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Indiana University

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.”

Read more…

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.”

Read more…

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.”

Read more…

Dancers with Parkinson’s disease

Video by IU Communications multimedia intern Lena Morris.

Hoosier Georgia Shaich says fellow dancers in the Dance for PD class in Bloomington, Ind. are both different and alike.

“We really enjoy music and dance,” she told multimedia intern Lena Morris. “It’s fun and it’s a relief from the regimen that you have when you have Parkinson’s.”

Parkinson’s disease is a progressive disorder involving the nervous system. It develops gradually and affects facial expressions and movement, often causing a noticeable tremor, but stiffness also is common. There is no cure.

Roberta Wong, who brought the Dance for PD program to Bloomington, teaches ballet, modern dance and Dance for Parkinson’s in the Department of Theatre, Drama and Contemporary Dance at Indiana University Bloomington. Dance for PD provides more information, including a “Find a class” link.  In Indiana, classes also are available in Fort Wayne, Indianapolis and Merrillville.

What happens in Greenland won’t stay in Greenland

Coastal town in Greenland

Coastal town in Greenland

Climate change is in the spotlight this week because of the release of the third National Climate Assessment, which discusses observable and troublesome changes in the U.S, and a new study from Harvard that predicts that many food crops around the world will lose nutritional value as carbon dioxide levels continue to rise.

My colleague Steve Hinnefeld blogged about the key involvement of two Indiana University professors in the national assessment and their insights about climate change in the Midwest. Last week I helped IU anthropologist Virginia Vitzthum raise the issue by announcing her National Science Foundation-funded research project to study the biological, cultural and environmental challenges facing an Arctic community. Vitzthum said in a news release that like many coastal and modernizing communities worldwide, northern Greenlanders are confronted by a changing climate, demographic shifts and global economic forces that threaten their very existence.

“Cultural reproduction of communities and biological reproduction of individuals are necessarily linked, but rarely is this intimate connection so clearly revealed as when facing unprecedented challenges to indigenous lifeways,” said Vitzthum, senior scientist at the Kinsey Institute for Research in Sex, Gender and Reproduction.

“Ice is literally melting beneath their feet. There are more accidents, and the shifts in hunting and fishing seasons make it more difficult to earn a living. There’s a changing sense of connection to the land; it’s critical to learn what’s happening there and how it affects residents and the survival of their community.”

Greenland, while roughly a quarter of the size of the United States’ contiguous states, has seen its population shrink below 60,000.

What she and her team (researchers from The Kinsey Institute, University of Montana and the University of Greenland) learn in Greenland could benefit the health of men and women in the U.S.

Read more…

288,876 — That’s a lot of broken bones

kid jumping on a trampolineFrom my colleagues who write about the IU School of Medicine:

Trampoline accidents sent an estimated 288,876 people, most of them children, to hospital emergency departments with broken bones from 2002 to 2011, at a cost of more than $400 million, according to an analysis by researchers at the Indiana University School of Medicine.

Including all injuries, not just fractures, hospital emergency rooms received more than 1 million visits from people injured in trampoline accidents during those 10 years, boosting the emergency room bills to just over $1 billion, according to the study.

Read the full news release

I have two teenage sons, one of whom chose to ride his bike with friends over icy roads last winter, so I totally believe what lead author Randall T. Loder, M.D., said in the news release. Loder is chair of the IU School of Medicine’s Department of Orthopaedic Surgery and a surgeon at Riley Hospital for Children at IU Health.

“They’re probably jumping higher, with more force. And believe me, teenagers are risk takers,” Loder said. “Younger kids may not understand potential outcomes of their actions, but they’re not so much risk takers. Teenagers, they’ll just push the limit.”

The Huffington Post wrote about the study. This Indianapolis Star article discusses support for and opposition to banning trampolines.

Dietary iron and heart disease — what’s meat got to do with it?

The body, it turns out, doesn’t treat all dietary iron equally. A new study from the IU School of Public Health-Bloomington linked consumption of iron from meat with an increased risk of heart disease – a 57 percent increase.


Heme iron is found in all meat sources but beef and pork contain higher concentrations than chicken or fish.

Researcher Jacob Hunnicutt said the link between iron intake, body iron stores and coronary heart disease has been debated for decades by researchers, with epidemiological studies providing inconsistent findings. The new IU research, a meta-analysis, examined 21 previously published studies and data involving 292,454 participants during an average 10.2 years of follow-up.

Hunnicutt said the body can better control absorption of iron from vegetable sources, including iron supplements, but not so with heme iron, which comes from meat sources.

Read more…