Feeds:
Posts
Comments

Posts Tagged ‘health’

Photo: Wikimedia Commons
MacArthur Fellow and environmental health advocate Catherine Coleman Flowers of Alabama.

Today’s article is about an environmental health advocate from rural Alabama who was honored recently by the MacArthur Foundation. One thing her story suggests to me is that when parents demonstrate concern for the world around them, later generations can work miracles. The parents of Catherine Coleman Flowers were civil rights activists in the 1960s.

Sarah Kaplan writes at the Washington Post, “To Catherine Coleman Flowers, this is ‘holy ground’: the place where her ancestors were enslaved and her parents fought for civil rights and she came of age. …

“Yet this ground also harbors a threat, one made worse by climate change. Untreated sewage is coursing through this rural community, a consequence of historic government disinvestment, basic geology and recent changes in the soil. On rainy days, foul effluent burbles up into bathtubs and sinks, and pools in yards. Some residents have hookworm, an illness rarely seen in developed nations.

“It’s America’s ‘dirty secret,’ Flowers said. … Heavier rainfall caused by climate change is saturating soil and raising water tables — confounding septic systems. From the flooded coasts of Florida to thawing Alaska towns, an estimated half-million U.S. households lack adequate sanitation.

“Now Flowers, a MacArthur Foundation ‘genius,’ is partnering with environmental engineers at Columbia University on a solution. They are working on a new kind of toilet that will act as a mini sewage treatment facility.

Instead of flushing waste, the system they’re working to build will filter, clean and recycle waste on site. Instead of sending raw sewage into the soil, it will turn it into water for use in washing machines, and into nutrients for fertilizer, and perhaps even energy for homes. …

“What was once a problem can become a solution, Flowers said. And the change will start in Lowndes County, as it has before.

“To Flowers, 62, the Lowndes County of her childhood was part rural idyll, part activism hotbed. … In 1965, about 80 percent of the county’s population was Black, but not a single Black person was registered to vote. …

“But then protesters from Selma marched down Lowndes’s dirt roads on their way to Montgomery, and a wave of activism erupted. … Flowers’s father, a military veteran and salesman, and her mother, a teacher’s aide, were heavily involved. Civil rights leaders streamed to their cinder-block home. …

“Her parents’ activism connected Flowers to the world beyond Lowndes County. As a teenager, she joined the Alabama Students for Civil Rights and spent a summer in D.C. as a youth fellow at the Robert F. Kennedy Memorial Foundation. She read ‘The Autobiography of Malcolm X,’ wrote politics-infused poetry and dreamed of becoming the first Black woman on the U.S. Supreme Court.

“In 11th grade, frustrated with subpar conditions at her high school, Flowers wrote an exposé for a local newsletter. That led to the formation of a community group, then a lawsuit and, ultimately, to the resignation of the principal and school board superintendent.

“ ‘My father’s famous thing he would always say was, “Catherine, if you take one step, God will take two,” ‘ Flowers said. It meant that change was possible, but you had to do the work.”

The article goes on to say that after Flowers had moved away, she learned her home county was suffering and that part of the problem was that the soil had changed and no longer worked for septic systems, which “require permeable soil. … All over the county, septic systems were breaking down. Heavy rainfall would seal up the soil until effluent had nowhere to go but up onto lawns or back into homes. …

“Flowers — then director of the nonprofit Alabama Center for Rural Enterprise (ACRE) — set out to determine the scale of the problem. …

“ ‘This is America,’ Flowers said. ‘We’re not supposed to have these kinds of problems — at least, that’s what we tell ourselves. But we do.’ …

“Climate change is making existing deficiencies worse. Rising sea levels have elevated the water table in coastal areas, shrinking the depth of leach fields and increasing contamination. Days of extreme rainfall — which have doubled in the Southeast as a consequence of warming — stymie septic systems. …

“ ‘Climate change is like a magnifying glass for everything,’ Flowers said. It exacerbates neglect, widens inequality and exposes problems once hidden. …

“Flowers has a vision for a better septic system. It’s cheap to buy and easy to run. It’s equipped with sensors that can monitor for signs of pathogens, including the coronavirus. Instead of allowing sewage to seep into the ground, the system separates waste into its component parts, which can then be recycled. …

“In Kartik Chandran, she found a partner who shares that vision. They met five years ago at a conference on wastewater issues. Chandran, an environmental engineer at Columbia University, was struck by how similar Lowndes County’s waste problems were to those in his native India. Flowers remembered hearing about Chandran’s research and thinking, ‘This is the technological solution we need.’ ” Read how it would work here.

Read Full Post »

Photo: Refugee Company
The goal of the Mondmaskerfabriek, an initiative of the Refugee Company in the Netherlands, is to produce 100,000 face masks every day.

As a volunteer in English classes (all online these days), I am aware that most immigrants are determined to contribute to the countries they arrive in. Consider, for example, the Muslim husband and wife in Germany who were largely responsible for the miracle vaccine developed in one year against the odds.

In the Netherlands, the Refugee Company has immigrants employed in making face masks to protect the Dutch against Covid-19.

Michal van der Toorn at the Local Europe has the story.

“Why be dependent on factories on the other side of the world if you can produce face masks locally? That’s exactly what Dutch entrepreneurs Jaap Stelwagen, Fleur Bakker, Johan Blom and Naz Kawan thought in March. The Netherlands, like many other countries at the time, was dealing with a big deficit of surgical face masks.

“Stelwagen, who lived in China, together with his wife who is originally from China, called several people there to ask whether it would be possible to get material. Bakker’s sister, a KLM pilot, managed to get hold of a roll of [fabric] that you need to make face masks, and brought it to the Netherlands on a plane full of other health equipment. Later that month, on one of the few flights that were running at the time, two face mask machines flew 7,000 kilometres to Amsterdam.

“But who would operate them? [One] Company already had a sewing workshop and restaurants in place where people with a refugee background were able to acquire work experience. [The company writes its name Refugee Company to focus on the work, not immigration status.]

“ ‘As a response to the pandemic,’ project spokesperson Peter-Paul de Jong explains, ‘we decided to set up a face mask factory: the Mondmaskerfabriek. … The project not only responded to the deficit of masks in Dutch healthcare,’ de Jong explains, “but also provides people with a refugee background with work experience and knowledge about the labour market in the Netherlands.’

“Firas al Naif, 33, is one of the employees in the factory. ‘I’m doing different tasks,’ he says. ‘I for example have to make sure the masks are properly wrapped and check if the machines work.’ It is all new for Al Naif, as in Syria, he worked as a biology teacher. ‘I wasn’t used to doing technical tasks. The first month was pretty hard, but now it’s going really well. …

” ‘We have a paid four-hour programme next to work, in which we can improve our language and become more familiar with the labour market, and we make for example a CV, application letters, we see how you can find work. …

“ ‘The one thing I like most about this work is solving problems,’ says Al Naif. ‘If there is a problem with the machine from China, I like to look for ways to get it working again.’

“And there were other problems, de Jong explains. After the challenges of getting the right machines and material, the next problem arose: getting certification to create surgical face masks for healthcare professionals. In order to be used in the healthcare sector, the face masks have to be certified by a laboratory to say they meet strict standards. And that took some time. …

“As the building is old, ventilation is a problem and it’s hard to get it up to the antibacterial standards, Bakker writes on the website. The location caused occasional deviations that stood in the way of the factory’s certification.

“The project tried different ways to ensure the masks were up to medical standards, including sterilizing them with gamma radiation and setting up a special sterile production room within the factory with purified air and an antibacterial floor.

“In mid October the certification was acquired and the factory started supplying the Dutch centralized point for healthcare products. …

“ ‘That distinguishes the Mondmaskerfabriek from other projects from the Refugee Company,’ de Jong explains, ‘as we can use the profits to pay employees, instead of only relying on funds and donations.’ …

“ ‘I love how much I learned about technology,’ [al Naif] says. But he would rather be a biology teacher again. ‘When my Dutch is good enough, I want to go back to the classroom.’ ”

More at the Local Europe, here.

Read Full Post »

Photo: Gabrielle Lurie, Chronicle
Michael Houston brightens San Franciscans’ day as part of the San Francisco Creative Corps, a program that pays performing artists to be community health ambassadors.

One of my brothers, the science professor, used to perform regularly as a clown, particularly at church and Sunday School. Clowns-in-ministry is actually a thing, a way to engage parishioners and provide a different perspective on teachings.

In San Francisco during the pandemic, clowns and performers of all kinds have heard the call to keep people healthy using laughter, entertainment, and public-service messaging.

Lily Janiak has the story at the San Francisco Chronicle.

“Robin Lara and Stella Adelman of Dance Mission Theater were strapping on stilts. Michael Houston of San Francisco Bay Area Theatre Company was affixing a red clown nose on top of his face mask. Marcelo Javier, also of SFBATCO, was trying out a jury-rigged pandemic-era clown prop — two extendable massage rollers tied together, allowing him to interact with passersby from a safer distance.

“If these artists were backstage — at a side room in the Mission District restaurant West of Pecos — their theater was Valencia Street on a recent sunny afternoon. And if they were about to open a show, their message was public health.

“These four, along with Rodney E. Jackson Jr. of SFBATCO and Aura Barba of SF Carnaval, were just one shift of artists in San Francisco Creative Corps, a pilot program that recruits underemployed local artists as community health ambassadors to promote healthy behavior during the pandemic.

“A partnership between the San Francisco mayor’s office, Yerba Buena Center for the Arts, the Office of Economic and Workforce Development, and the San Francisco Parks Alliance, the program launched last month. It employs 30 performing artists to encourage mask wearing and other best practices and 30 visual artists to paint murals about public health on boarded-up storefronts.

“The city chose Valencia Street and Washington Square in North Beach as pilot sites because of their high pedestrian traffic, significant amounts of outdoor eating and drinking, low mask compliance and high or increasing case rates, according to Jeff Cretan, director of communications at the mayor’s office. …

“Deborah Cullinan, YBCA’s chief executive officer, approached the city with the idea after being part of Gov. Gavin Newsom’s Task Force on Business and Jobs Recovery.

‘What’s the WPA program for today?’ she recalls thinking, referring to Depression-era initiatives such as the Federal Theatre Project and the Federal Art Project that employed artists not just as work relief but as a broad public investment in art. …

” ‘Artists are very effective in driving health outcomes in communities,’ she said, citing projects ranging from a radio drama combating the spread of Ebola in Sierra Leone to National Endowment for the Arts-backed therapy helping veterans with PTSD and traumatic brain injury at Walter Reed Army Medical Center. …

“On Nov. 29, Lara and Adelman — decked in feathers, bustiers and leg flares in addition to their stilts — paraded down Valencia Street. … Houston, with blazer, tie, rainbow wig and microphone, in addition to the red nose and mask, approached passersby for man-on-the-street interviews, asking — in a news announcer baritone — what they were doing to keep themselves safe from COVID-19. …

“The artists never scolded those without masks — emphatically not the point of the program — and pedestrians who were offered masks usually weren’t hostile. Only once in the first two hours did someone yell in response. Most either kept going or accepted, smiling sheepishly as if to say, ‘Yeah, you’re right. I knew I should have been wearing one.’ …

“ ‘If we need people to take care of one another, they have to feel taken care of first,’ said Cullinan. ‘Messages that make us feel bad aren’t going to work. Messages that make us feel good and want to be a part of something. … That’s what theater makers do.’ ”

More at the San Francisco Chronicle, here.

Read Full Post »

merlin_99210046_e422bfb4-003b-41b1-9127-bf8dc2edb60e-jumbo

Photo: Tom Jamieson for the New York Times
“London’s bike-rental program has proved popular. Now, patients at two medical centers in Cardiff, Wales, will be offered six-month subscriptions to a bike-rental service, with free rides of up to 30 minutes,” reported the
New York Times last year.

Last week, as I watched two grandchildren painstakingly donning piles of bulky ice hockey gear, I remarked that for me, walking is the best exercise because you don’t have to do any prep. You just open the door and go out. My granddaughter, age 7, opined that walking is boring, and I have to admit that ice hockey may be more heart-pumping.

But I am not bored. And after walking every day for many years, I no longer feel surprised that I like to exercise. At first, I was resistant to doing anything. But a friend who was an internist leaned on me about exercising. And I knew if I were going to do anything regularly over a long period of time, it would have to be something I liked. So, walking was it.

Given that I go quite slow, I was surprised that when I told various doctors I just ambled, they didn’t seem bothered. Then I heard one refer to walking as a “weight-bearing activity,” and the penny dropped!

In the United Kingdom, doctors are making it easy for patients to exercise by means of bicycles. And like me, many former non-exercisers are surprised to find that they like it.

The BBC reports, “A cycling-on-prescription scheme trialled in Yorkshire has been so successful it could be rolled out across the UK, the organisers said. The scheme allows health professionals to offer those with long-term conditions 12 weeks of cycle training.

“More than 1,000 people have been referred to the scheme since it launched four years ago, according to the West Yorkshire Combined Authority. Cycle UK said the scheme showed cycling was good for overall wellbeing. …

“The initiative is funded by West Yorkshire Combined Authority, which covers Barnsley, Bradford, Calderdale, Craven, Harrogate, Kirklees, Leeds, Selby, Wakefield and York.

“Figures from 2018/2019 showed people using the scheme reporting a marked increase in feeling more confident and relaxed. …

“At the start of the programme, only 18% of participants were meeting the NHS [National Health Service] activity guidelines of 150 minutes per week — a figure that rose to 73% afterwards.

“Andrea, 47, from Wakefield, was referred as she has suffered from anxiety. ‘I’m more confident. I’m able to be out with other people more than I would normally,’ she said. ‘My fitness has improved, my lung function is a lot better than it has been and now I actually want to go out and do other things, and keep cycling, keep active and really start living my life.’ …

“Cycling UK said the scheme started in Yorkshire, and has since been trialled in areas including Wales, Manchester and London, but is not yet available nationwide.”  More at the BBC, here.

The New York Times, here, talks about the biking-rx trial in Wales, noting, “Nextbike, the company that offers the bicycle service for patients in Cardiff, provides rentals in many other European cities. Mareike Rauchhaus, a spokeswoman for the company, said that it participated in a program called By Bike to Work, which allowed people to claim prizes from their health insurance providers if they cycled to work. …

“Dr. Karen Pardy, a family doctor who is participating in the program in Cardiff, said in the statement [that] she hoped prescriptions would encourage people to ‘have a go at cycling around Cardiff’ and realize how the activity can support their well-being.”

P.S. If you search Suzanne’s Mom’s Blog for the word “prescription,” you’ll find a lot of posts on doctors’ unusual prescriptions to encourage more healthful living, including  biking in Boston, woodland walks, gardening, museum visits, poetry, music, dance, art …

Read Full Post »

You have undoubtedly discovered on your own the healing qualities of a walk in the woods, but it seems that increasing numbers of doctors are actually prescribing it.

Sarah Barker writes for the Minneapolis Star Tribune, “Your blood pressure is a little high. You could stand to lose some weight, and, yeah, you’re stressed. You leave the doctor’s office with directions to a park near your house and a prescription for 30 minutes a day out there breathing fresh air among the trees and the birds.

“Until recently, doctors encouraged patients to get more outdoor exercise but stopped short of writing a prescription. Soon, in collaboration with parks and trails organizations, community and athletic associations, some Minnesota doctors will be handing patients prescriptions for that dose of nature.

“ ‘The data is there. We’re wired to be connected to nature,’ said Dr. Brent Bauer of the Mayo Clinic in Rochester. ‘Cool things happen when you’re exposed to nature for two hours a week — inflammation is reduced, stress, anxiety, heart rate.’ …

“Bauer founded Mayo’s complementary and integrative medicine program 20 years ago grounded in the theory of biophilia — that humans have an innate need to connect with nature. That people spend 90% of their time indoors, most of it sitting, has resulted in negative consequences: obesity, diabetes, anxiety, depression, to name a few. The last 10 years have seen a ‘scientification,’ as Bauer called it, of our need for nature. It’s been studied, measured.

“At the same time, there’s been a shift toward preventive medicine — lifestyle choices like food, exercise, spirituality — and efforts to make health care more efficient. There has been collaboration between communities that haven’t overlapped — parks and the Department of Natural Resources with public health; health insurance with health clubs; sports events with hospitals. Since 2010, doctors have worked with a nonprofit called Wholesome Wave to prescribe patients fruits and vegetables.

“Bauer signed on with one of those collaborations, Park Rx America, a national nonprofit established by Washington, D.C., pediatrician Dr. Robert Zarr in 2017. … According to Zarr, there are 22 registered Park Rx health care providers in Minnesota and 96 parks listed. …

“Receiving a nature prescription from your doctor here in Minnesota is still maybe a year away. Unless you’re a child. In which case, this is old news.

“Some Twin Cities children have been leaving the pediatrician’s office with a Sweat Rx since 2014. Sweat Rx was the first formal outdoor prescription program in the country, its creators say. … Betsy Grams and Tony Schiller co-founded CycleHealth as a way to improve kids’ health through training programs, activity challenges and fun adventure races. The events were outdoors, a little bit nontraditional (the triathlon is swim-bike-run with obstacles thrown in), and noncompetitive. …

“Focusing on health rather than competition was a natural tie-in to the medical community. Through a connection with one of the doctors, Grams and Schiller met with at Central + Priority Pediatrics in Woodbury in 2014 to talk about their upcoming kids’ triathlon. …

“ ‘We were really surprised when they said they would actually prescribe the triathlon to their patients that summer. We didn’t know how hungry doctors were for a concrete tool for encouraging kids to get outdoors, to live the lifestyle they’d been talking about,’ Grams said.

“The two quickly printed a prescription-ish pad of paper with a space for the patient’s name and a link to training materials and race registration. That was the start of Sweat Rx. CycleHealth now works with 52 pediatric clinics in the Twin Cities area. …

“Cheap, readily accessible, and side-effect free, Minnesota’s 10,000 lakes and vaunted parks and trails are shaping up to be, quite literally, what the doctor ordered.”

More here.

My husband and I are lucky with where we live because if you go in one direction out of the house, you come quickly to a busy village with a library and attractive shops. If you go the other way, you are in conservation land in no time. Best of both worlds.

. 062618-John-walks-in-woods

 

 

Read Full Post »

Today is July 11th. A week ago, my sister was feeling fine. Today she is having brain surgery. I arrived in New York yesterday to be with her and her husband.

It may be that I don’t post for a while. I’m feeling a little discombobulated. But I do like posting, so you could at least get pictures of New York City over the next couple days.

My sister is a lot younger than me. This feels all wrong. But life is strange that way.

If you are into sending people healing thoughts, please think of us at 2 p.m.

042218-pansies-in-wall

 

Read Full Post »


Photo: Andrew Nixon / Capital Public Radio
Tony Price, formerly homeless, grows tomatoes in his small patio garden and shares the produce with friends and neighbors. Now that he has permanent housing, he’s able to take better care of his health.

In the last decade, there’s been a lot written about how a small percentage of people use hospital emergency rooms on a regular basis and what could be done to stabilize them and save money. In today’s story, we find that providing housing for homeless patients can yield positive, long-term results.

From Pauline Bartolone and Kaiser Health News at Capital Public Radio: “Hospitals in Sacramento and around the country want to get [homeless patients] off the streets, to improve their health and minimize unnecessary visits to the ER. … That’s why many hospitals are stepping outside their role as medical providers to invest heavily in housing for homeless people.

“Dignity Health’s ‘Housing With Dignity’ initiative got Tony Price into an apartment, paid his rent for four months and set him up with a social worker who helped him become eligible for permanent housing. …

“A 2002 study showed that providing housing and supportive services, to more than 4,600 mentally ill homeless people in New York City dramatically reduced their presence in hospitals, shelters and correctional facilities. …

“Health insurers are starting to invest in housing, too. Dignity and other Sacramento hospitals have long funded ‘respite’ programs that shelter homeless people for a few weeks after their hospital stays, but the goal of ‘Housing With Dignity’ is to keep them from being homeless again. …

“Ashley Brand, Dignity’s director of community health and outreach, said the program is helping address the hospital chain’s longstanding challenge of ensuring that homeless patients get follow-up care after they’re discharged. …

“No matter how many times Tony Price visited Sacramento hospitals while he was living on the streets, he never got well. His diabetes was uncontrolled, he repeatedly lost the drugs he was taking for anxiety and depression and, he says, he regularly drank himself into ‘oblivion,’ sometimes consuming as much as half a gallon of vodka a day. …

“Price qualified for the services offered by ‘Housing with Dignity,’ which put him into a one-bedroom apartment in Sacramento’s sprawling North Highlands neighborhood in May 2015 and assigned him a social worker, Chris Grabe, who drove him to medical appointments. …

“He has been off the streets for nearly two and a half years, and he’s been to the hospital only once since January. … He now gardens, and he recently volunteered at a church and as a leader of an Alcoholics Anonymous group.”

At Capital Public Radio, here, you can read how Grabe stuck with Price through early relapses and what is needed to expand this effort to more people.

Hat tip: House of Hope CDC on twitter.

12/8/17 Update: Meanwhile in Boston, where one in four Boston Medical Center patients is homeless or in dangerous housing, BMC is partnering with local housing organizations and spending $6.5 million to help patients. This is the latest manifestation on BMC’s whole-patient approach to healing. Read about it here.

Read Full Post »


Photo: Alamy
Exercise and social activities could help to reduce the risk of developing dementia in later life, according to a new report.

Although there is no cure yet for dementia, lifestyle changes have the potential to reduce new cases by as much as one-third.

Nicola Davis writes at the Guardian about a recent report from the Lancet Commission on dementia prevention, intervention and care. The study suggests that many “dementia cases might be avoided by tackling aspects of lifestyle including education, exercise, blood pressure and hearing. …

“ ‘There are a lot of things that individuals can do, and there are a lot of things that public health and policy can do, to reduce the numbers of people developing dementia,’ said Gill Livingston, professor of psychiatry of older people at University College London and a co-author of the report. …

“ ‘We expect it to be a long-term change that will be needed for exercise; joining a gym for two weeks is probably not going to do it,’ she said.

“Clive Ballard, professor of age-related diseases at the University of Exeter medical school and also a co-author of the report, added that the evidence suggests individuals should also try to follow a Mediterranean diet, maintain a healthy weight and keep an eye on their blood pressure. …

“The results reveal that as many as 35% of dementia cases could, at least in theory, be prevented, with 9% linked to midlife hearing loss, 8% to leaving education before secondary school, 5% to smoking in later life and 4% to later life depression. Social isolation, later life diabetes, midlife high blood pressure, midlife obesity and lack of exercise in later life also contributed to potentially avoidable cases of dementia, the report notes. …

“They admit that the estimate that more than a third of dementia cases could be prevented is a best case scenario, with the figures based on a number of assumptions, including that each factor could be completely tackled. …

“Fiona Matthews, professor of epidemiology at Newcastle University who was not involved in the report, said that interventions for depression and social isolation could still prove valuable. ‘If we could actually resolve some of that issue, even if it is not 100% causal, it is likely we might be able to slow [dementia] progression – even if [an individual] is on a pathway to developing dementia already,’ she said.

“She added that the proposed areas for action could offer myriad health benefits beyond lowering dementia risk. …

“The authors pointed out that an intervention that delayed dementia onset and progression by even a year could decrease the number of people with dementia worldwide in 2050 by nine million.”

More at the Guardian, here.

Read Full Post »

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Both my kids are entrepreneurs. They got their start in business with a lemonade stand, as my grandson is doing in the photo.

His customers don’t know how lucky they are. Lemon peels in the trash may be protecting them from bubonic plague. Doubt me? Well, have you heard of anyone getting plague in an area of New England where lemonade is sold?

Well, there you go.

Consider a recent article by Tom Nealon in the Boston Globe.

He writes, “I’d like to tell a story of what lemonade was doing in Paris 349 summers ago. Lemons have been used for making drinks since before the Ancient Egyptians, are often used to detoxify, and to soothe a sore throat, but that year, the fate of Paris may have hinged on one of its lesser known properties.

“In 1668, the bubonic plague, dormant for a decade, returned to France and was threatening Paris. It had been reported in Normandy and Picardy, in Soissons, Amiens, and then, terrifyingly, just downstream of the capital along the Seine, in Rouen. … Panic-stricken Parisian public health officials imposed quarantines and embargoes in the hope of mitigating inevitable disaster — but the dreaded pestilence never struck.

“The plague that loomed over Paris was the midpoint of a 17th-century European epidemic that would go on to decimate Vienna (80,000 dead in 1679), Prague (80,000 dead in 1681) and Malta (11,000 dead in 1675). The body count in Amiens would end up topping 30,000, and almost no city in France was spared – except for Paris, which, miraculously, survived almost completely unscathed.”

By chance, lemonade was extremely popular that year.

“The limonene contained in lemons (and other citrus fruits) is a natural insecticide and insect repellent. The most effective part of the lemon is the limonene-rich peel. Indeed, after centuries of discovery of chemical insect repellents, the US Environmental Protection Agency still lists 15 insecticides in which limonene is the chief active ingredient, including both general bug sprays and products for pet flea and tick control. The French were piling lemon peels in the best possible place to disrupt the flea-rat-human-rat chain [that caused the spread of plague]: the trash. …

“Paris emerged alive — and refreshed.” More here.

I don’t really think we should count on lemonade to protect us from plague. But lemonade in a backpack isn’t a bad idea for a lemonade-stand spinoff. Time tested. You could take it to the beach.

Image: Staeske Rebers
Limonadiers were French vendors who sold lemonade from tanks on their backs.

Read Full Post »

Image: Reuters/Denis Balibouse
The World Economic Forum touts research suggesting that “forest bathing,” the act of being among the trees, has health benefits.

We love trees. John, for example, serves on the Arlington tree committee and helps with the town’s efforts to inventory its trees, acquire more sidewalk plantings, and assist researchers studying the role of urban trees in carbon reduction.

A master landscaper I know is also into trees. He shared this story about the health benefits of something the Japanese call “forest bathing.”

Ephrat Livini wrote at the World Economic Forum, “Now there’s scientific evidence supporting eco-therapy. The Japanese practice of forest bathing is proven to lower heart rate and blood pressure, reduce stress hormone production, boost the immune system, and improve overall feelings of well-being.

“Forest bathing — basically just being in the presence of trees—became part of a national public health program in Japan in 1982 when the forestry ministry coined the phrase shinrin-yoku and promoted topiary as therapy. …

“Forest air doesn’t just feel fresher and better — inhaling phytoncide seems to actually improve immune system function. …

“From 2004 to 2012, Japanese officials spent about $4 million dollars studying the physiological and psychological effects of forest bathing, designating 48 therapy trails based on the results. Qing Li, a professor at Nippon Medical School in Tokyo, measured the activity of human natural killer (NK) cells in the immune system before and after exposure to the woods. These cells provide rapid responses to viral-infected cells and respond to tumor formation, and are associated with immune system health and cancer prevention. In a 2009 study Li’s subjects showed significant increases in NK cell activity in the week after a forest visit, and positive effects lasted a month following each weekend in the woods. …

“Experiments on forest bathing conducted by the Center for Environment, Health and Field Sciences in Japan’s Chiba University measured its physiological effects on 280 subjects in their early 20s. The team measured the subjects’ salivary cortisol (which increases with stress), blood pressure, pulse rate, and heart rate variability during a day in the city and compared those to the same biometrics taken during a day with a 30-minute forest visit. …

“Trees soothe the spirit too. A study on forest bathing’s psychological effects surveyed 498 healthy volunteers, twice in a forest and twice in control environments. The subjects showed significantly reduced hostility and depression scores, coupled with increased liveliness, after exposure to trees. …

“City dwellers can benefit from the effects of trees with just a visit to the park. Brief exposure to greenery in urban environments can relieve stress levels.”

More here. Be sure to watch the video.

Hat tip: Paul Kelly on Facebook.

Read Full Post »

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.

Read Full Post »

foot_chart1_small

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.

Read Full Post »

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.

Read Full Post »

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.

Read Full Post »

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.

071115-Arlington-Tree-Watering

Read Full Post »

Older Posts »

%d bloggers like this: