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I’ve been really excited to learn more about how the Web and it’s growing focus on community has been impacting the realm of health education. Improving the quality of our lives through peer discussion AND the dissemination of professional information is something we need more of in the health landscape – we need to focus on the people.

And that’s what Healia Communities aims to accomplish.

You’re probably already aware of the health information search engine, Healia – this tool has been around for a while and from what I can tell, has been successful in helping individuals find what they need on topics ranging from mental health to weight management.

The Health 2.0 movement is definitely taking notice that individuals aren’t solely seeking doctors for their medical advice. There are plenty of health professionals who are better trained to actually interact with people on deeper community basis and you can find some of them on Healia Communities. This has always been a concern of mine when it comes to health information being twisted and changed –  causing people to leave thinking about the wrong concepts. Experts are important, but experts that actually respond is essential, good job Healia.

The personalization aspect of being able to join certain groups that are tailored to your health interests make the site even more effective in that you don’t have to look all over the community to find what you want. Interested in finding out how to get your family to lose weight (similar to a question I put up there)? If you are part of the weight management group, you will most likely see this query and be able to quickly respond. You feel better by offering your own sage advice and the person asking the question now walks away with a smile, feeling encouraged. Win-win situation right?

Healia Communities is about what concerns you.

So go ahead and join the conversation and meet people who are concerned about the same things you are. What better issue to be concerned about than your health and the well being of others?

If you want to connect with me, I’m mindofandre in the community. Oh yeah they also blog regularly about diseases and conditions that you probably want to know about.

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I know you’re excited to get to the second part of Troy’s interview so I won’t be long.

If you haven’t checked out the first part of the interview, hop on over here to get caught up. The world of prosthetics has played an integral part in helping better the lives of many amputees. Troy is one of the good guys – leading cutting edge research into bettering the health of soliders through technology.

Without further ado, I give you part 2…

Q: Of what you are able to share with us, what sort of advancements do you see on the horizon for this field?

I see a time when people will not be able to tell the difference between someone who is using a prosthetic device, and someone using a biological limb. Think along the lines of the arm used by Del Spooner, the character played by Will Smith in the movie iRobot. I anticipate this same technology being use for lower limbs as well. It may sound strange now, but since the majority of amputations are a result of vascular disease, the use of prosthetic devices may become something of an elective procedure versus a life in a wheelchair or using a walker or cane.

Research we are currently funding includes robotic and powered ankles which will provide for significant improvement in what’s called the gait cycle, or walking. Powered and microcomputer processor controlled knees are already on the market, but are being made more rugged and capable through research funded through TATRC. This will allow people using these devices to utilize them in adverse & extreme environments such as water, mud, sand, etc. The majority of lower limb prosthetic devices are currently what I call “reactionary”. That is, they operate according to gravity and swing force. Prosthetics lower limbs do not currently operate according to user intent, that is, the joints and part of the limb move as the user wishes them to move, for example, rolling your ankle or crossing your legs without using your hands while sitting down. Through currently funded research, it is possible that a lower extremity prosthesis user may be able to control their device(s) exactly as someone controls their biological limbs: through impulses that travel from the brain through the nervous system to the muscles, or actuators.

Interestingly, as these devices become more advanced, and public awareness and attention is heightened, increasing numbers of users chose to not wear what is called a cosmesis, or cosmetic covering that helps disguise their device. Many people are wearing their devices in the open, as if to say “this is me, this is part of who I am.” And I think that’s a good thing. However, for someone who chooses to wear a cosmetic covering, there are numerous ways that covering can look. It can be made to look so much like the limb that was lost that it’s amazing. The wearer can have a tattoo painted on, or they can have the covering made and painted in any design an artist is capable of creating.

Q: How do you feel about the barring of double amputee Oscar Pistorius, from the upcoming Olympic Games?

I can’t speak to any specifics of the circumstances surrounding Mr. Pistorius’ situation, but I do think that the fact that he is capable of being competitive at such a high level is a testament to the prosthetics and orthotics technology being developed for those needing it, but also the spirit and never-quit attitude of many people who face significant daily challenges such as these.

Q: Any other comments?

I’ve yet to meet a military amputee that has ever claimed to be a hero, or anything other than just a soldier, sailor, airman or Marine doing their job.

Most people that do “heroic” things don’t think of them as heroic, whatever the “thing” was, they’ll say that they were just doing what needed to be done, or what they were told to do, or what anyone else would have done. But a hero is also someone that others may look up to for motivation, or as an example.

Hero -noun

1. a man of distinguished courage or ability, admired for his brave deeds and noble qualities.

2. a person who, in the opinion of others, has heroic qualities or has performed a heroic act.

Some pro athletes will tell you that they don’t want to be role-models or hero’s, but those people have never understood that it’s not up to them – it’s up to the people that look up to them. Fortunately, most professional athletes are thankful for their gifts and realize how incredibly fortunate they are to be able to “play games” at such a high level. They are great with their fans, and live quiet, mature, responsible lives, and are great role models.

One thing the definition above does not say is that the best heroes are the ones that are humble, that do not seek acknowledgement or attention for themselves of their deeds. Today’s military members show courage and ability everyday. They do what they’re told to do, which requires bravery and nobility – dignity and integrity. Do they act up, get rowdy, cause problems and get in trouble? Of course they do, they’re not perfect. But they are heroes nevertheless, and luckily it’s a label that can’t be self-applied. Those who do their duty with courage, ability, bravery, nobility, and without running, are heroes.

What great insight into what it really means to serve. It has been an absolute pleasure interviewing Troy and getting thoughts on his work and the philosophy behind it. Although peace time is the ideal, with people like Troy helping our soldiers, we can feel a little better during war time. Don’t forget, if you want a regular look inside the mind of Troy, follow him on Twitter!

Do you know someone that is doing great things combining health and technology? Please let me know by sending me an email at mindofandre@gmail.com – I would love to hear about it!

This is pretty interesting stuff here…

Real people get interviewed about how they feel about their body images, set to claymation! Pure genius.

Where do you fit in? Does how you feel about the way you look positively or negatively affect how you feel throughout the day?

via Get Fit Slowly

Hi folks! I am super excited to bring to you someone who caught my interest because of his work in a field that exclusively focuses on merging cutting edge technology and the health/well-being of the human body. Troy currently manages the Advanced Prosthetics and Human Performance research portfolio at the Telemedicine and Advanced Technology Research Center (TATRC) of the U. S. Army Medical Research and Materiel Command (USMRMC), at Fort Detrick, Maryland. Additionally, he serves as the Deputy Chief of the Knowledge Engineering Group, including TATRC’s Robotic Combat Casualty Extraction and Evacuation program.

This interview contains questions related to his job, his thoughts on the prosthetic industry and what the future may hold for soldiers and civilians alike in the biotechnology field.

Q: What attracted you to the area of prosthetics and particularly for the military?

I worked in the telecommunications field for several years, and at that time had a position with Nortel Networks as an operations manager over the Mid-Atlantic & Great Lakes regions. It was a great job, and I really enjoyed working at Nortel, but it was not long lived as Nortel laid off about 65,000 people in the Spring of 2001. In the Fall of 2001 I was approached by Dr. Gary Gilbert with an invitation to visit with him at the Telemedicine and Advanced Technology Research Center (TATRC) at Fort Detrick, in Frederick, MD. At that time I really only knew Gary as another of the hockey dad’s on the mite-age travel ice hockey team that I managed, and on which both of ours sons played. Though I had served in the military from 1985 to 1989, it was in the telecommunications field, and I knew nothing about the medical research field.

The week after September, 11, 2001, I visited with Gary at TATRC. During the visit, I learned about TATRC and their mission, hearing about many of the very cool things TATRC was managing. At the end of the meeting, Gary offered me a job at TATRC. Although I had never worked in any field related to medical research, Gary watched me manage our sons’ hockey team, and decided that if I could keep all those parents herded and headed in the same direction, that I had at least a good bit of the skill needed to succeed in the TATRC world.

A couple of years later I was asked to become involved in standing up, or starting, or new area of research of TATRC in the area of Advanced Prosthetics & Rehabilitation. The way TATRC operates and takes projects from the proposal stage to an awarded project is complicated, creative, and can take a long time to understand. However, the way we needed to do some things in this research portfolio required us to step outside even TATRC’s normal “sandbox.” Many times we were told “you can’t do it that way”, and then we’d go ahead and do it anyway, and it did work. We were working for U.S. military members who had lost limbs in Iraq & Afghanistan, and getting hung up in red tape and bureaucracy was simply not an option.

So that’s how I became involved, but the men and women for whom we work, and the help we’re able to bring to them is what keeps me involved. You will never meet people more motivated and more determined to never quit than those soldiers, sailors, airmen, and Marine’s dealing with limb loss. Sure they have bad days along with the good days, but you can’t meet or speak with them and not leave feeling upbeat.

Q: It seems as though the division in which you work uses cutting edge technology on a daily basis for the various arms of the US Military – do you see the technology being used for civilians any time soon?

TATRC doesn’t actually “use” cutting edge medical technology. TATRC awards and manages congressionally appropriated funding intended for advanced technology medical research projects. TATRC manages research for the DoD ranging from Advanced Prosthetics & Human Performance, to Medical Robotics, to Modeling & Simulation, Neuroscience, Tissue Regeneration, and so forth. Much of this can be seen on our website at www.tatrc.org. Information specific to the Advanced Prosthetics and Human Performance portfolio is at http://www.tatrc.org/prosthetics.

The technology being developed through the research projects is being developed not just by leading research universities and institutes, but also by small businesses. In addition to developing advanced and next generation technologies, a primary goal of ours and the performing organization is for the research to result in something that can be commercialized, or provided as an input to another project which will benefit not just members of the military, but civilians around the world. In this field of research, the science and technology crosses the military/civilian boundary so readily since we’re not dealing with an area of research that is specific to the military. I will say though that while this work easily crosses into the civilian realm, some of the technology being developed her will require greater levels of insurance reimbursement before the majority of civilian users will be able to take advantage of them.

Q: What are the most important issues that are being addressed in prosthetics research for military use? Are these in any way similar to issues facing civilian use?

Military-specific issues being addressed in advanced prosthetics research are the use of the device in extreme environments. This means not just the durability of the device, but also the ability of the device to respond, or even predict the activity of the user and be able to adapt instantaneously to that activity. The great thing is that military specific activities are virtually identical to extreme civilian activities. This includes activities such as running, jumping, swimming, diving, snow skiing, water skiing, bicycling, rock climbing, hiking, carrying very heavy loads, driving vehicles of all configurations, and not having to recharge the device every four hours. Providing prosthetic components that can enable this level of activity will allow young amputees to participate and compete, but will also bring capabilities to devices used by less active individuals that will improve their quality of daily living as well as give them back the opportunity to become more active as well.

Q: What is a typical work day like for you?

A typical day? I used to think there was such a thing, now I know there isn’t. There is a constant process of dealing with research proposals. We are always working with researchers in funded projects, helping them improve their studies and development efforts, as well as helping them network with other researchers that may be able to add to the effort. Part of this includes engaging on a national and even international level with relevant associations, academies, and conferences, in order to learn and know the field, what’s hot, what’s not, what the people that work in the trenches of the field think, and most importantly the needs of the users, those who will hopefully benefit from the work research.

…stay tuned for Troy’s thoughts on future advancements and more! Part 2 coming later this week.

(For those who want to peer inside the mind of Troy on a regular basis, you can follow him on Twitter!)

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.

Did you remember to grab your morning cup of coffee this morning at the local shop? Have to get up and moving!

Does the sound of a Red Bull can being snapped open spark your senses and dilate your pupils? This is all I need to get through the rest of the afternoon!

Noticed it was approaching 1 a.m. and wanted to just read that last RSS feed? This won’t take long, besides it’s [insert popular blog here]!

Do these instances sound familiar? Was the Sandman composing a lullaby for you when these thoughts began to hit? Well don’t worry, you’re in good company. In a recent article on CNN.com, a survey from the National Sleep Foundation was taken that pointed out one-third of workers catch shut-eye on the job. Wow. First of all, I can only remember one time in my professional career where I was so tired that I actually contemplated falling asleep at my desk. Secondly, that has to be detrimental to your job security!

Not Enough Hours in the Day?

Let’s be honest, when was the last time you felt as though you had enough time to do the things you wanted to do in one day? It seems that from the moment the alarm jarrs us back to reality and we realize another day has begun, we grumble that the morning came too quickly. Whether you have a 9 to 5 (or more commonly an 8 to 6), living the life of a freelancer or toiling as an entrepreneur, work takes up a huge part of our day. The survey points out the fact that work days have gotten longer which means less “you time”.

Also, we are in a time now where work is all over the place. Even if we have a day job, alot of people are doing the slash career thing – working on projects after (or sometimes before) the regular job. Of course you’re sleepy but you have that side consulting gig that you are passionate about and need to come through on so that you can develop your credibility! If only you had one or two more hours, you could get it all done and get some rest…right?

Information Overload

The Information Era. The Digital Age. The Wired Generation. Yep, that’s what we’re living in and who we are and we love it don’t we? Answers to questions a mouse click away, family members around the world can meet up in cyberspace, blogs to read, comments to write – it almost seems like too much! But we tell ourselves we can handle it. As a matter of fact, I really think that in some cases, we feel like it’s a badge of honor that we stayed up the night before til 2 a.m. cranking out a blog post or clearing our feed reader. When was the last time someone told you something to that effect and you furrowed your brow and scolded them for not getting enough sleep? I rest my case.

We have so many electronic devices at our finger tips designed for “increased productivity” e.g. Blackberries, PDA/Smartphones, and laptops that are ultra-portable (yes, even in the bedroom – *tear*). But what about increased sleep production? Ever been startled from sleep by your Blackberry alerting you that someone sent an email at 2:45 a.m.? The fact of that matter is that it’s amazingly easy to get caught up in surfing the web, checking our electronic devices and even watching DVR’d television.

What’s the Problem?

From a recent USA Today article:

For years, sleep researchers have been preaching the dangers of lost sleep: People who are fatigued can’t pay attention to routine tasks, have trouble learning and are prone to a laundry list of health problems, from depression to high blood pressure.

New research suggests an added risk to losing sleep day after day: Humans and animals that have chronic sleep deprivation might reach a point at which the very ability to catch up on lost sleep is damaged, says Fred Turek, a sleep researcher at Northwestern University in Evanston, Ill.

Basically, if you continue to get little amounts of sleep each night (sleep debt), your ability to make up that lost sleep is hampered.

By the end of two weeks, the people who had lost sleep at night said they no longer felt tired during the day. But test scores revealed a different story, according to the 2003 study published in the journal Sleep. The sleep-deprived group had trouble paying attention, had slower reaction times and developed impairments in memory, Dinges says.

The article also shows a few tips on how to NOT lose your precious sleep:

The American Academy of Sleep Medicine, the National Sleep Foundation and other sleep experts offer these tips on getting a good night’s sleep:

  1. Do not stay up late to talk on the phone or surf the Internet.
  2. Keep computers and TVs out of the bedroom.
  3. Stick with a regular bedtime.
  4. Avoid food or drinks with caffeine, especially at night. Such stimulants can keep you awake.
  5. Don’t stay up all night to cram for a big work project or to finish homework if you’re in school.
  6. Avoid vigorous exercise within a few hours of bedtime.

The Ultimate Increased Productivity

This is a problem folks. I was talking to a friend today about how I’ve been keeping an eye on her because of her ultra busy schedule and lack of adequate rest. I especially think that those of us who might be so overbooked with school, work, side work and trying to maintain a social life, will think that “after this is done, then I can sleep”, are just fooling ourselves. One thing I’ve realized is that life never gets less complicated as you grow older. It just doesn’t. YOU have to make the time for yourself to recharge and refresh. The technology doesn’t have to sleep, but you do. That’s my take on “increased productivity”.

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!

fail1.jpg

Remember when you were in elementary school or middle school and you were given an assignment that you knew was going to smack you upside your head with confusion but you tried anyway?

Right. That’s kind of how I feel about the recent law being passed in New York City forcing fast food chains to display calorie information next to the food items on the menu. The chains being affected are those that have at least 15 separate outlets in operation. So I’m guessing we are looking places like McDonald’s, Burger King and Wendy’s.

State public health officials cracking down on the obesity epidemic and saving the world! Right?

Well….in my opinion, not so much.

Here’s why:

  1. You are going into a fast food restaurant and not HanGawi. Let’s be real here.
  2. By the time you are in that McDonald’s, Wendy’s or Burger King – you have already (most likely) made the conscious decision to get a hamburger, chicken sandwich, chicken nuggets, French fries or a combination of those.
  3. The people coming into the restaurant are not stupid, they’re lazy. Hence the term “fast food”.
  4. Nobody cares about calories when they come here, Exhibit A, Exhibit B and come on, not even the restaurants care! Seriously, did these places lose that much money when Super Size Me came out in theaters?
  5. Finally, how many people know the amount of calories they should be eating in one day? On several of the fast food websites, they include their nutritional information but that’s meainngless if you don’t have context. Ok, the Quad Stacker at BK is going to set me back 1000 calories (yes it will), I might joke about the large number but how is it really going to affect me? If I should be consuming 2,000 calories in one day – that’s half of it gone right there. And that’s just the sandwich folks, you KNOW you usually want to get that whole meal!!

Don’t get me wrong, any steps taken to prevent the obesity rate from increasing is a good thing. And no I don’t have all the solutions but one thing I do want to point our is that we are all responsible for our choices. Rather than throwing some numbers on a menu and hope that people will see it and make sense of it pales in comparison to spending money in school systems and in the workplace to educate people about the wonders of healthy eating.

This is not going to be a quick fix. By a long shot.

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