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One of the most pressing public health issues of our times, has been the scourge of HIV/AIDS. The disease – which began to gain notoriety and attention throughout the 1980’s – has crippled the lives of many Americans, most often bringing unwelcome stigmas and lifelong medication treatments.

A particular class I took in college (as a matter of fact, it was the class that brought me from engineering to the public health world), was focused on disease prevention. Among diseases like diabetes and tuberculosis, HIV/AIDS was usually at the top of the list of diseases that needed focused attention to cure/eradicate. Now that we are in the 2000s and in an age of advanced communication, many of the details related to the disease itself – as well as cutting edge research working toward a cure – can be effectively disseminated to the lay audience. For far too long, the darker side of word of mouth communication allowed for incorrect insight into the world of those living with the disease. Now we can change that…

A good example of technology (more specifically the social web) being used to inform the public is the recently launched AIDS.gov blog. AIDS. gov is the official website of the Department of Health and Human Services‘ communication on the HIV/AIDS issue. Their willingness to delve into the social media aspect of communication should be applauded in itself. This is what I’m talking about when I mention thoughts on how social technology can help the health world. Health is about people. How people live, eat and interact…and also learn. The site does a great job of introducing people to the disease and the blog seems to facilitate a way for people to interact with how the government is handling the issue.

This is of course a vulnerable position as there is always the tendency for the public to not always trust government leadership. This is a great step in the right direction. The HIV/AIDS dilemma is a big one – a global one. And from my point of view, problems can be solved faster by having more people truly understand what is at stake.

Bottom line is, as we continue to become more connected, more vocal about what is going on in our lives, it’s important to not only become knowledgeable about these issues but also to provide feedback regarding solutions. Especially in the realm of health – it’s not about what the government can provide, it’s not about a “professional” tackling the problem for us. Our better health future relies on you – it relies on me – to make forward progress. Get educated about health issues that matter to you…and then give back.

Hello Blog World!

I am very honored to be a special guest on my hubby’s blog. I’m not a member of the blog world, but I see that Andre is having fun and I’m very grateful to everyone who has and still supports him.

I’m going to talk about my experience at a gym called Crossfit in Alexandria, VA. A co-worker of mine has been a member there for 6 months and has lost 55 lbs! She looks amazing. You can actually see her in action here. Let me just start off by saying that Crossfit is NOT your average gym (Gold’s Gym, WSC, etc). Navy Seals and other military groups train there, so it is definitely no walk in the park. As far as I know, there are only 2 trainers who are willing to help you push yourself and do things that you never thought you could do. Their definition of Crossfit is “a strength and conditioning system built on constantly varied, if not randomized, functional movements executed at high intensity.” This means that you will do a lot of high-intensity workouts in a short period of time, and you will very rarely, if at all, do the same workout twice. The key is to constantly give your body a challenge so that it will never get used to any exercise. They are not as concerned about you losing weight as they are about how you are improving your performance. For example, if you lose weight during your process, that’s great, but if you can lift 45 lbs one week and then in a few months lift 65 lbs, that’s even better!

There is nothing fancy about this gym. When you first walk in, it’s just one big room with equipment along the perimeter and a large space in the middle to actually do workouts. They also have a very large blackboard in the front where they list the specific workouts that you’re going to do and your personal time of how long it took to complete a workout. Hopefully I didn’t scare anyone by mentioning that Navy Seals train there because the trainers are very cool guys, so no one is going to be in your ear screaming at you to PUSH HARDER!!! GIVE ME 50 MORE NOW!!!!

Personally, I do not work well in an environment like that, but to them, writing your timed workout on the board for everyone to see is enough to push you to compete against yourself. This is not the kind of gym where you just walk in and do your own thing, you have to work with a trainer because they are very dedicated to showing you how to do workouts the right way, emphasizing on good posture and core strength. They’re not going to just put you on a machine and tell you to push. Anyone can do that. Most of their workouts don’t involve any machines at all.

My co-worker invited a group of girls to check it out this past Saturday. I was interested because I feel like I’m always battling with my weight. A couple of years ago my previous job started a weight club and I just decided that I was going to make a change and seriously start to lose weight. I was working out 4-5 times a week and eating very low carbs. I lost about 25lbs in 3 months. Not to put a damper on marriage, but when my wonderful hubby proposed and the wedding plans began, let’s just say the number of workouts gradually decreased, my love for burgers and French fries increased. I’ve recently started to get back into the gym, and after seeing my co-worker’s before and after picture, I had to check it out!

After a discussion of what they are about, we did a warm up (jumping jacks, stretching), then we started doing squats. This means that we did as many squats as we could in 20 seconds, then rest for 10 secs, over and over again. This lasted for about 4 minutes. After about the 2nd set, I was ready to walk out. Unfortunately, I did more lunges than I have ever done, 2 days before trying out Crossfit, so my thighs were extremely sore before we even got started *tear*

Next, they set up about 5 different stations: squats with 20lb weights in each hand, pull ups, tire jumps, squats with a kettlebell, and the row machine. We did 2 rounds of each station, one minute per station. It may not seem too bad for those who work out regularly, but after doing regular squats first and having your legs literally feel like Jello, it was extremely hard to do the rest.

That was pretty much it, but it felt like I just ran a marathon! I’m having some trouble walking today, but I don’t think it would have been so bad if I hadn’t done too many lunges 2 days before. I seriously thought of joining, but the location would not work out for me to attend about 3 times a week. I would recommend becoming a member for those who are tired of the corporate gym experience and really want to push themselves to try something new. From the stories I’ve heard, members have gone from thinking that they could not possibly do an exercise, (“So why bother trying?”) – to eventually trying it out and actually doing what they thought was impossible. Sorry if I’ve rambled on for too long, I just didn’t want to leave anything out. I guess I don’t know the proper blog writing etiquette. To check out videos to actually see what it’s like, please check out www.crossfitalexandria.com. I was very inspired and I hope you will be too!

~Hope

Recently I wrote about the website OnDayOne and how I was excited that this existed for people to become even more involved in speaking up about how the President began their term.

I just posted my Idea suggestion for the website – obviously focused on some aspect of health.

As an advocate for public health education, I would want the President to boost publicity about the National President’s Challenge – a nationwide physical fitness program aimed at getting kids, teens and adults living healthier. This year will be the 52nd year of the Program, started by Eisenhower and it’s no secret that the country is in need of a fitness/healthier lifestyle boost. Let’s unite the country in good health!

You can find the post here on the site. Some pretty interesting ideas have been posted and hopefully you can also join in. Web technology is enabling us all to do so much, I love it.

As another blogger in the health world, I am pleased to announce that Amy Tenderich, the author of DiabetesMine was recently featured on Newsweek.com!

Here is the link to her blog post mentioning all the details.

Amy was diagnosed with Type 1 Diabetes and began writing about her experiences, which has lead to a large following of “patient bloggers” as well as people who can identify with her life. Diabetes is one of my keen interests (especially Type 2 and its prevention) so I’m glad there was some exposure!

Great job Amy!

On Sunday, I had the great opportunity to visit the 2008 NBC Health and Fitness Expo at the Convention Center in Washington, DC. This is my third year going (this is the 15th year of the event) to the expo and every time I go, I get blown away at the vendors and the sheer amount of attendees that show up.

According to the NBC 4 website, over 85,000 people showed up to take part in the variety of giveaways, health screenings, and even activities like salsa dancing! The expo was held on Saturday and Sunday but unfortunately I was only able to make the tail end of Sunday – as they say, better late than never right?

As soon as you enter the Washington Convention Center, there were clear signs leading you to the event. When you got to the top of the escalator platform, you got a clear view of what was happening – it was awesome.

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Despite having limited time, I did manage to get around to some great booths. The most interesting exhibit I came across was Mark Marten’s FitClub demo. Mark heads up Pantometrics, a company that develops exercise technology for fitness equipment. As I was walking past his booth, I couldn’t help but notice a young girl on a stationery bike looking at a screen that basically looked like a virtual Tour de France!

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How cool is that?!

I was very impressed and had to stop by and chat with Mark for a few, getting his insight into the product and what motivated him. I’m going to try to get an interview with him so stay tuned for that. This is exactly the kind of innovation that we need to be working on in order to merge together popular technology and the benefit of healthy living!

As the event began to wind down, I got the impression that thousands of people left the facility a little more enlightened about staying healthy and became aware of the different organizations in the area that are devoted to ensuring that it stays that way. Next year I hope to visit the expo on both days and cover more events.

There was an article I found on the NBC 4 website that highlighted a man who said that the event saved his life. Here is a snippet:

…A 61-year-old Maryland man said if not for free medical screenings he received at NBC4’s Health and Fitness Expo about eight years ago, he might have died.

Banjo player Frank Cassel said he knew his health was in jeopardy, but he hadn’t seen a doctor. He went to the Health and Fitness Expo, where medical experts performed a battery of tests for free.

“They found out that all my levels of sugar, cholesterol and triglycerides were all severely elevated,” Cassel said…Cassel was diagnosed with uncontrolled Type 2 diabetes. That diagnosis prompted him to make some major changes in his life, like eating healthier to control his diabetes and starting a regular exercise program. Now his blood sugar is under control and his cholesterol is down.

“If I hadn’t gone to the Health Expo and gotten tested, it’s very possible I would have died,” he said. Cassel was so thankful for the Expo that he wrote a song about it…

Amazing. One of the things I was taught while learning about Community Health in college (and that I still hold onto), is that even the smallest success in someone’s life is a huge victory. And as we all know the world is getting smaller, each victory has the potential to spread into larger victories through word of mouth. What if Mr. Cassel decided to sing the praises of the Expo to his family and friends (as you can see, he DID write a song about the event!)? What if they decided to check the Expo out next year or better yet, decided to make some changes in their own lifestyle to promote better health?

Kudos to you NBC and to the rest of you deciding to make small steps to better yourselves.

It’s never too late to start.

*see more pictures from the event here

Ever feel like this guy when trying to inform a friend or loved one about some pertinent information to better their lives?

Technology has definitely opened doors to new ways of spreading worthwhile information. I actually email my friends all the time about new innovations in health or ways to live a more robust life. But with all the information that flashes before your eyes in the way of blogs, emails, RSS feeds and websites…don’t forget that good information also comes from those who are right next to you!

And now back to creating a PowerPoint presentation for my family on making new year resolutions for better health last beyond Valentine’s Day…

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