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If sitting is the new smoking, this may be an easier fix

The IU Newsroom office space

The IU Newsroom

I walked through shady Dunn Woods on my way to a meeting yesterday and reveled in each peaceful step. IUPUI researcher Steve McKenzie makes a case in this Indianapolis Star article for how bouts of exercise can improve work performance. A new IU study finds, however, that slow, hourly 5-minute walks can do a world of good.

Growing concerns about sitting have launched the phrase “sitting is the new smoking.” Prolonged sitting is associated with risk factors such as higher cholesterol levels and greater waist circumference that can lead to cardiovascular and metabolic disease.

Saurabh Thosar, a postdoctoral researcher at Oregon Health & Science University, led the new study as a doctoral candidate at IU’s School of Public Health-Bloomington. From our news release:

The researchers were able to demonstrate that during a three-hour period, the flow-mediated dilation, or the expansion of the arteries as a result of increased blood flow, of the main artery in the legs was impaired by as much as 50 percent after just one hour. The study participants who walked for five minutes for each hour of sitting saw their arterial function stay the same — it did not drop throughout the three-hour period. Thosar says it is likely that the increase in muscle activity and blood flow accounts for this.

“American adults sit for approximately eight hours a day,” he said. “The impairment in endothelial function is significant after just one hour of sitting. It is interesting to see that light physical activity can help in preventing this impairment.”

Saurabh Thosar

Saurabh Thosar

I’m not the only one who likes Thosar’s findings — reports about his findings have appeared this week in the Washington Post, U.S. News & World Report, New York Daily News, Shape Magazine and in other major outlets.

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Wake up — time for school!

A new recommendation by the American Academy of Pediatrics that encourages middle and high schools to push back start times for the benefit of the students has been receiving a lot of attention this week in social and traditional media.


The author uses a bullhorn sometimes to wake up one of her sleepy teens for school.

In Indiana Public Media:

Dr. Vaughn Rickert, professor of adolescent medicine with the IU School of Medicine says teenagers especially thrive from getting extra sleep because they’re at a point in their lives when the brain develops at an incredible rate.

“Clearly kids who are deprived of sleep are not going to be coping with stress, and certainly they’re going to be at risk for other [things],” such as depression, anxiety, and psychiatric disorders, Rickert says.

“There’s really no reason not to have later school start dates except many people who are working on the other side of the classroom are not particularly thrilled about starting later,” Rickert adds. “It disrupts their day.”

I was encouraged to see that 15 percent of high schools already begin at 8:30 a.m. or later. My middle child’s private middle school begins at 9 a.m. My oldest child’s public high school begins at 7:40 a.m., with many athletes, like Peter, practicing or participating in weight training before school. Part of me wonders if later start times would result in more before-school activities.

Last year Peter’s first period teacher let her bleary-eyed students make hot chocolate, which I thought was brilliant.

In lieu of a later starting time, maybe administrators could schedule in nap times for students … nahhh.

Study IDs influence of gender in gene-environment interactions and health

I’ve often marveled at the complexity of the human body, mine specifically, and how it can be so challenging to ID the root of aches, pains and ailments. A new study by Indiana University medical sociologist Brea Perry reinforces the idea of complexity by showing that gender can interact with individuals’ genes and environments to produce very different health outcomes.

Brea Perry

Brea Perry

Her study, discussed on Monday during the American Sociological Association’s annual meeting, discussed how men and women struggling with substance abuse reacted differently when enveloped in close, supportive social environments if they had a genetic sensitivity to stressful situations. For men, the environment helped keep them sober. Not so, for the women.

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Fighting Ebola: Passion for her country and love for public health helps IU alum conquer fears

Tiawanlyn Gongloe, a graduate of Indiana University and its School of Public Health-Bloomington, lives in Monrovia, Liberia, where she works for the Ministry of Health and Social Welfare as a member of the National Task Force, which was created to eliminate the Ebola virus from the country. Overwhelmed by the work involved in fighting the outbreak, which has led to more than 200 deaths in her country, she found time to answer some questions about her life in the midst of such tragedy and her experiences in Bloomington.

Tiawanlyn Gongloe at her graduation ceremony in May

Tiawanlyn Gongloe at her graduation ceremony in May

Born in Grand Bassa, Liberia, in West Africa at the beginning of a civil war that lasted “for 14 years of my life,” she fled to the United States with her family in 2002, when she was only 12 years old. She grew up in Bloomington, Ind., and received multiple degrees from Indiana University’s School of Public Health-Bloomington: a bachelor’s degree in community health and a Master of Public Health and Master of Science in School and College Health Education.

I asked her if she is afraid for her own health and safety. The short answer is “Yes, but … ”

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Run for your life! But first …

Buried at the very bottom of this interesting Reuters article about how light jogging can reduce the risk of dying from heart disease was what I consider really good advice from a professor at the Indiana University School of Public Health-Bloomington.

Andrea Chomistek

Andrea Chomistek

From the Reuters article:

“As far as recommending that people go for short jogs everyday, I do think this is something we could recommend, although with a couple caveats,” said Andrea Chomistek, an epidemiology and biostats assistant professor in the School of Public Health (who was not involved with the study).

“For individuals who are currently inactive, they should probably start with walking and ease into running,” she told Reuters Health in an email. “For inactive individuals who are older or have medical issues, they may want to check in with their physician before starting a running program, although walking is just fine.”

Finding a running buddy can be good motivation, Chomistek said.

“If you know that someone is counting on you to show up, you’ll be more likely to go,” she said. “And longer runs are definitely more fun if you have company.”

The study, which tracked more than 55,000 adults for 15 years, found that compared to non-runners, people who ran even a little were “30 percent less likely to die during the study period and 45 percent less likely to die from cardiovascular disease.”

Who wouldn’t want these benefits? But you don’t want to start out on the wrong foot, so to speak, with injuries or excessive aches because you did not ease into a running routine. The research was published in the Journal of the American College of Cardiology.

Gaming and kids: Fun and games and learning?

The Indianapolis Star ran an interesting article about video games recently. As a parent of kids who enjoy video games, I found some of the insights about the potential for “playful learning” reassuring. But as school approaches, I’m reminded of how video games can interfere with academic performance, including homework and wakefulness at school.

Minecraft creation, example of gaming

A Minecraft creation

Sean Duncan, an assistant professor and collaborator in the IU School of Education’s Center for Research on Learning and Technology, had some interesting things to say about “playful learning,” which can come from the myriad of decisions kids make during the gaming. I’ve noticed that the gaming also requires conflict resolution skills as players work out conflicts caused when someone intentionally blows up their structures or hurts them virtually.

“These open-world environments allow the learner to choose what they want to do,” Duncan told the Indianapolis Star. “These are things that we don’t do at all in schools. We very rarely allow a learner to say, ‘OK, you want to go off and do this? You figure out what you need to do and we’ll give you the resources to do it.’

“No, it’s ‘Stay in the chair. Stay still. And we’ll tell you what to learn.’”

My family continues to work on the downside of gaming, such as too much gaming causing kids to lose much-needed sleep. If anyone has any good tips, please email them to me at, and I’ll share them on my blog.

Everyone wants to matter: Insights into school shootings

Bernice Pescosolido, a highly regarded medical sociologist at Indiana University Bloomington, talks in this TEDxBloomington presentation about some surprising discoveries regarding the lives of some teens who committed murder during school rampages.

Far from being loners — at least by choice — they might have wanted to belong too much, but lived in communities that lacked multiple paths (schools, clubs) through which residents could feel like they belonged.

“The boys [according to a National Academy of Sciences report] were boys who had perceptions of themselves as extremely marginal,” Pescosolido said during her presentation. “That’s important. There are two words there that are important: ‘perception’ and ‘marginal.’ Because these weren’t boys who were loners. These were boys who tried over and over and over again to belong — to belong to groups in their high school, to below to groups in college, to belong to their family in a closer way — but they experienced they were constantly rebuffed.”

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Female condoms?

infographic about condoms

Click on infographic for larger view. Photo by Debby Herbenick


It’s no secret that Debby Herbenick, co-director of the Center for Sexual Health Promotion, wants people to enjoy sex. She’s written many books about the topic, including “Sex Made Easy: Your Awkward Questions Answered — for Better, Smarter, Amazing Sex.”

A sexual health researcher at the Indiana University School of Public Health-Bloomington, she’s also a proponent of safe sex. Her work in this area led to her being a winner of the Grand Challenges Explorations, a global health initiative funded by the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation.

With an initial grant of $100,000 for her research project, “Development and Testing of the Female Pleasure Condom,” she and her collaborator, if successful, will be in the running for a follow-up grant of up to $1 million.

Herbenick told Fast Company:

“Female condoms, generally speaking, are still in early stages of innovation. There’s a lot of room for people to be creative and to work on designs, methods of insertion, and sensations. . … The condom has textural ‘cues’ at the front end, making application easier in the dark.”

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Sexual health, HIV on a global scale: 5 questions with Brian Dodge and Jessamyn Bowling

Faculty and students with the Center for Sexual Health and Promotion in the IU School of Public Health-Bloomington are involved with a wide range of community-based sexual health research and practice activities in domestic and international settings.

Brian Dodge in India

Brian Dodge in India

In Puerto Rico, for example, the center maintains an active academic and research partnership with colleagues at the Latin American Center for Sexual Health Promotion at the University of Puerto Rico Health Sciences Center in San Juan. The research team has also worked on projects in other areas of Latin America, Africa, Europe and Asia.

Recently the School of Public Health announced The U.S.-India Partnership for Sexual Health Promotion, a new initiative that involves formalizing public health collaborations between the school and The Humsafar Trust, India’s oldest and largest health service organization for lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender populations. Brian Dodge, co-director of the Center for Sexual Health Promotion and an associate professor in the school’s Department of Applied Health Science, and Jessamyn Bowling, a project coordinator at the center and a doctoral student, take five questions about the new initiative and their work in general.

Health & Vitality: What is the project in India and what led to it?

Dodge and Bowling: In India, a country of 1.24 billion people, of whom nearly 2.5 million are currently living with HIV, there is an urgent need for public health interventions that are evidence-based, culturally congruent and high-impact in terms of their ability to promote sexual health. The members of the U.S.-India Partnership for Sexual Health Promotion will collaborate with academic and community-based experts on both continents in order to identify sexual health priorities, explore innovative research and intervention opportunities, and use the principles of community-based participatory public health research for the benefit of all members of the partnership. Read more…

Add me to the list of Parker Mantell fans

Parker Mantell’s list of fans includes his fellow Indiana University Bloomington graduates who gave him a standing ovation after his impressive commencement speech earlier this month. Ignore the doubters, he told them, after challenging them to “Imagine what you are depriving our world of, if you never dare to achieve your purpose.”

Mantell referred to such giants as Einstein, Beethoven, Ray Charles and FDR, who created remarkable legacies despite obvious hurdles. And he offered himself as an example. Stuttering during the first two sentences of his brief address, he went on to discuss internships and volunteer work that involves thousands of telephone conversations on behalf of some of the most powerful men in politics.

“Far too often society has instilled and reinforced the idea that those of us with disabilities are to remain disabled and perhaps even incapable,” said Mantell, who interned in the Washington, D.C., offices of House Majority Leader Eric Cantor and Sen. Marco Rubio and in the office of New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie. The political science grad also interned for “Fox News Sunday” and the House Committee on Homeland Security. “If one is bound to a wheelchair or suffers from ADHD or repeats the first syllable of a word as I sometimes do, we have been tacitly yet resoundingly told to doubt both ourselves and our abilities. Doubt, as has been observed, kills more dreams than failure ever will.”

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