Tag: health

Are You Healthy? (Part 2)

Previously, I discussed changes to our model of health due to randomized control trials and the pharmaceutical industry, as discussed in Joseph Dumit’s Drugs for Life. Here are the three primary models of health as discussed by Donald A. Barr in his book Health Disparities in the United States: Social Class, Race, Ethnicity, & Health. 

The first model is the medical model or physical health model that focuses on the absence of symptoms or other signs of disease or illness. However, Barr mentions several issues with this model of health, noting “that this approach to defining health tells us what the concept of health is not. . .It does not tell us what health is” (2014, pp. 15). He expands on this later:

“What are we to make of a condition that has no abnormal symptoms? An important example of this is high blood pressure, also referred to as hypertension; persons with hypertension develop symptoms only after a number of years. Should we consider a person with somewhat elevated blood pressure to be unhealthy based on our knowledge that his blood pressure will eventually lead to further problems? What might be the consequences of labeling such a person as ‘unhealthy,’ even if he feels fine?” (Barr, 2014, p. 16)

These are the questions that Joe Dumit attempts to answer, looking beyond hypertension to guidelines about pre-hypertension and the prescriptions of statins with no understanding of when patients can stop taking them.

The second model is the sociocultural model or the model of health as functioning at a normal level. Barr looks at it in contrast to the medical model, which looks at absence, because the sociocultural model looks at the presence of an ability to function at a level that has been deemed normal (2014, p. 17). The ability to functional normally is defined in regards to one’s ability to completed five “activities of daily living (ADLs),” which are roughly, (1) eating, (2) bathing, (3) dressing, (4) using the bathroom, and (5) moving on one’s own (2014, p. 17). Of course, the entire premise of “normal functioning” is subjectively predicated on societal ideas of self-sufficiency that might vary from culture to culture or community to community.

The third model is the psychological model or the model of health as a feeling of well-being. In this model, individuals are able to assess themselves and their own health with the help of several developed measures (Barr, 2014, p. 18). However, Barr notes that these tests are often “time-specific” (Barr, 2014, p. 18). I would argue that health is always time specific and temporal. I may be healthy today, but I can quickly develop a health problem or injure myself, perhaps even resulting in a temporary or life-long disability, reaffirming the temporality of both health and disability.

According to Barr, these models can be combined to create a multidimensional model of health that presents a better picture of the health of an individual.

Improving the Nutrition Profile of Food Donations

Hunger impacts one in seven people in the United States. Children, older adults, and those who are homeless are particularly susceptible to the impact of stress and inadequate nutrition for healthy growth and development and/or disease management that accompanies hunger.

The Feeding America Network includes 200 food banks and 60,000 food pantries and meal programs that aim to get nourishing food to people in need. In fact, they serve more than 46 million people each year. To serve all of these individuals, Feeding America relies on donations from individuals and corporations. The great news is that donating food is easy. In fact, more people donate to food drives each year than watch the Super Bowl.

The less than great news is that many of the items donated are high in sodium and/or sugar, which could be particularly harmful for growing children and adults managing chronic diseases like diabetes or heart disease. Fortunately, this trend is starting to change. NPR’s WNYC provides a positive example of how Washington D.C.’s Capital Area Food Bank has significantly reduced (by 84%) the amount of junk food it supplies by being more clear in their requests for the types of foods they want to be able to offer.

The #GiveHealthy Movement is also changing how and what people donate. The #GiveHealthy movement uses technology to allow hunger relief organizations to specify the types of healthy food items they desire. For example, this may include fresh fruit, vegetables, or other healthy food items. Food drive organizers can then connect with and share specific hunger organizations’ wish lists. Donors can purchase identified items and everything will be delivered, at no cost, to the organization.

What we eat matters. What we donate matters. And there is finally support to change the nutrition profile of what we offer to support those in need. I challenge you to #GiveHealthy and to support others to as well.

 

Sources:             

Feeding America. http://www.feedingamerica.org/research/hunger-in-america/facts-and-faces/

#GiveHealthy. Hunger is a Health Issue. http://givehealthy.org/index.php/givehealthy-food-drive-2017/hunger-is-a-health-issue/

WNYC. NPR. One of America’s Biggest Food Banks Just Cut Junk Food By 84 Percent in a Year. http://www.wnyc.org/story/one-of-americas-biggest-food-banks-just-cut-junk-food-by-84-percent-in-a-year/

Are You Healthy?

To understand whether or not your healthy, you have to first understand what it means to be healthy. It seems straightforward, but in the modern age, this is a complex question.

We might at first be inclined to think that being healthy means that you don’t have any illness or injury. But is this always true? What if you have an illness that is managed by medication? What if a person has a disability but the disability doesn’t disrupt their daily life? What if you’ve been diagnosed with pre-hypertension but have no symptoms?

Joseph Dumit, Director of Science and Technology Studies and Professor of Anthropology at the University of California, Davis, discusses various changes to our view of health and illness since the rise of the randomized control trial in his book Drugs for Life: How Pharmaceutical Companies Define Our Health (Duke University Press, 2012). He argues “that being at risk for illness is often treated as if one had a disease requiring lifelong treatments, drugs for life” (6).

Dumit discusses a few prediseases in depth, looking at pre-hypertensive, pre-diabetes, and borderline high cholesterol. “Literally, a disease-sounding syndrome is produced by correlating risk factors and naming it in such a way that it becomes common sense to think about treating ‘it’ as a disease in and of itself” (165). Hence, health becomes a matter of risk where we are all bodies constantly at risk of disease. If you have pre-diabetes, are you healthy? How do we understand our health in a risk economy of health?

This intersects interestingly with Donald A. Barr’s claim, in his book Health Disparities in the United States: Social Class, Race, Ethnicity, & Health, that despite investing so much of our economy in health, US health indexes rank rather low; “[p]erhaps, our basic assumption–that more health care will lead, necessarily, to better health–is flawed.”

Let us give thanks

By: Courtney Luecking, MPH, MS, RD Doctoral Candidate: Nutrition

Thanksgiving is my favorite holiday. It is an opportunity to take time away from routines, gather with family and friends, and literally give thanks. The history buffs can check their knowledge about the origin of Thanksgiving, but I would like to concentrate on the science behind the power of gratitude.

Check out this beautiful infographic for a more in depth summary, but the short of the long is that expressing gratitude has numerous physical and mental health benefits. Studies have linked gratitude with improved sleep, increased energy levels, and increased self-esteem. One trial also found those who kept a gratitude journal for 10 weeks were 25% happier than the group who did not keep a journal.

Read more about the benefits of expressing gratitude here and here.

With all these benefits, why limit it to one day a year? Instead, why not find some space for gratitude all year long?

be-thankful

Here are some ideas to intentionally acknowledge what or who you are grateful for throughout the year:

  • Snap a daily photo. Get inspiration from 365grateful, a stunning display of all the wonderful – big and small – things in the world
  • Keep a journal or list – paper, word document, or note on a phone or tablet
  • Try an app
  • Write a thank you note – for a purpose or just because
  • Jar of happiness
  • Meditate
  • Pray
  • Count your blessings

Let us give thanks not only this Thanksgiving holiday but more frequently in the upcoming year. After all, don’t we have much to be thankful for?

 

You are what you Tweet?

By: Courtney Luecking MPH, MS, RD Doctoral candidate: Nutrition

Are you someone who puts your mood, food, or physical activity on social media? If so, you may be helping researchers develop and test new ways of tracking health behaviors.

funny-food-house-quote-sweet

 

It is known that the places where we live, work, play, and learn positively and negatively influence our health. But due to the time and other resources necessary to gather and update information about neighborhood characteristics, there is a lack of information to really understand how characteristics influence our health or why those effects might differ across town or the U.S.

As an alternative, a group of researchers explored the usefulness of using geotagged tweets to generate neighborhood level information to characterize happiness, food, and physical activity. By linking tweets to census tract level information, investigators found correlations (relationships) between happiness, food, and physical activity information and health behaviors, chronic diseases, death, and self-rated health.

And although this wasn’t the intention of the study, you might be interested to know the top 5 most tweeted about foods and forms of physical activity in the 1% random sample of publicly available tweets from April 2015 – March 2016:

Foods

  1. Coffee
  2. Beer
  3. Pizza
  4. Starbucks
  5. IPA (beer)

Physical Activity

  1. Walk/walking
  2. Dance/dancing
  3. Running
  4. Workout
  5. Golf

Any chance your tweets over the last year included one of those words?

This study, like all others, has limitations, and it is important to remember this is a first look at the usefulness of geocoded Twitter information. Having said that, these results show promise that Twitter or other social media data could be a useful and cheaper, more efficient way to create neighborhood profiles. More information about our neighborhoods could provide insight about important targets for change to improve the health of our communities. Now that is something to #tweet about!

 

Resources:

Cara, E. Top 10 Food Tweets Reveal Diet and Physical Activity Patterns of Twitter Users. Medical Daily. October 16, 2016. http://www.medicaldaily.com/heres-top-10-tweeted-about-foods-and-what-they-mean-our-health-401413

Nguyen QC, Li D, Meng HW, Kath S, Nsoesie E, Li F, Wen M. Building a National Neighborhood Dataset From Geotagged Twitter Data for Indicators of Happiness, Diet, and Physical Activity. JMIR Public Health Surveill. 2016;2(2):e158. DOI: 10.2196/publichealth.5869. PMID: 27751984