC interested in improving health outcomes among Black and immigrant populations, and the effects of cross-border flow of health information. 

At the end of February, 2014, a young Black woman from the United Kingdom decided to use social media sites to document the physical violence she suffered at the hands of her boyfriend. “Gabriella” posted images of her bruised and battered face on Instagram and discussed her suffering on Twitter.

In her Instagram positing, Gabriella noted several things that public health experts  identify as precursors to emotional, physical or sexual violence. Gabriella wrote of her 8-month relationship, “I really thought everything was fine but he constantly questioned me about cheating and flirting…Thought I loved this boy. How can someone that ‘loves’ me do this to me?”Domestic violence

Intimate partner violence (IPV), especially physical violence by a partner or spouse, affects one out of every four women in the United States, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. During their lifetime women of color, particularly Black women, are more likely to experience IPV than other groups. Yet, like many other major public health issues, IPV is not something that is openly talked about.

We’ve known through extensive research that testimonials like Gabriella’s have the ability to move people towards actions, to change behaviors. Social media affords more channels for people to share their stories with wider audiences. How else would a story of a Black women from the UK make waves across Black media sites in the US?

While responses to Gabriella’s posting have been mostly positive, some have wondered why she would choose to share details of per personal life through social media. Ultimately, Gabriella hopes “to be an inspiration to women and anyone involved in domestic violence.”

For scholars interested in social media and behavior change, the hope is that any person who reads Gabriella’s story and identifies with her experience is moved towards getting away from any partner who may emotionally or physically hurts them.


Photo source:

Mindfulness Apps Can Help You Focus Your Way to Better Health

Post contributed by Stephanie Mazzucca, a Ph.D student in the school of public health with interests in prevention of childhood obesity in young children in home, child care, and primary care settings.

Amidst all the distractions of a smartphone, increasingly popular apps designed to promote mindfulness can help you relax and focus, which can have powerful health benefits.

Mindfulness has its roots in Buddhism and comes about by paying attention purposefully and nonjudgmentally to the present moment, often through meditating. Practicing mindfulness has been linked to better physical, mental, and emotional health, including immune system functioning, stress management, and life satisfaction.

Recently, public health practitioners and researchers have adopted the technique to treat health conditions like chronic pain and to support healthy eating behaviors. One way of promoting mindfulness in these contexts is, ironically, through the use of smartphone apps.

A recent study evaluated the content of mindfulness apps in the Google Play store. The authors found hundreds of mindfulness apps, which have been downloaded tens of thousands of times. Most apps at least had a meditation component, a crucial part of practicing mindfulness. However, many apps had limited functions.

The authors discussed several ways to expand users’ experiences with these apps, such as tailored feedback and pairing with devices that monitor brain and heart activity. There is still a long way to go before these apps are proven to be effective, but their popularity indicates an extraordinary potential for reach.

It’s fascinating to think about how smartphones can be used to promote mindfulness, especially since my iPhone is without a question the number one distraction in my life. With all of the emails, texts, other notifications, and the apps that I have on my phone, I often have to make an effort to put the phone down and pay attention to what’s going on around me.

To think that now this distraction can help me focus and be present in my life is both counter-intuitive and exciting at the same time.


Photo Credit:, image ID: 10099827


Mobile Phones May Reduce Disparities in Cancer Outcomes

Post contributed by Bernie Agala, a Ph.D student in the school of public health with interests in cancer treatment in underserved and low-resource global settings.

eHealth has potential for better cancer outcomes in under-served and low-resource settings.

The WHO recently estimated cancer cases will increase by 57% in the next 20 years, referring to this as an “imminent human disaster.” People living in underserved areas in the US have fewer health services due to factors like fewer doctors. Few doctors want to work where potential for “appropriate compensation” is low.

Many health professionals are trained in areas with cultures which are different from those in underserved areas. They end up liking to work in areas similar to where they trained; after all, who wants a bad change? It thus seems unrealistic to hope to resolve workforce shortage by continuing to train doctors the same old way. No wonder disparities persist. In many global settings this situation is worse, with one doctor to 5,000 people or higher in some countries.

eHealth has great potential in these settings in terms of reach. eHealth application for cancer prevention, screening and treatment services has the potential to easily expand tailored and targeted health interventions to reach wider audiences than other means.

However, low computer literacy doesn’t make things better in these settings for eHealth. Luckily, high cell phone ownership and use, which is more than 70% of the population in some under-served and low resource countries, provides hope for eHealth and cancer outcomes.

Through eHealth, one doctor may reach more than 10,000 people with well-tailored and targeted cancer screening, prevention and treatment messages delivered over mobile phone networks to subscribers.  Could this be a tool to reduce a huge health disparity for underserved populations?


Source of WHO figures and quotes: CNN at

Photo Credit: 807MDSC on Flickr