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health matters

Singapore Latest to Join Anti-Tobacco Fight

Posted by Mark J. Miller on March 13, 2013 05:16 PM

The U.S. government has been in a long-running battle with Big Tobacco to try and get nasty images placed onto cigarette packaging, a fight that seems destined to end up in the Supreme Court someday.

Singapore is the latest country that appears ready to step into that same boxing ring. With 5.3 million people, Singapore may not be the largest country in the world, but it has the world’s fourth-leading financial center and one of the top five busiest ports in the world, and soon, it may be difficult to see any packs of cigarettes. The Wall Street Journal reports that "the Singapore government is proposing to ban shops from displaying tobacco-related products."Continue reading...

health matters

Safeway Rebrands as Wellness Company to Compete with Growing Market

Posted by Dale Buss on March 8, 2013 04:13 PM

With retailers on all sides of the aisle attempting to become one-stop-shopping and lifestyle platforms, traditional supermarket retailers are moving in that direction as well. Safeway—the megachain with a footprint stretching across much of the United States—has just offered a glimpse at its own attempt to become more things to more people, providing a peek at its new wellness platform slated to launch in the second quarter.

"Today, we're a supermarket company ... selling wellness services and wellness products," CEO Steve Burd told analysts, according to Drug Store News. But within 10 years, he said, Safeway would become a wellness company that happens to sell food.

The impulse for supermarket chains to expand the meaning and capabilities of their brands is understandable, in an environment where mass merchandisers such as Walmart and Target have impinged greatly on their CPG business, and even drug-store chains and dollar stores are selling more groceries. Now Walmart, for example, also is expanding its purview in healthcare and "wellness" as well, beyond the traditional in-store pharmacies long offered by mass discounters and supermarkets alike.Continue reading...

health matters

Report Finds Explosion in Youth E/R Visits Tied to Energy Drinks

Posted by Sheila Shayon on January 14, 2013 06:07 PM

Makers of energy drinks may face mounting scrutiny after federal data revealed more American youths are landing in the emergency room due to complications doctors tie to overuse of the beverages.

From 2007 to 2011, the number of emergency hospital visits involving the highly caffeinated energy drinks doubled — from 10,068 to 20,783, according to the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration.  

Marketers have succeeded wildly in recent years at selling the drinks to teenagers as physical and mental boosters. Red Bull claims to "give you wings," while Monster Energy boasts of a "killer energy brew." All told, the drinks — which comprise the fastest-growing sector in the beverage industry — brought $10 billion in sales in 2012.

While the number of young patients increased the most, the highest percentage of increase in emergency room visits attributed to the beverages was found in patients age 40 and over.  The older patients went from 1,382 related visits in 2007 to 5,233 visits in 2011 — a 279 percent increase, the study said.Continue reading...

health matters

On World Toilet Day, Brands and Non-Profits Can Say #IGiveaShit and Mean It

Posted by Sheila Shayon on November 19, 2012 05:52 PM

In case it's not marked on your calendar, today is World Toilet Day — and it's no joking matter.

An estimated 2.5 billion people, 37% of the world's population, do not have access to a clean and safe toilet. One in three women worldwide risk shame, disease, harassment and even attack because they have nowhere safe to go to the toilet. Sanitation would make 1.25 billion women's lives safer and healthier, which is why people are being asked to petition governments to provide safe toilets and clean water for the world's poorest people.

As the Gates Foundation tweeted today, "The annual gain in economic productivity if everyone had a toilet is $225B." Putting things in perspective, Matt Damon, co-founder of Water.org, wants it to be known that more people have a mobile phone today than a toilet: “Six billion people have cell phones, but only 4.5 billion have access to improved sanitation.” Bill and Melinda Gates, in case you missed it, are putting serious funds toward reinventing the toilet as part of the foundation's water, sanitation and hygiene platform.

GE sponsored (as part of its Focus Forward three-minute short film series on world-changing ideas) the "Meet Mr. Toilet" documentary by Oscar-winning director Jessica Wu, which debuted this past January at the Sundance Festival earlier this year. It features the late Jim Sim (aka "Mr. Toilet"), who founded the World Toilet Organization and the annual World Toilet Day.

Named a TIME Hero of the Environment in 2008, Sim — who died in 2009 — was frank and enertaining about extolling the need for better sanitation and breaking the taboos about talking, well, shit. In fact, the former mayor of Suwon, South Korea, inspired a toilet museum in his former hometown, which opened earlier this year.Continue reading...

health matters

Walmart Hikes Employee Healthcare Costs as Papa John's Math Challenged

Posted by Dale Buss on November 13, 2012 04:17 PM

Barack Obama's Affordable Care Act no longer faces any obstacles to becoming the law of the land, now that last week's elections solidified Democrats' hold on the U.S. Senate. But private companies will continue to react to the realities of health-care costs in the interests of their own businesses, to the extent they can and for as long as they can.

Take Walmart: Just after the elections, the nation's largest retailer has announced hikes in the cost of workers' health-care coverage of 8 percent to 36 percent because of the rising prices of medical services and health insurance. And some of Walmart's 1.4 million U.S. employees already have reacted by considering dropping their own coverage, according to CNBC.

The cost of Walmart's most popular health-insurance plan, for example, will go up by $2 per paycheck, or 13 percent. Still, overall, Walmart said that average costs its employees will bear for the coverage should only rise by about 4 percent in 2013 because the company has eliminated some high-premium plans and trimmed some services.Continue reading...

health matters

US Anti-Smoking Effort Goes Back to School

Posted by Sheila Shayon on October 2, 2012 11:31 AM

More than 80% of adult smokers in the U.S. tried smoking by age 18, up to 90% by age 20, so the truth, the largest American youth smoking prevention campaign (and the only national campaign not directed by the tobacco industry) is launching truthlive this week, kicking off a series of five free concerts featuring musicians Cobra Starship and Outasight at East Coast and southern universities in a bid to stop the next generation of tobacco addicts.

“truth’s success stems from offering facts and information about tobacco use and tobacco industry marketing practices in channels and through media that are relevant with teens and young people – then allowing them to spread the message themselves with their peers and friend groups,” stated Cheryl G. Healton, DrPH, president and CEO of Legacy, the national public health foundation that directs and funds the truth campaign. 

Using music as a ‘passion point’ to connect with students, on-campus activities feature the iconic orange truth truck and truth tour riders, young adults armed with games, interactive activities, dancing, contests and mucho swag, educating their peers on the truth about smoking.Continue reading...

health matters

Boston Market Shakes Off Table Salt

Posted by Dale Buss on August 22, 2012 05:54 PM

Sodium reduction is the cause du jour among nutritionists and policymakers who want to keep pushing the American diet in a better-for-you direction. The latest federal guidelines call for huge reductions in sodium content across the food chain to help battle hypertension and other maladies, and implicitly to make food taste less appealing -- and thereby to curb consumption.

Boston Market has just struck the latest in what is sure to become a growing list of blows against sodium input by crowing about plans to remove salt shakers from the guest tables at all 476 of its locations; you'll have to go to the beverage areas to get a shaker. It's also unveiling plans to cut sodium in signature dishes.

Clearing salt shakers from tables is a largely symbolic gesture, since relatively little of the salt that Americans consume comes right out of the shaker. Still, food-regulating interests hailed Boston Market's gambit. "I haven't heard of any other restaurant doing that," said Michael Jacobson, executive director of the Center for Science in the Public Interest, presumingly approvingly, to USA Today. Continue reading...

health matters

Future of Medicine Looms: "Take Two Microchips and Call Me in the Morning"

Posted by Mark J. Miller on August 2, 2012 12:03 PM

Nike has its FuelBand, the bracelet that tracks everything a “serious” athlete wants to know about so she or he can finish their workout and yap about whatever their NikeFuel number is at that moment. But soon people will have a whole new and much more invasive tracking system: one that you actually eat like a pill.

This new microchip the size of a grain of sand isn’t built for athletes who want bragging rights. The idea is to help the, well, unhealthy among us track their bodies better so doctors can know what the ill need on a regular basis. For someone who needs to take pills on a regular basis, the device can inform them when their body needs the medicine.

The FDA has just approved what PC World is calling a smart pill from Proteus Digital Health “that keeps track of your insides and relays that medical information back to your healthcare provider.” The so-called ingestible digital sensors are activated by mixing with the stomach’s digestive fluids and then transmitting to a patch on the patient’s skin, the site notes. The patch then sends "vital information about your medication-taking behaviors and how your body is responding" to the doctor or nurse’s mobile device.Continue reading...

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