June 2012 Archives

Teaching kids about telemedicine

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Wednesday, kids in SCRUBS Academy at the University of North Dakota practiced telemedicine with graduate students in the University of Minnesota Health Informatics department. The students learned about how new technology can help patients and doctors cross boundaries, save money and save time.

U of M health policy experts talk health reform

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On 6/28/2012, the United States Supreme Court issued their decision on the Affordable Care Act.

Here is a synopsis of how the Supreme Court ruled:

1. The entire ACA was upheld.
2. The Individual Mandate was ruled Constitutional, but individuals who refuse to comply would pay a tax.
3. The Medicaid provision (expansion) was limited but not invalidated.
4. Because the whole ACA was deemed constitutional, the provision requiring insurers to cover young adults until they are 26 survives as well.

Throughout the days and weeks that follow, University of Minnesota health policy experts will discuss the ruling and its impact with regional media.

To catch up on all the latest regional media coverage featuring the University of Minnesota health policy experts you trust visit our Storify page.

Vet Q&A: Keeping your pet safe this summer

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Kristi Flynn, D.V.M., a veterinarian with the University of Minnesota's College of Veterinary Medicine, is here to offer some tips to beat the heat and help keep your pet happy, healthy and hydrated this summer.

Dr. Flynn will be at the Minnesota State Fairgrounds 10 a.m.-5 p.m. this Saturday, June 30 at Pet A Palooza answering questions about diet, nutrition, weight and behavior from the College of Vet Med's booth. Pets are welcome and the event is free and open to the public. Be sure to drop in and ask the vet!

Q: What are seasonal problems that people bring their pets to the vet for this time of year?
Flynn: People and their pets are generally more active during the summer months. As a result, we tend to see a more injuries such as cuts and dog bites.

Q: How does heat affect my dog?
Flynn: Dogs do not sweat like we do, but rather cool themselves by panting. In high humidity, panting is less efficient, making it harder to cool off. For this reason we recommend that you do not jog with your dog or leave your dog in the car -- even with windows cracked -- on hot or humid days. Additionally, running or walking on hot pavement can result in blisters on your pet's paw pads.

Q: How can I tell if my dog is overheating?
Flynn: He may pant profusely, have an anxious or worried expression, have skin that is warm to the touch, drool, be less responsive than usual, collapse or exhibit signs of weakness. If your pet exhibits these signs discontinue activity and get your dog to a cooler place. Seek immediate veterinary advice and run room temperature (not cold) water over your dogs belly and feet.

Q: What about traveling with my pet?
Flynn: It is very important to have proper identification with current phone numbers for both dogs and cats. Should our pet accidentally escape, we want them to be safely returned as quickly as possible.

Q: Is there anything else I should know for summer?
Flynn: Always make sure your pet has plenty of fresh, clean water!

Photo credit: Flickr user w00tdew00t via creative commons.

Is gender neutrality critical to gender equality?

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BLOG Toy Trucks.jpgFrom pink polka-dotted outfits and tutus to wear home from the hospital to toy cars and tool sets for birthday presents, it's no secret that little boys and girls are quickly encouraged to play specific gender roles. But in a world increasingly focused on gender equality, some are saying it's time to focus also on gender neutrality.

Activists in Sweden, one of the most gender equal nations in the world, are now promoting a gender-neutral pronoun: hen. The idea initially surfaced years ago as a way to avoid space-consuming he/she writing. But now, some argue the concept could be key to encouraging a society where everyone is free to choose their own self, especially small children.

But Walter Bockting, Ph.D., a professor in the University of Minnesota's Program in Human Sexuality, isn't sure the effort is necessary in terms of child development.

"Gender generally develops in very predictable ways," Bockting said, "and for the small percentage of people who don't identify with the traditional gender categories of boy or girl, man or woman, these types of accommodations can be beneficial. But whether that identity applies is hard to determine until much closer to adolescence."

Instead of discouraging gender-oriented play, Bockting suggests parents and caregivers provide a variety of options and activities to toddlers and young children. This allows parents to focus time and energy encouraging interests of the child while remaining open and supportive, whatever those interests may be.

"As long as the interests of the child are first at hand, it's best to just let the child play and grow," said Bockting. "Given space, time and an open environment, children will discover their own interests and identity."

Photo by Horia Varlan, used via Creative Commons License, flikr.com.

Healthy eating is a home run.

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Justin Morneau


Recently the Health Talk crew had our eyes opened to a story about Justin Morneau, the Minnesota Twin's baseball player who captured headlines for making healthier decisions at home plate. Er, the plate at home.

After four surgeries and a season-ending concussion in 2011, Morneau made the move to eliminate gluten, dairy products and sugar from his diet in hopes of staying healthier. Many people saw his choice as a step in the right direction in terms of people talking with their health care providers about nutritional decisions that could positively impact their lives.

"Professional athletes can be excellent role models for youth," said Michelle Parke, a registered dietitian in the University of Minnesota's School of Nursing and a researcher working with the Healthy Youth Sports Study (HYSS). "We often see professionals promoting sports drinks, why not healthful eating?"

Parke went on to explain that adequate nutrition is important for all athletes to perform their best, but for youth athletes adequate nutrition is also important for growth and development. Based on research from the HYSS she shared some nutritional barriers faced by today's youth.

Busy family schedules. There is little time for a sit-down family meal. Instead, meals consist of convenience foods that are typically fast food, sweetened beverages and other foods high in calories and low in nutrients.

Concession stands. At Youth sporting events it is difficult to make healthy food choices with limited options. Many youth athletes receive "treats" after a practice or game that rarely consist of healthful foods.

Calories actually burned. Maybe the biggest shock, youth do not burn as many calories as one might think. Much of the time at tournaments is spent on the bench or waiting around between games. This combined with the fast food options often leaves these athletes at a calorie surplus.

In terms of the dietary decisions recently made by Morneau, Parke was complimentary of his decision to better control what he will eat and what kinds of foods his nutritional team felt he should avoid.

"It would be fantastic to see professionals promoting more fruits and vegetables, whole grains, low-fat dairy, water and exercise," said Michelle Parke. "Professional athletes could help young athletes make the healthy choice be the easy choice."

Want to learn more about how youth athletes can make healthy choices about food? Check out the HYSS website here.

The Healthy Youth Sports Study was designed to investigate the relationship between youth sport participation and obesity prevention strategies. Participation in youth sport is recommended for increasing physical activity, but little research exists on whether sport can promote energy balance or prevent obesity.

(Photo courtesy of Flickr, creative commons license.)

Video games...as homework?

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6102429963_10a9c3a0ff_b.jpgEarlier this week, Tom Clancy, Ph.D., clinical professor and assistant dean for faculty practice, partnerships and professional development in the School of Nursing, joined KSTP's Bill Lunn in-studio to discuss "serious gaming" - using interactive and educational video games that simulate health care scenarios and speed up training.

According to Clancy, the industry of video games created for a purpose other than entertainment - or "serious games" - is an exploding industry.

"The name serious gaming implies that they're serious, but really what they are is a focus on training rather than the outcome being education," Clancy told Lunn. "It's a training program that's designed in a gaming environment, so it brings in all the aspects of gaming, making it fun and enjoyable at the same time."

Watch the KSTP interview, read about the research in the Star Tribune or watch this video from the U of M to learn more.

(Photo credit: Microsoft Sweden)

Family meals: Good for the kids and good for you!

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A new study published this month in the journal Appetite shows that parents who eat more family meals with their kids eat more fruits and veggies.

To learn more about the results, we talked with Jerica Berge, Ph.D., a University of Minnesota Medical School assistant professor in the Department of Family Medicine and Community Health. Berge is the lead author of the latest study, which is part of the larger, ongoing study Project EAT study examining the eating patterns of middle and high school students enrolled in Minneapolis and St. Paul school districts.

Here's what Berge had to say:

Q: Why research how family meals affect mom and dad?
Berge: We knew that adolescents and children who have regular family meals are less likely to be overweight and obese. They eat more healthfully overall in terms of consuming more fruits and vegetables, consuming less sugar-sweetened beverages, and being less likely to engage in extreme weight control behaviors that often lead to eating disorders. So, we wanted to know if the same was true for parents.

Q: What did your research find?
Berge: More frequent family meals are associated with a higher fruit and vegetable intake for moms and dads. When eating more meals together with family, dads also ate less fast food, while moms participated in less unhealthy dieting and binge eating.

Q: How many more fruits and vegetables were parents eating?
Berge: Overall, moms and dads went from eating 2-3 servings of fruits and vegetables per day to eating 4+ servings per day. In families that ate zero meals together as compared to families that ate meals together 5+ times per week, moms specifically went from 3 to 4+ servings of fruits and vegetables. Dads went from 2 ½ servings to 4. That's a total of 1-2 more servings each day for mom or dad!

Q: So, now I know eating with my family means I'll likely eat more fruits and veggies. What now?
Berge: The take home message is that family meals may benefit everyone in the family. Less fast food for dads, less unhealthy eating for moms and more fruits and vegetables for everyone means better health all around. Don't just plan family meals to help the kids; do it for the whole family, including yourself.

(Photo courtesy of Stefano Chiarelli via creative commons license.)

En route to adult bike safety

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Though many educational efforts for bicyclists are aimed to help children, when it comes to bike safety, it's not just for kids.

Adult cyclists aged 16 or over accounted for around 89 percent of bicycle fatalities in 2010. According to the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety, cycling related deaths in adults have significantly increased in the past few years.

The key to becoming a safe and suave rider comes from preparing and protecting yourself if you want to prevail on the street.

Prepare
A key aspect to bike safety is visibility. Most car-bike collisions occur because the bicyclist isn't visible to the driver. Wearing bright-colored or reflective clothing and making sure your bike has front and rear reflectors can help make sure that drivers see you. Never assume you are being seen by a car driver unless you make eye contact.

It is also important to make sure that the bike you are riding is the correct size and in good repair. Bikes that are too big make injuries more likely. Feet should be able to reach the ground and when they land on the pedal there should be a slight bend in your leg.

Wheels, handlebars and brakes should be tested to ensure they are properly working before use. Wheels must be properly inflated, straight and secure; handlebars should be firmly in place and easy to turn, and brakes should also be checked before riding.
By making any and all adjustments before actually embarking on a bike ride the risk of malfunctions occurring while out on the roads are lowered.

Protect
Wear your helmet! During the past few years, only about one in 10 fatally injured bicyclists were wearing helmets. Additionally, according to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, helmets are proven to be 85-88 percent effective in traumatic brain injury in cycling crashes.

To ensure proper protection, your helmet must fit appropriately. It should be level on top of the head, about two finger-widths above the eyebrows and it should not rock back and forth or side to side. The strap should be buckled and snug under the chin. All helmets should have a CPSC (Consumer Product Safety Commission) sticker, which guarantees the helmet meets the CPSC standard for safety.
For more information on helmet fit, go here and search for "bicycle helmet fit."

Not only should you never get on a bicycle without a properly fitting helmet, you also should avoid riding with an old helmet. The average "shelf life" for bike helmets is five years. Helmets are like any other sporting equipment and should be replaced as they age.

Collisions may compromise the safety of a helmet, so if you are involved in a crash or your helmet hits the pavement, it should be replaced.

Prevail
Confidence, courtesy and the rules of the road are the best way to prevail on the roads....after you've prepared and been protected, of course.

Before heading out, know the rules of the road. Familiarize yourself with arm signals (arm straight out to the left means a left turn, an arm bent 90 degrees at the elbow signals a right turn), and if there are bike lanes, stick to them. If that is not possible, bikers should always ride in the direction of traffic. The risk of collision increases almost three times if you ride against the flow of traffic.


Happy riding!


Photo credit: Chris via Flickr

Supreme Court ruling on the Affordable Care Act will have a big impact

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Later this month, the Supreme Court will hand down its ruling on the Affordable Care Act.

In their ruling, the Supreme Court could do one of three things:

1. Uphold the Affordable Care Act;
2. Uphold the Affordable Care Act in part;
3. Strike down the Affordable Care Act completely.

Regardless of the direction of their decision, the ruling will have big consequences for the general public, hospitals and clinics and health care professionals.

But what would the true impact be at both the state and federal levels? To find out we asked two leading experts within the School of Public Health's Division of Health Policy and Management.

The Impact at the Federal Level
According to health economics expert Jean Abraham, Ph.D., the impact on a federal level could look something like this:

1. Uphold the Affordable Care Act - The federal government will continue on as planned with the mandates set forth in the Affordable Care Act.
2. Uphold the Affordable Care Act in part - The effectiveness of the Affordable Care Act for reducing the number of uninsured will be in question. Many economists believe the individual mandate needs to go hand-in-hand with other types of insurance market provisions.
3. Strike down the Affordable Care Act completely - This will have a negative effect on reducing the number of uninsured people in the U.S. By 2016, there will be an estimated 56 million uninsured Americans and the provisions within the Affordable Care Act could help reduce this number by 30 million.

The Impact at the State Level
According to health policy expert Lynn Blewett, Ph.D., the impact on the state of Minnesota could look something like this:

1. Uphold the Affordable Care Act in part - It will be a slight setback but the state would likely continue to implement the exchange in an effort to find a large enough pool and healthy pool in the exchange to make the insurance premiums reasonably priced.
2. Strike down the Affordable Care Act completely - It would be a devastating blow to a state like Minnesota because of all the energy, effort and federal funding that went into creating and implementing the programs under the Affordable Care Act.
3. Uphold the Affordable Care Act - The state of Minnesota will continue on as planned with the mandates set forth in the Affordable Care Act.

No matter what side of the issue you're on, one thing is clear: many Americans will be affected by the Supreme Court's decision.

For more on the potential impacts of the Supreme Court's decision at the federal and state levels, watch videos of both Abraham and Blewett. And make sure to check back here for more updates on the Affordable Care Act ruling as they develop.

Photo by Phil Roeder

Tired and hungry: how lack of sleep hurts your diet

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Early morning meetings sometimes mean a doughnut from the coffee cart as you start up the computer, just as a late night out usually translates into a quick stop at the sub shop or pizza parlor. Turns out, these not-so-great food choices are a pretty universal response to lack of sleep.

New research out of New York City's St. Luke's Roosevelt Hospital Center shows a link between a lack of sleep and craving unhealthy foods like sugars, fats and high-carb options.

Doctors surveyed 16 healthy young adults and found brain regions associated with reward and motivation were highly activated when participants hadn't slept well.

Michael Howell, M.D., a sleep medicine physician and associate professor in the University of Minnesota's Medical School, isn't surprised by the results.

"In all spheres of our lives, judgment is impaired when sleep-deprived," says Howell. "Without enough sleep, you're less able to avoid temptation."

There are a lot of other ways a lack of quality sleep can impact our waistlines, according to Howell.

How to make the most out of your Minnesota summer

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With warm weather upon us, it is tempting to shed all inhibitions and wholeheartedly enjoy the summer sun, but with the summer heat, unfortunately, comes the risk of injury.
But, fear not! There are ways to prepare.

We checked in with Toben Nelson, an assistant professor in the School of Public Health at the University of Minnesota to get the scoop on some simple tips on insuring a safe and healthy summer.

1.Make sure you're using the right equipment, technique and supervision
Having proper instruction and supervision for the young ones is crucial in preventing injuries this summer. "Goofing around" is a common reason for injury, so parents or anyone supervising should make sure that kids are making good decisions, even though that is often easier said than done.

"If involved in any sort of recreational summer fun, it is very important to make sure that the equipment you are using is in working order," recommends Nelson.

It is also important that both children and adults are aware of their surroundings and are paying attention to the quality of their equipment, which can be anything from helmets to life jackets to volleyballs. Always check to make sure your bike helmet is fit appropriately for your head size and that life jackets are worn by all children and are a U.S. Coast Guard-approved Type I, II, III, or V jacket.

2. Protect yourself from the elements
It seems simple, but sunscreen and protective clothing are your best defense when avoiding sunburn. With a son who experienced his first major sunburn, Nelson understands the importance of keeping kids protected from the sun.

Paying attention to the temperature, keeping hydrated and avoiding caffeinated beverages or foods with high sodium content that can dehydrate are good defenses to combating the summer heat when being out and about.

3.Enjoy the Minnesota summer!
The last bit of advice Dr. Nelson had to offer was to encourage people to be out and enjoying everything the summer has to offer, but to also be cautious and prepare in advance for the potential problems that may arise.

"There are so many great things to be involved with in our state, one of the worst things you can do to yourself this summer is not take advantage of them and be active outdoors."

U of M & Mayo Clinic have their sights set on myelodysplastic syndrome

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Earlier this week, ABC's Robin Roberts announced she is battling myelodysplastic syndrome (MDS), a disease of the blood and bone marrow. In patients with MDS, the bone marrow keeps trying to make more blood cells to make up for a deficit, but many of these cells die before they make it into the blood stream. The condition is often treated with chemotherapy and bone marrow transplants.

MDS can be a scary condition for patients. More than 10,000 patients are diagnosed with the condition each year and 30 percent of those cases progress into acute leukemia. The condition can occur seemingly at random with few known causes.

For reasons still unknown, Minnesota owns the country's highest incidence rate of MDS. As a result, both the University of Minnesota and the Mayo Clinic have made MDS research a priority, which spells good news for MDS patients across the country.

Together, the two institutions are taking the lead on the development of new tools to both diagnose and treat the condition.

Recently, U of M and Mayo researchers were awarded $1.35 million by the Minnesota Partnership to combat the disease. That grant comes on the heels of a five-year, $2.5 million grant awarded last year to U of M epidemiologist Julie Ross, Ph.D., and pediatric hematologist-oncologist Erica Warlick, M.D., to conduct the nation's first large scale epidemiologic study of MDS.

"There aren't many studies where we look at newly-diagnosed patients and follow them over time, so we've never truly investigated why people get MDS," said Ross. "Therefore we can't definitively say which patients will see their disease progress into leukemia. We want to take the speculation and shift it into fact, giving patients a better chance against the disease."

KSTP recently caught up with Warlick to learn more about MDS. You can watch that video here. For more on University of Minnesota research into MDS, visit cancer.umn.edu.

Breaking down the surgical mesh debate

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Johnson & Johnson just announced it would no longer sell surgical mesh products beginning this fall. The products help treat intense pelvic pain in thousands of women annually, but the mesh has also met criticism after reports of surgical complications and injury.

So what do consumers need to know?

According to University of Minnesota experts, surgical mesh can still benefit women when procedures are done correctly and the product used appropriately.

"It's important we don't throw the baby out with the bath water with these types of products," said University of Minnesota Physician urologist Nissrine Nakib, M.D., a specialist in female urology and pelvic surgery. "There are definite benefits to surgical mesh, and the most important thing a patient can do is to know their options and be educated about any treatment approach."

According to Nakib, surgical mesh can offer lower recurrence rates than many other available treatment options. The products support internal organs and strengthen tissue and can be beneficial for treating pelvic organ prolapse.

But there can be risks involved in the use of surgical mesh. Complications can include the mesh becoming exposed to the outside, pain, and more rarely, perforation of an organ. The FDA has even issued a health warning about surgical mesh being inserted vaginally.

"When performed vaginally, mesh is used in an area of the body that is largely unseen. Doctors performing this procedure need to be intimately familiar with the female anatomy and proceed carefully," said Nakib.

To avoid problems, Nakib advises to women find a physician experienced with surgical mesh and to ask a lot of questions about the risks and benefits of any given procedure, as well as about other options available.

"It's important for patients to be involved in their own treatment," she said.

Learn more about urology options available at the U of M.

Pencil in a little "YOU" time. Doctor's orders.

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When it comes to personal wellbeing, many women hold off visiting the doctor until there's something wrong, even though most health organizations recommend annual exams.

But according to Dr. Peter Argenta, a University of Minnesota Physicians OB/GYN and gynecologic oncology expert, the importance of a yearly exam is twofold:

1. Building the patient-physician relationship. A woman should have an established relationship with a physician who knows how she looks when she's well, which will help her doctor better interpret changes that happen if she's sick. Annual exams help build this relationship.
2. Preventative screening. For women at normal risk, preventative screening is recommended to start at age 21, when women should begin cervical cancer screening. Breast cancer screening begins at age 40, and colon cancer screening starts at age 50.

"Most conditions are better treated early in the course of disease, including common conditions such as hypertension and diabetes," said Argenta. "Some conditions such as colon and cervix cancer can be avoided entirely with routine health maintenance and in these cases, an ounce of prevention may be worth more than a pound of cure."

So, when do women need to start annual checkups?

Argenta recommends starting annual exams at or around age 18 for women. While this is not a time that medical problems typically present themselves, it's a great time to start talking about preventative care and building a relationship with a physician. A woman should feel comfortable enough with her doctor to ask about her weight, diet, upcoming screenings and any medications, knowing the doctor is familiar with her history.

For women who want to know what else they can do to stay healthy, Argenta shares the same advice with each of his patients: "Stop or don't start smoking, wear your seatbelt and monitor your weight no less than once a month. Doing these three things demonstrably saves lives."

E. coli outbreaks: Should you be afraid?

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Over the past few months, 14 people in 4 states have contracted the same E. coli strain, O145. With cases recognized between April and May across Louisiana, Georgia, Alabama and Florida, consumers may wonder, could this happen to me?

According to Craig W. Hedberg, Ph.D., a University of Minnesota professor from the Division of Environmental Health Sciences in the School of Public Health, there's not much to fear from this outbreak. "This appears to be a regionally distributed food that hasn't shipped to vast markets across the country."

This particular strain of E. coli is associated with meat and poultry contamination, but these recently documented cases have been of mostly women between 20 and 60 years old, a group that is normally effected by fresh produce outbreaks.

So, what does this mean?

"The CDC has not released the source of the contamination, and though I cannot confirm, I would guess this outbreak is related to leafy greens," said Hedberg. "That being said, it is always important to take basic precautions when handling any unprepared food."

Ways to stay safe:
• Wash your hands after handling uncooked meat
• Wash down all counter tops following meat preparation
• Cook all meat all the way through, leaving no pink
• Wash all fruits and vegetables before serving
• Remove all damaged or bruised parts of fruit or vegetables
• Ensure kids are washing their hands when helping in the kitchen

Hedberg explained that cross-contamination is a major cause of illness, and an overall sense of caution is the safest route to take. "My advice is to assume all raw meat and produce is contaminated, which will ensure the most thorough steps are taken to guarantee a clean and healthy cooking area."

Disney joins the nation's fight against obesity

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Recent news that Disney has put the kibosh on junk food advertisements on their website, TV and radio stations seems on par with other efforts aimed at improving children's health, but will the move really make an impact on children's eating behaviors?

According to Dianne Neumark-Sztainer, Ph.D., M.P.H., R.D., a University of Minnesota School of Public Health epidemiologist and principal investigator of Project EAT, the answer is yes.

"There's a reason that snack foods and sugary cereals are on the shelf closest to a small child's line of vision," said Neumark-Sztainer. "It's the same reason these foods are advertised during the day. Children - like adults - are influenced by advertising."

Neumark-Sztainer believes that by regulating food advertising on shows targeting children, Disney is taking a role in educating children on making better food choices. Because sugary and high calorie options aren't being promoted, Disney is making a move to expose children to one less promotion of unhealthy food.

With the new criteria, Disney will scrutinize the calorie count of any food advertised on its channels. Though this won't eliminate all junk food from being advertised, it will ensure that the food promoted is within a healthy calorie range for young children.

"I think Disney's self-regulation is a positive move," said Neumark-Sztainer. "While there will be alternative media channels where kids are exposed to advertising of unhealthy food choices and the impact of the company's move is difficult to quantify, the effort is still a positive step."

Drug-induced psychosis doesn't need to be deadly

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BLOGb - CrystalMeth.jpg(Photo of crystal meth, courtesy Radspunk via creative commons license.)

A naked man, apparently high on drugs, was killed this week in Miami while attacking another man on the street. Police believe the suspect, Rudy Eugene, 31, had been high on "bath salts," a synthetic drug similar to LSD. When confronted by officers, Eugene growled at their intrusion and seemed to be unaffected by the shots fired into his body until officers were able to kill him.

Psychosis induced by drugs, particularly chemical-based drugs, is a common response to overdosing. Emergency room physicians and psychiatric care centers handle psychotic episodes on a regular basis.

"There are a number of drugs, illicit or prescription, which can lead to a psychotic episode," says S. Charles Schulz, M.D., professor and head of the University of Minnesota's Department of Psychiatry. Drugs most commonly associated with it are LSD, methamphetamine and Adderall.

While the attack in Miami is not a common expression of these induced psychotic episodes, there are a variety of symptoms that can indicate psychosis. Paranoia, frenzy and other erratic behavior can all indicate a person is heading toward significant psychosis.

So what's happening inside the body? According to Schulz, it depends on the drug ingested by the patient. Amphetamine-based drugs, like meth, stimulate the dopamine receptors in the brain, which increases paranoia and takes away the capacity for self-control. These patients can usually be treated with anti-psychotic medication. LSD, however, stimulates the serotonin in the brain, and results in patients generally needing a calm and safe place to come down from the high.

Physicians are pushing to understand the "ramping up" phase of a psychotic episode. In theory, catching someone during this building time could help stop a patient from hurting himself or others.

The University of Minnesota is focused on caring for people experiencing a psychotic episode. Check out their website to learn more about the First Episode Psychosis Program, a program dedicated to comprehensive assessment and treatment of psychotic illness.

U of M and Brazilian researchers partner to fight infectious disease

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It's difficult to treat a disease caused by something you don't know is there.

That's why Marna Ericson, Ph.D. in the Department of Dermatology and Center for Drug Design at the University of Minnesota's Medical School and Paulo Velho, M.D., Ph.D., a researcher from the University of Campinas (UNICAMP) in Campinas, Brazil are combining experience and expertise internationally to learn more about the hard-to-detect bacteria Bartonella.

Ericson and Velho are part of a joint U.S.-Brazil March government initiative encouraging science and technology collaboration between the U.S. and Brazil.

Not only did the pair recently participate in a round table discussion at the U.S. Department of State on recruiting, retaining and advancing women in science, but they also just received a three-year grant to study Bartonella from Brazilian government program Science Without Borders, alongside U of M Department of Medicine Professor Kalpna Gupta and two UNICAMP researchers.

"Bartonella may be causing sickness and we don't know it, because there's no good way to test for it," said Ericson. "Even the best state-of-the-art tests are inadequate."

Bartonella lives inside red blood cells and is responsible for cat scratch disease; an infection transmitted by--you guessed it--cats (although ticks, flies, fleas and other blood-transmitters can carry it, too). This stealthy bacterium is also responsible for an unknown number of other health problems including skin lesions, liver infections and brain dysfunction.

International collaboration between Brazil and U of M researchers is vital to successful research on Bartonella. Velho's yearlong appointment at the U allows both U of M researchers and Velho to share their unique experiences and research with the bacteria originally discovered in South America.

"We are a good example of collaborative work," Velho said, adding that Ericson and himself are hoping to make it easier for others to participate in a university exchange like their own.

If Ericson and Velho succeed in developing a better way to detect Bartonella, their international collaboration will result in cost savings stemming from improper disease diagnoses and will set the scene for developing treatments that have the potential to improve lives and help cure Bartonella-related disease.

(Photo credit: Tissue staining of Bartonella in skin by Marna Ericson.)