Archive for the ‘Health’ Category

Service of Cartoons

Thursday, January 9th, 2020


I was given every chance to show talent for drawing or painting when young. Sadly I’m like a tone deaf person who loves music: My stick figures are not convincing and I admire people who can translate on paper or canvas a thought or scene.

Nevertheless I see material for cartoons all over the place. Here are recent examples that a sketch would capture far better than I can with words.


I was passing an urgent care office—they are at street level all over Manhattan, many with large windows neither frosted nor with shades drawn.

Behind the reception desk at one was an attractive staffer blowing her nose into an enormous wad of Kleenex. Struck me funny.

Ying &Yang


Walking to the subway this week on 77th Street between Park and Lexington Avenues I passed on my left a Christian Science church and on my right, Lenox Hill Hospital. The contradiction brought a smile.

Seating Arrangements

The subway car was jammed the other day. A little boy about 10 sat next to his mother. She didn’t suggest he give up his seat to fellow passengers encumbered with packages, disabled or elderly. The scene inspired this invented scenario: In every seat are kids and 20-somethings. Standing are people with canes, crutches or pregnant.

Do you come across scenes that would make poignant or amusing cartoons? Do you have a favorite cartoon?


Service of Friendships–Better than Drugs or Anti-Aging Remedies

Monday, November 25th, 2019


I’ve written about office friends and those whose names you don’t even know; buddies as good company, splitting the check, hugging and protecting them. Tara Parker-Pope wrote about friendship from a different perspective in her New York Times article “How to be a Better Friend.”

She reported results of research that showed that students in pairs estimated the slope of a hill they were expected to climb to be far less onerous than those who were alone. Another study supported “the notion that social support helps us cope with stress.” Friends in a room made the heart rate of women faced with solving a math problem go much slower than those approaching the task alone.


Parker-Pope claimed that friendships, more than romantic partners, positively impact health. Here’s one of three studies she chose to illustrate the point: “In a six-year study of 736 middle-age Swedish men, being attached to a life partner didn’t affect the risk of heart attack and fatal coronary heart disease, but having friendships did. Among risk factors for cardiovascular health, lacking social support was as bad as smoking.”

She wrote that “proximity was not a factor in the benefits of friendship” though its obvious that local friends can run errands and help in other ways if necessary. People with friends get fewer colds which might be related to experiencing less stress.

The effect of peer pressure can be good or bad. Some participate in exercise routines and other healthy activities with their buddies while others may gain weight together. If a person did the latter, a 2007 study showed that there was an almost 60 percent risk that their friends would too.


In Japan, Parker-Pope wrote, “people form a kind of social network called a moai — a group of five friends who offer social, logistic, emotional and even financial support for a lifetime.” Women in Okinawa, Parker-Pope reported, have an average life expectancy of 90–the longest in the world.

Dan Buettner, a National Geographic fellow and author who studies health habits of people who live longest told Parker-Pope “Your group of friends are better than any drug or anti-aging supplement, and will do more for you than just about anything.”

The title of Parker-Pope’s article–“How to be a Better Friend”–didn’t match the information in it. Just being a friend is what counts. As I am blessed with life-saving friends I can vouch for how their support is an effective passport to joy and an antidote to stress and anxiety. Who knew there might also be health benefits?



Service of Too Big and Too Powerful

Thursday, March 29th, 2018

In my line of work, I’m thrilled by the stories I bring to media that they embrace. I’m critical of some I read, see or hear when I think of a few appropriate leads I’ve proposed that were rejected by key players. The most glaring example of “how did this get past the editor/producer?” is the constant coverage by legitimate media that gave credibility to the shenanigans of the current chief of state when he started his campaign.


But PR, with its constraints, is the game I’m in and when I hit pay dirt I still get a thrill; when I don’t I try harder.

Richard Whitman’s commentary on struck a nerve because he wrote about the advertising world that unlike PR pays for its communications and if what it sells is legitimate, gets in. The commentary dealt with an uncooperative gatekeeper setting up a roadblock for dissemination of essential information that could save young lives.

In “Cancer Awareness Campaign Supported by Google, But Apple Won’t Play Ball,” he wrote about an advertising campaign for the Testicular Cancer Awareness Foundation to “raise money and awareness to fight the disease via a set of testicle emojis that consumers can download for $3.99.”


Whitman reports the foundation’s findings: There’s a 95 percent survival rate when the disease is detected early. Also, it is the leading cancer for boys/men 15 to 24.

The ad agency, Oberland, prepared the sticker packs to launch with April, Testicular Cancer Awareness Month. Oberland reported that Apple’s reason for declining was: “Your sticker pack is not in compliance with the App Store Review guidelines.” Whitman commented: “Whatever that means.”


He wrote: “Oberland appealed, even sharing a note from the founder of the Testicular Cancer Awareness Foundation — Kim Jones — which included a personal story of the passing of her son Jordan from the disease at the tragically early age of 22. But the appeal was denied.”

He concluded: “And Apple seems to be going out of its way to prevent that message from being heard by more people than it otherwise might. That’s a head scratcher.  What gives, Apple?”


I once reported to an editor who would wrinkle her nose, hand copy back to me and say, “I don’t like it.” I’d ask what she didn’t like—the topic? the headline? the lead? It was my first magazine job and I was flummoxed when her only response was the look of disgust. Apple acted just the same. Someone could have said to Oberland, “this is what you must do for the app to be accepted.” Nobody did.

Advertising is a different game than PR. It’s more costly and those doing it have control of the message and where/when it plays. Or do they these days—when the gatekeeper to a crucial target audience is a giant corporation that carries a lot of weight? Is this a healthy precedent?


Service of the Last Straw, Bar None

Monday, March 26th, 2018

Photo: the

I love sipping from a straw: Always have. Straws are associated with happy drinks and times. On hot summer nights my mother made scrumptious ice cream sodas for dessert which we’d sip through straws. A whiskey sour with a straw makes a celebration of an ordinary Saturday night.

To read they may be an endangered species because they are considered a “‘gateway plastic’ in understanding the pollution problem,” makes me sad. They come in cheery colors. The paper ones, in mostly stripes, cost a fortune and disintegrate. Bars that use metal straws claim customers take them. One company makes biodegradable plastic straws. Wonder how much they cost.


The gateway plastic quote above, by actor Adrian Grenier, was in Cara Lombardo’s Wall Street Journal article, “The War on Straws Is Coming to a Bar Near You.” Given the years since I first heard plastic bags were to be banned in NYC and still they are not, I may not have to say “bye-bye” to straws anytime soon.

Grenier started a #stopsucking social media campaign and “The Scotch Whisky Association and the makers of Absolut vodka and Tanqueray gin have announced plans to ban plastic straws and stirrers from their events.” Bacardi also nixes swizzle sticks. Pernod has deleted them from images, according to Lombardo.

She also reports that they are banned in some cities and in some bars you have to ask to get one like during the NYC water shortage when wait staff would confirm that you wanted a glass before automatically bringing one.


One source estimated that we use 20 billion plastic straws annually. “Mia Freis Quinn, a spokeswoman for the [Plastics Industry] association, says the plastic straw’s detractors should focus on finding ways to recycle and recover them. Plastic straws, she says, play vital roles in everything from her children’s class projects to personal hygiene. ‘My dentist says if you’re not drinking water, you better be using a straw.’ The American Dental Association suggests using straws to prevent tooth erosion, recommending using a straw ‘palatally,’ placing the end behind the teeth.”

One straw proponent, fearing all the communicable diseases around, won’t drink from a glass in a restaurant if he’s not given a straw because he doesn’t want to touch a rim “other mouths have touched.” Another wondered how we’d drink milkshakes [a favorite food group] without them. To be able to drink a strawless frozen margarita a third “learned to tilt the glass to prevent blended ice from spilling on her face.”

Straws are nothing new. Lombardo wrote that the Sumerians used metal ones as early as 2,500 B.C. When I was a kid I was puzzled by the ones you’d get in bars in Europe that were actually made of straw. They were so thin and delicate you had to concentrate to extricate liquid from them.

Would you miss plastic straws if they were prohibited? Considering the huge amount of plastic used in packaging and bottles alone, do you think that barring straws is little more than a symbolic gesture in the face of the gigantic pollution issues we face? What do you like—or dislike—about them?

Paper straws. Photo:

Service of What You Don’t Know CAN Hurt You: Essential Facts Relating to Health, Yours and the Country’s

Monday, December 18th, 2017

Donna Hammaker, Esq & Dr. Thomas M. Knadig, EdD

Did you know that:

  • Congress defines what “equivalent” means when it comes to generic drugs and that the therapeutic effectiveness of a generic might actually be half as that of the brand according to this definition? More below.
  • About 1/10th of the U.S. population has no health insurance; most of them are earning middleclass incomes and the lack of coverage causes two deaths every hour?

I learned this at an eye-opening program of the Healthcare Public Relations and Marketing Society of Greater New York [HPRMS]. Nancie Steinberg, president, introduced the speakers Donna K. Hammaker, Esq. and Dr. Thomas M. Knadig, EdD, who addressed representatives of some of New York City’s most prestigious hospitals and health organizations and the marketers and PR professionals who counsel them.

While some of what I heard was shocking, the takeaway as a consumer was nothing new: When it comes to your health, be informed and ask questions.

About the reference to generic drugs above, Hammaker said you could not pay her to take generic drugs from India or Israel. She mentioned “brand generics” by Novartis and Pfizer that seemed to pass muster.

The speakers, on the faculty of Saint Joseph’s University, Philadelphia, and authors of three textbooks for students and health care managers, the most recent of which is Health Care Management and the Law, shared data-driven facts and statistics gathered in the last two years.

Laced in the discussion were factoids about the Affordable Care Act, such as that much of it was first addressed during the Nixon administration and that many people are unaware of what’s in it. Healthcare has been Hammaker’s professional focus as a lawyer and yet even she was surprised by bits that she learned by studying it. [One wonders how many lawmakers are still in the dark and yet they call for changes.]


A caveat: I’ve posted sound bytes throughout this post. On just one of these topics alone, Clinical Trials, Hammaker gives a three hour lecture in which she addresses the differences between brand and generic drugs. There is similar backup in her latest 830 page book and hours-long lectures relating to her other contentions and conclusions. For example in Health Care Management and the Law the authors reference court decisions relating to the use of reprocessed medical devices which, in the interest of brevity, I don’t go into here.

Following are just a few highlights based on a list the authors handed out and subsequent discussion.


  • “Reprocessed medical devices are a cause for concern, as the FDA standards are not always strictly adhered to, patients are not necessarily informed they are receiving a reprocessed device, and such devices are often obtained from unregulated sources, such as the Internet.” Hammaker recommended that before undergoing a procedure that a patient specify on the hospital consent form that he/she wants a new device as well as the name of the manufacturer of the device. She explained, for example, that some hip replacement devices are made of cheaper metals that tend to break. In addition, she reported, the FDA is lifting restrictions in this area.
  • Photo:

    “Over 60 percent of the yearly $1.9 trillion employers spend on health care costs go toward treating tobacco-related illnesses.” We learned that it is legal for an employer to refuse employment to a smoker. In addition, an employer can charge current employees who smoke more for insurance; force them to take smoking cessation classes as a term of employment and conduct random tests [of hair] to identify smokers.

  • “Estimates indicate 90 million people in the US live with a preventable chronic disease [such as diabetes and hypertension often caused by such factors as smoking and obesity], the ongoing care for which amounts to 75 percent of the annual $3.3 trillion health care budget.” As health insurers are no longer covering illnesses and disease that could have been prevented, Hammaker asked, “Is this a direction we want to take?”
  • “While the biggest burdens to the U.S. health care system are depression and gun violence, they receive scant attention in the health care reform debates; yet the cost of gun violence in the US is equal to the cost of smoking, obesity and other preventable health care illnesses combined. Estimates of civilian gun ownership have been as high as 330 million vs. the U.S. military and law enforcement that possess approximately 4 million guns. The nation’s risk pools absorb $1.4 billion yearly to cover anticipated costs of treating victims of fatal firearm assaults.”

There are a lot of hot topics here and no doubt people who disagree with some conclusions. [We know people who suffer from a disease–chronic Lyme–that many physicians and insurance companies don’t recognize.] Were you surprised by any of this information? Are you more assertive in dealing with your health issues and those of family members today than you were in the past? Are you concerned that information like this is not readily available making it hard to protect yourself appropriately?


Service of Insecurity Triggers: Healthcare, Economy and 45’s Strategy

Thursday, May 4th, 2017



There’s a lot to make a person feel on edge these days. Just to mention a few issues:

In healthcare:

  • Will Congress change the rules so that health insurance companies can charge what they like—as big pharma can—with the consequence that coverage will no longer be an option for millions including many who’ve traditionally been able to afford it?
  • Is insuring preexisting conditions really back on the chopping


    block in spite of 45s promises that it isn’t? I thought we’d settled that issue to a resounding national sigh of relief, but apparently not.

The economy:

  • GDP grew in the first quarter at its slowest pace in three years with a self-proclaimed business genius at the helm, [0.7 percent].
  • Who is going to make up the slack when corporations and the 1 percent get discounts on their taxes?
  • Photo:


    The retail industry is in shambles. There are many reasons for the latter: popularity of e-tailing/online shopping, increased purchases on mobile phones, etc. This is America, land of the chronic consumer and these retailers, too, have their oars in virtual waters. Troublesome also as so many jobs are involved.

45s strategy to make daily headlines at all costs doesn’t help. To achieve this he is mercurial, says and does outrageous things, takes an unorthodox stance for the fun of it and damn the torpedoes. It works–he’s front page news. His followers aren’t bothered but the approach, in addition to the anxiety-provoking real triggers, is making me uneasy. Am I alone? What antidotes do you recommend?



Service of Feeling Indecisive or Rejected? An Over the Counter Pain Pill Can Fix That

Monday, October 5th, 2015


You probably know this if you read health journals but I don’t read them and therefore I didn’t know: A side effect of over the counter [OTC] pain meds that contain acetaminophen such as Tylenol or Excedrin can do more than kill pain. It seems that the drug can make an indecisive person resolute and a rejected person feel less castoff and abandoned.

Not all the side effects are that good. As the title of Susan Pinker’s article hints at, “Less Pain, Less Joy: New Look at Acetaminophen,” the drug “muffles your happiness too” as an “all-purpose damper, stifling a range of strong feelings.”

Five years ago, according to Pinker, two psychologists reported that three weeks OTC pain medson one of these OTCs, “soothed social pain like feelings of exclusion or ridicule.” [The article doesn’t say nor do I know whether taking such a drug for that long could negatively affect your stomach or cause other unwanted physical reactions.]

And in a recent study researchers found that the “more intense the emotions, the more acetaminophen muted them.” The drug “alters the circuits that govern our emotional responses,” Pinker wrote.

Feeling left outI’m an Advil advocate–Tylenol has zero impact on headaches or pain for me–and Pinker says researchers have yet to study side effects of OTCs with ibuprofen like Advil or Motrin. Who knows: Maybe if I take Advil over a long  enough period of time I might get good at math or ignore the psychological smacks of thoughtless people. One can always hope.

Are you under the impression that OTC drugs are benign? Have you noticed mood changes or a different outlook if you’ve been on an OTC drug of any kind for a period of time? I doubt psychological side effects are posted on OTC pill boxes, but are you diligent in reading potential side effects on remedies you pick up at the drugstore?


 At drug store

Service of Scheduling Stand-Ins and Stretches

Thursday, October 1st, 2015

Sit at desk

There are days when suddenly it’s 6 pm and I realize I’ve not left the office for a second—or my desk chair more than twice. This week after a day like this my eye caught yet another article about the dangers of sitting too long in one place. A few months ago there had been a rash of them promoting that people ask employers to buy them an architect’s drafting desk so they could stand at work, perhaps encouraged by a furniture manufacturer.

Sumathi Reddy wrote: “studies have found that sedentary behavior including sitting for extended periods, increases the risk for developing dozens of chronic conditions, from cancer and diabetes to cardiovascular disease and nonalcoholic fatty liver disease.”

It appears to be serious. She wrote in her Wall Street Journal article “The Price We Pay for Sitting Too Much: New formulas for how long we should spend sitting and standing in a workday” that “Various studies have shown that even regular exercise won’t compensate for the negative effects from sitting too much during the day.” She shared insight of John Buckley, a professor of applied exercise science at the University of Chester in England. “Sitting causes physiological changes in the body, and may trigger some genetic factors that are linked to inflammation and chronic conditions such as diabetes and cardiovascular disease. In contrast, standing activates muscles so excess amounts of blood glucose don’t hang around in the bloodstream and are instead absorbed in the muscles, he said.”

Stretch in officeSo what I suspected all along is true: that marathon sitting binges to get a project under control may be good for peace of mind but not for me. But the advice in Reddy’s article isn’t practical. Alan Hedge, a professor of ergonomics at Cornell University suggests breaking up the work day. “For every half-hour working in an office, people should sit for 20 minutes, stand for eight minutes and then move around and stretch for two minutes. I’m sure he’s right, but who has the time? You may be ready for your eight minute break but a colleague may not be ready for your visit. So what do you do for those eight minutes to accomplish what you’re paid for? You may catch up on your phone calls to friends–which after a while they’ll resent–but what about work?

Standing while workingShe also shared a panel’s guidelines published in The British Journal of Sports Medicine to stand two to four hours along with “light activity spread throughout the day.” That works if you’re a sports pro but for people with office-based jobs? She continued, “And research from NASA has found that standing up for two minutes 16 times a day while at work is an effective strategy for maintaining bone and muscle density, Dr. Hedge says.” You could stand during phone conversations if you didn’t have to take notes but few people make 16 calls a day.

Do you think that bosses in offices will encourage staffers to get up and down countless times daily to save on future medical costs and lost workdays due to illness? Are you able to do this? Can a person concentrate if he/she must leave the computer for eight minutes every 30 minutes and at the end of the day, have they accomplished as much as before? Are there other situations in which the solutions to avert a potential health issue aren’t complicated yet because they are cumbersome, impractical, or distracting, people may have a hard time changing their habits? Why do you think that we are hearing more and more about this dangerous situation now?

health risk


Service of Keeping a Messy Desk

Monday, November 11th, 2013

messy desk

Whether I’m frantically busy or not, my desk is a mess [though not as bad as the one pictured above]. I’ve written before about pilers or filers and admitted I’m of the former school. As soon as I put away work, it might as well be in someone else’s file as it can take me ages to find what I need. Sort through the piles on my desk and voila! I find the information in a snap.

The thought of filing everything on the cloud in a paperless office gives me the shivers.

I’ve gotten better at being methodical about selecting file names in my computer but when rushed, I often type the first thing that comes to mind which subsequently doesn’t ring any bells.

So I’m drawn to any study that shows the benefits of being messy.

Gretchen Reynolds reported on what she called a well known fact that organized, predictable people live longer because typically they eat better. She noted that “they also tend to have immaculate offices.”

neat deskOops! I wonder if life insurance companies ask for photos of a person’s office. By the way, I eat just fine thank you. And I’m organized.

In the article “Clean Up Your Desk! But not if you’re looking to be creative” in The New York Times Magazine, Reynolds covered results of University of Minnesota experiments that she read about in Psychological Science. College student choices after answering questionnaires in neat or messy environments were predictable: Offered an apple or chocolate when they were done, more of those in the former chose the fruit and those in the latter, the candy.

However in a second experiment under similar neat/messy circumstances, the students in chaos “were significantly more creative” when asked to propose new uses for Ping-Pong balls. According to Reynolds, Kathleen D. Vohs, a behavioral scientist at the university, was surprised by these findings because “few previous studies found much virtue in disarray.” My bet is that Dr. Vohs’ office is neat as a pin.

smoothieIn the last example, when offered a classic or new health boost in a smoothie, more adults in the messy office chose to experiment than those in the orderly one. Wrote Reynolds: “’Disorderly environments seem to inspire breaking free of tradition,’ conclude Dr. Vohs and her co-authors, “which can produce fresh insights.’”

Dr. Vohs advises: To “think outside the box let the clutter rise.” Best neaten up if your goal is to eat well or exercise. “By doing this, the naturally messy can acquire some of the discipline of the conscientious.”

Do you agree with Dr. Vohs that being messy means you are neither industrious nor diligent? Is your desk naturally neat or messy?


Service of Health Screening: Harvard Doctor’s Counsel Reverses Advice of Panel of Experts Regarding Mammograms

Thursday, September 19th, 2013



As I awoke early on a recent Saturday I heard newsman Joe Bartlett on his WOR 710 radio program interview Dr. Blake Cady, professor emeritus of surgery at Harvard Medical School and Mass General. The doctor shared highlights of a study about mammograms and his findings about the age women should begin having them.

His conclusion—they should start at 40–represents a 10 year difference from what experts previously touted. While earlier screening doesn’t prevent cancer it has a dramatic impact on dying from it—far fewer women do.

I wasn’t near paper and pen to take notes while listening so I checked out some of the details of Dr. Cady’s conclusions on Reporter Kathleen Doheny wrote: “New breast cancer research reveals a significant death rate among women under 50 who forgo regular mammograms and casts doubt on recent screening guidelines from a U.S. panel of experts.”

Dr waiting roomDoheny reported that more than 70 percent of breast cancer deaths in the study of 600 women happened in mostly younger unscreened women—those who never had a mammogram or had one more than two years before diagnosis.

She wrote: “In 2009, the U.S. Preventive Services Task Force, a panel of experts that makes recommendations about health practices, said women aged 50 to 74 should get screening mammograms every two years.”

The task force describes itself as “…an independent panel of non-Federal experts in prevention and evidence-based medicine and is composed of primary care providers (such as internists, pediatricians, family physicians, gynecologists/obstetricians, nurses, and health behavior specialists).”

Woman speaking with doctorDoheny continued: “Women under 50, the panel said, should talk to their doctors and decide whether to be screened based on potential benefits, such as early detection, and harms, including over-treatment and anxiety caused by false-positive results.”

The specter of insurance wasn’t mentioned either during the radio interview or in the article but I fear that five mammograms over 10 years multiplied by women in the 40 to 50 demographic– and who will pay for them–[once again] enters the picture at the cost of lives.

Aren’t patients better off being anxious about a false-positive than not having the test and having a cancer go undetected and untreated? The task force appears legitimate so I hesitate to sling arrows yet I wonder if insurance considerations are lurking in the background. Do you schedule regular health screenings according to your doctors’ or public health recommendations?



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