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What You Can Do in 15 to 20 Seconds That Will Keep You Healthy

Stop Watch

Have you ever been in a public bathroom and noticed the number of people that don’t wash their hands?

It doesn’t matter where you are.

You can be in a mall, an airport, a hospital, a restaurant, a school, a concert, work, a sporting event and the list can go on and on.

People are not washing their hands.

Hand Washing Isn’t Sexy

Okay so this topic isn’t so sexy.  Not like FOX NEWS Health’s Featured Story:  “Catwalk Confidence” that highlights a fitness class to teach women to “strut their stuff” in stilettos or FOX NEWS “FOXsexpert” who lets you know that size does matter.

It’s Not Sexy but It Does Matter

It matters because simple hand washing can stop the spread of germs, and can prevent infections including the Swine Flu.

In a recent story on CBS news, it’s reported that in a new survey it found that “87 percent of respondents wash their hands after using public bathrooms, but one percent of those only rinsed with water.”

It also reports that “people haven’t changed their hand washing habits in light of the swine flu outbreak.”

Whether the study is accurate or not who knows, the fact is that there are some people who are not washing their hands, and some people only rinse with water?  What’s up with that?

Are You Doing It Right?

If people are washing their hands, are they doing it right?  Are they lathering up long enough?  Do they sing “Happy Birthday” twice?  Turn off the faucet with a paper towel?

Take Notice Next Time You Use A Public Bathroom

You’ll be shocked by the number of people who do it wrong or worse, don’t do it at all.

Why Are People Not Doing It?

Why do people not wash their hands?  Why aren’t they changing their hand washing habits in light of the swine flu?  Hand washing is so simple.  If it can keep nasty germs away and prevent the swine flu and other viruses, why aren’t people doing it?  Why?

CDC Offers Great Info

It’s no secret that hand washing is the single most effective way to stop the spread of infection.  The Center for Disease Control (CDC) offers helpful information.

Here’s a simple step-by-step guide:

  1. Wet your hands with warm running water
  2. Apply soap.
  3. Rub hands together vigorously to make a soapy lather.
  4. Rub all surfaces including your wrists, between your fingers, back of your hands and under your fingernails and cuticles, and around any rings.
  5. Rub your hands for 15-20 seconds.
  6. No timer is needed; just imagine singing “Happy Birthday” x 2.
  7. Rinse your hands well.
  8. Dry your hands using a paper towel or air dryer.
  9. Use your paper towel to turn off the faucet if possible.
  10. Always use soap and water if your hands are visibly dirty.

Love the Alcohol Based Hand Sanitizers

If soap and water are not available use alcohol based hand sanitizers.  They work great, and they are easy to carry with you.

With the start of school fast approaching, moms and dads encourage your kids to wash their hands after using the bathroom and before eating.

What’s Your Experience?

Do you wash your hands?  Do you notice people washing their hands in public bathrooms or not?  We would like to hear from you.  Any suggestions to help spread the word?

*This blog post was originally published at Health in 30*

An Inconvenient Truth About Prevention

Preventable disease is a terrible burden, made all the more tragic by the fact that it can be avoided.

Policymakers in Washington take this a step further, claiming that we can save huge amounts of money by systematic programs to prevent disease and encourage wellness.  The document explaining the Republicans’ new “Patient Choice Act” says that wellness and disease prevention can save trillions of dollars (.pdf).  President Obama seems to agree, saying these programs like these can create “serious savings” that represent “huge amounts of money in the long term.

There’s one problem:  study after study says it’s not true.

Earlier this year, the prestigious journal Health Affairs published a study on this topic.  The author reviewed the results of nearly 600 studies (abstract at link, full article requires subscription) on the cost-effectiveness of various prevention programs.  The findings are overwhelming – less than 20% of these programs saved money, while more than 80% actually added more to medical costs than they saved.  How can this be?

It isn’t that complicated when you think about it.  Take high blood pressure.  If every American with high blood pressure took blood pressure medication, we would have lower rates of heart disease and stroke, and of course, eliminate the costs associated with those avoided conditions.  But as the study points out:

the accumulated costs of treating hypertension are nonetheless greater than the savings, because many people, not all of whom would ever suffer heart disease or stroke, must take medication for many years.

Studies have shown similar results for other chronic diseases, like diabetes and asthma. There is also important data showing that even screening programs for cervical, breast and colon cancer cost more than they save.

Does this mean we shouldn’t do these things?  Of course not. For each life that is touched by avoiding a chronic disease, finding a tumor early on, staying out of the hospital, there is enormous value.  But the value is not financial. It’s something we do because it’s right, and it’s inherently good.  There are no formulas to measure this.

Health care is very expensive, and the burden of that cost affects us all.  But to talk seriously about this problem we need to confront an inconvenient truth:  there is more to health care than just dollars and cents.

*This blog post was originally published at See First Blog*

Smoking Cessation Programs: Lessons From The UK

I’ve previously written about what face-to-face smoking cessation services typically do, largely based on my own experience. However, while at the SRNT annual conference I met two Smoking Cessation Advisors working in Lancashire, England who appeared to have a successful service, so thought it worth sharing some of their information.

Jan Holding and Eileen Ward manage a UK National Health Service (NHS) Stop Smoking Service in Lancashire in the north of England. Both are nurses by training and many of the 14 staff providing the treatment have primarily a nursing background. Their service sees around 450 new clients per month (i.e. over 5000 new clients per year). Services are provided at “community sessions” at various locations all over their catchment area, and clients are given their own hand-held record which they keep, and take with them to sessions, enabling them to attend whichever community location suits them at the time. While clients can make scheduled appointments, the service is also flexible, allowing clients to “drop-in” to community sessions without an appointment. Although some initial assessment sessions take place in a group format, most of the sessions are delivered in a one-to-one format via a relatively brief discussion with a smoking cessation advisor. These community sessions often take place in a large community room from 4pm to 8 pm in the evening, with multiple types of services being provided in the same room at the same time at different corners (e.g. initial assessments in one corner, prescribing of varenicline in another, and nicotine replacement therapy in another). It is not uncommon for around 200 clients to attend a single community session.

Clients are frequently encouraged to use NRT prior to quitting smoking (about half do this) and usually use more than one smoking cessation medicine (more than half do). Nicotine replacement therapy is provided via a voucher system requiring either no cost to the client, or just a co-pay (around $10 USD).

The service runs 6 days per week and includes evening sessions, and aims to reduce most of the usual barriers to entering treatment. Their “3 As” approach emphasizes “Accessibility, Availability and Adaptability”. They also specifically try to develop smoking cessation advisors who are passionate about their role, have a positive attitude to the importance of quitting smoking, and are therefore very committed to that work, as well as being knowledgeable about it.

My understanding is that the quit rates at this service are pretty good. But perhaps the best testimony to its success is the fantastic volume of clients who attend…..largely influenced by positive word-of-mouth via other clients. The success of this service reminds us that there isn’t just one way to do it, that all smoking cessation counselors and systems may need to be flexible and adaptable in order to help as many smokers to quit as possible.

For further information on what a smokers’ clinic does, see: What does a tobacco treatment clinic do?

This post, Smoking Cessation Programs: Lessons From The UK, was originally published on by Jonathan Foulds, Ph.D..

Reduce Your Risk Of Stroke In 4 Easy Steps

Stroke is a major cause of disability and death in the U.S. and worldwide. Modern medicines like statins (and old ones like aspirin) are helpful in preventing both initial and secondary stroke in patients at risk. But, are there simple things you can do to lower risk?

Yes, you say! Well, indeed, you are correct. Twenty thousand men and women (age range, 40–79) without histories of stroke or heart attack were recently analysed in the U.K. for the effect of 4 simple behaviors: not smoking, regular physical activity, moderate alcohol intake (1–14 drinks weekly), and high fruit and vegetable intake .

Patients engaging in 3 or 4 of the activities were significantly less likely (2 times!) to suffer a stroke over the next decade. Patients who slipped up a bit and only did 1 or 2 of the activities did have significant stroke risk, though not quite as much as those who sat on the sideline and engaged none of the behaviors.

So, grab the baton and step up to prevent stroke. As always, questions and comments are welcome.

*This blog post was originally published by Jerome Ecker, MD at the eDocAmerica blog.*

Sedentary Kids: The Funniest Public Service Announcement (PSA) Video EVER

This is the funniest public service announcement I’ve seen in as long as I can remember. Congratulations to the creative communications team at the American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons for putting this together!

© American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons

Back story: I met Sandra Gordon, Director of Public Relations, at the AMA Medical Communications Conference (where I was faculty) and where she presented this video. After the show I approached her to say how surprised many of us were that Orthopaedic Surgery was leading the way in creative PR – and that it was quite unexpected. The PSA had almost a hint of Monty Python humor to it.

She responded with out batting an eye: “Nobody expects the Spanish inquisition!”

How cool is Sandra?!

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