Category: Voices Articles
May 04, 2016
Our Family Jewels is the radio show DJ’d by my brother, Jules, and his co-host Steve, at Middlebury College in Vermont. The show is takes place each Sunday at 7pm, during what is referred to as “Hump Hour” at Middlebury. Jules and Steve have organized a show that plays songs related to sex or the sex lives of them and their friends, in one way or another. While playing a diverse range of genres they offer segments titled, “Story time with Steve”, “Pillow Talk”, and “Reachin’ and Teachin’”. These segments share entertaining personal experiences, little known facts or relevant news related to sexual health, with each week ending in a text from our parents expressing their enjoyment and sometimes surprise, from the last episode.
When the show first aired, my roommates and I sat in our living room listening in as Steve and Jules shared stories and played music. I found myself in fits of laughter during the segments and was almost as entertained by our family group text as I was by Our Family Jewels. Through the jokes and lightheartedness, I wanted to be sure to remind him of the importance of safe and consensual sex. The topic of sex is not one we shy away from in my home. From a young age, our parents were very clear about the importance of safety and our intimacy being consensual, a discussion many parents choose to avoid. In spirit of the radio show, MyHealthImpactNetwork offers readers the opportunity to learn more about health in a general sense. The Health Facts section of the site, speaks to the health literacy of our nation. Health literacy is defined by the National Network of Libraries of Medicine as being "the degree to which individuals have the capacity to obtain, process, and understand basic health information and services needed to make appropriate health decisions." Unfortunately, levels of health literacy are low, with only 13% of the population between the ages of 16 and 49 at a proficient level. This interferes with a patient’s ability to make educated decisions on their health and have the necessary conversations regarding their health status with their respective healthcare providers.
I am glad that my brother has found an entertaining way to make the discussion of sex and its health implications more comfortable for his peers. It is important that we are able to take responsibility for our own health. This ties into being literate, but also falls in the hands of others to provide the necessary support to those who are not yet comfortable with their knowledge of health. Decisions made regarding one’s health can have lifelong implications, making it imperative that a basic level of health literacy can be met.
If you would like to look into health literacy or other areas of health, there is the opportunity to do so at https://myhealthimpactnetwork.org/health-facts/cat/health-literacy. The National Network of Libraries of Medicine also offers information on health literacy and can be found at http://nnlm.gov/outreach/consumer/hlthlit.html#definitions. To listen in to Our Family Jewels you can follow the link to Middlebury College Radio, http://wrmc.middlebury.edu/. My brother’s show airs on Sundays from 7pm - 8pm, enjoy!
November 19, 2015
I wish that individuals suffering from mental health issues could feel the embrace of support on a national scale. I think about the utilization of pink to express the support of breast cancer and seeing it on television, on football fields, and on college campuses. I think of the hope that comes with such support, and I long for something similar in regards to mental illness. The American Psychological Association reported that 44% of the patients who visited college counseling services “had severe psychological problems.” This number, however high, does not begin to tell the full story on mental health, especially in the college aged demographic. The stigma surrounding mental health issues is often silencing, which is why it must be spoken about deliberately. In the last year, NC State has lost two students to on-campus suicides, and even more outside of campus. This is to say the least, both concerning and devastating.
I am very thankful of my parents for raising me to be a compassionate friend and an attentive listener. They modeled for me to listen without judging and as a result I believe many of my friends have felt comfortable sharing openly with me their stress and worries. Some may say I am a bit hypersensitive to the mental health of others, I don't mind that personality trait. In a recent conversation with my mother who has practiced as a psychotherapist for over 20 years, she reminded me that one of the biggest barriers to young adults seeking help for their mental health is the role that stigma plays in our society. The reality of stigma is that it perpetuates isolation, shame, and hopelessness. It is understandable that individuals with emotional distress would be hesitant to ask for help in this environment.
As a society, we are generally unaware of the level of struggle that college students face with regard to mental health. There are students who walk in the dark every day without feeling supported and it is up to us as friends, faculty, acquaintances, classmates, and a community to help break the silence, increase awareness and show more compassion to those suffering from mental illness. We have both an individual and collective responsibility to support each other, this is the only way out of the stigma of mental illness.
Follow @myhealthimpact for real talk on often hard topics.
#mentalhealth #collegestudents #stigma #supportsystems
August 12, 2015
School is almost back in session so let’s cut to the chase and checkout how I got through the summer heat! What songs did I miss? Anyone switching from Spotify to Apple Music?
July 02, 2015
My January 9, 2015 blog (see Tech-Social Activism) indicated that tech-social activism was “big” in 2014 with a prediction that 2015 would see even greater issues to explore. Six months into 2015, this prediction has surpassed expectations. Here is what dominated the 2014 social activism tech space:
The past few blogs from the myHealthImpactNetwork team has covered these topics and offered interesting perspectives on topics where health meets tech, and this is not absent of the social commentaries that influence daily living. Below is a mash- up of these topics. Check out these blogs on the website. Follow us at @myhealthimpact. Let us hear from you as we work to amply voices and (re)shape the health tech narrative.
June 18, 2015
We, as black people, have to watch our every move now. The levels of anxiety and mental stress we endure in our own homes and communities will have everlasting effects on us. I’m conscious on what I wear, what I say, what I do in public, and just my overall image. It’s sad to say, but this isn’t a world where I can be myself outside of my room.
If it wasn’t for Michael Brown, I would have never heard of Ferguson, Missouri. If you’ve been living under a rock or choose to deliberately not hear the story, here it is. A 19 year old black young man was shot and killed in the middle of the street by law enforcement. Not only was the boy unarmed, but was shot at 12 times. They levels of unanswered questions surrounding the case are baffling. After Brown’s death, Darren Wilson, the officer who murdered Brown, somehow went into hiding. Darren WIlson wasn’t indicted. The transcript was published on the internet and his description of Michael Brown was horrendous. Eric Garner’s murder wasn’t indicted either. The Supreme Court decided not to indict Eric Garner’s murder after video evidence of the officer using an illegal chokehold.
There have now been protests around the WORLD in support of Michael Brown and Darren Wilson, not forgetting all the other wrongfully slain brothers and sister in the recent days and even years. Then, there is Baltimore with the media commentaries depicting the community in ways that only causes even more stress.
Why do we have to die so young? Why do I have to feel like a suspect when I’m just walking around from place to place? Why are there people that don’t understand that there’s something to understand about race issues in America. It’s scientifically proven that ignoring race issues don’t make them disappear. That’s doesn’t even make sense when you think about it. You can’t ignore your work and expect to get it done. Can you? You can’t ignore your hunger and expect to be full?
May 03, 2015
As you can see below, both rising stars and professional athletes are dying from heart disease each and everyday! This interactive infographic shows the fate of athletes who died, retired or was forced to have surgery as a result of their heart condition. It's really disheartening because a lot these professionals died early on affecting not just fans but their families. Let's not only remember the names on the back of a jerseys but also use their story to identify heart diesase in young athletes and prevent misdiagnosis from so many lives short.
Tweet us @myhealthimpact to let us know if any of the players on this shocked you!
April 30, 2015
When we are young we are told and reminded of the importance of exercise and why we need to remain active. My parents were sure to emphasize the benefits of physical activity and to this day, continue to do so. This is why it often surprises me when I hear of professional athletes passing away from heart attacks and cardiovascular related health issues. These are people whose career is centered on remaining active and physically fit, but there is no certainty that these habits remained after they’re playing careers came to an end. More striking however is the seemingly prevalent occurrence of young athletes, at the high school and college age, who have suddenly passed due to cardiac arrest. It is estimated by the American Academy of Pediatrics that “2,000 people under the age of 25 die from sudden cardiac arrest in the United States every year.” This is a striking figure because this encompasses a group of young adults who generally, are at the peak of their physical fitness.
Perhaps one of the more prominent stories in the last year is the story of Isaiah Austin. Austin, a former basketball player at Baylor University, declared himself eligible for the NBA Draft last year. After the plethora of tests conducted by the National Basketball Association it was discovered that he could never play competitive basketball again, four days before the draft. Isaiah Austin suffered from Marfan syndrome, which caused an enlargement of his aorta. The combination of aortic enlargement and extreme physical exertion, as he would be subject to as a professional basketball player, made him susceptible to a rupture of his heart. This was the exact fate of Flo Hyman, an Olympic volleyball player, who passed away on the court due to a rupture of her aorta in 1986.
The story of Isaiah Austin generated some, but not a lot of conversation about the health of young athletes. Austin had been living with this condition and could have met his fate at any point during his athletic career at Baylor University. Fortunately this did not happen, but many student-athletes do not have the same luck. Every year there are stories of high school and college students who collapse on the athletic field, and most of these cases of sudden cardiac arrest are due to structural defects of the heart. This begs many to ask the question, should we increase the testing of our amateur athletes before they can play? Had it not been for the depth at which the National Basketball Association looks into the health of their players, the discovery of Isaiah Austin’s aortic enlargement may not have come until it was too late.
The message of remaining healthy and maintaining regular exercise is important and effective. We must also include the message to be aware and responsible for our health. School systems, colleges, and doctor’s offices should encourage student athletes and their families to become aware of their health. The opportunity to curtail the sudden death of student-athletes is available. These institutions have the ability to provide families with a stronger understanding of their health, and it should be capitalized on. Follow @myHealthimpact for more on #Health #Tech #Culture and views of #youngPeople. See us on YouTube, and follow us on Tumblr.
April 22, 2015
Florence Griffith Joyner better known as Flo-Jo was once considered the fastest women of all time. She was known best for her beauty and fashionista style on the track. Her long hair and extraordinary nails have definitely set the tone for female track and field athletes across the globe.
However there is more to her story, many do not know that she was battling a series of health related issues. Besides the scrutiny of steroid rumors, Flo-Jo was struggling from serious heart problems which were often brushed off as a minor exhaustion. (source: http://www.cbsnews.com/news/clues-to-flo-jos-death/ ). Her shocking death in 1998 at a mere 38 years old from a heart seizure at the time was fairly uncommon. As a former student-athlete, her death makes you wonder how healthy you really are and if you are taking the appropriate measures to stay healthy. Am I drinking enough water? Am I really giving it all at practice? Am I speaking up when my body is feeling hurt? Am I really taking care of myself?
Personally, these are things that I struggled with throughout my track and field career. Unfortunately, addressing these questions is much easier said then done. A quote from Flo-Jo says “I don’t always have the best eating habits. I like butter and ice cream. There are days when I should work out and I don’t. But it’s never too late to change old habits.” This quote inspired me to take a stand against my current health habits. It is truly never too late to speak up and try something different.
With that being said I encourage all my fellow athletes to make sure they are taking care of their health regardless of how ‘soft’ it may make you look. Tell your coach when you aren’t feeling well. Make that doctor’s appointment when your coach recommends it to you. Take the propers steps to check up on your health and encourage others to do the same. It may truly save a life.
April 09, 2015
It was in elementary school that we had our first sexual education course. It was either 5th or 6th grade that we marched into my Science Teacher’s room to hear the real truth about the birds and the bees. Of course, our parents had to sign a permission slip in order for us to get the life lesson. The funny thing is I barely remember anything about that class. All I remember is that we sat down we talked about different types of condoms, pregnancy, and maybe chromosomes. My parents never had ‘The Talk’ with my siblings, and I so this class was the closest thing to it.
It wasn’t until I had a Sex Education class my ninth grade year in High School that I had to witness the miracle of child birth. In this class, we watched videos and talked about the entire sexual reproductive system. After that, there were no other topics on that until I got to college.
From a very young age, I was made aware that there were differences between “boys” and “girls”. I faintly remember a time in second or third grade where they took each student in the class and pointed to two dolls, mentioning there were differences and that it was inappropriate to touch certain areas of each doll. But this was not a true introduction to human sexuality. I took had a 5th grade class where we learning about family living, ethical behavior, and human sexuality. It was here that I learned of abstinence and its importance in remaining healthy. When I entered high school, I finally learned about contraception, STDs and STIs, but for many this is much too late.
I have the great fortune of having a psychotherapist as a mother. She has worked with adolescents for a long majority of her career, and has always been very open with my brother and me about what is and is not appropriate. My sexual education may have begun earlier than many, but my mother’s experience with adolescents who had experienced sexual violence or had committed acts of sexual violence against others forced her hand. My brother and I were taught early on about our bodies, respecting ourselves, and showing the utmost respect for others.
I remember going to my PE class in the fourth grade excited to finally let off some steam and play with my friends. It was Friday which meant free day aka everyone grab a basketball and find the nearest hoop. However, today would be different as my PE teacher split up the group into boys and girls. The girls were taken to another classroom while the boys were instructed to sit on the gymnasium floor. Up above was a rolling TV cart and my PE Teacher explaining to the boys group that he forgot to mention during the last class that he had to teach us about how our bodies change as we get older. Naturally, we weren’t trying to hear it, but we sat and listened hoping we would get just 5 minutes at the end of class to throw up a few baskets.
We ended up watching a long and boring film that never spoke about how our bodies changed over time but rather depicted various sex organs, including their scientific name, while narrated in a robotic tone. Thinking back to the actual footage, I cannot understand how something so incredibly stale could be shown to fourth graders! At a time where young students gravitate towards shows on Disney, Nickelodeon, PBS, and other children focused networks, it’s mind boggling to note this film as my introduction into the sexual reproduction cycle. I am not alone on this issue as sex education is anything but standardized. At present, only 22 states require sex education in schools, and only 19 require that sex education is medically, technically or factually accurate. With those numbers, I wonder if sex education is meant to teach young minds about sexual health or just a course with a checkbox?
March 30, 2015
When I was younger the month of March filled me with extreme amounts of joy. I was able to look forward to the birthdays of my paternal grandmother, my cousin, my aunt, my father, and even myself, all in the same month. Recently, this sentiment has changed. I still feel joy and excitement during this month, but accompanied with these emotions has come reflection. A few weeks ago, I celebrated my 21st birthday, and of course, it was celebrated with the fanfare one would expect for such a milestone. Even with the celebrating, I spent a significant amount of time to myself, thinking about where I was, the company I was with, and the influences on my life to this point.
The summer after my freshman year at NC State, I was awarded a grant to spend five weeks in Haiti, through the Park Scholarships. In the grant I explained that I wanted to gain experience in the administration of healthcare in a developing country, but to also experience significant cultural immersion in my father’s country of birth. My aunt at the time was still living in Haiti, and assisted with my in-country arrangements. My family accompanied me for the first week, and my father spent an additional week in the country before returning to North Carolina. The last three weeks of my time in Haiti I spent learning, intensively. The experience I gained from the hospital was tremendous, but the wealth of knowledge I gained from my aunt was priceless.
My aunt and I spent countless hours talking about my life and hers, the places she’d traveled, the people she met, the beauty in simplicity, and what is important in our lives. We began to discuss my next visit to Haiti and how to establish a sustainable trip for students who are interested in the experience. Unfortunately, this would never come to fruition. My aunt passed away the following March, the day after my birthday and two days before hers, after a hard-fought battle with cancer. With my aunt’s passing came reflection and insight. The importance of love, to not take people for granted, and to crystallize the relationships I have while also fostering new ones, gradually came to me as integral parts of life. I thought of my maternal grandmother, who was present at each of her grandchildren’s births, and has never missed a birthday since, my paternal grandmother whose mannerisms and love I remember to this day, and my mother who reminded me just today that she “never misses a beat.” These relationships have played a powerful role in my growth, and continue to shape my life.
In recognition of Women’s History Month on this last day of March 2015, I celebrate these women. Their impact on me has yet to be fully realized, but it is already significant. The love I have for them is overwhelming, and I am thankful for that.
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In Partnership with: Poole College of Management, College of Humanities and Social Sciences, National Science Foundation, Penn State