Category: In the News

Green is the New Health

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Is green the new way to use health to market products? This August, the Coca-Cola Company released a new product, Coca-Cola Life, which boasts about 50 fewer calories than a “regular” Coca-Cola.

This is not the first time the company has produced a “healthier” alternative—products such as Diet Coke and Coke Zero have been marketing as low calorie and zero calorie options. However, Coca-Cola Life is marketed with a different appeal, such as its distinctive green-colored labeling.

The green may refer to the type of sweetener used in the new product. Instead of using controversial sweeteners such as acesulfame potassium and aspartame, Coke Life uses stevia, a natural sweetener, in addition to sugar. Thus, the product can be marketed to those opposed to artificial sweeteners, in addition to a lower calorie option that may retain a taste closer to a classic Coke.

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Is Coke Life healthier than regular Coke? Perhaps. Is it healthy option in general? Maybe not. Either way, health-conscious consumers should be wary of this marketing that appeals to health. Even if the product is healthier, it is still a sugar-sweetened beverage, and at the end of the day, the company’s goal is to make a profit. Coca-Cola Life is an opportunity for the company to appeal to increasing consumer demands for health-conscious products while displaying a positive public image by providing a “healthier” option.

This may be especially important, since more of these “healthier” products may be released in the future, such as a copycat rival, Pepsi True.

 

Sources:

http://www.coca-colacompany.com/coca-cola-unbottled/coca-cola-life-to-make-us-debut

http://www.dailymail.co.uk/health/article-2815775/Green-Coke-calorie-free-leaf-sweetener-South-America-sugar-regular-critics-warn-s-marketing-gimmick.html

http://www.nzherald.co.nz/lifestyle/news/article.cfm?c_id=6&objectid=11352415

http://www.marketingmagazine.co.uk/article/1315301/cola-wars-back-pepsi-takes-aim-coke-copycat-stevia-product-pepsi-true

Tapping into a New Market: The Fear of Ebola

With Ebola hemorrhagic fever as a major topic of discussion in the US, companies such as Natural Solutions Foundation have marketed cures for the virus such as Silver Sol Nano Silver. With no Food and Drug Administration (FDA) approved drug available for Ebola, these products are a cause for concern; not only are the products fraudulent, individuals may turn to these treatments instead of proper medical care.

In response, the FDA issued a warning to Natural Solutions Foundation in addition to two other companies. However, the list of commercial and homemade Ebola cures extends beyond these three entities and can even be seen in public-made online videos.

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But Ebola cures are far from the first suspect health solution to be sold—green coffee extract, snake oil, and several dieting or weight loss products. Consumers seeking to save their time, money, and even health should keep their eyes on the FDA’s resources and list of fraud in health.

Resources from FDA and MayoClinic, there are a few flags to look for in health scams, including:

  • Single products that are claimed to solve several health issues
  • Anecdotal testimonials of the product without any scientific evidence
  • Products that are “backed” by scientific studies but lack quality references
  • Quick fixes such as those frequently found in weight loss products
  • Buzz words such as “detoxify” or “purify” that do not have scientific meanings
  • Products with no negative side effects
  • “All natural,” which says little about its effectiveness or its true ingredients
  • Claims of government/medical conspiracy to hide information

Whichever the product, it may be beneficial to be critical and think about who is behind the product and who will benefit from sales.

 

Sources:

http://www.npr.org/blogs/health/2014/10/23/358318848/fda-cracks-down-on-fake-ebola-cures-sold-online

http://www.npr.org/blogs/health/2014/10/23/358317693/how-to-sell-bogus-health-cures-in-5-easy-steps

http://www.fda.gov/ForConsumers/ConsumerUpdates/ucm341344.htm

http://healthletter.mayoclinic.com/editorial/editorial.cfm/i/480/t/If%20a%20supplement%20sounds%20too%20good%20to%20be%20true,%20maybe%20it%20is/

#SmashDiabetes: What to Do With Your Pumpkin Post-Hallows Eve

What is so great about fall?  Pumpkin carving time, of course!  It is a great activity for families or a group of friends to do together.  It is great fun, even though it does require a lot of work, a dose of creativity and can be a little messy.  Pumpkins designs can depict different facial expressions, school logos, or any other creative idea the carver can come up with.

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Not only is carving the pumpkin fun, but the pumpkin seeds and pulp can be used to make delicious fall treats.  Have you ever roasted your pumpkin seeds?  They are easy to make and a nice healthy treat!  Here is a super easy recipe!  Additionally, who can forget the pumpkin pie (or pumpkin cheesecake) at your Thanksgiving meal!

Are you still on the fence about getting your pumpkin and carving a creative design?  Here is one MORE reason to do so!  There is a campaign starting on November 1st called Smash Diabetes.  The Smash Diabetes website invites you to

Join us and awesome people all over the world in ridding the earth of rotting, foul smelling pumpkins and gourds while raising awareness about the frustration of living with diabetes.

The goal is to post a video online of you smashing your pumpkin, using the hashtag #smashdiabetes.  Will you be smashing diabetes November 1st?  Will #smashdiabetes be the next #ALSIceBucketChallenge?

Happy carving and don’t forget to smash your pumpkin along with diabetes on November 1st!

*Photo Credit: Amanda Mezer

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The Rapid Spread of Ebola (Media Coverage)

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With a high mortality rate for those who contract Ebola hemorrhagic fever, there is reason to be concerned for persons in direct contact of those infected, but the disease has become a hot news item, since the first case of Ebola in the US was diagnosed on September 30, 2014.

Despite evidence and top officials stating that the Ebola is transmitted through exchange of bodily fluids, there are fears in the public that the disease can be airborne. While Ebola is not widespread in the US, with three confirmed cases (Thomas Duncan, the first case and two nurses who attended him), media coverage certainly is. A chart from Bloomberg’s Michael McDonough shows the rapid increase of Ebola wire stories in the last few months.

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Can the widespread coverage be problematic? Some polls, such as one conducted by Harvard, show a lack of knowledge of the disease, and even more recent polls suggest that this knowledge has not improved with the increase of media coverage.

According to Northwestern University’s Susan Mello, the constant news coverage could be problematic because the hype can mask other public health issues, such as influenza, and because it can create an “infodemic” where excess information can actually confuse or desensitize viewers.

And as expected, the comedians also have their opinions on the matter.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=fY9r3kcnvS4

Sources:

http://www.cdc.gov/vhf/ebola/transmission/human-transmission.html

http://talkingpointsmemo.com/livewire/chart-ebola-coverage-united-states

http://mediamatters.org/blog/2014/10/15/ebola-coverage-the-more-you-watch-the-less-you/201161

http://www.northeastern.edu/news/2014/10/3qs-the-word-on-ebola/

Pink You Know Where Your Money Is Going?

As we settle into fall, we see the same seasonal markers surface each year—sweaters and jackets, Halloween décor, and pumpkin everything. But with Breast Cancer Awareness Month occurring in October, we also need an influx of pink everything in the name of raising money for breast cancer research.

However, critical researchers, activists, consumers, and persons with breast cancer, such as those featured in the documentary Pink Ribbons, Inc., are very skeptical of the efforts to sell items, events, and the cause for breast cancer.

There are several reasons to be skeptical about the Susan G. Komen Foundation’s campaign. First, very little is known about the cause of breast cancer. If the cause(s) was known, then the month could be used to educate the public on these risk factors and how one can prevent breast cancer. This absence of this knowledge begs the question of what the awareness month is about: what is there to be aware about?

In the end, the focus is on selling things that are pink and participating in activities such as runs and walks while wearing pink with intentions to help a cause but having very little impact on any action.

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The initial purpose of the awareness month was to promote mammograms, but even this purpose can be faulty. Early detection of breast cancer may lead to effective treatment, but there is also a great chance that it may not or the side effects of the treatment may lead to other debilitating health conditions.

Major corporate partners of the campaign have much to gain from increased mammogram screenings and breast cancer diagnoses. Companies that build mammogram machines such as General Electric and DuPont are big donors; AstraZeneca, a pharmaceutical company and primary sponsor of the awareness month, can profit greatly from more women undergoing breast cancer treatments.

Of the money raised, which happens to the primary result of all of the awareness efforts (as opposed to advances in research), a portion goes into research, with a primary focus on finding a cure, not discovering the cause or how to prevent it.

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There’s also the observation that of all cancers or diseases for corporations to rally behind for a public-approved cause, breast cancer is conveniently a disease that affects women and a disease located in the breasts that can be easily sexualized. The campaign also sends a message of hope that women can fight and win the battle against cancer—often a losing battle that conveniently places the blame on those with breast cancer.

All things considered, is this campaign nothing more than a powerful business plan?

 

Sources:

http://firstrunfeatures.com/pinkribbonsinc/

http://www.alternet.org/story/46813/is_breast_cancer_awareness_a_marketing_sham

Tech Giants App-solutely Approaching The Health Field

Following the footsteps of Apple’s Health app for iOS 8 and Google Fit, Facebook is seeking to expand into the health field. With Apple and Google currently focusing on health metric apps such as keeping track of workouts, sleep, steps, Facebook may join the fray with its own lifestyle applications.

Additionally, Facebook may create online support communities for persons with similar health concerns. Online support communities on health issues are nothing new, but given Facebook’s existing online social networks, this may be feature that will gain traction very quickly among users, especially since users are already searching Facebook for health advice.

Recent events have spurred Facebook’s endeavors in the health field; for example, the 2012 initiative of allowing Facebook members to designate their organ donor status was a considerable success, increasing daily registrations by 21 times over.

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One concern of these health apps is privacy when it concerns confidential health information, especially in the wake of breaches such as the iCloud nude celebrity picture security issues. In particular, Facebook may need to be careful with this issue, considering existing attitudes about the website’s use of datamining for tailored advertisements as well as controversies such as research through manipulation of user’s news feeds. Extraction of personal health information for advertising or research purposes could serve as a major barrier for members’ trust of the website.

Facebook’s health initiatives may take some time for implementation, but it appears that today’s tech giants are moving toward practical applications for user-oriented health needs.

 

Sources:

http://www.theguardian.com/technology/2014/oct/03/facebook-health-market-app

http://www.engadget.com/2014/06/25/google-fit/

http://gizmodo.com/report-apple-knew-of-security-problems-long-before-icl-1638746390

http://www.theguardian.com/technology/2014/oct/02/facebook-sorry-secret-psychological-experiment-users

Who The .health Does This Website Belong To?

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You may know what to expect when you access a website that ends with .com, .org, .edu, or .gov, but what about .health? Get ready to see this, since the Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers (ICANN) has been bidding several health-related generic top-level domains (gLTD) such as .health, .doctor, and .med to various companies.

Global health organizations such as the World Health Organization consider the transactions controversial, since ownership of health-related domains can undermine the public’s ability to retrieve information from credible sources. These domains and websites associated with those domains can be worth millions of dollars.

Many internet users understand that the source behind websites ending with .edu or .gov may have the credibility of educational institutions or governmental organizations, respectivel, especially since these websites require third party accreditation. However, these new health-related domains do not appear to have any systems in place.

DotHealth, LLC is a company that recently acquired the .health domain, which means it can sell .health websites to different organizations. The same domain owned by a public health organization could be used for dissemination health information, but it could also be used by a company to associate its products with health.

What do you think about .health and other domains?

 

Sources:

http://www.npr.org/blogs/health/2014/09/26/351416992/will-dot-health-make-it-more-likely-that-youll-get-scammed

http://newgtlds.icann.org/en/

http://www.dothealthgtld.com

Discrimination: What Would YOU Do?

Marc Schaeffer, a Type 1 diabetic and substitute teacher in the Broward School District, was fired from his job for giving himself an insulin injection during class. The policy that had been set in place by the school was that Mr. Schaeffer would contact administration if he needed to give himself a shot, so they could send someone to monitor his room while he left to administer the shot. On the day of the problem, Mr. Schaeffer paged administration not only once, but twice. No one came. His blood sugar was getting dangerously high. He was torn between leaving the children unattended to give himself a shot, which would put the children at risk, or stay with the children and risk passing out. High blood sugar can cause symptoms including increased thirst, headaches, difficulty concentrating, blurred vision, frequent urination, fatigue (weak, tired feeling), and ultimately, coma and death. Mr. Schaeffer decided to give himself a shot while in the classroom, so he would not lose consciousness or leave the children unattended.

What would you have done? As someone who has had Type 1 diabetes for 16 years and also experienced discrimination, I found it quite shocking that someone could do something of this nature in this day and age. Technology and treatments for diabetes have improved greatly over the years, with the artificially pancreas being tested in research trials right now, but the actions and knowledge of people have not improved to the same extent with the times. Have you experienced anything like this or been mistreated in other ways because of illness or other physical disabilities?

Puppy Pressure: Friends Are Waiting

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They say sex sells, but maybe puppies do, too. It’s not the first time that Budweiser employed the use of the highly emotional use of Puppy Love to advertise their product, as the company did earlier this year during Super Bowl XLVIII, but the new “Friends Are Waiting” ad comes with a health message:

http://youtu.be/eubWYPhcEEo

Released for Friday’s Global Be(er) Responsible Day, the ad tells a narrative of a puppy taken to his new home, growing up, and spending time with his beloved owner as subtly placed bottles appear in the background. The music then takes a turn and evokes a strong emotional appeal as the dog whimpers for the owner’s return, and we are hit with the sad message, “For some, the waiting never ended.”

The emotional roller coaster gives us another twist after the ad declares, “we can change that.” Upon the owner’s return, we get the relief of seeing the dog light up again before the health message arrives—don’t drink and drive. The owner apologizes to his loyal friend, saying that he decided not to drive and stayed over at Dave’s instead.

Emotional appeals for public service announcements on impaired driving have been used before, often in the form of fear appeals, but this ad manages to use sadness followed immediately by the relief of happiness through the adorable use of a four-legged companion to bring one message: Your #FriendsAreWaiting.

 

 

Sources:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=eubWYPhcEEo

Poetic Social Justice: An Approach for Type 2 Diabetes Awareness

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Public health is often described as a science and an art, but have you thought about using poetry to tackle one of the most significant issues in the nation?

According to the 2014 CDC National Diabetes Statistics Report, there are 29.1 million people with Type 2 Diabetes in the U.S. Several lifestyle behaviors have been linked to the disease, but this public health problem, like many others, is complex and involves several social and environmental factors.

Youth Speaks, Inc. is an organization aimed at promoting, empowering, and create safe places for youth and young people for oral poetry such as spoken word and other works. The organization partnered with the University of California, San Francisco’s Center for Vulnerable Populations to create The Bigger Picture, a campaign to raise awareness about Type 2 Diabetes, including the institutional, environmental, and social factors.

Instead of traditional campaign messages, The Bigger Picture communicates through poetry developed and performed by youth sharing their stories and experiences with the disease, directly and indirectly. The art addresses issues such as physical effects, economic inequalities, class and access to health, and the food and beverage industries.

The poetry takes on several forms, such as metaphors to war and satires of industry, but they aim to start conversation among those affected, especially youth, and to reveal the larger institutional social, and environmental factors that play a role in the epidemic. Some of their pieces can be found on YouTube.

The Bigger Picture is also offering educational scholarships for youth who make great impacts with their statements or with their action.
Sources:

http://www.npr.org/blogs/health/2014/09/13/347438689/poets-give-voice-to-the-toll-of-type-2-diabetes

http://youthspeaks.org

http://cvp.ucsf.edu

https://www.youtube.com/playlist?list=PLGWDDcCZS9wIkeYh7AfJTydLaSVgi9vY0