Welcome to my Why Health Communication Matters BLOG


Patient-Centered Outcomes Research Institute News on My Birthday

IMGP3168September 10, 2013

Nothing I enjoy more than a walk along a creek or stream and gathering fall foliage. In this case, it is cattails. A great way to spend a birthday.

At the same time, an announcement came into my email about the approval of 114 million dollars to support patient-centered outcomes research. The Affordable Care Act introduced this new research institute as part of its overall mission. Each of us will contribute one dollar to the initiative as part of the plan to fund its activities. I am not yet sure why a new institute was needed in addition to the National Institutes of Health which often includes patient centered outcomes research. I haven’t heard any real public discussion about this new initiative to fund research. You can check it out here: http://www.pcori.org/about-us/how-were-funded/

I will continue to ponder the meaning of another institute as part of the Affordable Care Act and share any insights I gain. Please do the same.


What we all should know about the Food Safety Modernization Act

john and rox in riffle jcwp facebookSeptember 6, 2013

The news often tells us something about the quality of our food. It may be a story about salmonella and chicken. Or it may be about a recall based on something being in a food that should not be there–perhaps due to defective equipment in a processing plant or two foods getting mixed together or peanuts being present when they should not have been. These stories help us select healthy food and should make us realize how much is done to keep our food safe. One of the more recent policies relating to our food safety is explained at http://www.fda.gov/Food/GuidanceRegulation/FSMA/ucm247559.htm and makes clear that illness from food remains a big problem. With one in six of us becoming ill from foodborne illness, more than 120,000 hospitalizations, and about 3,000 deaths each year–we should all be aware of what we can do to stay safe and what the modernization act does to make it more likely.



Happy birthday to my little sister–her story has inspired so many

August 28, 2013

IMG_1202[1](1)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!’


“Your potassium level is low”–what fruits can do about this message from my doctor

August 23, 2013

IMGP0012Well, the annual check-up was mostly good news. My numbers were mostly good. 64 resting pulse. 120 over 78 for blood pressure. But then my doctor said, “Don’t you like fruit?” Huh?

“Your potassium is low. Don’t you like fruit?” I eat an apple almost every day, I say. He nods and says, “Eat more fruit.” OK. What kind? How much?

First, potassium–why is it important? I guess I could’ve asked but it seemed as if I was expected to know. And I knew I could find out online. Which I did.  Let’s just say that potassium is very important. It is crucial for heart function and for muscle contraction.

There are lots of food sources of potassium but I did find a ‘top 10’ list of fruits at  http://www.healthaliciousness.com/articles/high-potassium-fruits.php. Dried apricots are number 1 and bananas are on the list but much closer to the bottom. Prunes,  raisins, dates, and figs are on the list as well. I guess I will try a little harder to get some more of these in my daily routine.


What is an ‘improvement standard?’

August 21, 2013


A familiar image. What do you see when you first glance at it? An older woman? A younger woman? Can you see both?

Much of the language being used to define standards for care reminds me of this image. There has been a lot of discussion about an ‘improvement standard’ in the health care arena. The notion is that providers may not cover care if a patient is not expected to have long-term improvement in  their medical condition. Some law suits have tackled this issue, especially in relation to paying Medicare.

In one such case, skilled nursing care for a patient was argued to have been denied because the patient was not expected to improve in the long term. In the case of Jimmo vs. Sebelius, the improvement standard was considered and never directly addressed. The decision instead was that skilled care would not be covered when less skilled care would suffice. The Center for Medicare Services declared that they would do an educational campaign to address the issue of the improvement standard. Read more here: http://www.cms.gov/Medicare/Medicare-Fee-for-Service-Payment/SNFPPS/Downloads/Jimmo-FactSheet.pdf


What vegetables have protein?

August 18, 2013

ParrottCh7Fig2There is a tendency to think of protein as ‘meat’ and vegetarians as having a hard time getting enough protein in their diets. Actually, most vegetables have some protein. Even corn has some protein. The challenge in getting protein from vegetables is to know how much protein we need and how much protein a given vegetable has in it.

Taking corn, for example, you can get between 3 and 5 grams of protein, depending on whether the corn is fresh or cooked, in one cup of corn [see http://healthyeating.sfgate.com/much-protein-corn-7969.html]. That is about 3-9% of what we need in terms of protein in a day for a diet based on 1,800 calories.

There are different types of protein as well. So it is not just a matter of deciding to have 10 cups of corn to add up to your daily protein needs.


Lyme’s disease is not just part of living in the woods

August 16, 2013

trilliumI was flipping through channels and saw Martha Stewart on David Letterman the other night. Dave was revealing that he had a ‘bull’s eye rash’–the stand-out characteristic of Lyme’s disease associated with exposure to ticks. Martha Stewart was completely dismissive, telling him she’d had it numerous times and it’s no big deal, just part of living in the woods. Basically, she told him she didn’t want to see his rash and to take some antibiotics and get over himself.

It is fortunate that Martha Stewart has not had any severe long-term and chronic conditions associated with having had Lyme’s disease. But many others are not as fortunate. For one, they do not display the ‘bull’s eye rash’ and the test for the condition is not very effective, so many people will not be correctly diagnosed. Many others may assume that it is no big deal after hearing Martha Stewart proclaim as much and fail to get care. She does say that antibiotics are needed, meaning that she does get care when she has the condition. So let’s not lose sight of that message. If you think you have been exposed, and if you have a bull’s eye rash most especially, see your doctor immediately and get on those antibiotics. Hopefully, you will have the same outcome as Martha and be fine after doing so.

In the meantime, become better informed than Martha appeared to be. Skim some of the highlights at this site: http://www.lymemd.org/?gclid=CN2wm6uMiLkCFcRlOgodFigAfQ


10 Potentially Devastating Public Health Threats
Source: Best Public Health Schools


How does the bandwagon effect relate to selecting a physician for care?

August 14, 2013

IMG_3157Selecting 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.


What to drink on a hot day to get your antioxidants?

August 12, 2013

 IMG_3164I 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

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