Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Gender and the HPV Vaccine

I need to take a minute to post about a non-school-health related topic: a recent study published in the British Medical Journal concluded that vaccinating males against HPV is not cost-effective. News outlets everywhere have reported on authors' conclusions.

However, are the underlying framework and assumptions of the study authors misguided?

William Saletan published a provocative (go-figure) post on on the topic, and I think it is right on. If you have any interested in gender disparities and gender norms this is a very, very interesting topic right now!

Just as a refresher: the vaccine was developed and is currently being used to vaccinate girls. Check out a previous VH post on the male/female controversies of the HPV vaccine that I published earlier this year.

Monday, October 26, 2009

How Healthy is Your Breakfast Cereal?

Cereal is about as commonplace in the American home as peanut butter and jelly (unless you are allergic, I guess). At some point in our nations history, whole cereal grain breakfast that took minutes or hours to prepare were replaced by highly processed refined grain "cereals" that had loads of added sugar and went by the name of Cap'n and Lucky.

Until today's release of the Yale Rudd Center's Cereal Facts website, there was little way to know whether the cereal you were eating was healthy or all hype. Case in point: a friend posted a picture of Facebook with a Fruit Loops box reading "NOW WITH FIBER" on the front package (see yesterday's post for more on this...) which clearly illustrated food industry's widespread marketing of unhealthy food with their "healthy" components placed first, and foremost for consumers to see.

Sunday, October 25, 2009

Smart Choices Labeling System Divided, Fails?

The "Smart Choices" label, which was meant to be a guide for consumers to make healthier food choices when shopping the supermarket, may be lying on its deathbed, according to a recent article in the New York Times. A few of the major food industry supporters, including PepsiCo and Kellogg's have cut its ties with the program and will phase out production of products (like Froot Loops cereal) with the Smart Choices logo prominent on the box front. Although, Kraft indicates it has no intentions to remove the logo from its foods.

Friday, October 16, 2009

Mandated H1N1 Vaccination: Right or...Oh, so Wrong?

A good friend and former colleague inspired this post (thanks Joanne) after realizing how media attention to mandated H1N1 vaccination among health workers has grown in the past few weeks. NPR, Time, the New York Times, ABC News all are covering what is an unprecedented move to require health care workers to be vaccinated against swine flu.

While many hospitals and clinics are requiring employees to get vaccinated, the state of New York is requiring all health care workers with patient contact to receive the H1N1 vaccine or face job loss; resistance to this mandate among health care workers has been overwhelming. Fear of side effects and privacy issues top health workers' concerns. However, an August poll shows a vast majority of the public to be supportive of these vaccine requirements among healthcare employees.

There seem to be several streams of thought regarding this issue:
  1. Vaccination of all health care workers is needed to protect the public against swine flu spread by providers who come into contact with sick patients
  2. Mandatory vaccination is needed to protect other patients in the hospital setting with compromised immune systems (meaning they easily can come down with an illness, like the flu).
But many nurses object, saying that they have never gotten flu in past seasons, so why now? Why this flu shot? Additionally, opponents to mandatory vaccination highlight the fact that the vaccine is not effective 100% of the time. Nurses also worry about the potential side effects of vaccination, particularly whether it would cause them to get sick with the flu.

Sunday, October 11, 2009

How to Lose Weight in Ten Days


Losing It
Weight loss isn't easy. The following weight loss plans: Atkins, South Beach, Green Tea, Low Carb, Low Fat all have one thing in common: they focus on diet. Why do all these weight loss fads all focus on changing what you eat? The answer may be simpler than you think: results. Changing what you eat is the quickest way to lose weight. Eat fewer calories and you will lose weight, all else being equal.

What does it take to burn 300 calories through physical activity? Likely, an hour of brisk walking or a 3 mile jog. What would it take to eat 300 fewer calories? Forgo the tortilla at Chipotle or the beef in your stir-fry. For many people, changing diet is more convenient and less challenging (mentally and physically) than becoming more physically active.

Monday, October 5, 2009

Battleground School Food

It may be a fluke or it may be fortune that the New York Times has taken up the "cause" of school food and nutrition in the last week or so. First there was the article profiling the cafeteria at a popular New York City public school in Queens. Then, Saturday, they ran an article on the ban of sugary foods from public schools in New York City even for celebrations (think kids' birthdays) and bake sales or fundraising activities. Actually, the 'bake sale ban' is not something new, it was issued in June but is just beginning to be implemented.

After my Public Health in the Media class last year (take it if you get the chance...I'll be the TA!) I am sure that it is not a mere coincidence that school nutrition has landed in the newspaper several times in the past month. I think the reason that the New York Times is talking about school nutrition policy is because people are starting to care about it! People want someone to do something about childhood obesity and schools are a natural starting place.

But it is important to ask: Does the ban on sugary snacks and treats in schools go too far?