Author Archives: Deborah Bae

New Microbiome Health Research Puts the ‘Cell’ Back in Cell Phone

Jun 24, 2014, 12:13 PM, Posted by Deborah Bae

WNH Jessica Green infographic

What’s Next Health guest Jessica Green, founding director of the BioBE (Biology and the Built Environment Center), visited RWJF last year to discuss the health implications of the microbiome—the invisible collection of bacteria, viruses, fungi, and archaea that live on, in and all around us. Watch Jessica’s What's Next Health interview to learn more about microbiomes in the built environment and how that knowledge can be used to design spaces and buildings to create a healthier, more sustainable world.

During her visit, Jessica led an educational workshop where staff swabbed their fingers and mobile phones to learn about the relationship between the microscopic communities living on both. The findings from that educational workshop turned out to be quite interesting, and ultimately led to a study published today in the journal PeerJ. Senior Program Officer Deborah Bae caught up with Jessica to learn more about her research.

Deborah: When we hear the term microbe, many of us think about germs that cause disease. So what is the microbiome, and why is it important in promoting health?

Jessica: Twenty years ago, when I was an environmental engineering student, I learned that microbes were pollutants or contaminants, and were something that you wanted to eliminate, particularly in the indoor environment. And we know from history that being in a very unclean, unsanitary environment kills people. What we’ve learned more recently is that for every human cell, we have up to ten bacterial cells and even more viruses living on the human body. There's a rising consensus that aspects of this microbiome can be beneficial to human health. Some of these microorganisms help our immune system function, ward off pathogens and infections, and microbes in our gut may be even linked to the way that we think and feel.

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What Convinces College Students to Get Flu Vaccines?

Feb 24, 2014, 8:00 AM, Posted by Deborah Bae

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What convinces college students to get flu vaccines? Read the latest in our efforts to apply behavioral economics to perplexing health and health care problems.

Almost every college student knows that getting sick while at school will have negative effects on their grades and social life. So why do so many students forgo flu vaccinations that are readily available at almost every college health center? Researchers at Swarthmore College tested three approaches to motivate students to get a flu vaccine: a financial incentive, a peer endorsement via social networks, and an email that included an audio clip of a coughing individual to convey the consequence of not getting the vaccine. The researchers found that students offered as little as $10 were twice as likely to get a flu vaccination.

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Faces of Public Health: Daniel Zoughbie

Jan 27, 2014, 12:00 PM, Posted by Deborah Bae

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We have evidence from the work of Nicholas Christakis and others that our health is influenced by our social network—our friends, family, co-workers and neighbors. With Microclinic International, we’re learning how and why health behaviors are spread socially and how to best harness social networks to manage chronic disease and improve health. Learn more in this NewPublicHealth interview with Daniel Zoughbie, PhD, MSc, of Microclinic International.

Simple, Small Changes Can Lead to Healthier Food Choices

Jan 21, 2014, 2:00 PM, Posted by Deborah Bae

Infographic: Can a Traffic Light Guide You to Make Healthier Choices

At this time of year, many of us find ourselves trying hard to stick to that New Year’s resolution to eat healthier. Here is some good news: simple changes in our environment can have meaningful, sustained effects on our ability to make healthy food choices.

Committing to a healthier diet and trying to lose weight is hard, and many people believe they can do it as long as they have the right motivation and attitude. We’ll say things like, “I’m going to eat better” or “I’m going to eat fewer unhealthy foods.” But that commitment can be tough when people face a variety of unhealthy choices and just a few healthy ones. Or when it’s hard to tell which is which.

Researcher and physician Anne Thorndike and her colleagues at Massachusetts General Hospital tested a novel idea: if all healthy food and drinks sold in the hospital cafeteria were labeled green, and all unhealthy items had red labels, would people make healthier choices?

Read more on the Culture of Health blog.

Behavioral Economists Compete: Innovation Tournament on Health

Dec 4, 2013, 5:30 PM, Posted by Deborah Bae

BE innovation Participants at the Innovation Tournament

Through a series of small grants, the Pioneer team is exploring the utility of applying behavioral economic principles to perplexing health and health care problems—everything from getting seniors to walk more to forgoing low-value health care.

At a recent meeting in Philadelphia, held in conjunction with the Center for Health Incentives and Behavioral Economics at the Leonard Davis Institute at the University of Pennsylvania, we challenged these grantees to compete in an Innovation Tournament.

The goal was to identify testable ideas that leverage behavioral economic principles to help make people healthier by working with commercial entities. Participants were assigned to groups and made their best pitches to their colleagues. And of course we used a behavioral economics principle (financial incentives) to increase participation: Each member of the first, second and third place teams received Amazon gift cards.

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