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Online and IRL: Let’s Talk About Health Advocacy

Our smart phones deliver more than just answers to our Google questions. Mobile phones make communicating with each other easier than ever. About 95% of people in the United States own a cell phone of some kind; 77% own a smart phone. Nationally, the Pew Research Center estimates that seven out of ten people use at least one social media platform to connect with one another, read news, or for entertainment.

Combined with the availability of mobile phones, social media is the perfect avenue for advocacy on today’s public health problems.

By enabling its users to share experiences or expertise about issues, social media helps inform broad audiences about topics like mental health or diet and exercise. Influencers–people who have amassed large audiences on social media–inspire audiences to take action with just one photo or video. They donate to causes or make phones calls to elected officials about pertinent issues. Other times, the influence of messages shared through social media is more subtle. Among other things, they can help us feel more comfortable talking about difficult topics in our everyday conversations with colleagues or friends.

While “likes” and reposts serve as one way to advocate, it is crucial that we have conversations about public health in real life.

Get involved in local advocacy efforts in the Triangle (Raleigh-Durham-Chapel Hill) by connecting with the North Carolina National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NC NAACP) and Minority Health Caucus who host their signature advocacy events in February. The NC NAACP follows a long tradition of social justice advocacy via the Historic Thousands on Jones Street (HK on J) on February 9th and the Minority Health Caucus will lead it’s 40th Annual Minority Health Conference on February 22nd. Both events are great ways to learn about local issues and take action both in person and by raising visibility of issues using social media.


By Maribel Sierra


Statistics from:

Pew Research Center. (2018, February 5). Demographics of Mobile Device Ownership and Adoption in the United States. Retrieved January 31, 2019, from

Pew Research Center. (2018, February 5). Demographics of Social Media Users and Adoption in the United States. Retrieved January 31, 2019, from


Designer Babies: Questions of Ethics

Imagine a world with no disease. No one gets cancer, birth defects are a thing of the past, and STDs like HIV have been eliminated. At the end of 2018, Chinese scientist He Jiankui announced that we were one step closer to this reality. He had successfully created genetically altered babies, who were, he claimed, resistant to HIV. This announcement threw the scientific community into an uproar. It reignited a decades old debate over the role of eugenics amid our increasing ability to alter—and select—the human genome to create the “perfect” human. Some countries banned all gene-editing in response, pending review. The ethical implications of gene-editing are complex, and we can no longer delay discussing them. These are some of the questions that you should be asking:
1) Does creating “designer babies” increase disadvantages or discrimination within a society? In other words, if we can create the “perfect” human, how are the less than perfect humans affected?
2) When should we allow gene-editing in humans? Gene editing that removes a devastating disease may be acceptable. What about gene editing that determines eye-color or intelligence? Where do we draw the line?
3)What are the population-level implications of gene-editing human embryos?
4) What are the potential benefits of gene-editing in humans? Beyond addressing illness, could gene-editing also be used to change personality traits?
5) Who gets to decide whether gene-editing is permissible? What gives them the authority to do so? Who else deserves a say?
6) What are the appropriate legal measures in favor or against gene editing in humans?
Check out these links for more in-depth discussion of these issues:

Raw Beef Recalled Due to Possible Salmonella Outbreak

First it was romaine lettuce due to an E.coli outbreak, and now raw beef is being recalled due to possible salmonella contamination. It seems like consumers, retailers, and restaurants everywhere cannot catch a break when it comes to foodborne outbreaks.

Earlier today, the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) released a statement announcing that JBS Tolleson, Inc., an Arizona-based establishment, has recalled over 5.1 million pounds of raw beef products due to a possible salmonella outbreak. This comes after their first recall, which took place in early October of this year. In total, that is over 12 million pounds of raw beef products that JBS Tolleson, Inc. has recalled since October. The USDA states that those raw beef products, including ground beef, being recalled “bear the establishment number ‘EST. 267’ inside the USDA mark of inspection.” The USDA Food Safety and Inspection Service (FSIS) is concerned that some people may have these contaminated raw beef products in their freezers and recommend that individuals that do throw them away.

Salmonella is a common cause of food poisoning in the United States. It can be found on products such as contaminated eggs, poultry, raw fruits and vegetables. Consuming foods contaminated with salmonella can cause symptoms within 12-72 hours after consumption. These symptoms can include diarrhea, fever, abdominal cramps, and vomiting. It is important that one drinks plenty of fluids and gets adequate rest if infected with salmonella. Illness from salmonella exposure typically lasts 4-7 days, and most people recover without treatment.

The FSIS advises that individuals practice safety when handling and cooking raw meat products. Ground meats should be cooked to an internal temperature of 160 degrees Fahrenheit or 71.1 degrees Celsius. Other beef products should be cooked to an internal temperature of 145 degrees Fahrenheit or 62.8 degrees Celsius and left to rest for at least 3 minutes. Proper temperature can be confirmed with a food thermometer.

For more information about the recall and to read USDA’s official statement about it, please click here.


United States Department of Agriculture: Food Safety and Inspection Service. (2018, December 4). News Release: JBS Tolleson, Inc. Recalls Raw Beef Products due to Possible Salmonella Newport Contamination. Retrieved from

Salmonella. (2018, December 4). Retrieved from

United States Department of Agriculture: Food Safety and Inspection Service. (2018, October 19). Safe Minimal Internal Temperature Chart. Retrieved from

Asian Longhorned Tick Spreading Across U.S.

Last week, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) released a statement announcing that the Asian Longhorned Tick population has spread across the country. The tick, which is not typically found in the Western Hemisphere, was first reported on a sheep back in 2017 in the state of New Jersey. Today, a total of nine states have reported finding this tick. The CDC reports that a single female tick can reproduce offspring without mating.

The Asian Longhorned Tick has been discovered on livestock, pets, wildlife, and people. The tick is known to spread pathogens in other countries, and is a major threat to livestock such as cattle in New Zealand and Australia. They suggest that if you think you have found the tick, to remove it as soon as possible from the animal or person and keep it in rubbing alcohol in a jar or ziplock bag, and to contact your state agriculture department for tick identification. A complete CDC fact sheet with more information can be found here.

The CDC is still investigating the impact and threat of the Asian Longhorned Tick spread. They recommend individuals take several steps to prevent against tick bites, such as:

  • Using EPA-approved insect repellants containing substances like DEET or oil of lemon eucalyptus (more information about these repellants can be found here)
  • Wearing permethrin-treated clothing and gear
  • Checking your body for ticks when returning from areas where ticks may be present
  • Showering within two hours after being outdoors to help reduce the risk of tickborne diseases


Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. (2018, November 29). Asian Longhorned Tick Spreading Widely in U.S. Retrieved from

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. (N.d.). What you need to know about Asian longhorned ticks—a new tick in the United States [PDF]. Retrieved from


Winter is a Soup-er Time!

We are already in the month of December and soon winter will be upon us.  Crazy, huh? One of my favorite foods to cook during the cold, winter months is soup! I love how versatile soups can be. I love to toss all sorts of hearty, healthy vegetables and meats into my soup. Soup can be so easy to make, and not to mention, healthy and nutritious!

Here is a list of some delicious soup recipes to try:

Butternut Squash Soup (courtesy of The Seasoned Mom)

Tomato Soup (courtesy of Ree Drummond, Food Network)

Winter Vegetable Soup with Split Red Lentils (courtesy of A Beautiful Plate)

“All You Can Eat” Cabbage Soup (courtesy of Budget Bytes)

What are your favorite winter soup recipes? Let us know in the comments below!

Why Waste “Waste Water”?

The impacts of climate change have a wide range, from severe floods to crippling drought. Most prominently, our changing climate change has and will continue to cause extreme fluctuations in regional weather patterns. El Paso is not the first town in the States to experience these impacts, but the way they may be forced to respond will be unique.

The city of El Paso depends on the Rio Grande River as their main source of potable water. Due to increased temperatures and limited rainfall, the river is unable to provide the needed amount of water for the city. Due to this, El Paso is on its way to becoming the first large US city to directly reuse treated waste water. This means that the city’s sewer and waste water will be cleaned and immediately reintroduced back into people’s drinking water.

These extreme weather events are forcing the city of El Paso to search for water alternatives. And in this case, reusing sewage water is actually a safe and reasonable step. However, this measure does symbolize a growing trend in water resource shortages out west due to our changing climate. In many of these places, cities will have to search for innovative and novel approaches to meeting a growing population’s water needs in the midst of new climate challenges.



Vaping on the Rise

In 1965, the National Health Interview Survey (NHIS) began tracking cigarette smoking in the United States. Although it is still a widespread and serious problem in the US, the rates of traditional cigarette smoking have steadily declined. Now, in 2018, our nation is faced with a new tobacco use: vaping.

A new statement by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) states that adolescents are vaping at a dangerous level. From 2017 to 2018, the FDA found an 80% increase in the number of high schoolers vaping, and a 50% increase in middle schoolers. In total, the FDA and the Centers for Disease Control found that one out of five high schoolers have vaped in the last month.

Many people worry that the spike in adolescent vaping is a result of youth-targeted branding by e-cigarette companies. In particular, many people have pointed fingers at the e-cigarette brand “Juul”. In the recent past, Juul’s advertising campaigns contained images full of young faces, bright colors, and several fruit-flavored vaping options. Now, due to a series of initiatives from the FDA, Juul has recalled many of these campaigns and suspended sales of untraditional flavors.

Evidence does suggest that e-cigarettes should be safer than traditional tobacco cigarettes. However, these products are still new to the market and health-associated risks have not been fully evaluated.  In addition, when adolescents vape they are still being exposed to nicotine. This is a dangerous and addictive substance which can be harmful to a developing brain.




Health and the midterm elections

Today is election day. Across the country there are numerous elections which are weighing in on important health issues. There are several important health topics in the ballots, including: abortion rights, Medicaid expansion, marijuana usage, grocery taxes, and laws related to drug use and possession charges. Due to the political leanings of the current national administration, abortion rights are particularly vulnerable during this time.

Alabama, West Virginia, and Oregon are voting on legislation which will seriously affect access to abortion. On Alabama’s ballot, a newly proposed Amendment 2 is trying to change the wording which defines a fetus’ rights on the state Constitution. The amendment is aiming to grant a fetus the same rights and protections as a baby who has been born. If passed, this issue could have serious implications on further legislation which may eventually outlaw abortion in the state. In addition, this ballot measure doesn’t include the right to an abortion in the case of rape, incest, or if the mother’s life is at-risk.

West Virginia and Oregon are voting on measures which attempt to withhold state funding for abortion cases in respect to state employees and Medicaid recipients. However, in contrast to Alabama’s measure, these states do grant the right to victims of rape, incest, or when the mother’s life is in danger.

It is important to consider how our votes can act as determinants for health issues like these and many others. Voting at a state level can have a much larger impact on both national and local issues – especially pertaining to public health and medicine. Go out and vote today!

Look up your registration status, local polling place, and sample ballot here:,_State_Abortion_Policy_Amendment_(2018)


Run Long, Live Longer?

Everyone knows that regular exercise is good for you – it controls your weight, helps you combat disease, improves mood and energy, and many other benefits. However, the extent to which exercising can improve and lengthen your life is still being discovered. Now, a new literature review has shown that exercising regularly can generously lengthen life expectancy.

The review found that people who engage in the highest levels of physical activity lived up to 5.5 years on average longer than those who did not. A different study discovered similar benefits. Researchers found that women who regularly exercised were at a 31% lower chance of dying prematurely.

These results show that exercise may be a crucial tool to living a longer life. The Centers for Disease Control (CDC) has published physical activity guidelines which can help people improve their health by exercising. Following these recommendations can help anyone engage in this healthy behavior, and get them on track for a longer, healthier lifestyle.



October is Health Literacy Month!

Founded in 1999 by Helen Osborne, Health Literacy Month is all about promoting understandable health information. This information is critical in order for individuals to make appropriate health decisions.

Health literacy is the ability to obtain, process, and understand basic health information and services. This includes reading, writing, and numeracy of health information. Sometimes, health information can be difficult to understand and communicate among different audiences. This can make navigating the healthcare system challenging.

According to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, 77 million U.S. adults have basic or below basic health literacy. Low health literacy can lead to poor health outcomes, such low uptake of preventive health services and/or greater use of treatment health services. This can lead to high healthcare costs.

There are many factors that can affect health literacy. Some of these factors include: education, age, language, and culture. Culture can play a key role in how one understands and responds to health information. Culture involves certain beliefs, values, communication styles that all can affect how one processes health information. Therefore, it is important that health information is communicated in a way that is culturally appropriate for the individual or audience.

One key setting for health literacy is that of patient and health care providers. Patients may have difficulty understanding complex medical information, while providers may have difficulty communicating complex medical information. It is important for providers and patients to work together in order to ensure that health information is understood and communicated effectively, so that the best health care decisions are made for the patient.

Interested in learning more about health literacy? Check out the following resources from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention:

Additional resources from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services:


Kindig, D. A., Panzer, A. M., & Nielsen-Bohlman, L. (Eds.). (2004). Health literacy: a prescription to end confusion. National Academies Press.

National Institutes of Health. (2017, May 31). Health Literacy. Retrieved from

U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. (2008). America’s Health Literacy: Why We Need Accessible Health Information. Retrieved from

U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.  (N.d.). Quick Guide to Health Literacy: Fact Sheet – Health Literacy Basics. Retrieved from

U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.  (N.d.). Quick Guide to Health Literacy: Fact Sheet – Health Literacy and Health Outcomes. Retrieved from
U.S. National Library of Medicine. (N.d.). Health Literacy: Definition. Retrieved from