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Posts Tagged ‘health’

Photo: @elliott.jerome, via Instagram
Installation view of Theresa Chromati’s
Tea Time, with audio accompaniment by Pangelica, at Museum of Contemporary African Diaspora Arts in Brooklyn.

For ten years, I was the editor of a magazine focused lower-income communities, and like this blog, it reflected a lot of my interests. One of the topics I was always on the hunt for was the role of the arts in community development. This study would have fit perfectly.

Isaac Kaplan writes at Artsy, “Arts advocates have long extolled the benefits of culture to personal and neighborhood welfare. While the contention is broadly accepted within the field, the existence of the link has largely been argued without an abundance of data and taken a backseat to economic justifications for arts funding.

“But a two-year study released this month by researchers from the School of Social Policy & Practice at the University of Pennsylvania has revealed a quantitative relationship between the presence of cultural resources in a neighborhood and key aspects of social well-being, particularly in less advantaged neighborhoods. The research was part of the school’s ongoing Social Impact of the Arts Project (SIAP).

“Professor Mark J. Stern and SIAP director Susan C. Seifert found that low- and middle-income residents across New York City with more access to cultural resources experience better education, security, and health outcomes compared to residents of neighborhoods with similar economic profiles but with fewer cultural resources. …

“The relative higher presence of cultural resources in lower-income neighborhoods is linked with several health, safety, and education benefits. These include a 14% decrease in indicted investigations of child abuse and neglect, an 18% decrease in felony crime rate and also a 17–18% increase in the number of students scoring at the highest level on standardized Math and English tests. …

“While the report is careful to note that such findings do not mean the arts are causing these outcomes, the link is nonetheless significant within a broader picture. …

“To reach their conclusions, the researchers compiled a ‘cultural asset index’ — an accounting of thousands of nonprofits, for-profits, employed artists, and cultural participants across New York City, drawing on numerous sources, including tax, grant, and administrative data.

“The study complements this data with interviews and discussions with individuals engaged with cultural enterprises across the entire city. …

“The study says that economically disadvantaged areas generally have fewer cultural resources than wealthier parts of the city. But less advantaged communities also had a stronger correlation between the prevalence of cultural resources and social well-being.”

Read more at Artsy, here.

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Photo: Wikimedia
People who practice reflexology believe that stimulating different zones of the foot improve the function of different organs of the body.

In tai chi, we’ve learned to get the circulation going in our feet by kneading so-called pressure points and massaging from sole to calf. Although I am not sure I buy into the ancient Chinese view that massaging different zones on the foot affect particular organs and improve overall health, I certainly think that stimulating the blood flow in feet is a good idea, especially if you have circulation issues.

Recently, I decided to try a local reflexology place and see if my feet felt happy afterward.

They did.

I had experienced this treatment only once before, in 2007, when my husband was working in Shanghai and I was visiting. Walking around the French Quarter, I came upon a sandwich board outside a storefront. It said “foot massage.” I thought, “Why not?” I was shown along a dark corridor lined with cubicles, not quite sure what I was getting into. In one cubicle, I sat back and took off my shoes and socks. I remember a window. A young woman who spoke no English got to work, first soaking my tired tourist feet. The massage involved her really pressing hard on the pressure points. We communicated with sign language and friendly smiles, and I think we each found the other rather exotic. My feet liked the experience.

My recent experience was both the same and different. The staff spoke a little more English, but not a lot more. The cubicles were dimly lit and comfortable. A bucket of hot water for the feet started off the relaxation process. Soft music played. At first it sounded Chinese, then morphed into “Danny Boy.” I think I dozed off. The pressure that the young woman applied to my feet was gentler than in Shanghai. Very nice. My husband summed it up with an apt quote: “Be jubilant my feet!”

You can read up on the theory behind reflexology at Wikipedia, here. Far be it from me to question ancient Chinese medicine, but whether or not different parts of your sole improve the functioning of kidneys, liver, digestion, etc., I’m pretty sure that, first, reflexology does no harm.

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Erik keeps tabs on health-related issues and just got an email that he thought would interest me.

He was right. I was reminded of a visit from a “laugh doctor” back when I was editor of Minnesota Physician. The laugh doctor showed us how we could get ourselves laughing. He talked about the endorphins produced and how good they were for health.

In apparent agreement, a Rhode Island clinic that serves low-income people is putting on a comedy show May 7 and inviting neighbors, patients — anyone who is up for a good laugh and willing to make a donation.

The comedy will be performed by the Providence Improv Guild at the Fête Event Space in Olneyville, RI, May 7th, 5:30 – 8:30 p.m.

Says the Laugh for Health invitation, “Suggested donation for tickets: Giggle $10 – Chuckle $ 25 – Laughing out Loud $100 ($150 per couple). Belly Laugh $1000 and above! …

“Here at Clínica Esperanza/Hope Clinic — we believe in laughter and joy. We celebrate health. We laugh at ourselves. We applaud our patients. We take joy in volunteering. We consider health, not wealth, to be the most valuable asset in our community.

“And since many of our neighbors do not have the resources to receive proper healthcare, or don’t know where to be seen for their health problems and how they’ll manage to pay for it all, we are there for them.

“Clínica Esperanza/Hope Clinic welcomes our neighbors in need with open arms. We celebrate health, and with our patients, laugh out loud as they make the journey from illness to good health. … It’s simple to RSVP – click here.”

To learn more about Hope Clinic, visit http://www.aplacetobehealthy.org.

Photo: Hope Clinic
Members of the Providence Improv Guild will perform at a benefit for Clínica Esperanza/Hope Clinic May 7.

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Germany is opening a 62-mile bike path. That’s what I call a long ride.

See what Charlie Sorrel (“previously found writing at Wired.com, Cult of Mac and Straight No filter”) has to say about it at Fast Company.

“Germany, the country famous for its speed-limit free stretches of Autobahn, is building car-free Autobahns for bikes. The Radschnellweg (‘fast bike path’) RS1 runs 62 miles between the cities of Duisburg and Hamm, passing through eight other cities along the way.

“Cycling is big and growing in Germany. In Berlin, the school run is more likely to consist of a parent on a bike with two child seats than in an SUV. Cycling is done for pleasure, but also as just another way to get around. Cities already have extensive cycling infrastructure, and in the countryside, you can find wide, smoothly-paved bike highways.

“According to the ADFC, one kilometer of road costs around €10 million. One kilometer of bike highways runs to just €1.8 million. …

Says the ADFC’s (Germany’s bike association and advocate group) Ulrich Syberg. ‘When it’s ready, the world will look upon the Ruhr area and wonder, how many people can you motivate to switch from the car to the bike, and much this will relieve congestion in city centers.’

“How much congestion? A 2014 study into the lane by the Federal Ministry of Transport says that it could replace up to 52,000 car journeys. But that’s not even the best part. The study also estimated that savings due to the health benefits of cycling could be as much as five times the cost of building the bikeway.” More here.

Photo: via Radschnellweg
The Radschnellweg (“fast bike path”) RS1 runs 62 miles between the cities of Duisburg and Hamm, passing through eight other cities along the way.

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John (founder of www.mistersmartyplants.com) is a member of Arlington Tree Committee. He figured out a way to use Google Maps to identify heritage trees in town and got a sign made to encourage residents to adopt a thirsty tree.

Now that so many urban and suburban areas have taken down their trees to make construction projects easier, people are realizing what they’re missing.

Many have noted that trees play a role in residents’ mental and physical health.

University of Washington research social scientist Kathy Wolf has studied the health aspects and also has economic arguments. She has shown that an “urban canopy”  makes local shopping more agreeable for customers and lends vitality to downtown business districts. Read what she has learned, here.

Chris Mooney at the Washington Post notes other research. “In a new paper published Thursday, a team of researchers present a compelling case for why urban neighborhoods filled with trees are better for your physical health. The research appeared in the open access journal Scientific Reports.

“The large study builds on a body of prior research showing the cognitive and psychological benefits of nature scenery — but also goes farther in actually beginning to quantify just how much an addition of trees in a neighborhood enhances health outcomes. The researchers, led by psychologist Omid Kardan of the University of Chicago, were able to do so because they were working with a vast dataset of public, urban trees kept by the city of Toronto — some 530,000 of them, categorized by species, location, and tree diameter — supplemented by satellite measurements of non-public green space (for instance, trees in a person’s back yard). …

“Controlling for income, age and education, we found a significant independent effect of trees on the street on health,” said Marc Berman, a co-author of the study and also a psychologist at the University of Chicago. “It seemed like the effect was strongest for the public [trees]. Not to say the other trees don’t have an impact, but we found stronger effects for the trees on the street.”

Thank you to my high school classmate, Susie from Cleveland, for putting the Washington Post article on Facebook.

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A New York Times blog called “Well” recently had a post on the value of a walk at lunch.

Gretchen Reynolds wrote, “A new study finds that even gentle lunchtime strolls can perceptibly — and immediately — buoy people’s moods and ability to handle stress at work.

“It is not news, of course, that walking is healthy and that people who walk or otherwise exercise regularly tend to be more calm, alert and happy than people who are inactive. But many past studies of the effects of walking and other exercise on mood have focused on somewhat long-term, gradual outcomes, looking at how weeks or months of exercise change people emotionally.”

For a new study “published in the Scandinavian Journal of Medicine and Science in Sports … researchers at the University of Birmingham and other universities began by recruiting sedentary office workers at the university.

“A common problem with studies of the effect of exercise on mood, [researcher Cecilie] Thogersen-Ntoumani said, is that they rely on recall. People are asked to remember hours or days after the fact how exercise made them feel.” So participants were given a special app to record how they felt in the moment.

“On the afternoons after a lunchtime stroll, walkers said they felt considerably more enthusiastic, less tense, and generally more relaxed and able to cope than on afternoons when they hadn’t walked and even compared with their own moods from a morning before a walk.” More here.

Makes perfect sense to me. But until we get rid of some of our ice, my own lunchtime walks are indoors in South Station — under the disconcerting fish eye of the suspicious security guard.

Photo: Getty Images
I love the cobblestones here. But where I am at lunchtime may not get down to cobblestones for many, many weeks.

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Research highlighted at Pacific Standard sometimes strikes me as a little lightweight, but I am happy to endorse a study that Tom Jacobs covered recently, because I have some personal experience. It’s about the benefits of both cultural activities and Internet usage for older people.

Jacobs writes, “A new British study of people age 50 and older finds a link between health literacy — defined as ‘the capacity to obtain, process and understand basic health information’ — and two specific behaviors: Regular use of the Internet, and participation in cultural activities.

“ ‘Loss of health literacy skills during aging is not inevitable, a research team led by Lindsay Kobayashi of University College London writes in the Journal of Epidemiology and Health. ‘Internet use and engagement in various social activities, in particular cultural activities, appear to help older adults maintain the literary skills required to self-manage health.’

“The study used data on 4,368 men and women age 50 or older who participated in the English Longitudinal Study on Aging. Their health literacy was measured two years after they joined the project, and again five years later, by having them read a fictitious medicine-bottle label and then answer four reading-comprehension questions.”

I am over 50, enjoy cultural events and the Internet, and understand most medicine bottle labels. So there you go. It’s all true.

Get the key details at Pacific Standard.

Photo: Popova Valeriya/Shutterstock 

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