The Haiti Habit

29 01 2010

Before January 12th, 2010, Haiti was a threadbare and violent country whose citizens lived hard lives. Since that day, many in Haiti find themselves without…without food, potable water, medical care, homes, parents, children, or hope.

When a disaster strikes and wipes out lives, homes, businesses – even governments – the world is quick to give. It’s a lovely tribute to our humanity and illustrates that we are all, at our most basic level, one community.

These past few weeks, kids were giving their allowances and going out to raise more money in their neighborhoods. People who had little to start with and less to spare were giving what they could. Rich individuals and big corporations gave substantial amounts.

And now, the giving has slowed.

Days melt into each other, and the world’s generosity has been much reported. It’s easy to think of Haiti and say to ourselves: “OK, the worst is over, at least it’ll get fixed.”

But, that may not be true. Not this time. This time, we can’t give and move on to the next thing.  Haiti and her people have to be our next everything for at least a year.

Let’s make 2010 – all of 2010 – the year we give to Haiti. Don’t send food or clothes or any items, because there’s no one working in the post office to receive them, no mail carriers to deliver them, and not enough porches left on which to place the packages.

It’s all about the money. With money, infrastructure can be put in place, water and sewer systems established, homes rebuilt, seeds and tools purchased for planting, healthcare resources made permanently available, and more. With money, everything a society needs not just to scrape by, but to thrive can be provided. And with all that, the chance to grow.

Find reputable agencies that have been working in Haiti for several years and give money to them, directing that your donations be put to use in Haiti.

It’s easy to pass off tragedy of this scope as a societal or governmental problem, something that can’t be solved by you or me. But, ask any changemaker what it takes. He or she will tell you that it takes one person, or a small group of friends, or a family, to decide. That’s it, they just have to decide, and then they do.

We’ve decided to make a habit out of Haiti this year. We hope you do the same.

We’ll post any stories or pictures you have about your Haiti habit. It’s going to be a great year.


Sitting Through Life, or How To Die a Slow, Painful Death

27 01 2010

Oh, my achin’ buttocks!  Did you hear the latest?  Apparently, even if we exercise as we should, sitting around on our rear ends all day may kill us.

This could potentially wipe out 50 percent of our staff.  The part-timers are safe, but those of us glued to our ‘puters eight hours a day (or more, because I put in the overtime, unlike some colleagues I could mention, but why go there) are staring death straight in the face, or some other body part, we’re not really sure where to fix our gaze.

Studies are reporting that those of us who perform our jobs sitting down are more likely to be fat (check), have a heart attack (yikes), or even ride that big office chair to the sky.

We cut back on trans fats, we force down whole grains, and some of us even exercise.  And now we find it’s all for naught?

Pass the doughnuts, ’cause I’m sittin’ down.


Kids and Nutrition

25 01 2010

Nurse Mary Beth tells us what works and what doesn’t when it comes to the foods our kids eat.

Listen now!

Right-click here to download podcast (5mb, 10min)


Love Those Critters, But Oh Those Germs.

22 01 2010

We love our pets. They give us unconditional love, cuddle when we want (and sometimes when we don’t), and make us laugh.

They also can be good for our health by reducing stress, improving moods, and lowering blood pressure.

But, our critters can infect us with some nasties – H1N1 is just one (huge) example of that.

To give an idea of what germs may lurk in our pets:

  • There are certain bacteria that live in animals’ guts that can cause infections that bring on diarrhea, abdominal pain, and fever in humans.
  • There is an infection that’s caused by worms that live in dog and cat intestines. People can get these worms by coming into contact with the worms’ eggs in an animal’s infected feces. This is where good hand cleaning can make a big difference in preventing infection. If the eggs get in your mouth and gut, you can get sick with fever, swollen glands, muscle pain, headache, cough, sore throat and rash.
  • A certain parasite is sometimes found in cat feces that can cause an infection that is particularly dangerous to pregnant woman because of the harmful effects to the baby she is carrying.
  • Cat scratch disease (a.k.a. cat scratch fever), tapeworms, and ringworm are also diseases that can be caught from cats and/or dogs.
  • Let’s not forget our avian friends–even those we keep in a cage. You can be exposed to some diseases by inhaling the fungus from bird droppings, ending up with serious problems like brain inflammation and pneumonia.  Parrot fever is transmitted by coming into contact with infected bird poop or dust in bird cages, causing cough, fever and chills. And, let’s not forget avian flu, although that would normally come from outdoor birds.
  • Salmonella can be caught from pets such as lizards, snakes, turtles and frogs.  Most reptiles and amphibians carry Salmonella in their digestive system and feces, and they can also carry it on their skin. People can get sick with Salmonella just from touching the animal or cleaning the cage.
  • Rodent pets such as hamsters, gerbils, and guinea pigs can carry diseases such as rabies and rabbit fever.  Rabies may be transmitted when an infected animal bites you. For rabbit fever and other diseases, you must come into contact with the animal’s urine or feces to get infected.

We need to protect ourselves and our kids from infections. After touching, feeding, or cleaning up a pet’s waste, we should always wash our hands. A good way to protect ourselves is by wearing gloves when we clean the cat’s litter box or a pet’s cage. And, we shouldn’t feed our critters raw meat or let them drink water from the toilet. Doing so can make them sick and they can pass that along to us.

Finally, make sure the pets have all their vaccines!


Antibiotic Resistance

20 01 2010

Nurse Mary Beth explains when, and when not, to use antibiotics.

Listen now!

Right-click here to download podcast (4mb, 9min)


Kids and Exercise

18 01 2010

Physical activity is good for kids. It helps to control weight, reduce blood pressure, and increase HDL (the good kind of cholesterol). It reduces the risk of getting diabetes and some kinds of cancer, and it improves emotional well-being by improving confidence and self-esteem.

How much physical activity do our little darlings need? Current U.S. guidelines suggest 60 minutes or more daily is a good goal for children.

Aerobic activity—the kind of exercise that gets your heart pumping, such as walking or running—should make up most of the 60 or more minutes  per day.

Muscle strengthening should also be a part of the child’s day at least 3 days per week. This would include activities such as gymnastics, climbing trees or playing on a jungle gym.

Activities that strengthen bones, such as jumping rope or running, should also be included at least 3 days per week.

Children are naturally active. They don’t need to lift weights or run on a treadmill to get their exercise or strengthen their muscles. They’ll easily meet their targets for physical activity when they have opportunity for breaks throughout the day to play vigorously at activities that are appropriate for their age, gender, and level of physical and emotional development.

To promote physical activity for your kids, limit the amount of time they spend watching television and playing video games and make physical activity fun.

As a parent (and you knew this was coming), role-model an active lifestyle and provide opportunities for your kids to increase their physical activity.


HIV is Still Here

15 01 2010

More than 1 million people in the United States are HIV+, and 25% of them don’t know it.

Thousands infected are between the ages of 13 and 24, and statistics show that 60% of newly-diagnosed youth are African-American.

There are some risk factors unique to adolescents and young adults that increase the chance of transmitting and acquiring HIV:

  • Sexually active youth with no prior HIV/AIDS education typically engage in riskier behaviors.
  • Female African-American youth are at greater risk in part because, for reasons that are not well-understood, this group appears to have a greater chance of becoming infected after exposure. 
  • Young men who don’t disclose their homosexual orientation are less likely to get tested for HIV; consequently, they’re less likely to know if they are HIV+.
  • Young men who don’t disclose their sexual orientation are more likely to have both male and female sexual partners, resulting in increased risk of transmitting the virus to both men and women.
  • Having a sexually transmitted disease (STD) increases the risk that HIV can be both transmitted and acquired. In many areas of the country, teens and young adults have higher rates of STDs than the rest of the population.
  • Drug, tobacco, and alcohol use also contribute to higher rates of HIV transmission among youth. Casual and chronic substance use contributes to high-risk behaviors such as unprotected sex when under the influence of the substance.

It’s important to know your HIV status. If you are HIV+, you need to take steps to avoid infecting others. HIV is not an automatic death sentence. While HIV is not curable, new medications can reduce the amount of virus in your body and help you stay well.

HIV status can be determined by HIV testing. There are three different ways the testing can be done. Blood, urine, and an oral/mouth test can all be used to test for HIV.  Some tests take 3-14 days to get results. A rapid HIV test can give results in 20 minutes.

Free, confidential, or anonymous tests are available. You can visit to find a testing location or call 1-800-CDC-INFO (available 24 hours a day).

To help stop the spread of HIV and reduce your chances of getting it, avoid having sex or use a new latex condom every time you do have sex. Also, talk about sex and HIV with your partners and friends. Talk to your friends about HIV testing and talk to your partners about their HIV status and past tests. And, talk to your doctor.

If you are sexually active, get tested for HIV.


Thinking of Pregnancy? Think Preconception Care.

13 01 2010

In the 1980s, prenatal care entered the public mainstream as a way of improving maternal and infant health outcomes.

Prenatal care intervention now reaches most American women for the duration of their pregnancies.  However, nationally, maternal and infant health outcomes haven’t continued to improve, and some problems have worsened for reasons that continue to be preventable.

Because prenatal care usually doesn’t begin until week 11 or 12 of a pregnancy, preconception care as an intervention is gaining attention as a way of continuing to improve maternal and infant outcomes.

Preconception care attempts to identify and modify medical, behavioral and social factors that put a woman’s health and the health of her future pregnancies at risk for negative outcomes.

According to the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists (ACOG), preconception care screens for risks and provides health promotion, health education, and interventions to address identified risks to women in their reproductive years.

With preconception care, a woman has the opportunity to change and modify her behaviors or risk factors prior to becoming pregnant, thereby improving the chances for positive outcomes during the first weeks of pregnancy when the fetus is most susceptible to developing certain problems before many women even realize they are pregnant.

Preconception care can be of great benefit to women who are at risk for negative pregnancy outcomes resulting from infectious diseases.  For example, ensuring that women are vaccinated for rubella provides protection against the mother transmitting congenital rubella syndrome to her infant.

Providing hepatitis B vaccination prevents transmitting hepatitis B infection to infants and protects the woman from risks that may come with hepatitis B infection, such as liver cancer, liver failure, cirrhosis or death.

Preconception screening and treatment for sexually transmitted diseases (STDs) reduces the risk of having an ectopic pregnancy, infertility, or chronic pelvic pain from sexually transmitted chlamydia and gonorrhea.

Preconception screening and treatment also reduces fetal risk for death or physical or developmental disabilities such as mental retardation and blindness that can occur as a result of fetal exposure to STDs.

Additionally, preconception screening for HIV/AIDS provides an opportunity for prompt treatment and information so that women or couples can make early decisions about pregnancy timing.  These interventions have a record showing evidence-based effectiveness in improving pregnancy outcomes.

What does this mean for you?  If you are a woman in your reproductive years, talk to your doctor about your reproductive life plan.  Your doctor can work with you to evaluate your health risks and provide recommendations and information so that you can make choices to positively affect your health and future pregnancies for years to come!


Communication: Looking Forward

11 01 2010

The last decade transformed our world.  Facebook, MySpace, blogs, Twitter, Web 2.0, social media—these tools and concepts turned communications on its head.

social media landscape


If we choose, we can each be part of a constantly connected culture, keeping up with friends, family, and colleagues in real time via text, audio or video over the Internet.  Or, we can slow it down and leave messages, photos and videos for others to find at their leisure.

This new-found ability to reach a broad audience with one’s message is exciting and potentially risky.  If you make a mistake and post an update that’s not accurate or simply not what you wanted to say, it’s almost impossible to take it back.  Even if you remove it from your social media site, someone somewhere likely has a copy of the original web page or post.

Consequently, there’s more chaff than wheat out there, and they’re sometimes hard to separate.

Not only has the way we communicate radically changed in a few short years, but the technologies are continuously evolving. Facebook revamps itself, Twitter adds features and removes others, Skype improves, and other social media tools just disappear.

In a year, who knows what these sites will look like, and what new sites may come along to enhance the community?

Remember the big dotcom bust in the 1990s? Companies are smarter this time around. Free and fun are in, but money must be made at the end of the day. Sites explode in popularity, and then fall off the screen as a newer, better model comes along. Nothing is permanent.

Whether you’re a seasoned social media user or just learning the terms and tools you’ve heard others talking about, it’s easy to get overwhelmed by the plethora of choices.

While site features and tools are important to learn about, it needn’t be the goal of your social media plan to use every newfangled feature that Facebook or Twitter comes up with, but rather that you choose and use the basic tools that help you accomplish your goals.

It’s about relationships. Are you talking to your supporters? Are they talking back? Are you finding new allies?

It’s OK to take your time and figure out what will enhance your work versus jumping on the latest thing and finding that it’s “all show and no go.”

At PKIDs, we enjoy using social media to communicate with people interested in our causes and goals, and we want to help others leverage social media to their advantage.

What are you looking forward to accomplishing with social media in 2010?


Flu and the Vulnerable

8 01 2010

Be it swine or seasonal, influenza can knock people off their feet for days. Sometimes the infection leads to hospitalization and, rarely, death. It’s not a disease anyone should ignore.

It can be bad for those without health issues, but there are several groups of people who are at greater risk of complications from influenza, including those with physical and/or developmental challenges.

Physical challenges can interfere with the body’s ability to fight infection. For example, folks living with chronic diseases or conditions, such as HIV, asthma or diabetes, are more likely to be severely affected by influenza.

Developmental challenges interfere with a person’s ability to understand and make decisions, which can make it difficult to know when or how to take precautions and evaluate one’s own health status.

Difficulty communicating may make it hard to tell others about one’s symptoms. This increases the risk of developing more serious illness.

Some people who are physically or developmentally challenged live alone and may be less likely to be monitored closely for illness symptoms, which can also result in more serious illness.

Children aged 5 and younger have a higher risk for developing complications from influenza, and for a child living with spina bifida, cerebral palsy, seizure disorder, or weakened immune system from HIV/AIDS or cancer, the risk for developing complications from influenza is amplified.

In addition to precautions such as covering coughs and sneezes and washing hands frequently, the flu vaccine, if used by everyone, can keep at-risk people safe from influenza and its complications.