All posts by thejenetic

Glossary Building #5

With the growing price of pharmaceuticals, doctors visiting and medical procedures, in combination with the rise of chronic disease, many Americans have turned towards alternative forms of medicine. In fact, 40% of Americans use some type of alternative medicine.

To understand what alternative medicine, we need to define Western Medicine. Western Medicine is the main style of treatment used in the United States. A disease is fought using drugs, surgery, and radiation. This form of medicine has heavy military influences and looks at disease as an invader and something that must be defeated.

Alternative Medicine is health treatment not typically used by Western Medicine. Many forms of medicine fall under this blanket term. For example, Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) is a style of traditional medicine used for over 2,500 years in China. This practice utilizes herbal medicine, acupuncture and tai chi to help treat/prevent health problems. TCM looks at disease differently than Western Medicine. Bad health in TCM is thought of as being out of balance and treatment focuses on restoring the natural processes of the body to their original balanced state. TCM is typically good for treating chronic conditions and addressing poor lifestyle choices.

Western Medicine: The main style of medicine used in the United States. It heavily focuses on biology and physiology. Treatments involve drugs, surgery, and radiation.

Alternative Medicine: A blanket term used for forms of medicine that do not fall under Western Medicine.

Traditional Chinese Medicine: A style of traditional medicine born in China. It focuses heavily on restoring natural processes and healthy lifestyles. Treatments include herbs, acupuncture and tai chi.

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Peer Review

The post I choose to peer review was “Greenwashing Prompt and Response” by Kelsey. From this contribution, I learned more about the dishonest nature of greenwashing and how items often advertised as environmentally friends are not. It would be good for environmentally conscious consumers to read this because it highlights the ethical negligence and corruption found among environmentally friendly marketing.

The strongest part of this contribution is the Simple Green product example. This company markets their products as non-toxic and biodegradable but, in reality, they are harmful to both human health and the environment. One would also think that with a name like ‘Simple Green’ the company would have eco-friendly products.

I did not notice any spelling/grammar mistakes, but it did see errors in the author’s citations. Firstly, I believe the author used MLA format for the references but APA for the in-text citations. In addition, the source (Simple Green, 2017) is incorrect as it is cited from the Environmental Working Group website. The correct citation would be (Environmental Working Group, n.d.) for APA.

One portion that made me want to read more was the information from the EWG. The site made me curious to see where products I often use fell on their rating scale.

Overall, I would give this post a 3/4. It includes some good information and is written in an interesting way. I removed one point as I do feel like the author could have developed their thoughts on how products like Simple Green cause health and environmental issues.

Greenwashing Post

What is sustainability? Are products sustainable?

The Greenwashing slides got me thinking about sustainability. Sustainability is the ability for biological systems to remain sustained indefinitely by maintaining long-term ecological balance.

A large majority of products in the US are wasteful. For instance, this morning I was out for breakfast with my parents. Most of the items on the table were disposable: from the mini creamers to straws in individual wrapping, to the sugar packets and napkins. These items are meant to be thrown away after one use. Some of these things might have been recyclable but there are many products which are not. For example, how do you recycle a juice box? Do you put it in paper? Aluminum? Plastic? All three of these materials are merged together. A juice box is a product that was not meant to be recycled.

One consumer item, not directly related to health, but largely impacts it is fashion. The US has a huge fashion industry and the average consumer household spent $1,786 dollars in 2014 on apparel.  The fashion industry is the 2nd largest polluting industry due to textile waste, chemical dumping, and pesticide use. The factor which drives the pollution numbers up is fast fashion, that is, mass-produced, low-costing clothing which imitates current runway trends. This style of fashion has promoted frequent consumptions and the idea that clothing is disposable.

In 2013, the fashion industry generated 15.1 million tons of textile waste. A whopping 12.8 million of this was thrown out the same year it was purchased. But pollution does not start when the product is thrown away, it starts with the pesticides used to grow cotton (and other crops.) The fashion industry relies on heavy pesticide use to keep up with the disposable fashion industry. Pesticides have been tied to many health and environmental issues.

In addition, the high demand for cheap leather has let city’s like Kanpur in India exposed to dangerous conditions. 50 million liters of toxic waste are poured every day into the local trainers which flows into farmlands and wells. Kanpur and other cities like it have widespread severe health issues ranging from skin diseases, boils, numbness and various types of cancer. I find these numbers scary. What makes it worse is that most textile waste is not biodegradable and sits around in dumpsites emitting toxic chemicals for years.

With many consumers now asking for more sustainable options, greenwashing has become rampant in the fashion industry. For example, H&M World Recycle Week seems like an eco-friendly practice, however, in reality, it would take H&M over 12 years to recycle just 48 hours worth of donated clothing.

Companies often have misleading statements regarding eco-friendly practices and consumers struggle to make informed purchases with all the misinformation available. Melissa Joy Manning, jewelry designer and co-chair of CFDA Sustainability committee said, “Everyone now says eco, they say environmentally friendly, sustainable, its ‘Made in the USA’…but it’s like peeling an onion, when you pull back one layer of skin there’s so many underneath.” To add to the misinformation, companies can simply buy sustainable certifications for $30,000-$50,000 dollars.

I would highly recommend checking out the video “The Story of Stuff” which looks how unsustainable our current system is and the various health, social and environmental impacts it creates.

Photovoice: Dietary Supplements

I choose to do my Photovoice on dietary supplements by looking at the questions: “How healthy is it?” “How Safe is it?” “TMI but not the right kind to help me make a good decision?” and “What’s the typical discourse?”  Due to health conditions, I was not able to take as many photographs as I wanted, but I was able to find sources online that I could use. I choose to show a variety of supplement brands throughout the video, in addition to labels found on the bottles.

How healthy is it?
I found that, in general, medical professionals recommended vitamins and that certain supplements have proven to be helpful in treating some conditions. However, research on their health impacts varies from a supplement to supplement. I also discovered that there was a shocking lack of regulation in the industry and this prompted me to start asking “How safe is it?” rather than “How healthy is it?” I took a photograph of a spoonful of supplements. Growing up children are used to receiving a ‘spoonful of medicine’ while sick. This shows supplements relationship with conventional treatments.

How Safe is it?
Consumers are very much at the mercy of supplement companies. The FDA does not regulate supplements; there is no safety, quality or purity testing (Hamblin, 2016.) The companies do not have to prove their product helps the conditions they advertise they do. To demonstrate this, I found an online label from a popular supplement brand and looked at the claims it made and statement on the back. Bottles with health claims all include a statement in small font “This statement has not been evaluated by the Food and Drug Administration. This product is not intended to diagnose, treat, cure or prevent any disease.”

I also found that companies do not even have to prove their product is safe. It is left up to the FDA to prove they are harmful. For example, it took the FDA seven years to remove a harmful substance known as ephedra from shelves. During this time there were numerous reports, thousands of consumer complaints and 155 reported deaths (Harvard Medical School, 2013.)

TMI but not the right kind to help me make a good decision?
My research showed that dietary supplements make a lot of claims (some of them unfounded) about their product, but most lacked proper warning labels. The FDA does not require dietary supplements have warning labels and when they are included they are generally vague. Most labels do not warn about possible drug interactions or possible adverse side-effects (Harvard Medical School, 2013.) I include a photograph here of a warning label typically found on bottles to display how vague the information is.

What’s the typical discourse?
Dietary supplements are often marketed as ‘all natural’ this leads people to believe they are safe to take, especially since most bottles lack proper warning labels. Dietary supplements are believed to enhance your life and have a positive impact on health. This is evidenced by the 2017 MARS Consumer Health Study finding that over half of Americans believe that taking dietary supplements make long-term health differences. I took an image from an alternative health site. The photo shows supplements next to other herbs and flowers to demonstrate supplements association with ‘all natural.’

Making the Video
Creating the video and taking the photographs helped me employ many of the skills I learned in PUBH 209. For example, the first thing I did when researching dietary supplements was to look at the labels. In the class learned that labels are often misleading and deceitful. Looking at the labels showed me that the health claims were not evaluated by the FDA and that the warning labels were vague listing no drug interactions or side-effects.

If someone had never been exposed to consumer health, a project like this would benefit them greatly. The project has someone consider a specific consumer health item by asking critical health questions about it. I believe that many people get into consumer health while researching a health issue they were concerned about. Additionally, a project like this can make the process of learning about consumer health less overwhelming, as you focus on one specific issue.

I hope that my project helps the potential public be more careful when looking for dietary supplements. Dietary supplements can be very valuable to good health. Personally, I have benefited greatly from dietary supplements. I hope that I encouraged watchers to check out the medical research conducted on dietary supplements and if they are unsure that they consult their doctor or nutritionist. Furthermore, I hope they research the quality of the brand they buy from (or will buy from) before making their next purchase.

 

Video and Text References
Bazaman, M. (2017). Vitamins, Supplements Have a Healthy Hold on US Consumers. Retrieved from https://us.kantar.com/business/health/2017/vitamins-and-supplements-have-a-healthy-hold-on-consumers/

Hamblin, J. (2016). Why Vitamins and Other ‘Dietary Supplements’ Can Contain Anything. Retrieved from https://www.theatlantic.com/health/archive/2016/06/supplements-make-tobacco-look-easy/488798/  

Harvard Medical School. (2013). The arguments against dietary supplements. Retrieved from https://www.health.harvard.edu/alternative-and-complementary-medicine/the-arguments-against-dietary-supplements  

National Center for Complementary and Integrative Health. (2016.) Echinacea. Retrieved from https://nccih.nih.gov/health/echinacea/ataglance.htm

Nature’s Bounty. (n.d.) Nature’s Bounty Fish 2400 mg OilSoftgels, 90 ea. [Infographic]. Retrieved from https://www.amazon.com/Natures-Bounty-Fish-2400-OilSoftgels/dp/B002QMB55Y

Puritan’s Pride. (n.d.). Echinacea 400mg-200 Capsules. [Photograph]. Retrieved from https://www.amazon.com/Puritans-Pride-Echinacea-mg-200-Capsules/dp/B004R657LA/

Viva Naturals. (n.d.). Premium Non-GMO Vitamin C with Bioflavonoids and Rose Hips. [Photograph]. Retrieved from https://www.amazon.com/Viva-Naturals-Premium-Non-GMO-Bioflavonoids/dp/B00C6C3GCY/

Statista. (2017). Retail sales of vitamins & nutritional supplements in the United States from 2000 to 2017. Retrieved from https://www.statista.com/statistics/235801/retail-sales-of-vitamins-and-nutritional-supplements-in-the-us/  

University of Maryland Medical Center. (2007). Possible Interactions with: St. John’s Wort. Retrieved from http://www.umm.edu/health/medical/altmed/herb-interaction/possible-interactions-with-st-johns-wort

U.S Food & Drug Administration. (2017). What is a dietary supplement? Retrieved from https://www.fda.gov/AboutFDA/Transparency/Basics/ucm195635.htm

Zelman, K., M. (2010). The Benefits of Vitamin C. Retrieved from https://www.webmd.com/diet/features/the-benefits-of-vitamin-c#1

Pharma Prompt 1

Direct to Consumer (DTC) pharmaceutical advertising is a terrible practice. The US and New Zealand are the only two countries in the world that allow DTC drug ads. The average consumer, in my opinion, does not have the training or medical knowledge to understand the risks associated with various medications. Doctors go through 8 years of school and long residency positions to safely treat patients.

DTC ads are overseen by the FDA. The drug must be FDA approved to treat the condition and it must discuss the risks along with the benefits. TV ads only need to include “most important” risks if they provide information on how to obtain more information. Interestingly, a study recently released, found that the perception of risk becomes diluted with a lengthy side effect list. In the experiment, the group who heard only major side effects rated the drug’s risk higher than those who heard the full list. I think that our high exposure to DTC advertisements consumers are used to hearing numerous side-effects. Since many side-effects are expected, burying major symptoms with long lists of minor ones makes them have less impact. This study proves to me that drug information is simply too complicated to properly convey in the span of a short advertisement.

Consumers are more likely to ask for brand-name drugs after seeing an advertisement on TV. The pharmaceutical industry knows this and today spends 5.2 billion dollars on DTC ads, a 60% increase from 4 years ago. These advertisements drive up the price of prescriptions and make it costlier for the consumer. Dr. Harris, the American Medical Association’ (AMA) Immediate Past Chair has said: “Direct-to-consumer advertising also inflates demand for new and more expensive drugs, even when these drugs may not be appropriate.” Supporters of DTC drug advertisements say that the commercials make people aware of diseases and the treatment options available. But I do not think these commercials are meant to inform, they are meant to sell a product. The AMA also listed a study found that when medications were marketed directly to the consumer they saw an increase in the price of 34.2%.

To make things worse the pharmaceutical industry is pushing for more freedom in their advertisement practices so they can market drugs for off-label uses. This would mean these drugs would not need to be reviewed by the FDA and would forgo a lot of testing. According to the LA Times, a study found that patients using off-label drugs that lacked proper testing, were 54% more likely to have bad side effects. This included allergic reaction, respiratory complications and/or gastrointestinal complications.

I believe that DTC pharmaceutical ads are inappropriate for the everyday consumer, but I doubt they will be going away anytime soon. One possible option would be having the advertisements focus more on informing consumers about the disease than selling the product. Instead of marketing the drug, a company could sponsor PSA’s regarding the ailment. Another option that the AMA has put forward is to help control drug prices. The policy would require the cost of the medication to be listed in the advertisement. This would create transparency in our drug prices and help control the high costs of medications, which often spike for no reason.

Photovoice #1

For this project, I am considering looking at supplements (commonly referred to as vitamins). Supplements are available at a wide variety of stores across the US and advertise that they assist with various medical conditions. Many people do not know how to properly use supplements or even what to use in the first place. In addition, the quality of research varies from a supplement to supplement. I would photograph different products and aisles at stores for this project. I want to look at the standards, regulations, labeling, and marketing of supplement products by asking the questions:

  • How healthy is it?
  • Why is it so difficult to be healthy?
  • Do I really know what I need to make a healthy choice?
  • What is the typical discourse about this and similar products/services?

Illness and Mortality Prompt 2

There is so much information out there about health services that it can be hard to dig through what is fact or fiction. When there is not enough services or personnel in the first place, it makes it hard to get accountable, easily accessible information to the consumer. There does not seem to be many options available for long-term care, especially for those who do not qualify for financial aid. As consumers, we need to push for better options in health care. As a nation, we need to address the severe shortage of health workers /services and the ridiculous cost of health services.

Myth 1: We have enough health care workers to meet the demands of the aging population.

There is an increasing demand for health services due to the increased incidence of chronic illness and a large aging population.  The number of people over the age of 65 is expected to double between 2000 and 2030. This has led to a shortage of healthcare workers as there is not enough to meet the increasing demand. Physicians and nurses are being hit especially hard. By 2025, the AAMC estimates we will have a shortfall of 46,000 to 90,000 physicians. Between 2014 and 2020, the Bureau of Labor Statistics reports there will be over 1 million vacancies in nursing. This growing lack of services and personal has led to concerning healthcare challenges.

Myth 2: We have adequate care for our aging generation.

The U.S population might be living longer, but the quality of life for many of the elderly is low. Our society does not currently have the resources to deal with the increasing number of older adults, many of whom have serious health problems and risks. Health care is extremely expensive, in 2010 people age 65+ spent an average of $18,424 on health care services in the United States. This financial burden is particularly concerning for the middle class, who make too much to qualify for aid but not enough to pay for long-term care services. In addition to the increasing cost of care, we simply lack the compacity to care for our aging population.

Myth 3: The DSHS has high standards and requirements for adult family homes.

Reading this article made me sick. I was shocked that we did not have higher criteria or rigorous inspections of these homes. People who have not read this article most likely believe that the DSHS has a rigorous application process and frequent expectations. This might be similar to how people believe the FDA conducts its own testing on products since its purpose of these agencies is to provide safe service/products and protect the consumer. It is terrifying to think that, so much abuse goes unnoticed and undealt with because we do not have the personal or facilities to deal with the increasing elderly population. Consumers need to push for higher standards and better options.

Glossary Buliding #4

The beauty industry makes $160 billion a year globally. People will do strange things to pursue the ideal of beauty. From using Preparation H to reduce eye wrinkles to washing your hair with beer to add volume.

Beauty products are full of harmful chemicals. Parabens are widely used as a preservative in beauty products and prevent the growth of mold and bacteria. Parabens are used in products such as shampoos, shaving products, moisturizers and/or makeup. Studies have linked parabens to an increased risk of breast cancer. Other experts have stated that when parabens are combined with other chemicals commonly found in beauty products they can become and dangerous carcinogen.

Another chemical commonly found in beauty products such as fragranced lotions, body wash, hair care products and nail polish are phthalates. These are known endocrine disruptors. This chemical can also be found in children’s toys, plastic packaging, and medical tubing. Some studies have also shown potential reproductive harm.

There is a disturbing and toxic beauty product marketed to women with darker skin tones, skin bleaching cream. Skin bleaching or skin lighting cream is a 10-billion-dollar market for American and European companies. Most of the individual ingredients found in these creams are banned throughout America and Europe due to health risks. But due to loopholes, these companies can still sell the cream itself. Long-term use of the product can increase the risk of skin cancer from sun exposure. WebMD warns about the potential risks of absorbing the steroids found in skin lighting creams. The site also states that is can cause an untreatable skin discoloration known as ochronosis.  Dermatologists have reported treating many severe side effects from these products.

Parabens: a preservative used in beauty products to prevent the growth of bacteria and mold.

Phthalates: commonly used in the manufacture of plastics to make them stronger and more flexible.

Skin bleaching cream: a beauty product which reduces the melanin pigment in the skin.

Glossary Building #3

I feel like an important subject often left out of health discussion is pets. Pets are considered family in many American households. For me, and many others, pets serve as important health supports. Service Animals and Emotional Support Animals are great assistive aids for people with disabilities.

Service animals are dogs who have been trained to perform certain tasks which assist their owner in everyday living. This can include guiding the blind, pulling a wheelchair and/or reminding their owner to take medication. Service animals are protected under the American with Disabilities Act (ADA) which allows owners to bring their service dog into places used by the public such as hospitals and restaurants.

Assistance Animals, also known as Emotional Support Animals (ESA)  are not formally trained and can include many different animals such as cats, reptiles, and birds. ESA’s are typically used by those with mental health issues. I am personally a big advocate for the use of pets in therapy and I feel like they should be utilized more. One of my cats is legally considered an ESA who has, in my opinion, saved my life. To obtain an ESA, you need a note from a mental health professional. Although I feel that pets should be used more in health treatment, we need more regulations in place, as there has been a recent trend of people abusing the current ones. There is currently a large online market, where sites sell phony ESA certification papers and advertise phone consultations from a ‘medical expert,’ so a consumer can easily obtain the required note.

ESA’s and Service Animals are protected under The Fair Housing Act and the Air Carrier Access Act. The Fair Housing Act requires a rental company to accept the animal regardless of their pet policy, as ESA’s and Service Animals are not legally considered pets, they are assistive aids. It also waives any fees normally associated with pets such as pet rent or pet deposit. The Air Carrier Access Act requires an airline to allow pets onboard the flight. It also waives any travel fees that typically apply to pets.

 

Service Animal: a dog who has received special training to perform specific tasks for people with disabilities.

Emotional Support Animal: assistive aids used by those with disabilities.

Americans with Disabilities Act: regulations put in place on bossiness and local/state governments to protect those with disabilities and to ensure equal opportunity.

Air Carrier Access Act: regulations which prevent discrimination in transportation services.

The Fair Housing Act: federal regulations put in place to protect a buyer or renter from discrimination.

Glossary Building #2

While writing a report on organic farming, I ran into a big issue, organic was typically defined by what it was not, rather than what it was. When something is defined almost exclusively by what it is not, the term loses sight of its true nature. We see organic as a product or label, but it originally emerged from a multi-disciplinary perspective on our food system, including philosophers, ecologists, consumer groups, and agriculturalists.  Organic, at its core, is a food system philosophy which emphasizes human health and clean environmental practices.

The main form of food production today is conventional farming or industrial agriculture. Where organic farming is concerned with stability, the safety of the environment and human health. Conventional farming is about producing things faster and cheaper, without paying attention to negative consequences. Conventional farming utilizes large amounts of chemicals, genetically modified organisms (GMOs) and intensive agriculture practices, all of which have been shown to harm human and/or environmental health.

Pesticides are a key aspect of conventional farming, they kill bugs and other vermin that would otherwise harm the crops. In 2007, the EPA found that the US generated 1 billion tons of pesticides, 80% of this was from conventional farming. Pesticides are incredibly harmful to both human and environmental health. Pesticides have been linked with the declining bee population, without bee’s many crops humans rely on for survival will die out. Some countries are making great strides in saving the bees, today the UK announced that it is banning all insect harming pesticides.

Organic Farming: A substance practice focused on stability, enhancement of biodiversity, soil fertility, environmental conservation and improving human health. It does not allow the use of pesticides, synthetic chemicals, genetically modified organisms, antibiotics or growth hormones.
Conventical Farming: A substance strangury that uses pesticides, herbicides, genetically modified organicism’s, monocropping, antibiotics, growth hormones, heavy irrigation and heavy tillage as a means of food production.
Pesticide: A chemical designed to kill or control plant and animal life. These include herbicides (to kill plants), insecticides (to kill insects), fungicides (prevent mold/mildew) and disinfectants (control bacteria).