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5 Ways to Not Ruin Thanksgiving - the Public Health Version

Posted By Jonathan Noel, Monday, November 25, 2013

We start our countdown with number 5 (countdown's always add that extra flair for the dramatic, don't they?)

5) Keep your kitchen clean.
Between raw vegetables, raw meat, and stuffing which is design to soak up anything around it, there are a lot of chances for cross-contamination, and about 1 in 7 home kitchens would fail a standard health inspection. Remember to wash your hands, knives, cutting boards, and pots/pans before switching to a new type of food. 

4) Refrigerate your leftovers quickly
I like my day-after Thanksgiving turkey sandwiches and I want to keep it that way.  But in the post-Thanksgiving meal haze, don't forget to throw whatever hasn't been inhaled into the fridge within at most 2 hours.  Bacteria can reproduce quickly.  E. coli does it in 20 minutes. If that isn't enough, check out the video below.

3) If you are going to drink, watch the game
Last year, there were 178 car crashes on Thanksgiving.  In 2011, there were 2 deaths.  If you want a glass a wine, pint of beer, or something stronger to keep you warm, go for it.  But stay home and watch football.  That's what it is there for.

2) Your turkey looks hot...and it should
A fully cooked turkey need to be at least 165 degrees in the very center of the bird to kill bacteria, viruses, and fungi living on and within the bird.  Still thinking about pulling the turkey out a few minutes early?  Watch that E. coli video again.  I dare you.

1) Don't Fry a Frozen...Anything
Fried turkey may be the best I've ever had, but make sure it is completely thawed first.  Make sure to pat it dry too.  When ice or water hits boiling oil, it instanly vaporizes, causes bubbles, causing the oil to overflow the pan, which then catches fire from the heating element you are using.  There are about 1,900 fires each year on Thanksgiving around the country.  Not all from turkey frying, but it is certainly the most dramatic example.

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I think I Found My Dissertation Topic...Public Health?

Posted By Jonathan Noel, Tuesday, November 12, 2013

Yup, you read that right, public health.  The public health practices of a very specific population.  A population that, as far as I can tell, is as committed to their work as much or more than any other industry.  A population that works tirelessly with not nearly enough compensation, often doing the job of 2 or 3 people and working for multiple organizations.  A population that is completely hidden if everything goes right.

Have you guessed it yet?  I think the last one gave it away.

It's Public Health.  Public health professionals that is.

All of us spend so much time and effort on our projects, on our research, or on some email you received late at night that you absolutely swear is the last one you'll answer before going to bed, unless one comes in from the guy you've been waiting to hear back from. But how much time do we take for ourselves to stay healthy?

I say that I'll go running in the morning, but then use the cold weather as an excuse not to go.  I'll be in the office for 12-13 hours, eat dinner after 9, do another hour of work, then off for 5 to 6 hours of sleep before doing it all over again.  I'll eat salted snacks and fried food thinking of only how many napkins I'll go through by the end of the meal.

We drink. We smoke.  We gamble.  We eat foods that are bad for us and don't get enough exercise.  We work too much and don't take enough vacation time.  We have aches and pains that go unexplained.  We live on caffeine and that half a sandwich in the office fridge that was left over from yesterday's meeting. 

None of this should be surprising.  Everyone does those things.  But we are Public Health.  We are the ones telling you to stop doing that.  Shouldn't we at least be doing these things at a lower rate than everyone else?  Either way, I'd like to find out.  And if you're interested too, let me know, and fast.  I've got a dissertation proposal to write.

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Then Number 1 Reason Every Public Health Person Should Attend the CPHA Conference

Posted By Jonathan Noel, Wednesday, October 30, 2013

If you haven't heard, CPHA just held its annual conference, at a place with an indoor water park no less (and those slides looked tempting at the end of the day).  Anecdotally, it was a very successful conference.  Everyone I've talked to raved about the speakers, liked the venue, and enjoyed the time allotted to network with colleagues, which brings me to the reason for this post.


Now, instead of boring you with the same list of reasons that we have heard some many times on why networking is good, I'm going to share a brief story I learned from the conference.

An SCSU student began talking with one of the other conference attendees, who happened to be a director from one of Connecticut's public health non-profits.  The student had the same set of interests as the non-profit so the conversation was not unusual from a subject-matter standpoint.  But what was unusual was that the director was currently looking to fill a new position.  The director was so impressed with the student that an interview was set up for 5 days later.

5 days.  That's it.

If you told me coming out of college that all I had to do was talk to a few people at a conference and I could get an interview within the next week, no application or resume to put together, I would have wondered where to sign.

So students, come to our conference to potentially meet your next boss.  Bosses, come to our conference to potentially meet your next employee.  And for once in your life, talk to strangers.  It's allowed.

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3 Questions on CT's Health Exchange

Posted By Jonathan Noel, Tuesday, October 8, 2013

3 Questions is a segment where we will ask someone 3 questions (guess where I got the name of the title from) about a public health topic, how they go into the field, or just some random questions to fill up the space.

For the 1st ever 3 Questions segment, I am pleased to present Dr. Audrey Chapman, Professor at the UConn Health Center, Joseph M. Healey, Jr. Chair in Medical Humanities and Bioethics, and founding Director of the AAAS Program of Dialogue on Science, Ethics, and Religion. (She's also one of my professors and we just happened to talk about exchanges a couple of weeks ago).

I asked her 3 questions on Connecticut's new health insurance exchange.

1) The state health insurance exchanges are rolling out on October 1st; however we’ve already seen some states delay the role-out due to technical problems and the small business exchange has been pushed back by a year. How do those developments factor in to the participation rate of the exchanges and how do they affect the population’s trust that the exchanges will actually work?

I think the unexpected level of interest, which is far greater than Massachusetts experienced in the early days of its exchange, along with the inadequacy of the software to handle so many people, accounts for the problems with the roll out. It is more likely to engender frustration than distrust of the AC A. If the technical problems with the ACA can be resolved soon, they are unlikely to have a long or even medium term impact, especially since surveys show that the more people find out about the ACA, the greater their support.

It is hard to predict the impact of delaying the small business exchange by a year. I don’t think it has much impact on people looking for private insurance coverage. Given the need of many small businesses to have options for reasonably priced health insurance for their employees, it is likely there will be an uptake a year from now.

2) Other countries are currently using health insurance exchanges but there are national requirements that all individuals must purchase health insurance in those exchanges. The exchanges in the U.S. don’t have that requirement. How do you see that affecting their ability to keep health insurance premiums affordable?

Like the US, many other developed countries require that their citizens have health insurance. I think that requirement matters more than where the insurance is purchased. What is more significant is that other countries, like Switzerland and the Netherlands, which use exchange mechanisms for the purchase of insurance, regulate the content of the basic health insurance policies offered more stringently to assure uniformity with the basic insurance policy offered. Also some countries, for example the Netherlands, require that basic health insurance policies be offered on a not-for-profit basis so as to be able to hold down the cost.

3) What is your realistic expectations for the affect of Connecticut’s insurance exchange on access to quality healthcare in the state?

The low cost and subsidized insurance policies for the poor offered through Connecticut’s insurance exchange, combined with the state’s decision to adopt the ACA supported expansion of Medicaid access to citizens and legal residents below 133% of the federal poverty level, will increase access to healthcare in Connecticut. However, the quality and affordability of healthcare will also depend on other components of the ACA. Also many analysts have pointed to a potential problem of an insufficient number of primary healthcare providers to be able to care for the newly insured populations. Unfortunately the ACA will not cover undocumented residents and documented residents in the U.S. less than five years, nor provide access to insurance offered through the exchanges. Approximately 12 % of Connecticut’s population is foreign born, of which about half have become citizens. So about six percent of Connecticut’s population will not be eligible for health insurance through the Connecticut exchange.

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Why the Government Shutdown is Bad for Health

Posted By Jonathan Noel, Sunday, October 6, 2013

I could give a deep, thoughtful essay on how and why the government shutdown is bad for heath...

But really, who has the time for that? So I'm going to do the next best thing. Use somebody else's deep, thoughtful essays!

Below is a list of news articles on all the ways this shutdown is bad for the public's health.

Now, we pretty much already know how Connecticut's Senators and Representatives are going vote but that doesn't mean we can't pressure them to do more on the Hill to push the process along behind closed doors. So here are the sites Democrats website for the Senate and the House of Representatives. Emails works. Call are better. And if you happen to be in D.C., it's ok to hold your nose. They haven't been able to collect trash in a week.

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This is public health too? - Sometimes, You Just Have to Relax

Posted By Jonathan Noel, Wednesday, September 25, 2013

"This is public health too?” is a segment where we will mention something that is public health related but not mentioned all that often. Something that just kind of occurs to us at random times. I know, I know. I just took it from the What is public health? campaign. But if you’re going to judge, at least leave it in the comments section.

It has come to my attention that I do a lot of things. Actually, I was told I do too much and to stop taking on so many projects. That’s probably not going to happen. If anything, I’ll try to get my hands in a few more pots before I really feel maxed out, but it did make me realize that I need to relax more.

Ah, relaxing. Such a foreign concept. There are maybe 4 hours a year where I really just sit down, think about nothing, and feel relaxed. It’s hard to just sit there. There’s always something to think about, a new report to read, an email to respond to. We are all guilty of it. We are all trying to do more with less, and if there is a new, interesting project we hear about, we jump at the chance despite the 14 other half-finished projects that we are a part of.

Which gets me back to relaxing. It can’t be healthy to work this much. We are public health after all. If we are overworking ourselves, how can we tell other people not to overwork themselves? Some days we just need to take a deep breath, sit down, and relax.

So that’s what I’m going to do this weekend. I won’t just be sitting on a chair somewhere if that’s what you’re thinking. Maybe I’ll finish that project I started. Or clean out the garden. Or start raking the leaves. Or…No. I’m going to relax, somehow, maybe. So if you can’t reach me for a few hours this weekend, you know why.

I’ll start back up bright and early in the morning though. There are a couple more projects to get started.

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The CPHA Blog is Back!

Posted By Jonathan Noel, Thursday, September 19, 2013

Welcome to the CPHA Blog 2.0! We’ve been offline for a while but are making a comeback. We’ll be bigger and better than ever!

Well, maybe. That’s our intention anyway, and I’m cautiously optimistic that there’s a good chance that we might possibly be able to find a way to eventually determine how to get there at some point in the not too distant future. (Have I got you hooked yet?)

There are some good ideas brewing, and if it is anything like the actual brewing process, we’ll create something that has good commentary, clear ideas, with some seasonal variations, and a palate-cleansing aftertaste.

We’ll talk to people about some current public health topics and ask some others how they got into the business to begin with. We’ll try to put some information up to help all those public health students out there, and maybe even have a guest blogger or 2 (Hey commissioner! You got a few minutes?).

But most of all, we want to put up information and insight that you want to hear, or I guess read in this instance. So leave a comment and tell me what you want (Please, it makes my job much easier). And maybe I’ll keep the shameless plugs to a minimum (2013 CPHA Annual Conference, 10/25/13, Don’t miss it!).

Oh, and the big disclaimer. Nothing written is intended to be the official viewpoints of CPHA. CPHA is not responsible for any content posted on the blog or in the comments section, and nothing written should be construed as CPHA supporting or opposing any position. Everything here is the complete responsibility of the poster. Or guest poster. Or the kid I get to do it for more who lives down the street. Anyway, you get the idea.

So comment away and let’s see what we can cook up.

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Personal Reflections of a Tragedy

Posted By Jonathan Noel, Wednesday, April 17, 2013
Updated: Tuesday, April 16, 2013

I’m not going to recount what happened on Monday in Boston. There are plenty of news reports to do that.

I’m not going to give an eye-witness account. I wasn’t there when the bombs went off.

And while I can’t describe how the panic, confusion, and chaos must have felt, I can tell you how I felt that afternoon.

I got chills watching the news unfold about what happened. I walk down Bolyston Street on a regular basis. I’ve been in those stores and eaten at those restaurants. I get my hair cut a block away. The Boston Public Library is across the street from 1st bomb, and my bank is in the Prudential Building, across the street from the 2nd bomb.

It gives me chills just to type the words "bomb" and "Boston" in the same sentence.

Part of me is not surprised that something like this occurred. In the past few years, we have had shootings at movie theaters, schools, and places of worship. We have had threats or attacks in Times Square, at a Martin Luther King Day parade, and on board airplanes. It has happened in places that I can and cannot imagine. So, no, I’m not surprised it happened in Boston.

What has surprised me is how people around the city have reacted. Stories of people inviting total strangers to spend the night after Bolyston Street was cleared out. Stories of runners, exhausted after the Marathon, literally running to hospitals to donate blood. Seeing the video of how the first responders and bystanders didn’t hesitate or waiver to help the injured in what can only be described as chaos.  If Philadelphia is the City of Brotherly Love, Boston is your extended family. 

But still, from a day that was reserved for celebration: Patriot’s Day, the Boston Marathon, the anniversary Jackie Robinson broke the color barrier in baseball, and a walk-off win by the Red Sox, we now get a day of mourning and remembrance.

I wish I could give a stirring speech on how this demonstrates the importance of emergency preparedness or on how we shouldn’t cut public health budgets.  I wish I could give that rousing public health speech that will turn our sadness into motivation.  But I can't.  That’s not where my mind is at the moment.  My mind is in a decidedly un-public health place.

I'm not thinking about the city or the population.  I'm thinking of the individuals.  I'm thinking of the victims.  Of the Heros.  I'm thinking what would I have done if I was there.  And I'm thinking that it could have been me.

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