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, 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...

health matters

Australia, the World's Happiest Country, is Butting Out

Posted by Mark J. Miller on May 25, 2012 11:55 AM

The good folks of Australia are battling hard against the world’s powerful tobacco companies and they aren’t getting a ton of support from some of their brethren across the globe. Australia is planning to ban branded packaging for cigarettes and cigars, and big tobacco isn't having any of it.

The word from Reuters is that “the tobacco industry is providing legal advice to Ukraine and Honduras in their challenges to Australia's new tobacco packaging rules at the World Trade Organization.” These two countries are questioning the move purely for trade reasons since neither owns a big chunk of the Australian tobacco marketplace.

"We know that the tobacco companies, because they have admitted it, are providing legal advice to WTO members in order to encourage them to take action against Australia," said Australian Health Secretary Jane Halton to Reuters.Continue reading...

health matters

Big Tobacco's New Target Audience: People with Parkinson’s Disease

Posted by Mark J. Miller on May 15, 2012 05:33 PM

The tobacco industry has been looking for some kind of silver lining somewhere for the past few years as cities and countries across the globe have continued to attempt to make it more difficult and more expensive for the world population to sit back and light a few up. From banning smoking in restaurants to replacing brand names on packaging with horrendous images of what could happen to you if you (gasp) inhale, governments of all shapes and sizes have used many strategies to make life more difficult for Big Tobacco.

Now the tobacco industry finally has something it can feel good about. Its product actually has something positive to share. New research from the University of Louisville has it that tobacco “may hold the key to preventing Parkinson’s disease,” according to the Indianapolis Star.

The key component, the paper reports, is something called tobacco mosaic virus, or TMV, which attacks the plants and “may be protective against Parkinson’s,” said Dr. Robert Friedland, a clinical and research neurologist at U of L, the Star reports. The hope is that this discovery will lead to a vaccine against Parkinson’s.

The study was initiated after a number of studies showed that smokers have a lower risk of developing Parkinson’s. Indeed, Friedland warned that people shouldn’t use this new research as an excuse to smoke, since tobacco use has been tied to heart disease and lung cancer, which are much bigger killers annually than Parkinson’s.

The Michael J. Fox Foundation, the largest private funder of Parkinson's Disease research in the world, also cautioned consumers not to raise their hopes about tobacco as a treatment.Continue reading...

health matters

Obesity in America: Whose Shoulders Should the Weight of the Nation Rest On?

Posted by Dale Buss on May 11, 2012 02:11 PM

The obesity debate continues to dominate the public conversation in America. Policymakers and nutritionists and bureaucrats pondered "The Weight of the Nation" at a federal-government conference this week while the four-part HBO series of the same name that debuts on Monday. PepsiCo and Coca-Cola are trying to position their brands as part of the solution, via the lobby group where they're the 800 pound gorilla members at any meeting.

The American Beverage Association's "Delivering Choices" campaign has already launched on TV to promote "how America's beverage companies are making it easier to choose the drink that's right for you — with more choices, smaller portions, fewer calories and clear calorie labels." (The sub-text: consumers have choices, and should take personal responsbility for their weight and health.)

The campaign is now getting more targeted with local marketing in the Big Apple. A New York-centric website talks up the Delivering Choices platform while promoting good works by the ABA's members in the city, such as Dr Pepper Snapple Group funding playgrounds in Brooklyn, and the recent Great Recycle event staged by Coca-Cola's Honest Tea brand in Times Square. Facebook and Twitter marketing are reinforcing the messaging.

Now the ABA is expanding its NYC push to the subway system, with a new campaign placing posters on trains and in the stations — New York being the same market where the mayor, Michael Bloomberg, has been promoting a healthy agenda, including a PSA campaign depicting their beverages with globs of fat and packets of sugar.Continue reading...

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