All posts by McKenzie K.

Course Reflection

I feel very fortunate to have taken this class both as a public health major and as someone living in a western society actively participating as a consumer. Before taking this course I took things at face value and never really did the research necessary to understand what I was really buying, nor did I stop to consider why I was buying (into) it. Through the required readings, the prompts we wrote, and reading my classmates work I was able to really practice these course objectives and gain a new perspective on consumer health. Health care legislation, consumer protection laws and agencies, some historical events, health policy, and finding consumer-relevant information were all things I felt I achieved very well during the duration of this course. Industry influence and unscientific claims are something I felt I was fairly well at dealing with beforehand, but this course helped teach me the importance of being thorough when it comes to what we are consuming, and I will therefore continue to practice this as I continue beyond this course. As far as collecting and sharing qualitative data, I am adequate. This course has certainly helped me, but it is definitely something I will continue to master through my other public health courses and in my future career. There is still so much to learn, health is constantly changing and progressing, and keeping up with it is something I love to do. Being a public health major, I have learned the importance of mental, physical, social, sexual health etc. but I never considered the importance of consumer health. This course was a great introduction into an aspect of public health that I really didn’t know or think much about, and I feel very grateful to have been able to expand my learning here on this blog.

Another Glossary Post

quackery:
dishonest practices and claims to have special knowledge and skill in some field, typically medicine.

health policy:

health policy can be defined as the “decisions, plans, and actions that are undertaken to achieve specific healthcare goals within a society. … They may cover topics of financing and delivery of healthcare, access to care, quality of care, and health equity.

health behavior:

combination of knowledge, practices, and attitudes that together contribute to motivate the actions we takeregarding health.

I took Intro. to Policy concurrently with this course and I feel that understanding policy, especially the health policies in our state and country, are an integral part of understanding consumer health. I also think it is important to acknowledge that our health behavior has a large impact on what we are consuming both as individuals and as a society. I also chose to define quackery, mainly because it was the first word that caught my interest in this course. Before Summer quarter had begun I was reading through different course descriptions to decide what to sign up for, and the description for this course used the word “quackery”. It is such a silly word to me but the more I learned in this course, the more I realized the quackery that occurs in the life of an every day consumer, and how destructive it is to our learning and decision making.

 

 

Photovoice- Birth Control

Bedsider-Birth-Control-Effectiveness-Poster01-IUDChart-final.nocrop.w710.h2147483647Screen Shot 2017-07-30 at 3.21.03 PMScreen Shot 2017-07-30 at 3.25.10 PM

For this photo series I decided to discuss something that is very important to me both as a female and as a young adult in college. Sexual health is not only something very important to be educated on, but also to keep up with on a personal level. While sexual health is a natural part of our lives, it is also a large consumer market. Birth control methods are great money-makers in the modern world, but for most people, these methods are also a necessity. I took the time to do some research about what information this “market” is giving us, as well as whether the information is helpful to the consumer or not.

Choosing a birth control method can be very overwhelming today, with its myriad of options, but there is actually a ton of very simple and helpful resources that make the decision much easier. For my first photo I chose to insert a chart from Bedsider which lays out all of one’s birth control options, as well as their ranked effectiveness and how likely pregnancy is to occur. Though extremely simple, as a consumer I really appreciated how they chose to lay out the information. Although it is not a complete picture of each method, a chart like this is a great first step in showing consumers their options. I also loved their emphasis on condom use along with all forms of birth control for STI prevention. Upon using the chart, it became clear that intra-uterine devices were the most effective form of birth control on the market and decided to further research the options within this category. The second chart listed all available IUDs on the market along with the hormones they use and how much, as well as the length of time each brand is effective for. The asterisks (*) provided the information that further studies have found that some of these devices last longer than originally marketed for. I felt this chart was a great resource for consumers to decide what brand they could further research to best suite their needs, as well as a provided a platform to research levonorgestrel and its affects. I decided to look into the two most common brands, Mirena and Paraguard.

Each brand had its own website with features such as cost, who it works best for, frequently asked questions, side effects, etc. I decided to screen grab the side effects page from each brand because I felt as a consumer I would want to compare and contrast these important issues. Overall, I had a great experience in the so-called birth control market. It is rare, as a consumer, to feel that the products and the information they provide are truly after your best interest; however, it truly seemed to me that these brands wanted to provide all possible information for their consumers to make an informed decision for their sexual health. This market lays out all the choices for the consumer and provides substantial information for each one. Though it did seem that specific brands within one category may have tried to compete in price, all brands provided necessary information and made it clear that their brand may not be the best option for some people. All areas that I researched within this market also emphasized the importance of speaking to one’s healthcare provider to discuss your best options.

I thoroughly enjoyed using photos to discuss a consumer market in the world of health, or sexual health more specifically. As someone who is an active consumer in this particular marketplace, I had never actually done this much research. Sexual health is something that I believe to be extremely important and I was surprised at how much I had learned after doing research and finding these photos. Reading about all the different methods on the market and seeing birth control from a consumer’s perspective really broadened my knowledge of the options I have as well as the importance of being educated. I had never before thought to read about a hormone and the effects of each dosage of it, nor had I considered the effectiveness of different forms of prevention. In every day life, I often get frustrated by all of the different brands and options that we are given every day. Is Mr. Clean better than Scrubbing Bubbles? Is Ben and Jerry’s cheaper than Tillamook? Why can’t their just be one great brand for everything that we need? But thoroughly reviewing each IUD brand, I realized the importance of options. No two people are the same and what works for some may not work for others. I became more appreciative of the options we have today, and my faith in humanity was slightly restored as I read about brands that truly want the best for their consumers. Using these photos provided a glimpse into the great experience I had with researching this market, and I think visual displays are a great learning tool. A picture is worth a thousand words, right?

Glossary Building

Given this week’s topic about honoring choices in death, I thought I would take the opportunity to expand our personal glossaries by including a few words surrounding this topic.

ad·vance di·rec·tive
noun
  1. a written statement of a person’s wishes regarding medical treatment, often including a living will, made to ensure those wishes are carried out should the person be unable to communicate them to a doctor.
pow·er of at·tor·ney
noun

LAW
  1. the authority to act for another person in specified or all legal or financial matters.
    • a legal document giving power of attorney to someone.

     

health care agent:  A health care agent is a person you choose in advance to make health care decisions for you in the event that you become unable to do so. … A health care agent also may be called a health care proxy or surrogate or an attorney-in-fact.

http://www.webmd.com/health-insurance/tc/choosing-a-health-care-agent-topic-overview

When preparing a will or advance directive, I feel it is important to know what exactly they are and what they entail, as well as understanding that there are other people you will have to involve in these decisions. Deciding who you want and what roles you want them to play in your choices are extremely important.

 

 

Honoring Choices Challenge

I have been extremely fortunate thus far in my life that I have not had to experience the loss of a close loved one, touch wood. While I have watched those close to me experience loss, I myself have not had to go through grief; other than a couple of family pets. I have always understood mortality and though it can be hard to come to terms with, it is simply a fact of life. I have always considered my own wishes when it comes to death and the traditions that come along with it, however it has always been very hard for me to accept the fact that the ones I love will have their time as well. I decided to discuss this with my boyfriend because I feel that if we are choosing to spend our lives together, I should know his own wishes.

I have a tendency to be blunt so he was quite taken aback when I asked him “What do you want to happen after you die?” over breakfast Thursday morning. The mere thought of going to his funeral was almost too much to bare when he surprised me with his answer. He is an avid hunter/fisher/outdoors-man who was born and raised in the Ellensburg area, and there is a specific spot in this hills that he holds very dear. He informed me that he had read about something called “bio-urns” that essentially are plant seeds and soil mixed in with one’s ashes that  are planted into the ground;  he wants to become a part of his “hunting hole” as he calls it.

While the initial thought of this conversation brought me sadness and anxiety, he explained his wishes so peacefully and so matter-of-fact that it brought me some peace as well. Had something happened to him, I never would’ve known about his choices and how to honor them had I not started this conversation. We hold a large amount of respect for the one’s we love, so why wouldn’t we respect their choices in death as well? Neither of us had ever even considered making a will or filling out an advance directive, probably due to our young age, but when we both got to talking about our wishes we realized how important those things are. While death is a hard topic for most people, it is inevitable, but we can make things much easier on our loved ones when we have our choices already laid out for them.

Consumer Protection and Regulation: School Meals

Whether or not the law is always on our side, it is the hope of Americans that the law is there to protect all people. When we look at driving laws, gun laws, drinking age laws, etc., the peoples’ best interest is in mind. For many years however, it seemed that regulations in school lunches did not necessarily have the best interest of America’s children at heart. Along with the inauguration of Barak Obama as President in 2009, came First Lady Michelle Obama, and with her, a passion to get America’s youth active and healthy. According to the USDA, with Mrs. Obama’s help, new standards came into affect for healthier school meals to enable healthier children. For the first time in fifteen years, school meals were being criticized and forced to improve.

Standards required by law include: Proper portions and caloric intake amounts, daily fruits and vegetables, reduced amounts of saturated fat, sodium, etc., offering low-fat options. This is one instance where the law is helping teach America’s youth the importance of nutrition and helping gear toward a healthier generation overall. Scientists and nutritionists helped develop these standards, expanding them outside of the cafeteria and into the vending machines on campuses. Increased funding for public schools across the nation was also promoted due to these new standards. Regulating school lunches directly affects the consumer (the children of the schools) and is allowing them proper education on nutrition as well as easy and affordable access to it.

Here is a chart that shows school meals before and after reform, it is clear that in regulating the standards of food served in schools, children now have access to nutrient rich food; at least while on school grounds. https://www.fns.usda.gov/sites/default/files/cnr_chart.pdf

Health Care Prompt Two

There are so many issues today, due to social media and other sources, that expose the public to “fake news” and it is truly difficult for any American citizen to decipher what is real and what is not. Fox News says one thing about the future of our health care and CNN says another, so reports such as this CBO report are crucial in understanding the reality of our situation; unbiasedly.

I had already learned in previous courses how much the U.S. spends on health care and yet has some of the worst health disparities in the world, and this CBO report taught me that under this new legislation would reduce direct-spending by $1,022 billion. This seems like a great thing right? Spend less on tertiary care, put the resources into primary care and watch the country’s health flourish. But when I read on, I learned that reducing this spending is in direct relation to the fact that this legislation would cut costs in Medicaid. Medicaid helps low-incomes families all across the country receive long-term health care, and cutting budgets here would hurt many people. What I would like to know is, if spending in Medicaid is cut and this new legislation would raise insurance premiums, how are low-income and even middle-class families going to be able to afford insurance for health care? I would assume that reading the new legislation bill itself would give me the answers I am looking for. Reports such as this CBO report are quite eye-opening. I don’t often think about federal budgets, yet it affects the people of this country, especially in regards to health care; it is definitely important to consider when learning about new legislation such as this.

The Intro Post

My name is McKenzie and I am now in my third quarter as a Public Health major with the population health emphasis. I was originally a Language Arts Teaching major but throughout all of my schooling I was taking different health classes for fun; it has always been an interesting and important topic to me. After some things changed in our administration, I decided to make the switch to Public Health and I have never been happier.

As I see it, my personal consumer health status is slightly varied. I grew up near the poverty line and though my family has worked their way up, I still often find myself overthinking nearly every purchase I make. I bargain shop, I compare prices, I read reviews on the product at hand and while I feel these are good strategies, I don’t always follow them. When it comes to home items, clothing, materialistic things, I consider myself a “careful” shopper; however, things like groceries, cleaning products, coffee, I tend to just read the label and buy. I am a sucker for the “cage free”, “organic”, “fair trade” labels which are always more expensive and yet I haven’t done the research on whether these products are simply meeting the bare minimum of their claims, or not. I see an ad on Facebook for Bigfoot Java and next thing I know, I’m craving coffee. From this class I hope to help myself and other “suckers” combat this process. Also to learn the real research necessary before consuming and to really learn the ins and outs of this processes affects on health.

My first and most important value is my mental health. This is something not enough people focus on, and yet it affects all aspects of your life and who you are. My mental health and how I take care of it comes before anything, because without that, everything else that is important to me becomes harder to handle; relationships, school, work, etc. Being my best self and making sure that is my priority allows all other aspects of my health to fall into place. My other value is family, which is not simply limited to that which you were born into. Family to me includes relatives, chosen friends, in-laws, “step”, and pets alike. My family is my support system, my lifeline, my comfort zone and something I always put first.

As Americans we have the right to freedom; of speech, of religion, of sexual orientation, of political views. I feel this right seems to falter in the eyes of many, but it is there nonetheless and for that I am grateful. We also have the right to life and happiness (life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness right). As long you are not infringing on laws or causing harm to others, we as Americans have the right to pursue choices that provide self-fulfillment, to live in a way in which we choose for ourselves. As human beings we should all have the right to equal and accessible healthcare and also to have complete control over our own bodies and minds, though these rights are unfortunately not the case across most of the globe.