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I have been an outspoken, and often times exasperated, patient advocate and student of healthcare reform. There is no doubt that the U.S. healthcare system is operating far below its potential in terms of efficiency, effectiveness, and affordability. In fact, an entire industry of policy wonks and consultants have sprung up in both the public and private sectors – all with recommendations about how to “fix” our system. In my opinion, the most insightful suggestions will come from those who are currently doing the work of healthcare (i.e. clinicians) and change will be adopted and promoted most fervently by the young and freshly minted among them.
Medical students, residents, and physicians newly in practice now have a place to voice their opinions – The American Resident Project is an ambitious movement to promote fresh thinking from tomorrow’s physician-leaders. I am pleased to be supporting this effort here on my blog and in face-to-face meetings with fellows at medical centers across the country. I hope you’ll bookmark the website and join in the community conversation about how to innovate in the midst of a broken system. This is more than a think-tank for change – the ideas and opinions of young doctors may be our best hope for a brighter tomorrow.
Stay tuned for some fresh ideas in the setting of some healthy talk therapy!
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Does my butt look fast in these pants?
Since I started running (in earnest) a couple of years ago, I’ve been doing what I can to stay motivated. Running is a great sport because 1) it’s cheap 2) you can do it anywhere 3) it’s hard. So, because of #3 I welcome all opportunities to make running fun – and wearing amusing shirts during races seems like as good a strategy as any.
The idea for the “Does my butt look fast in these pants?” shirt came from a sign I saw at a recent marathon. A guy was cheering on the ladies with a homemade sign that read: “Your butt looks fast in those pants!” I laughed so hard it took me a quarter mile to recover. So I shamelessly stole his idea and made a Better Health women’s running shirt out of it. If you think it’s cool and want one too – I’d be happy to print you one. The larger the batch we order, the less expensive it will be.
So if you’re looking for a funny Christmas gift… or if you just want to thwart the race competition by making it impossible for them to pass you without sputtering out a laugh, let me know. Email me if you’d like to order a shirt and we’ll discuss details. My email is: email@example.com (They are made of Nike dry-fit fabric, come in the colors shown only, and are available in Ladies S, M, L – if guys show interest I suppose we could order a run of men’s shirts too?). Let’s prepare to GET BETTER HEALTH this season… and run our way to victory in the battle of the bulge.
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Tina Thompson, Mario Lopez, Dr. Val Jones
The Boys & Girls Clubs of America (BGCA) are about to kick off their annual Fit Family Challenge. The goal is to support families as they commit to a lifestyle of healthy diet, regular exercise, and strong moral qualities. It’s called the “Triple Play” approach – a game plan for body, mind, and soul. I’m honored to be their “mind” coach again this year, and will help to shepherd 250 BGCA families from across the country. Five finalists will be chosen to compete in Los Angeles for the title of fittest family near the end of 2012. We have timed the competition to coincide with New Year’s Resolution planning, and hope that these fit families will inspire others to turn over a new leaf in 2013.
As part of my support for the competition, I’ll be publishing several blog posts (at Better Health and the Fit Family Challenge Blog) with evidence-based healthy eating tips for the families – and for anyone who wants to follow along with the Triple Play Fit Family Challenge. I can’t wait to see how lives will change – and how together we can tip the scales against obesity, disease, and unhealthy relationships. Please join the Boys & Girls Clubs in this important initiative.
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Rock superstars Roger Daltrey and Pete Townshend of “The Who” have a new cause: sparking a franchise of teen-oriented cancer treatment centers across America. To kick off the launch of Teen Cancer America, Daltrey & Townshend were featured at a conference held at the National Press Club in Washington, D.C. I was fortunate to be invited to sit at the head table next to teen cancer survivor Sarah Sterner – a bright and confident young woman from Atlanta who was cured of brain cancer two years ago.
Sarah told the crowd what it was like to be a fifteen-year-old in a pediatric oncology unit populated by ukulele-playing clowns and screaming infants. The extreme age-related disconnect between her pscho-social needs and that of younger kids and babies served to make her feel even more isolated during her course of treatment. She longed for the companionship of others like her, but without any national cancer centers focused on the special needs of teens, she was on her own.
Roger Daltrey became interested in teen cancer when his personal physician took up the cause in the U.K. and turned to him for support. Daltrey’s decades of playing music to teen audiences made him keenly aware of their unique psycho-social needs. “When you’re a teenager, it’s horrifying if you have a spot on your nose. Imagine what it’s like if you have cancer!” said Daltrey.
Teen Cancer America began as a movement called the Teen Cancer Trust in the U.K. According to Daltrey, preliminary research (comparing teens treated in a typical NHS cancer ward versus a unit sponsored by the Teen Cancer Trust) suggests that there may be as much as a 15% survival advantage in being treated in the special units. Daltrey attributes this to increased morale that helps teens and families find the will to fight through life-threatening treatments.
When asked how American cancer centers compare to those in the U.K. Daltrey immediately responded that he believed the U.S. centers were far superior. He described the incredible resources available at UCLA and Duke, and how the facilities themselves were unbelievably beautiful, sporting plant-filled atria, massive skylights, and high tech imaging and radiation equipment. Nonetheless, he noted, “Teens don’t want to hang out in an atrium. There is just no place that appeals to teenagers at these centers.”
Whether specialized teen cancer treatment environments in the U.S. will dramatically improve survival rates remains to be seen, but there’s no doubt that recognizing the unique psycho-social needs of teenagers would be a boon for patients and families at pediatric cancer centers. Like post-traumatic stress disorder in military personnel, the psychological ravages of cancer may well be under recognized, especially in the teen and young adult populations.
Thank you Roger Daltry and Pete Townshend for bringing this to our attention.
Find out how to support Teen Cancer America here.
Check out The Who themed cookie from the press club event (delicious!):
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I started medical blogging in 2006, and posted something new every day for over two years straight. I met some terrific fellow bloggers in those “early years”, and soon wondered if we might reach a larger audience if we pooled some of our blog content. This blog site (Better Health) was born in October 2008, and soon grew to have over 130 contributors! We developed a large following on Facebook and Twitter and partnered with such prestigious organizations as the CDC, Harvard Health Publications, and the American College of Physicians. We actually grew so large so fast that I had to hire a small staff to help me run the blog… Which became logistically challenging and pretty expensive, rather quickly!
Because Better Health has always been a labor of love, and not a well- oiled, monetization machine, I eventually had to close the doors. It broke my heart. It was such a shame that a collection of the best medical blog writing just couldn’t be supported financially – at least I couldn’t find a way to do so! In January 2012 I posted a farewell note and decided to continue my social media life on Twitter and Facebook instead.
A few days ago I noticed a large uptick in Twitter followers and was surprised to see that I had been recommended (by Healthcare IT News) as one of the top 10 physicians to follow on Twitter. In the article it commended my work as a Better Health blogger… the blog that I had recently shuttered.
I had been toying with the idea of starting a personal blog again because I found it rather challenging to say all I wanted in only 140 characters, and this new influx of followers gave me food for thought. What if I just keep it simple this time? What if I write blog posts at Better Health when the spirit moves (instead of feeling pressured to post something every day or to include 100′s of others in my blog posts?)
So that’s what I’m going to do. This is just me again – the way it all began. But without any regard for traffic, numbers, or popularity. Maybe only a handful of people will read my posts here. And that’s ok with me! So welcome back to the OLD new me. The cycle is complete?
P.S. I will continue to blog at Healthline to educate patients about their eyes, and I also hope you’ll listen in to my Healthy Vision radio show. Or follow @drval on Twitter?