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Why now?: The point of talking about low vision

May 4, 2016

IMG_3776 (1024x768)I retired this past year. It is early, but I could, and so I did. Doing so allows me time to pursue projects I could not otherwise have done. It lets me quit worrying about whether I can meet expectations at work. It lets me quit worrying about whether a human resources person will come knocking on my office door to help me see the wisdom of ‘going on disability.’ It removes the anger, frustration, and hostility I felt toward having to repeatedly ask for a classroom in my own building where my office is located and still not getting assigned to such a classroom. It allows me to be an advocate for people living with low vision, to share our experiences, to promote awareness and understanding, to encourage everyone to recognize this largely invisible group of more than 135 million people, and to apply my communication expertise to these goals… In case you were wondering or had already asked me….and even if you weren’t and didn’t…

What is a patent and what did the US Supreme Court decide about human genes and patents?

117_1749June 13, 2014

The US Supreme Court ruled that human genes cannot be patented. A patent is the authority to make, use, or sell something. Myriad Genetics Inc. sought patents regarding genes for which some versions have been linked to breast and ovarian cancer–the BRCA gene mutations. The Court decided that identifying and isolating these genes is not worthy of a patent. On the other hand, Myriad also has created a synthetic form of DNA known as cDNA and that was determined to be worthy of a patent.

For patients, testing for BRCA gene mutations may become more accessible. Until now, Myriad has had the only genetic test for BRCA gene mutations. Perhaps others will now develop testing and contribute to cost reductions, since Myriad does not hold exclusive rights to make, use, or sell products associated with these genes.   


Soy products and nutrition and cancer: Conflicting messages

June 6, 2013

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAOne of my granddaughters is allergic to cow’s milk. I saw effects of such allergies decades ago when a nephew was born with severe allergies to cow’s milk and used goat’s milk. My granddaughter used goat’s milk for awhile but seemed to develop an allergic reaction to it as well. Not as severe as cow’s milk but not waiting around to make that happen…

What about soy milk, my son asked. I have read some of the research and debate surrounding soy and phytoestrogens and cancer. But I never read anything specifically about infants. So I searched and read a number of pieces written. I want to recommend this one written by a pediatrician:

In a nutshell, the author notes various deficiencies in soy milk that need to be address, such as its lack of B12, and the importance of buying whole soy milk to obtain the fats necessary for brain development, and the importance of having soy milk that is fortified with vitamins A & D, as well as calcium.

The pediatrician does not address the phytoestrogen controversy directly but observes that there is no research linking adverse outcomes to children.

Another alternative is coconut milk. While I could not find any research or pediatrician discussing this as an alternative, I did find a site with a pretty complete discussion by moms, including moms who used coconut milk for multiple kids who are into adolescence now and still drink it. Coconut milk has they say a lot of good fats in it but lacks calcium and protein.

My son asked specifically about Asian diets rich in soy and the health benefits. I have worked closely with Asian graduate students over the past two decades and have come to understand that how they consume soy is quite different from what we think of. Our grocery stores offer tofu and soy milk as mainstays in soy products. Soy in Asian diets takes on different forms and is often fermented in miso, tempeh and natto. Soy milk and tofu are highly-processed soy products. So it appears that one part of the conflicting messages relates to the form that soy takes. More processed forms, as with so many food products, do not offer the same health benefits as less processed.



Health communication online for supporting fitness–

September 21, 2012

 Today is my daughter-in-law’s birthday. September is filled with birthdays in my family. And we celebrate them. Not so much with cake. More with talk and support. Reminding each other of all the good things from the past year and all that we have to look forward to in the year ahead. That support makes all the difference in the world for living a fulfilled life. That must be part of the idea behind I read about the online site when I was going through a pile of old magazines this summer. I do that now and then, tearing out pages for items I want to follow-up on and throwing the rest of the magazine away or–if it is not too destroyed–donating it for others to read. At any rate, I read about SparkPeople being a site where members find support for reaching fitness goals. So today I visited the site.

My first impression in joining is that the site has a lot of capacity for customization. I could [tho I didn’t] create my own personal page. Even without creating the personal page, I entered some information in a very quick fashion and the screen rolled over to content relating to my interests. The site is filled with color and images and all kinds of links. There are communities to join, friendships to make [the site says], stories of success before and after joining.

I wonder how long members, on average, spend on the site and how many weeks, months, or years they  remain active members. I noticed that the site has a lot of advertising support. As far as I have gone, that apparently supports the site so that it is free to subscribers. So far anyway. I do wonder if the site is doing so much for so many topics that it might prove to be less depth than some would want. I also wonder about the name and how people would find their way to the site if they didn’t read about it in a magazine. Perhaps others have experiences with the site and will let us know more.

Health communication about BONIVA

August 25, 2012

“BONIVA has not been proven to stop and reverse bone loss in 9 out of 10 women and is not a cure for postmenopausal osteoporosis”  []. This message has appeared in numerous magazines and newspapers. Have you seen or heard it?

I wonder how Sally Field feels about that. She appeared in ads to endorse the product and she read the script that said the research had shown that BONIVA reversed bone loss…  I will track down the research and see if we can find what the published research  really found. For now, I am reflecting on how many of us heard Sally’s ad versus how many of us have seen or read about the FDA’s retraction. And I am enjoying having the strength, including my bones, to pick up my 4 year old grandson and wrestle him into my lap for a family gathering at a restaurant after church on a warm Sunday afternoon.

Applause applause for Disney and ban on junk food ads for cartoons

June 11, 2012

Disney has decided to ban ads for junk food when it comes to kids’ cartoons. That’s some good news when it comes to media exposure and kids’ learning product names. The bad news is that it won’t take effect until 2015. Wow. Why? Contracts?

Read more in the AP story here:

Health communication and Dr. Oz’s message about paraben

May 1, 2012

I am in the midst of final exam week and grading. In the background, Dr. Oz started talking about ‘paraben’ and how it acts as an estrogen. I am always on the alert for these kind of messages. Hormones, research, cancer, blood clotting… these all came to mind. I got up from the computer and went to listen carefully. And then I went to my bathroom. My shampoo have five kinds of paraben in it. My two different types of body lotions had multiple forms of paraben as well. I got rid of them. Trash. Not a moment’s hesitation.

Why? Well, one of the facts Dr. Oz shared is that in one research study, 19 of 20 women diagnosed with breast cancer had significant levels of paraben in their breast tissue. I will hunt down the research and share it soon. For now, here is a summary of content from Dr. Oz with the link to the story at the end:

Flushed Away

We all know about industrial pollution and climate change, but there’s a new threat to the environment much closer to home – pharmaceutical  and personal care product pollution (PPCP). Experts are increasingly worried that marine life across America is showing us the harm its doing to our planet and ourselves.


What’s Happening to the Environment?

In river basins around the country, the United States Geological Survey has found fish with both female and male sex organs. Intersex frogs are also popping up all over. And experts have found evidence of chemicals called endocrine disruptors, such as atrazine (an herbicide) and Bisphenol-A (BPA) in the country’s water supplies.


What are Endocrine Disruptors? 

These chemicals alter the actions of hormones in our body, which can hurt us in 2 ways. First, they can block our hormones from acting as they normally would, and, secondly, they can act like hormones triggering effects that may include early onset puberty in adolescents.  


What’s Happening to Us?

Breast cancer rates are increasing, girls are entering puberty earlier, sperm counts and testosterone levels are falling drastically, and certain genital abnormalities are on the rise.


What Should We Watch Out For?

Though the evidence is not definitive, experts fear that products we are introducing into our environment could be to blame, and they are urging us to decrease the use of certain chemicals. Here’s what to look for:


Bisphenol-A (BPA)You may have heard about BPA, the chemical used to make hard plastics, line cans, and create carbonless receipts. It’s proven to raise the risk of breast cancer in rats and the FDA has raised an alarm about the potential harm BPA can cause; Connecticut even banned its use  in children’s products.


Ninety-three percent of us have BPA in our bodies. We live with it, and we excrete it when we go to the bathroom, sending the chemical into the environment.

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These difficult-to-pronounce ingredients help fragrance linger on the body after you have applied a lotion or body cream to your skin. They’re also found in toys, floor coverings, detergent, soaps, nail polish, and shampoos. Unfortunately, they mimic the hormone estrogen and have been linked to reproductive problems in rodents, such as lower testosterone and fetal malformation. Often they are not listed on beauty products, so the best rule of thumb is to avoid any products with fragrance.



Found in moisturizing shampoos and body lotions, parabens are the most widely used preservatives in the beauty product industry, and they also act similar to estrogen in our bodies. One study found parabens in the breast cancer tissue of 19 out of 20 women studied; experts worry there could be a connection.


Use these chemicals as a litmus test for a healthy product. If you see them listed on the label (often as methylparaben, butylparaben, or propylparaben), it shows that the manufacturer is not concerned about limiting exposure to potentially harmful chemicals.


Leftover Prescription Medicine

The medication we take ends up in our water supply in 1 of 2 ways. We secrete it in our urine (which we can’t control), but many of us also flush unused medication down the toilet, contributing to the rising amount of pharmaceutical pollution found in our water supply. In 2008, the Associated Press found that dozens of pharmaceuticals end up in our water supplies, and eventually, in our tap water. That’s because water treatment plants are designed to neutralize biological hazards, such as bacteria, but not pollutants such as antibiotics. Scientists are now discovering bacteria in the wild that are not only resistant to antibiotics, they can actually live off them.


What Can You Do?

  • Drink water from stainless steel bottles
  • Avoid plastics with the numbers 3, 6, and 7 on the bottom
  • Never heat plastic in the microwave (even if it says it is microwave safe)
  • Choose frozen and fresh produce over canned
  • Use BPA-free baby bottles
  • Avoid any products that contain fragrances; opt for those that get their scent from essential oils
  • Stay away from parabens
  • Choose products that are paraben- and phthalate-free
  • Dispose of leftover medication by throwing it in the trash with coffee grinds or cat litter (to keep harmful medications from being picked from the trash), return the unused portion to your pharmacy, or go online to find your local hazardous waste disposal facility.” 


A stark reminder to check your prescriptions…closely

March 8, 2012

I heard the story about a pharmacy mix-up the other day that reminded me how important it is to inspect my medications closely before taking them. As the clip shows, a medication was given that looked the same in color and size, but very much was not the same. A cancer drug instead of fluoride tablets.

I found an error once. The pill was a different color than my prescription but the same size. So I looked closer and it wasn’t my medication. You can check your prescription by going to and enter the number on your pill to be sure that it is what was prescribed according to the label.

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February 10, 2012

Why do we talk in “either” “or” terms when we know better?

It is not “either” we drill for Marcellus shale “or” we will remain energy dependent.  

It is not “either” we quit drilling for Marcellus shale “or” we will destroy the environment.

As long as we keep talking and thinking that way, here is the story…




What is ‘negative labeling’ of genetically modified foods?

February 6, 2012

My three favorite food groups are salsa, salsa, and more salsa. I prefer to have a beautiful garden of fresh tomatoes and onions and peppers to pluck and prepare my own salsa. But I don’t. So I use Green Mountain Gringo Salsa, the ‘hot’ variety. And I am forever happy when Dr. Oz talks about healthy eating and I find that my salsa qualifies. It has some sea salt in it but that’s the last ingredient in the list of fresh vegetables.

And then there is the message, ‘No Genetically Modified Ingredients’. I think they mean to say, ‘No Genetically Engineered Ingredients’. I think that because what I believe is true about the salsa I love is that the ingredients have not been genetically altered with the DNA of one organism combined with another. No salmon in the tomatoes, for example. [read about this here: ].

This method of informing consumers about GM content in food is called negative labeling — it tells us something isn’t present. In cases where there is no ‘negative label,’ we can reach the conclusion that there is such content in the food. We don’t know what. We don’t know how much. But we also don’t know based on any systematic research conducted over time whether we need to know.

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