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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.

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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”.

I’m a proud member of the Metropolitan Washington Public Health Association (MWPHA) and as most of you know, a big advocate for health education and public health efforts. Especially in the Washington, DC area where HIV/AIDS and poverty are pressing issues – we need to count on local talent to lead initiatives and generate great ideas.

I know, you’re probably thinking: ‘That’s great Andre, but what does that have to do with us?’

Well….I wanted to let you all know that the MWPHA is opening up their leadership committees to new positions for 2008 and going forward! If you or anyone you know is interested in making a difference in the area through health education and public health initiatives, please let me know by dropping me an email. I would be more than happy to send you more information!

Another exciting part is that I’m currently being nominated for one of the positions! Hopefully I can bring some insight to the group on the useful tools of social media and spreading the word on issues that impact all of our lives.

For more information on this wonderful organization, please hop on over to www.mwpha.org

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.

Hmmm…might be time for me to cutback on the red meat. In recent news, the USDA just ordered the nation’s largest recall of beef.

How large is large you ask? Well, they are recalling 140 million pounds of meat – which you know, I tend to believe is a pretty high number, considering the recall before that was a mere 35 million pounds. Am I missing something or am I correct in thinking that with all the advances we have made in the food industry that this sort of thing shouldn’t happen?

Basically the premise of the need to recall this beef is that there has been an undercover investigation that exposed the manufacturing farm as passing along cows that failed to receive complete inspection.

From the article:

“Federal officials suspended operations at Westland/Hallmark after an undercover video from the Humane Society of the United States surfaced showing crippled and sick animals being shoved with forklifts.”

Are you getting that feeling in your stomach too? You know, the feeling of dread when you decided too late that you shouldn’t be on this rollercoaster?

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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.

Have you constantly had CNN on the tube or CNN.com as one of the permanent tabs on your Firefox browser lately? I have!

It’s been a fun ride so far, listening to what the candidates have to say to us as a country as well as to each other while they stand a few feet apart on a stage. After it’s all said and done, we will have another Commander-in-Chief who will lead our nation for 4 years.

Here at Antibio.tech, I try to focus on health issues on the personal and community levels. But when it comes to the nation’s health, that’s a big bear to tackle – it’s no secret that our nation’s health has been declining due to factors such as: obesity-related diseases, increased cardiovascular disease and a host of infectious diseases. However, I want our next President to saddle up, put on some Davy Crockett gear and make that bear say “uncle”!

One of my friends has been working with the UN Foundation here in DC to hold our next leader accountable On Day One of their term (the site is here: www.ondayone.org). The reason I wanted to write about it here is twofold:

  1. Social Media is only as useful as its ability to bring change or action in the real world. Whether it is as simple as connecting with an old friend, or as complex [and important] as getting more young people to vote… social media should be a tool that promotes connections and real life action. As you can see from the On Day One site, their goal is simple and clear: send a message to the President — On DAY ONE — about which topics are the most important to address. Because the UN Foundation is involved with this site, I feel like these messages might actually make it to the Oval Office!
  2. This is exactly the kind of stuff that Antibio.tech is about. Providing a solution and a cure (like antibiotics!). While the On Day One site isn’t trying to be the next glamorous Web 2.0 buzz machine, what it is trying to do is combine Web 2.0 tools with an actual purpose. The icons are pretty well designed and it seems like their beta launch has already brought in some traffic. Good design (check!) and a worthwhile mission (check!) — are you in?

So, readers and social media mavens, what do you think that the President should do On Day One? Should it be about Iraq exit strategies? Women’s Rights? Darfur? Improving out tattered image on the Global Stage? You already know what my interests are…whatever happened to people knowing about the Presidential Health Challenge? Check out On Day One and post your thoughts here/there… let’s show the world that social media is more than just for pajama wearers.

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

APHA keeps it moving with a blog for next year’s Public Health Week:

http://www.nphw.blogspot.com/

Looking forward to spreading the news..National Public Health Week happens April 7-13, 2008

Ok so I decided to check what’s been going on Twitter and I was pleasantly surprised to find that the APHA twitter feed has been updated!  That’s what I’m talkin about!

In case you were wondering what the “twit” was, they just recently put up a website for National Public Health Week going on next year. Can’t wait!

For those who aren’t up to speed on what Twitter is – it’s basically a platform that allows you to do micro-blogging, letting people know what you are up to or what you are thinking at any given moment. Now I must admit, in the beginning I was skeptical about the usefulness but after diving in and meeting people/exchanging ideas, it became another tool to put in my box. Need a question answered? Send it out on Twitter and see how many people write you back with ideas. It was especially interesting to see how it was useful in the recent California fires.

Kudos once again to the American Public Health Association for breaking into the niche social media trend!

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