Entries for the ‘Health identities’ Category
November 14, 2013
Many of the important messages about health include information about the role of genes for health. Genes matter. Behavior matters. Environments matter. The problem is how to communicate that genes do not absolutely determine health. This will be an important part of health communication for many decades to come.
Professor Celeste Condit wrote about how genes have been defined in her book, “The meanings of the gene” [http://www.amazon.com/The-Meanings-Gene-Heredity-Rhetoric/dp/0299163644].
Efforts to define genes often depend on the use of metaphor, explaining what a gene is in terms of something else that an audience is assumed to already understand. Many of these metaphors use “instruction” as a key component. Professor Rachel Smith and I decided to evaluate two of these instruction metaphors, one that defined genes as “a blueprint of our possibilities” and the other that defined genes in terms of “instructions” more generally. The abstract of the article to be published in February in the journal, Health Communication, appears at: http://www.tandfonline.com/doi/abs/10.1080/10410236.2012.729181#.UtLxv1OFeSo. The online article is at: DOI: 10.1080/10410236.2012.729181
Participants received a message about the role of genes for health for which the introduction varied the definition of a gene, and all other content was the same. Participants who read a message with the blueprint metaphor were more likely to believe that genes absolutely determine health and that genetic therapies are the effective means to address the role of genes for health. The instruction metaphor related to participants having stronger beliefs that genes make one more susceptible to disease but do not absolutely determine the onset of disease, and beliefs that we have some personal control over the role that genes have for our health.
These results support the importance of the metaphors used to define health and scientific terms. Just one exposure to a message that defines genes in different ways can have powerful effects on our attitudes about genes and health.
August 28, 2013
One of the fun things about writing a book like ‘Talking about health’ is that readers tell me that they are inspired by the family stories included in the book. My youngest sister includes her story about a long road to conceiving her daughter–both pictured here with popsicle stick in hand.
I have read many of the stories in my book to my undergraduates and they, like some readers who have told me what they like about the book, love my sister’s story. Perhaps many can relate because they know someone who has gone through something similar [see http://www.cdc.gov/nchs/fastats/fertile.htm for CDC statistics about just how many].
Today is my sister’s birthday. I wish we lived closer so that we could have shared a cup of peach green tea. ‘Happy Birthday, Sis!’
Source: Best Public Health Schools
August 14, 2013
Selecting a doctor is sometimes a difficult process. There may be several choices for our care. Doctors don’t generally advertise in the U.S., making it difficult to know what any doctor considers to be her or his best points for care. Education? Experience?
For most of us, one factor will be whether a doctor will be reimbursed by our health care insurance. But even after considering that constraint, we often have choices.
Online searches for information may help us sort out some of the characteristics of each person on our list. Input the physician’s name and you will be likely to find information about their education and experience. You often will also find comments from current or former patients. And you may even find rating systems, such as the use of one to five stars to rate the doctor–much like consumers rate products from cars to shoes.
Using the rating system as one piece of information to make a decision follows a long-established pattern of influence. The bandwagon effect acknowledges that what others think and do may help us make a decision about what to think or do. Those five stars give us a shortcut to having others tell us what they think and why. Sometimes, there are only two reviewers providing an assessment. Other times, there are hundreds and even more. If we see ourselves in some of their experiences, it just might save us some time and trouble.
August 12, 2013
I love cold water to quench my thirst on a hot summer’s day. But I also like to get some antioxidants in my beverage. In the summer, when I am in the park or on the water, brewing my own tea is seldom an option. I wondered whether the bottled teas had much of the good antioxidant factor left in them and found a research article that revealed — probably not. It looks like if I want a beverage from the store to stick in my cooler or pick up along the way, it might be a good choice to have pomegranate or Concord grape juice over ice.
Here is the ranking of beverages in one research study that looked at their antioxidant content: http://pubs.acs.org/doi/abs/10.1021/jf073035s
August 10, 2013
As I looked at my grandson splashing about in the lake, I thought about the upcoming annual mammogram appointment. Last year, I had to go back for follow-up. That turned out to be an ultrasound and the ‘all clear’. More than ten years ago, I had a follow-up that required a needle biopsy but also worked its way to the ‘all clear’ signal. Because it had been so long ago, I wouldn’t say that I took my screening outcome for granted, but I didn’t feel uncertain about it the way that I did this year because of last year’s ‘call-back’.
I did a little research to settle my uncertainty while the days passed and I waited for my appointment. I searched for published science about what causes breast cysts. In one word, I came upon research linking iodine deficiency to breast cysts and a whole lot of other issues summarized by a physician in this Psychology Today article: http://www.psychologytoday.com/blog/complementary-medicine/201108/iodine-deficiency-old-epidemic-is-back
Here is an example of one of the published research studies related to iodine deficiency and breast cysts: http://link.springer.com/article/10.1023/A:1008925301459#page-1
I will be asking my primary care physician this week if I have iodine deficiency. In the meantime, while the technician took an additional x-ray picture at the screening, I did not get a call-back, and I did get a letter from the mammography site giving me the ‘all clear’ based on the screening.
It is interesting to ponder if this is a case of unintended consequences associated with communicating about the danger of consuming salt, which has been iodized to compensate for iodine deficiences noted in the 20th century.
July 11, 2013
I had my six month low vision doctor’s appointment this week. What is low vision? Well, it is impaired vision that cannot be corrected by eye glasses or surgery or medication, and interferes with daily living. I am not completely blind. But I cannot drive due to my impaired vision. I require some accommodations to assist me in my work. I hate stairs painted or carpeted all in one color. Movie theaters may as well be black holes.
I have been living with low vision since 2007. And it has been, excuse the pun, eye-opening. The tales I could now tell about disability and living with a disability, but that will be for another day. Today, I want to comment on ACA and low vision.
I asked my low vision doctor what ACA does for those with low vision. My doctor is fabulously upbeat. She said, “Well, it is a good news, bad news story. There are provisions for children’s eye care that we’ve never had before. On the other hand, there are NO provisions for assistance to people with low vision. According to the National Eye Institute at the National Institutes of Health, there are millions of people in the US living with low vision and about 135 million world wide [http://www.nei.nih.gov/lowvision/content/faq.asp]. That is a lot of people to ignore or put on the shelf, so to speak, because they cannot get assistance with work and daily living due to impaired vision. It seems that one of the biggest gaps in the ACA is outlining concrete strategies to address care for people living with disabilities. That is a very big oversight and one that has not perhaps gained the public’s attention as much as it should.
June 16, 2013
Sometimes, we have a bit of a summer camp at my house. Here are my daughter and niece making candles. When I get to share time with my three sisters and my sisters-in-law, all their daughters, my mother, my daughter and daughter-in-law, and my granddaughters–I feel grateful and blessed. They all know that I will eventually somehow end up talking about health messages. But they don’t mind. Most of them have read my co-edited book, ‘Evaluating women’s health messages’ [http://www.amazon.com/Evaluating-Womens-Health-Messages-Resource/dp/0761900578/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1371768886&sr=8-1&keywords=evaluating+women%27s+health+messages]. And even though it was published it 1996, it’s still relevant because it tells the history of bringing women’s health and medical research onto the political agenda. It was, after all, only 1990 when the Office of Women’s Health was formed. And until that time, it was just taken for granted that funded medical research should systematically exclude women for all the biological reasons that make us women. What research included women focused mostly on their reproductive health, leaving men out of the reproductive equation just as women were being left out of all the rest of the human health equation research–things such as heart disease research, for example.
The gap in health and medical research is still reflected in society’s norms and language. ’Reproductive health’ as an expression automatically brings up an image of a woman. Just as ‘outdoorsman’ of course brings up an image of a man. So imagine my surprise when I went to do some shopping online at Bass Pro. A store I dearly love, I usually wait for visits to cities where they are located. but yesterday, I googled them and went to their site and was greeted by, ‘Welcome Outdoorsman’–huh?
Yes, I found the contact information and emailed them promptly. And, yes, they answered promptly. Let’s see what happens next!