HEALTH & Vitality Just another IU News Blogs Sites site Mon, 20 Mar 2017 19:33:55 +0000 en-US hourly 1 IU men’s lacrosse team partnering with U Bring Change 2 Mind to ‘Stick It to Stigma’ Mon, 20 Mar 2017 19:33:55 +0000 Indiana University men’s lacrosse team is again partnering with U Bring Change 2 Mind, an IU student organization aimed at reducing the stigma associated with mental illness, to sponsor the Second Annual “Stick It to Stigma” lacrosse games.

Members of IU's men's lacrosse team compete.

Members of IU’s men’s lacrosse team wear green during a “Stick It to Stigma” game last year.

This year’s event will include three games at IU’s Rec Sports Complex on March 24, 25 and 26.

The first of these games will be streamed via Facebook Live on Bring Change 2 Mind’s Facebook page starting at 7 p.m. March 24.

As part of the games, IU’s men’s lacrosse team will wear lime green chinstraps and warm ups with the U Bring Change 2 Mind logo during their games against Tennessee, Davenport and Western Michigan. The official color of mental health, lime green signifies the team’s ongoing commitment to raising awareness and ending stigma.

Additionally, members of the team will take part in a social media campaign, #MindYourMind, to advocate for the importance of speaking out, seeking help and serving as an ally to others through listening and showing support.

The games, which expanded from one game last year to three this year, are the brainchild of David Haggerty, who served last year as co-director of U Bring Change 2 Mind and as captain of IU’s men’s lacrosse team.

“It’s impressive to see the continued dedication from the team and our coaches to raise awareness for mental illness,” said Haggerty, a current graduate student at the IU School of Medicine who has struggled with anxiety and depression. “When I started this event, I was nervous that my teammates and coaches would look at me differently because mental illness is often associated with weakness or being unathletic. But the acceptance and diligence everyone has shown toward normalizing mental health and illness has been remarkable.

“Over the last year, I’ve had teammates, staff from the university and complete strangers tell me that the work we’re doing changed their perspective and means a lot to them. It’s fantastic to see this event evolve to continue to break down barriers and challenge stereotypes around men and athletes’ relationship toward mental health.”

The "Stick It to Stigma" graphic.

“Stick It to Stigma” games will take place March 24, 25 and 26.

Mental illness can affect one in four college students, according to the National Alliance on Mental Illness. By partnering with IU’s men’s lacrosse team, U Bring Change 2 Mind hopes to not only bring more awareness to mental illness but to address a demographic — male athletes — that might have difficulty speaking about the issue.

“We are excited that an athletic team on campus is supporting such an important cause that affects so many people,” said Maggie Benson, event co-director for U Bring Change 2 Mind. “We hope that this event helps bring further awareness to our fellow peers. We believe the more mental health is discussed, the more we can begin to reduce the stigma placed on these very real and debilitating disorders.”

For more information about U Bring Change to Mind, including on-campus and community resources, visit the U Bring Change 2 Mind College Toolbox Project.

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IU Bloomington Health Programs Fair to take place March 1 Fri, 24 Feb 2017 17:53:53 +0000 Students contemplating careers in health care are invited to attend the 15th annual Indiana University Bloomington Health Programs Fair from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. March 1 in the Indiana Memorial Union.

Featuring representatives from more than 100 schools, programs and organizations, the fair will provide IU students a chance to learn about a wide variety of educational and career opportunities. Attendees will meet with recruiters from medical schools and health professions programs and learn about the admissions process. The fair is organized each year by the Health Professions and Prelaw Center at IU Bloomington.

student attend health fair

A student attends last year’s IU Bloomington Health Programs Fair.

Dr. Robert Kasberg, associate dean for admissions and student affairs at the Tufts University School of Dental Medicine, enjoys attending the fair every year to meet with IU students.

“The campus is beautiful, the staff is accommodating, and the students are excited,” he said. “The HPPLC team exemplifies professionalism, and they do an excellent job of organizing the fair.

“I find IU Bloomington students to be among the best prepared of all my applicants. The quality of the advising they receive from the HPPLC team is matched by no other undergraduate college or university with which I am familiar. I find them very well prepared for the rigors of dental school.”

The fair is designed to enhance student success in admission to health profession schools.

“IU students should not miss this event,” said Rachel Tolen, assistant director of the Health Professions and Prelaw Center. “Students have a chance to meet directly with officials who make decisions on their applications, and they can gain insight into how to become a more competitive applicant.”

Information will be available on health care careers in direct patient care, laboratory work, administration, information technology and other areas. About 500 students usually attend the Health Programs Fair, and large crowds are expected again this year.

Representatives from IU academic departments will attend the fair to discuss majors and courses that help prepare students for medicine and other health fields. Students will also have the opportunity to speak with representatives of health-related student organizations and volunteer agencies from the Bloomington area.

A list of professions and of schools and programs that will be represented at the fair is available online. Admission to the fair is free and open to the public. For more information, contact the Health Professions and Prelaw Center at 812-855-1873 or

The center, a unit of the Office of the Vice Provost for Undergraduate Education, provides advising and other services for students who want to pursue careers in law, medicine and other health professions. The center works closely with IU students throughout their undergraduate years, and with IU alumni, to help them become thoughtful, well-prepared, competitive applicants to professional programs.

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IU faculty and staff can receive free ally training to learn more about issues affecting the LGBTQ community Thu, 16 Feb 2017 15:04:07 +0000 Ally: a person who associates or cooperates with another; supporter.

The word often comes up in the lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and queer community. But what does it really mean to be an LGBTQ ally?

danielle hernandez

Danielle Hernandez, a Ph.D. student in the IU School of Education, is leading the ally trainings. Photo by IU Communications

Danielle Hernandez, a second-year Ph.D. student in the IU School of Education’s school psychology program, and IU’s LGBTQ+ Culture Center want to help faculty and staff learn more about the issues affecting the LGBTQ+ community and how they can become an ally through an ally training program.

“The ally training is important for faculty and staff because I’ve heard from a variety of departments and offices that while they are aware of LGBTQ+ students and they want to help them, they do not necessarily feel comfortable doing so or do not feel they are able to effectively help,” said Hernandez, who works as a graduate assistant at the LGBTQ+ Culture Center.

The LGBTQ+ Culture Center has been offering similar training for years. But Hernandez began updating the program last semester.

The free training aims to teach participants about LGBTQ+ terminology, good listening strategies, and campus and community resources available to students. Attendees will also take part in role-playing scenarios that could happen to IU students, such as harassment, interactions with insensitive peers and family conflicts.

Faculty and staff can also learn some basic conversation skills that can help them in interactions with anyone.

The training is something that can help shape the culture of campus, said Doug Bauder, director of IU’s LGBTQ+ Culture Center.

“As an older, cisgender, Christian, white male, I have come to recognize the way in which my understanding of the world, my language and my behavior impact the lives of students I seek to serve,” he said. “If, indeed, I want to earn the trust of those students I need to understand their viewpoints, their way of being. Each of us can be more sensitive to people whom we perceive as different, but that doesn’t happen naturally. It happens by listening and asking questions. That’s the importance of ally training.”

ally training logo

Ally training is available at the LGBTQ+ Culture Center.

The sessions take about an hour but can be tailored for a group’s specific needs. Hernandez can also personalize the trainings to narrow down on a more specific topic, including intersectionalities within the LGBTQ+ community or for those who work, or plan to work with, students in kindergarten through 12th grade.

Those interested in hosting a training may contact Hernandez by phone, 812-855-4252 or by email at

A few drop-in sessions will take place every final Wednesday of each month from 5:30 to 6:30 p.m. and every first Sunday of each month from noon to 1 p.m. at the LGBTQ+ Culture Center library. No RSVP is necessary.

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Feminism, gender norms and cellphone etiquette part of this year’s ‘Singles in America’ study Mon, 06 Feb 2017 14:06:16 +0000 We may not agree on what feminism means; but whatever their definition, singles view feminism and changing gender norms positively, according to this year’s “Singles in America” study.

“Match’s annual ‘Singles in America’ study has once again uncovered some remarkable new trends — including men’s overwhelmingly positive view of feminism and feminists, in the boardroom and the bedroom,” said Helen Fisher, senior research fellow at the Kinsey Institute at Indiana University and chief scientific advisor to Match. “We’ve captured the great spring forward in gender equality.”

Justin Garcia

Justin Garcia, research scientist at the Kinsey Institute at IU

The study, released today, surveyed more than 5,500 singles ages 18 to 70-plus, on topics such as dating rituals, the impact of social media on the dating landscape, and shifting gender roles.

When it comes to feminism, most singles do not have a clear understanding of what the word means; 37 percent of men and 46 percent of women define it as women being equal to men, and 43 percent think it “means different things.”

However, when it comes to men dating a “feminist,” 59 percent think that feminism “has changed the dating rules for the better,” saying dating is now safer, more enjoyable and easier. As for single women, 63 percent say they feel the rise in gender equality has made them “pickier about potential dates,” and 57 percent say it makes them feel more empowered in their dating life.

“It’s all over the map when it comes to how people define the term ‘feminism,’” said Justin Garcia, a Ruth Halls assistant professor of gender studies in the IU Bloomington College of Arts and Sciences and scientific advisor to Match. “It’s interesting, because while feminism is a term that has a definition, it is also contextualized to mean different things for different people. For some it’s equal rights, but for others it’s challenging norms about gender and difference, and for others it’s a threat to a traditional way of life. It’s fascinating to see how this plays out in the dating market.”

When it comes to heterosexual gender roles, single men seem to prefer women who are “go-getters” and not afraid to break with traditional gender roles. In fact, the No. 1 turn-on for single men surveyed was female entrepreneurs, and 71 percent of men find it attractive when a woman offers to split the bill.

But when it comes to dating rituals, single men overwhelmingly are in favor of women initiating the first kiss (95 percent), initiating sex for the first time (93 percent), and asking for a man’s phone number (95 percent). However, few women initiate the first kiss (29 percent), initiate sex for the first time (23 percent), or ask for a guy’s number (13 percent).

Dating rituals and the roles gender plays in those rituals are long ingrained in our society, Garcia said, which can make it confusing for both men and women and explains the gap between what men surveyed say they want and what women actually do on dates.

“Attitudes about gender roles have a big impact on people’s dating lives, from what paying for the bill means to who initiates the first or second date,” said Garcia, who is also associate director for research and education at the Kinsey Institute. “Part of what we are seeing here, in the case of heterosexual dating, is men wanting less responsibility to move dates forward and move potential relationships to the next step, but rather have it be a give and take in the modern courting process. But for women this can also be complicated because being assertive, particularly in the realm of love and sex, is not part of people’s gender role expectations for women, and so they can be concerned about how this get interpreted.”

Phones and dates don’t mix

Man on the phone

According to the survey, 75 percent of singles are turned off by a date answering the phone without offering explanation.

There is no question that cellphones are a staple in our everyday lives, and their connection with how we function as a society continues to grow. While cellphones are as common now as breathing, singles prefer their date leave them out of site.

According to those surveyed, 75 percent of singles are turned off by a date answering the phone without offering explanation, and 66 percent are turned off if a date texts someone during a date. Additionally, 58 percent do not want a date to place the phone on the table face up, and 57 percent are upset if a date reads the occasional text during a date.

“I think an interesting piece of what we are seeing here, are two norms clashing,” Garcia said. “One norm is the dating ritual that says stay focused on the person you are with, they want your full attention, show you are attentive and that you care. But another norm is our use of technology. For many Americans, we use our phones all the time. But we’ve found that in the dating context, people want something different. People want to be focused on; they want your full attention.”

While singles may want you to keep the phone out of the picture on a date, the type of phone you use and your social media posts are now viewed critically. A battle is brewing between Android and iPhone users, with Android users being 15 times more likely to judge a date negatively for having an iPhone, and that number is 21 times vice versa.

Women also have strong feelings about the condition of your phone, with 92 percent more likely to judge a date negatively for having an older model phone. Likewise, 14 percent of singles don’t like a cracked phone screen.

As for those social media posts, 42 percent of singles judge a date first by their social media posts, and the same percentage judge a potential date by their photos. Next comes grammar, 32 percent; teeth/smile, 37 percent; and their outfit, 35 percent.

“At any given time, there are over 100 million single adults in the United States today, many of whom are sifting through the complexities of dating. With our Singles in America study we have an opportunity to explore a range of questions, some more serious and some more fun, about how people of all demographics experience dating. And hopefully we can share a few things to make dating better for people along the way.”

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IU employee takes advantage of campus resources to lose weight and feel better Wed, 25 Jan 2017 18:56:11 +0000 Post courtesy of IU Newsroom intern Bailey Briscoe

“Small changes.”

This is a common phrase among those making New Year’s resolutions to live a healthier life. And for IU employee Lynne Crohn, her small changes resulted in big impact.

Lynne Crohn

At right, Lynne Crohn in November of 2016. At left, Crohn after losing nearly 70 pounds in 16 months. | Photo Courtesy of Lynne Crohn

Crohn spent the better part of the past 10 years assisting her parents and her in-laws as they struggled with various vascular-related health issues. She found herself feeling depressed, unhealthy and ready to make a change.

“At some point, you end up taking on a caregiver role for the generation before you,” she said. “That’s a rewarding way to give back, but also – and especially in my case — life altering.”

“It just hit me,” she said. “I thought, ‘Do I want my kids to go through that?’ If I take good care of myself, it will be better for them. Maybe I can delay those things far into the future”

Crohn decided to take action and change her lifestyle. She began by making a small change to her daily routine: a walk around campus on her lunch hour.

A week into her new routine, Crohn noticed her calves were hurting more than they should, and she was always winded. So after 30 years of smoking, she decided to give up the habit and utilized human resource’s Quit for Life Program to help her do so.  Within a few weeks; she felt better, and her legs no longer ached.

She continued walking at lunchtime every day and on weekend mornings and evenings. Eventually, she got brave enough to jog and slowly began chipping away at a 3-mile run. Crohn also started to pack a healthy lunch for work and opt for the stairs instead of the elevator.

With these changes, Crohn was able to lose nearly 70 pounds in 16 months. Along her journey, she has participated in several of Healthy IU’s initiatives, such as Walk to Wellness, Climb IU and volunteered to be a beta tester for the Ready to Move program. Now she’s an avid runner, having completed 16 5K runs, two half marathons and three 10K races.

“It’s a mental challenge. You just have to tell yourself you’ll keep going. You just can’t stop,” she said. “Running trains your mind to just persevere, which is a good mentality to have on a lot of fronts.”

A change for the better

Lynne Crohn

Lynne Crohn runs at the Wildermuth Intramural Center. Photo by IU Communications

Crohn is a senior large systems specialist at the School of Informatics and Computing, where she manages all of the Windows servers and workstations. She has been with the university for almost 18 years and has experienced many changes as the school has evolved and adopted new partners and locations around campus.

Crohn began her role with the university when the School of Informatics and Computing was singularly located in Lindley Hall, and now the school is housed in several buildings across campus with a new building, Luddy Hall, currently under construction.

But the change she made for the sake of her health is by far the biggest transition she’s been through, which is an especially difficult task for someone like herself in the IT field. This past summer, she was a lightening talk presenter at IU’s Statewide IT Conference with the topic, “Reduce your risk of a heart attack (without quitting your job in IT),” where she shared her journey to inspire others to take action.

“When you’re nearing 50 years old and start feeling bad, people think it’s their age. They think, ‘Oh, I just have to get used to it. I feel bad because I’m 50 years old,’” she said. “Now, I know that’s not true; you can feel great at any age. I felt bad because I wasn’t taking good care of myself.

“A year ago, it was all I could do just to walk,” Crohn said. “Now, I run the paths that I used to struggle to walk.

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IU study finds activity trackers can work when paired with wellness coaching Mon, 28 Nov 2016 14:04:15 +0000 With the holiday shopping season upon us and a new year just around the corner, many people will begin looking for ways to move more and eat less. Some of those people will turn to activity trackers to help them achieve their goals.

carol kennedy-armbruster

Carol Kennedy-Armbruster. Photo provided by the IU School of Public Health-Bloomington.

While critics have debated the effectiveness of activity trackers, a recent study by faculty in the IU School of Public Health-Bloomington found activity trackers can work, if paired with wellness coaching. The study was published in the American College of Sports Medicine’s Health and Fitness Journal.

“There is a lot of information out there about people not using activity trackers, but we think that is because the people using them need support,” said Carol Kennedy-Armbruster, senior lecturer in the Department of Kinesiology at the IU School of Public Health-Bloomington and co-author of the study. “We found that a combination of giving someone the device and then pairing them with someone who can help them learn how to use it actually works.”

The study, co-authored by Brian Kiessling, associate instructor and Ph.D. student within the Recreation, Parks and Tourism Department at the IU School of Public Health-Bloomington, focused on how people regard activity trackers, how the trackers affect behavior, and how they can be effectively integrated into programs that help people increase movement in their lives.

Kennedy-Armbruster and Kiessling used two years’ worth of data collected from IU’s Ready to Move program, which pairs students with IU employees. The student/employee teams meet a minimum of eight times during a 10-week period for coaching sessions, and participants are given a Fitbit to help track their movement.

Over the two-year span, 173 IU employees participated — 152 women and 21 men. Coaches focused, in part, on how activity trackers affected participants’ behaviors in combination with student coaching.

Throughout each 10-week period, the student coaches helped participants establish a baseline number for the amount of steps they would like to achieve in a day. Participants then tracked their movement using a Fitbit, gradually increasing their goals and therefore their movement throughout the day.

brian kiessling

Brian Kiessling. Photo provided by Brian Kiessling.

According to a pre-program survey, 83 percent of participants had used a tracking device before, most using a pedometer. In that survey, participants said they believed an activity tracker could help serve as a motivator and reminder to move.

At the end of the 10 weeks, participants said the activity trackers did serve as a reminder and motivator and were easy to use. Ninety-three percent of participants also agreed that working with a student coach helped them develop effective health and fitness goals, and 90 percent agreed that a combination of that coaching and a fitness tracker helped them sustain their health goals after coaching ended.

By combining coaching with the device, Kiessling said many employees were able to view movement outside the traditional idea of exercise involving a gym, strenuous cardio and weight lifting. The trackers allowed them to visibly see how everyday movement counts, which resulted in employees finding creative ways to take additional movement breaks throughout the day.

“We relieved a lot of stress for people,” Kiessling said. “Participants would say ‘I drive by that fitness center every day and I feel bad.’ But this program helped them realize they can do this on their own during the day. It opened up a whole new way of thinking about movement. The activity tracker, in combination with the support from their coaches, really made that possible.”

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IU experts provide tips for staying on track this holiday season Tue, 15 Nov 2016 13:05:44 +0000 The last of the leaves are falling, the Halloween candy is gone, and most Americans are turning their attention toward the holiday season.

Steven Lalevich

Steven Lalevich, registered dietitian with Healthy IU

While this time of year should be about family gatherings, delicious meals and good cheer, it can create anxiety for those trying to keep their diet and exercise routine on track. According to a study in the New England Journal of Medicine, adults gain 1 to 2 pounds over the holidays, on average. While that amount is small, they typically don’t lose it. So those few pounds can add up over time.

But the holiday season doesn’t have to be a time of shame spirals. Giving a little extra thought to your eating habits and carving out a little time for movement can make the holidays manageable and enjoyable.

“The holidays can be a time of anxiety for some people, due to the frequent temptation and exposure of not-so-healthy foods,” said Steven Lalevich, Healthy IU dietitian at the IU Health Center. “But with a little planning, the holiday season doesn’t have to derail all the hard work you’ve done over the year.”

Read a few tips from Lalevich, along with Mariah Deinhart and Mary Kerby, IU masters of public health students at the School of Public Health-Bloomington, for staying on track over the next few months.

  • Have goals. Write down your health and nutrition goals before a holiday meal. This can help you muster the necessary willpower to make choices that align with those goals.
  • Modify your recipes. Many holiday dishes are high in calories and fat. Reduce sugar in dessert recipes by 25 to 50 percent and replace half of white flour with whole wheat flour. For ideas, read the healthy holiday recipe booklet created by Lalevich.
  • Control portions. It wouldn’t be the holidays without a piece of pie or cake. But watch how big your dessert portions are. Use a smaller utensil to serve desserts and a larger utensil to serve low-calorie vegetable dishes.
  • Practice mindful eating. Slow down and pay attention to the experience of eating. Savoring each bite can reduce the amount of food it takes to feel satisfied.
  • Get moving. Gather the family together for a walk each day, organize a family game of football or other active game, or turn up the holiday music and dance along.
  • Turn a shopping trip into a workout. The holidays can involve a lot of shopping. When visiting a shopping center, park a little farther away to take more steps, take an extra lap around the mall when shopping or take the stairs instead of the elevator.
  • Keep the momentum going. Holiday eating habits and exercise routines are often a reflection of your habits year-round. Developing healthy habits all year makes it easier to manage during the holidays or to return to those habits after the holidays.
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Indiana Prevention Resource Center efforts helped screen 78,000 Hoosiers for risks associated with alcohol and substance use Thu, 29 Sep 2016 12:06:14 +0000 Five years ago, the Indiana Prevention Resource Center and the Indiana State Division of Mental Health and Addiction received an $8.3 million grant to integrate screening, brief intervention and referral to treatment — an evidence-based practice used to identify, reduce and prevent problematic alcohol and drug use — into primary health care centers across the state.

ruth gassman

Ruth Gassman

Because of that grant, the center, working with 22 Federally Qualified Health Centers, Rural Health Centers and Community Health Centers, was able to conduct 118,886 pre-screenings, representing 78,364 unique patients who were screened for alcohol and substance use at their primary care appointments.

“The project has been extraordinary for the number of lives that have been favorably impacted by incorporating screening, brief intervention, and when necessary, referral services for alcohol and other drug use into primary care clinics,” said Ruth Gassman, executive director of Indiana Prevention Resource Center. “These relatively simple and low cost practices have been seamlessly embedded within health care visits. These services have resulted in thousands of referrals to treatment, but even more frequently to helping patients nip small problems in the bud.”

Over the summer, the center also took part in a statewide campaign for behavioral health and medical professional and health care organizations called “Summer of SBIRT,” in an effort to raise awareness about the trainings. Resources related to SBIRT — an acronym for screening, brief intervention and referral to treatment — were distributed to professionals.

That resulted in over 1,000 screening, brief intervention and referral to treatment “kits” being provided to health care and mental health care facilities in all 92 Indiana counties, with 100 of those kits being distributed to the Indiana National Guard for use with service members.

“Alcohol misuse doesn’t have to exacerbate health problems,” said Mallori DeSalle, Indiana outreach coordinator for the program and community prevention specialist/research associate at the Indiana Prevention Resource Center. “SBIRT can be done within any health or mental health care visit.”

mallori desalle

Mallori DeSalle

Additionally, free state-wide training series, consisting of 19 screening, brief intervention and referral to treatment trainings, were provided. Three levels of training were offered: an overview for health care and mental health care professionals with no experience or knowledge of the training; provider trainings, aimed at training professionals to conduct the trainings; and training of trainers, which taught participants how to provide training curriculum to staff within their organization. The trainings reached more than 300 participants.

“Because we’ve been promoting and implementing SBIRT throughout the state over the past five years, we determined that offering a variety of trainings would best serve the varying levels of SBIRT experience and knowledge of the healthcare workforce,” DeSalle said.

Although the Indiana screening, brief intervention, and referral to treatment initiative ended Aug. 31, resources are still available to health care organizations, professionals and patients who are curious about better understanding how alcohol or substance risks influence health and wellness.

For more information, visit the Indiana SBIRT website.

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Flu shot clinics available on IU Bloomington campus Mon, 26 Sep 2016 16:49:28 +0000 Fall is here, a time when people begin thinking about cooler weather, fall leaves, pumpkin spiced everything and the annual flu shot.

Flu shot clinics on the IU Bloomington campus begin Sept. 28 and are available to students, faculty and staff.

flu shot

Flu shot clinics on the IU Bloomington campus begin Sept. 28.

“The most important thing to know about the flu shot is to get one,” said Nancy Macklin, director of nursing at the IU Health Center. “Flu viruses are constantly changing, so it is important to get a flu shot every year. Everyone over 6 months old should get a flu shot unless they have had a life-threatening allergic reaction to a flu shot or one of its components.”

Flu shots are available at on-campus flu clinics and at the IU Health Center. The Health Center Flu Shot Clinic takes place from 8 a.m. to 4:30 p.m., Oct. 11 to 14. Shots will be given in the first-floor lobby, and free parking is available. You may schedule your appointment online or by phone at 812-855-7688, option 1. Walk ins also are welcome.

The IU Bloomington Flu Shot clinic schedule:

  • 11:30 a.m. to 1 p.m. Sept. 28, Service Building, (Range Road) Davis Conference Room.
  • 9 to 11 a.m. Oct. 4, Maurer School of Law, ground-floor student lounge, Room 001.
  • 9 to 11 a.m. Oct. 5, School of Education Atrium.
  • 2 to 4 p.m. Oct. 5, Poplars Room 185.
  • 9 to 11 a.m. Oct. 18, the Cyberinfrastructure lobby (10th and the Bypass).
  • 9 to 11 a.m. Oct. 25 and 26, Business/SPEA lobby, North Entrance.
  • 11 a.m. to 1 p.m. Oct. 27 27, School of Optometry, Room 108.
  • 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. Nov. 10, the IU Health Fair at the Indiana Memorial Union, Alumni Hall Solarium.

More information about IU Bloomington’s flu shot clinics, including cost, is available online.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, only injectable flu shots are recommended this season, and flu vaccines have been updated to better match circulating viruses. This year, the IU Health Center will be providing quadrivalent flu vaccine, which protects against two influenza A viruses and two influenza B viruses.

Influenza is highly contagious, said Diana Ebling, medical director of the IU Health Center. It can spread rapidly in close living arrangements, social gatherings and classrooms, all of which are common situations at IU.

In addition to receiving the vaccine, Ebling recommends everyone wash their hands frequently, avoid those who are sick and try to maintain a healthy lifestyle by eating right, getting enough sleep, exercising and reducing stress. If you do become sick, stay home to avoid spreading it to others.

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Community invited to take part in School of Public Health’s Campus and Community Celebration Mon, 19 Sep 2016 17:39:18 +0000 school of public health-bloomington

The IU School of Public Health-Bloomington

The Indiana University and Bloomington communities are invited to celebrate health and wellness during the upcoming Campus and Community Celebration.

Hosted by the IU School of Public Health-Bloomington, the celebration will take place Sept. 23 and will feature the annual Ruth Clifford Engs Lecture, delivered this year by retired Lt. General Mark Hertling, and an ice cream social.

“We’re honored to have Lt. General Hertling joining us as part of the school’s Dean’s Public Health Lecture Series, and look forward to celebrating IU School of Public Health Day with our IU and Bloomington community,” says Mohammad Torabi, founding dean and chancellor’s professor at the School of Public Health-Bloomington.

The lecture, titled “Growing Public Health Leaders: Lessons from the Battlefield to the Boardroom,” takes place from 1 to 2:30 p.m. in the School of Public Health’s Mobley Auditorium. Hertling, a School of Public Health-Bloomington alumnus, served almost four decades in the U.S. Army. He was commanding general of U.S. Army Europe and was appointed in 2013 by President Barack Obama as one of 25 members of the President’s Council on Fitness, Sports and Nutrition.

During the lecture, Hertling will discuss what it means to become a public health leader and will share his tools for improving personal, professional and organizational health.

Following the lecture, an ice cream social will take place from 2:30 to 5 p.m. on the lawn near the tennis courts by the School of Public Health building. City of Bloomington Mayor John Hamilton will read a proclamation declaring the day IU School of Public Health Day.

The School of Public Health-Bloomington has nearly 3,000 undergraduate and graduate students and more than 140 faculty members in five departments. In 2015, the school received full accreditation from the Council on Education for Public Health.

In the past four years, under Torabi’s leadership, the school transitioned from the School of Health, Physical Education and Recreation to the School of Public Health; created the Department of Epidemiology and Biostatistics; expanded its master’s degree programs; added bachelor’s degrees in environmental health and epidemiology; and launched a living-learning center in Briscoe Residence Center.

The school also has more than 2,400 community members participating in school partnerships, offers monthly webinars on a variety of public health topics, and has more than 1,500 people taking courses through its free, online workforce developmental portal “Public Health & You.”

“As a school of public health, we’re dedicated to improving the health and wellness of communities locally, in Indiana, and across the globe,” says Torabi “Each fall, we like to take a moment with our campus and community friends to stop and celebrate all that the faculty and staff at the school do to better public health today and into the future.”

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IU experts offer tips for better sleep in anticipation of this year’s Sleep Walk Tue, 13 Sep 2016 19:40:00 +0000 Sleep. We all need it, we all want it, and most of us don’t get enough of it.

But how much sleep do you actually get? Some people might be surprised.

Photo of someone sleeping

Sleep is critical for learning, managing stress, regulating mood and promoting a healthy immune system.

“People often complain of being tired but do not pause to examine their sleep habits,” said Shalini Manchanda, program director of the IU School of Medicine’s Fellowship in Sleep Medicine Program. “When asked about their sleep schedule, they are often surprised by how little sleep they actually get. Just trying to get 30 minutes extra of sleep on either end of their current sleep routine can make a big difference.”

Sleep plays an important role in a person’s overall health. Sleep is critical for learning, problem-solving, managing stress, regulating mood and promoting a healthy immune system. Sleep also plays a part in preventing chronic conditions such as obesity, heart disease, diabetes and cancer.

Although experts differ on the exact amount needed, adults typically should get seven to nine hours a night, according to the National Sleep Foundation. That number increases to 8.5 to 9.5 hours for teens and continues to increase the younger the child.

On Sept. 27, Healthy IU, the university’s workplace wellness program, is hosting the first Sleep Walk on all campuses to raise awareness about sleep health. The walks will take place at noon. Registration is available online, along with campus routes.

The walk came about following the 2015 Fairbanks School of Public Health Workplace Wellness Survey that showed over one-third of IU employees are not regularly getting enough restful sleep to function well in their work and personal life. That finding is similar to national data that shows more than a third of Americans aren’t getting enough sleep. The survey also showed that nearly 70 percent of IU employees said stress, from all sources at work or at home, affected their health in the past year.

“We are hoping the Sleep Walk can raise awareness about the benefits of sleep that include managing stress and regulating mood,” said Steven Lalevich, registered dietitian at the IU Health Center and Healthy IU lead team member for the Sleep Walk.

In honor of the walk, Health and Vitality asked IU experts Manchanda; John Bates, professor in psychological and brain sciences at IU Bloomington; and Julie Otte, associate professor at the IU School of Nursing, to share their expertise on sleep and tips for getting a better night’s rest.

  • Take the time to wind down. It is important to have a pre-bedtime ritual, so you can relax before going to sleep. Avoid exposure to “blue light” emitted from televisions, computer monitors, electronic readers/tablets and cell phones, which can affect levels of the sleep-inducing hormone melatonin.
  • Cut out caffeine consumption, nicotine, alcohol and other recreational substances before bedtime.
  • Remain active during the day and try to avoid napping.
  • Try to maintain a regular sleep schedule and learn to let go. “Sleep is a product of biological rhythms, so you’re helping that by keeping to a regular schedule of sleep,” Bates said. “Sleep is psychological, so to sleep, one has to let oneself go — you don’t make yourself fall asleep, you let yourself sleep. And to do this, you have to feel secure.”
  • Make sleep a part of an overall healthy lifestyle. “The added stress of not getting enough sleep can feed into more stress and anxiety,” Otte said. “Keeping to a schedule is key, but it has to be mixed with a healthy lifestyle — such as exercising, eating right and minimizing stress — in order to get the full benefits.”

Additional healthy sleep basics are available on Healthy IU’s website.

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IU Counseling and Psychological Services expanding services to cultural centers and SPEA Thu, 08 Sep 2016 12:05:22 +0000 After partnering last year with the IU Jacobs School of Music, The Indiana University Health Center’s Counseling and Psychological Services is again expanding its services with new counselors in campus cultural centers, the Office of International Services and the School of Public and Environmental Affairs.

Let's Talk

Let’s Talk provides counseling services to students in four cultural centers and the Office of International Services.

Starting this week, the center is offering a two-part program — Let’s Talk Now and Let’s Keep Talking – which will offer both informal and formal counseling services to students at the Asian Culture Center, First Nations Educational and Cultural Center, La Casa, Neal-Marshall Black Culture Center and the Office of International Services.

IU’s Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual and Transgender Student Support Services Office will continue similar service it has been providing through the School of Education.

Let’s Talk Now will serve as a pre-counseling service, providing a free, confidential and informal opportunity to students who want to speak with a consultant about any concerns or issues they are having and to connect with campus resources.

Students in need of a more formal conversation can take part in Let’s Keep Talking, which will provide professional counselors who can address more complex issues. Both take place within the cultural centers and the Office of International Services.

“Let’s Talk lowers barriers to counseling, especially for multicultural students who might be hesitant to seek it elsewhere,” said Nancy Stockton, director of Counseling and Psychological Services. “This two-part program gives students an alternative to going to the Health Center itself, directing them to more convenient locations to chat informally — and possibly formally — about problems the students experience.”

Let’s Talk is loosely based on Cornell University and Gannett Health Services Counseling and Psychological Services’ program of the same name. The program is made up of a diverse group of consultants and counselors from the School of Education’s Department of Counseling and Educational Psychology, who rotate annually under the supervision of Paul Toth, a staff psychologist with Counseling and Psychological Services.

“This initiative is especially important for traditionally underserved student populations,” said Muhammad Saahir, a counselor and program coordinator at Counseling and Psychological Services who will be based at the Neal-Marshall Center and First Nations. “The services we now offer to our campus excite me as a clinician, as we literally meet people where they are.”

Additional formal counselors include Wei-Cheng “Wilson” Hsiao, based at the Asian Culture Center and Office of International Services; Shelena Davis, based in Neal-Marshall Black Cultural Center and Luciana Guardini, based in the Office of International Services and La Casa.

IU Health Center

The IU Health Center’s Counseling and Psychological Services has expanded to two schools, the Office of International Services and campus cultural centers.

“Feeling connected to others is a key aspect in emotional healing. It helps us bounce back from adversity,” said Guardini. “Let’s Talk is a great opportunity to cultivate and strengthen connections between the students and our services. This presence in the cultural centers will facilitate access to a safe and confidential space for students to build the connections needed to thrive and succeed.”

Last year, The Health Center piloted a counselor in academic residence program at the IU Jacobs School of Music, placing a counselor in the school 20 hours a week. Compared to the same time period the prior year, the number of Jacobs’ students seeking help increased 54 percent, according to Grogg.

“Based on both feedback and utilization, this program pilot has been very successful,” said Pete Grogg, executive director of the IU Health Center. “Jacobs’ faculty and administrators believe that this program has met its goal of early problem identification and intervention. The on-site availability of this service has also had a significant impact on utilization of mental health resources.”

This year’s program at SPEA will be similar in format and aims to reach students who may not feel comfortable seeking initial services at the Health Center. Chris Ann Meno, coordinator of outreach and consultation at CAPS, will serve as the counselor in academic residence at SPEA.

“We’re pleased to be able to offer this new opportunity for our undergraduate and graduate students to get the assistance they need to stand strong in the face of all the challenges and stresses associated with college life,” said R.J. Woodring, director of undergraduate programs office at SPEA. “We’re a healthier community thanks to Meno and CAPS.”

More information on the IU Health Center’s Counseling and Psychological Services is available online. You can also follow the IU Health Center on Facebook and Twitter at @iuhealthcenter.

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The Center for Sexual Health Promotion celebrating 10th anniversary with a visit from Dr. Ruth Thu, 01 Sep 2016 14:55:32 +0000 Indiana University’s Center for Sexual Health Promotion is celebrating its 10th anniversary with special guest Dr. Ruth.

dr. ruth

Dr. Ruth

Ruth Westheimer, better known as “Dr. Ruth,” will visit the Buskirk-Chumley Theater Sept. 14 to discuss a life spent in sex education as part of the Bloomington Sex Salon, a monthly community-based speaker series on the topic of sex research, education and advocacy.

The lecture will celebrate the 10th anniversary of The Center for Sexual Health Promotion, based in the Department of Applied Health Science in the School of Public Health-Bloomington. The center is a collaborative of sexual health scholars from across the university and partner academic institutions who work toward advancing the field of sexual health through research, education and training initiatives.

“Dr. Ruth, for many people, has been an important figure in how the world views talking comfortably about sexual education,” said Debby Herbenick, host of the Bloomington Sex Salon and director of the Center for Sexual Health Promotion. “She’s dedicated half her life to talking about sex and educating people about it. We are excited about the opportunity to have her here and to celebrate the anniversary of the center.”

The center was founded by Herbenick and Michael Reece, a professor in the Department of Applied Health Science in the School of Public Health-Bloomington, as a way to bridge the focus between sex research and public health research, and to shift the focus of public health research from focusing solely on the potential negative effects of sexual behavior, such as HIV or unintended pregnancy, to being more inclusive of the role sexuality plays in the human experience and the positive contributions sexuality makes to quality of life.

“We never believed you should be studying outcomes of sexual behavior without trying to understand the sexual experience more holistically,” Reece said. “We wanted to try to change the landscape of work in our field by focusing on these more comprehensive understandings of sexual behavior, not just its negative outcomes.”

Throughout the past decade, the center has made a name for itself through more than 150 publications, research conducted on five continents, courses taught on campus and, most notably in 2009, the National Survey of Sexual Health and Behavior – the largest nationally representative survey of Americans focusing on sexual behaviors and experiences. Through additional funding, the center will continue to conduct the survey annually through 2020 and is developing an online system to make the data more accessible to the public.

group photo

Debby Herbenick and Michael Reece

“The NSSHB will ultimately provide a decade of research on sexual behavior, with many of the same people surveyed over time given the study’s prospective cohort design,” Reece said. “That is something the world has never had. So we will continue to conduct groundbreaking research on sexual behaviors in the U.S. and we will make sure the data from those studies is more easily accessible not only to the general population, but with a special focus on data presented in a way that is useful to parents, educators, and policy makers who are committed to improving the sexual health of the nation.”

The center has also focused strongly on training graduate students, whose work has expanded the center’s influence at universities throughout the world.

“I’m proud that several of our Ph.D. students have gone on to work at other universities where they have created similar groups and used similar models,” said Herbenick, who first worked with Reece as a graduate student. “That allows our field to grow in these exponential ways.”

Both Reece and Herbenick said they are pleased with the work that the Center for Sexual Health Promotion has accomplished in the past decade, and they look forward to not only watching it continue to grow, but also seeing the expanding role it’s playing in the field of sexual research.

“Considering we are a small group, we’ve been able to make our mark in a big way,” Herbenick said. “My colleagues Michael and Brian Dodge and I care deeply about our community and the greater world, about how our work informs and educates people, and about what we can learn from those around us.”

Dr. Ruth’s talk will take place at 7 p.m. Tickets are $10 and can be purchased at the theater box office, 114 E. Kirkwood Ave., online at or by phone at 812-323-3020.

To learn more about the Center for Sexual Health Promotion visit the center’s website and for more on the Bloomington Sex Salon visit its Facebook page.

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Actress Glenn Close visits IU to help unveil the new U Bring Change 2 Mind bus campaign Wed, 24 Aug 2016 12:05:28 +0000 glenn close

Glenn Close poses with IU students in front of the U Bring Change 2 Mind bus in Bloomington. Photo by April Toler.

Indiana University Bloomington welcomed a special visitor Tuesday when acclaimed actress Glenn Close stopped by campus to unveil the new U Bring Change 2 Mind College Toolbox Project bus campaign.

The lime-green bus features the U Bring Change 2 Mind logo along with a scenario about the effects of stigmatizing someone dealing with a mental health issue. The bus is meant to spread the message of U Bring Change 2 Mind, which aims to reduce the stigma associated with mental illness.

“Our vision with U Bring Change 2 Mind College Toolbox Project is to track students’ attitudes around mental illness and stigma, because stigma is the core problem with people getting help and being able to talk openly about what they are living with and how they are dealing with it,” Close said. “Stigma promotes shame, it promotes isolation, it promotes fear, and a lot of it comes from misunderstanding. It’s still incredibly toxic.”

The College Toolbox Project is a partnership connecting IU and its students with Bring Change 2 Mind, a national non-profit organization founded by Close, whose sister and nephew live with mental illness. The research-based, student-run program’s goal is to develop, pilot-test and evaluate the efficacy of anti-stigma program materials.

Throughout the year, the College Toolbox Project hosts activities aimed at students, including two anti-stigma competitions that allowed students to design and pitch campaign ideas to Close. A third competition will take place this semester.

The hope is to reduce the stigma associated with mental illness and encourage students with mental health issues to get the help they need.

“The idea is to reach out to the students who face issues and to the students who have not yet faced issues,” said Distinguished Professor of Sociology Bernice Pescosolido, who serves on the national Bring Change 2 Mind advisory council. “We hope when something happens maybe they will remember, and they will have a shorter pathway to care or health.

“And (maybe) some other kid will know it is OK to talk about it, and if they sense something in a friend, they’ll be able to approach them and say ‘Are you OK and do you need help?'” Close added. “Just make people more aware and not ashamed and fearful. For me the thing is to just be able to talk about it.”

U Bring Change 2 Mind’s first meeting of the year will take place from 7 to 8 p.m. Aug. 28 at the Indiana Memorial Union. The meeting is open to any student interested in learning more about the program and getting involved.

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IU experts and public safety officer give their takeaway on the Pokémon Go phenomenon Fri, 22 Jul 2016 12:33:26 +0000 pokemon

Players dip their toes in the Showalter Fountain as they play Pokémon Go. Photo by Thom Atkinson.

Although you might not know exactly what a Pokémon is, by now most people have heard of the wildly popular Pokémon Go, an augmented reality game that exploded on the scene early this month.

Throughout the country, people of all ages are hitting the streets, cellphones in hand, attempting to catch virtual creatures known as Pokémon. With the game’s popularity has come a number of stories (some true, some internet tales) highlighting both the instantaneous success of the game and how far people are willing to go to catch a Pikachu or Clefairy.

Health and Vitality reached out to a few Indiana University Bloomington experts and public safety officer for their takeaway, and tips, on the world’s latest mobile phenomenon.

Take advantage of getting outside

jeanne johnston

Jeanne Johnston

While buzz surrounding a new technology or video game is not unique – remember Draw Something or Words With Friends? – Pokémon Go is unique in its ability to bring players outside. The game uses real-world locations in search of hundreds of species of Pokémon.

Jeanne Johnston, clinical associate professor of physical activity in the Department of Kinesiology at the IU School of Public Health-Bloomington, has spent her career studying the utilization of games and technology to promote physical activity.

“I am a firm believer in utilizing games and technology to influence physical activity,” she said. “Technology, and games to a lesser degree, are ubiquitous in our society now. Although it can lead to a more sedentary lifestyle, it has also provided us with a plethora of opportunities to utilize technology to positively influence health.”

Because Pokémon Go has a strong appeal among people of all ages, and for people to play in groups, it has also presented an opportunity for parents to play the game with their children. Studies have shown, Johnston said, that children are more active if their parents are active. The game, she said, could present an opportunity for families to get moving together.

Because fads are exactly that — fads — Johnston recommends using the game as a stepping stone to behavioral changes. Use the game as a reason to get moving, but find other activities, involving technology or not, that present a fun opportunity to be active.

“It is fun to play the game, and it may get people moving,” she said. “Hopefully this will make them feel better and they can look for activities outside of the game.”

Stay safe

andy stephenson

Capt. Andy Stephenson

One of the biggest topics of concern regarding Pokémon Go is safety. And with stories about people falling off a cliff or being targeted by robbers, it’s important for players to be aware of their surroundings.

Although the IU Police Department Bloomington has not had any calls related to the game, Capt. Andy Stephenson said they have noticed people playing it.

“We’ve seen a lot more people walking around campus, particularly in the evening and overnight hours,” he said.

When it comes to staying safe, IUPD encourages players to walk in groups and be mindful of where they are. Avoid dark areas, private property and businesses/buildings that are closed.

Just like any situation where cellphones can prove a distraction, Stephenson said people need to take time to glance away from their phones. That means paying attention where you are walking, especially when crossing the street.

“It’s basically common-sense stuff,” Stephenson said. “Pay attention to your surroundings, walk in groups, stay off private property, and don’t play and drive.”

Take it all in stride

nicole martins

Nicole Martins

Another potential concern for some people, particularly parents, is how much time to allow your child to play such a game and how to monitor their activity.

Nicole Martins, assistant professor of telecommunications in the IU College of Arts and Sciences, said when a new technology emerges, it is common for people, particularly parents, to have concerns.

“Every time something new comes out, parents’ first reaction is often fearful,” Martins said. “The assumption is it is probably bad. Our reactions to new technology have been the same over the last 50 years, no matter what the technology is.”

Martins recommend parents take advantage of the game to spend time with their children. And just like with any other technology, be aware of how, and how often, their children are using it.

“Have fun with it,” she said. “Research shows media can be used to have bonding family experiences. “If you and your kids are having a great afternoon playing Pokémon and enjoying each other’s company for two hours, am I going to say stop, you’ve met your recommended screen limit? No. But if they are doing it by themselves and spending long hours on it, then maybe you want to scale back a little.”

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Debby Herbenick elected president of the American Association of Sexuality Educators, Counselors and Therapists Wed, 29 Jun 2016 11:54:42 +0000 Debby Herbenick, director of IU’s Center for Sexual Health Promotion and associate professor in the Indiana University School of Public Health-Bloomington, has been elected president of the American Association of Sexuality Educators, Counselors and Therapists.

debby herbenick

Debby Herbenick

Herbenick, who will start her tenure July 1, is the first person from IU to hold this position in the almost 50 years the organization has existed.

“Being elected to serve as AASECT’s next president is an enormous honor,” Herbenick said. “The American Association of Sexuality Educators, Counselors and Therapists is the certifying body for these professionals in the United States. We have more than 900 certified members. It’s particularly exciting because 2017 marks AASECT’s 50th anniversary.”

The American Association of Sexuality Educators, Counselors and Therapists was founded in 1967 by Pat Schiller. Its mission is to promote sexual health through advancements in the fields of sexual therapy, counseling and education.

Herbenick first became involved with AASECT more than 10 years ago when she attended one of its conferences. Feeling inspired, Herbenick became an AASECT-certified sexuality educator before eventually being named president-elect and now president.

When asked to run as president, Herbenick said she was interested in the opportunity to highlight the value of a scientific, evidence-based approach to sexuality education, counseling and therapy. Herbenick said that AASECT, through its conferences, continuing education opportunities, and Summer and Winter Institute trainings, recognizes the need for evidence-based sexuality education and clinical care in communities nationwide.

“The United States remains challenged by issues related to sexually transmitted infections, unintended pregnancies, sexual difficulties, and a need for greater intimacy and connections with relationships and marriages,” Herbenick said. “Sexual and gender minorities continue to face stigma and discrimination, and this can be improved through greater education, research, and expanded conversations. Sexuality educators, counselors and therapists can help in each of these areas, and AASECT contributes to that overall success.”

Herbenick has spent more than 15 years studying how contemporary women and men experience their bodies and sexual lives. She has authored or co-authored more than 100 scientific publications, and in 2009, in collaboration with colleague Michael Reece, she led the National Survey of Sexual Health and Behavior, a nationally representative probability sample of Americans focusing on their sexual behaviors and experiences that has since had four subsequent waves of data collection. Herbenick is also the host of the “Kinsey Confidential” column and podcast series and is founder and host of the Bloomington Sex Salon, a Bloomington event dedicated to creating campus-community conversations about sexuality topics.

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New survey looks at attitudes, behaviors and challenges of LGBTQ singles Wed, 25 May 2016 18:22:00 +0000 A new survey by and Justin Garcia, a Ruth Halls assistant professor of gender studies in the College of Arts and Sciences and research scientist at the Kinsey Institute at Indiana University, looks at the evolving attitudes, behaviors and challenges of the single LGBTQ population.

Justin Garcia

Justin Garcia, research scientist at the Kinsey Institute at IU

The new LGBTQ in America study is an expansion of Match’s annual Singles in America study, which is also co-authored by Garcia. Topics include when gay men or lesbians “come out” and tell others about their sexual orientation; when transgender people “come out”; marriage and having children; dating; and identity and labels.

“Today’s society is full of rich gender and sexual diversity, yet relatively little is known about the dating experiences of LGBTQ people,” said Garcia, who serves as scientific advisor to Match. “Nearly half of the LGBTQ population in America identifies as single, and a vast majority of these singles, some 80 percent, are seeking a committed relationship.

“By expanding our annual Singles in America study to include more people of diverse identities, including gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender Americans, we are beginning to address these knowledge gaps to better understand singles today.”

The study surveyed more than 1,000 LGBTQ singles who are between the ages of 18 and 70, live in the United States and are not currently in a committed romantic relationship.

When it comes to realizing and coming to terms with one’s sexual orientation, 25 percent of gay men realized they were gay before 10 years of age, 50 percent before the age of 13 and 75 percent by the age of 18, according to the survey.

Of lesbian women surveyed, 25 percent realized they were lesbian by 12 years of age, 50 percent by the age of 15 and 75 percent by the age of 20 or 21, according to the survey.

In regard to gender identity, 50 percent of both transgender men and transgender women realized their gender didn’t match their bodies before their 13th birthday; 75 percent of transgender men realized by the age of 16, while 75 percent of transgender women realized before the age of 20.

“These data are extremely interesting, but also sobering,” Garcia said. “Sexual orientation and gender identity development can occur relatively early in adolescence and continue into emerging adulthood, as we begin to define the borders of who we are as individual people. But for many sexual and gender minorities, a variety of social and political factors prevent them from realizing who they are and who they want to be.”

In terms of when LGBTQ singles reveal their sexuality and gender to others, 25 percent of those surveyed came out the same year they “realized” their sexual orientation or gender identity. Those who realized before the age of 18 went an average of seven years before telling someone they identified as LGBTQ, and those who realized during adulthood took an average of 2.9 years to come out.

Marriage and children

The issue of same-sex marriage and adoption by gay couples continues to make headlines and cause heated debate throughout the country. Match’s LGBTQ in America survey addressed the issue, asking LGBTQ singles how important marriage equality is to them and what effect it has on their desire to expand their families.

When it comes to marriage, 53 percent of gay and lesbian singles surveyed have always wanted to get married, while 25 percent say they never wanted to marry.

The survey also addressed last year’s ruling by the U.S. Supreme Court that declared same-sex marriage a constitutional right, asking singles how the decision affected their attitude toward marriage. A majority of those surveyed — 61 percent — said the decision had no effect on their attitude toward marriage, while 17 percent said it changed their mind.

A majority of those surveyed — 74 percent — also said their families would support their getting married.

As for having children, 48 percent of younger LGBTQ singles said having children is important, with lesbian women being more likely to want kids (52 percent) than gay men (36 percent).

“Until recently, many gay and lesbian Americans were unable to legally formalize their relationships through a marital union,” Garcia said. “This made attitudes toward marriage among the LGBTQ community a complex issue, simultaneously about equality and about rejecting heteronormative conventions.

“But, from a biological perspective, the desire to love and be loved runs much deeper than social traditions. This study reminds us that LGBTQ singles face many obstacles and in some ways have different attitudes and experiences, but in many other ways single Americans of diverse backgrounds share a great deal in common.”

More detailed study findings on LGBTQ singles can be found on the Singles In America website. You can also follow the conversation on Twitter at #SinglesinAmerica.

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IU expert encourages everyone to revisit safe water practices before heading into summer Mon, 23 May 2016 12:52:55 +0000 With Memorial Day weekend right around the corner, many families are preparing for a three-day weekend full of gatherings, cookouts and relaxation. For some, that will include activities in or around water.

Bill Ramos

Bill Ramos

While there can be nothing more fun, or refreshing, than splashing around a pool or a lake, it’s important to take the time to revisit safe water practices during this time of year, said Bill Ramos, assistant professor of recreation, park and tourism studies and director of the aquatic institute at the IU School of Public Health-Bloomington.

“Being in the water is fun for people of all ages,” Ramos said. “But it’s like everything else: It has boundaries, and people need to know how to stay safe around it.”

Ramos, who also serves as a member of the American Red Cross Scientific Advisory Council’s Aquatics Subcouncil, provides six tips, for people of all ages, to safely enjoy summer water activities:

  • Talk to your child. Most people think water safety simply means learning to swim, Ramos said. But children should also be taught how to behave around water, the potential dangers of water and what to do in case of an emergency. That discussion, he said, should happen frequently. “It’s important to revisit water safety with your kids,” he said. “Don’t assume they remember from last summer.”
  • Take it easy. For most people, winter time is a dry time. So when summer hits, many are quick to dive back in. But Ramos suggests swimmers ease back into their routine and not overestimate their swimming abilities, especially after a period spent predominantly on dry land. “It’s like the first time you start running again after you haven’t done it for a while,” he said. “You need to ease back into it.”
  • Refamiliarize yourself with bodies of water. A lake that was deep last year may be more shallow now. When swimming in natural bodies of water, such as lakes or ponds, re-evaluate the area to make sure they are still fit for swimming or diving.
  • Nothing beats supervision. Always keep an eye on young people in or around water. Even if lifeguards or other adults are around, Ramos said nothing compares to one-on-on attention when it comes to children and water. Also keep distractions, such as cellphones, to a minimum so you can stay focused. “Parents shouldn’t rely on the supervision of others,” he said. “You know your child’s capabilities better than anyone.”
  • Wear a life jacket. Always wear an approved personal flotation device or life jacket in an open body of water, no matter what your age, and never swim alone or while impaired. “We think of life jackets as only for non-swimmers, but they are a safety device,” Ramos said. “Even the best swimmer can have an incident in the water and need it.”
  • Have a plan. It is important to know what to do if an emergency occurs, Ramos said, including how to recognize if someone is in trouble, how to remove the person from water without putting yourself in danger, calling emergency medical services and beginning CPR. “When the crisis happens, time is of the essence,” he said. “You need to have a plan and to frequently review it with your family.”

The American Red Cross offers more resources and tips for staying safe around water.

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IU health experts welcome new FDA rules for e-cigarettes Fri, 13 May 2016 12:39:21 +0000 The Food and Drug Administration recently announced that e-cigarettes will be subjected to rules and regulations previously imposed on tobacco cigarettes, including a ban on selling e-cigarettes to minors.

Jon Macy

Jon Macy, assistant professor at the IU School of Public Health-Bloomington.

That is welcome news to some Indiana University health experts who cite the lack of research on the long-term effects of e-cigarettes and concerns about the devices’ appeal to young people.

“I think it’s good to have uniform regulations across the country such as prohibiting the purchase of e-cigarettes by individuals under 18,” said Jon Macy, assistant professor at the IU School of Public Health-Bloomington. “The new regulations will also protect the public’s health by requiring the disclosure of all ingredients and requiring all products that contain nicotine to carry an addiction warning label.”

E-cigarettes, battery-operated devices that deliver nicotine and other chemicals in vapor instead of smoke, were introduced almost 10 years ago and have continued to grow in popularity.

The new rules, which take effect in August, will require e-cigarette manufacturers to register with the FDA; provide a detailed account of their product’s ingredients and manufacturing process; and apply for FDA permission to sell their products. The new rules will also ban the sale of e-cigarettes to anyone under 18 and require adults under the age of 26 to show a photo identification when buying them.

The FDA’s announcement added fuel to an already contentious debate between those who think e-cigarettes are a safe alternative to tobacco cigarettes and can help tobacco smokers quit smoking and those who are concerned with e-cigarettes’ long-term effects and think they might lead younger people to smoke tobacco cigarettes.

There is no doubt e-cigarettes have become a draw to young people. In 2014, e-cigarettes surpassed conventional cigarettes as the most commonly used nicotine-delivery product among youth, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. About 16 percent of high school students and 5 percent of middle school students reported using electronic cigarettes in 2015, according to data by the CDC and the FDA.

That trend also rings true in Indiana. In August 2015, the Indiana Prevention Resource Center at the IU School of Public Health-Bloomington released the results of the 25th Indiana Youth Survey, which showed a high level of e-cigarette use among Indiana youth.

According to the survey, which included questions about electronic vapor products for the first time, Indiana 12th-graders reported using electronic cigarettes at a rate of 24.8 percent, significantly higher than the national rate of 17.1 percent. Electronic cigarettes, or vape pens, were also the most prevalent nicotine-containing substance used by youth in the month before the survey was administered.

Jim Wolf

Jim Wolf, research associate at the Indiana Prevention Resource Center.

Jim Wolf, a research associate at the Indiana Prevention Resource Center and program coordinator for the FDA Tobacco Inspection Program in Indiana, said e-cigarettes appeal to young people because they are new and high-tech and have appealing flavors such as bubble gum and gummy bear.

But with a lack of research and no prior regulations, Wolf said the public, especially young people, should be wary of what he calls a false perception of e-cigarettes being “harmless vapor.”

“The reality is, this is an industry that has exploded on the scene and embraced by the young and is touted as being safer than cigarettes,” Wolf said. “The downside is that these are devices that deliver nicotine, an addictive substance that is very hard to stop using and is known to be significantly related to chronic hypertension and heart disease. There is simply no justification for thinking that there are no consequences for repeated use of electronic nicotine delivery systems.”

Macy, who has spent his career studying tobacco use behaviors and how public health policy influences those behaviors, said the jury is still out on the relative benefits and harms of e-cigarette use. There has been decades of research on tobacco cigarettes, he said, but comparatively little research on e-cigarettes, which only contributes to the debate about their potential harm and appeal to young people.

But one thing Macy expects tobacco cigarettes and e-cigarettes have in common: Their makers will push back on potential regulations.

“What both products have in common is that the industry that is trying to make money from their sale will almost surely use legal action to delay implementation of new regulations for as long as possible — this is what happened with the FDA’s proposed warning labels for cigarette packs,” he said.

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Has virginity lost its virtue? Kinsey study finds adults who wait to have sex are stigmatized Tue, 19 Apr 2016 13:25:56 +0000 When it comes to sex, the message historically has been it is better to wait. But how long is too long to wait to have sex?

amanda gesselman

Amanda Gesselman

A recent study by researchers at the Kinsey Institute titled “Has Virginity Lost Its Virtue? Relationship Stigma Associated with Being a Sexually Inexperienced Adult,” found that people who wait to have sex are stigmatized, and also stigmatize other sexually inexperienced adults.

“While virginity prior to marriage has been historically valued, there has been a generational shift that has made premarital sexual activity the norm for young adults,” said Amanda Gesselman, a postdoctoral research fellow at Kinsey and co-author of the study. “For us, the biggest question was whether person’s level of sexual experience is it still a No. 1 value trait – something you think about when looking at a potential relationship partner? Our research shows that yes it is, but not in the same way.”

The three-part study co-authored by Gesselman, Gregory Webster at the University of Florida, and Justin Garcia, from Kinsey, was recently published in The Journal of Sex Research.

In the first part of the study, researchers asked 560 heterosexual adults ages 18 to 71 – of which, 25 percent had no sexual experience – the “normal” age for men and women to begin having sex and to express their own perceptions of how they are viewed by others based on their level of sexual experience or lack there of.

Of those surveyed, a majority indicated they regarded between the ages of 16 and 19 as the normal age for both men and women to begin having sex. According to the Center for Disease Control and Prevention, the average age of sexual debut in the U.S. is 17 for both men and women, and nearly 90 percent of people between the ages of 22 and 24 report having had sex.

According to the Kinsey study, those surveyed who were sexually inexperienced perceived themselves to be more stigmatized than those who were sexually experienced. The study did not look at people’s motivations for remaining sexually abstinent, such as moral or religious reasons or to what extent people divulge their sexual experiences.

“Typically, we tend to think negatively about ‘slutty’ girls or ‘promiscuous’ guys, but the virgins in our study thought they were stigmatized more,” Gesselman said.

In the second part of the study, researchers looked at almost 5,000, heterosexual singles, 21 years of age and older, to determine potential discrimination against sexually inexperienced adults in the form of limited dating opportunities.

The results? Single adults who were surveyed may be less likely to consider sexually inexperienced adults as committed relationship partners, should they be made aware of a prospective partner’s sexual history status. That also goes for sexually inexperienced people’s attitudes toward other sexually inexperienced people.

“That part of the study was surprising,” Gesselman said. “Not sure why, except that sometimes when people are stigmatized you internalize that and think something is wrong with you. So maybe they see other virgins and think something is wrong with them.”

In the third part of the study, researchers asked 353 college students to rank dating profiles based on sexual and relationship experience. Most people made their decisions based on their own sexual experience, and everyone gave a higher ranking to people with more romantic relationship experience.

For Gesselman, the study shows a cultural shift in how people treat sexuality.

“We’ve really seen this generational shift where people are becoming more sex-positive as a culture,” she said.

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IU School of Public Health-Bloomington presenting sponsor of Bloomington AIDS Walk Mon, 18 Apr 2016 19:03:22 +0000 Blog post courtesy of Amanda Roach, assistant director of marketing and communications for the IU School of Public Health-Bloomington:

HIV and AIDS remain a significant health issue in our community, with hundreds of individuals affected in Monroe County and over 4,000 people statewide. After last year’s HIV outbreak in southern Indiana, communities are focused on how to prevent the spread of the virus.

bloomington AIDS walk

The IU School of Public Health-Bloomington is a presenting sponsor at this year’s walk.

On April 22, the Community AIDS Action Group of South Central Indiana will host the 12th annual Bloomington AIDS Walk with the Indiana University School of Public Health-Bloomington serving as this year’s presenting sponsor. The walk brings together individuals, families and friends to support those living with HIV or AIDS and remembering those who have lost their lives to the virus. All proceeds from the walk benefit Positive Link, a program of IU Health Community Health.

“Positive Link not only supports people living with HIV/AIDS through individualized case management, but also focuses on HIV prevention,” said Jill Stowers, Positive Link program manager. “We work with communities throughout south central and southern Indiana to provide free, anonymous HIV testing, education and counseling.”

The prevention work done by Positive Link, supported by funds raised through the Bloomington AIDS Walk, goes hand in hand with the mission of the IU School of Public Health-Bloomington.

“Health promotion and disease prevention through research, teaching, and meaningful community engagement are the heart and soul of our mission,” said Mohammad Torabi, dean of the School of Public Health-Bloomington and chancellor’s professor. “I am very pleased we are the presenting sponsor for such an important awareness-raising event and that we are able to partner with Positive Link. The work they do is critical to so many people in our community and region. I encourage everyone to considering participating.”

Walk registration is open now. Participants may register to join the IU School of Public Health-Bloomington team online. All members of the school’s team will receive a t-shirt to wear during the walk.

“Without the support of local organizations like the IU School of Public Health, we couldn’t do what we do at Positive Link,” says Stowers. “The financial support as well as the collaboration we have with faculty and students from the school helps us to provide more outreach, testing and education to the community.”

The Bloomington AIDS Walk takes place from 8 to 9 p.m. April 22 at the parking lot at Third Street and College Avenue, across from the Bloomington-Monroe County Convention Center. The walk will follow the B-Line Trail and participants can walk as long as they feel comfortable. A family festival featuring games and family-friendly activities will take place from 5:30 to 8 p.m.

More information is available online or by emailing or by calling 812-353-9150.

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IU men’s lacrosse team will support mental health awareness in upcoming game Tue, 05 Apr 2016 12:27:04 +0000 IU senior David Haggerty knows how it feels to struggle with a mental illness. During his freshman year of college, the biology major began to develop symptoms of anxiety and depression.

David Haggerty

David Haggerty during a previous men’s lacrosse game. | Photo provided by David Haggerty

Haggerty also knows how scary it can feel to reach out for help. So when he finally sought treatment, he decided to make it his mission to help other students facing the same struggles.

“I’ve always been an activist, so when I sought treatment my doctor suggested I get involved with some type of organization or group so I could try to help other people avoid what I went through,” he said. “That was the spark that got me thinking, maybe I can actually do something about this.”

So Haggerty joined IU’s U Bring Change 2 Mind College Toolbox Project– a national research and advocacy program that aims at reducing the stigma of mental illness.

Two years later, now co-director of U Bring Change 2 Mind, Haggerty is combining his passion for mental health awareness with his love for lacrosse by recruiting his fellow teammates to “Stick it to Stigma.”

On April 9, in a match against the University of Illinois, IU’s men’s lacrosse team will wear the official color of mental health – lime green – and their uniforms will display #MindOurFuture in support of Bring Change 2 Mind’s new public service announcement, which the team is also taking part in.

The game will also be streamed live at 3 p.m. Eastern Time on Bring Change 2 Mind’s website.

The idea, said Haggerty, who is captain of IU’s men’s lacrosse team, is to not only bring awareness to mental illness, but to address a demographic – males and athletes – that can sometimes have difficulty speaking about the issue.

“We’ve been trying for some time to figure out a way to get males and athletes more involved in our efforts around mental health awareness,” said Haggerty. “Males are more likely to internalize stigma, so they are less likely to talk about it. I think with athletes, we always talk about physical fitness and mental toughness, but not about this, because it can be seen as being weak.”

stick it to stigma

The IU men’s lacrosse team will “Stick it to Stigma,” on April 9.

When approached with the idea, Haggerty said, his teammates and coach were excited to be a part of the efforts.

“The support and excitement for this event has been great,” Haggerty said. “To have male athletes, 50 of them, talking about mental health, very openly and very publicly, is a big deal.”

The game is just one of the ways U Bring Change 2 Mind is trying to bring more students into the conversation about mental health.

Last week, the organization hosted “Kick Stigma in the Balls,” a kickball game that brought out more than 200 students.

“We hope these types of events can help normalize the conversation about mental health,” said IU junior Lauren Smith, who also serves as co-director of U Bring Change to Mind. “If we can find activities everyone is interested in and then integrate our message into the events, it helps ease the conversation.”

According to the National Alliance on Mental Illness, one in four college students has a diagnosable illness and 40 percent do not seek help.

At IU Bloomington, more than 4,000 students used IU Health Center’s Counseling and Psychological Services in the 2014-15 academic year. The most prevalent diagnosis was generalized anxiety disorder, followed by interpersonal problems, anxiety state, depressive disorder and post-traumatic stress disorder.

Since the launch of U Bring Change 2 Mind, Haggerty and Smith said they have seen the impact the program’s efforts are making. It is especially obvious when students approach Haggerty after hearing his own personal story.

“I’ve had people come up to me after a presentation in tears, and students will approach me out in the community and mention something I’ve posted on social media or a blog I’ve written,” Haggerty said. “So it’s becoming more visible. People are more willing to talk about it. When you see someone else talking about it, it makes you think, ‘If they are talking about it and sharing their stories, then I can do too.’”

More information about The College Toolbox Project is available online, including on-campus and community resources.

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School of Public Health student awarded Trudy Bush Fellowship Thu, 03 Mar 2016 18:26:37 +0000 Post by IU Newsroom intern Annie Brackemyre

Anna Gorczyca, a doctoral candidate in epidemiology and biostatistics at IU School of Public Health-Bloomington, traveled to Arizona this week to present research at the Epidemiology and Prevention/Lifestyle and Cardiometabolic Health 2016 Scientific Conference, and to accept the Trudy Bush Fellowship for Cardiovascular Disease Research in Women’s Health.

Anna Gorczyca

Anna Gorczyca during this year’s conference. | Photo courtesy of Anna Gorczyca.

The organization gives the fellowship to recognize the top three presenters on cardiovascular research in women’s health at their annual conference.  Bush was a leading expert on menopause, osteoporosis and hormone replacement as a means of preventing heart disease in women.

“It is an honor to receive the Trudy Bush Fellowship,” Gorczyca said. “I strive to become a prominent researcher and leader in the field of women’s health, as Trudy Bush was.”

Originally from Indiana, Gorczyca returned to the Hoosier state after receiving her bachelor’s of science degree and master’s of science degree in exercise physiology at Adelphi University in New York.

“I chose IU because of the opportunity to partake in the wide variety of research in the School of Public Health,” Gorczyca said.

Gorczyca is the first student from the School of Public Health-Bloomington to receive the Trudy Bush award.

“This award is really a big deal,” said Ka He, department chair of epidemiology and biostatistics. “I am proud of Anna. She is an excellent student in our department.”

Gorczyca presented part of her dissertation, “Change in physical activity and sitting time after myocardial infarction and mortality among postmenopausal women,” at the conference on Wednesday.

Her research uses national data to investigate causes of morbidity and mortality in postmenopausal women. Gorczyca’s findings suggest that increased physical activity after a heart attack decreases the risk of dying from all causes, while sitting for extended periods after a heart attack increases the risk.

She credits her time at IU and previous experience at Adelphi for cultivating her research skills.

“My advisor, Andrea Chomistek, has been an outstanding supporter and mentor,” Gorczyca said. “The IU community as a whole has provided multiple resources to develop my skills as a researcher.”

Gorczyca will graduate in May. In June, she will begin a post-doctoral fellow position in the Center for Physical Activity and Weight Management at the University of Kansas Medical Center.

“I look forward to furthering my research in physical activity and women’s health, specifically women struggling with infertility, and the potential benefits of increasing physical activity and decreasing sitting time in this population,” she said.

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School of Public Health launching new webinar series Fri, 19 Feb 2016 14:02:48 +0000 Beginning this month, the Indiana University School of Public Health-Bloomington, through its Public Health & YOU initiative, will host a monthly webinar featuring experts from the school.

Eight Dimensions of Wellness

The School of Public Health’s webinar series will focus on the eight dimensions of wellness.

The webinar series will focus on the eight dimensions of wellness — emotional, intellectual, physical, environmental, social, financial, spiritual and occupational – and aims at enhancing the understanding of public health, enhancing connections with community members and providing important, relevant and useful information to the community.

“We’re excited to offer this free webinar series to those who are working in and have an interest in public health,” said Gina Forrest, community partnerships and workforce development for the School of Public Health. “Public health encompasses so many aspects of our daily lives and we know that public health workers, whether in the community or in an academic setting, face a number of challenges. This webinar series strives to highlight the numerous facets of the world of public health.”

John Seffrin, a professor of practice at the School of Public Health-Bloomington, will lead the first webinar on Feb. 24. Seffrin, former CEO of the American Cancer Society, will provide an overview of all eight dimensions of public health.

Each webinar will take place from 12 to 12:45 p.m. on the fourth Wednesday of each month. The series will run through November. Each session is free, but registration is required and can be completed online. Viewers who complete each webinar can earn up to one continuing education unit.

More information on upcoming webinars is available online.

Launched in 2014, the Public Health & YOU initiative seeks to provide high-quality education and training to Indiana’s health workers in order to increase awareness about public health and improve public health outcomes.

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IU School of Public Health students become lobbyists for a day Mon, 15 Feb 2016 17:52:05 +0000 Post by IU Newsroom intern Annie Brackemyre

Fourteen graduate students in Indiana University’s School of Public Health-Bloomington transformed into lobbyists Feb. 8, advocating on behalf of March of Dimes. After a briefing by the national March of Dimes governmental relations chair, the students spent three hours at the Indiana Statehouse, arguing for an increased state tobacco tax and fielding questions from legistlators.

Group pic

Beth Meyerson’s class pose for a photo at the Indiana Statehouse. | Photo courtesy of Beth Meyerson.

Beth Meyerson, assistant professor of health policy and management, created a course, Public Health Policy and Politics, hoping to break the barrier between classroom learning and real-world advocacy.

“I am a believer that the community is the classroom, especially for public health, because our work is about real-world problems that are in themselves great learning opportunities,” Meyerson said. “In the case of our class, it is not enough to talk about how the health policy process happens or how advocacy coalitions are formed and work because students won’t have a feel for it until they themselves experience it.”

Once at the statehouse, the class received brief instructions from a March of Dimes representative on how to speak clearly and concisely with public officials. Then, split into small groups, they met with their district senators and representatives to advocate on behalf of the March of Dimes’ maternal health policy agenda.

The students focused on maternal health goals, including an increase in the state tobacco tax to $1; the creation of substance abuse prevention and cessation programs for pregnant women; and the improvement of access and data confidentiality for pregnant women seeking prenatal care who fear criminal prosecution.

Julius Lee, a first-year master’s student in the School of Public Health, found the lobbying effort rewarding.

“The beauty of this opportunity was the exposure to the democratic process,” Lee said. “We served as a proxy for mothers affected by these public health policies. We became their voice and their hope for better health benefits.”

Meyerson's class

Pictured from left to right: IU student Grace Yeboah Asuamah, Representative Vernon G. Smith–D. Gary, and students Angela Onsongo and Julius Lee. | Photo courtesy of Julius Lee.

For Olivia Western and Chris Owens, both first-year master’s students in the School of Public Health, interacting with state legislators offered eye-opening insight into the power of local lobbying and advocacy.

“The process isn’t what I expected,” Western said. “I didn’t expect the legislators to be so friendly and accessible. We watched some discussion from the gallery and noticed a light-hearted mood, even some joking between parties. I learned that our legislators are very open, maybe even eager, to hear about what the public wants to see in law.”

In a hyper-partisan political climate, the sincerity of the legislators surprised Owens.

“I expected to speak exclusively with their staff, so I was surprised we spoke with both the senator and legislator,” Owens said. “They noted their lack of awareness with the issue and spoke candidly about their dilemma. You could infer from their facial expression and speech that they would consider looking at the issue more, or at least asking their staff to do more research.”

The students will participate in future fieldwork and health policy communication experiences this semester, including writing briefs on Indiana’s lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender civil rights legislation to present at future hearings.

Meyerson said no amount of classroom discussion can replace direct engagement and communication with legislators and policy engagement.

“There is a certain pattern to public policy engagement. Think of it as a jump rope game,” Meyerson said. “You can watch it from the sideline and get instruction about how to do it. But it won’t be until you get in, trip, get back in and jump successfully that you really learn something.

“We want and need to train public health professionals who will make change for the health of communities. Doing so requires their policy engagement. It’s not rocket science; it’s jump rope.”

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The secret to scoring a second date? Sushi and politics Fri, 12 Feb 2016 12:23:22 +0000 Getting up the nerve to ask someone out on a first date can be tough. But how do you create an experience that leads to a second date and potentially a lifelong romance?

Dating pic

Going for sushi ups your chances of a second date by 170 percent, according to the latest Singles in America study.

According to this year’s Singles in America study from, sushi, political discourse and an after-dinner drink can help singles score that second date.

“First dates can be tricky, balancing expectations and nerves. But it turns out that second dates can also be quite influential, as you get to learn more about someone and try to decide if you might be a match,” said Justin Garcia, assistant professor of gender studies and research scientist at the Kinsey Institute at Indiana University and co-author of the Singles in America study.

According to the study, which surveyed more than 5,500 singles on topics such as politics, sex, exes and securing a second date, most singles — 60 percent — prefer an evening date. When it comes to days of the week, 39 percent of singles prefer a Saturday night date, compared to 34 percent who prefer going out on a Friday night.

We’ve always been told to avoid political discussions at the dinner table. But when it comes to first-date conversation, talking about politics can actually increase a person’s chance of securing a second date by 91 percent. In fact, 25 percent of singles said “not being registered to vote” is an instant deal-breaker, and 35 percent will not consider dating someone who “does not have an opinion on key political issues.”

Additionally, 80 percent of those surveyed think politics, money and religion are fair game to talk about on a first date, and 41 percent of women want their date to know about the economy. However, less than 25 percent of men and women cared about discussing sports, and only 14 percent of singles are up for talking about an ex.

“We often assume politics is an off-limits conversation topic for dates, but it turns out, especially in today’s political climate, many singles want to discuss the political circus on TV every night,” Garcia said.

Justin Garcia

Justin Garcia, research scientist at the Kinsey Institute at IU.

During all that conversation, what you eat and drink on a first date can also make a difference. Going for sushi ups your chances of a second date by 170 percent, and cocktails boosts those odds by 137 percent. An expensive restaurant can secure a second date by 50 percent, and after-dinner drinks up your chances of a second date by 59 percent.

Don’t worry if you don’t feel fireworks the first time around. According to the survey, 59 percent of men and women do not expect to feel chemistry until the second date, and over a third of singles don’t expect passion to erupt until the third date or later. Of those surveyed, 53 percent said they will go on a second date with someone for whom they do not yet feel any romantic chemistry because half of singles believe a person will “grow” on them.

“We know from previous Singles in America studies that many single Americans can develop strong feelings of attraction, and even love, for someone that they weren’t initially interested in,” Garcia said. “It’s important to get to know someone and see if there is chemistry, and our data suggest there are certain choices surrounding second dates that can help facilitate that process.”

So how can you tell if the date might lead to something more? Half of singles think that a “good” first date ends with a kiss.

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Online session focuses on helping men improve physical, mental performance Wed, 10 Feb 2016 13:27:53 +0000 Who doesn’t want to perform at their top of their game?

Having the energy to chase the kids or grandkids around the yard. Harnessing the focus and drive to finish that big work project. For most men, it’s not about being Superman, but about being the best man you can be.

Men's Health

Healthy IU is encouraging men to think more about their health with an upcoming online session.

For men, daily habits affect testosterone levels, which in turn can affect their quality of life. Healthy IU is hoping to provide a little encouragement for men to think more about their health, make healthy choices and essentially improve their overall daily life.

Steven Lalevich, Healthy IU dietitian at the IU Health Center, will host an online session, “Men: How to Be at the Top of Your Game,” from noon to 1 p.m. Feb. 25. The presentation will focus on ways for men to naturally improve their testosterone levels to increase both physical and mental performance.

“Just about every aspect of a man’s lifestyle could be influencing his testosterone level, one way or the other,” Lalevich said. “Things like sleep, diet, physical activity and stress can all have significant effects on testosterone production.”

Testosterone, the hormone that helps maintain a man’s bone density, muscle strength, facial and body hair and sex drive, can affect both a man’s physical performance — such as strength and endurance — and mental performance, such as memory and concentration. It also supports feeling energized and having a positive sense of well-being.

Sleep, diet and exercise are the most common and effective ways to improve overall well-being, Lalevich said, with exercise being one of the best ways to improve testosterone levels.

Steven Lalevich

Steven Lalevich, registered dietitian with Healthy IU

“Exercise not only has a direct effect on raising testosterone, but it also helps manage stress and burn body fat,” he said. “Too much stress or body fat can lower testosterone, so exercise is a great option for multiple reasons.”

In addition to sleep, diet and exercise, environmental toxins can also impair a man’s testosterone level, while also causing excessive levels of estrogen.

“Endocrine disruptors, such as bisphenol A (BPA), are often found in plastic containers and can leach into foods and beverages and alter sex hormones in the body,” Lalevich said. “It’s best to limit use of plastics, and especially avoid heating plastic containers, which increases the amount of these compounds that leach out.”

Lalevich encourages anyone interested in learning more about improving their testosterone level to tune in to the Feb. 25 session. Registration and more information about the session are available on Healthy IU’s website.

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IU Bloomington hosting first National Symposium on Parks and Recreation in Public Health Fri, 29 Jan 2016 14:02:40 +0000 Experts from across the nation will travel to the Indiana University Bloomington campus Feb. 10 to 12 for the first National Symposium on Parks and Recreation in Public Health.

Doug Knapp

Doug Knapp

“The vital role that parks and recreation play in promoting and improving national public health will be the centerpiece of this symposium, which is the first of its kind,” said symposium organizer Doug Knapp, professor at the IU School of Public Health-Bloomington. “The symposium will focus on the vital role that the nation’s public parks and recreation agencies and organizations play as essential partners in combating some of the most complicated challenges our country faces: poor nutrition, hunger, obesity and physical inactivity.”

The IU Department of Recreation, Parks and Tourism Studies and the IU School of Public Health-Bloomington are hosting the event.

Keynote speaker Jayne Miller, superintendent of the Minneapolis Park and Recreation Board, will be the keynote speaker Feb. 10. The Minneapolis park system was recognized by the Trust for Public Land in 2013 and 2014 as the No. 1 Urban Park System in the United States, and the park helped Minneapolis earn a spot on Forbes’ list of 10 Healthiest Cities in the U.S.

Allen Heinemann, professor in the Department of Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation at the Feinberg School of Medicine, Northwestern University, will be the keynote speaker Feb. 11.

The symposium will be organized into two tracks: research on the impacts of recreation on public health and national models in recreation and public health.

Session topics include measuring the impact of community sports on teenage health; greenway trails’ influence on local lifestyles; disability camps reaching back to participants’ neighborhoods; metropolitan recreation programs that serve healthy meals to children; and the country’s top urban youth community garden programs.


IU School of Public Health-Bloomington

Experts from throughout the country will present at the symposium, including representatives from IU, the University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign, San Francisco University, Penn State University, the University of Northern Iowa, Augusta University and the University of Central Florida.

“We have assembled leaders from across the country who will share research and community models that epitomize the positive relation between parks and recreation and its impact on healthier lifestyles,” Knapp said. “We are proud to be at the forefront, as a school of public health, in the discussion of how current public health problems can be tackled through innovative and bold approaches that involve parks and recreation. We are equally proud to be the first in the nation to offer an event that pulls together the research and innovative programs that use parks and recreation to promote public health.”

Registration for the event is $250, or $90 for students. Deadline to register is midnight Feb. 7. More information is available online or by emailing

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IU dietitian encourages people to think of healthy eating as a lifelong process Thu, 14 Jan 2016 16:14:26 +0000 It’s the new year. For the past few months, as you helped yourself to another holiday cookie and stuffed yourself with turkey, you’ve been telling yourself, “After the new year, I’ll replace these cookies with celery sticks.”

Steven Lalevich

Steven Lalevich, registered dietitian with Healthy IU

But as Americans, we are inundated with information touting the latest diet, the most recent research and recommendations from everyone, including the government, on what we should and should not be eating. That revolving door of information can make it overwhelming to decide how to make even the simplest changes.

“The public is continually bombarded with news headlines about diet and nutrition, as seemingly every nutrition study is deemed newsworthy,” said Steven Lalevich, dietitian for Healthy IU. “This can be overwhelming for people as they try to make sense of the news reports, which often contradict each other.”

When making the decision to eat healthier, Lalevich encourages people to first look broadly at the food you consume and the number of calories you ingest.

If your diet is mostly made up of whole plant foods like fruits and vegetables, and whole animal foods like eggs and fish, Lalevich said you’re on the right track.

“Eating whole foods is important to ensure you are consuming adequate amounts of essential nutrients,” Lalevich said. “Many Americans consume excessive calories but are actually malnourished from having a diet that is lacking in these nutrients. For example, whole grains retain the many nutrients contained in the germ and the bran of the grain, whereas these nutrient-dense components are removed in the processing of refined grains.”

When it comes to calories, Lalevich said take a hard look at those sodas and coffees you are consuming. Sugary beverages can add up to extra calories with minimal benefits. Replace them with water when possible.

For those who have no clue where to start, Lalevich recommends turning to a dietitian or health expert for advice in place of searching fruitlessly on the Internet. Full-time employees at IU can meet with a dietitian for free through Healthy IU, and IU students can meet with an IU Health Center dietitian once per semester for free.

Online resources such as the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s MyPlate provide a good resource for eating a balanced diet, Lalevich said. For those interested in a Mediterranean-style diet – which emphasizes eating primarily plant-based foods and replacing butter with healthy fats – Lalevich recommends Oldways, a nonprofit food and nutrition education organization.

Whichever path you choose, it’s important, Lalevich said, to avoid gimmicks and quick fixes and instead focus on realistic goals you can maintain over time.

“It is important to think of healthy eating as a lifelong process,” he said. “Instead of looking for quick fixes, work on setting small goals and developing new healthy habits. These small changes, over time, can bring about huge health benefits.”

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Quitting smoking is ‘the number one best decision an individual could ever make in their life’ Wed, 06 Jan 2016 14:25:07 +0000 Now that the holidays are over, many people will start the New Year looking to make a change.

quit-smokingFor some, that change might be to eat healthier or exercise more. Others will look to be less stressed or to spend more time with family. But the new year can also be a time to make one of the most important decisions in some people’s lives: to quit smoking.

“The new year is a perfect time to think about quitting,” said Cathy Wyatt, Assistant Director of Disease Prevention Programs at Indiana University’s Health Center. “Even if you start out reducing your smoking, now is a great time to take a first step.”

Cigarette smoking is the leading cause of preventable disease and death in the United States, accounting for one in every five deaths each year, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Smoking doesn’t just affect the person inhaling the cigarette. Of the 480,000 Americans who die from smoking-related diseases each year, 41,000 of those deaths are from exposure to secondhand smoke, according to the CDC.

When approaching quitting, Wyatt encourages smokers to be strategic about their plan, find one that fits their needs and lifestyle, and prepare themselves for potential ups and downs. Most people who attempt to quit smoking require multiple attempts.

“It doesn’t have to be all or nothing right off the bat,” Wyatt said. “A person who has smoked for years is going to have a completely different set of barriers than a person that has only been smoking two or three years. It’s about finding what works for you.”

IU offers support, counseling and free nicotine replacement therapy for full-time IU employees and spouses enrolled in an IU-sponsored medical plan. The IU Bloomington campus also offers a free, weekly tobacco cessation clinic for students, their spouses and dependents 12 and older.

Cathy Wyatt

Cathy Wyatt, Assistant Director of Disease Prevention Programs at the IU Health Center.

There are also a number of resources through the state and organizations such as the American Cancer Society that offer support and services for people interested in quitting.

Smokers can have many concerns about quitting, Wyatt said, including the fear of gaining weight, becoming moody or irritable and losing the social aspect of smoking. Cigarette smoking is both physically and emotionally addictive, Wyatt said, so it is important to address both aspects when deciding to quit.

Some smokers also have the misconception that electronic cigarettes — battery-operated devices that deliver nicotine and other chemicals in vapor instead of smoke — are safer and will help people quit smoking, Wyatt said. However, the health effects of e-cigarettes, which are unregulated by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration, are still largely unknown.

“Don’t count on e-cigarettes as an alternative,” Wyatt said. “Breaking the behavior — hand to mouth and the inhale — is key. We are not helping ourselves by substituting the same action with what we perceive to be a safer product. Plus, it hasn’t been proven to be safer, so you are still taking a chance.”

Whether it’s tapering off slowly, quitting cold turkey or simply gathering information on ways to quit smoking, Wyatt said the most important thing is taking a first step. Whichever path you chose, making the decision to quit is one you will not regret, she said.

“Quitting smoking is the number one best decision an individual could ever make in their life for their health and the future of their own environment,” Wyatt said. “It is absolutely doable and although challenging, it is the most empowering choice they will ever make.”

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IU Student Association encourages students to educate themselves about the Lifeline Law Mon, 14 Dec 2015 15:50:36 +0000 As chief of staff for the Indiana University Student Association, Sara Zaheer has heard about the fear some fellow students have when it comes to contacting law enforcement under circumstances that involve drinking or similar activities.

lifeline_stroke2That is why the Indiana Lifeline Law — which provides legal immunity for underage students who call for emergency medical attention for a person experiencing an alcohol- or drug-related medical emergency or who witness a crime or sexual assault — is so important.

“The Lifeline Law does a great job to encourage students to make the call to request emergency medical assistance for a friend in need,” Zaheer said. “It takes away some of the hesitation for students. Many students are worried about the consequences of interacting with law enforcement if they’ve been drinking underage or under the influence of other illegal substances.”

Although the law has been around since 2012, students are still hesitant about using it, said Patrick Lockhart, director of state and legislative affairs for the IU Student Association.

“Students oftentimes won’t take advantage of the law because they are with a larger group or at a party and don’t want anyone else to get in trouble,” he said. “As we talk to students around campus, there are also many misconceptions as to what protections the lifeline law actually provides.”

The Indiana Lifeline Law provides legal protection to minors under the influence of alcohol who call to report a medical emergency or a crime, and it also allows first-responders to administer medical treatments that counteract the effects of a drug overdose.

Currently, the law applies only to the person who makes the call and surrounding parties. The caller must provide his full name and relevant information requested by law enforcement; remain on the scene with the person who needs medical assistance; and cooperate with emergency medical assistance personnel and law enforcement officers.

If these steps are followed, the person cannot be prosecuted for public intoxication, intoxication on public transportation or illegal possession of alcohol.

Although the law does not apply to the person being called for, it does allow a court to defer entering a judgment of conviction for a person arrested for an alcohol offense if they were arrested after a report that the person needed medical assistance due to the use of alcohol.

It also establishes a mitigating circumstance for someone convicted of a controlled-substance offense if the person was charged in part because they requested emergency medical help for an individual suffering from an alcohol- or substance-related emergency.

State Sen. Jim Merritt, who sponsored the law, has traveled the state to bring awareness to both students and parents. He has spoken to more than 50,000 people about the law since its inception and has led a widespread outreach initiative each fall to inform students and parents about the law through the Internet and radio.

In response to concerns from students and parents, Merritt is drafting proposed changes to the legislation that will include providing immunity to the person who needed medical attention in regard to alcohol or drugs who is under the age of 21.

“The bottom line is we want kids to be safe, and we know kids make mistakes,” he said. “We just don’t want a bad decision to be their last decision.”

The IU Student Association has also made it its mission to educate students and to work with Merritt, IU administrators and law enforcement to clarify the law and encourage students to make the call.

“Student health and safety is a big component of the advocacy that IUSA does,” Lockhart said. “We want every student to enjoy their time here but also be able to take care of each other if anything should ever happen. The most important thing to remember is that this is meant to save lives. Don’t hesitate to make the call. This was made to encourage you to watch out for you fellow Hoosiers, so take advantage of that.”

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IU health policy expert Beth Meyerson among panelists at upcoming legislative conference Thu, 10 Dec 2015 13:42:58 +0000 Throughout the past year, addiction and its related pitfalls have been on the minds of health care professionals, experts, educators and the public.

Beth Meyerson

Beth Meyerson, co-director of Rural Center for AIDS/STD Prevention.

Scott County faced a major crisis when HIV cases skyrocketed because of intravenous drug use. Needle exchange programs have popped up in three counties since, and the state continues to find ways to combat an increase in drug addiction.

Beth Meyerson, assistant professor of applied health science at the Indiana University School of Public Health-Bloomington, will discuss addiction and health care during the Bingham Greenebaum Doll LLP Legislative Conference on Dec. 16.

“This is an important part of being a university and a school of public health,” Meyerson said of attending the conference. “Our work is focused on the translation of public health evidence for policy consideration. This means that we must be engaged, communicate effectively and respond with evidence when needed for policy-maker consideration.”

This is the first time Meyerson, who also serves as co-director of Rural Center for AIDS/STD Prevention, will attend the conference, which takes place Dec. 16 in Indianapolis. She will be among state leaders, elected officials, policy advisors, professionals and business leaders from throughout the state who will discuss numerous topics facing Indiana as the new legislative session approaches.

Meyerson will serve on a panel discussing health care/HIP 2.0 information regarding needle exchange and addiction. The panel, which will also include Rep. Cindy Kirchhofer and Indiana Attorney General Greg Zoeller, will feature discussion around the Scott County HIV outbreak and what the state’s main policy-makers are considering to improve state health policy.

The panel will also feature discussion about how the implementation of the state’s health insurance plan — Healthy Indiana Plan or HIP 2.0 — is working and whether the General Assembly is planning legislative action to counteract the rising issue of addiction in the state.

“The Rural Center for AIDS/STD Prevention not only conducts public health research focused on structural barriers to HIV and STD prevention and health access, but we also assist policy partners at the state level (including the legislature) to understand what these issues mean for Indiana specifically,” Meyerson said. “Last year, IU President Michael McRobbie asked that we provide research support to the legislature on behalf of our School of Public Health. I’m honored to do this and to be part of the partners who are gathered for this panel.”

As part of the Rural Center for AIDS/STD Prevention, Meyerson played an integral part in the Scott County crisis, advising the legislature on the science of syringe exchange programs and providing evidence of HIV testing and systems access issues based on research. She also communicated frequently through various media outlets to assist public conversations about the issues. With Carrie Lawrence, a postdoctoral fellow at the Rural Center for AIDS/STD Prevention, she created Project Cultivate, which helps communities move forward with syringe access. Her current research focuses on studying the implementation of syringe exchange and conducting a study on harm reduction attitudes and practices among Indiana community pharmacists focused on Naloxone, syringe access and pre-exposure prophylaxis for HIV or PrEP.

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Health experts mark World AIDS Day with discussion on Scott County HIV outbreak Wed, 02 Dec 2015 17:09:51 +0000 Post by IU Newsroom intern Annie Brackemyre

World AIDS Day both celebrates the scientific and medical advances in treating HIV/AIDS and commemorates those lost to the decades-long epidemic. Globally there are an estimated 35 million people living with HIV, and 39 million have died of HIV/AIDS since discovery of the virus in 1984. Although it is a global epidemic, this year Hoosiers did not have to look beyond their own backyard to experience the virus’s havoc.

The panel included both local and national experts.

The panel included both local and national experts. | Photos by Benedict Jones

In January, the Indiana State Department of Health opened an investigation into the 20-some HIV cases in Scott County. In under two months, over 184 Scott County residents became infected, largely by IV drug use; 92 percent of those infected also contracted hepatitis C.

Scott County garnered national attention as it declared a health emergency, brought in a national team from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and passed emergency legislation allowing for an unprecedented needle exchange program.

A panel of local and national HIV/AIDS experts met Dec. 1, the 27th annual World AIDS Day, in IU’s Whittenberger Auditorium to discuss the challenges in Scott County, the future of fighting the virus and the role of Indiana University in research and advocacy. The event was hosted by the IU School of Public Health-Bloomington and the Rural Center for AIDS/STD Prevention.

Panelists such as Beth Meyerson, co-director of IU’s Rural Center for AIDS/STD Prevention, agreed that fighting the spread of HIV/AIDS begins long before an outbreak.

“When we think about what affects outbreaks, we have to think about the institutions that impact communities around them,” Meyerson said. “Our role at RCAP was to tell the state legislatures two stories, one they wanted to hear and one they didn’t want to hear.”

The Rural Center for AIDS/STD Prevention presented information on the effectiveness of the needle exchange program that led to new legislation, radically flipping the state’s prior absolute ban on the service. Legislators proved more resistant to the center’s story that the outbreak is largely a reflection on the governmental health institutions and the lack of funding.

“Scott County is a warning cry to the neglect of rural America,” said panelist Jennifer Walthall, deputy health commissioner for the Indiana State Department of Health. “Unemployment, poverty and hopelessness all explain how we arrived here.”


Beth Meyerson, co-director of IU’s Rural Center for AIDS/STD Prevention, speaks during the event. Paul Weidle, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention epidemiology field team lead is also pictured. | Photos by Benedict Jones

Scott County residents often lacked basic access to treatment. Health care was not typically the No. 1 priority; basic survival came first, said Amy Hays, care coordinator at IU Community Health Positive Link.

“My biggest challenge as a case manager was reprioritizing,” Hays said. “Typically I think of setting people up with health care and insurance right away. But for most people in Scott County, they were first concerned with getting a sandwich, then clean needles and then where to sleep at night.”

A multidisciplinary and cross-sector command center was set up. It quickly evolved into a “one-stop shop” where residents could register for state IDs necessary for insurance; sign up for health insurance; receive TB shots so they could enter rehab; participate in the needle exchange; and receive mental health care referrals, along with a host of other basic living services.

Panelists reiterated that combatting the epidemic requires efforts at all levels: local and national, legislative and on the ground. IU’s Rural Center for AIDS/STD Prevention played a vital role in bridging these levels in the Scott County crisis.

“We were able to say things that couldn’t otherwise be said, like the backlogged nature of health centers across Indiana,” Meyerson said. “The legislators did not want to focus on the underlying issues, but we worked to keep the conversation there.”

The Rural Center for AIDS/STD Prevention is currently monitoring 22 counties in Indiana moving toward a preventive needle exchange program. Three counties have already been approved.

Although Scott County illuminates so many of these institutional failures, the future of HIV/AIDS does not have to be so grim. Panelists agreed that major improvements will occur when treatment shifts from crisis management to prevention and the stigma and myths around the virus are eradicated.

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IU experts provide tips for minimizing stress during the holiday season Tue, 17 Nov 2015 14:30:36 +0000 The holidays.

For some, the time of year consumed by parties, family gatherings and gift-buying excursions can be seen as the best of times and the worst of times.

In fact, in the last few weeks, my friends and I have already started grumbling about “figuring out the holidays” — where will we go, how long will we stay there, and knowing along the way we’ll never have enough time to plan and go everywhere we want to go.

Cathlene Hardy Hansen

Cathlene Hardy Hansen

It’s easy to get wrapped up in the stressors that can accompany the holidays. Whether it’s managing your time off, finding the perfect gift for your loved one or simply trying to stave off the feeling of loneliness that can come with this time of year, the holidays can be a trying time for some.

But it doesn’t have to be a time of anxiety and sorrow, said Cathlene Hardy Hansen, director of health and wellness at the Indiana University Health Center.

“With all the demands and expectations of the season, the best tip for reducing stress is to simply acknowledge your feelings and think through what is best for you and the ones you care for,” she said.

Here are a few tips for reducing stress this holiday season:

Create clear and manageable expectations

“When it comes to family, many of us can feel trapped by our expectations: the perceived ‘have-to’s’ versus our actual ‘want-to’s,'” Hansen said. “People think, ‘I have to create the perfect dinner and environment for a group of people that I love, but I don’t like some of the relationship dynamics and their varying opinions of what perfect is’ — that equals stress. And though the costs seem to outweigh the rewards, [you] proceed because the perceived disappointment of not trying to meet others’ expectations seems worse than enduring the traditional event.”

Remember to be realistic, embrace the funny nature of your “crazy family dramas,” and forget trying to create the perfect holiday for everyone.

Also, change your plans from what you think everyone wants to what you really want. You never know, Hardy Hansen said, it just might be what others want to do as well.

Barbara Moss

Barbara Moss

Don’t go it alone

Another way to reduce potential stress is by not trying to accomplish everything on your own. You don’t have to play the role of super woman/man to get everything done.

“Share your to-do list with family members, like decorating, wrapping gifts and preparing for the holiday entertaining,” said Barbara Moss, health educator at the IU Health Center. “Let them get off the couch to help.”

Also, feel free to decline invitations that create more work for you or are simply not enjoyable to make room for ones that have more meaning for you.

Don’t break the bank

Set a budget, and share that budget with family members so they know what you can afford to spend.

“It’s OK to tell your child that a toy is just too expensive,” Moss said “In lieu of an expensive gift for the adults in your life, show you care by giving something small, but meaningful and personal. Give a thoughtful card or give the gift of time by committing to babysit, have a movie night or just spend quality time together in the future. Less can be more.”

Have fun!

Cynthia Bretheim

Cynthia Bretheim

Finally, the holidays are supposed to be a time to gather with family and friends and to surround yourself with people and things that make you happy. Most of all, remember to relax.

“Getting stressed out about stress is stressful,” said Cynthia Bretheim, IU Health educator. “Get excited about the challenge of traveling, eating good food and navigating delicate relationships. Set your intentions for imbibing, relating and focusing, and stick to it to reduce holiday stress.

“Just say no to your negative thoughts about this holiday season and get real with family and friends about what’s really important to you. Make the best of what you arrange, whether your time is with family, friends, your community or with the public. Bond [and] give back by helping others and family members.”

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Ready to Move IU program pairs student health coaches with university employees Tue, 10 Nov 2015 13:51:20 +0000 Amy Hull knows she needs to be more active.

But when it comes to movement, the associate director for IU’s Office of Student Financial Assistance admits she needs a little extra encouragement to keep her on the right path.

Move IU

IU employee Bridgett Milner, left, walks with student Katherine Zukerman, middle, and IU employee Amy Hull as part of the Ready to Move IU program. | Photo by IU Communications

So when she heard about the Ready to Move IU program — which pairs employees with graduate students from the School of Public Health-Bloomington — Hull used the opportunity to get motivated and get moving.

“I am very sedate in my job and in my home life,” Hull said. “So I wanted an opportunity to have someone give me that kick in the pants to get moving and take more steps. I need to be more active, and I thought this was a good catalyst to get that going.”

Hull is one of 15 employees participating in the 10-week program. The employees are teamed with seven students from Carol Kennedy-Armbruster’s exercise leadership and counseling class who serve as health coaches.

In addition to receiving a Fitbit, the employees communicate with their student health coach regularly to set goals, discuss obstacles they may face and learn about resources through the Healthy IU program. The employee receives some resources and encouragement to get moving, while the students learn leadership and health coaching skills.

“Wellness is not just a program but a ‘culture of being well,’” Kennedy-Armbruster said. “Although this program focuses on enhancing movement and activity tracker education, we’ve learned that it also connects students with faculty/staff in a collaborative way.”

This is the sixth semester IU has hosted the Ready to Move IU program. In that time, 173 clients have been paired with 100 student coaches. Data collected from the program shows 81 percent of participants were still using their activity tracker six weeks after the program ended and 67 percent were still using it eight months after the program ended.

Surveys given to employees before and after the program also showed employees improved their confidence to reach and sustain regular physical activity/movement.

IU student Katherine Zukerman | Photo by IU Communications

IU student Katherine Zukerman | Photo by IU Communications

Katherine Zukerman, a first-year masters student in the physical activity, fitness and wellness program, serves as health coach to Hull and two other employees.

Having been a part of the program in 2014 at IUPUI, Zukerman said she enjoys the hands-on experience the class provides. She said it is also an educational opportunity in learning how to guide each client down their own path, instead of simply telling them what they should be doing.

“At the end of the day we want our clients to drive the bus and we guide them,” she said. “We don’t give them all the answers, we give them resources and education to make their own choices and set their own goals and figure out how they will accomplish them. We are that little push that helps make it a long-term behavior change.”

Change can be difficult for employees like Bridgett Milner, who spends most of her days sitting at a computer and her evenings caring for her two children.

She said the Ready to Move IU program has helped open her eyes to just how sedentary her days can be.

“I mostly do mathematical models all day,” Milner said. “So you don’t do those walking around. You do those sitting at a computer. So wearing a Fitbit made me really conscious that I get very few steps during my working day.”

Zukerman and Milner share a laugh during their walk. | Photo by IU Communications

Zukerman and Milner share a laugh during their walk. | Photo by IU Communications

One way Milner has been able to increase her steps is by being a part of Hull and Zukerman’s team. The trio, along with another employee, meet weekly for an afternoon walk where they discuss their goals and progress.

The program has not only been a learning experience for Milner, providing both accountability and resources she didn’t have before, but it allows her to take a break from the daily grind and to engage in something that is all about her.

“I think it’s great that IU offers this,” she said. “I have two small kids, so finding time outside of working hours to do things that aren’t soccer practice for my son or gymnastics for my daughter is a challenge. So the idea that I can do a program for me during the work day is pretty great.”

IU employees interested in similar programs or tips for living a healthy life can visit Healthy IU online.

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IU School of Public Health student creates self-examination curriculum for area schools Tue, 03 Nov 2015 19:12:37 +0000 Samantha Ginther’s task started out simple: help the Olcott Center for Cancer Education update its breast and testicular cancer self-examination curriculum.

A Master of Public Health student at the Indiana University School of Public Health-Bloomington, Ginther originally set out to simply help the center — which taught a self-examination curriculum in area high schools — update its presentation.

Samantha Ginther

Samantha Ginther

But with the help of her fellow students, professors and a local school corporation, Ginther, who has since graduated and works for My Public Health Direct at IU, was able to create a completely new curriculum that teachers could utilize on their own.

“Due to a lack of resources, the Olcott Center realized it was no longer able to provide the curriculum to schools in the area,” Ginther said. “So we all worked together to develop a comprehensive, completely digital curriculum that teachers can deliver in their classrooms.”

The project began in the spring and continued throughout the summer and into the fall semester. Students from the School of Public Health-Bloomington, the School of Nursing and the School of Education all worked on the project, along with representatives from the Olcott Center and the Monroe County Community School Corp.

The end result is an online, interactive curriculum called “Check It Out” that teachers can access at any time to teach students about breast and testicular self-examinations, a requirement by the state.

“The online program is an innovative option for high school teachers teaching the self-exam curriculum,” said Lisa Petscher, manager of coordinated school health for IU Health Bloomington. “The teachers now have the flexibility to teach the class as a whole or assign the course to the students individually. Students are able to complete the course on their own pace and have immediate access to reliable, credible resources they may need if questions arise.”

The curriculum aims to increase high school students’ knowledge of breast and testicular cancer, create a positive attitude toward self-examination, increase overall practice of self-examination and increase student engagement in preventative self-care. Breast cancer is the No. 1 diagnosed cancer in women and testicular cancer is the No. 1 occurring cancer among males 20 to 35 years of age.

Check It Out

“Check It Out” provides teachers the tools to teach breast and testicular self-examination curriculum.

The one-hour curriculum features the basics of cancer, cancer myths, facts and statistics, risk factors, early detection and treatment, risk minimization and self-examanition practice.

In addition to creating the online module, Master of Public Health students and IU School of Nursing students will be available in the spring to answer students’ questions when they are taught the curriculum.

“This was a great opportunity for our students,” said Lesa Huber, clinical associate professor of applied health in the School of Public Health-Bloomington. “It gave students a chance to do something that helps the community, and it showed students what is needed in the community.”

Not only did Ginther provide local educators with a valuable tool, the experience also provided her with an invaluable hands-on experience.

“The most rewarding part, for me, was knowing my work was going to be able to help people,” Ginther said. “This work will help students realize the importance of self-exams, of being aware of their bodies and thinking about prevention.”

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5 ways to have a safer and healthier Halloween at IU Bloomington Thu, 29 Oct 2015 13:08:25 +0000 Post by IU Communications colleague Milana Katic:

Halloween at Indiana University

Halloween at Indiana University Bloomington

For some, Halloween weekend in a college town involves partying, which can sometimes lead to risky behavior. It’s as if putting on a costume can somehow shield us from the potential dangers of out-of-control drinking and other scary actions.

However, the Indiana University Bloomington community wants to remind everyone this Halloween season that, as cliché as it sounds, you don’t have to drink or act carelessly to have fun. IU Late Nite, and several other IU organizations are providing a variety of safe, fun alternative Halloween events for students and community members to enjoy throughout the week and weekend.

“Many students want to avoid risky situations during Halloween, and they don’t want to stay in their dorms alone,” said Jackie Daniels, director of IU’s OASIS program and co-facilitator of the IU Late Nite committee. “Additionally students report that the party scene can get old, and Late Nite provides a diversity of events to choose from.”

If you’re interested in a variety of safer Halloween events, here’s a list of five activities to keep in mind:

1. RPS Halloween in the halls

From pumpkin carving to zombie cardio hip-hop, the IU residence centers have a large variety of autumn activities to choose from. See a full list of events on their website.

2. See a scary movie

McNutt Residence Center’s Outdoor Movie Night will be featuring the Disney Halloween favorite “Hocus Pocus” at 9 p.m. on Oct. 29. Union Board’s weekly film series will be showing the horror thriller “The Babadook” Oct. 29 to 31, with showtimes at 8 and 11 every night. The IU Cinema also has a terrifying lineup for the weekend, with the drama “Mommy Dearest” playing Oct. 30 at 9:30 p.m. and the Japanese horror-fantasy film “Hausu (House)” playing Oct. 30 at 11:49 p.m. and Oct. 31 at 7 p.m.

Unit 5: The Darkness

“Unit 5: The Darkness,” a collaborative haunted house by IU Late Nite and the IMU.

3. Haunted houses and Halloween nights

The Hoosier Den at Foster Residence Center’s Gresham Food Court is hosting a variety of Halloween activities every evening from 9 p.m. to 2 a.m. until Oct. 29. Also on that day, WIUX, IU’s Student Radio Station, will be presenting a haunted house at the station from 7 to 9 p.m., $3 at the door or $2 if you buy your tickets ahead of time or show up in costume. On Oct. 30, IU Late Nite and the Indiana Memorial Union are teaming up to host “Unit 5: The Darkness,” a free haunted house at the IMU from 10 p.m. to 2 a.m.

4. BOOwling and billiAAHrds

Get it? Joking and spooking aside, there will be free bowling and billiards at the IMU on Oct. 30 from 10 p.m. to 2 a.m. along with a costume contest.

5. If you party, do so responsibly

It’s a college campus, so we know students want to relax and have fun on the weekends. That being said, there IS a safer way to party. When you go out, make sure you travel in groups and don’t desert anyone. Pick a drink limit and stick to it, and measure your own drinks to ensure they are a standard size (and clear of any other substances). Report any alcohol-related medical emergencies, sexual assaults or crimes that you see by calling 911. The new Indiana Lifeline Law provides immunity from certain alcohol-related offenses to minors who call to report an emergency. To know when to make the call, follow the #JustSayKnow guidelines. And above all, DON’T DRIVE. It doesn’t matter if you have one drink or one-too-many (or if you’ve used any drugs), don’t get behind the wheel of a car. Aside from Bloomington’s Uber and taxi services, IU also has a lot of safe drive options available including the Night Owl bus (and “IMU Special” Night Owl on Fridays) and the IU Safety Escort.

And with that we wish you a happy (and safe) Halloween!

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Living Learning Center provides a community dedicated to students’ wellness Fri, 23 Oct 2015 13:20:48 +0000 Indiana University freshman Gabe Nolley grew up actively participating in an array of sports including tennis, basketball and baseball.

Gabe Nolley

Gabe Nolley volunteers at the Hoosiers Hills Food Bank as part of the School of Public Health – Bloomington’s Living Learning Center.

No longer an athlete, Nolley still hopes to turn his love of sports and active lifestyle into a career in either health fitness or sports programming.

So when he came to IU Bloomington from Loogootee, Ind., Nolley not only wanted to focus on his major, he wanted his living experience to reflect his interest. He found that in the School of Public Health-Bloomington’s Living Learning Center.

“Being healthy has always been a big part of my life,” he said. “I love being active and eating healthy, and this is what the LLC promotes: a healthy lifestyle.”

The School of Public Health’s Living Learning Center began in the 1990s as a fitness and wellness community in the Briscoe Residence Center. Two years ago, the school decided to ramp up the LLC’s efforts.

A full-time program manager was hired, and the focus shifted from mostly physical activity to include a more overall, holistic approach.

“This year, in addition to physical fitness, the LLC is helping students focus on the eight dimensions of wellness,” said Sarah McClure, program manager for the LLC. “Through community service, knowledge-based activities and social programs, our goal is create a community of wellness-focused individuals who, upon completion of our program, will be able to be wellness leaders in their communities.”

Living Learning Center

Students from the LLC participate in this year’s Cardboard Boat Regatta.

A total of 108 students live in the community, five of whom are returning students. The group takes a weekly class together called “Living Well,” which focuses on the eight dimensions of health: intellectual, physical, social, spiritual, environmental, financial, occupational and psychological. Students also participate in group activities such as a team-building retreat at Bradford Woods and tailgating at IU football games, partake in community service and have access to a personal trainer.

“All of these components are extremely helpful in helping our students become public health leaders, whether in an informal way, where they are just helping their friends lead healthier lives, or in very formal ways where they are working in the public health field.,” McClure said. “Our goal is that by the end of the year, they’ll be able to fully understand these concepts, apply them together, understand how they’re interconnected and then later on in their lives, they can help (others) understand that. So we are creating a society that is more healthy and well overall.”

For Jean-Marie Van der Merwe, a freshman studying business, the LLC has provided both an educational experience and a chance to make new friends.

A lifelong athlete, Van der Merwe, like Nolley, has always been interested in living a healthy lifestyle. Although she has stayed active most of her life, being a part of the LLC has broadened her knowledge on topics such the proper ways to train and focusing on mental health.

LLC students

Students from the LLC pose with their T-shirts.

Along with educational opportunities, the center has also provided Van der Merwe with a built-in support system of students who, like her, are in the throes of navigating a whole new world.

“Coming to IU, I knew I wasn’t going to be a college athlete,” she said. “But I still wanted to be fit and be a part of a community that shares the same values I do. Everyone here shares the same lifestyle, so we encourage each other and motivate each other.”

Having a community of like-minded friends was definitely one of the reasons Olivia Ryan chose to live in the LLC.

A freshman studying sports marketing and management, Ryan has come to appreciate the camaraderie on her floor.

“It’s nice living with a bunch of kids that have the same interest as you,” she said. “It’s also great because you meet everyone on your floor, you go to class together, you have lab together, you do a lot together, so you get to know each other faster than you would if you were not in the LLC. I just think it’s a great learning experience across the board.”

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With flu season approaching, one IU expert is encouraging everyone to get a flu shot Thu, 08 Oct 2015 14:21:28 +0000 It’s that time of year again.

Time to start thinking about ways to protect yourself against influenza, most commonly known as the flu.

“Influenza is a serious disease,” said Nancy Macklin, a nurse practitioner and director of nursing at the Indiana University Health Center. “We use the term flu to talk about everything from a cold to a stomachache. But we are talking about influenza, a viral disease which can be quite serious.”

Flu shot pic

An IU employee receives a flu shot during a flu shot clinic.

Influenza, or the flu, is a contagious respiratory illness caused by the influenza virus strains which mainly spread by coughing, sneezing, and close contact. The flu usually strikes suddenly, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, and can last several days with symptoms including fever/chills, sore throat, muscle aches, fatigue, cough, headache and runny or stuffy nose.

The flu can be more dangerous for infants and young children, people 65 years of age and older, pregnant women and people with certain health conditions or a weakened immune system.

Most seasonal flu activity typically occurs between Oct. and May and according to the CDC peaks in the U.S. between Dec. and Feb.

While there is no way to predict how severe a flu season might be, the best way to ensure you are not infected is for those who are able to receive a flu vaccine, Macklin said.

“Even those who are healthy can become quite ill and for some it can be fatal, Macklin said. “That’s why we emphasize the flu shot, because it does provide the best protection.”

After last year’s vaccine failed to protect people against one strain of influenza virus when that stain mutated or drifted after the flu vaccine was formulated, federal health officials said this year’s vaccine should do a better job.

This year both trivalent (three component) and quadrivalent (four component) influenza vaccines are available, meaning they protect against either three or four influenza viruses.

Regardless of the sometimes unpredictability of flu season, Macklin said flu vaccines do work. She also shot down some of the myths associated with the vaccine such as the idea that you can get the flu from the flu shot, that flu vaccines simply do not work or that if you get the vaccine “too early” it will wear off.

“There are a lot of myths out there, but the flu shot is the best protection we have,” she said. “You don’t want to catch the flu and you don’t want to help spread it.”

Other tips for avoiding the flu this season:

  • Wash your hands frequently with warm, soapy water
  • Cover your nose and mouth when you cough or sneeze
  • Avoid touching your eyes, nose or mouth
  • Get plenty of sleep, be physically active, manage stress, eat nutritious foods and drink plenty of fluids.
  • Clean and disinfect frequently touched areas at home, work and school
  • Stay home when you are sick and avoid close contact with people who are sick

Numerous IU campuses are offering opportunities for students, faculty and staff to receive a flu vaccine. Read more information on flu shot clinics on all campuses.

More information on influenza and ways to protect yourself are available on the CDC’s website.

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IU researcher reflects on the first White House Bisexual Community Policy Briefing Mon, 05 Oct 2015 14:41:19 +0000 Guest blog courtesy of Brian Dodge, associate professor at the Indiana University School of Public Health-Bloomington and associate director of the Center for Sexual Health Promotion.

Sept. 21, 2015, became an unexpectedly meaningful day in my life both as a public health researcher, educator and advocate and as a bisexual man. It marked the first ever White House Bisexual Community Policy Briefing, an event for which nearly 100 scientific, governmental, community and other experts gathered in the hallowed halls at the heart of our federal government to discuss issues of importance in the lives of bisexual men, women and others.

Brian Dodge at White House

Brian Dodge, center, poses with bisexual and trans advocate Dr. Scout, left, and bisexual author and advocate Robyn Ochs, right.

Bisexual individuals are a particularly at-risk and understudied public health population, often reporting the highest rates of adverse physical, mental and other health concerns relative to both heterosexual and gay/lesbian individuals — so in many ways, allocating a day to recognize the unique challenges faced by the bisexual community was long overdue. Aside from the obvious logistical and political aspects of developing and implementing such an event, we certainly had our work cut out for us with reviewing, revising and putting forth policy briefs and recommendations on issues as diverse as data collection, education, employment and economics, immigration, mental health and suicide prevention, physical health, violence and HIV prevention, treatment and care (or, in other words, sexual health). It was in the latter area, based on my own scientific and advocacy efforts, which I attempted to contribute … that is, when I was not lost in thought with marveling at how we had come this far.

It had been over a decade since I had committed my own research career to focusing broadly on sexual health among bisexual individuals, a misunderstood and often invisible segment of the nominally inclusive “LGBT community.” From the start of my research training, I encountered an ironic and unsettling resistance to the idea of exploring bisexuality as a valid sexual orientation, particularly among men. In 2003, we were already well on our way to understanding the significance and complexity of self-identity, the negative impact of isolation and “minority stress” on marginalized individuals, the seemingly protective role of community among gay men and even among other groups of “men who have sex with men.” We knew that sexual behavior and sexual identity were not necessarily always, or even often, “congruent” with one another. We were well aware that individuals engage in a wide range of sexual behaviors with a wide range of partners throughout the lifespan.

Brian Dodge at White House

Attendees of the first White House Bisexual Community Policy Briefing.

In the HIV research world, there were some who would go so far as to say, “Men with male and female sexual partners are the driving force of the HIV epidemic from ‘homosexual’ communities to ‘heterosexual’ communities” But, astonishingly, in the same breath, these same people would say “but bisexual men do not exist.” After questioning this, I was told I was “too personally connected to these issues” to see them objectively. Above all, I was told, “one cannot be both a scientist and an activist.” Was it just me — or did this simply not make sense? I felt I was certainly not the only one who might have thought so.

I often reflected back to my days as a doctoral student at IU-Bloomington, where I had the unique opportunity to follow in the footsteps of others who sought a deeper understanding of sexual behavior and, in the process, had found that human sexuality is anything but “black and white.” One of the most fascinating, and apparently still largely misunderstood, findings to emerge from Alfred Kinsey and his team’s pioneering research on sexual behavior in the human male was that, in addition to exclusively heterosexual and exclusively homosexual individuals, substantial numbers of men reported sexual attractions and experiences involving men and women along a continuum. One of my favorite quotes from “Sexual Behavior in the Human Male” sort of summed it all up; not simply just in terms of bisexuality but for human sexuality, in general.

“Males do not represent two discrete populations, heterosexual and homosexual. The world is not divided into sheep and goats. Not all things are black nor all things white. It is a fundamental of human taxonomy that nature rarely deals with discrete categories. Only the human mind invents categories and tries to force facts into separated pigeon-holes. The living world is a continuum in each and every one of its aspects. The sooner we learn this concerning human sexual behavior the sooner we shall reach a sound understanding of the realities of sex.”

Brian Dodge at White House

Dodge poses with members of the Bisexual Research Collaborative on Health outside the White House.

Even in 1948 this was not earthshattering news, and Kinsey soon expanded on similar findings among women in his female study, published five years later. Decades earlier, other behavioral and social scientists had already found that bisexuality was a common and natural (if not inherent) form of sexual expression. So why did it feel like hitting a brick wall, nearly 50 years later, when trying to launch a sincere and objective research trajectory focused on bisexuality and health?

Thankfully, with the wisdom of forebears like Kinsey and the patience and guidance of mentors, I was ultimately able to overcome early discouragement and garner the support that I needed to launch a research career focused on bisexual health, with funded grant proposals from the National Institutes of Health and other agencies, a slew of scientific papers and presentations and edited special issues, and the establishment of educational and training opportunities for the next generation of bisexual health researchers who will fill my shoes long after my brief time has passed. Unfortunately, though, it felt like a long and often lonely road along the way.

I guess this is what made the White House Bisexual Community Policy Briefing even that much more awe-inspiring for me. I no longer felt like the only one. It is my sincere hope that future generations of public health students, scholars and practitioners who want to focus their work on improving health and wellbeing among bisexual men and women will have the opportunity to take part in events like this in an ongoing basis. I am eternally grateful to our president and administration for all that they have done for our community, the visibility and validation they have provided, and the doors that they have opened for taking action and creating change.

Information on IU’s Center for Sexual Health Promotion’s Bisexual Health @ IU Seminar Series is available online. “Creating Healthy Environments for Bisexual Women: A Research Trajectory,” by Wendy Bostwick and sponsored by the center and Bloomington Sex Salon, takes place at 8 p.m., tonight at The Bishop.

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IU School of Public Health-Bloomington celebrating milestone year Wed, 23 Sep 2015 12:38:14 +0000 Mohammad Torabi

Mohammad Torabi

Indiana University’s School of Public Health-Bloomington has had a banner year.

In June, the school was awarded full accreditation from the Council on Education for Public Health for five years, the maximum for an initial accreditation by the accrediting body.

Throughout the past year, the school has also increased its credit hour production; expanded its undergraduate program to include a degree in environmental health; recruited and hired academic leadership and public health specialists from throughout the country; and is celebrating its third anniversary of becoming the School of Public Health.

“Our school takes its mission of research, teaching and community engagement very seriously,” said Mohammad Torabi, founding dean and Chancellor’s Professor at the IU School of Public Health-Bloomington. “We’re unique as a school on campus, because not only do we conduct important research and teach the next generation of practitioners, preparing them for both rewarding and in-demand careers, but we also play an important role across the campus and throughout our local and regional community in so many ways.”

Now, it is time to celebrate the school’s growth and accomplishments.

The School of Public Health-Bloomington is hosting a Campus and Community Fall Celebration from 2 to 4 p.m. Sept. 25 on the west side of the School of Public Health building, 1025 E. Seventh St. The event is open to all IU faculty, staff and students and the community.

In honor of the day, IU Provost Lauren Robel and Bloomington Mayor Mark Kruzan have proclaimed Sept. 25 “Indiana University School of Public Health-Bloomington Day.”

“Quality of life is an important component of wellness,” Torabi said. “The Bloomington campus is a beautiful place that contributes greatly to our lives. With the School of Public Health-Bloomington right in the middle of it all, it’s a great place to bring our friends, colleagues, students and partners together to celebrate all the wonderful things about our campus and our city.”

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IU hosting upcoming event that celebrates student recovery Wed, 16 Sep 2015 12:22:13 +0000 When Indiana University student Jacob Desmond decided to return to campus after seeking treatment for drug and alcohol addiction, he was nervous.

Sober and in recovery, Desmond wanted to make sure he had the support he needed to be successful a second time around.

Jacob Desmond

Jacob Desmond

“My biggest thing was having a social group to do fun, sober things with,” said Desmond who got sober at the age of 19. “The last thing I wanted to do was come down here and not do anything with anyone because I was scared to go out.”

Although IU has a number of programs for students dealing with addiction, Desmond found there wasn’t really a student-run group that served as a supportive and social atmosphere for students in recovery and those supporting recovery.

So with the help of Jackie Daniels, director of OASIS, which provides campus-wide alcohol and drug prevention, education and intervention, Desmond helped create Students in Recovery – Bloomington.

Founded in the spring of 2015, Students in Recovery – Bloomington aims at providing a safe and supportive community for students in addiction recovery. The group was established from a Transforming Youth Recovery grant OASIS received

The student organization holds weekly meetings and plans social events such as coffee crawls and bowling outings.

“I think we already do a good job of creating safe spaces for a variety of student needs,” said Daniels. “But what doesn’t exist is a social and support network. This group is giving students more power to show what they need — what does recovery look like, what do I need and how do I share that with faculty, staff and administration?”

In an effort to bring the community together in support of recovery, the group, alongside OASIS, is hosting the first annual Recovery Month Celebration and the IU Collegiate Addiction Recovery kick-off at 6 p.m., Sept. 22 at the Whittenberger Auditorium in the Indiana Memorial Union. The event will feature guest speaker Tara Conner, Miss USA 2006 and a viewing of “The Anonymous People” documentary.

Participants will also hear from IU staff and students in recovery, hear about addiction recovery programs available to IU’s population, and learn more about OASIS and Students in Recovery – Bloomington.

Jackie Daniels

Jackie Daniels

“People are getting sober younger and younger now,” Daniels said. “We are having this event because we want to draw attention to the fact that addiction doesn’t discriminate to age, gender or socioeconomic status. We need to educate our students.”

There is a misconception not only among college students, Daniels said, but among some adults around drinking and drug use for college-aged students. For many college students, excess can be considered a typical rite of passage. They’ll slow down, Daniels said, once college is over and they enter the “adult world.”

“A lot of students on campus see addiction as something in the far off future,” said Daniels who began her own recovery as a 22-year-old IU student. “They are not worried about it right now unless someone expresses concerns. We need to change the image that addiction happens when you are older and as a college student your drug and alcohol use is casual and will pass. For some it doesn’t end at graduation.”

Daniels hopes the upcoming Recovery Month Celebration event will not only help educate students, but also serve as a message that IU and the community support students in recovery.

“The event is open to anyone who wants to learn more about recovery and support students in recovery,” she said. “I’ve been telling people that attendance is symbolic of support for recovery on campus.”

For Desmond, he hopes to not only reach his own goal of one day entering medical school, but to help create a permanent space for Students in Recovery – Bloomington to meet and on-campus housing for students in recovery and allies.

He also hopes to serve as an example that no matter who you are, there is hope in recovery.

“I’m showing people that you can go back,” he said. “I’m a firm believer that it can be done.”

Information about the event and registration is available online. More information on Students in Recovery – Bloomington is available via the group’s Facebook page, Twitter account or by email at

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IU School of Public Health-Bloomington receives grant to create Healthy Schools Corps program Tue, 01 Sep 2015 13:12:26 +0000 School districts throughout South Central Indiana will now have an additional resource when it comes to keeping students healthy.

The Indiana University School of Public Health-Bloomington was recently awarded a three-year AmeriCorps grant from Serve Indiana to support a new Healthy Schools Corps program.

School of Public Health-Bloomington

The IU School of Public Health-Bloomington.

Through a partnership with the School of Public Health and IU Health Bloomington, the Healthy Schools Corps program will place AmeriCorps members in 10 Indiana counties starting this fall.

“This is another way Indiana University is being proactive by partnering with IU Health and our local school systems to further promote health and wellness,” said Linda Henderson, community relations specialists for the IU School of Public Health-Bloomington.

The AmeriCorps members will assist with recruiting and organizing volunteers on local wellness teams; completing school-based community needs assessments; and drafting coordinated school health plans.

Coordinated school health programs are proven to create a healthy school environment where students can excel, said David Lohrmann, chair of the Department of Applied Health Science at the School of Public Health, but many schools lack the resources to create these programs on their own.

A recent study of Indiana schools implementing coordinated school health programs revealed that the greatest challenges were lack of a central coordinator, inability to recruit volunteers external to the school and unstructured volunteer management. The Healthy Schools Corps hopes to fill those gaps.

“Having a coordinated effort to promote health and wellness in our school systems is critically important for our youth,” said Carrie Docherty, interim associate dean for community and global engagement at the School of Public Health. “This program really provides the school systems an opportunity to create and implement a successful school health program.”

AmeriCorps logo

The AmeriCorps grant will help Indiana school districts create coordinated school health programs.

Lisa Petscher, manager of coordinated school health for IU Health Bloomington, will help coordinate the AmeriCorps members in each school. Funded by multiple community partners, including the IU School of Public Health-Bloomington, Petscher works with the Monroe County Community School Corp. to promote coordinated health programs.

The new AmeriCorps grant will help expand Petscher’s work into other school districts.

“Partnerships like this are essential,” Petscher said. “It takes a village, and everyone needs to play a role in the health of future generations.”

The award from Serve Indiana provides $145,729 in funding from the Corporation for National and Community Service, which the AmeriCorps program is a part of. The School of Public Health-Bloomington will provide $135,708 in matching funds.

AmeriCorps members are currently being hired and are expected to be in place in October.

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Tips for managing stress during the back-to-school rush Thu, 27 Aug 2015 12:39:59 +0000 Change, even positive change, can be difficult.

That’s why the beginning of the school year — with its new routines, increase in activities and, in some cases, a new environment — can be a stressful time for both students and parents.

Nancy Stockton

Nancy Stockton

“Many people do not do well with transitional periods,” said Nancy Stockton, director of IU’s Counseling and Psychological Services. “Instead of viewing them as opportunities for trying new things and growth, people experience a great fear of change and become anxious about the unfamiliar.”

According to the 2014 Stress in America survey by the American Psychological Association, millennials and Gen X’ers (age 18-49) felt more stress than the average American. Women, parents and young Americans reported higher levels of stress than other groups, according to the survey, and parents and young people were more likely to point to financial concerns as a source of stress.

While some stress can be positive, such as feelings of anxiousness before a big test or performance, Stockton said, too much stress can cause serious mental and physical issues such as chronic headaches, fatigue, an inability to concentrate, irritability, depression and coronary disease.

Stockton said parents can set a good example for their children by trying to stay calm in stressful situations and can help ease the pressure their child may be feeling by keeping the lines of communication open.

“Parents should make themselves available to talk with their sons and daughters, taking care to ask them how they are doing — did they enjoy the play or concert — not just how did you do on that last exam,” she said.

More tips for managing stress include:

  • Get adequate sleep, nutrition and exercise. Research shows that bodies that are well-rested and well-nourished and get regular exercise withstand the effects of stress better.
  • Cultivate a sense of humor — laughing at yourself or a difficult situation is usually incompatible with feeling a lot of stress.
  • Accept that some stress is normal and can be helpful. Moderate stress can set the stage for satisfying performance, but too little or too much stress and performance declines. Try to picture yourself as an athlete with just that right amount of being psyched to do your best.
  • Take a frequent “sensory” break — step outside, shut your eyes and focus on everything you hear or smell.  Alternatively, allow yourself to really observe something — a tree, a rock, the color of the sky. Focusing on our sensory response can clear our minds and reduce stress.
  • Think helpfully. Challenge yourself to find a positive element in a negative or difficult situation.
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IU professor is co-editor of handbook on men and masculinities Mon, 17 Aug 2015 14:59:02 +0000 Guest post by Steve Hinnefeld, who normally writes at the Policy Briefings blog:

What does it mean to be a man? Not long ago most people would have answered with clichés about courage, assertiveness and responsibility. But in recent years researchers have produced a more complex picture, suggesting that gender stereotypes can be harmful to men as well as women.

Joel Wong

Joel Wong

The “APA Handbook of Men and Masculinities,” co-edited by Indiana University professor Joel Wong and published this summer by the American Psychological Association, brings together theoretical, empirical and practical research on the psychology of men and masculinities.

“This is the first comprehensive attempt to synthesize, summarize and evaluate the entire field of study,” said Wong, associate professor of counseling and psychology in the IU School of Education. “The area is relatively new, and this is the first handbook in our field.”

Addressing how men and boys are shaped by biological, psychological, sociological and cultural factors, the volume includes sections on historical, theoretical and methodological issues; specific populations of men; and topics such as sexism, stereotypes, violence, fathering and sport.

Wong is co-editor of the handbook with Stephen R. Wester, a professor of counseling psychology at the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee. Many of the chapter authors are members of the Society for the Psychological Study of Men and Masculinity, an APA division that seeks to advance knowledge in the psychology of men through research, education, training, public policy and improved clinical practice.

Wong credits the feminist movement starting in the 1960s with changing the way psychologists think about gender and ultimately reshaping their approach to the psychology of men.

Prior to the movement, he said, psychology was largely oriented to men’s experiences, because research was often done on college students, who were then overwhelmingly male. Yet gender was not a focus of such research. But feminist scholars and activists made the case for change, arguing that women should be seen as “gendered beings” living in a society in which different rules, expectations and images applied to women than to men.

“Eventually, some scholars began to say, if we’re studying women as gendered beings, shouldn’t we also be studying men as gendered beings,” he said.

Thinking about men in terms of gender often leads to the conclusion that sexism and patriarchal views can be harmful to men. The Society for the Psychological Study of Men and Masculinity says in its mission statement that traditional gender roles can “often lead to negative consequences and unhealthy interactions.”

The "APA Handbook of Men and Masculinities"

The “APA Handbook of Men and Masculinities”

It says narrow ideas about masculinity have “inhibited men’s development, reduced men’s capacity to form meaningful relationships, and contributed to the oppression of others.”

The primary audience for the handbook, Wong said, is likely to be academics, including researchers and teachers of the growing number of men’s studies courses being taught in the nation’s colleges and universities. Practitioners and others with interest in the topic will also find the book helpful.

Wong pointed out that stereotypes about what it means to be a man are constantly reinforced by cultural norms and even everyday language. Taking responsibility is to “man up.” Men aren’t supposed to cry or otherwise show emotion. Questioning a man’s manliness is the worst sort of insult.

“Once we look at the world from a gendered perspective,” he said, “we realize gender is everywhere.”

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The legacy of Paul Gebhard Wed, 22 Jul 2015 12:54:49 +0000 Post courtesy of IU Communications colleague, Milana Katic:

When I was asked to film Paul Gebhard in August 2014, I wasn’t fully aware of the unique opportunity I had been given.

Like me, most people wouldn’t recognize his name right off the bat. However, everyone seems to know the name of his former employer and colleague: Dr. Alfred Kinsey.

Gebhard was one of the original four interviewers who helped Kinsey gather research for what would become some of the first empirical studies of sexuality in the United States. The sexual histories that would be gathered by Kinsey and Gebhard, along with Clyde Martin and Wardell Pomeroy, would later be compiled into the Kinsey Reports, ultimately changing how human sexuality would be studied for years to come.

“I felt like a little boy that fell into a candy shop,” Gebhard said in one of our on-camera interviews, all of which can be seen on the Kinsey Institute’s website. “After sex being hushed up, suddenly I was in the middle of it.”

He had been the last living member of the original four Kinsey researchers; he passed away July 9, 2015.

Hearing the news of Gebhard’s death greatly saddened me, but it also made me incredibly grateful that I had the opportunity to play a part in immortalizing his experiences on the frontier of sexual studies on film.

The original members of the Kinsey Research team.

Pictured from left: Alfred Kinsey, Clyde Martin, Paul Gebhard and Wardell Pomeroy. Photo Courtesy of The Kinsey Institute.

After Kinsey’s death in 1956, Gebhard’s contributions to the study of sex continued when he assumed the position of director of the Institute for Sex Research, now known as The Kinsey Institute for Research in Sex, Gender and Reproduction. He was the longest-serving director of the institute, from 1956 to 1982, and he can be credited with really getting the institute’s work off the ground during those formative years.

It was an amazing experience getting to hear about the shaping of Kinsey’s research from a first-hand prospective and even more amazing that, at the age of 97, Gebhard remembered details of his time with Kinsey more than I even remember my senior year of high school (which only happened five years ago and is just pathetic).

I didn’t know who Paul Gebhard was when I was asked to film him a year ago, but I now know that his contributions to the study of sex are invaluable to academia and society in general. He played a hand in erasing widespread misconceptions about sex. He helped bring the diverse spectrum of sexualities to light. He aided in starting to let people see that sexuality wasn’t something to fear but something to embrace as a normal and necessary part of life. But in his own words:

“I think setting the stage for sex research was our biggest contribution.”

And for that, he will always be remembered.

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Video highlights issues in accessing health care for transgender people Tue, 09 Jun 2015 18:54:16 +0000 Guest post by Steve Hinnefeld, who normally writes at the Policy Briefings blog:

Visiting a doctor can be unnerving for anyone. But for people who are transgender, it can be a lot worse. From one-size-fits-all medical forms to health care providers who are confused or insensitive about diverse gender identities, issues abound that can make the experience traumatic.

A video written and directed by an IU School of Public Health-Bloomington graduate student aims to help change that. “The Waiting Room: Transgender People and Health Care” is being used in classrooms to raise awareness of transgender issues. And it will debut this month on WTIU, IU’s public TV station.

Bianca Jarvis wrote and directed the 26-minute film, which grew out of her final paper for a Master of Public Health degree. She finished the degree a year ago and now lives in Chicago, where she is a sexual health educator, writer and artist.

Lesa Huber, LaDonna BlueEye and Amaury de Siqueira of the School of Public Health helped expand the project to a teaching module, including the video, with help from a Jesse Fine Fellowship from the Poynter Center for the Study of Ethics and American Institutions. David Huber, a master’s student in the School of Informatics and Computing, served as cinematographer and video editor.

Lesa Huber, executive producer of the video, said it takes a casual and conversational approach to addressing issues about bodies and physical and mental health that some people may find hard to discuss.

“It’s very upbeat,” she said. “For people, particularly in health care, it’s kind of a heads up about how we make assumptions about gender.”

The video will air on WTIU at 3:30 p.m. June 11, 11 p.m. June 21 and 1 p.m. June 26. IU research on the benefits of using the video as a classroom and community teaching tool has been accepted as a poster presentation for the American Public Health Association national meeting in the fall.

“Transgender,” Jarvis says, is an umbrella term used to describe people whose birth sex is not aligned with their self-defined gender identity. Transgender people may face discrimination in a number of areas, including access to basic health care.

Kand McQueen

Kand McQueen

Indiana State University education professor Kand McQueen narrates the video and also appears as an interview subject, discussing what it means to be transgender. It also includes interviews with Jarvis and with transgender individuals Ethan, Nick and Jain discussing their health care experiences and concerns.

A consistent theme is encountering confusion, embarrassment and sometimes dismissiveness or ridicule from health care providers who aren’t comfortable with the idea of transgender people. Some providers will refer to a male-to-female transgender person as “he” or even “it,” for example. Others will look for reasons not to provide care or suggest mental health treatment for physical ailments.

McQueen said there’s often a “knee-jerk” reaction against the idea that someone’s gender identity could be different from the person’s biological sex at birth.

“We don’t need it,” McQueen said. “We have enough on our plate dealing with who we are and trying to make our way in a society that says it’s not possible.”

The video concludes with discussions of ways to improve the health care experience for people who are transgender. Ideas include providing training and outreach for health care personnel and revising medical forms to remove unneeded references to gender.

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Student volunteers drive campaign against mental illness stigma Fri, 01 May 2015 19:44:46 +0000 Guest post by Steve Hinnefeld, who normally writes at the Policy Briefings blog:

IU students with Glenn Close

IU students involved with U Bring Change 2 Mind have their picture taken with Glenn Close. From left are junior David Haggerty, sophomore Lauren Smith, Close, junior Elliott Hudson and freshman Hannah Powers.

The U Bring Change 2 Mind initiative to combat the stigma associated with mental illness is backed by serious star power in the person of award-winning actress Glenn Close.

But the project has something else that may be even more essential to its success: student power.

Dozens of IU Bloomington students signed on to help when U Bring Change 2 Mind announced its formation last fall and started to roll out its Campus Toolbox Project, aimed at developing activities that will change the way people think about mental illness.

Dozens more made presentations this week for a competition to help create anti-stigma public awareness campaigns — presentations that were judged by Close and Pamela Harrington, executive director of Bring Change 2 Mind, the foundation Close started in 2010.

IU students will also be at the center of pilot-testing and evaluating the campaigns and activities over the next four years, starting with new students who arrive for orientation this summer.

“This generation, they’re very activist,” said IU sociologist Bernice Pescosolido, an expert on the effects of mental health stigma and chair of the Bring Change 2 Mind advisory board. “They want to volunteer. They want to change the world. And as they teach us about their generation, why not teach them about basic science and applications right from the start?”

Lauren Smith, a sophomore from Fishers, Ind., is co-leader of the U Bring Change 2 Mind student advisory board. She got involved by responding to an email blast from Susan Barnett, the College Toolbox Project manager and a graduate student in the IU School of Public Health-Bloomington.

“This age group is very impressionable,” Smith said about her fellow students. “Everybody here on campus is kind of like a sponge, just taking everything in.”

Smith said she initially thought of U Bring Change 2 Mind as a busy organization with a clear mission. But with this week’s activities — helping Close and Harrington judge the public awareness campaign competition and watching them socialize with students in a reception at the IMU bowling alley — she became more aware of being part of something that could reach far beyond the IU campus.

“This is still so new,” Smith said. “It’s like a little baby and we don’t know where it will go yet. But it will be very exciting to see where this goes over the next few years.”

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Urban farmer-activist to speak Friday at IU School of Public Health-Bloomington Thu, 16 Apr 2015 21:29:37 +0000 Guest post by Steve Hinnefeld, who normally writes at the Policy Briefings blog:

Will Allen’s official biography describes him first as a farmer and second as CEO of Growing Power, a nonprofit organization that seeks to improve access to health food by helping people grow, process, market and distribute food in a sustainable manner.

Keep reading, and you’ll learn he has also been a professional basketball player, worked in corporate sales and marketing, been awarded a McArthur Foundation “genius grant” and, not to mention, remained a powerful advocate for small-scale agriculture and its ability to transform urban communities.

Will Allen

Will Allen

Allen will be at IU Bloomington Friday to deliver the Reynold E. Carlson Lecture sponsored by the IU School of Public Health-Bloomington. The lecture will be at 1 p.m. in the school’s Mobley Auditorium.

It’s the Milwaukee-based activist’s second visit to Bloomington in the past year. He was here in April 2014 to give the Ben Brabson Lecture for Sustainable Ideas, a preview event for last fall’s Themester 2014: “Eat, Drink, Think: Food from Art to Science.”

According to the Growing Power website, Allen grew up on a small farm in Maryland but left rural life behind when he won a basketball scholarship to the University of Miami. After college he played professionally in the ABA and in Belgium, then joined the corporate world.

In 1993 he took over operation of his wife’s family farm in Oak Creek, Wis., and began growing and selling produce in a three-acre lot on the north side of Milwaukee.

“The ultimate direction of Will’s life truly changed,” the website says, “when young people from the neighborhood, including kids who lived in the largest low-income public housing project in Milwaukee, began to ask him for advice and assistance with growing their own vegetables. Almost overnight, Will took up the mantle of teacher and trainer, and the impromptu gathering of neighborhood children became the Youth Corps, a program that continues today.”

Growing Power expanded over time to include urban farms in Milwaukee and Madison, Wis., and Chicago, along with extensive public outreach activities, workshops for small-scale farmers, training in urban agriculture methods and a healthy business selling farm produce and other products.

Allen was named a John D. and Katherine T. McArthur Foundation fellow in 2008, only the second farmer to receive the honor. He is a member of the Clinton Global Initiative and in 2010 helped First Lady Michelle Obama launch the “Let’s Move!” initiative to combat childhood obesity.

The Carlson lecture honors the late Reynold E. Carlson, a longtime professor and chair of the Department of Recreation and Park Administration in IU’s School of Health, Physical Education and Recreation, now the IU School of Public Health-Bloomington. An early advocate for environmental protection, he is remembered for establishing IU’s Bradford Woods Outdoor Education Center.

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IU student addiction recovery program OASIS wins grant Thu, 26 Mar 2015 17:31:44 +0000 Post by IU Communications colleague Milana Katic:


OASIS director Jackie Daniels counsels an IU student in recovery.

Did you know an estimated 500 students on the Indiana University Bloomington campus identify themselves as being in recovery from substance abuse?

Maybe you didn’t know, but fortunately OASIS does.

OASIS is IU Bloomington’s campus-wide alcohol and drug prevention, education, intervention and counseling service. Since 2012, OASIS has dedicated its services to helping students in need of any type of support related to substance abuse.

OASIS director Jackie Daniels says it’s the program’s clear commitment to students that sets it aside from other counseling services provided by the university.

“There is a lot of counseling support at IU, but students want multiple avenues of support,” Daniels said. “On campus, what was really missing was an active network of students supporting each other in their recovery, so we’re trying to widen that avenue by finding other people who can help.”

Part of that help came in the form of a $10,000 grant from Transforming Youth Recovery, an organization that helps fund new student recovery support programs at educational institutions and in communities across the nation. Specifically, the grant will be able to help OASIS develop its program to better suit the needs of IU students with more varied support options.

Already, OASIS has introduced weekly Alcoholics Anonymous meetings on campus, formed the Students in Recovery-Bloomington organization to provide addiction support and education across campus and created their own Collegiate Recovery Student Advisory Board to help develop more ways to provide support for IU students struggling with substance abuse and recovery.

Additionally, the program will be using the grant money to create a physical map with the locations of all of IU’s support services to present a more formalized way of helping students find the support they need on campus, and they will be working to further develop a plan to implement sober housing on campus as well.

OASIS also hopes to start a media campaign designed to bring greater awareness to collegiate addiction and recovery before the end of the semester. The best part of it will be that students themselves will be crafting the messages.

“This is what’s important to students. My voice can only do so much, but the students’ voices are what is actually valuable,” Daniels said.

OASIS is a department of the IU Health Center and Division of Student Affairs. For more information or to get involved, visit the OASIS website.

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IU sociologist appointed to National Academy of Sciences committee Tue, 17 Mar 2015 19:48:17 +0000 Post by IU Communications colleague Milana Katic:

As we all learned from the shocking death of Robin Williams last summer, mental health disorders are often hidden in plain sight.

According to the World Health Organization, depression is the leading cause of disability worldwide. The Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration reports that only 39 percent of people with mental health disorders actually get treatment.

So why is such a widespread health issue so kept so silent? Perhaps it’s due to the equally as widespread stigmatization of mental health disorders.

Bernice Pescosolido

Bernice Pescosolido

Bernice Pescosolido, Distinguished Professor in the Department of Sociology in the College of Arts and Sciences, has dedicated a large portion of her research to finding an answer to why mental health stigma is such an issue and how it develops.

Recently, her work has earned her a spot on the National Academy of Sciences and the National Research Council’s Committee on the Science of Changing Behavioral Health Social Norms, dedicated to assisting the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration in communicating ways to change attitudes and behaviors about mental health disorders in the U.S.

“We’re pulling together everything we know about the stigma of mental illness and reaching out to experts in areas such as HIV and epilepsy to help craft national messages to reduce stigma in attitudes and behaviors, and, more importantly, in discrimination,” Pescosolido said.

Pescosolido went on to say that part of the issue is mental health stigmatization touches more than just the person affected with a mental health disorder – it also affects their family and mental health care providers. She also noted that one of the most forgotten issues stemming from mental health stigma is the lack of information about where and how to get treatment.

The committee hopes to implement change in these areas, as well as improve social acceptance of people with mental health issues, expand the public’s knowledge of the various outcomes of leaving a mental health disorder untreated and teach citizens the importance of seeking help for these issues, whether it be for a friend, family member or themselves.

Pescosolido’s research will be assisted in part by her colleagues at the Indiana Consortium for Mental Health Services Research.

“We have an opportunity here to work with other stellar national and international colleagues, and that’s an incredible experience,” Pescosolido said. “It’ll help push our research initiatives to help serve the nation.”

And, in turn, it will hopefully change national attitudes for the better.

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IU students take a first-hand look at public health advocacy and policy-making Thu, 05 Feb 2015 17:30:12 +0000 Post by IU Communications colleague Milana Katic:

IU Students' "Day at the Capitol"

On Jan. 29, a group of IU Master of Public Health students gathered at the Indiana Statehouse for the American Cancer Society’s “Day at the Capitol.”

A delegation of Indiana University master’s degree students from the School of Public Health-Bloomington and the Richard M. Fairbanks School of Public Health at IUPUI participated in the American Cancer Society’s “Day at the Capitol,” on Jan. 29 in Indianapolis.

The day was organized by the society’s Cancer Action Network to communicate with Indiana lawmakers about making cancer prevention a public policy priority. IU students travelled to the Indiana Statehouse (made easier by the new Campus Commute shuttle) to experience advocacy coalition building and legislative engagement first-hand.

Beth Meyerson, assistant professor of health policy and management in the Department of Applied Health Science at the School of Pubic Health-Bloomington, led the delegation. Field learning, she says, is central to her teaching approach.

“This was an opportunity to let students learn about the policy process in the community classroom,” Meyerson said. “My teaching philosophy is that people can learn in the classroom all day long, but they really come to understand and internalize concepts when they have the opportunity experience them.”

Beth Meyerson

Beth Meyerson, faculty at the School of Public Health-Bloomington, led the delegation.

While many students who participated in the “Day at the Capitol” are taking Meyerson’s advanced graduate seminar course “Public Health Policy and Politics,” she also invited Master of Public Health candidates outside of her classroom, from both the Bloomington and Indianapolis IU campuses. In this way, she created a bit of a cross-campus coalition.

Stephen Wyatt, president of the Master of Public Health Assembly at IU Bloomington, was one of those students eager to get involved with the project despite not being a current student in Meyerson’s public health policy course. His reasons for joining were a bit more personal.

“Originally I was just interested in learning the policy process, but when I found out what the event was about, it hit home for me,” Wyatt said. “I have had many individuals in my life that have had cancer. Many of them lost their battle, and I feel that, as a family and friend of theirs studying public health, it should be my duty to advocate for policies dealing with cancer.”

Along with participating in the advocacy and policy-making process throughout the day, Meyerson also gathered the students afterwards for a discussion.

Classmates, community and a good cause – another day spent meaningfully by IU students.

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Two IU faculty members serve as co-producers for Sundance documentary Mon, 26 Jan 2015 14:47:19 +0000 Guest post courtesy of IU Communications colleague Milana Katic:

Indiana University sex researcher Debby Herbenick, Ph.D.

Debby Herbenick

Debby Herbenick, associate professor in the Department of Applied Health Science at the Indiana University School of Public Health-Bloomington and Bryant Paul, associate professor in the Department of Telecommunications at IU’s Media School, are receiving co-producer credits in a documentary that premiered at the Sundance Film Festival on Jan. 24.

That’s not even the best part. The documentary subject? Amateur porn.

The title of the film is “Hot Girls Wanted,” aptly named for the Craiglist ads consistently posted by the amateur porn industry’s talent scouts. Young women who are about 18 to 19 years old often respond to such ads with pictures of themselves, and within a few weeks, they can be completely immersed in the industry with all of the ups and downs that come along with it.

However, that’s not how the film directors Jill Bauer and Ronna Gradus started the project or even the reason they reached out to IU researchers in the first place.

“They first contacted me a couple of years ago through my work at the Kinsey Institute to talk about ideas related to college students and sexuality,” Herbenick said. “As time went on, their ideas evolved and they became more focused on this aspect of the adult industry. At that point, I suggested they connect with Bryant Paul, given his research about sexually explicit media.”

Bryant Paul

Bryant Paul

“They explained to me what they were doing, and we just hit it off,” Paul said. “They had questions about the industry, traffic to particular sites and effects of the content. I just ended up becoming a big researcher for them.”

Though Herbenick and Paul don’t appear on-screen, their research was an integral part of the film’s content, which gained each of them the title of “co-producer.” Another notable producer of the film is Rashida Jones, “Parks and Recreation” actress and daughter of musician and honorary IU Doctorate of Music recipient Quincy Jones.

Although having a star co-producer adds intrigue to the project, the real value of Herbenick and Paul’s involvement was having an active platform from which to communicate sexuality-related matters that are timely and relevant to society.

“I love to take academic knowledge and apply it in the real world to inform non-academics,” Paul said. “I’m so interested in taking information and making it approachable and accessible, and this is a cool opportunity to do that.”

Herbenick, who for years has shared her research findings through writing books, columns and articles for magazines and newspapers, agrees.

“I don’t think Bryant and I expected to be in this situation, but it has been a fun and interesting process,” Herbenick said. “It’s nice to see how research can be built into artistic projects and creative endeavors, and I have so much respect for how Jill and Ronna can connect with real people and tell their story.”

The film will be featured at the Sundance Film festival from Jan. 24 to 31. It will be available on Netflix later this year.

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IU Bloomington professor to lead Indiana Public Health Association Thu, 22 Jan 2015 20:03:32 +0000 Catherine Sherwood-Laughlin

Catherine Sherwood-Laughlin

Catherine Sherwood-Laughlin, a clinical professor and assistant chair of the Department of Applied Health Science at the Indiana University School of Public Health-Bloomington, was elected president of the Indiana Public Health Association.

“I am looking forward to this leadership opportunity where I will be able to work more closely with colleagues and public health professionals across the state, focusing on public health issues and policies that affect out communities,” Sherwood-Laughlin said.

A member of the association’s Board of Directors since 2009, Sherwood-Laughlin plans to continue and enhance the organization’s mission of policy advocacy, professional development and partnership building. She also hopes to help sharpen its longstanding focus on local public health policy, capacity, and practice to address challenges including tobacco use, obesity and other lifestyle and environmental health issues.

Sherwood-Laughlin brings years of experience to her new role, with a demonstrated ability to connect academic resources to local communities. For Indiana Public Health Association Executive Director Jerry King, Sherwood-Laughlin’s appointment will help advance the organization’s goals for 2015.

“We have always benefited from especially thoughtful, dedicated board leadership, and Catherine is truly in that mode,” King said. “We could not be more confident about the level of board planning and problem solving with her.”

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Optional campus sexual health survey to hit student emails this week Tue, 13 Jan 2015 14:11:11 +0000 Guest post courtesy of IU Communications colleague Milana Katic:

The Center for Sexual Health Promotion is launching the Campus Sexual Health Survey this week.

The Center for Sexual Health Promotion is launching the Campus Sexual Health Survey this week.

The Center for Sexual Health and Promotion at Indiana University’s School of Public Health-Bloomington will be sending out the Campus Sexual Health Survey to IU student email addresses starting this week.

The survey is completely optional and will be addressing a range of sexual health issues relevant to many college students today including STI testing, contraception, condom use, sexual assault, LGBT harassment, abstinence and perceptions of hooking up, as well as sexual satisfaction and relationship happiness.

“To my knowledge, this is the first time that a campus-wide survey has taken such a broad approach to sexual health and behavior here at IU,” said Debby Herbenick, associate professor at the School of Public Health and director of the Center for Sexual Health and Promotion. Herbenick’s team at the center also administers the National Survey for Sexual Health and Behavior, a large, nationally representative study of the sexual lives of Americans ages 14 through 94.

Additionally, Herbenick noted that the campus survey will allow the team at the Center for Sexual Health Promotion to examine how students are similar to or different from their peers across the country. Survey findings will also help the researchers identify areas of strength at the IU Bloomington campus in regards to sexual health, in addition to areas that can be improved to better serve the student population.

“We feel fortunate to work in a department, a school, and a university that each have a long history of valuing sexual health as an important part of public health and well-being,” Herbenick said. “Since 2009, we have been tracking sexual health indicators for Americans of all ages, and it’s our responsibility to attend to our local campus community too.”

Once collected, the data will be shared with the student body, faculty and staff at the IU Health Center and the School of Public Health, and other academic and administrative departments who can make use of the data in class or campus programming.

The survey will be open for approximately two weeks, and should take about 10 minutes for students to complete. About 75 percent of the student population who are 18 and older will be invited to participate, and the answers of students who choose to take the survey will be completely anonymous. In an effort to keep research funds local, students who complete the survey will be eligible to win a gift card to Bloomington businesses such as local restaurants and shops, or alternatively, an Amazon gift card.

The Campus Sexual Health survey will be released in collaboration with the IU Office of Undergraduate Education and the Center for Survey Research.

For more information, contact Debby Herbenick at

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Patient control of medical data raises questions for ethics, policy Thu, 18 Dec 2014 14:21:53 +0000 Guest post courtesy of Steve Hinnefeld, who normally writes at the Policy Briefings blog.

Should patients have control of their own medical records? For most patients, the question sounds like a no-brainer: They’re our records. Of course we should!

But for health care providers, the answer is more complicated. Should patients be able to conceal pertinent medical information from their doctors? What if doing so compromises the quality of care that doctors can provide? Who’s responsible when something goes wrong as a result of missing information?

William Tierney

William Tierney

A new study by the Regenstrief Institute, Indiana University School of Medicine and Eskenazi Health raises those questions and more. Described as the first real-world trial of the impact of patient-controlled access to electronic medical records, the six-month study involved 150 patients in an Indianapolis primary-care clinic.

Among the findings: Nearly half of the subjects withheld information in their medical records from some or all of their health care providers. And that’s cause for concern, according to Regenstrief President and CEO William Tierney, the principal investigator for the study.

“Without an understanding of how medicine is practiced, a patient may not appreciate why access to their health information is needed by medical team members other than their physician or nurse — for example, a specialist or a clinical lab or unit clerk,” he says in an IU School of Medicine news release. “While understandably concerned about privacy, they may not realize how important it is for their medical team to have access to the complete medical record.”

The researchers created a process by which patients could hide some or all of their medical data from doctors, nurses and other clinic staff. And it’s easy to imagine why patients might want to protect certain information, such as records of treatment for sexually transmitted diseases, mental illness or substance abuse. In the study, health care providers were able to “break the glass” – to override patient preferences and get access to medical data if they believed it was needed for treatment.

The results are reported in multiple articles in the January issue of the Journal of General Internal Medicine. Policy issues take center stage in a “point and counterpoint” essay by Tierney and Kelly Caine of Clemson University and the IU Center for Law, Ethics and Applied Research in Health Information.

Tierney, who has practiced medicine for almost 40 years, writes that, if he were involved in primary care today, he would treat only patients who allowed him access to their medical data.

Kelly Caine

Kelly Caine

“Primary care physicians are responsible for the care of their patients as whole persons, coordinating their care for multiple clinical conditions and across medical specialties,” he writes. “Therefore, all information in the patient’s record has relevance in primary care.”

But Caine argues that concerns about privacy and a trusting doctor-patient relationship should override to desire for more information. That’s especially true, she says, when a “data deluge” distracts doctors from patients and when there’s no clear consensus about what information is medically significant.

“Privacy and trust between patients and physicians is a cornerstone of health care,” Caine writes. “In our well-meaning rush to improve patient care using information technology, we should not abandon this principle. Even a technologically superior health care system, if it is built upon a shaky foundation, will not succeed.”

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Suicide: A local and national problem Fri, 21 Nov 2014 16:57:35 +0000 Guest post courtesy of the Indiana Prevention Resource Center:


As suicide becomes a growing issue, know that there are steps you can take to help someone at risk.

As International Survivors of Suicide Loss Day approaches on Nov. 22, the Indiana Prevention Resource Center at the School of Public Health-Bloomington is calling attention to the problem of suicide among young adults in Indiana and nationally and amassing a collection of online resources related to suicide to help educate the public about this growing problem.

“Suicide is the ultimate consequence,” says center Deputy Director Barbara Seitz de Martinez. “Indiana is well above the national average for suicide, so it’s important that we learn as much as we can about how depression, substance abuse, and other risk factors contribute to suicide.”

As is the case nationally, suicide is the second leading cause of death in Indiana for young adults ages 15-34, outnumbering homicides. Suicide is also a growing problem on college campuses. The Indiana College Substance Abuse Survey found that one in seven students had at some point thought they would be “better off dead” or had thought of “hurting themselves in some way.”

Anxiety and depression are the biggest risk factors for suicide, followed by substance abuse. Other risk factors include a family history of suicide and/or child abuse; previous suicide attempts; a history of mental disorder (especially clinical depression); feelings of hopelessness; and impulsive or aggressive tendencies.

Most people who commit suicide exhibit warning signs, including manifestations of depression, anxiety or low self-esteem; talking or writing about suicide and death; giving away personal treasures; or obtaining a lethal weapon. Other common red flags include sharply dropping grades, risky behavior, violent behavior or mood swings, and increased alcohol and other drug use. A potential or recent severe loss can trigger thoughts of suicide.

Youth and young adults experiencing perceived discrimination and the stresses of acculturation are especially at risk for suicide and suicidal thoughts. For example, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention found that African American high school students in Indiana are nearly twice as likely to report a suicide attempt in the past year that resulted in an injury or harm requiring medical treatment, compared to students from other backgrounds. Rates for suicidal thoughts and attempted suicides among Indiana Hispanic female high school students are also above the national average. Indiana LGBTQ youth are vulnerable, too.

What You Can Do To Help  

  • Be alert to the warning signs and assess a person’s risk of suicide or hurting her/himself or others. If a suicide attempt seems imminent, immediately call 911.
  • Engage the person in conversation and listen nonjudgmentally, showing you care. People contemplating suicide do want help.
  • Assure the person that help is available. Provide information and encourage those at risk to seek professional counseling and to pursue self-help and support from family and friends.

For more information about suicide risk and prevention, visit the Indiana Prevention Resource Center HOME Library of e-Resources.

About the Indiana Prevention Resource Center

The center is funded, in part, by a contract with the Indiana Family and Social Services Administration, Division of Mental Health and Addiction, financially supported through the Department of Health and Human Services’ Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration, Center for Substance Abuse Prevention, Substance Abuse Prevention and Treatment Block Grant. The Indiana Prevention Resource Center is operated by the Department of Applied Health Science at the IU School of Public Health-Bloomington. It is affiliated with the school’s Institute for Research on Addictive Behavior.

IPRC also provides a home for the Tobacco Enforcement Program, the Screening and Brief Intervention and Referral to Treatment project (SBIRT), SAT-ED (State Adolescent Treatment Enhancement and Dissemination project), and is affiliated with the Indiana Institute for Research on Addictive Behavior (IRAB).

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Lesson from addiction: ‘Every moment in time that we are alive and well is a miracle’ Thu, 23 Oct 2014 19:48:47 +0000 Indiana University student Jacob Desmond discusses his recovery from addiction to help draw attention to the toll addiction levies on people of all ages. Young and enthusiastic college students are not immune.

A candlelight vigil is scheduled for 6 p.m. tonight at IU Bloomington’s Whittenberger Auditorium in remembrance of people who died or whose lives have been affected by “alcohol- and drug-related poisonings, injury, overdose or addiction.”

Sponsored by OASIS, Amethyst House, Centerstone’s Recovery Engagement Center and Stepping Stones, the vigil represents a coming together of community and campus organizations to help students and non-students alike deal with consequences of addiction. More information is available at OASIS.

Jacob Desmond

Jacob Desmond

Jacob Desmond

I have been sober since July 1, 2013; I was 19 years old at that time. My life in recovery did not start until I was about 90 days sober. Being that young, being sober, and knowing nothing about a sober lifestyle had me thoroughly confused each day of my new sober life.

I went to a treatment center in the middle of nowhere Tennessee for 33 days and was still extremely confused when I got out. I later went to a men’s recovery house close to downtown Indianapolis; this is where my life in recovery took shape. I was introduced to a spiritual advisor who knew much more about staying sober than I did. I have stayed in touch with this man till this day and we have watched each other grow. It was very difficult being new in sobriety and being put in these foreign situations.

From a scientific and psychological standpoint your brain is still very unbalanced. I began to realize that I had these real emotions but I could not run from them by using drugs and alcohol. My emotions were very real and very powerful — it took a while to settle them down and understand why emotions arise and what triggers these emotions. The first 150 days of sobriety were absolutely the hardest and I choose not to go through that again.

One thing that is extremely beneficial that I have learned in recovery is to stay in the moment. Every moment in time that we are alive and well is a miracle and that’s where we have to stay. Being in the moment helps people who aren’t drug addicts and alcoholics. It helps you not to dwell on the past nor to stress about the future, knowing that all we have is this moment in time to better ourselves.

Through this process a copious amount of change has occurred. I thoroughly care about human kind. I clean up after myself. I do not steal. I take responsibility. I recycle — this list could go on and on and I would still sell myself short. It was extremely difficult starting off getting sober and watching my friends go back to college. I felt as if I was missing out, little did I know how much love I would receive in my life from staying sober and doing the next right thing. Early on I struggled very hard to have fun because of this feeling of missing out. Today I go wherever I please in this world due to the people I have in my life and the progress I have made on myself. I have been to many concerts and a few festivals while in recovery to see the music I love and spend time with my closest friends who have grown with me in recovery.

There is a plan for each and every one of us and some simply need some pain and a wake-up call to recognize their own destiny.

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Number of moles could mean increased risk for breast cancer, not just skin cancer Fri, 03 Oct 2014 17:45:52 +0000 Guest post courtesy of IU colleague Michael Schug

Beauty marks. They make you unique.

Woman drying off after showre

Research points to connection between number of moles and breast cancer.

And no doubt, you know where most are on your body. Women especially are familiar with their bodies and are aware of their moles. Now there’s new research that suggests that the more moles on a woman’s body, the greater chance of her developing breast cancer.

If a woman has 15 or more moles on her body, she is 35 percent more likely to be diagnosed with breast cancer than women with no moles, according to new research findings by Jiali Han, the Rachel Cecile Efroymson Professor in Cancer Research at the Indiana University Melvin and Bren Simon Cancer Center and professor and inaugural chair of the Department of Epidemiology at the IU Richard M. Fairbanks School of Public Health, and colleagues.

There has long been a connection between an increased number of moles on a person’s body (both men and women) and an increased risk of developing skin cancer (melanoma). Han’s research is the first to suggest the same for breast cancer.

So, what should you do? Be sure to talk to your physician about your moles and steps you can take to safeguard your health, such as regular mammograms and breast self-exams. Remember, detection is the best prevention.

Here are some media reports about the study: NBC, CBSDaily Mail, Prevention, UPI and Belfast TelegraphRead the news release

Schug is communication manager at the Indiana University Melvin and Bren Simon Cancer Center.

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5 questions with Russ Siadatian about IU fraternities taking a stand against sexual violence Fri, 26 Sep 2014 20:34:55 +0000

Sexual violence has become a national conversation in part because of attention the White House has focused on the subject. This week, it became clear that a number of fraternities at Indiana University have joined the conversation.

“Overall, this has been an initiative that started as a conversation between a few students a few years ago, and has grown into something exponentially greater, said Russ Siadatian, president of the Interfraternity Council at IU Bloomington.

It has grown to forceful statements from 21 fraternities denouncing sexual violence and pledging to work to eradicate it on the Bloomington campus. The statements have received media coverage from The Huffington Post, WTHR and Fox 59.

Siadatian is quick to say that many students were involved and they worked closely with the university’s Sexual Assault Crisis Service, which is part of the IU Health Center. SACS works with a wide range of student groups to educate men and women about sexual assault. Ann Skirvin, a licensed mental health counselor with SACS, said they also are “proud to promote positive character development on the Bloomington campus.”

“The pledges and other initiatives undertaken by the Interfraternity Council and MARS (Men Against Rape and Sexual Assault) are examples of our work engaging men in forming positive ideals of masculinity and creating safer environments in our Greek system,” she said. “Twenty-one fraternities have created clear and powerful mission statements regarding sexual assault and we anticipate more fraternities will create statements as well.

“The men created these statements to connect their fraternal ideals to this issue and demonstrate their commitment to improving the climate on our campus. We anticipate these men will live up to their words and ideals, and the campus community looks forward to providing them guidance and support as they address this important issue on our campus.”

Siadatian took time to answer some questions about the initiative and what he and the others involved think it can accomplish.

This Btown Banter post discusses other efforts to reduce sexual assaults.

Health & Vitality: How did this come about?

Russ Siadatian: Sexual assault programming has been something Sean Ndebele, our VP for membership development, has worked on through the MARS program all year. MARS was started by a previous IFC group, and started the sexual assault conversation within our community. Since its start, it has grown to a 300-person program. In a Presidents Council meeting discussion earlier this semester, we concluded that we needed to do more to fight sexual abuse. This was reinforced by a Sexual Assault Summit we all attended earlier this semester.

The statements were the first step, by setting in writing where each chapter in our community stands regarding sexual assault. Since then, we have begun planning a sexual assault awareness campaign for November. Every chapter has already planned some sort of programming, and we have collaborated with multiple organizations on campus to host campus events such as scenario practice, guest speakers, workshops and fundraising for victims of sexual assault foundations.

It’s important to include a few names: Jimmy Blodgett (ex Phi Sig preident), Grant Schultz (SAE member), Mark Houlmerade (SACS), Sean Ndebele (MARS) — without them none of this would be happening because they were the original leaders of the initiative.

H&V: Did the members of the individual fraternities vote on participating or on the pledge for their organization?

Siadatian: There is definitely a grassroots component to the campaign, shown by the 300 members of the MARS program. The presidents were the actual ones that made their pledges, as representatives of their chapters, and read them to the members at their chapter meetings. While I don’t think every member personally took a part in its writing, at least they have been read it, and know that that is what their organization believes, and that their organization has a zero-tolerance policy regarding sexual assault. Panhellenic has partnered with us as well, and they have their women participating/aiding in the campaign.

H&V: What will this realistically accomplish? How will it be put into practice?

Siadatian: The goal of the entire campaign has been to raise awareness and to set a template for a yearly awareness month that would coincide with the national Sexual Assault Awareness Month of April. We want our community to lead the fight against sexual abuse on IU’s campus. The numerous workshops, roundtable discussions, guest speakers, and community events will hopefully reach every member of the Greek community and result in a greater culture of care and, ultimately, practices and behavior that would eliminate sexual assault.

H&V: Have the fraternities come together like this to address other important issues? What are some examples?

Siadatian: I don’t think there has been this big of a movement for anything since I have been here at IU. We have had initiatives where we all collaborate; the big one from the past few years has been the fight to end hazing. Every chapter signed a similar styled pledge against hazing within their chapters, and this has really fixed our community’s pledge-ships to start looking like real candidate education programs that teach the candidates their fraternity values, but without malicious behavior involved.

Overall, this has been an initiative that started as a conversation between a few students a few years ago and has grown into something exponentially greater. It wasn’t forced on us by any authority or higher up. This is a student-led initiative, and has great potential to do some great change.

H&V: What do you want readers to know about this step by the fraternities?

Siadatian: This isn’t an issue just within our community or even IU as a whole; it is a societal issue that, in our eyes, should have the same attention as the drunk driving movement of the past few decades. What I mean by this is to get the same bystander intervention/care that we would give to a drunk driving situation.

For example, a person we know has been drinking and is getting behind the wheel will be stopped by his/her friends as drunk driving is such a big taboo. For a sexual assault situation, this would look like a friend of a drunk girl/guy stopping him/her from leaving with someone, someone intervening when they see someone else trying to leave with an intoxicated person, or being aggressive toward someone else, just as a few examples. This can’t be done with just us, and while it’s a start, we need more attention and efforts from everyone to reach that societal and cultural goal.


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The healing power of art? Wed, 24 Sep 2014 15:43:03 +0000 Cloud Busting tile piece by ceramics Associate Professor Malcolm Mobutu Smith

‘Cloud Busting tile piece by IU ceramics Associate Professor Malcolm Mobutu Smith

The therapeutic benefits of making artwork doesn’t surprise me. Art and medical experts quoted in this NBC News article say that just looking at art can have a physiological effect on the body, justifying investments by hospitals in art installations throughout their facilities.

From the NBC article:

For every day a patient lies in a hospital bed, it takes roughly three days to achieve his or her previous level of functioning, according to Dr. Lisa Harris, an internist and chief executive of Eskenazi Health, affiliated with the Indiana University School of Medicine.

“If an art installation gets a patient out of his room or paintings take a person’s mind off their pain and lower their stress levels, the art isn’t just decorative anymore. It’s part of the entire model of care,” said Harris, who oversees a $1.5 million art program, funded entirely by philanthropic donors, that launched last December.

The article features some of the artwork at Eskenazi Health in Indianapolis as well as at the Cleveland Clinic. The Art at IU blog featured an interesting post last summer about the considerable art collection at the newly opened Eskenazi Health, which had previously been Wishard Hospital. The collection includes works by IU’s Malcolm Mobutu Smith.

Just as Wishard displayed murals of many Hoosier artists throughout the hospital to create a healing environment, the Eskenazi Health campus sought to do the same by building off of this 100-year legacy of their historic art collection, said Michael Kaufmann with Eskenazi Health campus.

“We knew that we needed to respect that tradition by carrying it forward into the new campus,” said Kaufmann.

The health center’s art program consists of 19 artists, over half of which are from Indiana. Murals, textiles, poetry and photographs are just some of the artworks that are on display for both patients and the public alike.

“The art program does not operate in isolation, but is part of a larger vision that utilizes good design that is both inspirational and environmentally responsible and includes access to garden spaces, and an emphasis on the full spectrum of well-being,” Kaufmann said. “This includes social, psychological, emotional and physical.”

Both articles are interesting reads about how art can contribute to our wellbeing. They both also discuss how care needs to be taken to match artwork with moods. Some areas call for more calming influences, while art in other areas can be playful.

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If sitting is the new smoking, this may be an easier fix Wed, 10 Sep 2014 17:46:23 +0000 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.

More from McKenzie in the Indianapolis Star:

Humans historically have been physically motivated creatures, but the modern office is heavily sedentary.

“When people do have the opportunity to get up and move around, it helps them be refreshed,” he said. “It allows them to physiologically tolerate stress better.”

Carol Kennedy-Armbruster, an assistant professor in the School of Public Health-Bloomington who was not involved in Thosar’s study, said in the Star article that a one-hour workout in the morning or evening may not be adequate.

“A lot of new research on sitting time has told us that we need to do more than just go to the gym for an hour,” she said. “The reality is that people need to move more throughout the day. That changes how you start to look at it.”

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Wake up — time for school! Wed, 27 Aug 2014 19:15:41 +0000 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.

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Study IDs influence of gender in gene-environment interactions and health Wed, 20 Aug 2014 17:42:59 +0000 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.

From our news release:

Research indicates that social and biological factors interact in very complex ways to shape health and well-being, and gender may complicate this picture even further. However, the potential impact of this kind of research on our understanding of how and why certain groups are more or less susceptible to physical and mental health problems is substantial.

“It is quite likely that any heritable health condition that is influenced by social factors, such as obesity, cardiovascular disease and depression, might exhibit gender-specific gene-environment interactions,” Perry said.

The news release discusses the findings in more detail and also discusses three other IU studies presented at the ASA meeting. One of the studies, discussed in Salon, found that “how ‘in love’ a romantic couple appears to be is interpreted differently based on the couple’s sexual orientation, affecting what formal and informal rights people think that couple deserves.”

Another study discusses the phenomenon of white flight among suburbs, effectively creating “ethnoburbs” that can lead to increased racial segregation in middle-class housing areas. The last study looks at the working conditions of temporary workers from Mexico and determines they are no better off than their undocumented peers.

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Fighting Ebola: Passion for her country and love for public health helps IU alum conquer fears Wed, 06 Aug 2014 19:47:53 +0000 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 … ”

“Every day that I wake up and go to work, knowing that I will be in the field and I may encounter people who may be suspected cases of the virus, I have a moment of fear,” she wrote. ” However, my passion for my country and my love for public health has helped me to conquer this fear.

“I get afraid when I hear the death news of other health workers due to the virus or the injury of health workers by the hands of community members. I believe that in these times, you have to take it as a job and be as committed to seeing an end result in order to keep going.”

Read about an IU-Liberia health collaboration

Health & Vitality: What is your current job and what do you do? How long have you done this?

Tiawanlyn Gongloe: I work with the Ministry of Health and Social Welfare as a member of the National Task Force that was created to eliminate the Ebola virus disease from Liberia. The National Task Force (NTF) is made up of four working committees, of which I work with two based on the task at hand. I moved to Monrovia early July and started working with the NTF on July 9. This is a temporary job for the period of the outbreak. As a member of the NTF, I work with the Social Mobilization committee where we provide education and awareness on the deadly Ebola virus disease in communities and also work with team members to produce audio messages to the public. Also, we do some education for public entities and community organizations.

My work with the Contact Tracing Committee is much more hectic and this is done on a daily basis (CNN’s Dr. Gupta discusses contact tracing). The Contact Tracing Committee is responsible for following up with family members and others who had direct contact with a suspected or confirmed Ebola case. This is the committee that conducts the follow-up with each contact for a period of 21 days while the government provides food for them since they have to stay home for the follow-up period. The contact tracing team has contact tracers, who report to their supervisors and the supervisors report to the field monitor on a daily basis.

Health & Vitality: What’s a typical day like?

Tiawanlyn Gongloe: I serve as a field monitor so my typical day is spent leaving the Ministry of Health and Social Welfare by 9 a.m. and driving to seven locations around Monrovia to collect reports on contacts that are being followed up. While in the field we sometimes get calls about possible contacts or a recent death suspected to have been caused by the EVD and we have to go in and talk to the family and get as much information on all those who came in contact with the case. After visiting all of our sites, we return to the ministry by 5-6 p.m. for an update meeting so that the information that was collected would be added into the database. Due to the lack of access to Internet across the country, all of the data are collected through paper-based forms.

Health & Vitality: Can you help put what you’re dealing with into perspective for people like myself, who just follow it from afar through newscasts? Is this the kind of work you thought you would be doing when you were a student here?

Tiawanlyn Gongloe: I am overwhelmed because we are in the middle of a serious outbreak and our Government is strained because it has not dealt with such a disaster before. Because our financial and human resources are limited, it is hectic for those of us who have some skills and are willing to work. Also, the government and health care workers such as myself who go to meet with families and community members, find it difficult because of the resistance and denial of many of our people. Some communities, especially very traditional or religious communities, have threatened health workers who have tried to provide education and awareness in their communities. I have learned to be tactful in how I approach family members and communities.

This situation is not only giving me public health experience but it’s providing an opportunity for me to also demonstrate some of the public health principles, such as cultural competency. Although I am a Liberian, I have lived outside of Liberia for most of my life so many community members and families see me as a foreigner and sometimes this is used to my advantage since some people have lost trust in the Liberian Government. However, in many cases, it threatens people; therefore, I have to be observant of the communities that I’m going into and do my best to blend in. I have been successful on many occasions but there are times when I have to realize that it is beyond my control. Although, I did not imagine working in the middle of an outbreak such as the Ebola virus disease, I am really proud of how fast I was able to get involved and how much knowledge I have as a recent graduate.

Health & Vitality: How do you deal with the stress?

Tiawanlyn Gongloe: I don’t spend a lot of time thinking about my fears or stress because if I do, I will become afraid and perhaps quit. When I feel stress and I think I am not ready for this kind of work, I think about my family and friends who are also in Liberia and how if I don’t work to help eliminate this virus, I will feel guilty for not putting my education to positive use. I believe these kinds of experiences are rare for many people in this field and this could be the beginning of great things to come in my career so that keeps me motivated to keep working.

Health & Vitality: Have your experiences with the Ebola outbreak changed your career goals? What’s your dream job?

Tiawanlyn Gongloe: I don’t think my experiences with the fight against the deadly Ebola virus disease have changed my career goals much because I’ve always had big dreams of working in the international sector. If anything, this experience has heightened my desire to pursue my dream of working someday as an international expert to countries with severe public health needs. Now I can assist in the fight against any infectious disease because I am aware of the steps to plan and take actions.

Health & Vitality: Why did you choose to study at IU?

Tiawanlyn Gongloe: I chose to study at IU for many reasons but one being the fact that I wanted to study at a university where I would have the opportunity to interact with colleagues and professors who have vast experience in their field and who were willing to work with me to build my career. My experience with the School of Public Health was a great one because I had professors who were so interested in learning more about me and understanding my goals and supporting me in achieving them. Although my background was a bit different from many of the other students, I never felt alone because of the support that I received. I was able to tailor a lot of my class assignments and writings to fit my professional goals and that helped me to get to where I am today.

Health & Vitality: Any advice for people considering public health as an academic degree or career?

Tiawanlyn Gongloe: Anyone considering public health needs to be truly passionate about this field because the work that you will do outside the classroom will not be static; therefore, you have to learn to fit into various environment and be ready for changes. You will have to learn to accept situations as they come because you might find yourself in a situation where there will be financial constraints but the need for public health is great so you will have to be creative in addressing those needs with what you have available.

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Run for your life! But first … Wed, 30 Jul 2014 20:10:40 +0000 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.

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Gaming and kids: Fun and games and learning? Fri, 25 Jul 2014 18:24:52 +0000 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.

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Everyone wants to matter: Insights into school shootings Tue, 24 Jun 2014 18:08:28 +0000

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.”

The rampages have occurred not in major cities, but in smaller, close-knit communities. Pescosolido discussed the need for community safety nets to help the more vulnerable residents if they experience hardship.

“The fundamental idea is to think about communities within communities. Community is not one thing. Communities need to have many pathways to mattering.”

Pescosolido has been researching issues related to mental health and stigma for 30 years. A recent blog post talks a little bit about her work with actress Glenn Close to reduce the stigma experienced in the U.S. and abroad.

Pescosolido is Distinguished Professor and Chancellor’s Professor of Sociology in the College of Arts and Sciences at IU Bloomington. She also is director of the Indiana Consortium for Mental Health Services Research.


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Female condoms? Fri, 06 Jun 2014 20:08:55 +0000 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.”

As reported by Indiana Public Media:

The Gates Foundation has funded research into condom design before, but Herbenick says all of the designs were for male condoms. The new funding aims to provide women, especially those in developing countries, with additional alternatives.

“Many men just refuse to use condoms, so if a woman’s partner refuses to use a condom or complains about a condom, she can say ‘I’ll use one,'” Herbenick says. “It provides a female-initiated or a female-controlled option.”

Indiana University sex researcher Debby Herbenick, Ph.D.

Debby Herbenick, Ph.D.

Frankly, female condoms were a mystery to me, so I asked Herbenick if she could provide an FAQ in case reporters also weren’t familiar with them. Here is what she provided.

Q: What is a female condom and how is it different from a male condom?

A: Female condoms are condoms that are inserted in a woman’s vagina and partially cover part of her vulva (the external genitals). Male condoms are worn on a man’s penis, covering the shaft of his penis.

Q: Why are they necessary?

A: Many women and men wish to protect themselves and their partners from unintended pregnancies and from sexually transmitted infections (STI), including HIV. Using either a male or female condom during intercourse can reduce these risks.

Q: Why haven’t they caught on in the U.S. and elsewhere? Are they even sold here?

A: Female condoms have not been widely marketed or sold in the US, although they are available through the Internet and in some pharmacies. In the past few years, a few cities have done a particularly good job focusing efforts on educating people about the female condom in the U.S. Many people have simply never heard of the female condom, but are excited when they do. The female condom is an excellent option for women who wish to feel more in control of their reproductive and sexual health, and for partners for whom male condoms are not comfortable or preferred.

Q: Are they popular elsewhere in the world?

A: Yes, female condoms are more widely used in some countries compared to the U.S.; however, male condoms are still far more widely used globally. Female condoms are relatively new.

Q: Don’t condoms inhibit pleasure, rather than increase it?

A: Our research suggests that sex, with or without a condom, is rated as pleasurable, arousing and satisfying. Both male and female condoms are excellent options for safer, pleasurable sex. There has been considerable innovation in male condoms over the past decade, and now many different kinds of male condoms are available that reduce pregnancy and STI risk and that offer features to promote pleasure. We hope to move female condoms forward with innovation as well.

Herbenick is collaborating with Frank Sadlo, an independent consultant with a focus on efficiency, consumer product innovation and international product standards.

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Sexual health, HIV on a global scale: 5 questions with Brian Dodge and Jessamyn Bowling Fri, 30 May 2014 19:36:46 +0000 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.

Jessamyn_webThe initiative is spearheaded by Dodge and Swagata Banik, associate professor at Baldwin Wallace University, and by Vivek Anand, chief executive officer at The Humsafar Trust. The Humsafar Trust, a community-based nongovernmental agency, began working in 1995, primarily with men who have sex with men (MSM) in Mumbai, and has now expanded to include gay and bisexual men, lesbian and bisexual women, transgender individuals, hijras, and other sexual minority communities in Mumbai and beyond.

Other key IU Bloomington partners include Michael Reece, Debby Herbenick and Bowling, all with the IU School of Public Health-Bloomington.

Health & Vitality: How serious is HIV in the U.S? What makes addressing it so challenging?

Dodge and Bowling: From 1981 to the present, over 1 million AIDS cases have been reported in the United States. The pandemic has consistently proven to be a devastating and costly disease worldwide. Medical treatment of HIV/AIDS in the U.S. costs on average $19,912 per patient per year, and HIV medication on average costs $9,930 to $12,313 per patient per year.
The World Health Organization continues to list HIV/AIDS in the top 10 causes of death worldwide. It is estimated that globally 33.4 million persons are living with HIV, 2 million deaths per year are attributed to HIV-related illness, and 2.7 million new HIV infections occur per year, with 910,000 of these new infections attributed to young adults.

Due to limited opportunities for comprehensive sexuality education in the U.S., people are not equipped with the knowledge and tools to communicate effectively with their partners. The stigma of any sexually transmitted infection keeps many people from discussing them both with partners as well as with friends or family, contributing to silence and complacency.

Addressing the complexity of HIV in any country requires local and population-relevant research and action. In addition, in terms of promoting a broader understanding of “sexual health,” understanding the many potentially positive aspects of human sexuality, including sexual pleasure, is of critical importance in gaining more accurate of sexual behavior aside from its potential to contribute to disease transmission or other negative outcomes.

Health & Vitality: It there a cultural element or elements that make addressing HIV different than addressing, say, heart disease?

Yes. HIV is transmitted in a small number of ways (i.e., sexual behavior, injecting drug use) which are often deemed “sensitive.” The social construction of sexuality, in particular, varies widely across different cultures, and the ways that sexuality is experienced and expressed in India do not easily map onto Western labels and categories. For example, same-sex behaviors are often hidden not only because of the social stigma but also because same-sexual contact is, once again, illegal.

Indian culture also places heavy emphasis on family, and much of society is organized around the need to have children for resource preservation, for continuing the family through material and financial resources, and upholding social status. Inequities in gender and power have also created a climate in which sexual violence against woman has exploded to such an extent that it is currently a public health crisis. Our partnership aims to expand our understanding of sexuality in India in order to be able to help with a wider range of sexual health issues among sexual minority and other populations.

Health & Vitality: Will the work in India benefit efforts in the U.S. to address HIV?

Dodge and Bowling: In some ways, HIV could be considered a “bigger” problem in India because of the sheer number of people who live there (over 1 billion), the higher prevalence of the virus in the general population, and the lack of access to public health care and services. Still, HIV is by no means “no big deal” in the United States either.

Although our population-level rates of infection are relatively smaller than in India, they actually continue to increase among individuals at high risk (including men who have sex with men, injecting drug users, low-income and ethnic minority men and women). The U.S. and India are obviously very different from one another, and each requires unique strategies for sexual health promotion. However, given that the highest-risk groups in India and the United States are relatively similar, lessons learned from one culture will certainly have implications for the other.

Health & Vitality: How did you get into this sort of work?

Bowling: Through my work on gender and sexual health issues with marginalized tribes in Cameroon, Cambodian women’s perceptions of cervical cancer, and bisexual men and women’s experiences here in the U.S., I became interested in people’s ideas about their sexuality that they do not get to say out loud.

As a health volunteer in the U.S. Peace Corps, I learned the importance and power of organizational collaboration that brings new ideas and various types of knowledge. This project in India represents an exciting chance to work with a strong organization, with women who are missing in international academic literature in order to improve their health and lives.

Inside IU Bloomington faculty profile of Dodge

Dodge: After graduating from college, I spent a year working in a school for street children in Zimbabwe. These children, due to a wide range of circumstances, had wound up alone, homeless, on the street, and doing just about anything they could do and more to survive. Although I had always had an interest in sexual health, particularly in international and comparative contexts, this experience opened my eyes to the reality of the diverse lived experiences of truly marginalized individuals who we, in public health, often reduce to acronyms.

Our tendency to oversimplify is detrimental in understanding sexuality when we construct false dichotomies and try to fit people into neat little boxes. As Alfred Kinsey himself noted many decades ago, human life is a continuum in each and every aspect and sexuality is no different. Working on a project like our new initiative in India is a vivid reminder of how truly diverse human beings are in terms of their experiences and expressions of sexuality, how little we really know about sexuality, and how much more work still needs to be done.

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Add me to the list of Parker Mantell fans Wed, 21 May 2014 15:45:01 +0000

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.”

He gave the university a shout out for being different.

“While any other university might have instructed me to manage those expectations, IU taught me to grow them,” he said.

News reports about Mantell’s address have appeared in USA Today,  Huffington Post twice, CNNToday News, Daily Mail, People, Daily Caller and The Blaze.

The other student commencement speaker, Chris Kauffman also was inspiring, challenging students to explore what lies outside of their comfort zone and to surround themselves with people who help them be their best. This news release provides more information about the speakers.

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Dancers with Parkinson’s disease Thu, 15 May 2014 15:45:52 +0000 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.

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What happens in Greenland won’t stay in Greenland Thu, 08 May 2014 15:50:01 +0000 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.

Virginia Vitzthum

Virginia Vitzthum

Vitzthum has conducted research in several others countries to better understand variation in hormones and how it affects fertility and health. Arctic residents experience months of continuous twilight in winter and continuous daylight in summer but the impact of extreme changes in light exposure on human hormones are not well understood. They could, for example, influence immune functioning, cancer risks and the effectiveness of hormonal contraception. From the release:

Findings from this study in the Arctic are directly relevant to the health of people wherever technological advances extend waking and working hours, including swing and night shifts, which increase light exposure and leave fewer hours for sleep. Vitzthum noted that Americans, in general, sleep less than they did a century ago.

“It’s critical to understand what’s happening in this far-north community and how it affects people’s lives,” Vitzthum said. “Changes around the globe will be dramatic, and it’s reasonable to think that coastal communities everywhere will be affected. The changes are underappreciated because we don’t see these changes yet in the temperate zones, but they’re happening right now in the Arctic.”

IU experts commented on the National Climate Assessment in this news release, which includes comments from Sara Pryor, Provost Professor of atmospheric science in the Department of Geological Sciences; Phil Stevens, Rudy Professor in the School of Public and Environmental Affairs; and A. James Barnes, professor in SPEA and the Maurer School of Law at IU Bloomington. Pryor is a member of the panel of scientists that produced the report and is the convening lead author of the chapter on climate change in the Midwest.

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288,876 — That’s a lot of broken bones Tue, 29 Apr 2014 17:53:10 +0000 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.

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Dietary iron and heart disease — what’s meat got to do with it? Wed, 23 Apr 2014 19:06:25 +0000 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.

“The observed positive association between heme iron and risk of CHD may be explained by the high bioavailability of heme iron and its role as the primary source of iron in iron-replete participants,” the researchers wrote in the journal article. “Heme iron is absorbed at a much greater rate in comparison to nonheme iron (37 percent vs. 5 percent). Once absorbed, it may contribute as a catalyst in the oxidation of LDLs, causing tissue-damaging inflammation, which is a potential risk factor for CHD.”

Iron stores in the body increase over time. The only way to reduce iron in the body is by bleeding, donating blood or menstruation. Some dietary choices, such as coffee and tea, also can inhibit iron absorption. The study was published in the Journal of Nutrition.

I wrote about this study in this news release.

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Discovery detects early-warning signs of diabetic retinopathy, a major cause of vision loss in the U.S. Thu, 17 Apr 2014 17:10:56 +0000 microscopic view of a diseased eye

A retinal capillary with multiple loops. The blood cannot travel directly to nourish the retinal cells. Photo by the Burns Lab

Researchers at the IU School of Optometry designed a technique that allows them to see microscopic changes to the eye — what they described as ‘early-warning signs of the potential loss of sight associated with diabetes.”

This discovery could have far-reaching implications for the diagnosis and treatment of diabetic retinopathy, potentially impacting the care of over 25 million Americans.

“We had not expected to see such striking changes to the retinas at such early stages,” said Ann Elsner, professor and associate dean in the School of Optometry and lead author of the study. “We set out to study the early signs, in volunteer research subjects whose eyes were not thought to have very advanced disease. There was damage spread widely across the retina, including changes to blood vessels that were not thought to occur until the more advanced disease states.”

Diabetes has long been known to damage the retina, the irreplaceable network of nerve cells that capture light and give the first signal in the process of seeing. Diabetic retinopathy is the leading cause of vision loss in the U.S. for people under the age of 75.

Because their findings are new, it isn’t known whether improved control of blood sugar or a change in medications might stop or even reverse the damage. In our news release, they (Elsner and co-author Stephen Burns, also a professor and associate dean at the school) say further research can help determine who has the most severe damage and whether the changes can be reversed.

Read the full release

Read the journal article, published in Biomedical Optics Express.

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Mild dehydration can make me tired? Fri, 11 Apr 2014 17:02:23 +0000 Sleeping teenDr. Means may have given me the boost I need to drink more water.

Water, he says, helps the immune system, weight management and digestion. It “flushes toxins out of vital organs, carries nutrients to cells and provides a moist environment for ear, nose and throat tissues.”

“You often hear reports that people should eat healthier and exercise more. Unfortunately, you less often hear reports that people should drink more water. The truth is drinking water is one the simplest and most effective ways to improve your health,” said Ira Means, a physician at Eskenazi Health Center Blackburn, in this news release.

Means also is an assistant professor of clinical medicine and of clinical pediatrics at the IU School of Medicine.

The clincher: “Even mild dehydration can drain your energy and make you tired,” he said.

I, personally, could stop right there, but if you’d like to read the full news release, you’ll learn of other benefits in addition to how much should be consumed.

Eskenazi Health offers a drinking water quiz

Readers also may find the video below of interest. Aaron Carroll, a pediatrician and health policy expert at the IU School of Medicine, continues his research-based rant about “the milk industrial complex,” which has convinced Americans that milk does a body good.

“Seriously, people, has it occurred to none of you that we’re the only mammals on the planet who consume milk after the early childhood period? We’re so obsessed with it that we steal it from other species in order to keep drinking it.”

(I liked this quote so much that I posted it to my Health & Vitality Tumblr blog)

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Health screening provided a ‘wake-up call’ for IU’s Akash Shah Wed, 09 Apr 2014 13:58:45 +0000 Guest post courtesy of Inside IU writer April Toler

Before and after pics of Akash Shah

Shah: “I was like, ‘Let’s just go for a screening and we’ll find out whatever.’”

When Akash Shah walked into the IU Health Center at Indiana University Bloomington more than a year ago, he knew he was overweight.

But it was the word “obese” — and the idea that his weight might one day contribute to him developing diabetes — that triggered a major lifestyle change for the IU lead project-systems analyst.

“That was the wake-up call,” Shah said. “I was like, ‘I need to do something about it.’ I didn’t care until then.”

For the past two years, IU has offered health screenings — with a $100 incentive — to full-time academic and staff employees and spouses or same sex domestic partners covered by an IU medical plan.

Coordinated through Healthy IU, the screenings take approximately 30 minutes and include a meeting with a health educator who takes height, weight and blood pressure and calculates the participant’s BMI. The health educator also talks with participants about those numbers, answers any questions, provides a copy of the information, and informs them of campus resources according to their person interest.

Participants then see a phlebotomist who tests blood for total cholesterol, LDL cholesterol, HDL cholesterol, triglycerides and blood sugar. Anyone whose results are outside of the normal range receive a phone call from Elin Grimes, a registered dietitian and nutrition counselor at IU, but are not required to undergo any follow-up appointments.

The screenings are not intended to keep tabs on employees or their partners, Grimes said, but are meant to share biometric numbers that can be predictors for long-term health outcomes.

“Basically, it’s to get people in the door, to start talking about their health and to refer them on to other resources or to their personal health care providers as needed,” Grimes said.

For Akash, the screening, like his health, wasn’t really something he took too seriously at first.

“I didn’t care as far as my lifestyle and diet or what I put in my mouth,’ he said. “I was like, ‘Let’s just go for a screening and we’ll find out whatever.'”

What he found out was that at 5-foot-10-inches and 218 pounds, Shah’s BMI was in the obese range. Although all of his tests came back fine, Shah was cautioned that if he continued down his current path, his lifestyle — and a family history of diabetes — could lead him to develop the disease.

So Shah set out to change his lifestyle. He dusted off the treadmill that had been sitting in his house unused for three years and began running. He eliminated soda from his diet, asked his wife to make small adjustments to the meals she prepared, and began watching his portions.

Shah also kept up a daily exercise routine. When pain in his knees no longer allowed him to run, he switched to walking.

In close to 10 months, he had lost 60 pounds, which for the most part he has kept off. Having lost the weight of a small child, Shah said he feels great and is more energetic. Although he didn’t lose the weight for vanity reasons, he is enjoying the positive response he has received from family and coworkers.

With photos of his former self on his cellphone, Shah is also determined to keep the weight off.

“I think if you set your mind to something, you can do whatever you want,” he said. “I’m a strong-willed person and if I decide something, I am able to do it, and I did it.”

More information about health screenings is available on the Healthy IU website. Invitations for screenings are emailed to employees or their partners alphabetically by last name, but participants do not have to wait for an invite to schedule an appointment. Eligible participants will receive the $100 incentive each fiscal year, which runs July 1 through June 30.

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These med students make house calls Thu, 03 Apr 2014 14:49:02 +0000 House-calls_web

On Saturday more than 80 students from the Indiana University School of Medicine will perform yard work and landscaping at 30 homes in Indianapolis for the school’s 19th annual Spring House Calls.

The student-led event targets the homes of elderly, disabled or minority homeowners to give them a helping hand.  Read more

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5 Questions with psychologist, sex researcher Tierney Lorenz Tue, 01 Apr 2014 15:54:54 +0000 What does exercise have to do with sex and depression? What is sexual medicine? In this Q&A, Tierney Lorenz, post-doctoral fellow at the Kinsey Institute for Research in Sex, Gender and Reproduction, talks about her fascination with mind-body interactions and why this health psychologist added sex research to her pursuits.

Tierney Lorenz

Tierney Lorenz. Photo by Herbert Ascherman Jr.

Health & Vitality: You used a term recently that I rarely hear – sexual medicine. What is it and what can a clinical psychologist, like yourself, contribute to it?

Tierney Lorenz: Sexual medicine is a growing field that encompasses research and clinical practice to promote sexual wellbeing. Scientists and practitioners in sexual medicine come from many disciplines, including gynecology, urology, psychiatry, psychology, social work, physical therapy, even biology and anthropology. The common thread is a focus on improving sexual pleasure and sexual function. I think the term came out of a desire to define research on aspects of sexual health rather than sexually transmitted infection and contraception. Several societies have developed recently to promote sexual wellbeing as an important issue in and of itself, including the International Society for Sexual Medicine and the International Society for the Study of Women’s Sexual Health.

Psychology has had a tremendous impact in research on sexual wellbeing, in helping to integrate the roles of emotion, thoughts, and behaviors on sexual function. Clinical health psychology in particular has an interest in how the mind and body interact to produce healthy (or unhealthy) individuals. Behavioral interventions to promote physical health are the bread and butter of health psychologists like myself – but only recently has health psychology turned its focus to sexual pleasure and functioning as a health issue.

Health & Vitality: What made you decide to pursue this as a career?

Tierney Lorenz: I’ve always been intrigued by the interactions between mind and body. And sex is a wonderful way to study those interactions, because sex is both a physical act and a very important mental process. Sexuality is also deeply personal and yet sex is a social activity — so it is a great way to study the interactions of self and others. To put it less academically — I get to think about sex all day and at the end of it, make someone else’s life better (and get paid for it, that’s nice too).

Health & Vitality: In December I posted an item to my Health & Vitality Tumblr blog about your University of Texas-Austin study that examined the impact of exercise on some sexual side effects of antidepressants. Your study found that moderately intense workouts can treat sexual dysfunction such as a weak libido or trouble organsming. For real? What do you want people to know about the findings?

Tierney Lorenz: Yes, for real.

Two things to know:

  1. woman doing a modified pushupAlthough the effects related to having sex immediately after exercising were pretty modest (e.g., women went from having orgasm problems most of the time to only some of the time), every woman benefitted from adding physical activity to her life. There were no side effects (other than having to carve out some time, which I’ll admit is hard, particularly for depressed women!). If a woman is having sexual problems while taking antidepressants, she has nothing to lose and a lot to gain by trying to add exercise to her week. Even short bursts of high-intensity body-weight exercises (like pushups) before hitting the bedroom would likely help.
  2. Many women fear starting antidepressants because they have heard that these medications are deadly for their sexual wellbeing. And it is very hard for people to bring up sexual side effects to their doctors because they think “it’s a small problem, relative to my depression; it’s just the price of feeling better.” This study, and others like it, are showing that there are ways to combat sexual side effects: but you need to work with your doctor to make a difference. And the average woman has an improvement, not decline, in her sexual pleasure when taking antidepressants, because depression kills your sex life too!

Health & Vitality: Your post-doctoral research examines how the presence or absence of sexual activity may influence immune response in healthy human females across the menstrual cycle, and if men and women differ in immune response to partnered sexual activity. What can you tell us about your current study?

The Women, Immunity and Sexual Health study is an exciting collaboration of researchers in sexual behavior and immunity. It’s been shown in studies over the last three decades that the immune system shifts across the menstrual cycle, with lower levels of inflammation (which calls immune responders to the site of invasion) and antibody production around the time of ovulation. It’s thought that this response reflects the need to reduce immune response to sperm and the fertilized egg (before it has a chance to implant and form a protective placental barrier) during the times when a female could conceive. If this were true, women who are not sexually active (and thus not going to conceive that month) may not show as big of a decline in inflammation during ovulation as women who were sexually active. The WISH study is examining if sexual behavior makes a difference in ovulation-related immune system shifts. The findings from this study may help explain some individual differences in women’s immune patterns — for example, why some women’s allergies appear to peak around menstruation while others remain stable.


Health & Vitality: If you weren’t in this field, what do you think you’d be doing?

Tierney Lorenz: I would likely be a psychiatrist — I always thought that I would be a physician, and love the study of the mind. But once I got to college and started working in psychology research labs, I was hooked. I love being a psychologist — it allows me to dabble in a lot of different areas so long as it all comes back to the mind-body relationship. Psychologists are the biggest “borrowers” of the scientific community — we are shameless when it comes to stealing theories and techniques from other disciplines! So I get to study what a psychiatrist studies — certainly much of my work on antidepressants would fit in the average psychiatry department — but I can also work in the world of anthropology, gender studies, sociology, biology and neuroscience, computer science — and so many others.

Lorenz’s fellowship is through the Common Themes in Reproductive Diversity program directed by Ellen Ketterson, Distinguished Professor of biology and gender studies.

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5 top reasons to relax about the Affordable Care Act enrollment number Tue, 25 Mar 2014 17:35:11 +0000 Guest post courtesy of  Heather A. McCabe, assistant professor of social work at Indiana University.

Heather McCabe

Heather McCabe

We are nearing the March 31 deadline for people to enroll in insurance through health exchanges. As we do, many interested in this law are waiting to see what the final enrollment numbers will be. We hear words like “death spiral” and worry that health care will be unaffordable and unattainable.

Here are some reasons to rest easy:

  1. The numbers expected for the first years were estimates. We will know better in future years what actual numbers will be based on previous years’ enrollment — but the insurance companies knew this just as the government did. They knew this when they set their rates for this first year.
  2. The numbers do not tell us the mix. In other words, the proportion of high-cost enrollees to low-cost enrollees will have an impact on the future premiums in the program. It will be some time before we know what kind of claims we see by those enrolled and what proportion of enrollees are sicker versus healthier. Though age can be a proxy for costly, the actual mix of sicker versus healthier individuals will be the true driver of premiums.
  3. Kaiser Family Foundation recently completed a study of what would happen if enrollment by the “young invincibles,” those who are young, healthy and low cost, were less than anticipated. The study showed that in the worst case scenario (50 percent less enrollment by this group than anticipated) insurance premiums would raise by approximately 2.4 percent annually. Given the rising premiums over the last decade, a 2.4 percent increase should not bring the market to a screeching halt.
  4. The insurance companies are not depending on marketplaces for their solvency, or even the majority of their business. If there is a rocky start these first few years, they have their traditional markets making up the majority of their business. They also have risk corridors (love them or hate them) to ensure they can stay solvent.
  5. It is going to take time. Regardless of whether enrollment numbers hit 6 million as of March 31, it will take some time for the market to figure out where premiums should be set. This date and these numbers will not be the end game in premiums. In this time of immediate gratification it may be hard to wait and see, but change takes time. And changing a huge system with many competing interests takes a lot of time.

So sit back and relax. We are in this for the long haul. The numbers are but one indicator over time. Let’s talk again in a year or two and see where we are.

Heather McCabe served as a medical social worker at a pediatric tertiary care hospital for several years before returning to school for her law degree.  She also served as the director of the Public Health Law Program  and then executive director for the Hall Center for Law and Health at the IU School of Law – Indianapolis before coming to her current position. Her research is primarily in the areas of public health, health policy, health disparities, health reform, and disability related policy.  She is particularly interested in exploring the effects of multidisciplinary education and collaboration in her work.


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Science of attraction Fri, 14 Mar 2014 17:15:56 +0000 Guest post courtesy of IU Newsroom multimedia intern Lena Morris:

Do you ever wonder what makes you attracted to someone? Is it their physical appearance, their personality, or could it even be an adaptive cognitive mechanism?

According to research conducted by Professor Peter Todd in the Department of Psychological and Brain Sciences in the College of Arts and Sciences, the “love at first sight” could be a lot more physiological than you think.

“People say they want somebody who is like them on this variety of different traits but who they actually end up choosing is different,” Todd said.  “It’s actually people who have complementary traits to them.”

It turns out, your attraction to someone could be your innate cognitive development that seeks mates with ideal traits that could help you produce “better” offspring.

Furthermore, Todd’s lab has discovered a phenomenon called “mate-choice copying,” meaning the mate choices of others can influence who you find attractive. He said this is an adaptive cognitive ability that provides a shortcut to choosing your ideal mate.

In other words, you are more likely to be attracted to someone at the bar if you see someone else pursuing him or her.

These studies don’t necessarily create a formula for attraction, but it helps us analyze the natural biological process of mate choices – as if there wasn’t already enough to worry about on the first date!


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Play now, pay later? College athletes’ quality of life later in life Mon, 10 Mar 2014 15:18:57 +0000 Guest post courtesy of IU Newsroom multimedia intern Lena Morris:

Beyond having their names screamed at the games, Division I athletes symbolize the best health and physique of our age group. However, a recent study conducted by Janet Simon, doctoral student at the IU School of Public Health-Bloomington, shows that such ideas might not be true for the long run.

Her study, published in the American Journal of Sports Medicine, found that former Division I athletes reported suffering not only more physical struggles years after college, but also suffer mental issues such as depression.

In the accompanying video, which I prepared, Simon discusses the change in perspective on college athletics, and what collegiate athletic programs can do to help graduating athletes in their transition to life after college sports.

The study has been discussed in such media as NPRHuffington Post and HealthDay News.

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March Madness gambling — common, illegal Fri, 07 Mar 2014 15:07:00 +0000 This post is provided by guest blogger Mary Lay, project manager of the Indiana Problem Gambling Awareness Program, which is a project of the Indiana Prevention Resource Center at the Indiana University School of Public Health-Bloomington.

Mid March is the time when all college basketball fans come together to do their “brackets.” It is big news on sports websites; hours of work time is spent being sure a bracket is just right. Even the President of the United States is known for completing a bracket. Many of these brackets are done for fun, but many also involve placing a bets.

2013 tournament bracketThe Federal Bureau of Investigation estimates that 2.5 billion is illegally bet annually on the NCAA basketball tournament. While most people who gambling do not become problem gamblers, an estimated 3 to 4 percent of those who begin gambling will develop into problem gamblers.

Again, most people can gamble responsibly and never develop a problem. But for some, gambling develops into a problem for which they have little to no control.

Problem gambling can lead to financial devastation, crime and poor physical and mental health, including an increased risk of substance abuse, depression, and suicide. More than six million Americans are addicted to gambling.

Problem gambling is characterized by the following:

  • Gambling for long hours or with more money than intended
  • Lying to friends and family about gambling
  • Borrowing money frequently to gamble
  • Missing school or work due to preoccupation with gambling
  • Wins and losses create mood swings
  • Gambling to escape life’s hassles and stressors
  • Arguing with family and friends about your gambling
  • Using money intended for bills and other things to pay gambling debts
  • Increasing gambling to try to win back money lost
Mary Lay

Mary Lay

Gambling on college basketball is illegal and ubiquitous — people who don’t normally gamble, will participate in office pools or NCAA brackets. Almost all states have some form of legal gambling. Indiana has riverboat casinos, lottery, charitable gaming, and racinos, which are a combined race track and casino. Sports betting is illegal in almost all states including Indiana.

If a gambler or their loved ones suspect a problem, their first step should be to call the Indiana Problem Gambling Help Line at 800-994-8448. For additional resources, visit the Indiana Council on Problem Gambling or the Indiana Problem Gambling Awareness Program.

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If it’s yellow, let it mellow Tue, 04 Mar 2014 16:51:22 +0000 glass_of_water_by_pau4o

We’ve all heard the phrase, “If it’s yellow, let it mellow,” but how many people actually do this?  Check out my Health & Vitality blog on Tumblr to learn about why people should care.  IU energy policy researcher Shahzeen Attari talks about her research findings that Americans use twice the amount of water that they think they use — and much of it is just flushed down the toilet.


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Zohydro debate pits pain relief against drug abuse, death Mon, 03 Mar 2014 21:19:27 +0000 A debate that pits potential relief for chronic pain against efforts to stem an epidemic of prescription drug abuse in the U.S. is unfolding as advocacy groups ask the FDA to reverse its decision to approve Zohydro, scheduled to hit markets this month.

chronic painAdvocates who want the U.S. Food and Drug Administration to reject the powerful narcotic include attorneys general from 28 states and a group called Fed Up!, comprising consumer groups, addiction treatment providers, drug and alcohol prevention programs and interest groups. An FDA advisory panel voted 11-2 against support of the drug.

In a letter from Fed Up! to FDA Commissioner Margaret Hamburg, M.D.:

“Over the past 15 years, prescriptions for opioids have skyrocketed. The United States, with about 5 percent of the world’s population, is now consuming more than 84 percent of the world’s entire oxycodone supply and more than 99 percent of the hydrocodone supply. According to the United States Centers for Disease Control, the sharp increase in opioid prescribing has led to parallel increases in opioid addiction and overdose deaths. Since 1999, overdose deaths have skyrocketed, especially among middle-aged individuals prescribed opioids for chronic pain. Opioid analgesic overdose deaths have increased 415 percent in women and 265 percent in men.

“The highest available dosage of Zohydro will contain 5-10 times more hydrocodone than Vicodin or Lortab. Someone unaccustomed to taking opioids could suffer a fatal overdose from just two capsules. A single capsule could be fatal if swallowed by a child.”

From an article in WebMD:

“I firmly believe that the benefits of this product outweigh its risks,” the FDA’s Bob Rappaport, MD, wrote in the summary review explaining why he approved Zohydro last October. Rappaport is director of the FDA’s Division of Anesthesia, Analgesia, and Addiction Products. “Many patients in the U.S. suffer from untreated or poorly treated chronic pain. Further limiting access to potential treatments is not the answer when new treatments are critically needed.”

Courtney Stewart, research associate at the Indiana Prevention Resource Center in the IU School of Public Health-Bloomington, said the debate puts doctors and their patients who suffer from severe and chronic pain in a difficult position.

“The goal should be to ‘do no harm’ and provide patients with needed relief while avoiding misuse and addiction to a very strong drug like Zohydro,” she said.

“This is an ongoing and now much more serious concern with the introduction of a drug like Zohydro. Zohydro is easily crushable, making it appealing to drug users who will either snort or inject it. From a prevention standpoint it is crucial that prescribing doctors carefully go over the risks and prescribe the least amount needed to relieve pain and provide comfort. Difficult decisions are in store for both doctors and those suffering from severe, ongoing pain as both sides try to meet in the safety of a middle ground.”

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Men have biological clocks, too? Thu, 27 Feb 2014 21:09:52 +0000 When I was pregnant with my youngest child, I recall my doctor mentioned my “advanced age” several times. A bit aggravated, I planned to assure her that I was aware of my “advanced age” — 37 — so she didn’t need to keep bringing it up, but she didn’t bring it up again (maybe I gave her the evil eye).

alarm clockNow a study led by Brian D’Onofrio, an associate professor in the Department of Psychological and Brain Sciences at IU Bloomington, is drawing more attention to men’ biological clocks.

Read the news release

CNN’s Sanjay Gupta discusses ‘the clock’ in a video

Examining an immense data set — everyone born in Sweden from 1973 until 2001 — the researchers documented a compelling association between advancing paternal age at childbearing and numerous psychiatric disorders and educational problems.

Among the findings: When compared to a child born to a 24-year-old father, a child born to a 45-year-old father is 3.5 times more likely to have autism, 13 times more likely to have ADHD, two times more likely to have a psychotic disorder, 25 times more likely to have bipolar disorder and 2.5 times more likely to have suicidal behavior or a substance abuse problem.

“We were shocked by the findings,” D’Onofrio said. “The specific associations with paternal age were much, much larger than in previous studies.

He told reporters with the New York Times, TIME and other outlets, that the findings surprised him and his collaborators at Karolinska Institute in Stockholm so much that they put the data through a statistical ringer, controlling for various factors.

“We spent months trying to make the findings go away, looking at the mother’s age, at psychiatric history, doing sub-analyses,” D’Onofrio told the New York Times. “They wouldn’t go away.”

The study is exhaustive — involving more than 2 million children — and received high marks for its design and ambition. D’Onofrio and other scientists suspect sperm is vulnerable to mutation because it is produced throughout a man’s life.

Some experts point out that the baseline rates for the conditions studied are very low to begin with, so they remain low even when older parental age is considered. D’Onofrio told National Public Radio that men and women who are not ready to have children in their 20s should not stress out. Being older parents has its perks, too.

“Delaying childbearing [also] enables people to become more financially secure, complete more education,” he says. “And that has a positive effect on children.”

Avraham Reichenberg, a professor of psychiatry at the Mount Sinai School of Medicine in New York, wasn’t involved in D’Onofrio’s study but researches similar issues. He also spoke with NPR about the study. It’s routine for doctors to remind women older than 35 that there are risks associated with older motherhood, he said.

“So should be the case, maybe, for fathers.”

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Researchers examine brain activity of alcohol-dependent women — find a lot going on Thu, 20 Feb 2014 20:28:52 +0000 Chaos is no stranger to people dependent on alcohol, making their lives and often the lives of loved ones more complicated. IU researcher Lindsay Arcurio used functional magnetic resonance imaging, or fMRI, to look more closely at the brain activity of women dependent on alcohol and found a lot going on inside, as well.

glasses of red wine“We see that the network dynamics of alcohol-dependent women may be really different from that of healthy controls in a drinking-related task,” said Arcurio, a graduate student in the Department of Psychological and Brain Sciences, in a news release. “We have evidence to suggest alcohol-dependent women have trouble switching between networks of the brain.”

Women in the study who were not dependent on alcohol showed a surprisingly different pattern of brain activity, deactivating and activating specific areas of the brain in response to the experiment. Not so with the alcoholic women.

“It gets really interesting,” Arcurio said, “comparing this pattern of activation to those in alcohol-dependent women, who behaviorally say they’re more likely to take the high-risk drink compared to the controls. They don’t deactivate anything. In contrast to the controls, alcohol-dependent women activate all three regions in question. They activate regions associated with reward (which release dopamine). They also activate frontal control regions involved in cognitive control and regions associated with the default mode network, involved in resting-state behavior. They are activating everything.”

Read the full release

Lindsay Arcurio

Lindsay Arcurio

The research is part of a larger new effort to understand the differences between men and women with respect to alcohol. Arcurio said most of the research on alcohol dependence has been conducted with men or groups of men and women. Yet several factors make looking at women “really important.”

One such factor is that the physiological effects of drinking alcohol, which include liver damage, heart disease and breast cancer, set in much earlier in women than in men. For this reason, the suggested limit on the number of drinks per week that women can safely consume is eight, whereas for men, it is 14.

Secondly, binge-drinking in women is on the rise. One in five adolescent girls is binge-drinking three times a month. In women between the ages of 18 and 54, that number is one in eight.

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It’s that time of year Thu, 13 Feb 2014 14:38:07 +0000 With research centers on my “beat” such as the Center for Sexual Health Promotion in the IU School of Public Health-Bloomington and The Kinsey Institute for Research in Sex, Gender and Reproduction, it’s not unusual for me to be writing about one sexuality discovery/insight or another.

Kinsey Reporter app imageBut this time of year, I just can’t keep up — and the media are giving our experts a run for their money, too!

Justin Garcia, assistant professor in gender studies and research scientist at The Kinsey Institute, can be seen Skyping with the Wall Street Journal about findings in’s fourth annual Singles in America study. Garcia also is a scientific adviser for the international dating site. He also spoke with the Wall Street Journal about dating choices.

Debby Herbenick, co-director of the Center for Sexual Health Promotion, discussed with The New York Times how to talk with children/teens about sexuality and consent; she spoke with IU alum and Wall Street Journal columnist Elizabeth Bernstein for the article, “Even long-married happy couples ask, ‘How can we have sex more often?‘”

Herbenick’s work with George Mason University researcher Joshua Rosenberger has also received a lot of media attention recently, with Herbenick being quoted frequently about findings involving the role of love in sexual relations between men.

Researchers behind the Kinsey Reporter app have created a Valentine’s Day special, encouraging people to dish about their desires in a new survey created for the holiday. Read more here and in this news release.

Not to be outdone, I asked some of our experts for some tips to share with reporters, too. This media tipsheet includes insights for divorced parents to consider when they venture into dating again.

“We know that the process of divorce is not a one-time event,” said Jonathon Beckmeyer, an assistant professor at the IU School of Public Health-Bloomington. “It starts well before parents separate, and it’s ongoing into the development of these new relationships for the now-separated parents — that’s all part of the process. And that process can negatively affect children.”

Beckmeyer offers suggestions that can help parents and kids navigate this tricky transition. He talks about the importance of effective communication, managing expectations and the need to go “slow and steady,” rather than rushing new relationships.

“It’s going to take years for the family to feel like a ‘family’ again,” he said. “So the more you’re able to build those relationships over time, the easier it will be for the children to adjust.”

The tipsheet also includes insights from Garcia into some of the findings from the Single in America study, which surveyed 5,329 men and women ages 21 to 70 plus.

He said the findings indicate singles are optimistic about love, celebrating diversity and focusing less on “outdated traditions.”

There are some obvious differences between the views of men and women (More men than women find kissing (85 percent of men vs. 70 percent of women), oral sex (39 percent of men vs. 7 percent of women) and sexual intercourse (37 percent of men vs. 8 percent women) to be appropriate on a first date). Overall, men and women are more alike than different when it comes to love and sex.

“The findings demonstrate that for a vast majority of the 111 million singles in America, across a wide range of demographics — gender, age, sexual orientation, race and ethnicity — dating, sex and love are an important part of their lives,” he said. “If we want to know how to promote and maintain healthy and successful romantic relationships, sexual behavior is an undeniable part of that. We must continue to talk openly and honestly about human sexuality, with all its ups and downs and wonderful variety.”

Now, back to writing about iron consumption, aging athletes, spouse-work-health issues, alcohol dependence, the male ego …

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Advice on talking with children about sex and consent Fri, 07 Feb 2014 20:20:16 +0000 Debby Herbenick, co-director of the Center for Sexual Health Promotion in the Indiana University School of Public Health-Bloomington, offers parents and guardians some nuts-and-bolts tips in this New York Times article that discusses talking with children about sex and the important topic of giving and receiving consent.

teens sharing a songThink your kids are too young? (And don’t we all?) Start with the tickling, Herbenick says in the Times.

You know how little kids like to be tickled? If a kid says stop, even if they’re laughing, the best thing you can do as an adult is stop. What that teaches them when they’re 2 or 3 or 4 is that they have control over their own body.

Herbenick said kids need to learn at an early age to keep their hands to themselves, because they often grab and touch each other — sometimes in inappropriate places. Talking with children in preschool and kindergarten is a good time to start.

Talking about the importance of giving and receiving consent should begin in middle school or earlier, if the children go to parties, Herbenick said. It might be easy to think one’s child would not misbehave, drink alcohol or develop wrong ideas about sex, but children often are easily influenced by friends. How do we know what our children think if we avoid the subject?

I encourage parents to give this short article a read.

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Any time is a good time to hit the water Fri, 24 Jan 2014 20:16:38 +0000 During frigid weather like we’ve seen in Indiana, I inevitably find myself daydreaming about balmy, sandy beaches and peaceful lapping waves. Carol Kennedy-Armbruster, functional fitness guru at the IU School of Public Health-Bloomington, reminded me this week that I can enjoy water — and get a good workout — any time of the year.

Some people see indoor and outdoor pools as lap pools or accessories for sunbathing. Kennedy-Armbruster sees a “giant resistance machine.” She compares exercising in water to moving through molasses.

aqua jogging

Aqua jogging

“It’s a resistant medium, which causes you to exert more energy,” she told the Wall Street Journal for an article about effective cross-training.

“Water exercise is the perfect upright movement for improving functionality on land because you cannot ‘sit’ with water exercise. You are in an upright position challenging the core muscles/joints/ligaments with each step you take,” she told me. “Pool workouts contain both cardiorespiratory exercise (aerobics) AND muscular strength and flexibility. Each time you walk in the water the cardiorespiratory system gets challenged but so, too, do the muscles, ligaments, tendons of the body.”

The constant resistance is a challenge for me because it means I’m constantly off balance. Move my arms one direction and the rest of me moves another direction. Lift up a leg and the rest of me goes down. Kennedy-Armbruster said water exercise is inefficient — and it’s supposed to be that way.

“The idea of upright water exercise is to create inefficient movements that stress the cardio and muscular system of the body at one time,” she said.

Carol Kennedy-Armbruster

Carol Kennedy-Armbruster

Lap swimming, on the other hand, is completely different because swimmers can “efficiently” go with the flow as they move horizontally through the water. That is, unless the swimmer’s form is like mine and needs quite a bit of work. Inefficient, yes, but I was assured that my clunky form has some benefits, such as burning more calories because of all the extra work.

The Wall Street Journal talked to Kennedy-Armbruster for an article about the “eclectic mix” of cross-training employed by a modern dancer. Kennedy-Armbruster said water exercise is a common cross-training medium for a range of sports (including cross-country at my son’s high school). The exercise allows athletes — and normal people with joint pain — to have a challenging cardiovascular workout without stressing out the musculoskeletal system.

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Small talk, the “cornerstone of civility” Wed, 08 Jan 2014 19:16:53 +0000 Last month we shared with reporters shyness expert Bernardo J. Carducci’s tips for making small talk more interesting and comfortable. His suggestions, such as arriving at events on time and focusing on being nice rather than titillating, are helpful around the holidays but also practical any time of the year.

Two people talk

“Small talk is really, really important. It helps us connect with people, and not just at holiday gatherings,” said Carducci, director of the Shyness Research Institute at Indiana University Southeast. “If you make connections with people, it makes it much more difficult for you to treat them in an uncivil way. If you think about being kind to and connecting with people, people you engage in conversation, you’re going to open a door for them, you’ll let them step in front of you in line. You’ll engage in more acts of kindness and fewer acts of rudeness.”

Small talk pays it forward. When you’re nicer to other people, Carducci says, “they’re going to be nicer to you and nicer to others.”

Small talk might come naturally to some people, but it’s also a skill that gets easier with practice — with strangers, family members, co-workers. Read our news release for details about such tips as rehearing introductions and knowing when to stop talking. Also, read how the New York Daily News discussed Carducci’s tips.

Learn more about small talk in Carducci’s book “The Pocket Guide to Making Small Talk: How to Talk to Anyone Anytime Anywhere About Anything.”

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Dr. Dog will see you now Thu, 12 Dec 2013 16:58:20 +0000 Goldilocks the schnoodle


If my dog, Goldilocks, thinks she isn’t getting enough love, she lunges between my legs — or those of my family members — so we have to pet her, either scratching her back and haunches, or, depending on the direction of her shameless quest for attention, her throat and chest.

She’s a magnet for caresses, belly rubs and conversations to which she often tilts her head, as if she’s trying really hard to understand. Goldi’s a furry, playful 80-pound bundle of joy, a welcome distraction to chores and homework and the myriad stresses that come with a busy family of five with kids ranging in age from 8 to 15.

So this USA Today article came as no surprise: “Exams got you stressed? Rover to the rescue.

On college campuses across the USA, therapy dogs are becoming increasingly common sights as slobbering, tail-wagging stress alleviators.

Kathi Piekarski, a staff member at Indiana University South Bend’s sociology and anthropology department, said her daily dog walks were frequently a student magnet: “Students at exam time would say ‘we need to borrow your dog, we need some stress relief.'”

The result was more than 130 students over two days in October petting her standard poodle, Paris, for Depression Awareness Week. And the university plans to have the dog back next week for a final exam-related session.

“I know when I get stressed out, I just call my dog and start petting him and before you know it the anxiety just kind of leaves and I feel calmer,” Piekarski said. “I had a couple students say (after the October event) ‘Now we think we can go back and do my academics.'”

The Lutheran Campus Ministry organized Rent-a-Puppy events at Indiana University Bloomington in 2012 and 2013 right before final exams.

“It’s definitely a good break, because I’ve been studying the past couple days and it’s a beautiful day out,” a student told the Indiana Daily Student newspaper.

I admit to spoiling my schnoodle. On warmer days, for example, I bring a water bottle on our walks for Goldi, not for myself. But she spoils us, too, with unconditional happiness.

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Obamacare and uninsured young adults, a “notable achievement” Wed, 04 Dec 2013 18:19:22 +0000 With all of the negative media coverage of the bungled roll out of, where Americans are supposed to be able to shop for health insurance as part of the Affordable Care Act, it can be easy to overlook successes — and Indiana University health policy expert Kosali Simon considers the enrollment of almost a million uninsured young adults a “notable achievement.”

Kosali Simon

Kosali Simon

ACA required private insurance companies that offered coverage for dependents to provide coverage for children until they turn 26. Simon notes in a recent blog post that the provision, implemented in 2010, added an estimated 2 million adults ages 19-25 to their parents’ employer-sponsored insurance policies in the months following the implementation, and of these adults, almost 1 million had been previously uninsured.

Simon’s post appears in the London School of Economics and Political Science’s American Politics and Policy blog. It is based on her research with Yaa Akosa Antwi, an assistant professor of economics in the School of Liberal Arts at Indiana University-Purdue University Indianapolis, and postdoctoral fellow Asako S. Moriya of the School of Public and Environmental Affairs at IU Bloomington, where Simon is a professor.

She wrote:

When young adults in their late teens and early twenties are poorly insured or completely uninsured, their health care is often skimpy or non-existent. They may endure “job-lock” to keep paltry benefits. They suffer financial problems that can affect future credit scores. These well documented issues are why the implementation of this section of the ACA in 2010-2011 was met with little criticism from either side. Insurers didn’t complain much and the rollout was smooth, quick, and greeted with favorable media attention.

In their research, young men were twice as likely as young women to become insured as a result of the provision.

Minorities were less likely than other young adults to add coverage under their parents’ plans, consistent with evidence of lower availability of employer health insurance among minority parents. Finally, we found that young adults who were single were more likely to be added to parental coverage than those who were married, even though the law applies regardless of marital status.

As a former reporter, I hate to disparage the press because of the vital role the media plays in supporting an informed society, but … heath policy expert Aaron Carroll, a pediatrician at the IU School of Medicine, had some pointed comments in his blog about the media and a misleading report by Fox News about Obamacare.

In his follow-up to the above post, he writes:

So — AGAIN — an apocryphal story about Obamacare turns out to be false. Again, the media fails to uncover the truth before airing the piece. Again, they don’t tell any positive news; they broadcast a crazy anecdote about how the law is madness. And then that story turns out to be untrue.

Carroll is a regular contributor to The Incidental Economist and the JAMA Forum.

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A visit to the Bloomington Sex Salon — what’s in it for you? Tue, 03 Dec 2013 17:54:44 +0000 Guest post by IU Newsroom colleague Jaclyn Lansbery.

Women’s perceptions of their genitals, masturbation, bisexuality and erotic art — these are just a few of the topics on tap at the Bloomington Sex Salon.

By Erin Tobey

By Erin Tobey

The Bloomington Sex Salon began in February as a monthly discussion series led by Debby Herbenick, co-director of the Center for Sexual Health Promotion at the Indiana University School of Public Health-Bloomington, as a way to encourage community-based conversations about various sex-related topics.

“I think what’s interesting about the salons is that you really get to do what I do on a regular basis -– which is sit with somebody who is really smart about a particular topic and ask all your questions,” said Herbenick, a widely read sex columnist and author of self-help books such as “Sex Made Easy.” Herbenick is frequently contacted by national media outlets about sex-related topics.

Neither a seedy establishment of ill repute nor a stuffy initiative geared toward the college crowd, the salons take place in casual settings where people can sit or stand while sipping on a beer. And you don’t have to be a sex expert to attend or understand these discussions.

“These are not ivory tower, academic conversations,” Herbenick said, adding that she wanted to ensure the salons took place in the community, outside of the IU Bloomington campus.

The Sex Salons, promoted by band posters that IU graduate Erin Tobey designs,  have taken place at The Back Door and FARM Bloomington’s Root Cellar. The most recent salon was Nov. 22 at The Bishop. Brian Dodge, who also is co-director of the Center for Sexual Health Promotion and a longtime colleague of Herbenick, talked about bisexuality.

Dodge touched on the stereotypes and misconceptions that people who identify themselves as bisexual – or who engage or have engaged in bisexual behavior – regularly face, especially in American society.

Dodge said that marriage tends to be the “gold standard,” and that some people tend to feel that bisexual behavior threatens monogamy.

“For some reason, there is that sort of stereotype and misconception, I think, that if you’re in a relationship with a bisexual person, then in some way you’re going to be vulnerable to them and that they need to be with a member of the other sex, whatever that might be,” he said. “I think that’s a pervasive stereotype.”

Another stereotype is that people who identify as bisexual or who engage in bisexual behavior area really just experimenting until they decide to either be straight or gay — a “bi-now, gay-later” label.

Despite steps toward marriage equality for same-sex couples, little has been done to recognize bisexuality as a legitimate lifestyle. Dodge, Herbenick and other colleagues at the Center for Sexual Health Promotion recently presented their research on perceptions of bisexuality at the 141st American Public Health Association annual meeting in Boston. They found that men who identify themselves as heterosexual are three times more likely to categorize bisexuality as “not a legitimate orientation,” an attitude that can encourage negative health outcomes in people who identify as bisexual.

As with the November discussion with Dodge, each salon has focused on a specific health topic — nothing is off limits — that Herbenick and her expert guest discuss in front of audience members, who are invited to ask questions.

The next Bloomington Sex Salon takes place 7:30 p.m. Tuesday, Dec. 17 at The Bishop, and will feature Kim Wallen, a professor in the department of psychology at Emory University. The topic is orgasm. For more information, visit the Bloomington Sex Salon Facebook page.

Read the Health & Vitality post “Making sex normal — one picture at a time,” to learn about another effort by Herbenick to make it easier for people to talk about sexuality.

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Gift guides galore Fri, 22 Nov 2013 21:13:12 +0000 I’ve gotten some good ideas from holiday gift guides over the years — and some of the guides have been my own handiwork, with the help of insightful IU health and wellness experts.

climbing wall My most recent IU Health & Vitality media tip sheet included a gift guide with ideas geared toward sustainability. I’d LOVE so many of the suggestions, such as gift certificates for an “excursion or experience,” such as to a climbing gym or the theater, gifts made by local artisans, or a community supported agriculture (CSA) membership.

Here are ideas from some of my previous gift guides:

  • Fuel kids’ creativity with do-it-yourself kits: For example, fill a container with supplies, including a thick pad of heavy white paper for painting, regular paper for drawing and construction paper, as well as glitter markers, puffy paint gel markers, crayons, scissors, glue, pencils and erasers. Don’t forget to add in a few “How to Draw” books tailored to your child’s taste. “Begin collecting items on sale throughout the year and keep them in the container until it is full,” said Marjorie Cohee Manifold, associate professor of art education and curriculum studies in the Indiana University School of Education. “Try to find things that don’t require a lot of fuss to set up and aren’t inherently messy.”
  • A sexuality-themed ‘Don’t-buy-this’ guide: Don’t get lingerie that highlights non-favorite parts. If your partner doesn’t like to reveal her tummy, opt for a slip rather than a bra and underwear. If she likes to highlight her breasts, consider a balconette bra or a corset. “Play with her strengths and help her feel confident,” said Debby Herbenick, co-director of the Center for Sexual Health Promotion in the IU School of Public Health-Bloomington.
  • Active gifts that can be enjoyed together: Skiing or snowboarding lessons.
  • Wellness gifts that can be enjoyed at work: A headlight, so your friend or loved one can still run or cycle outdoors after work, when it’s dark earlier in the evenings (like now).
  • Gifts for older relatives and friends: Adaptive fishing equipment, such as electronic reel or easy cast model, sounds like a great idea that could help people with mobility issues continue enjoying a fun pastime. I also like the suggestion for a pedicure. Lesa Huber, at the IU School of Public Health-Bloomington, says the gift is even better when the giver tags along. “It’s time spent together,” she said. “And for an older person, having their feet cared for and rubbed — they can’t always reach them well — it can be a real treat.”
  • More health and wellness gift ideas: I’m sitting on a stability ball as I write this, so I know this gift idea would be a winner. I also would love a really good knife set, which my husband and I would put to good use in the kitchen.
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Got the Black Friday shopping bug? Better buddy up! Wed, 20 Nov 2013 19:29:27 +0000 Now something of an endurance sport, Black Friday shopping — and in some cases, Thanksgiving Day shopping — can drain more than just the wallet.

Nancy Barton, lecturer in the School of Physical Education and Tourism Management at Indiana University-Purdue University Indianapolis, suggests steps shoppers can take to reduce the physical and psychological stress that can accompany what John Talbott, associate director of the Center for Education and Research in Retailing at IU, describes as a “retail arms race.”

shopping_web“Some have argued that we are wired for desire as a result of our dopamine reward pathways,” Barton said. “When we are overstimulated by a novel experience or unlimited choices on Black Friday, a craving (for more) and insatiable desire is triggered.”

She said the key to combating these desires relies on the executive, thinking part of the brain. However, this control can be hindered if you are stressed out, tired and hungry, arguably the three main traits of an all-night Black Friday shopper. Here are her suggestions.

  • Consider opting out of Black Friday shopping. “Can’t we think of another way to give a gift? The answer is: ‘Yes we can!'” Barton said. “There is evidence that experiences — not things — make us happy. Experiences are generally more social. They are likely to be a shared moment, anticipated or relived.”
  • Try some self-reflection. “The perfect antidote for ungrateful feelings is to practice a gratefulness meditation,” Barton said. “Every day, list three things that you are grateful for. Embody the feelings of gratefulness. Positive emotions and satisfaction with what you already have start to unfold as you reflect on your list.”
  • Stay healthy and buddy up. “Aim for fun,” she said, “because friends, family, companions and social connections are health promoting.”

Talbott, whose research center is in the Kelley School of Business, said he isn’t sure whether being open on Thanksgiving will move the needle upward when it comes to holiday sales figures. He said it has been proven that holiday sales aren’t affected when the shopping season is condensed and includes fewer weekends. Even weather has little effect, although retailers will always point to this issue when they don’t make sales objectives.

He and Barton said that if people find the Black Friday and Thanksgiving Day shopping to be just too much, they should not participate — send a message with their money.

“If society at large wants to change this sort of behavior, the problem can easily be solved by simply not shopping on Thanksgiving Day,” Talbott said. “This will end the experiment, and chances are other retailers will not attempt it in the future.”

But he doesn’t expect that to happen.

Talbott discusses in this Huffington Post piece a lawmaker’s desire to see retailers pay their Thanksgiving Day employees triple time.  He also discusses retail trends in this Baltimore Sun article.

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Silver lining of global obesity crisis Fri, 15 Nov 2013 15:03:02 +0000 The rise in obesity worldwide and the potential economic opportunities for firms that come up with solutions will be addressed in the next event in the 2013-14 Indiana Life Sciences Collaboration Conference Series on Nov. 22 in Indianapolis.

Dr. Donald Hensrud

Keynote speaker Dr. Donald Hensrud, chair of the Division of Preventive, Occupational and Aerospace Medicine at the Mayo Clinic

“The increase in global obesity has profound implications for future health care costs and at the same time provides opportunities for existing companies and entrepreneurs to develop new products and services,” said conference organizer George Telthorst, director of the Center for the Business of Life Sciences in Indiana University’s Kelley School of Business.

At the conference, taking place at the NCAA Hall of Champions, 700 W. Washington St., Indianapolis, medical opinion leaders will offer their thoughts as to the causes of the rising trend in obesity and its effects on world health. Executives will discuss their plans for products to prevent and treat obesity and its associated conditions.

Students at accredited Indiana institutions of higher education may qualify for a discounted rate. Registration and additional information are available online or by contacting Kelli Conder at the Kelley School, 812-856-0915 or

The conference series is presented by the IU Kelley School of Business, its Center for the Business of Life Sciences, BioCrossroads and Covance. The complete program, registration information and links to participants’ biographies are available on the Center for the Business of Life Sciences’ website.

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Choose a full evaluation over a vision screening to make sure eyesight isn’t hampering athletic performance Wed, 13 Nov 2013 20:17:59 +0000 In a recent ESPN article, Steven Hitzeman, OD, FAAO, clinical associate professor of optometry at Indiana University, had some pointed comments concerning Heisman Trophy candidate Jameis “Squintston” Winston and his decision to forgo contact lenses during football games.

Jameis Winston

Jameis Winston photo by Melina Vastola/USA Today Sports

Winston said his squinting is never a factor in his performance as Florida State University quarterback. Hitzeman says vision is almost always a factor in athletic performance, regardless of the sport. Based on his research, good vision can give elite athletes the edge they need over competition — he’s seen it time and time again.

“The better the acuity, the quicker you respond to visual stimuli. The quicker you respond to visual stimuli, the better decisions you’re going to make. The quicker decisions you’re going to make, the better you’re going to play,” he said in the ESPN piece.

“If I was his optometrist, if I was his coach, if I was his parent, I would make sure he’s wearing correction when he plays,” Hitzeman said. “His performance should be better with contacts than without. … I would think that he would see much better and play much better wearing visual correction.”

Hitzeman is director of the Sports Vision Program at IU and conducts vision evaluations of athletes performing at Junior Olympics to determine which athletes potentially could perform better if their vision was corrected. His statistics show that 40 percent of the athletes he screens have never had an eye exam — these athletes range in age from 8 to 18 and represent a wide range of socioeconomic backgrounds.

I thought 40 percent sounded high, considering that schools often offer vision screenings for students. Vision screenings can miss things, however, or can be manipulated by clever students, Hitzeman said, and should not be considered a replacement for a full vision exam.

“(A screening) picks up most of the visual problems, but it doesn’t pick up all of them,” he told me. “If you have a young athlete, he needs to have a full visual evaluation to make sure he doesn’t have any performance limiting problems.”

Vision — including depth perception, hand-eye coordination and the ability to locate objects in space — is an issue in just about every sport, too. The role in baseball, football and tennis is obvious. My son, however, runs cross country. Hitzeman drew parallels with his work with Olympic skiers. The more detail they can see in front of them, the faster they go.

“In cross country, if you’re seeing all the dips and all the things coming in front of you, you can run with reckless abandon because you can see everything around you,” he said. “If you don’t see as well, you’ll run with hesitation (a.k.a. slower).”

Hitzeman said wearing contacts during competition is preferable because of distortions created by glasses. He also offered an exercise to give athletes an advantage: learn to juggle.

“Once your visual motor system is accustomed to keeping several balls in the air at once, hitting one with a tennis racket won’t seem so difficult,” he said in a media tip about poor vision in athletes.

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Strict definition of gender/sex ‘restricts everyone of humanity’ Tue, 05 Nov 2013 18:46:41 +0000 Guest post by IU Newsroom colleague Jaclyn Lansbery.

Growing up in a conservative home environment with three older sisters, there was no question that by the time I was 15 years old, I’d be wearing makeup, donning the latest trends and reading women’s magazines. For me, those were the habits of an ideal female adolescence. But for Kand McQueen, who recently delivered an hourlong lecture in Rawles Hall on the Indiana University Bloomington campus, wearing frilly dresses and playing with dolls felt unnatural at the age of 3.

Kand McQueen

Kand McQueen

McQueen’s lecture, “Breaking the Gender Dichotomy: Why Two Are Definitely Not Enough,” argued how and why Western society’s strict definition of gender/sex “restricts everyone of humanity.” Pulling historical examples of transgendered people being discriminated against, McQueen made the case that society’s binary definitions of gender leave out a large number of people, especially those who were born intersex.

Over the years, there have been improvements for the rights of gay and transgendered people. Recently, Indiana University joined Freedom Indiana, a grassroots campaign that opposes amending the state constitution to define marriage as strictly between a man and a woman.

McQueen cited a consensus statement made by the medical community in 2006, which claimed that while privacy for people born intersex should be respected, “disorders of sex development is not shameful” (the term “intersex” has been replaced by “DSD,” but there are differing opinions as to which term is preferred by whom).

Toward the end of the lecture, McQueen got personal and shut off the PowerPoint, and admitted to identifying as a transgendered person. Born female, McQueen spent adolescence and most of adulthood in a state of denial. Then, at age 40, McQueen admitted to feeling like a boy despite being born a girl.

If it weren’t for categories, it would be hard to make sense of the world. But like most stereotypes, categories can leave out a large amount of people. McQueen, who did not identify as either “he” or “she” throughout the lecture, has previously said that the female/male dichotomous view is why gays, lesbians and bisexuals have had such a hard time in society.

“We’ve created this expectation that men behave a certain way and women behave a certain way, and part of that, historically, is that men are attracted to women and women are attracted to men,” McQueen said. “And that’s just not true for everyone, and so I think the rigidity of our dichotomous ways of looking at things has repercussions for everyone.”

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If only over-the-hill trick-or-treaters were a myth Thu, 31 Oct 2013 15:19:55 +0000 Looking through your children’s Halloween candy for potential hazards makes sense, but any underlying fear of poison or razor blades seems to be misplaced. Health mythbusters and Indiana University Medical School physicians Aaron Carroll and Rachel Vreeman say “no evidence of genuine Halloween poisoning can be located.”

The Joker

The Joker

Carroll and Vreeman have written two books about health myths, “Don’t Swallow Your Gum!” and “Don’t Cross Your Eyes … They’ll Get Stuck That way!: And 75 Other health Myths Debunked.” They included a chapter about strangers poisoning Halloween candy. I found the paragraph below interesting.

Why did we become so afraid of tampered Halloween candy in the first place? News reports of Halloween candy tampering have been popping up since 1950. In one story from 1964, a woman named Helen Pfeil was arrested for what she had considered an obvious joke – giving packages containing dog biscuits, steel wool pads, and ant poison buttons (labelled with the word “poison”) to teenagers who she considered too old to be trick-or-treating. Since she meant no malice, she made sure to also tell the teenagers about her “joke,” and therefore no one got hurt. Even so, she was charged and sentenced for “endangering children.” While she hardly sounds like a sinister stranger just waiting to give an unsuspecting child a poisoned treat, the case was used as an example of the dangers of Halloween candy in the media.

Goldlocks, a schnoodle, costumed as a lion

Goldilocks the lion

Yeah, I get a bit annoyed when rude teen-agers stop by my house to stuff handfuls of candy into their pillowcases. And then there were the post-college-aged ‘naughty nurses’ who stopped by several years ago with no children in tow.

I’m wearing a lion tamer costume as I write, and I hope to take my “lion” with me when we walk my daughter around the neighborhood trick-or-treating, but I’ll leave the candy to the kids. Intern Brittany Aders prepared this news item about age considerations for trick-or-treating. She wrote that some states have laws banning children older than 12 from trick-or-treating.

“It could be some people trying to relive a childhood experience that was fun — or maybe they just like candy,” said Jonathon Beckmeyer, assistant professor at the IU School of Public Health-Bloomington. “Quite frankly, it probably makes people uncomfortable if you’re in your 20s and you’re coming trick-or-treating and don’t have kids with you.”

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Sick of traveling or sick ‘from’ traveling: Hotel health tips Thu, 24 Oct 2013 15:56:23 +0000 Hotels often have hot water set at a higher temperature than at homes.

Hotels often have hot water set at a higher temperature than at homes.

My mom, who takes her own bedding to hotels, will find this news reassuring, as in, “I told you so.” Gaylen Kelton, M.D., discusses in Everyday Health some health and safety problems to avoid in hotels, from poor air quality (turning on the air or fan could make it worse) to scalding showers and yes, bed bugs.

Kelton is a professor of clinical family medicine at the Indiana University School of Medicine and IU Travel Medicine. Read more

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Sedentary behavior (watching TV), arterial health in the news Tue, 22 Oct 2013 18:09:23 +0000 Is watching TV setting you up for health problems? According to a recent study, the more time 30-somethings spent watching TV, the stiffer their arteries became. Stiff arteries are not a good thing, at any age.

woman watching TVJoel Stager, an exercise physiologist at the Indiana University School of Public Health-Bloomington, talked with Reuters about the study. Stiff arteries are a harbinger of potential health problems.

“To be honest about this particular measure, it’s more of an association of future problems,” he said. “In other words, it’s predictive of cardiovascular disease down the road.”

Stager was not involved with the new study, but has researched arterial stiffening among college-age people.

Stager also added that the new study cannot prove watching TV is what caused people’s arteries to stiffen. It could be some other factor that goes along with TV watching, for instance, or young people with stiff arteries might be more likely to stay in and watch TV.

The Reuters article reported on a study published in the British Journal of Sports Medicine.

“The fact that your arteries aren’t elastic, it predisposes you to develop hypertension in later age and cardiovascular disease,” Isabel Ferreira, senior epidemiologist at Maastricht University in the Netherlands, said.

Previous studies have linked TV watching to increased weight, cholesterol, blood pressure and diabetes, she and her colleagues write in the British Journal of Sports Medicine.

The researchers said the “critical cutoff” for TV watching is around two hours per day of sitting. Surprisingly, exercise did not seem to counter the effects of the sedentary time in the BJSM study.

Joel Stager

Joel Stager

Some of Stager’s research was discussed earlier this year at the American College of Sports Medicine’s annual meeting. His research has found that physical activity can improve arterial health.

Indiana University researchers found that people in their 20s already began to demonstrate arterial stiffening — when arteries become less compliant as blood pumps through the body — but their highly active peers did not.

The researchers made a similar discovery with middle-age men and women, finding that highly active study participants did not show the arterial stiffening that typically comes with aging, regardless of their gender or age. A reduction in compliance of the body’s arteries is considered a risk factor, predictive of future cardiovascular disease, such as high blood pressure and stroke. This new study is the first to examine arterial stiffening in a young, healthy population.

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University students foster the courage to care Wed, 16 Oct 2013 19:09:44 +0000 Guest post courtesy of Katy Flanigan, a junior at Indiana University Bloomington and chief of staff for the IU Student Association.

Over the past few months, the phrase “Culture of Care” has become somewhat of a tagline on the IU Bloomington campus and community, but perhaps not all who use it understand the scope and power of the meaning behind the phrase.

Luke Miller and Katy Flanigan on campus during second annual Culture of Care Week.

Luke Miller and Katy Flanigan on campus during second annual Culture of Care Week.

What began as a weeklong campaign in spring of 2012 through the concerted efforts of students in student government has developed into a year long, campus wide initiative that touches the IU student experience in a number of ways. Driven and led by students with support from faculty and staff, the initiative is different from other common campus campaigns in that it goes one step beyond education and attempts to actually change behavior.

Culture of Care recognizes that most often when we witness uncomfortable or dangerous situations that arise in the college environment, we lack the understanding that the situation is a problem, the skills to intervene, or the courage to step up and help. The initiative is a catalyst to break down those barriers to intervening in four focus areas: mental health, sexual wellbeing, respect (including hazing, discrimination, and harassment) and drug and alcohol awareness.

Whether making the call to get medical attention for someone who is in an emergency related to alcohol at a party (see Indiana Lifeline Law), speaking up for a passerby who is being harassed for his or her sexuality, or offering to help schedule a counseling session for a friend who is having a particularly stressful semester, every member of the IUB community can contribute to building a Culture of Care. When we have the #CouragetoCare, even the smallest actions compound to make Bloomington a place in which compassionate action and intervention is the norm.

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Is Obamacare another Roe v. Wade? Fri, 04 Oct 2013 13:50:11 +0000 Gerard Magliocca

Gerard Magliocca

Gerard Magliocca, a professor of constitutional law at Indiana University, had an op-ed published in the Washington Post explaining why Obamacare isn’t as settled as supporters might want us to think.

His explanation even uses Roe v. Wade — still a hot-button ruling decades later — as an example of how a law isn’t considered “settled” until both sides agree it’s untouchable.

Here is the full piece.


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Help for children born preterm might need to extend to their sibs Mon, 30 Sep 2013 13:26:04 +0000 An unprecedented study of preterm birth suggests that only some of the problems previously associated with preterm birth are actually caused by preterm birth itself.

Brian D'Onofrio

Brian D’Onofrio

The study, for me, is an example of how ambitious, well-designed studies can shred conventional wisdom — ideas that otherwise would make sense and might even be supported by earlier research that had limitations surmounted by newer studies.

From the IU news release:

The new study by Indiana University Bloomington researchers confirms the strong link between preterm birth and the risk of infant and young adult death, autism and ADHD. But it also suggests that other threats that have been closely tied to the issue, such as severe mental illness, learning problems, suicide and economic woes, may instead be more closely related to other conditions that family members share.

“The study confirms the degree to which preterm birth is a major public health concern and strongly supports the need for social services that reduce the incidence of preterm birth,” said lead author Brian D’Onofrio, associate professor in the Department of Psychological and Brain Sciences at Indiana University Bloomington. “Yet, the findings also suggest the need to extend services to all siblings in families with an offspring born preterm. In terms of policy, it means that the entire family, including all of the siblings, is at risk.”

(Visit my Tumblr blog for cool pics and a video of a giant limestone brain as the Department of Psychological and Brain Sciences celebrates its 125th anniversary.)

The study is thought to be the largest population-based study of preterm births to date. The sheer number of children in the study — 3.3 million born in Sweden between 1973 and 2008 — allowed the researchers to examine relatively rare conditions, such as birth at 25-30 weeks, schizophrenia and autism. The study also is unique for comparing preterm infants to their non-preterm siblings and cousins.

From the news release:

The problem with previous studies that compared preterm infants to unrelated non-preterm infants, D’Onofrio said, “is that preterm birth is associated with a lot of other factors that are also predictive of poor outcomes in the offspring. So you are not sure if preterm birth or all these other factors actually cause these harmful outcomes. Trying to tease apart what is due to preterm birth or everything that goes along with preterm birth is very difficult.”

Comparing siblings is a way of controlling for and holding constant everything those siblings share: mothers and fathers, socio-economic status, and some genetic factors.

Here is a list of the information tapped, to give you a sense of the volume of data crunched for this study: The Medical Birth Registry, which includes information on more than 99 percent of pregnancies in Sweden since 1973; the Multi-Generation Registry, which contains information about biological relationships for all individuals living in Sweden since 1933; the Migration Register, which supplies information on dates for migration in or out of Sweden; the Cause of Death Register, which includes information on dates and causes of death since 1958; the Patient Registry , which provides diagnoses for all inpatient hospital admissions since 1973 and outpatient care since 2001; the National Crime Register, with detailed information about all criminal convictions since 1973; the National School Register, which includes grades in all subjects for all students at the end of grade 9 since 1983; the Education Register, with information on highest level of completed formal education through 2008; and the Longitudinal Integration Database for Health Insurance and Social Studies, which contains yearly assessments of income, marital status, social welfare status and educational level for all individuals aged 15 and older since 1990.

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Hugh Hefner, Ann Call (Alfred Kinsey’s daughter) discuss the ‘seismic’ Kinsey Report into Female Sexuality Fri, 27 Sep 2013 17:31:31 +0000 This BBC interview is a lot of fun — Hugh Hefner and Ann Call, daughter of famed zoologist and sex researcher Alfred Kinsey, take us back 60 years to the outcry surrounding the release of “Sexual Behavior in the Human Female.”

photo of Alfred Kinsey and a woman interview subject

Alfred Kinsey believed that face-to-face interviews were the best way to get honest answers. Photo by William Dellenback, 1953

“All these people came to him with questions they realized they should know the answers to but didn’t. Some people would send their kids who were getting married to Daddy (Dr. Kinsey) because they didn’t know how to tell ’em about sex,” said Ann Call of her father. “They wanted him to do it for them.”

“The two Kinsey books opened the door to communication and conversation about human sexuality,” said Playboy Magazine founder Hugh Hefner, in his late 20s when the second book was published. “It confirmed what I believed to be true; it was a confirmation of my convictions, so I applauded it and welcomed it as the arrival of the cavalry. The truth was finally being expressed.”

I wrote more about the anniversary last summer.

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What’s wrong with Molly? Wed, 18 Sep 2013 21:16:39 +0000 As a somewhat introverted person, I can see the appeal of the party drug “Molly,” with its purported feelings of emotional warmth, empathy. It’s often associated with dancing and fun. Who doesn’t want to have fun?

Electric Zoo Festival

Electric Zoo Festival

And who doesn’t want to have hyperthermia, seizures, stroke, and kidney and liver failure while they’re at it? Uh, me!

Public health experts at the Indiana Prevention Resource Center at the IU School of Public Health-Bloomington say they’re seeing an increase in requests for information about Molly, which “fans” claim is a safer alternative to the party drug Ecstasy.

Don’t buy it — in any sense of the word.

“Since last spring, seven people attending dance concerts died with symptoms matching overdoses of MDMA (Molly),” said Carole Nowicke, reference specialist at the IPRC. “It sounds harmless, with a name like “Molly,” and references to the drug can go unnoticed. But the consequences can be deadly.”

I frankly felt naïve after reading some information shared by Nowicke about overt references to Molly in popular culture, particularly in rap and other song lyrics. Madonna asked a music festival crowd if they’d seen Molly, and then named her next album MDNA. Jay-Z and Miley Cyrus have sang about Molly.

Here are some examples provided by Nowicke:

“Do you know where I can find Molly? She makes my life happier, more exciting. She makes me want to dance, dance, dance, dance, dance … Please help me find Molly,” a blonde actress intones in a synthesized voice to Cedric Gervais.

In the chorus of Trinidad James’ “One More Molly”

I just popped a super molly
I just popped a super molly
She just popped a super molly
She just popped a super molly
She just won’t stop looking at me
She just won’t stop looking at me
We about to have a party
We about to have a party

Molly, or MDMA, is short for “3, 4-methylenedioxy-N-methylamphetamine.” Its use can lead to many of the health problems encountered with other amphetamines. Overdoses of Molly may lead to hyperthermia, seizures, rhabdomyolosis (breakdown of muscle fibers and releasing their contents into the bloodstream), kidney or liver failure, metabolic disturbances, hemorrhagic stroke or cerebral edema.

Because it manipulates serotonin, it can be particularly harmful to people taking selective serotonin reuptake inhibitor (SSRI) drugs for depression or anxiety. Mild serotonin syndrome symptoms are similar to MDMA use — agitation, confusion, sweating, headache, shivering. Severe serotonin syndrome can be much more serious with a high and irregular heartbeat, seizures, high fever (over 106◦F) and loss of consciousness.

Molly has a reputation for being a purer form of MDMA but in truth, consumers never know what they actually are taking because the drug can be mixed with other illegal drugs. Its effects can be altered when combined with alcohol, caffeine, prescription drugs or multiple doses. Nowicke said that water bottles, light sticks, or LED lights, languorous hair stroking, and sweating can imply Molly use.

I might be naïve, but our kids are learning about Molly — so I’m so glad that the IPRC is raising awareness.

In Indiana 6-12th grade students, 5.3 percent of 12th graders claimed to have tried MDMA in their lifetime, compared with 7.2 percent of students in a national sample. Indiana 12th graders reported in the IPRC survey monthly use of Ecstasy at 1.7 percent, compared to .9 percent in the national report.

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Talking to kids about money, giving Fri, 13 Sep 2013 20:08:29 +0000 As a parent, this paragraph jumped out at me:

“Role-modeling alone does not appear to be as effective as talking to children about giving, the researchers found. Parents who want to raise charitable children should talk intentionally with them about their own philanthropic values and practices throughout childhood and adolescence in addition to role-modeling, they say.”

Debra Mesch

Debra J. Mesch

I have to remind myself to talk to my kids about issues and ideas that I might think are obvious. Modeling is important, but not enough. The paragraph above refers to Women Give 2013, a new study from the Women’s Philanthropy Institute at the Indiana University Lilly Family School of Philanthropy.

According to the report: Children whose parents talk to them about giving are 20 percent more likely to give to charity than children whose parents do not discuss giving with them.

“This research provides a clear, effective path for parents who want to encourage their children to be generous and caring,” said Debra J. Mesch, director of the Women’s Philanthropy Institute.

Read more about Women Give 2013 The Christian Science Monitor and NPR also discuss Mesch’s findings.

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Foreclosure, housing instability can affect students Wed, 04 Sep 2013 15:05:19 +0000 School can be stressful for some students during the best of times. An Indiana University research has found that economic woes, in the form of home foreclosures, can have a lasting impact on children’s academic performance.

home foreclosure sign“We know that, if a family is foreclosed, it can involve a huge amount of stress in the home,” said says Ashlyn Aiko Nelson, an associate professor in the School of Public and Environmental Affairs at IU Bloomington. “And the sort of financial stress that would precipitate a foreclosure would contribute to adverse outcomes for children, for their health and emotional well-being as well as academic outcomes.”

Read the full news item

Nelson said the growing popularity of “school choice” may have lessened the negative impact of foreclosure. Some schools and districts have adopted open-enrollment policies, potentially allowing students to remain at the same school when their family relocates. In some locales, children can attend charter schools where enrollment doesn’t depend on where the family lives.

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‘Oh! Dr. Kinsey!’ Tue, 20 Aug 2013 16:33:07 +0000 Today marks the 60th anniversary of “K Day” – the day the media were allowed to report on the female version of the sensational Kinsey Reports, the book “Sexual Behavior in the Human Female.”

OhNoDrKinseyThe more than 830 pages and $8 price tag didn’t stop it from being a bestseller, and every bit as controversial as the male volume published five years earlier. WFIU/WTIU News Bureau Chief Sara Wittmeyer aired this colorful report on the “Report”.

“There were people who really welcomed it and were so glad that we had this research on women that had never been done before. And there were people who could talk about it and give us knowledge and background,”  says Jennifer Bass, communication director for The Kinsey Institute at Indiana University Bloomington. “And then there were people who were incensed and insulted and upset that the university was doing research on sex.”

Bass and Wittmeyer note the Kinsey Reports came out in a very different time – when Lucy and Ricky Ricardo on “I Love Lucy” were sleeping in separate beds. Now, sexual portrayals on TV can be jarringly graphic, such as some of the prison sex scenes in “Orange is the New Black.”

Bass says (in the WFIU/WTIU report) there’s still a kind of anxiety around sexuality. There’s a lot of information available, but people don’t know how to filter it or what to trust.

“How do I fit in, am I normal? Is there something the matter with me? And maybe now, is there something the matter with me that I’m not having as much fun as everyone else.”

This Kinsey Institute video takes viewers back to the day, with colorful magazine covers, cartoons and other portrayals in the media. Select findings from the Kinsey Reports are available on this page, which includes insights from contemporary sex researchers on the impact of the reports. Below are just a couple.

“The ‘Kinsey Reports’ were in their own way akin to the discovery of the ‘New World’ several centuries earlier. … This pioneering undertaking helped to peel back many of the layers of obfuscation, denial and outright mistruths that had distorted or completely obscured humankind’s understanding of one of our fundamental features. Though many shadows still remain in the domain of sexuality, it was Kinsey’s work that first cast the light of modern science into the darkest of its corners for not just academics but the public as well.”

— June M. Reinisch, former director, The Kinsey Institute for Research in Sex, Gender, and Reproduction

“Kinsey’s work highlighted how frequently homosexual attraction occurs in heterosexuals: almost half of men and a fifth of women in his samples had ‘reacted to’ a member of the same gender. I find it remarkable how casually people my age accept the fluidity of sexual orientation (e.g., being ‘bicurious’) when just a few generations ago, sexual orientation was considered ironclad and absolute.’

— Tierney Lorenz, postdoctoral fellow, Common Themes of Reproductive Diversity, Kinsey Institute, and Center for the Integrative Study of Animal Behavior, Indiana University

Back to the future — Researchers with The Kinsey Institute for Research in Sex, Gender and Reproduction collaborated with colleagues at the Center for Sexual Health Promotion in the IU School of Public Health-Bloomington to conduct the National Survey of Sexual Health and Behavior, which examined the sexual behavior of 14 to 94-year-olds in the U.S. Researchers with both institutions and in other academic departments continue to examine important questions about human sexuality, with some of the findings and projects appearing in this blog. Kinsey Confidential also provides a wide range of sexual health information through blogs, podcasts and other news.

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Addicted to your cell phone? Wed, 14 Aug 2013 15:04:28 +0000 Visit Health & Vitality on Tumblr to learn about being too connected.

no cell phones beyond this point

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Gym class isn’t just for jocks — or it shouldn’t be Fri, 09 Aug 2013 13:31:53 +0000 Personally, I always loved gym class as a kid. Dodgeball, relay races. I have flashbacks to my classmates standing around the trampoline as we took turns bouncing. So, I was somewhat surprised when I realized it wasn’t for everyone.

Dodgeball image“I always dreaded the picking of teams and kids yelling at you when you mess up,” said one of my colleagues this week when the topic of physical education classes came up. “And dodgeball was just downright mean, with boys trying to hit you as hard as they could. I would get hit on purpose as early as possible so I could sit down.”

I’ve heard these same comments from many friends over the years. PE definitely can make an impression on kids.

Needless to say, my colleague was pleased to read about a school wellness program that instructs physical education staff in the use of a curriculum that emphasizes movement and activity over sport-specific skills.

“I was never good at or interested in sports, and PE always seemed to involve either kickball or dodgeball,” she said. “I’m glad to see that schools are taking a broader approach to physical fitness.”

I touched on this approach when I wrote about a new Indiana University study that examined a school wellness program that was shown to help students in elementary and middle school increase their physical activity, despite widespread cuts to PE classes and recess.

“With support from teachers, administrators and parents, our schools can become healthier places,” said Mindy Hightower King, evaluation manager at the Indiana Institute on Disability and Community at IU Bloomington. “Despite budget cuts and increasing emphasis on academic skills, schools are choosing to focus on improving student health, which ultimately can support improved academic performance.”

Mindy Hightower King

Mindy Hightower King

The study examined HEROES, which is based on the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s coordinated school health model. HEROES is designed to enhance schoolwide wellness through changes in physical education, nutrition, health promotion efforts for school staff and family, and community involvement. King said programs like this do not require grant funding and that free resources are available online.

“Schools that showed higher levels of program implementation had more students increase their physical activity,” King said. “In addition, vigorous physical activity, defined as activity that raises heart rate and breathing, increased more in girls than in boys. This latter finding is especially important, as past research has shown that boys of this age typically engage in more vigorous physical activity than girls.”

A “broader approach to physical fitness” is an apt description of the SPARK curriculum used by HEROES. King said it includes more than 300 activities, including cooperative and aerobic games, dances, obstacle courses, fitness circuits and parachute play. She said quite a bit of research has linked SPARK with “everything from fitness to academic achievement, and even behavior outcomes.”

When I think back to my behavior as a youngster, I image that I would have benefited from an approach like this, although kickball and dodgeball still were a lot of fun.

Co-authors of the study include lead author Dong-Chul Seo, IU School of Public Health-Bloomington; Nayoung Kim, IU School of Public Health-Bloomington; Danielle Sovinski, Center on Education and Lifelong Learning; Rhonda Meade, Welborn Baptist Foundation; and Alyssa M. Lederer, Center on Education and Lifelong Learning and IU School of Public Health-Bloomington.

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Whimsy on a hot summer day Thu, 08 Aug 2013 20:08:02 +0000 More than a dozen balanced stone sculptures in the Jordan River on Indiana University’s Bloomington campus.


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A revolutionary, even evolutionary, concept of happiness Thu, 01 Aug 2013 15:30:26 +0000 This CNN article about happiness fascinates me and has gotten the two angels on my shoulders whispering in my ears.

The hedonic angel, who resembles my mischievous friend Ben, tells me it’s junk science and, well, I can’t repeat here the rest of his colorful commentary. The other angel looks and sounds a lot like psychology professor Bernardo Carducci, director of the Shyness Research Institute at Indiana University Southeast. “Yes! That’s the beauty of volunteering and helping others,” he says. “You can make a real difference in somebody else’s life. And while you’re helping other people, you help yourself – you’re happier, you make connections, connections that can lead to love interests, friendships, better jobs.”

What is the root of your happiness?

What is the root of your happiness?

Ben shoots off some fireworks to get my attention.

In the CNN article, researchers from the University of North Carolina and UCLA discuss their study findings that the root of one’s happiness can have a significant impact at a cellular, genetic level:

“I know what misery looks like on a genetic level,” (UCLA medical professor Steve) Cole said. “I can look at white blood cells and see a physical response to stress and misery, but we knew very little about how — if at all — positive psychology gets disseminated to the body. That’s what this study does.”

… The study found that people who experienced the well-being that comes from self-gratification had high inflammation and low antiviral and antibody gene expression, a result similar to what people who are depressed or experience great stress have.

The people who found happiness by pursuing a greater good had a lower level of this inflammatory gene expression and strong antiviral and antibody gene expression.

A Colorado College microbiologist explains in the article the potential impact of constant levels of inflammation, saying it can cause exhaustion and tissue damage and can increase risks for cancer, heart disease and Alzheimer’s.

Personally, I cherish happiness and rarely take it for granted, so I think I’ll keep both of my angels.

With a new school year upon us, here are some insights from Carducci about happiness for college students and their families.

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Health law expert: U.S. Supreme Court curbing FDA health efforts Wed, 17 Jul 2013 18:30:38 +0000 A health law expert at Indiana University says the U.S. Supreme Court has “narrowed governmental power to preserve the public’s health,” while it broadens corporate freedom to advertise.

Rejected cigarette warning label

Rejected label

“As a result, government today is much more susceptible to challenge when it tries to regulate the promotional activities of the tobacco or pharmaceutical industry,” David J. Orentlicher, co-director of the William S. and Christine S. Hall Center for Law and Health at the IU Robert H. McKinney School of Law, wrote in an opinion piece published in the New England Journal of Medicine.

“The Supreme Court’s increasing sympathy for corporate speech and decreasing deference to public health authorities makes it more difficult for government to protect the public’s health,” wrote Orentlicher, who holds both a law degree and medical degree.

Orentlicher cited as an example the dispute over graphic anti-smoking images on cigarette packs. Congress authorized the graphic warnings in 2009, but once the disturbing images were presented, several tobacco companies successfully sued, alleging that the art violated their First Amendment rights.

The D.C. Circuit Court essentially rejected the FDA’s judgment that the images were necessary and indicated that the companies should not be forced to spend their money disseminating the government’s viewpoint, Orentlicher wrote. The government’s authority to mandate graphic warnings was upheld, though, so the FDA has gone back to the drawing board to see if it can come up with effective images that won’t get struck down in court.

How do they know what will work? It sounds like clarification would be helpful.

“When do graphic warnings cross the line between trying to inform and trying to persuade?” Orentlicher wrote. What misleading information can the graphic warnings address? “(I)f courts will not defer to the judgment of public health authorities about the need for disclosure mandates, what kind of empirical evidence must the FDA present in order to justify the use of graphic warnings?”

A recent news release includes information about the editorial and also a study that examined the relationship between quitting smoking, heart disease, weight gain and diabetes in older women. Jon Macy, a public health expert at the IU School of Public Health-Bloomington, recently discussed two studies that look at the relationship between smoking and stress.

The McKinney Law School is at Indiana University-Purdue University Indianapolis.

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Yoga instruction creates school-religion controversy Fri, 05 Jul 2013 18:06:21 +0000 I can’t imagine that we’ve heard the last about whether yoga is appropriate in a school setting.

U.S. researchers already are studying the effects qigong can have on adults but little is known about the effects on children.

U.S. researchers already are studying the effects qigong can have on adults, but little is known about the effects on children.

I’m a big fan of yoga, which I practice for mental health purposes as much as for its immediate physical benefits. But I can see how its religious roots could unnerve those of differing spiritual beliefs, regardless of the Americanization yoga has undergone with its many iterations (hot yoga?).

From the Reuters article:

A California judge refused on Monday to block the teaching of yoga as part of a public school’s physical fitness program, rejecting parents’ claims that the classes were an unconstitutional promotion of Eastern religions.

Judge John Meyer acknowledged that yoga “at its roots is religious” but added that the modern practice of yoga, despite its origins in Hindu philosophy, is deeply engrained in secular U.S. society and “is a distinctly American cultural phenomenon.”

He also said the Encinitas Unified School District had developed its own version of yoga that was not religious but distinct and separate from Ashtanga yoga.

Is this sort of like saying that Christmas for many people has evolved into a commercial celebration so closing public schools each year for the holiday is a secular tradition?

Also from the Reuters article:

The plaintiffs’ expert, professor of religious studies Candy Gunther Brown (Indiana University Bloomington College of Arts and Sciences), testified that yoga practice indoctrinates Hindu religious practices whether the individual knows it or not.

Brown cited research suggesting yoga practice changes the user’s brain and thoughts, a sort of gateway drug to the occult.

I’ve blogged about IU research that examines the use of modified yoga for therapeutic purposes following stroke. An IU Communications article talked about how a doctoral student at the IU School of Public Health taught fourth-graders the traditional Chinese exercise qigong, to help the youngsters with flexibility, concentration, ability to relax, endurance and teamwork skills.

The separation of church and state is important, but I also hope kids don’t have to wait until they’re adults to experience the benefits of yoga and other Eastern practices, especially if they pose an easy and affordable classroom solution to children’s needs.

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Sitting less, moving more could be easier than you think Tue, 02 Jul 2013 13:28:08 +0000 Last month the American Medical Association adopted a new policy on sitting in the workplace, paraphrased by the L.A. Times as “Get off your butts”.



“Prolonged sitting, particularly in work settings, can cause health problems and encouraging workplaces to offer employees alternatives to sitting all day will help to create a healthier workforce,” AMA board member Patrice Harris said in a statement that cited standing work stations and isometric balls as possible alternatives.

(I need reminded – I just swapped out my desk chair for my stability ball.)

A study by Jeanne Johnston, clinical associate professor at the IU School of Public Health-Bloomington, seems to suggest that just helping people like me become more aware of how much we sit can help us sit less, move more and lose weight.

“We are beginning to recognize that sitting without any movement may even be worse than not getting enough physical activity,” Johnston told an NPR Shots blogger last month. She says many people don’t realize how much time they spend sitting each day.

She and colleague Saurabh Thosar presented a study last spring at the American College of Sports Medicine annual meeting that discussed how a simple program that uses a pedometer to monitor movement resulted in decreased sitting time, more movement and weight loss for study participants.

Pedometers aren’t new, but Johnston and Thosar’s study was the first to use them to monitor and reduce sitting time and the first to examine the amount of physical activity versus structured exercise people experience throughout the day.

Study participants used an Omron HJ-720 and also received twice weekly emails containing nutritional and exercise tips. They were encouraged to download their data onto a computer, where they could look at a graph of their steps as a function of time. They also were encouraged to be active during the hours for which they had zero steps, such as when they watched TV or worked at a desk.

After the 12-week program, participants saw a significant decrease in sitting time and a significant increase in physical activity. The mean weight loss was almost 2.5 pounds. Johnston chose the Omron for several reasons, one being that it had been tested for research purposes for accuracy. She likes it because it doesn’t need to be worn on the hip; it can be carried in a backpack or pocket. It also captures sitting time and more than just steps, such as when someone walks 3.5 mph or faster for at least 10 minutes. Other technology out there, such as Nike Fuel Band, and FitBit, do this and more, and have a bigger price tag than Omron, which costs less than $40.

I asked Johnston how important the informational aspect of her 12-week program was to its success. She said it just depends on individual motivation. She said social support also is important.

“I think the biggest thing is being able to monitor yourself and setting goals,” she said.

I don’t think I want to know how much time I spend on my duff, which tells me I really need to find out.

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Supreme Court marriage rulings historic, fuzzy? Wed, 26 Jun 2013 20:50:16 +0000 The rulings by the U.S. Supreme Court on two same-sex marriage cases are heralded in the press as historic even though Indiana University experts in family law and public opinion also use such phrases as “an expedient way to dodge a decision,” “needlessly fuzzy,” and in baseball lingo, a “walk or a single” compared to a “home run.”

Photo by Aimee Cardwell

Photo by Aimee Cardwell

In United States v. Windsor, the court tossed out a key section of the federal Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA).

“This is a momentous step forward for gay and lesbian couples and their families,” said Deborah Widiss, associate professor of law in the IU Maurer School of Law in Bloomington, in today’s news release. “Tens of thousands of same-sex married couples will receive very important new rights under federal law, covering everything from taxes, to time off from work to take care of a spouse, to immigration rights, to military benefits.”

She’s talking about more than 1,000 spousal benefits that previously had been unavailable to same-sex couples and their families. This CNN article discusses some of the substantial financial costs of marriage inequality.

In Hollingsworth v. Perry, the justices let stand a lower-court ruling that overturned Proposition 8, California’s voter initiative outlawing gay marriage. IU Sociologist Brian Powell described the DOMA ruling as historic, saying it would have been unimaginable five to 10 years ago. The Proposition 8 ruling, by contrast, was less expansive.

Before the ruling, approximately one in six Americans lived in a state that legally allowed same-sex marriage or accepted same-sex marriage that was granted in another state. Once same-sex marriage rights are restored in California, this number will increase to about one in three Americans.

“The DOMA decision is a bold decision, while the Prop 8 decision is a timid one,” said Powell, author of “Counted Out: Same-Sex Relations and Americans’ Definitions of Family” (Russell Sage Foundation, 2010), in the news release. “In baseball lingo, it’s akin to DOMA being a home run and Prop 8 being a walk or a single.”

Ryan Scott, associate professor of law in the IU Maurer School of Law in Bloomington, said the Proposition 8 ruling could cause problems down the road.

“In my opinion, this is an unfortunate and poorly reasoned standing decision that invents several new hurdles for appellants seeking review in federal court,” Scott said in the news release. “Based on the novelty of the requirements it imposes, it seems clear that the justices in the majority wanted some excuse — any excuse! — to avoid reaching the merits of the equal protection issue, and they saw this resolution as an expedient way to dodge the decision. … Ballot measures to legalize marijuana, to reform state taxes, to regulate abortion, to expand access to education and health care and to prohibit affirmative action may be struck down by a federal court, and this decision will make appellate review of those judgments, even if incorrect, much more difficult to secure.”

Beth Cate, associate professor in the IU School of Public and Environmental Affairs in Bloomington, says Justice Anthony Kennedy’s DOMA opinion is “needlessly fuzzy” about both what aspects of the Fifth Amendment he is relying on — due process or equal protection — and what standard of review he is using.

Chief Justice John Roberts suggests Kennedy “has boxed himself into accepting state-by-state judgments on whether gay couples may marry. And that seems correct — and not inconsistent with Justice Kennedy’s discussion of ‘people power’ in the Proposition 8 case — even though Kennedy leaves a bit of wiggle room by saying that states are subject to ‘constitutional limitations.’

“Until the Court has another opportunity to address the constitutionality of state same-sex marriage bans,” she says in the news release, “attention will continue to focus on the state-by-state pursuit of marriage equality.”

Jennifer Ann Drobac, professor of law in the IU McKinney School of Law in Indianapolis, says the court’s decision overturns DOMA and paves the way for recognition of validly performed same-sex marriages in all states. From the release:

“Twelve states and the District of Columbia currently issue licenses for same-sex marriages,” she said. “Same-sex couples, their children, and their friends will feel vindicated and elated over the court’s recognition of their rights and lawful family bonds. The majority decision is much broader than some pundits anticipated and will bring joy to many families.”

Widiss added that the ruling will create new challenges for the federal government and courts in determining which marriages “count” for federal purposes. Also, the government will also have to decide whether to treat state-sanctioned civil unions as marriages under federal law.

“If a couple is married in Iowa but moves to a state like Indiana, which does not recognize same-sex marriages, are they still ‘married’ under federal law?” she asked in the news release. “Or will their federal ‘marriage’ dissolve when they cross state lines?”

In this CNN video, the plaintiff in the DOMA case discusses the ruling.


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U.S. Supreme Court expected to rule this week on same-sex marriage cases Mon, 24 Jun 2013 16:20:20 +0000 The U.S. Supreme Court is expected to issue rulings this week on two cases involving challenges to the California voter initiative that prohibited same-sex marriage and the federal Defense of Marriage Act. In March, the oral arguments before the justices fueled a media storm about the controversial cases.

Jennifer Drobac

Jennifer Drobac

While decisions have yet to be issues, media already are talking about the matter. Family law expert Jennifer Drobac, family law expert and professor at the Indiana University Robert H. McKinney School of Law in Indianapolis, spoke with WIBC radio, speculating that the court would allow states to make their own decisions, based on the Supreme Court’s states’ rights leanings. Steve Sanders, professor at the IU Maurer School of Law, spoke with the American Constitutional Society, saying he hoped that civil rights groups would focus on protecting the rights of legally married same-sex couples if the Supreme Court avoids a sweeping opinion concerning the California case.

I blogged about the issue last spring, as well, sharing some of IU Sociologist Brian Powell’s public opinion research and insights on the issue.

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Outlook hazy for ‘smog-eating’ surface coatings Thu, 20 Jun 2013 18:11:47 +0000 It sounded like a great idea – a material that could break down airborne pollutants on contact. But why the headline: “’Self-cleaning’ pollution-control technology could do more harm than good, study suggests”?

Photo by Dave Herholz

Los Angeles

An Indiana University study suggests that widespread use of pollution-fighting technologies containing titanium dioxide actually could “contribute significantly to ozone formation.”

From a news release about the study:

“The findings are timely because the Environmental Protection Agency is developing stricter regulations for ground-level ozone, a primary component in photochemical smog. The pollution is linked to serious health problems, including breathing difficulties and heart and lung disease.”

The tighter air-quality standards on the horizon created an interest in titanium dioxide, which the news release describes as a common mineral that is used as a whitening agent in paints and surface coatings. “Self-cleaning” surfaces coated with titanium dioxide can break down chemical grime that would otherwise adhere to urban buildings. It seemed so promising that even more uses have been discussed, such as using it for environmental remediation and for combating global warming.

From the news release:

“As air quality standards become more stringent, people are going to be thinking about other technologies that can reduce pollution,” said Jonathan D. Raff, assistant professor in the School of Public and Environmental Affairs at IU Bloomington and an author of the study. “Our research suggests that this may not be one of them.”

The use of titanium dioxide to fight pollution in the U.S. is still in its infancy, while its use is more common in Europe. The news release goes into much more detail about the findings.

“Even though the technology is in its infancy in the U.S., there is much interest in it, especially if stricter ozone emission standards come into force,” Raff said.

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Talking about cancer Wed, 12 Jun 2013 19:07:05 +0000 To many, Susan Gubar, a pioneering feminist and cultural critic, is considered an Indiana University treasure. Her teaching and writings have won accolades. Her recent blogging for The New York Times can be gripping.

Susan Gubar

Susan Gubar

Gubar contributes to the Living With Cancer blog and writes intimately about life and death and matters in between — such as eyebrows and family — as she shares her experiences with ovarian cancer. Last year I blogged about her book, “Memoir of a Debulked Woman: Enduring ovarian cancer,” which received a lot of media attention because of its candid and gritty approach to such a personal subject.

Her most recent Living With Cancer post talks about the boost she got from a program that helps cancer survivors feel better by looking better. I recommend reading this and her other posts. They’re enlightening and can stir a range of emotions, including gratitude in this writer because Gubar takes the time to share something many people are uncomfortable discussing.

Gubar is Indiana University Ruth Halls and Distinguished Professor Emerita in the Department of English in the College of Arts and Sciences.

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A new approach – “Schizo: the Movie” Fri, 07 Jun 2013 14:28:58 +0000 A few years ago, research by noted Indiana University sociologist Bernice Pescosolido found that Americans who struggled with mental illness still encountered stigmatization that could make their lives even more challenging – despite concerted efforts and public health messages to reverse this.

“Prejudice and discrimination in the U.S. aren’t moving,” she said in 2010. “In fact, in some cases, it may be increasing. It’s time to stand back and rethink our approach.”

Pescosolido and her colleagues continue to conduct research in this area. Their findings have caught the attention of leaders who appear very interested in rethinking the approach taken to addressing stigma, which can stymie efforts to seek help and can affect such basic needs as housing, employment and relationships.

Bernice Pescosolido

Bernice Pescosolido

During this week’s National Conference on Mental Health, hosted by President Barack Obama and Vice President Joe Biden, findings from Pescosolido’s studies were cited by Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius and actress Glenn Close. Close’s Bring Change 2 Mind works to address the stigma and discrimination faced by people like her sister and nephew, who is featured in the new “Schizo: the Movie” public service announcement discussed by USA Today. Pescosolido chairs the international advisory council for Bring Change 2 Mind and has had the opportunity to give input into new PSAs. She can be seen in some of the behind-the-scenes videos posted to Bring Change 2 Mind’s YouTube Page.

Monday’s conference at the White House was considered a call by Obama for a national conversation about mental health and the harmful effects of stigma. The conference launched a new website designed to provide information, resources and encouragement for people struggling with mental health issues and for the family, friends and communities also affected.

An HHS Storify includes news stories and social media posts related to the conference and stigma issue. Pescosolido is Distinguished Professor and Chancellor’s Professor of Sociology in the College of Arts and Sciences at IU Bloomington. She also is director of the Indiana Consortium for Mental Health Services Research.

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Elite athletes often shine sooner or later — but not both Tue, 04 Jun 2013 17:37:29 +0000 We all know people who say they stopped growing in eighth-grade (like me) or grew several inches in college (like my brother). For high school athletes who try to take it to the next level after graduation, this variation can mean the difference between mediocrity or athletic success.

TrackPicAn Indiana University School of Public Health-Bloomington study discusses how elite athletes who peak under 20 usually do not see similar success as “senior athletes” – athletes older than 20 – because the athletes tearing it up at the Olympics, for example, typically mature physically later than their younger peers.

Only 23.6 percent of the junior athletes in the study by Robert Chapman, assistant professor in the Department of Kinesiology, and graduate student Joshua Foss went on to medal in the Olympics. Only 29.9 percent of the Olympians studied won significant medals earlier in their careers.

“You see it in a lot of sports,” said Chapman, associate director of sport science and medicine for USA Track and Field and a former cross country coach at IU. “Elite performers in senior sports tend to be the ones who mature later. But it’s hard to measure, particularly in men, the rate at which they mature. I had a very successful runner grow 4 inches in college while he ran for me.”

This can be a challenge for college coaches recruiting for their team. How can they tell if an athlete has peaked? I have a lot of sympathy for the athletes I read about who were described as high school phenoms but then peaked, despite their hard work, and went on to have only mediocre athletic careers.

Here is an Education Week piece about the study, which was one of dozens of IU studies discussed recently at the American College of Sports Medicine’s annual meeting.


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Simple steps for skin safety Wed, 29 May 2013 16:51:59 +0000 Two news stories put skin cancer and skin protection top of mind for me this week. The New York Times’ “For a Boomer, Sunscreens Came Late and Cancer Came Too Soon” drove home the potential consequences (disfigurement, plastic surgery) of skin cancer. WebMD’s “Sunscreens Not Created Equal: Consumer Reports” discusses tests results for effective sunscreens – cost doesn’t indicate quality.

fishingLawrence A. Mark, M.D., an assistant professor of dermatology at the Indiana University School of Medicine and a physician-researcher at the IU Melvin and Bren Simon Cancer Center, offered these tips along with tips for spotting cancer.

  • Apply sunscreen with an SPF of at least 30. Mark explained SPF this way: If your skin begins to redden after being in the sun for one minute, you could expect to be in the sun for 30 minutes while wearing an SPF of 30 before you see the same amount of reddening.
  • Wear appropriate clothing, such as a wide-brim hat, long-sleeved shirt and long pants.
  • The sun’s rays are strongest from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m.; limit long periods of time outdoors during these hours.

This Health & Vitality post discusses summer and sun eye safety issues. I’m still trying to get my younger kids to wear sunglasses!

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Prescription drug abuse: Hoosier teens discuss a dangerous and growing problem Fri, 17 May 2013 19:07:53 +0000 Most parents, like me, want to believe that their kids won’t sneak pills from the medicine cabinet or buy prescription drugs from friends. If this were the case, though, prescription drug abuse wouldn’t be considered such a problem nationwide and in Indiana, where youths were ranked second in the nation for reported use of prescription drugs in a federal report.

The consequences of prescription drug misuse include addiction, overdose and death.

The Indiana Prevention Resource Center, which is part of the Indiana University School of Public Health-Bloomington, holds an annual PSA video contest to encourage Indiana youth to learn more about this threat. Check out what the students have to say; below are the winning videos. And for more information about prescription drug abuse, including common myths and info about drug disposal, visit KeepRxSafe.








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Here’s to stepping off the sidelines and jumping into the game Wed, 08 May 2013 13:03:34 +0000
Some people see exercise as a chore or game. For Emily Ward, it’s so much more. It’s adventure, community. It can be life-changing, especially when it involves surpassing limits and accomplishing the unexpected.

“It helps us get beyond our self-imposed limitations, to be someone we might have been keeping ourselves from being and doing things we never imagined we could — and the end product is such personal joy … and physical health,” said Ward, a seasoned marathoner, ironman and former college swim coach.

Would you like to have what she’s having? She says it just takes two people and an adventure.

Ward discussed Women With Will, a group she started 14 years ago to help women in her church congregation train for a triathlon, during the TEDxBloomington talks this spring.

She talked about how the weekly training sessions grew and turned into so much more – countless firsts (for me, first 5K, half-marathon, diabolical trail relay, Hilly Hundred bike tour), meaningful friendships, a safe and supportive community where conversations are as varied as the women, who range in age, occupations and running/walking/cycling/swimming speeds.

“There’s something about working out in community that pushes us to show up,” said Ward during her TEDx talk. “And there’s something about bearing witness to other people’s lives that helps us live our own. There’s something about meeting physical challenges that helps us feel more resilient to life’s challenges.”

Sadly, there’s still something about being a woman that can inhibit our physical activity and acceptance of our own bodies. We sometimes feel guilty about prioritizing our own needs. But there’s power in numbers, baby! And in movement.

“Everybody deserves this in their lives and anybody can do this,” says Ward, program director for aquatics, informal sports and student development at Campus Recreational Sports at the IU School of Public Health-Bloomington. “All it takes is two or more people willing to go on an adventure together. All it really takes is a willingness to get off the sidelines and jump into the game.”

Follow on Twitter @Vitality_IU

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Study examines new moms’ brain activity, sexual desire Fri, 03 May 2013 17:49:42 +0000 I think of that 3-4 month period following the births of my three kids as The Twilight Zone (can you hear the music, too?). Everything, for the most part, is a haze, and it’s not because the kids were born 8, 12 and 14 years ago. My brain, at the time, more than likely was having a “hormonal bath.”

babypic_webFor many women, births trigger chemical changes to the brain, in addition to obvious changes to the body. Researchers at The Kinsey Institute at Indiana University Bloomington and their colleagues in the College of Arts and Sciences consider this postpartum period prime for study. It can provide a better understanding of the survival of our species – and the survival of couples’ relationships.

“We’re particularly interested in what accommodations people have to make when they have kids — men and women — and the stresses,” said Julia Heiman, director of The Kinsey Institute. “It’s been studied, but how then do other emotional features, relationship factors and sexuality fit in? These have been neglected even though they’re important to relationships.”

It’s common, for example, for new mothers to be uninterested in sex during the six months following a baby’s birth. Sometimes this is described as a dysfunction. There’s more to it, though, than women being sore and frazzled.

In a Kinsey Institute study that examined this question, some of the postpartum women who looked at arousing sexual images found them anything but arousing. It wasn’t something like, “Well, that looks like fun if I weren’t so tired.” It was more like, “Yuk.”

The “findings emphasize the complexity in the mechanisms underlying fluctuations in women’s reproductive priorities,” Heiman and her collaborators wrote in a journal article published recently in Hormones and Behavior. The lead author is Heather Rupp, research fellow at The Kinsey Institute. “We believe that decreases in sexual desire during the postpartum period may less be considered a dysfunction or problem and more positively as behavioral neuroendocrine change characteristics of the postpartum period warranting further investigation.”

The researchers are particularly interested in how the hormone oxytocin influences mothers’ brains. They have conducted experiments where they take images of the brains of new mothers and nulliparous women — women who have never had children — after having them look at pictures designed to elicit certain kinds of reactions, and after administering oxytocin to some.

Julia Heiman

Julia Heiman

Oxytocin, which is released in greater amounts during and after childbirth, is known to play a powerful role in a healthy mother’s unique state of mind by providing a calming effect when mothers breastfeed and by heightening interest in baby-related threats.

In their Hormones and Behavior study, the researchers expected to find that postpartum women, when compared to the other women, showed a stronger reaction in their amygdala, the part of the brain that controls emotional response, to images involving babies and a weaker reaction to sexual images. This would fit evolutionary models that anticipate trade-offs and priorities.

In reality, however, the postpartum women showed less reaction to all the images, including those of the babies (generally pleasant images, not threatening) and pictures considered neutral. When the postpartum women were asked to subjectively rate their reaction to the images, the results were as expected, with reports of less reaction to sexual images but stronger reaction to baby images compared to the other women.

“We interpret these data to suggest that decreases in self-reported feelings of sexual desire in postpartum women are related, in part, to a generalized decrease in amygdala responsiveness to arousing stimuli rather than a sex-stimulus specific change in brain function during the postpartum period,” they wrote.

This blog post discusses the team’s findings in another study that looked at how oxytocin might influence how postpartum mothers react to threats both related and unrelated to babies.

The research is expected to provide a better understanding of factors that contribute to postpartum depression, which can be debilitating and even deadly, and to provide insights into adaptations women undergo as they and their partners move on with their lives while building families.

“The amount of adaptation and accommodation and incorporation of complexity and feelings in life has been underappreciated,” Heiman said. “We need to appreciate this period, not just celebrate or criticize.”

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Lessons from reality TV Thu, 25 Apr 2013 18:14:00 +0000 I used to think of my reality TV browsings as guilty pleasures, but after talking with Brenda Weber, author of “Makeover TV: Selfhood, Citizenship, and Celebrity,” and listening to friends talk about their shows (“Keeping Up With the Kardashians?” Really, Ryan?), I’m ashamed no more. The shows, after all, can be very educational.

RGVC posterWeber, associate professor and director of graduate studies in the Department of Gender Studies at IU Bloomington, studies the genre and has another book in the works. She organized a conference, Reality Gendervision, which is bringing other academics immersed in the topic to Bloomington on Friday and Saturday to discuss “sexuality and gender on reality TV.” Some of the researchers are traveling from as far away as New Zealand and Germany.

“The conference is putting IU on the map in an interesting way,” Weber said. “We’ve held similar conferences in Dublin and Auckland, New Zealand. We’re thinking about having the next one in Turkey.”

There seems to be no end to the topics covered on reality TV. I liked to watch “Project Runway” and admit I’m a perfect candidate for “What Not to Wear.” When my son’s girlfriend came over one Saturday, we all sat around the sectional watching “Here Comes Honey Boo Boo” – I finally understood the cultural reference. Stunning show.

My kids and I made a point of watching “Finding Bigfoot,” just before embarking on a weekend trip to Salt Fork State Park, which is in prime “squatch” territory in Ohio (Southern Indiana has some hot spots, too, it turns out).

I really want to watch “Duck Dynasty,” especially after my colleague Bethany recounted a poodle masterfully duck hunting (I have a schnoodle). Weber always tuned in to “Ruby,” which followed a 700-pound woman as she tried to come to terms with her life, weight and virginity.

There are travel shows, like “My Big Redneck Vacation” and “The Amazing Race.” There’s “The Real Housewives of …” franchise and “Ax Men.” “Sister Wives” follows a polygamist family in the U.S.

Reality TV blossomed in the 1990s when the television writers went on strike, but now with hundreds of cable channels and 24/7 viewing habits, it’s here to stay, Weber says. And prime for studying.

“Because reality TV tends to get denigrated as a trash genre, some people talk about it as the decline of Western civilization, lowest common denominator TV, and as a result, people often don’t pay critical attention to it because they think it doesn’t have ideological or aesthetic elements,” Weber said. “From a scholarly viewpoint, you have to take for granted that it’s doing important cultural and aesthetic work — sometimes this is problematic and sometimes it’s progressive.”

The various shows are full of morality tales and show viewers how to behave – and not to behave. Viewers can learn how to dress better, be more telegenic, parent better.

“Shows like ‘Jersey Shore’ and ‘Hoarders’ often are about violating norms,” Weber said. “We’re supposed to laugh at it, but it’s always instructional.”

More information about the conference, which requires registration and a fee.


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Positive thinking can pay off Wed, 17 Apr 2013 15:06:12 +0000 Growing up, I was unaware of the stereotype that girls struggle with math. Good thing. Social psychologists at Indiana University and elsewhere have found that when people are made aware of a negative stereotype that could relate to them, it can negatively affect their performance in that area.

test_webIf I was reminded, for example, before tests that girls are weaker at math than boys, I might not have performed as well on the tests. Stereotype threat, as it’s called, has been known to affect performance in academics, athletics and other areas. Robert J. Rydell, assistant professor in the Department of Psychological and Brain Sciences at IU Bloomington, found that stereotype threat could have an even deeper effect by negatively impacting actual learning. His findings are discussed in a news release about his study “Stereotype threat prevents perceptual learning,” published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

According to Rydell and research colleagues, it might be possible to fight fire with fire, so to speak. In another study, “Multiple Social Identities and Stereotype Threat: Imbalance, Accessibility, and Working Memory,” he found that a positive stereotype could cancel out the harmful effect of the negative stereotype.

The study also demonstrates how the negative stereotype encroached on working memory, thus leaving less brain power for the mathematical task at hand. The positive stereotypes had no such effect, however, and when coupled with the negative stereotype erased its drain on working memory.

“This research shows that because people are members of multiple social groups that often have contradictory performance stereotypes (for example, Asian females in the domain of math), making them aware of both a positive group stereotype and a negative stereotype eliminates the threat and underperformance that is usually seen when they dwell only on their membership in a negatively stereotyped group,” Rydell said in the news release. “People seem motivated to align themselves with positively stereotyped groups and, as a byproduct, can eliminate the worry, stress and cognitive depletion brought about by negative performance stereotypes, increasing actual performance.”

Graduate student Katie Van Loo and Rydell published research findings recently that suggest feeling powerful might protect against the “debilitating effects of negative stereotypes.” The study involved a series of experiments that at one point called on the women to recall an incident where they had control over someone else or others had control over them.

“It’s not that power made them better at math,” Van Loo said in the news release, “but it buffered them from the effect of the negative stereotype. When women feel powerful, they can demonstrate their ability relatively unimpeded by stereotype threat.”

As for the practical lessons to be taken from this study, Van Loo said, “It’s a little preliminary, but the reason we did this is to try to get to the point where we could make a recommendation and show something that can be helpful.”

“Maybe if you’re a student and you’re about to take a math test, try doing a thought exercise before you take a test,” she said. “It might be helpful to think about a time when you had power. Maybe that would protect you.”

The paper, “On the Experience of Feeling Powerful: Perceived Power Moderates the Effect of Stereotype Threat on Women’s Math Performance,” was published in the Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin.

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IU study highlights mercury content in fish, shellfish Fri, 12 Apr 2013 17:35:29 +0000 To eat or not to eat? That is the question … about fish.

Channelcat_webKa He, an epidemiologist at the Indiana University School of Public Health-Bloomington, has found a link between high levels of mercury exposure in young adults and an increased risk for type 2 diabetes – by 65 percent – later in life.

Fish and shellfish consumption is the main source of mercury exposure. Fish also contains lean protein and other important nutrients, such as magnesium and omega-3 polyunsaturated fatty acids, making it an important part of a healthy diet. In fact it’s these healthy components that might counter the diabetes risk related to the mercury. Other studies have found no association between fish consumption and diabetes, but He says these studies did not isolate the effect of the mercury. His study controlled for such variables as lifestyle and dietary factors (those with the highest levels of mercury also had lower BMIs and waist circumferences and exercised more).

If the risk is a wash, do we still have cause to worry? Yes, He said. The findings point to the need to select fish known to have lower levels of mercury, such as shrimp, salmon and catfish, and to avoid fish known to have higher levels, such as swordfish and shark. The FDA and EPA have recommendations, as well.

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Do you suffer from nature-deficit disorder? Wed, 10 Apr 2013 14:12:41 +0000 Author and nature enthusiast Richard Louv, who is speaking at IU Bloomington on Friday, sees a future in which people are as immersed in nature as they are in technology – and I don’t think a man cave is what he has in mind.

The Nature Principle book cover“The future will belong to the nature-smart – those individuals, families, businesses and political leaders who develop a deeper understanding of the transformative power of the natural world and who balance the virtual with the real,” said Louv, author of such books as “Last Child in the Woods” and “The Nature Principle.” “The more high-tech we become, the more nature we need.”

Louv is delivering the IU School of Public Health’s Reynold E. Carlson Lecture at 1 p.m. Friday in the Whittenberger Auditorium at the Indiana Memorial Union. The event is free and open to the public.

Louv coined the phrase nature-deficit disorder to characterize the growing gulf between children and nature and now people of all ages and nature. He claims the restorative powers of nature can “boost mental acuity and creativity; promote health and wellness; build smarter and more sustainable businesses, communities and economies; and strengthen human bonds.”

He links nature-deficit to such childhood trends as obesity, attention disorders and depression.

His website includes resource guides with links to many organizations and to suggestions for nature activities, such as a daily “green” hour for kids to play and interact in an unstructured way with nature; or installing birdhouses, native plants and other things to invite nature into backyards.

Louv takes the mind-body connection one dimension further, referring to the mind-body-nature connection, which he also calls “vitamin N (for nature).” This and other important components are described in the introduction to “The Nature Principle.”

Bryan McCormick, chair of the Department of Recreation, Park and Tourism Studies, said Louv’s 2008 book “Last Child in the Woods” has had a significant impact on the way child development specialists and educators have thought about children and their opportunity to experience natural environments. The book resulted in a number of states adopting “children’s outdoor bills of rights,” including Indiana.

He said Louv argues that connections to natural environments can be made in the heart of most urban areas, too, and “The Nature Principle” devotes a chapter to this concept, exploring how nature can exist on very small scales on one’s own property, home or apartment.

I suffer from nature-deficit disorder, despite my best intentions. In my home, a natural environment hides out in my bathroom, in what I think of as my “she cove.” Earthy colors, a Jacuzzi, an app that provides a nice selection of nature sounds. Inexplicably, I have trouble finding time to take advantage of it.

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Exercise: Good for looks — and outlooks Fri, 29 Mar 2013 17:22:35 +0000 I felt like a kid in a candy shop earlier this week when my physical therapist ended our sessions by telling me I could try walk-running. As I gave it a whirl that evening with my dog, Goldilocks, I laughed spontaneously.

Jack Raglin

Jack Raglin

Maybe it was the snow or the Great Blue Heron flying overhead, or the (almost) guilty knowledge that the wet sidewalk wasn’t exactly the soft, level indoor-track surface my physical therapist had suggested. More likely, it had to do with the mood-boosting benefits of exercise, the feeling of calmness and heightened energy that I had gotten used to with my regular exercise regimen, which sadly came to an end last year as I dealt with a nagging foot injury that ultimately would require surgery.

Jack Raglin, a psychologist in the Department of Kinesiology in Indiana University’s School of Public Health-Bloomington, says that light to moderate aerobic exercise can improve mood for two to four hours following the activity. No pills required.

“These same positive benefits apply to children,” he told me for this health tip. “At the same time, it’s becoming more and more challenging to find time for kids to have physical activity. Kids are overly scheduled — parents have to work at finding avenues for activity.”

Parents of school-age kids often have to work at finding time for their own physical activity, too. Running isn’t my favorite form of exercise, but it certainly is the easiest one to work into my work and family life. I know, for example, that if I don’t swim over the lunch-hour, I won’t swim that day. Consequently, it’s been a long time since I’ve hit the pool. I know some people who exercise before work or not at all.

Jen Piurek

Jen Piurek

My colleague Jen Piurek says she has to schedule her workouts and draws from a variety of venues (local yoga studio, Campus Recreational Sports, her daughter’s gymnastics site) and modes (hot yoga, zumba, core workouts) to keep it interesting. One constant, however, is the peer support. She often meets friends for workouts.

“I use the buddy system,” she told me.

The buddy system works for many people, at least according to Raglin, who cites it as an effective way to keep workouts on track.

Raglin has conducted research examining overtraining syndrome, meditation and other issues involving mood and exercise. He shares his insights about mood here. I was surprised by his observation that “More is not better” and that the exercise does not have to be brutally hard to be beneficial. The benefits can be experienced, for example, after just 20 minutes of light or moderate aerobic activity, such as a slow jog.

That works for me!

Jen Piurek said she began exercising because her daughter’s gymnastic program offered adult exercise classes onsite, so it was convenient, and then some of her friends began talking about getting together for yoga. She tried a little of this and a little of that as she worked to see what fit best with her work and family life. Exercise in one form or another, however, has found a way to stick. I asked her why.

“I feel so much better — more energetic,” she said. “I just enjoy life more.”

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Americans are thinking, talking about same-sex marriage whether we like it or not Tue, 26 Mar 2013 14:06:34 +0000 Just try reading or listening to the news without coming across reports about the two U.S. Supreme Court cases this week involving challenges to the California voter initiative that prohibited same-sex marriage and the federal Defense of Marriage Act.

Wedding cakeControversial and monumental for sure. The controversy might be a key player in what appears to be a sea change in public opinion now in support of marriage equality. During interviews in 2003, many Americans indicated they had given little to no thought to the idea of same-sex marriage, said Indiana University sociologist Brian Powell, whose research examines public opinion about family. But then the issue because a hot political topic.

“There was so much news and so many anti-same-sex marriage campaigns,” said Powell, author of “Counted Out: Same-Sex Relations and Americans’ Definitions of Family” (Russell Sage Foundation, 2010). “They took an idea that wasn’t even imaginable, but ultimately, as people thought about it, they moved from lack of support to ‘Why not?'”

Public support has completely flipped in just 10 years, much speedier than Powell would have expected – even though he thought acceptance was inevitable for several reasons, including simple demographics. Sen. Claire McCaskill, D-Missouri, as reported in Slate, said it well when writing about her support for gay marriage in Tumblr. “Good people disagree with me,” she wrote on Sunday. “On the other hand, my children have a hard time understanding why this is even controversial. I think history will agree with my children.”

We won’t know the outcome of the hearings until possibly this summer. Meanwhile, this IU tipsheet for the media includes more insights from Powell about his public opinion research. It also includes insights from family law experts from the IU Maurer School of Law, the School of Public and Environmental Affairs and the IU Robert H. McKinney School of Law in Indianapolis.

Steve Sanders, an associate professor at the Maurer School of Law, wrote in the Michigan Law Review about the constitutional basis for legally married same-sex couples to have their marriages recognized in states where laws prohibit recognition of same-sex marriages. He wrote about the issue in the Supreme Court of the United States Blog. A year ago he wrote “Are We Ready for a Real National Conversation on Same-Sex Marriage?” in the Huffington Post. Sanders also is affiliated with the Kinsey Institute for Research in Sex, Gender and Reproduction, and with the Department of Gender Studies. Former U.S. District Judge Vaughn Walker, who struck down California’s same-sex marriage ban that is before the Supreme Court, is featured in this video taken at a 2011 event at the Maurer School of Law.

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Making sex normal — one picture at a time Thu, 21 Mar 2013 21:01:09 +0000 Are Americas obsessed with sex?

Indiana University sex researcher Debby Herbenick, Ph.D.

Debby Herbenick, Ph.D.

It’s always in the news, from the fast-paced national discussion about same-sex marriage (I like “marriage equality”) and hardcore political maneuvering to shut down Planned Parenthood clinics, to “news” articles about Hollywood crotch shots (really, Anne Hathaway?).

What Americans need to do, says Indiana University sex researcher Debby Herbenick, is talk about sex more – yes, more – but not just about the sexy sex we see on TV or magazine covers. Too many of us don’t know how to talk about sex and sexual health on a personal level, with partners, our children, physicians or friends. As a result, relationships and health can suffer and important information doesn’t get to the people who need it.

In a note to colleagues and friends, Herbenick wrote that “Sex is so compartmentalized that it makes it tough to talk about sex in the regular everyday way we talk about driver’s safety, hand washing, love and other issues related to health and humanity.”

Herbenick, a widely read sex columnist and author of self-help books such as “Sex Made Easy,” has launched Make Sex Normal to demonstrate how others talk about and experience sexuality in sex-positive manners. It’s the topic of her TEDxBloomington talk on Friday (March 22). Herbenick is asking people to submit pictures that show “what you’re doing to Make Sex Normal.” Each picture displayed on the site includes a caption, such as “Appreciate sex-positive, body-positive art, like this sculpture in the Jardin du Luxembourg in Paris,” beneath a picture of said sculpture, and “We go to campus dorms to educate new students about sex, condoms, contraception and healthy sexuality,” beneath a picture of two smiling sex educators and their “props.”

Tickets for Friday’s inspirational presentations, which include an impressive cohort of cultural, health and tech-innovators from IU, can be purchased online at TEDxBloomington and at the Buskirk-Chumley Theater, where the event will take place, with streaming video available at Livestream (free account required) and Indiana University.

Salon ran an interesting Q&A about Make Sex Normal. Herbenick, co-director of the Center for Sexual Health Promotion at the IU School of Public Health-Bloomington and sex educator at The Kinsey Institute for Research in Sex, Gender and Reproduction, answered some questions below, as well.

Are there potential health and relationship ramifications if more people feel comfortable talking about sex? I knew a couple, for example, that had a strained relationship because one partner would not talk with the doctor about a sexual dysfunction.

Herbenick: Yes, absolutely. When people don’t feel comfortable talking about sex, doctors and patients don’t communicate. Some research suggests that only about 15 percent of women with sexual difficulties in the postpartum period talk with a health care provider about this. Many men don’t discuss erectile problems with their health care provider even though this can be an early sign of heart disease. Avoiding conversations about sex, due to awkwardness or discomfort or fear, can also damage people’s romantic relationships and marriages and can lead to high-risk behaviors, such as when sexual partners don’t discuss STI testing, birth control, condoms, or each other’s sexual history.

As former Surgeon General David Satcher noted in his 2001 “Call to Action to Promote Sexual Health and Responsible Sexual Behavior,” “Society’s reluctance to openly confront issues regarding sexuality results in a number of untoward effects.” In this important document, he called for individuals to start the dialogue, for communities to talk more openly about sexual health and behavior, and for media and government involvement as well.

In the About section of Make Sex Normal, you list characteristics of a sexually healthy society and your list includes such things as “professional educators are able to, and allowed to, answer students’ questions about sexuality and reproduction and refer them to appropriate resources for additional information,” and “political leaders can talk about sexuality issues from a place of comfort, knowledge, and compassion rather than a place of ignorance and/or fear of ‘the other.’ Why should sex and sexuality be discussed in such a public forum and what would it take to get to this point?

Sex is already discussed in public forums; we just need to improve the way it’s done. All too often I hear from teachers, counselors, and sexual health educators who aren’t allowed to answer sexuality-related questions from their students. Years ago, a local sex educator told me that he was not allowed to use clinical terms for genitals (e.g., penis, vagina, vulva) when teaching sex education to high school students in a neighboring county. The school actually made him use words such as “hot dog” for penis! What kind of message are we sending to young women and men when we can’t even use correct words for their genitals? Certainly that doesn’t help prepare them to talk with their doctors, nurses, or eventual sexual partners about their bodies or sexual health.

Sexuality is also already discussed by politicians but, again, not often in the ways needed to help create a sexually healthy society. Politicians regularly make critical decisions about issues related to birth control, funding for cancer treatments (that often affect sexuality), sexually transmissible infections (STI), HIV/AIDS, teenage pregnancy, abortion and sexuality education. They, too, need to be able to talk about sexuality — and to have accurate information — as do voters.

How normal is normal? Should people outside your sexuality research and education “bubble”, to quote Salon, talk about their sex life at work? When meeting friends for lunch at FARM Bloomington, should I expect to hear, “Pat and I had great sex last night — we did A and B and he/she surprised me with C”?

I’m suggesting we engage in everyday acts of “comfort” related to sex within the bounds of the law and, of course, workplace policy. Most workplaces have policies on sexual expression at work and for good reason. Sexual harassment remains a common and difficult problem. Part of making sex normal is helping people to feel comfortable enough talking about sex that they can recognize when others cross the line — and then feel comfortable reporting sexual harassment, sexual assault or rape. Too often, these problems go unreported because victims don’t know how, or can’t bear, to talk about sexuality-related issues and their aggressors take advantage of that discomfort.

Also, I certainly would never tell a person what they “should” or “should not” do. Many people already do talk about their personal relationships when they’re out, but not everyone is comfortable doing that and not everyone should do that. Then again, some people might find it freeing to have a conversation with a friend, about sex and relationships, over lunch or dinner. There is significant space for people to find ways to make sex “normal” in ways that feel comfortable for them: this can include wearing an AIDS walk or “Vagina Monologues” T-shirt to the gym; attending or walking in a Gay Pride parade; taking part in a Spencer Tunick installation (he’s famous for convening hundreds, and sometimes thousands, of people in the nude and photographing them); attending a sex-themed art exhibit, burlesque show, or research talk; or reading a book about sex.

Your new Bloomington Sex Salon sounds like it’s gotten off to a great start. Is this modeled after programs in other communities?

The Bloomington Sex Salon is unique! It was born out of my desire to foster campus-community conversations about sex research. Many men and women have questions about sex, love, desire, and relationships – and many scientists spend a great deal of time thinking, studying, and writing about these topics. Why not merge the two?

The format of the Bloomington Sex Salon is that each month I invite a sex researcher to a community space, such as the back room of a bar or café, and I interview them for 30 or 40 minutes about their work and then we turn it over to audience Q&A. We had a huge turn-out at our first Salon in February, which featured the research of Dr. Bryant Paul (an associate professor in the Department of Telecommunications). This month, on Wednesday, March 27 at 7 p.m. at The Back Door, our guest is Dr. Vanessa Schick, who will be talking about her research related to women’s perceptions of their vulva and vagina. More information about the Salon, and the event itself, is on our Facebook page.

You seem to have embraced social media. How important is it to your efforts to spread research-based, credible sexuality information? Do you have any idea how many people you reach through your blogging, Twitter,

Social media is very important to reaching large numbers of people about our work. I don’t know how many people I ultimately reach this way, but certainly many thousands of people through social media and millions of people through the work I do with various magazines, such as Men’s Health and Women’s Health, and TV shows, including Katie, Tyra and various PBS specials. Media is an important way of communicating with the world and one I’m comfortable to be a part of.

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Sequestration: When cuts could cost lives Tue, 19 Mar 2013 15:44:03 +0000 Much drama and politicking led up to the March 1 deadline to avert mandatory spending cuts required by sequestration. D. Craig Brater, dean of the IU School of Medicine, recently wrote this opinion piece describing the substantial impact the cuts could have on medical research in Indiana.

Dean of the IU School of Medicine

D. Craig Brater

He writes:

Last year, the IU School of Medicine received nearly $120 million in research funding from the NIH (National Institutes of Health) out of roughly $260 million in research grants. If sequestration persists, research funding will decline, but the precise amount is unknown.

An interruption in research, even for a few weeks, may mean years of progress lost – years that could mean life or death for patients for whom medical research is their only hope.

He also writes about the economic impact.

The majority of research funds are used to employ people – people who bring biological discoveries to clinical settings – with the remainder used for specialized equipment and supplies. Job loss will be both a direct and indirect result of decreased research funding and sequestration.

Nobody said the cuts would be easy, but this opinion piece shows how the cuts can significantly affect lives, even if the cuts are only short-term. As dramatic as it sounds, Brater says the effects might even cost lives.

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C. Everett Koop: Science was his prescription for chaos — and Phyllis Schlafly Fri, 01 Mar 2013 15:31:59 +0000 When I think of U.S. Surgeon Generals, only two people come immediately to mind – CNN doc Sanjay Gupta, who was President Barack Obama’s pick for the job in 2009 but declined, and C. Everett Koop, who passed away this week at the age of 96.

Jeanne White Ginder, C. Everett Koop and William Yarber

Jeanne White Ginder and William Yarber present C. Everett Koop with the Ryan White Distinguished Leadership Award (Photo by Jon Gilbert Fox)

Koop was Surgeon General during the 1980s yet somehow has remained as familiar and comforting to me as if he’d stepped down from the post in recent years. How did that happen? This candid and priceless video, shot in 2010 after Koop was presented the Ryan White Distinguished Leadership Award by White’s mother, Jeanne White Ginder, and Indiana University School of Public Health-Bloomington Professor William Yarber, sheds some light on Koop’s appeal and character.

In the video, after the award presentation, Koop shares with Yarber insights about a time when the government did not even have a name for AIDS yet the epidemic had begun. Discord in the president’s cabinet, widespread fear and ignorance of the disease (many people thought bedbugs and computer keyboards could spread the virus) and a surprise assist from France (twice) in getting the word out to Americans are some of the circumstances discussed.

“If I’m describing to you something that seems very chaotic,” he tells Yarber. “It was.”

Koop, a pediatric surgeon, made an enduring name for himself by speaking out again and again about critical and controversial public health issues of the time, the dangers of cigarette smoke being one of these.

Described as an emerging leader in the prolife movement, he gained the attention of the Reagan administration. After his appointment, however, he surprised conservatives and liberals alike with his science-based approach to the worsening AIDS epidemic, up until then often discussed in moral, rather than public health terms. He was awarded IU’s Ryan White Distinguished Leadership Award for his “bold” and “courageous” efforts to replace the prevalent fear and ignorance of AIDS and HIV with accurate information.

An article in Slate discusses Koop’s influential report, requested by President Reagan:

The 36-page document urged Americans to fight the epidemic as a unified group, rather than condemning certain populations disproportionately affected by the disease. In saying this, Koop attempted to shift the rhetoric of AIDS beyond its association with homosexuality and drug use. As he noted, “We’re fighting a disease, not people.” Koop’s report went further than what most observers had anticipated from the evangelical doctor, calling for comprehensive safe-sex education “at the lowest grade possible.”

The Slate article goes on to describe the media attention surrounding the report:

Media coverage was generally quite positive, but it quickly honed in on Koop’s call for sex education. The Los Angeles Times declared: “Koop Urges AIDS Sex Course in Grade School.” Phyllis Schlafly, founder of the conservative Eagle Forum, denounced the AIDS report for looking “like it was edited by the Gay Task Force” and accused Koop of advocating that third-graders learn the rules of “safe sodomy.” Airing his frustration to reporters, Koop retorted, “I’m not surgeon general to make Phyllis Schlafly happy. I’m surgeon general to save lives.”

From USA Today:

“My position on AIDS was dictated by scientific integrity and Christian compassion,” Koop wrote in his 1991 biography, Koop: The Memoirs of America’s Family Doctor.

After learning of Koop’s death, Yarber, senior director of the School of Public Health-Bloomington’s Rural Center for AIDS/STD Prevention, shared kind words about Koop’s legacy.

“Not only was he committed to providing valuable information about AIDS to each American household and to informing the public about the dangers of second-hand smoke, but he also was a gentleman, a loving-soul, and very supportive of young students in public health,” Yarber wrote to friends and colleagues.

In a moving moment during the video, Ginder gives Koop a picture of him standing with Ryan White in 1988. Ryan White acquired HIV from a tainted treatment for hemophilia as a teenager in Indiana and faced harassment and isolation because of the disease.

“You were such a blessing in our lives,” she tells Koop, “ when you came forth — when the political figures were not doing so — acknowledging this disease, and you said, ‘Ryan White, this boy, should be in school.’”

The School of Public Health-Bloomington now awards the Indiana University Rural Center for AIDS/STD Prevention-sponsored Surgeon General C. Everett Koop HIV/AIDS Research grant for doctoral students studying HIV prevention.

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Looking for love in all the wrong places? Thu, 24 Jan 2013 16:02:43 +0000 I thought Bernardo J. Carducci was about to get himself into BIG trouble when he said to me, “A real problem that women have is …”

A couple holding handsPart of me, admittedly, didn’t want to know (ignorance is bliss?). But as he continued, I could see that he was right.

“A real problem that women have is they can be passive,” Carducci said. “They wait for men to come to them. The problem then is that you get chosen instead of doing the choosing.”

Carducci is a psychology professor and director of the Shyness Research Institute at Indiana University Southeast. With Valentine’s Day on the horizon, I called him to talk about match-making strategies. It was clear early on that searching for a love interest has much in common with looking for a job: Who you know is key, it takes time, and online efforts are over-rated.

He encourages people to work the room, but as social facilitators, not job seekers. Dance or talk with a wide range of people, he said. Network — introduce friends and acquaintances to new people. These efforts make the facilitators appear more attractive and approachable.

“Look at how people find jobs. The best way is knowing someone who knows someone; it’s the same with finding a soul mate,” Carducci said. “We tell people, ‘You want to find a soul mate, be a better friend, extend your social network.'”

Carducci urges caution when it comes to online dating services because of the sophisticated marketing efforts used to sell the services and the ease by which customers can mislead others about their character. And he also suggests a reality check.

“The mistake people often make is they think there has to be instant chemistry to have a soul mate,” he said. “Instant chemistry is possible, but it’s not probable. That’s the myth.”

The full news item includes more tips and a pitch for “quick talk” and “small talk.”

“Every great relationship, romantic or business or otherwise, begins with small talk,” he said. “These relationships start with a simple conversation.”

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IU expert: Criticism of the NFL’s response to concussion dangers should include medical community, too Fri, 18 Jan 2013 19:19:10 +0000 The suicides of NFL players are drawing attention to the potentially deadly consequences of all-too-common concussions, with the Institute of Medicine announcing earlier this month plans for a major study into the rise of sports-related concussions among U.S. youth.

law professor David Orentlicher

David Orentlicher

The NFL, heavily criticized for its response to the struggles of retired players, isn’t the only “player” deserving blame, says David Orentlicher, M.D., co-director of the William S. and Christine S. Hall Center for Law and Health, a unit of the McKinney School of Law at IUPUI. Neurologists were also slow to call the alarm.

“In reviewing the response of the National Football League to concussion, one can easily think that the league was too slow to worry about the medical consequences of head trauma,” according to a study he co-authored with William S. David of Harvard Medical School. “But the extent to which its response was unreasonable is unclear. If many medical experts did not worry about concussions, it is difficult to fault the NFL for not worrying either.”

A colleague of mine wrote about Orentlicher’s study in this news release. The study was published in this month’s Social Science Research Network and is scheduled for publication in the FIU law Review.

In recent years, other IU medical and psychological experts have expressed concern about concussions and return-to-play considerations.

Sports medicine expert Douglas McKeag, M.D., at the IU School of Medicine, discussed myths surrounding concussions.  A common theme is that there is no way to predict the course of a concussive injury and knowing when someone is ready to return to play is difficult, something that should be decided with the help of trained medical personnel, such as a physician or athletic trainer.

A study by researchers at Indiana University-Purdue University Columbus and Pace University was critical of the widespread use of computerized neuropsychological tests (CNT) in decisions regarding when athletes can return to play after suffering a concussion.

“We should note that no ‘gold standard’ exists for concussion diagnosis and management,” the researchers, who include Thomas Redick, assistant professor of psychology at IUPUC, wrote. “Sports medicine practitioners still lack simple, reliable and affordable techniques to confidently address these issues. Although experienced first responders can accomplish a clinical diagnosis in most instances of suspected concussion, concerns related to return of play and whether or not to continue specific sport participation are not resolved by current CNT.”

Sports medicine specialist Kevin Gebke, M.D,  also from the IU School of Medicine, described some of the symptoms of concussions and efforts to diagnose and manage concussions.

“Some symptoms are obvious — headaches, nausea, vision issues — but more long-term symptoms can include sleep disturbance, depression and diminished balance,” Gebke said. “Some of the injuries from a concussion can be difficult to assess. Sports physicians use specific evaluation tools to determine when an athlete should return to practice.”

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Zumba one day, Guzi Yangge the next Wed, 09 Jan 2013 22:02:27 +0000 There’s jazzercise, belly dancing, pole dancing and, of course, the Latin-influenced Zumba. Dance-based fitness channels all sorts of styles, including disco, “the oldies” and hip-hop. Is Chinese folk dance next?

Ma Gulandanmu

Ma Gulandanmu at IU Bloomington

Ma Gulandanmu, a visiting professor from Shanghai Sport University, has been studying and teaching at the IU School of Public Health-Bloomington since last February. She helped write the first and only textbook in China that promotes Chinese folk dance as an opportunity for both better fitness and cultural preservation.

Video link: Guzi Yangge folk dance

The book, published last year, highlights 10 Chinese folk dances in a fitness framework. For the book, Ma traveled around the country with a group studying regional dances and how they could relate to fitness.

“It’s a workout,” attests Jennifer Pearl, director of Global Health Partnerships in the school’s Office of Global and Community Health Partnerships, describing her attempts at some of the dances Ma shared with students, faculty and staff at the School of Public Health.

The three traditional Chinese folk dances featured this weekend in “Global Perspectives,” the Indiana University Dance Theatre’s Annual Faculty and Guest Artist Concert, are examples of folk dance that can provide health and fitness benefits.

Ma worked with modern dance majors from the School of Public Health so they could perform the fan dance, hair dance, and Tibetan dance during the concert, held Friday and Saturday at 7:30 p.m. in the Ruth N. Halls Theater on the Bloomington campus, with a 1:30 p.m. matinee on Saturday.

The performances at the concert will include influences from Brazil, Japan, China and the African diaspora, along with such universal themes as marriage and women’s rights.

Ma said the contemporary dance courses that took dancers to various locations on campus for improvisational pieces or site specific pieces are a highlight of her visit because such classes are rare in China. Readers can see some of these dances on the You Tube page for the IU Contemporary Dance Program.


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A matter of resolve: What floats your boat? Thu, 03 Jan 2013 16:44:13 +0000 When it comes to resolve, I’ve received some interesting advice from Indiana University professors over the years. Bernardo J. Carducci, at IU Southeast, recommends making New Year resolutions in February, or September – but never during the emotional and advertising-intense holidays.



During the holidays, or in stressful times, “instead of making a lot of changes, make none, or make ones that play to your strengths,” said Carducci, psychology professor and director of the Shyness Research Institute.

Jack Raglin, at the IU School of Public Health-Bloomington, says half of the people who dive into new exercise plans – something many people do this time of year — will ditch them, and usually within two months.

“Staying with it is incredibly hard for most people,” said Raglin, a psychologist in the school’s Department of Kinesiology who conducts research on exercise and sport.

But it’s not impossible. Raglin also offers tips for giving a workout plan more staying power. These include exercising with a buddy, choosing a class or workout facility that meets your comfort level, and enjoying the immediate mood-boosting and stress-relieving benefits of exercise rather than waiting for the long-term benefits, such as longer life, better health and weight loss.

When it comes to exercise and fitness, I’d like to see people find what interests and/or works for them, not what works for their colleague or the Kardashians. Jeanne Johnston, an assistant professor in the Department of Kinesiology, published studies in the past year involving workouts in a virtual world (Second Life) and the use of an alternate reality game, which combined real-world and cyber activities. Both initiatives proved effective.

I found the Second Life study, published in the Journal of Medical Internet Research, particularly interesting because there was little difference in weight loss between the people who worked out in an actual gym and the study participants who took their avatars to a fitness club in Second Life.

The plugged in contingent also reported significantly greater gains in behaviors that could help them live healthier and leaner lives.

“The virtual world program was at least as beneficial as the face-to-face program and in some ways more effective,” Johnston said. “It has the potential to reach people who normally wouldn’t go to a gym or join a program because of limitations, such as time or discomfort with a fitness center environment.”

My mother, aunt and grandmother swim laps at their local YMCA and chit-chat, to the amusement of other swimmers, as they swim back and forth. Conversational swimming is a bit unconventional, but they get a great workout and they keep going back – combining several of Raglin’s recommendations.

“For many people, their exercise routine becomes their social network, which brings with it social obligations,” Raglin said. “If you see it’s raining outside and think, ‘Maybe I’ll skip my walk today,’ it’s an entirely different matter if people are waiting for you.”

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Two gifts from Bernardo Carducci Thu, 13 Dec 2012 16:38:15 +0000 The holiday season can be trying for many people because of what psychology professor and shyness expert Bernardo Carducci calls “density intensity,” which can deepen holiday blues, and because of a discomfort with small talk, a social staple that gets a bad rap even though Carducci refers to it as “the cornerstone of civility.”

Bernardo J. Carducci

Bernardo J. Carducci

Gift one: Great advice for understanding and lightening up the holiday blues.

Gift two: Concrete tips for managing small talk and for warming up to holiday parties. Carducci reminds readers that an estimated 40 percent of the population is shy.

“Shy people think they’re the only people who are shy,” said Carducci, director of the Shyness Research Institute at Indiana University Southeast and author of “The Pocket Guide to Making Successful Small Talk: How to Talk to Anyone Anytime Anywhere About Anything.” “They suffer in silence. We say, ‘Look to your left, look to your right.'”

Around the holidays, people often do more, travel more and socialize more, creating a period of emotional and psychological density, as in “density intensity.”

“If you’re typically sad and down, this time of year intensifies that,” Carducci told me for a media tip on this topic. “If you’re generally a pretty happy person, it really puts you in the spirit.”

People who feel low can actually bring down people around them who are not depressed, Carducci said, while cheerful people generally do not make people around them more cheerful. His media tip goes into more detail, but here are some of his tips:

  • Be wary of humbugs. Be aware that this time of year can make people who are typically cynical and toxic even worse, so consider avoiding them.
  • Express gratitude. Being thankful can help put life into perspective and counteract a tendency many people have to focus on what they don’t have or how their life is far from picture perfect.
  • Random acts of kindness, intentional acts of kindness. Hold the door open for someone, let someone else have that parking space. Carducci said the holidays also are a great time to pay extra attention to the people you know you can count on when you’re down.
  • Get real. Carducci encourages people to focus on the present and to realize the past is not always as great as we remember. He also suggests people avoid “aspirational media,” which makes it appear that what we need is “more, more, more,” such as bigger TVs and smaller phones.

Don’t forget to read his tips for making small talk – they’re good for shy adults and kids.

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Childbirth: Life-changing and brain-changing Tue, 11 Dec 2012 18:22:18 +0000 For many parents, the early months with a newborn can feel like an altered state of reality. Sleep deprivation. A fragile young life making odd noises. Loads and loads of laundry.

a babyIn addition to being life-changing, the birth of a child might be brain-changing, as well. A new study from The Kinsey Institute at Indiana University found that the brains of women fire differently after they give birth. Compared to women who had never given birth, the new mothers appeared to be less stressed out by threats unrelated to the baby. The postpartum women reported less distress and demonstrated less activity in their amygdala, the part of the brain that controls emotional response, when viewing disturbing pictures as part of the study.

“Our findings extend previous work showing a lower stress response with motherhood that likely enhances her ability to cope with this dramatic new role,” said lead author Heather Rupp, director of psychology and neuroscience at Brain Surgery Worldwide Inc. and a research fellow at The Kinsey Institute for Research in Sex, Gender and Reproduction, in a news release distributed today.

The researchers, who include scientists from the Department of Psychological and Brain Sciences and the Department of Biology, both in the IU Bloomington College of Arts and Sciences, and the University of Zurich, think the hormone oxytocin has something to do with this response, but how wasn’t clear.

Oxytocin, which is released in greater amounts during and after childbirth, is known to play a powerful role in a healthy mother’s unique state of mind by providing a calming effect when mothers breastfeed and by heightening interest in baby-related threats. During the recent study, when the childless women were administered a nasal spray containing oxytocin, their brain images looked more similar to the postpartum women, and they also reported less subjective stress when viewing the images.

The full study was published in the journal Social Cognitive and Affective Neuroscience.

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Hey ladies, what about your health? Fri, 07 Dec 2012 16:10:49 +0000 On Saturday, students at Indiana University Bloomington are taking their class to the community – they have assembled a variety of health resources geared toward helping women put their health first, for a change.

Audrey McCluskey

Audrey McCluskey

The Health First! health fair, from noon to 4 p.m. in the Neal-Marshall Black Culture Center, 275 N. Jordan Ave., is free and open to all, with activities for children, too.

“In studying the various historical struggles and triumphs of women, especially African-American women, we come to understand the importance of having strong minds — and bodies. Good health makes all other achievements possible,” said Audrey T. McCluskey, coordinator of the Health Fair and director of the Neal-Marshall Black Culture Center. “Very often, women are so busy taking care of everyone else’s needs that their own health is neglected, which is why we call this fair Health First!”

The fair is the culminating community service project for McCluskey’s course, Black Women in the African Diaspora. It will include presentations, interactive exhibits and screenings involving a range of health concerns including depression, HIV/AIDS, trauma and healing, and spiritual health. Chair massages and a Zumba demonstration await attendees.

Speakers include university and community health experts. The participating community health and wellness groups providing screenings and information include the Monroe County YMCA, the Community Health Network and IU Health. Lunch will be served from noon to 12:30 p.m.

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Athletes: When NSAIDs are a no-no Wed, 05 Dec 2012 20:50:40 +0000 It’s tempting, with the many aches and pains that seem to go hand-in-hand with my recreational activities, to pop some ibuprofen before a run to minimize anticipated soreness. I see lots of other runners faster than me doing it — and I need all the help I can get — so why not?

Surprisingly, the practice could be at odds with my exercise goals, actually inhibiting my body’s healing and preventing me from benefiting from my hard work. And then there are the intestinal concerns written about today in the New York Times.

New York Times blogger Gretchen Reynolds wrote that in a survey, 70 percent of distance runners and other endurance athletes reported taking ibuprofen before every workout or competition to ward off soreness. The practice is popular — and the risks are real.

There is a time and place for taking NSAIDs, says Stuart Warden, associate professor of physical therapy in the School of Health and Rehabilitation Sciences at IUPUI, but pain should not be masked.

“These agents are treatments for the symptoms of an injury, not the injury itself,” says Warden, whose research at IU focuses on musculoskeletal health and sports medicine. “They may allow an athlete to exercise or train at a certain level, but pain occurs for a reason. It is basically the body’s mechanism of saying, ‘Hang on, you’ve got some sort of injury that should not be ignored.'”

NSAIDs are recommended for use after an injury to reduce swelling or pain and should be taken at recommended doses for no more than a week after an acute injury. Warden said the misuse of NSAIDs can cause a range of problems, such as interfering with healing, inhibiting the body’s ability to adapt to challenging workouts, the development of stomach ulcers and possibly an increased risk for cardiovascular problems.

He told the Canadian Broadcasting Corp. this week that there is no reason for athletes to use NSAIDs beforehand because of the risks and because there is no evidence of any actual benefit. A media tip that Warden helped me prepare goes into more detail of some of the risks. He also editorialized about this several years ago in the British Journal of Sports Medicine.

“I want people, including recreational athletes, to think about the perceived benefits versus potential risks of taking NSAIDs, and to ask themselves why they are taking these agents,” Warden says. “They need to ask, ‘Do the benefits outweigh the risks?”

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Fresh, local food a privilege? Fri, 30 Nov 2012 19:14:29 +0000 I never had easy access to farmer’s markets until I moved to Bloomington, Ind., at the age of 37. Eight years later, the markets here still contain an element of excitement for me because I never know what surprises are in store.

Farmer’s Market in Bloomington

Who knew, for example, that gourmet tamales would be the perfect post-run breakfast on cold winter mornings? Recently my kids and I sipped warm cider and listened to a tuba ensemble of musicians dressed like Santa Claus – not something I see every day.

Sometimes I race through the market grabbing the usual suspects, the tamales, kettle corn, jerky and assorted veggies. I feel privileged to live so close to such a lively hub-bub of activity and agricultural commerce.

Many people don’t have access to the fresh, local food and goods available at farmer’s markets because they either can’t afford the food or the market isn’t nearby. “Privilege” becomes the problem.

James Farmer – yes, his surname really is Farmer – an assistant professor in the IU School of Public Health-Bloomington, took a look at the people patronizing farmer’s markets and community-supported agriculture programs in Indiana and found that the venues largely attracted an upper-income clientele. He thinks this needs to change.

His study pointed to a need for broadening local food opportunities “beyond the privileged, higher-income consumer, through alternative payment plans and strategic efforts that make fresh foods accessible to a diversity of people,” he says.

Nationally, the popularity of farmer’s markets and CSAs has grown exponentially, Farmer said, with farmer’s markets seeing a 450 percent increase since 1994. More than 12,500 CSAs operate across the U.S. In a CSA, individuals pay an upfront fee, usually $250 to $700, in exchange for a routine allotment of a farm’s bounty. Generally speaking, local foods are more often produced using sustainable farming practices that eliminate or decrease the use of chemical applications that can be found in conventionally produced farm products.

“When you consider freshness as an important value for consumers, hands down local foods that are distributed directly from the farmer to the consumer get from the field to the table in a much shorter period of time,” Farmer said in this news release. “Also, when you shop at a chain grocery store, the money you spend quickly leaves the local economy, as opposed to being spent several times over within one’s own town or city.”

Farmer said that alternative payment models do exist for CSAs and farmer’s markets, but they need to become more widespread. Also, a greater effort needs to be made to position farmer’s markets and CSAs near people who are food insecure.

My family tried a CSA this year, and I wish I could say the jury is still out. I liked the idea of supporting a local farm, but the drought limited what we received (price tag remained the same), and I still ended up with more winter squash and turnips than I knew what to do with. I also found myself visiting farmer’s markets less because of the money I spent on the CSA.

Farmer’s markets are nothing new to my kids, who have grown up in Bloomington. I hope the growth trend for farmer’s markets and CSAs is accompanied by the creativity and dedication needed to make the food available to a wider variety of consumers.

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Impact of behavior on depressed teens’ grades could signal need to re-examine school disciplinary approaches Thu, 29 Nov 2012 16:19:22 +0000 A study by Indiana University Bloomington sociologist Jane McLeod found that behavior problems, not depression, are linked to lower grades for depressed adolescents.

Jane McLeod

“Certainly, there are depressed youths who have trouble in school, but it’s likely because they are also using substances, engaging in delinquent activities or have attention issues,” McLeod said in a news release.

With some school discipline policies, such behavior could land students in out-of-school suspension, where they could have more opportunities to use drugs or alcohol – and more opportunities to miss out on important classroom instruction.

“What we found is that there are adolescents who have the ability to succeed, but who are not succeeding in school because of their troubling behavior: attention issues, delinquency, substance use or a combination,” McLeod said. “This suggests to me that schools should reconsider the approach they take to dealing with these students. Perhaps they should think about moving away from punitive approaches toward approaches aimed at integrating these students into the school community.”

McLeod’s research article, “”Adolescent Mental Health, Behavior Problems and Academic Achievement,” is appearing in the December issue of the Journal of Health and Social Behavior.  More details can be found in this news release. McLeod is a professor in the Department of Sociology in the College of Arts and Sciences. She also serves as an associate dean.

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Sex and IVF: Does it have to be a drag? Wed, 14 Nov 2012 17:15:43 +0000 The headline in the popular blog Jezebel read, “Today in unsurprising news, IVF can make sex less sexy.” Couples who have undergone rounds of in-vitro fertilization, too, are probably thinking, “Duh!”

sperm injected into an egg cell

Sperm injected into an egg cell

But, well, er, the findings by IU researchers were news to me. I’m no doctor, still, the absence of related sexual health information or discussion by medical professionals about a couple’s sexual relationship — despite the important role that sex plays in a couple’s attempt to conceive — is a problem, say the researchers.

“With assisted reproductive technologies (ART), couples often report that they feel like a science experiment, as hormones are administered and sex has to be planned and timed. It can become stressful and is often very unromantic and regimented; relationships are known to suffer during the process,” said Nicole Smith, a doctoral student with the Center for Sexual Health Promotion at the IU School of Public Health-Bloomington. Smith is conducting the study in collaboration with Jody Lyneé Madeira, associate professor in the IU Maurer School of Law.

Their study, presented last month at the American Public Health Association’s annual meeting, is one of the first in the U.S. to examine women’s sexual experiences while undergoing assisted reproductive technologies. Compared to a sample of other women, women undergoing IVF reported significantly less sexual desire, interest in sexual activity and satisfaction with their sexual relationship. They had more difficulty with orgasm and were more likely to report sexual problems such as vaginal pain and dryness. Similar to emotional and relationship challenges associated with assisted reproductive technologies, the sexual problems intensified as a couple’s use of ART proceeded.

“Just letting patients know they aren’t alone in this would be helpful,” Madeira said.

Couples typically explore IVF after other infertility treatments have failed, meaning relationships might be suffering when couples need support the most. Smith and Madeira say the doctor-patient relationship is key — couples can be told up front about the potential sexual side effects and resources that can help. If they have issues with dryness, for example, they could be counseled on remedies such as purchasing lubricant or other sexual enhancement products. In addition to referring couples to mental health counselors, reproductive endocrinologists could also refer them to sex therapists.

If more information about sexual challenges becomes available, many couples likely would find it on their own.

“Women interested in ART are generally well-educated and tend to spend time researching these issues,” Madeira said. “They would be very responsive to this information, and proactive.”

More about the study, along with summaries of other IU studies discussed at the American Public Health Association meeting, can be found in this news release.

See the Huffington Post: IVF and sex: How the treatment hurts couples’ sex lives.

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In the news again: second-hand smoke and heart attacks Wed, 31 Oct 2012 18:58:26 +0000 Call me naïve, but I was surprised – maybe even incredulous – when I wrote about a 2007 study by Indiana University’s Dong-Chul Seo that found that hospital admissions for heart attack decreased for nonsmokers in Monroe County, Ind., after a countywide smoking ban had been implemented.

pack of cigarettes with health warning labelIt certainly was news to me that people with no risk factors for heart attack could still have one simply by being in the wrong place at the wrong time – by being exposed to second-hand smoke.

“Heart attack admissions for smokers saw no similar decline during the study, so the benefits of the ban appear to come more from the reduced exposure to second-hand smoke among nonsmokers than from reduced consumption of tobacco among smokers,” Seo, an associate professor in the IU School of Public Health-Bloomington, said at the time.

Five years – and numerous new smoke-free laws later

Smoking bans and their link to heart attack, asthma and other conditions have received a lot of ink this week with new studies from the Mayo Clinic and the University of California, San Francisco.

In the Mayo Clinic study, which examined the impact of a new smoking ban at restaurants in a particular county, heart attacks decreased 33 percent per capita during 18 months of the ban; heart attack deaths dropped by 17 percent.

The UCSF study crunched results from 45 previous studies and focused on 33 smoke-free laws worldwide, finding drops in hospitalizations for heart attack, stroke, asthma and other respiratory diseases.


Indiana is ranked 49th of 50 states for protecting workers from smoking at job sites. Another Indiana University study found that 75 percent of Hoosiers support a statewide or community indoor workplace smoking ban.

Terrell Zollinger, professor of epidemiology and associate director of the Center for Health Policy in the Richard M. Fairbanks School of Public Health at Indiana University-Purdue University Indianapolis, discussed his study this week at the American Public Health Association’s annual meeting in San Francisco.

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Art: A healer of healers Tue, 18 Sep 2012 16:10:26 +0000 I almost feel voyeuristic when I watch the video IU telecommunications student Ben Tamir Rothenberg shot of his father, Jeff Rothenberg. It’s so personal and touching – and gritty. But then, so is Dr. Rothenberg’s job, as a surgeon and associate professor of clinical obstetrics and gynecology at the IU School of Medicine.

blown glass art by Jeff Rothenberg

Artwork by Jeff Rothenberg

One week around 13 years ago, as he explains in the video, it was more than he signed up for.

“I really try not to bring work home with me, but I came home and my wife knew something was wrong,” he said in the video, which includes brief but graphic footage involving a newborn. “And I told her what had happened. My wife, being an art therapist, she ran out to the Marilyn Glick School of Art at the Indianapolis Art Center and handed me a receipt for glass blowing.”

Now an accomplished blown glass artist, the lively doctor encourages medical students to explore the arts and to find an interest outside of their profession to enjoy and explore. It’s all about them, the well-being of the medical students, but as he points out in the video, “If we take care of ourselves, we’ll take better care of patients.”

“I actually approach the arts as a healer of healers,” he says.

An annual art journal demonstrates that art has found a unique place in the students’ education at the IU School of Medicine. Edited by students, “Reflections” takes on a different theme each year, showcasing a range of works including poetry, prose, photography, painting, drawing and sculpture contributed by medical school students, faculty, residents, fellows, alumni and staff.

“Classically, this has been a guide to first years – not strictly a logistical guide or academic guide but a spiritual and emotional guide,” Drew Oehler, a fourth-year medical student in internal medicine and the journal’s editor, says in this news release. “When they find themselves in the pits of despair – or the pits of their textbooks – they can open up this book to think about the remarkable things that medical doctors experience every day.”

Artwork for the journals, including this year’s Diversity, and last year’s Heart, can be viewed online at the Creative Arts Therapy Student Interest Group.

“Anything can serve as a source of inspiration,” Oehler said. “Physicians have a privileged view into some very personal things. We’re at the crux of the deepest human experiences — the most profound human experiences — so physicians tend to be around when very striking things happen. We’re no less sensitive to a striking event than anyone else.”


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Coregasms (need I say more?) Fri, 14 Sep 2012 18:34:13 +0000 I can come up with LOTS of excuses for avoiding core exercises but I often just tell it as it is – they just aren’t any fun compared to the activities I enjoy doing, which include running, cycling, hiking and swimming.

Indiana University sex researcher Debby Herbenick, Ph.D.

Debby Herbenick, Ph.D.

But oh, cruel twist of fate, I can’t do some of these activities, or enjoy all of them as much, if I skip the core workouts. So, from time to time, when my grumbling gets out of hand, I think of Debby Herbenick and chuckle, in a well-here’s-a-good-reason-to-do-them sort of way.

Herbenick, a prolific writer of sex self-help books, is co-director of the Center for Sexual Health Promotion at IU’s School of Public Health-Bloomington. A lead investigator in the comprehensive and widely publicized 2010 National Survey of Sexual Health and Behavior, she conducted a smaller study with colleague J. Dennis Fortenberry at the IU School of Medicine that also created something of a media stir – go figure. The headline for the news release that we prepared, “Study: Exercise can lead to female orgasm, sexual pleasure.”

Sounds like fun, right? Not necessarily for the people who experience this. The study found that most of the women who reported having exercise-induced orgasms – often referred to as coregasms because of the association with core exercises — also reported feeling some degree of self-consciousness when exercising in public places, with about 20 percent reporting they could not control their experience.

“The most common exercises associated with exercise-induced orgasm were abdominal exercises, climbing poles or ropes, biking/spinning and weight lifting,” Herbenick said in the news release. “These data are interesting because they suggest that orgasm is not necessarily a sexual event, and they may also teach us more about the bodily processes underlying women’s experiences of orgasm.”

I thought it was a stretch when Herbenick said the study findings might help women who experience exercise-induced orgasm or pleasure feel more normal about their experiences or put them into context – but I should have known she would be right on. As the media contact listed on the news release, I received a surprising number of testimonials following the release that spoke to this idea of normalcy.

Light weights, stability ball, yoga props, foam roller

Tracy’s office gym

The study findings have been reported in numerous fitness magazines, no surprise, but will they contribute to a more positive view of those dreaded core exercises? They might give a boost to exercise in general – Herbenick’s contribution to addressing the obesity epidemic.

“It may be that exercise — which is already known to have significant benefits to health and well-being — has the potential to enhance women’s sexual lives as well,” she said in the release.

Now that I’ve successfully procrastinated by writing about core exercises, I suppose I should begin my lunchtime workout (Shape’s Best-Ever Hollywood Workout DVD).

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Tailgating might be no place for kids Thu, 06 Sep 2012 19:06:52 +0000 Is it possible that tailgating before (during, after) a game can be too much fun? It is when children get to watch their parents or others nearby drinking excessively, something the youngsters might mimic when older.

“There might be an alcohol- and smoke-free area of your college’s football parking areas where (parents) won’t have to explain the worst displays of underage drinking behavior, including public intoxication and elimination, vomiting, fighting, sexual activity, vandalizing public or private property or other criminal mischief,” said Carole Nowicke, a research associate at the Indiana Prevention Resource Center, which is part of the School of Public Health-Bloomington.

She said stadiums might be “drier” than the parking lots because of security measures that have become more common, such as prohibiting fans from taking coolers or alcohol into stadiums. Nowicke talks more about tailgating, which is a staple at many professional sporting events, as well, in this media tip.

She suggested parents and guardians keep these tips in mind for modeling healthy and responsible behavior on game day:

  • Discourage drinking games, and let your children know you disapprove of underaged drinking. Play ring-toss or bean-bag games without beer. Play games children enjoy that are not associated with drinking.
  • Don’t be the “fun” parent who provides alcohol for underage drinkers at the game, or at your home.
  • Bring healthy treats or entire meals for eating before the game, during halftime or after the game, such as cold (or hot) cider or fresh apples.
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Security Matters: IT help for the rest of us Thu, 30 Aug 2012 20:40:00 +0000 I’m not exaggerating when I say that few things can frustrate me as much or as quickly as a tech glitch, when my computer or device for some curious reason just stops doing what I want (human error, virus, server problem …), often when I’m on some sort of deadline. Insanely helpful one minute — infuriating the next.

password, interest security graphicBecause of this, tech solutions have always had a place within the health and wellness scope of my work. I think everyone should know about Security Matters, a consumer-oriented technology service of Indiana University’s Center for Applied Cybersecurity Research and WFIU. Security Matters and CACR have got our back as we bravely traverse an Internet that often seems full of opportunists and outright thieves.

Security Matters contributed this tip about the importance of strong passwords to a back-to-school media tip sheet that I prepared. Its videos, which typically last just a few minutes, address security issues involving passwords, online banking and shopping, privacy measures on social media, and other topics. The service also offers an RSS feed option so new information can be sent to you when it’s posted.

Below are some of the password tips:

  • A good password is at least eight characters long. Those eight characters should be a combination of upper- and lowercase letters, numbers and symbols that don’t have significant meaning. Using birthdates and anniversaries is too obvious. Pick combinations that you can remember but are tough for others to guess.
  • A good password is one that doesn’t contain a word. Dictionary attacks are one way hackers gain access to passwords that are incredibly easy. A dictionary attack — as the name implies — searches for words within your password to help crack it. Words are easy to remember, but also easy to guess.
  • A good password is one that you can remember. Passwords that are so complex that you can’t remember them aren’t good, because it means you’ve likely written down or stored the password somewhere near your computer. That makes for an easy target to steal.
  • A good password is only used in one place. The password for your Bank of America account should be different from your email account. Never use the same password across multiple sites. You use different keys for your house, office and car. Websites should be treated just the same!
  • A good password is changed regularly. If you can’t change them all every month, at least change them a few times each year.
  • Consider using a passphrase. Rather than a series of characters, use a phrase at least 16 characters long. It can be a passage from a book, a favorite quote or something completely random. Passphrases are becoming more popular because they are more difficult to crack.
  • If you have trouble remembering various passwords, you may consider using password management software. There are many applications that store all of your passwords in an encrypted database that is unlocked with one password. That way you only have to remember one password instead of multiple. Do a search for password management software to find various options depending on the type of operating system you use.
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DVD, tips, information forms and other resources addressing autism spectrum disorders Fri, 24 Aug 2012 17:35:31 +0000 The working relationship between school staff and parents of children with autism spectrum disorders is critical to the children’s success in school and can be a source of tremendous stress at the beginning of the school year when parents are not familiar with the school staff.

Cathy Pratt

Cathy Pratt

Cathy Pratt, director of the Indiana Resource Center for Autism at the Indiana Institute on Disability and Community at Indiana University, provided numerous tips earlier this summer geared toward helping children with autism begin their school year well and also for helping teachers and school staff understand the children’s needs.

Her tips included a form that parents can fill out detailing specific information about learning styles, communication systems, medical issues, behavior supports and other topics. Pratt encourages parents to share the information with relevant staff including cafeteria workers, custodians, bus drivers, the school secretary, the school nurse, and administrators.

This week I learned of another useful resource for school staff and anyone who cares for or knows someone with autism spectrum disorders —  this includes caregivers, first responders and medical providers.  The HANDS in Autism Interdisciplinary Training and Resource Center is distributing a DVD titled “What Is Autism?”

The free 23-minute video features several individuals diagnosed with autism spectrum disorder, portraying their stories and successes due in large part to the perseverance, planning and support of their families and caregivers.

HANDS logoTo receive a free copy, email or visit the Hands in Autism website for a request form. Additional online and printed resources, including a back-to-school guide that includes a social narrative, also are available on the website.

Hands in Autism is located at Riley Hospital for Children at Indiana University Health and the Indiana University School of Medicine on the Indiana University-Purdue University Indianapolis campus.

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Take a stand against sitting too much Wed, 22 Aug 2012 19:29:58 +0000 When Carol Kennedy-Armbruster thinks in terms of ROI, she’s thinking about dollars and employees’ quality of life. Healthy employees, says the workplace place wellness expert, consume fewer health care dollars, are more functional on the job, tend to be absent or injured less often, and return to work sooner after injuries.

Paper plate

Inexpensive exercise equipment: a paper plate

“Basically, healthy employees cost less,” said Kennedy-Armbruster, senior lecturer in the Indiana University School of Public Health-Bloomington, during a presentation earlier this year at the Indiana Joint National Public Health Week Conference. Businesses and organizations can learn more about workplace wellness at the Indiana Employee Health and Wellness Summit on Sept. 26-27.

More gyms aren’t the answer, though. Less sitting might be.

Fifty years ago, jobs requiring moderate amounts of physical activity accounted for half the labor market. Now, said Kennedy-Armbruster, it’s only 20 percent. A growing amount of research is finding that even people who meet federal guidelines for daily physical activity face a shorter life span and other health risks if they sit too much at work and at home.

“We need to think about work differently. There’s this feeling that if you don’t sit at a desk from 8-5 then you’re not working,” she said.

How about a walking meeting instead of a lunch meeting? Or the use of standing desks? Kennedy and her co-presenter, Jane Ellery from Ball State University, walked their standing-room-only audience through three exercises that can be performed daily at work to improve health:

  • Take a few minutes to relax and take five slow, deep breaths – counting to three breathing in and then for three while exhaling. This can help reduce stress.
  • Move from a seated position to a standing position several times, ultimately doing so without using the arms of your chair. This can strengthen leg muscles.
  • Put a paper plate under one foot and move the plate in small circles while seated. Switch directions and then switch feet. Do the same exercise while standing. This will help keep the hips limber.

Deanna Cooper, wellness assistant for the Center for Health Promotion at IU East, agreed that employees can incorporate small changes in their work day to counter some of the effects of sitting so much.

Ergonomic ball chairs, for example, are becoming more popular on her campus. Cooper said they increase core strength and help build better posture. Employees also can add strength bands around the bottom of the chairs and/or use hand weights to exercise right at their desks.

Carol Kennedy-Armbruster, workplace wellness expert at Indiana University

Carol Kennedy-Armbruster

“I also encourage employees to schedule break times right into their calendar just as they would do for any other meeting,” Cooper said. “Just a little pop-up reminder to get up out of their chairs and stretch or take a quick walk.”

The payoff will help at home and work, with improved productivity at work, and the ability to have more fun at home, doing such things as playing golf, gardening or playing with kids or grandkids (we all could use a little more playtime, right?)

Kennedy-Armbruster’s research interests at the School of Public Health-Bloomington include functional exercise and workplace wellness. In this media tip, she discusses research findings involving SHAPE, Senior Health Assessment Program Enterprise, which provides specialized one-on-one and group fitness programs for Navy personnel who are 40 or older. Kennedy-Armbruster is the principal investigator of the service contract for IU. A board member of the Wellness Council of Indiana, which is part of the Indiana Chamber, her work also takes her to Navy bases where she oversees fitness specialists who work with Navy officers.

Here, direct from the Navy, are more common measures that can increase movement at work:

  • Use a headset. A hands-free set will let people who talk on the phone a lot walk around their work space while they talk.
  • Walk over to co-workers. Deliver messages in person instead of emailing or calling.
  • Wear a pedometer. Set daily step goals to challenge yourself.
  • Stretch at your desk. Click Here to learn some appropriate stretches to incorporate into your workday while you are at your desk.
  • Lunch time walk. Take 20 minutes to walk around the neighborhood and talk with work friends, rather than sitting during lunch.
  • Use a stand-up desk. Offices around the country are purchasing stand up workstations for their employees. Some offices purchase very slow moving treadmills for the desk, here you walk and work at the same time.
  • Skip the elevator. Start by insisting on taking the stairs when you only need to move up or down one or two flights, and see if you can eventually make regular trips up five flights or more.

Kennedy-Armbruster will be presenting workplace wellness information during the Indiana Employee Health and Wellness Summit, Sept. 26-27 in Indianapolis. Hosted by the Indiana Chamber, Wellness Council of Indiana, INShape Indiana and the American Diabetes Association, the summit will show businesses and organizations how to implement effective programs and measure the results.

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Give the kids a break — transition can be hard at any age Wed, 15 Aug 2012 14:35:33 +0000 When I dropped my daughter off for kindergarten two years ago, I cried as I walked away because she also was crying as the teacher took her by the hand and led her classmates into the school. So much has changed – as a second-grader, she insisted I not help her carry her supplies or even visit her homeroom even though she wasn’t quite sure where it was.

IU students moving into Foster Quad Wednesday morning

IU students moving into Foster Quad Wednesday morning

One thing that doesn’t change is the unsettling effect major transitions can have on people as they move through life.

“For students entering kindergarten, middle school, high school and college, the transition is of equal magnitude,” said Bernardo J. Carducci, psychology professor and director of the Shyness Research Institute at IU Southeast. “We might think, oh my goodness, going to college is really hard for a new student, but if you’re a five-year-old kid, going to kindergarten is just as traumatic. For them, it’s like going to a foreign country, just like college is like going to a foreign country for a lot of people.”

Regardless of the milestone on the horizon, it’s important for parents to take their child’s concerns seriously.

“Don’t dismiss the uniqueness of their experience,” Carducci says. “Don’t say, ‘Oh, you’ll be fine; don’t be afraid.’ No, take it seriously, be understanding.”

In Bloomington, Ind., the sidewalks are much more crowded downtown, moving vans crisscross the city, big box stores are beyond busy and I’ve seen an increase in the number of cars cruising along one-way streets – the wrong way. The students are back! And after today’s official move-in day, student ranks will swell to around 42,000.

Students collectively make such a lively and optimistic footprint on this city that I often forget that many of the newer arrivals likely struggle with loneliness and uncertainty as they adjust to their new environment, independence and coursework.

Robert Billingham, family studies expert at the IU School of Public Health-Bloomington, says the majority of college students embrace independence. But for a growing number, it can be troubling. Many of these students, he says, have trouble relating to their peers and others in the college community when they are no longer the center of attention.

They experience severe homesickness, which interferes with their ability to function successfully in college.

“A lot the kids who are preparing to come to college are people who have been in constant, immediate communication with their parents,” he told me for this media tip. “Their parents, for whatever reason, instead of teaching kids how to solve their problems, how to handle their friends on their own, have taken over solving their children’s problems for them.”

Carducci’s tips

  • Be a joiner. Parents should encourage their college students to get involved in groups or activities on campus that involve their strengths and things they enjoy, like academic clubs, sports clubs or other groups. This campus connection will help them meet friends, increase their chances of graduating and avoid temptations to drink excessively, which can lead to a host of problems, such as addiction and assault. Also, encourage the students to try different things, such as social mixers, films. “Tell them, ‘Just go – you never know who you’ll see there.’ Encourage them to take advantage of all the university has to offer. If they go to an event and see someone else alone, go talk to them.”
  • Get a job, or volunteer. Carducci says working during college also can be helpful because it requires students manage their time better and helps them earn some money and meet new people. He recommends working 12-18 hours. Working more than this could get in the way of academics. Volunteering also is a good way to make friends and to meet people with similar interests.
  • Tough love. If the students want to come home, parents should “Tell them, ‘No, stay.’”

In these articles Carducci offers tips for making small talk, finding jobs and other issues related to shyness and relationships. Two articles in particular relate to the college experience by emphasizing the need for students to make connections on campus, and avoid pitfalls that can lead to binge drinking. Both articles can help students increase their chances of success – and graduation.

Billingham’s tips

  • Chores early on. When children are younger, parents should have them perform chores so they can feel success at completing the work.
  • Raise problem-solvers. “As much as possible, when a child talks about a problem or conflict, parents should turn it over to the child by asking, ‘What do you think you should do? How do you think you should handle it?'”
  • She’s wearing what? Do I care? Parents should also talk with their children about limits for phone use. If a teen wants picked up from a party because of inappropriate behavior or activity, a phone call would be in order. Not so, however, if the child just wants to vent about someone else wearing a similar outfit.
  • Put down the phone, Mom and Dad. “Parents use technology to stay connected, and often times are far more controlling of their children’s lives than was possible historically.”

This news release also includes information about whooping cough, strong computer passwords and helping children with autism spectrum disorder get ready for school. Classes begin on Aug. 20 and Aug. 27 at IU’s eight campus across the state.

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More yoga therapy research findings Wed, 08 Aug 2012 16:26:30 +0000 A reader posted a comment to a yoga blog post in June to say she’d “like to see how yoga in chairs works.” Here’s a picture.

An adapted half-moon yoga pose is performed in chairs

A seated half-moon yoga pose is performed.

I had written about promising research involving the use of yoga as part of rehabilitation following stroke. More findings from the study were published recently in the journal Stroke. Lead researcher Arlene Schmid, rehabilitation research scientist with the Center of Excellence on Implementing Evidence-Based Practice at the Richard Roudebush VA Medical Center and assistant professor of occupational therapy at Indiana University-Purdue University Indianapolis, discussed the study in a news release.

“For patients, like those in our study, natural recovery and acute rehabilitation therapy typically ends after six or, less frequently, 12 months,” she said. “We found that yoga exercises significantly extended rehabilitation beyond the first year after stroke.”

The corpse pose is performed with bolsters, straps and eye pillows

Men and women enjoy the corpse pose and mindful meditation, using bolsters and straps for comfort, and eye pillows.

Schmid said in the news release that yoga might be more therapeutic than traditional exercise because the combination of postures, breathing and meditation may produce different effects than simple exercise. She said yoga’s mind-body connection may be what makes it more powerful and engaging than other strengthening exercises.

The yoga classes were taught by a registered yoga therapist and involved many modifications. More information about the study is available in the news release.

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Looking to nature for stress relief, a sense of resilience and perseverance Fri, 06 Jul 2012 15:55:03 +0000

Earlier this year I listened to Alan Ewert, an adventure tourism expert at Indiana University Bloomington, talk about the protective and recuperative power of nature, the Great Outdoors.

“It’s not a big leap for us to start thinking about issues such as designing programs using the outdoors, programs that actually can help in terms of human health parameters,” he told his colleagues when he was recognized with the 2012 Outstanding Senior Research Award at the School of Health, Physical Education and Recreation, which has been transitioning into one of IU’s two new schools of public health.

IU professor Alan Ewert

Alan Ewert

“Restoration of attention span and fatigue is accomplished through the outdoors, we know. Our species grew up in the wild so for us, they innately represent security, food. We’re attracted to the water’s edge, savanna landscapes. They’re buried deep within our psyche. We can touch those things. If we develop experiences that can touch these powerful emotions, it’s a possible avenue for ameliorating some health issues, such as stress.”

This work already has begun. His colleague Rasul Mowatt found positive results in a therapeutic fly-fishing program for veterans with post-traumatic stress disorder, saying his results reinforce the value of recreational therapy’s role in a “buffet” of therapies needed to help American servicemen and servicewomen. Bradford Woods, the Department of Park, Recreation and Tourism Studies’ outdoor educational and therapeutic facility, is home to the Horseshoes of Hope Equine Academy and its Horses for Heroes program. The Big Ten Network highlighted this program in its Impact the World series.

Ewert said researchers have done a lot of work with military veterans returning from Afghanistan and Iraq. The outdoor environment, he said, is very useful to some vets, who say they miss being part of a small team engaging in structured tasks.

“For many of these people, they have stuffed so much psychological baggage into their pack that it’s through an outdoor environment that they can begin unpacking,” he said.

Ewert’s insights into the therapeutic potential for adventure tourism date back to the Vietnam War, when he was charged with teaching soldiers in the Air Force survival skills and how to withstand torture. His apt pupils wanted to learn every possible thing he could teach them as they prepared for combat.

“It was a very stressful job on both sides of the fence,” he told his colleagues during his award presentation. “My job was essentially to instill a sense of resilience, a sense of willingness to persevere, to deal with uncertainties, all within a very stressful environment. We know that issues such as empowerment, resilience, the idea of persevering, are important element in the realm of public health.”

During World War II, ships sank frequently in cold North Atlantic waters. Ewert said older sailors survived at higher rates than the younger sailors, who often were more fit. Why? Ewert said the older sailors usually had experienced adversity already in their lives and could draw strength from that, reminding themselves that if they survived those earlier experiences, they would probably survive their current situation.

Outward Bound, he said, has become the “purveyor of protective adversity.” Outward Bound is a non-profit educational organization and leadership school that uses adventure and challenge to help people learn how to succeed.

Intentionally designed experiences, he said, that combine the power of the outdoors with structured, therapeutic experience, can have a powerful effect on individuals’ healthful behaviors.

This work makes a lot of sense to me, yet I feel a sense of loss at the fact that for many people, these outdoor experiences need to be structured, that programs need to be created to help fathers and sons, for example, bond during fishing outings. Allergies, busy sport league and work schedules, technology (video games), lack of transportation and other factors no doubt limit access to or interest in the outdoors and make me more and more appreciative of public efforts to keep nature close at hand, through parks and trails.

Speaking of work and recreation, I won’t be blogging while on vacation for the next two weeks, so blog posts will resume after July 23. Here’s hoping I make it to the water’s edge.

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Preventive care no longer exclusive; access to nutrition counseling still a work in progress Mon, 02 Jul 2012 14:25:35 +0000 Alice Lindeman, registered dietitian, associate professor in the School of Health, Physical Education and Recreation at IU Bloomington, prepared this commentary after the U.S. Supreme Court upheld most of the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act. It discusses the act’s effect on access to nutrition counseling and other preventive health care services.

An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure.
–Ben Franklin

Ultimately we are responsible for our own care and our own health. In the case of our children, we parents are responsible.

The June 28 U.S. Supreme Court decision to uphold the constitutionality of the Affordable Care Act has provided more access to health care, so that more Americans can carry out this responsibility. With affordable health insurance available for all, regardless of pre-existing conditions, “I don’t have health insurance” will no longer be an excuse for preventive and/or routine health care. Mammograms, colonoscopies, cholesterol, glucose, and lipid screenings, prostate exams, as well as annual checkups with weight and blood pressure checks will no longer be exclusive to “those with insurance.”

Alice Lindeman, R.D., Ph.D.

Now all of us, including our children, can have access to such preventive measures. When it comes to seeking one-on-one nutrition advice, it may take a while for the act to have a direct effect.

For only a few health conditions can a dietitian directly bill and automatically receive payment for her counseling services. Insurance companies follow the standards established for Medicaid/Medicare coverage. If you have diabetes or kidney disease, nutrition and lifestyle counseling by dietitians is covered by Medicaid/Medicare, and hence by insurance. If you have food allergies, heart disease, acid reflux, pregnancy or anemia, reimbursement or denial for a dietitian counseling will depend on the insurance company determining your eligibility and need.

We are all aware of how obesity is a significant health issue in the U.S., not limited to just adults. Its effects on our medical bills reach far beyond the fat itself — to the joints, heart, vascular system, self-esteem and beyond. Registered dietitians are intensely trained to assess and counsel people on their health, focusing on lifestyle, diet, behavior, environment and emotions. Yet, we dietitians cannot be directly reimbursed for counseling the obese. In November 2011, Medicare added coverage for “Intensive Behavioral Counseling for Obesity.” Surely, this would allow dietitians to directly bill, with insurance companies soon to follow. No, not to happen.

Only those considered primary care physicians — general practitioner, general internist, obstetrician or gynecologist — can do this intensive behavioral counseling in the office. Can a dietitian do it and get reimbursed? Sure, if she counsels the patients the doctor refers to her in the doctor’s office, the billing is done by the doctor, and the doctor reimburses the dietitian. Otherwise, reimbursement is decided case by case. What may be good about this? One-stop-shopping physician groups may band together to offer obesity counseling by a dietitian. Look for it — or better yet, ask for it!

The effect of the Affordable Care Act on access to nutrition counseling and care most likely will be rather subtle and will evolve with time. There will be more funding for state public health initiatives, many of which will have nutrition as a key feature. Over time the act intends to transform the health care system so there is more coordinated care, i.e., a more team approach to health care. Over time, it is hoped that dietitians will be more accessible and affordable for health and nutrition counseling, with more insurance companies recognizing their valuable services in preventive health.

As a dietitian myself, I am optimistic about the working conditions of my colleagues. Having worked at major medical centers in which 50 percent or more of the patients were un- or under-insured, I remember all too well patients choosing to take risks with their health.

One man took a “Sunday honeymoon” from his insulin injections because neither he nor his family could afford ($) the amount he needed to last for the whole week. Did he tell his physician? No, of course not — too embarrassed and humiliated. An extremely obese woman was admitted to an intensive care unit because she and her family tried to self-care and/or ignore a skin infection for tooooooo long. The outcome was not good. So, yes, over time I expect my colleagues who work in hospitals that take care of the “working poor” will have fewer heart-wrenching stories, have healthier patients with greater awareness and ability to learn, and best of all, be able to provide community resources or services available to these workers — because they have insurance.

Call me Pollyanna, but I truly believe that the public can now have a greater voice in its health care. Most people will have insurance, so why can we not reform how insurance treats its providers? Ben Franklin would be proud of us if we would apply that adage of prevention to managing our nation’s health.

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Deadly heat Fri, 29 Jun 2012 16:12:39 +0000 There’s hot and then there’s HOT!

Karen Clark, R.N., dean of the School of Nursing at Indiana University East, offers some useful tips and insights into how to weather this heat wave.

“Anyone can suffer heat-related illness, but there are some individuals who are at greater risk,” she writes. “These include infants and young children, those over the age of 65, people with mental illness, and those who are physically ill, especially those with heart disease or high blood pressure. These individuals should be monitored whenever extreme heat conditions occur.”

The extreme heat isn’t just uncomfortable and inconvenient; it can be deadly.

“When it is extremely hot, people may suffer from heat-related illnesses when the body is not able to compensate and properly cool itself,” Clark writes. “High body temperatures can lead to damage of the brain or other vital organs. Ultimately, excessive heat exposure can lead to death.”

Her article talks about how to spot and treat heat stroke (call 911) and heat exhaustion. I’m taking to heart all of her tips, including the last one in her article:

“Avoid hot foods and heavy meals as they add heat to your body.”

This simplifies dinner a bit!

I’m pasting below some of Clark’s advice but also encourage readers to check out her whole article, which includes a Q-and-A.

Question: What is a heat stroke and what are the warning signs of heat stroke?

Answer: Heat stroke occurs when the body is not able to regulate its temperature and body temperature rises quickly. The person is unable to sweat and the body cannot regulate temperature to cool down. This is a medical emergency as disability and death may occur if not treated immediately.

According to the Center for Disease Control and Prevention, warning signs of a heat stroke include:

Body temperature above 103 degrees
Red, hot, and dry skin (no sweating)
Rapid, strong pulse
Throbbing headache

Question: If you see someone experiencing the signs of a heat stroke, what should you do?

Karen Clark, R.N.

Answer: This is a medical emergency and can be life-threatening. Call for emergency medical assistance and begin cooling the victim. Get the victim to a shady area if outside. Cool the victim rapidly such as spraying water from a garden hose, placing in a tub of cool water, or sponging them with cool water. Monitor body temperature. If emergency personnel are delayed, contact your local emergency room for further instructions. Do NOT give the victim fluids.

Question: What is heat exhaustion and what are the warning signs of it?

Answer: Heat exhaustion is a milder form of heat-related illness. Signs of heat exhaustion include:

Heavy sweating
Pale color
Cold, clammy skin
Muscle cramps
Nausea or vomiting
Pulse will be fast and weak
Breathing will be fast and shallow

Question: How should you treat heat exhaustion?

Answer: Since untreated heat exhaustion can lead to heat stroke, it is important to treat it quickly and seek medical attention if symptoms worsen or last longer than one hour. To cool the body, one should:

Drink cool nonalcoholic beverages—water is best
Take a cool shower or bath
Get into a cooler environment, preferably in air conditioning
Wear lightweight clothing

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Protect your eyes with style and restraint (leave the fireworks to the pros) Wed, 27 Jun 2012 13:57:31 +0000 It looks like my kids and I need to pick up some sunglasses. Melanie Pickett, O.D., assistant professor of clinical ophthalmology at the Eugene and Marilyn Glick Eye Institute at the IU School of Medicine, said sunglasses are the most important component of a summer wardrobe – for adults and kids.

Brothers from Carmel, Ind., model proper eye care.

I always wear them, but my kids? Rarely. Pickett said long-term UV exposure — including reflection from water, sand or pavement — can cause lasting damage, including cataracts, age-related macular degeneration and eye growths that could include cancer.

Eyes are at risk from harmful ultraviolet rays year-round, but the problem is compounded in the summer when the days are longer and people spend more time outdoors. Pickett said sunglasses of all makes and models are effective at blocking the sun’s harmful rays as long as they block UVA and UVB rays.

“Sunglasses that offer wrap-around protection are best,” she said.

Pickett’s sun-related eye-care tips include the need for contact lens wearers to wear sunglasses regardless of whether the contacts offer UV protection, and the suggestion that sunglasses be worn even in the winter because clouds do not block harmful rays.

Fourth of July

Sparklers can be hard to pass up this time of year, but don’t let the innocent-sounding name fool you: The handheld firework favorite can lead to serious eye injuries. Jennifer Eikenberry, M.D., a comprehensive ophthalmologist at the Glick Eye Institute, says too many Fourth of July celebrations end early “when a child or an adult has to be rushed to an emergency room with an injury caused by fireworks.”

Jennifer Eikenberry, M.D.

“Playing with fireworks can lead to head injuries, burns and eye injuries that could result in vision loss,” she said recently. “Children are often given sparklers, and those devices can reach a temperature of 1,900 degrees Fahrenheit, hot enough to cause a third-degree burn.”

According to the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission, more than 9,000 fireworks-related injuries occur each year. The Indiana Academy of Ophthalmology says children 15 or younger account for half of all fireworks injuries in the United States, with sparkers causing one third of those injuries.

Her tips include not allowing kids to play with fireworks, particularly sparklers, the importance of seeking help at an emergency room for any injury related to fireworks, and more.

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The Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act: 10 views from IU experts Wed, 20 Jun 2012 19:46:12 +0000 I can’t remember the last time I so eagerly awaited a ruling by the U.S. Supreme Court. In the next week or so, the court’s ruling on the constitutionality of the controversial Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act is expected to be announced.

stethoscopeMeanwhile, 10 Indiana University experts in the areas of constitutional law, health economics, public health, health administration and business ethics share their insights into possible outcomes.

–“If the court invalidates any of the law’s provisions, it could be one of the most important federalism rulings from the court — and one of the most dramatic confrontations between the court and the president — since the 1930s,” said one professor.

–“Those who profit from the inefficient, unfair status quo generate myths about death panels and out-of-control spending to confuse the public,” said another.

They certainly don’t mince words.

–“If the court strikes down the law, the decision could lead the political left to challenge the Supreme Court in ways unprecedented since the New Deal,” said a third.

I wait for the decision with a sense of eagerness – and apprehension – because of the scale of the changes already made, the tremendous expense health care poses to so many individuals, and a concern that our leaders aren’t up to the challenge of seriously addressing this major issue.

We’ll know – about the ruling, at least – soon enough.

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A teachable moment I’d rather avoid Fri, 15 Jun 2012 20:32:44 +0000 As I drove across town Thursday, a radio report of the latest happenings in the Jerry Sandusky trial aired for probably 20 seconds before I turned down the volume so my second-grader wouldn’t hear.

Maria Schmidt, IU assistant professor of human development and family studies

Maria Schmidt

It’s a tragic news story and topic, the sexual abuse of children, and can be hard to avoid because of the prominence of the former Penn State University coach and storied football program. Maria Schmidt, an assistant professor of human development and family studies in the School of Health, Physical Education and Recreation at Indiana University, says parents shouldn’t shy from the topic.

“Parents should talk to their kids about sexual assault and use this crisis as an example,” she said last fall when charges were filed against Sandusky.

She said kids need to understand there are “bad” people in the world, but they are small in number and most people are “good.” Noting that using crisis situations to start the conversation about sexual abuse can instill fear in young children, Schmidt encourages parents to talk early and often with their children about boundaries and expectations.

This article discusses more tips for talking with children about sexual abuse.

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Homework for parents (10 more years for me) Wed, 13 Jun 2012 12:07:23 +0000 The Center for Evaluation & Education Policy at Indiana University released a report this week about the need for schools to do more to stem the childhood obesity epidemic.

Person standing on scalesThe negative health consequences of childhood obesity can last a lifetime for the individual and cost a fortune collectively, with the report citing estimates that the direct cost for overweight and obese children ages 6 to 19 was $14.1 billion from 2002-2005. Numerous studies reviewed by CEEP also link increased physical activity to increased academic performance and the opposite, decreased physical activity to decreased academic performance.

The grumpy mom in me is channeling my middle schooler, who complains from time to time about the lack of recess (and wrote an essay about it for class). He thinks the opportunity to stretch his legs and to socializing would do him some good during the school day.

The embarrassed mom in me imagines my young daughter helping herself to chips or a bowl of ice cream at home — something she couldn’t do during the school day. IU sociologist Brian Powell co-authored a study several years ago that found that children maintain a healthier weight during the school year compared to summer breaks.

“Schools have been getting a bad rap,” Powell said at the time. “This isn’t to say that schools can’t improve — but we found that kids’ weight gain is more under control during the school year than during summer break. This suggests that instead of thinking of schools as the problem, schools appear to be part of the solution.”

The CEEP report suggests schools can be part of the solution, too. It also offers suggestions for parents. This news release lists some of the many suggestions for schools, parents and Congress. I’ll list the ones for parents, which I view as 10 more years worth of homework for myself:

  • Encourage healthy eating at home.
  • Encourage physical activity. “According to a CDC statistic, only 18 percent of students in Grades 9 to 12 meet the daily recommended amount of aerobic physical activity of 60 minutes,” wrote Terry Spradlin, director for education policy and the High School Survey of Student Engagement at CEEP.
  • Encourage walking or biking to school where it can be done safely.
  • Ask questions of school leaders about nutritional value in meal offerings.
  • Limit money given to children to spend on à la carte offerings and vending machines while in school.
  • Limit the amount of time children watch television (In my household, this applies to video games, too).

The complete CEEP brief can be read here.

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Not your sisters’ yoga Fri, 08 Jun 2012 14:10:03 +0000 Researchers at Indiana University and the Roudebush VA Medical Center in Indianapolis have been studying the feasibility of using yoga as part of rehabilitation following a stroke. The results are promising.

Veterans receiving assistance with yoga poses

Poses are modified

Arlene Schmid, lead investigator of the VA-funded study, says the yoga will look unlike anything practitioners see in studios or other classes. The positions are adapted to the point that it should be taught by a yoga therapist, one who has had additional training in anatomy and physiology and how to work with people with disabilities.

The men and women in the study, for example, performed poses initially while seated in chairs and then progressed to seated and standing poses. Eventually, they all performed poses on the floor.

“Everything was modified because we wanted them to be successful on day one,” Schmid told me, when discussing earlier findings involving improvements to balance. “Everyone could be successful at some level.”

Schmid, a rehabilitation research scientist at the Roudebush VA Medical Center and assistant professor in the School of Health and Rehabilitation Sciences at IUPUI, discussed some of her findings last week at the American College of Sports Medicine annual meeting in San Francisco.

Tracy Dierks, an associate professor of physical therapy in the School of Health and Rehabilitation Sciences, also discussed findings from the study here. They reported that after the eight-week program, study participants demonstrated improved balance and flexibility, a stronger and faster gait, and increased strength and endurance.

“The gait findings from our study have the potential to greatly impact clinical practice for gait recovery,” Dierks said. “The yoga intervention was designed to improve balance, not gait; we did not focus on improving gait at all. Yet we saw major improvements in most clinical gait measurements. But one often overlooked deficit remained: the inability to sustain gait speed for endurance.”

Nationwide, 5 million Americans are living with the consequences of stroke, which can alter patients’ lifestyles through decreased independence in activities of daily living, limited mobility and reduced participation in society.

“Clinicians need methods to manage and improve these post-stroke physical impairments,” Schmid said.

Read more about their reports at the 2012 ACSM meeting here. Read about their report at the 2011 ACSM meeting here.

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Mental illness and stigma — are we willing to change? Wed, 06 Jun 2012 16:54:10 +0000 Mental health disorders can pose challenges to the people afflicted as well as their families. On top of this, these folks — neighbors, coworkers and friends — often experience prejudice and discrimination, barriers Bernice Pescosolido, a medical sociologist at Indiana University, describes as “yet another hit,” to efforts to have productive, enjoyable lives.

Bernice Pescosolido

Bernice Pescosolido

This stigma is entrenched and formidable. It’s behind the reluctance of many to socialize or work with people who have a mental or substance abuse disorder, is considered a major obstacle to effective treatment for many Americans who experience these devastating illnesses. It can produce discrimination in employment, housing, medical care and social relationships, and have a negative impact on the quality of life for these individuals, their families and friends.

Pescosolido, recently appointed chair of the international advisory council for actress/activist Glenn Close’s Bring Change 2 Mind foundation, described this as a “critical time” for rethinking anti-stigma efforts because of the substantial amount of research that supports a need for a new approach, on a local, national and international level.

A decade of national campaigns (tagline “a disease like any other”) to reduce it, accomplished little, but Pescosolido said there is ample evidence that “stigma” can be reduced.

“First of all, there is such wide variation in mental health stigma across countries, as our own global study has shown, so prejudice and discrimination is not inevitable,” she said. “Second, we know that prejudice can change, even if it is not eliminated. Just look at HIV/AIDS, epilepsy, cancer. Outside of disease, think of racial prejudice — there may still be some prejudice, but not like in the past. Third, we have studies that show that interventions can work, at least in the short run.”

I find this very encouraging – but then the big question.

“The question becomes whether we have the societal will to address discrimination,” she said.

To learn more about Bring Change 2 Mind and its interest in science-based approaches, read here.

This Huffington Post article, “Glenn Close: Let’s End the Stigma Around Mental Illness Now”, discusses last month’s One Mind for Research conference at UCLA, titled “Curing Brain Disease.”  The article mentions “The Science of Stigma” panel and includes insights from Pescosolido. The organizers also prepared this recap video.

Pescosolido also directs the Indiana Consortium for Mental Health Services Research. Her scholarship in the sociological study of mental health, including research on mental health services, social networks, suicide and the stigma of mental illness, has received numerous awards. Pescosolido is a Distinguished Professor and Chancellor’s Professor of Sociology in the College of Arts and Sciences at Indiana University Bloomington.

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Who says girls can’t compete athletically with boys? Thu, 31 May 2012 15:47:13 +0000 Each spring I begin looking forward to the American College of Sports Medicine annual meeting, wondering what interesting health and fitness studies I will discover when I begin looking into the Indiana University research that will be discussed.

Swimming in pool lanes

This week, a study by exercise physiologist Joel Stager and some of his graduate students is receiving some media attention. The researchers examined athletic performance rates of kids by age and sex. They found that at certain ages, there was little differences in performances. I asked Stager if he was suggesting that boys and girls compete against each other.

“It’s the whole perception that girls can’t compete fairly with boys,” he said. “Well, at certain ages, they can.” You can read more about the study here.

Another study that caught my eye involves middle-aged Master Swimmers (I swim sloowwly, admiring the master swimmers from afar). The swimmers were part of a study that found that high levels of exercise appeared to help the older crowd avoid the arterial stiffening that typically comes with aging. Healthy arteries are ‘compliant,’ which means they expand a bit to accommodate blood being pumped throughout the body. Stiffening  is considered a risk factor, predictive of future cardiovascular disease, such as high blood pressure and stroke.

“This reinforces the idea that activity could be more influential than aging on some health factors,” Stager said. You can read more about the study here.

Stager directs the Councilman Center in the Department of Kinesiology in the School of Health, Physical Education and Recreation at IU Bloomington.

In the coming weeks, I’ll share more of the IU studies discussed at the ACSM meeting.

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Potential Chaos: Affordable health care and the Constitution Tue, 29 May 2012 15:48:02 +0000 Indiana University health policy expert Aaron Carroll outlines in the Stanford Law Review what he would expect if the U.S. Supreme Court finds the Affordable Care Act, or part of it, unconstitutional this summer.

He writes: “Physicians, hospitals, and private companies have been shifting how they practice medicine in anticipation of the ACA’s implementation. They’ve been creating accountable care organizations, envisioning a significant reduction in uncompensated care, and enjoying increased Medicare and Medicaid reimbursement in primary care settings. That will all vanish if the ACA is struck down. Moreover, seniors will pay more for prescription drugs and young adults will be taken off their parents’ insurance.”

He also writes: “Not only would a Court decision striking down the mandate cause significant uncertainty for the health care markets, possibly precipitating another grave economic crisis; it would also generate legal uncertainty, as it would cast into doubt fundamental constitutional law principles governing national power that have been widely accepted for generations.”

Read the whole blog post, co-written by Eric Segall, professor of law at the Georgia State University College of Law. Carroll is an associate professor of pediatrics at the IU School of Medicine and director for the Center of Health Policy and Professionalism Research. He also blogs for The Incidental Economist and JAMA Forum.

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Ophthalmology resident already working to help kids with retinoblastoma worldwide Thu, 24 May 2012 19:57:39 +0000 By Timothy Corson, Ph.D., assistant professor of ophthalmology and assistant professor of biochemistry and molecular biology, IU School of Medicine.

Timothy Corson

Timothy Corson

Among a parent’s worst nightmares is learning that their child has cancer. In this country, we have come to expect treatments — even cures — for many cancers and know that a cancer diagnosis is not always fatal. In other countries, particularly in the developing world, cancer is often more deadly because of a late diagnosis, which significantly increases the mortality rate.

Pediatric eye cancer, or retinoblastoma, carries a 95 percent survival rate in developed countries. Yet worldwide the cumulative survival rate from this cancer is around 42 percent.

Retinoblastoma occurs most often in children under age five and affects about 300 children in the U.S. each year, and about 6,000 children worldwide annually. Retinoblastoma tumors develop in the retina of one or both eyes. Although it is caused by a gene mutation, retinoblastoma can affect children who have not previously had eye cancer in their families.

Aparna Ramasubramanian, M.D.

Aparna Ramasubramanian, M.D.

One of the residents in the Department of Ophthalmology at the Eugene and Marilyn Glick Eye Institute at the IU School of Medicine has become deeply interested in pediatric ocular oncology. In fact Aparna Ramasubramanian, M.D. became so interested that she has co-edited a new textbook on retinoblastoma with a renowned physician from the Wills Eye Institute in Philadelphia, Penn. Along with Carol Shields, M.D., Dr. Ramasubramanian has compiled “Retinoblastoma,” the most comprehensive book of its kind.

I was fortunate enough to author a chapter with Dr. Ramasubramanian who reached out to me early in her residency, since my area of research is retinoblastoma biology and potential novel therapies. She and Dr. Shields have compiled 36 chapters from 70 contributors – and Dr. Ramasubramanian co-authored eight of the book chapters with colleagues around the world.

She says the book grew from wanting to provide physicians around the world with reference materials for the diagnosis and treatment of the disease, as well as genetic counseling, with the goal of maximizing survival and maintenance of vision.

This is a major achievement for a resident and speaks highly of the caliber of individuals we are fortunate to have in our program in ophthalmology and at the IU School of Medicine. Dr. Ramasubramanian is a wonderful example of translating scholastic achievements into quality medical care, and that is exactly what her book will do.

For more information on Dr. Corson and his research, visit:

Information on his lab is available at


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Keeping cigarettes away from idle lips this summer Tue, 22 May 2012 15:29:56 +0000 I doubt many parents want their kids to smoke, yet the end of the school year signals a period when teens may be more likely to give it a try.

Indiana University tobacco expert Jon Macy

Jon Macy

“There are some data that show an increase in cigarette sales in the summer months and also an increase in smoking onset among youth in the summer months,” said Jon Macy, assistant professor in IU’s School of Health, Physical Education and Recreation.

He suggests parents consider the following:

  • Engage in smoking-specific parenting practices like discussing with children your family’s values and expectations about smoking, establishing a contract specifying that children will avoid use of cigarettes and that parents will value their children’s smoke-free status, and rewarding children for complying with the contract.
  • Set household rules prohibiting smoking inside the home.
  • If a parent smokes, make sure children cannot access the cigarettes.
  • With lots of teens going to see summer blockbuster films, steer them away from movies that have smoking scenes by checking Research has demonstrated that the more children are exposed to smoking images in the movies, the more likely they are to try smoking and progress to established smoking.

Adolescence is a key time to deter the onset of smoking. Results from the Indiana University Smoking Survey, possibly the longest (32 years and running) ongoing longitudinal study in the U.S. focusing specifically on cigarette smoking, have shown that the earlier individuals start smoking, the more likely they are to become regular smokers as adults and smoke at high levels.

Ruth Gassman, director of the Indiana Prevention Resource Center at the School of HPER, discusses in this article how kids can be at a greater risk for experimenting with drugs and alcohol, too, during the summer.  Do you wanna stop smoking? Macy offers these tips.

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Chow does the math on weight gain, loss Tue, 15 May 2012 14:32:28 +0000 The New York Times ran a fascinating article on Monday about a mathematician’s take on the obesity epidemic.

An ear of corn.Comments that jumped out at me included: “Conventional wisdom of 3,500 calories less is what it takes to lose a pound of weight is wrong. The body changes as you lose. Interestingly, we also found that the fatter you get, the easier it is to gain weight. An extra 10 calories a day puts more weight onto an obese person than on a thinner one.”

Also, when asked if he solved the question asked of him when hired by the National Institutes of Health, “What caused the obesity epidemic?” MIT-trained mathematician and physicist Carson Chow said: “The epidemic was caused by the overproduction of food in the United States. Beginning in the 1970s, there was a change in national agricultural policy. Instead of the government paying farmers not to engage in full production, as was the practice, they were encouraged to grow as much food as they could. At the same time, technological changes and the “green revolution” made our farms much more productive. The price of food plummeted, while the number of calories available to the average American grew by about 1,000 a day.”

And sadly: “Interestingly, we saw that Americans are wasting food at a progressively increasing rate. If Americans were to eat all the food that’s available, we’d be even more obese.”

When asked for a solution, Chow recommended targeting childhood obesity. “We should stop marketing food to children,” he told The Times.

The Weight of the Nation,” a massive campaign to address obesity, began airing a four-part documentary this week on HBO, with the first two parts airing on Monday and the remaining two airing today.

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Skin cancer: Can’t teach an old dog new tricks? Mon, 14 May 2012 14:56:08 +0000 I apply sunscreen to my face every morning and yet my grandfather’s disapproval of my cancer-prevention skin care still follows me. Persistent, yes, but I know he wants to help me and my family avoid the procedures and surgery he’s endured. Should I bother at my age?

The author with a hat she should wear more often.Reuters carried an article recently about a government-backed panel’s recommendation for primary care docs to talk about the importance of wearing sunscreen and other cancer-prevention measures with their young patients — but not adults 25 and older. According to the article, little evidence exists that such counseling will reduce the older crowd’s cancer risk.

Lawrence A. Mark, M.D., assistant professor of dermatology at the IU School of Medicine and physician-researcher at the Indiana University Melvin and Bren Simon Cancer Center, says I should bother, and that his advice presented here and below is pertinent to ALL age groups:

  • Apply sunscreen with an SPF of at least 30. Dr. Mark explained SPF this way: If your skin begins to redden after being in the sun for one minute, you could expect to be in the sun for 30 minutes while wearing an SPF of 30 before you see the same amount of reddening.
  • Wear appropriate clothing, such as a wide-brim hat, long-sleeved shirt, and long pants.
  • The sun’s rays are strongest from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m.; limit long periods of time outdoors during these hours.

Technology also can help protect you from a sunburn. A smartphone app from the Environmental Protection Agency’s SunWise UV Index offers location-specific information and sun safety tips based on the strength of the current UV rays. Download it at

Counseling for sun/UV protection is good for all age groups but has not been studied as well for older people, Dr. Mark said.

“Best to learn good habits when you’re young that you can carry through life. Theoretically,” he added, “damage at a younger age when the body’s cells are dividing most with growth could be most harmful for melanoma risk. However, research also supports that old skin is susceptible to alterations that induce non-melanoma skin cancers (basal cell and squamous cell carcinomas).

Dr. Mark tells people to watch for what he calls the “ugly duckling” sign. “If you have a spot that just doesn’t look like any other, it is best to have a doctor examine it, just to be on the safe side,” he said. Dr. Mark and his colleagues use the ABCD’s to evaluate melanoma:

  • A, asymmetry: half of a mole or birthmark does not match the other half
  • B, border: edges are irregular, ragged, notched, or blurred
  • C, color: the color isn’t the same all over but may have differing shades of brown or black, sometimes with patches of red, white or blue
  • D, diameter: the area is larger than six millimeters (about the size of a pencil eraser) or is growing larger

If detected and treated early, skin cancers have a greater than 95 percent cure rate. The full news release can be read here.

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Author Susan Gubar: Ovarian cancer not a ‘happily ever after subject’ Fri, 04 May 2012 20:03:03 +0000 Susan Gubar spoke on Wednesday with “Talk of the Nation” host Neal Conan about her new book, “‘Memoir of a Debulked Woman: Enduring ovarian cancer.”

Susan Gubar's new book, "Memoir of a Debulked Woman," about her experiences with ovarian cancer

I recommend listening, as Gubar, an award-winning author and professor emerita of English in Indiana University Bloomington’s College of Arts and Sciences, discusses the cancer and decisions she must make concerning treatment, quality of life and other matters.  The interview can be heard here, where highlights from the interview and an excerpt from the book also can be read.  The Chronicle of Higher Education also wrote about the memoir, in an article that I found both touching and painful. 

A pioneering feminist and culture critic, Gubar offered a discouraging picture of the cancer in her radio interview, saying little has changed in terms of treatment since the ’70s. She described a “Catch 22,” where one can expect the cancer to be fatal and the treatment to be debilitating. Pretty bleak stuff from Gubar; yet callers to the NPR program thanked her for writing about it.

The Chronicle article describes how Gubar “was enjoying the success that comes from a long and illustrious academic career” when she was diagnosed in 2008 with ovarian cancer and underwent a surgery called “debulking,” where surgeons remove a woman’s uterus, ovaries, fallopian tubes, appendix and a portion of the intestines.

“It was like I was a bird, flying,” Gubar told the Chronicle, “and then I got shot out of the sky and just dropped.”

Immediately after her diagnosis, Gubar “turned to eminent writers to help her understand her condition,” she says in the Chronicle, yet she found little written about the cancer — in part, she says on “Talk of the Nation,” because “The story isn’t a happily ever after subject.” Her gritty book, published by W.W. Norton & Co. Inc.,  is a “no-holds-barred” account of her experiences. “I wrote my memoir because it seemed to me that ovarian cancer had become an unspeakable subject that affected 22,000 women diagnosed in the States every year,” she told the Chronicle.

She’s got people talking about it.


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Should my doc earn more money? Fri, 27 Apr 2012 20:31:20 +0000 Not that I want to send more hate mail Aaron Carroll’s way, but I found his post “Time for a little self-awareness, docs”  interesting.

Dr. Carroll is a nationally respected health policy expert and pediatrician at Indiana University’s School of Medicine.

A stack of coins on five dollar bills“My point is this,” he writes in a post that refers to a recent survey of physicians’ salaries.  “Is there any other profession that is as tone deaf as we are when it comes to talking about our livelihood? Is there any other profession that feels so free to complain about making too little, when they objectively make so much compared to so many others?”

I’m very fond of my family practice doc and am more frank about my health issues and concerns with her than I am with my husband.  She plays such an important role in keeping me healthy that I get a little uneasy when I read that similar physicians report making half as much as radiologists, cardiologists and other specialists.   I worry that this basic – and trusted — patient-physician relationship will be a casualty of health care cost-cutting measures or simply financial concerns on behalf of doctors like her.

Dr. Carroll doesn’t mince words with his blog post, though, when it comes to salaries.

“I just think we need to take a deep breath and use a little discretion every time we, as a group, feel the need to go all ‘poor us’ in public. I don’t know how much longer the American people are going to tolerate this. Health care spending is sinking us. You’d think we’d learn to shut up a bit.”

Dr. Carroll also blogs about political aspects of health care for the Journal of the American Medical Association and has co-authored several books that debunk medical myths, including the most recent “Don’t Cross Your Eyes … They’ll Get Stuck that way!”

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