Luck O’ the ☘️ Irish!

2E8E2A7B-0BE8-4F57-B4E1-6741CA508BE4“Healthy Ireland” …. a great motto that we found got people’s attention printed on a lime green bag, as we walked around Dublin, Ireland this St. Patrick’s weekend. It seems this city fits the health literate cities model in terms of safety particularly since most of us are used to looking to the left side as we cross the street (drivers come from the right here as in the UK) so we need clear street markings and precautions to avoid pedestrian disasters!

Contributing  to the idea of “respecting cities” as locals or visitors, we observed  easily accessible cycling and walking paths, relatively spotless city streets with little to no dirty tagging  or “tag bombing” on city signs and historical buildings, clear signage and very helpful locals!

As with every westernized country that is over consuming sugar, fat, alcohol marketed to us daily,  all contribute to many chronic health issues if unmonitored (cardiovascular disease, obesity, alcoholism, cancer, etc.) it is important for us to keep our consumer populations informed about their health choices and habits. It’s ok to consume that “fat free in the middle” donut (LOL about the pink sign we saw outside a popular donut chain), a perfect Irish whiskey or apple cider once in a while but we also need to exercise a bit, take care around binge drinking (which happens on many college campuses and beyond) and enjoy all …. in moderation!

Thoroughly enjoyed the 4th EU Health Literacy conference in Dublin hearing about some great initiatives and building local and international networks.  We looked for shamrocks and leprechauns — no luck there — but at the end we had some great walks near the woods, ponds and castles (we recommend the half-day tour in Dublin at Malahide Castle).

Éirinn go Brách (Erin go Bragh phrase)! The Guinness was great and we toast to our luck in being there for the St. Patrick’s Day (March 17th) festivities  preparations  …. hoping the Luck O’ the Irish rubs off for all of us working together for healthier communities around the globe!

“Hacking” for Health

On Friday February 22nd groups of young people, professionals of all ages and company mentors from pharmaceuticals and insurance companies got together to form teams geared to “hacking” health and building health literacy through an MIT Hacking health literacy event in Athens, Greece. Respecting the privacy of the winners two days later, the emphasis of the monetary awards was on giving hope for progress in addition to mentoring and longer term support for product fruition. Much needed in a country very much in shambles due to the crisis of the past 10 years — check out the Lancet’s “Omens of a Health Tragedy” written in earlier part of the crisis, and the most recent The New York Times opinion article written by Simon Critchley titled “Athens in Pieces: The Stench of the Academy. ”

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Speaking about health literacy in Greece and discussing the first HLS-EU study several aspects were brought up of individual and social responsibility — see video link.  It seems that this photo I shared says it all when public systems don’t work and thus includes lack of maintenance, no policing, and high risk behaviors. Enough said ….the more you look at it, the more you’d realize there is so much to do !

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What”s wrong with this picture!?

Be the change…the message of love and unity

The “morning after” Valentine’s Day I came across short video cartoon part of a series meant to help people understand about relationships a series by Fabiosa Better World. This featured a woman who felt disgruntled in her 10 year marriage, and no longer smiled at her husband, didn’t make his favorite food, was basically indifferent  and thus he was ready to divorce or I’m sure look elsewhere. He called his elder father who basically gave him basic advice — have you kept your end of the “bargain” have you kept your promises? He thought about it. He changed his behavior. This included having a “date night”, buying her a gift, helping with the house chores. Surprisingly to him, everything he used to have came back and his marriage made it successfully…simple things make the difference, BE the change in love  (by the way the 8-10 year mark is important because you either “make” it or “break” it as a couple, according to statistics).

I also participated in a training by organization Fractality on “appreciative inquiry”, who had invited an elder wise guest speaker a “yogi” in my mind, to work with mindfulness in our group on finding the goodness and inner peace in very difficult situations whether they be individuals or communities. We randomly got cards and my two are featured here reminds me of the important health literacy work in our community. BE the change in your community. Use your networks, get training to build skills, work with goodness and peace of mind.

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Birds of a feather, Flu season and personal responsibility

Everyone loves flamingos right? Birds migrate to warmer climates throughout the year despite global warming and colder climates with snow in unlikely places (last post). We all should know that birds are one of the major ways disease is transmitted across continents and via mosquitoes to animals and humans! .

Have you ever stopped to think how your own actions could prevent further spread of what are known as “communicable diseases” such as flu? This season is prime for H1N1 (known as swine flu) or others like bird flu, and the U. S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention as well as the World Health Organization constantly share updates on disease spread and prevention.

Good friend Jenny, did her part too! She’s not only talented as a Dramaturg and Stage Director, she recently proved to be very health literate too! Being health literate is having the ability to act appropriately medically (getting tested, vaccinated, taking appropriate meds once sick, resting and drinking plenty of fluids to prevent dehydration), and taking personal responsibility to prevent disease spread.

Her Facebook post (permission to share with you) says it all. It was the first time we had “virtual drinks” and it was a great time despite illness!  Thanks Jenny for doing your part! Maybe it’s true that birds of a feather truly hang together…

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We need some ‘snow literacy’

Perhaps it is due to ‘chance’ or is it related to climate changes, but many parts of the world are having some unusual weather.  Take snow in greater Athens.  Unexpected yet so perfect ‘powder snow’ as the image below from Kifissia (Northern suburb of Athens).  In most places it was about 1 foot of snow (0.30 cm.) but in other places over 4 feet (1.22 meters). From the perspective of our individual and community knowledge and what I’ve been seeing in the local news here in Greece, our ‘snow literacy’ is lacking. Then again, some other crazy stories from snow-familiar places like New England (U.S.) who put out calls for snow emergencies are similar — this includes the guy who went jogging during a snow emergency and was accidentally plowed over because the snow plower worker did not see him (understandable due to low light or snow flurries)… or people driving fast in dangerous snow conditions.

There are many types of snow that one can find from places like the ‘National Snow and Ice Data Center’ (Types of Snow, NSIDC). We all can remember at least once making those wonderful snow angels so why ruin that pleasantry with a tragedy film of small-town America which received low reviews this past decade (Snow Angels from the New York Times Review).

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Snow melts, hence ice, hence slippage and likely injury.  You need to sweep and shovel the snow, throw sand or salt on it as it melts, and at night when it is colder tread carefully (including appropriate shoes, and car tires) or not at all.  Avoid slipping, sliding, to prevent injury. Of course on the other hand, some physical therapists, orthopedics and sports doctors will have some extra work!

Question #1 — why go running in your school courtyard if your principal told you not to go out?  This happened to a school today in Northern Greece and the young man (anonymous) at about age 15 (the highest age of ‘sensation-seeking behaviors’ as described by developmentalists) fell and broke his leg.  His parents are now going to sue.

Question #2 — can parents afford to not go to work because their kids’ schools are declared closed?  This is because the municipality does not have appropriate snow plowing machines, no basic shoveling done, and worse no salt to throw on the ice.

Question #3 — unrealistic expectations from some people expecting the government to actually plow their front door or worse, beating up the slow plower person because they did ‘not do a good job’ with the street? This is another unrealistic expectation.

Question #4 — why can’t people be responsible to take care of ploughing their front sidewalk as they do in other parts of the world, else be fined?  This could include cleaning up waste or unwanted tagging graffiti (some of it is done because the thieves want to ‘mark’ their target territory). Since we also want to respect cities I must emphasize the recent ‘fines’ placed on a 15-year-old Greek girl who thought it would be ‘cute’ to write her name and ‘was here’ on a historical bridge in Florence, Italy. She got caught, fined, and could have faced imprisonment.  My final question — why are we not following suit in common sense policies and procedures?

Yes indeed, snow literacy should be one of the fundamentals of survival and overall health literacy.

In with the new…. “cutting” the year ahead

IMG_1835This year started on the right foot …friends, family and rethinking modern time challenges. Traveling across continents helps one understand what younger and older people are influenced by and what brings the integenerations together! On New Year’s Eve I attended a smoke-free event, on New Year’s Day I read two popular magazines — one local and one national — a renowned national newspaper, learned about an odd game of “Cards Against Humanity”, and partook in some sing-a-long activities.

imageStarting with the last most unpolitically correct game I suppose the linguistic humorists make the “cut” here ….. personally not sure I like it but it got people off their mobile smartphones!

Regarding language, reading a great article in the local New England Magazine December 2018 issue (photo above) by clinical social worker Andrew Aaron I read a great term “emotional hibernation”. The focus was about how much people  don’t communicate and “in-pain partners look for a sign to be valued waiting for the cold winter of insensitivity to pass in the warm spring of love to arrive” (p. 55). Openess is indeed an essential aspect of love and what’s needed in the new year! And what about our over-indulgence and need for “likes” in social media creating anxiety and FOMO (fear of missing out)?!

We took about 45 minutes with the older generation singing around “Kostas” the bouzouki player giving me hope in inter-generation of community involvement with the power of music. It got the kids off their tablets and slowly young adults coming in. This should be a requirement of community health literacy.imageSpeaking of community living, many of us around the globe take for granted our hair and clothes not stinking from smoke as others abuse our rights for clean air.  Such a logical and simple thing! To think that many of us in the 1980s and 1990s lived the Big Tobacco fights to witnesss their ever ending expansion into the rest of the unsuspecting world.

What resolutions and good habits do you want to start in the new year ahead!? Food for thought no matter how you cut your New Year’s cake, well wishes & happy 2019 to all.

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Silent nights and peppermint dreams…

How many of us have read the now classic American story  “‘Twas the Night before Christmas” which is actually a poem written in the 1800s whose message has been carried through to us today? We all seek the goodness of this holiday regardless of our religious backgrounds. We can feel the quiet anticipation from the  lines “…not a creature was stirring, not even a mouse” or “children were nestled all snug in their beds dreaming of sugar plums which danced in their heads”.

Emphasis on the NEED for quiet and sleep, especially our young ones who need at least 9 -11 hours nightly for healthy brain development (younger babies up to 14 hours) and for us older types at least 6-8 hours are needed for full rest and necessary “beauty sleep”. As a matter of fact our skin does better with more hours of sleep and the need for darkness for melatonin to be released to experience full rest which is one reason for people to get help with insomnia or even sleep lab tests for cases like sleep apnea !

When we travel away from the craziness of the city’s busy sidewalks even though they may be “dressed in holiday style” we may realize (mindfully or not) the necessity of stillness and quiet. Is it any coincidence that many people go to places where they don’t need to talk much or at all? From mountains to yoga retreats, or walking (driving) in chilly evenings to get those night views of fabulous extreme or minimally decorated homes.  Some of us may wish for a white Christmas but for many it is that necessary quiet space that is needed at the end of a busy day of visiting family and friends, or finishing that last minute shopping for a gift or making that fabulous dessert that will cost us our daily caloric intake!

Speaking of which, how many of you feel nostalgic about candy canes or peppermint chocolate/ icecream ? A particular favorite sold only in old time ice cream parlors is popular in certain regions of the US! I particularly loved this recipe made with Greek yogurt by Dannette May for peppermint ice cream (see here) for that extra protein. Also many of us don’t call know that peppermint oil is great for body destressing as it has great healing properties ….

Thus holiday wishes to all and to all a good, quiet, night with a nice peppermint inspired accompaniment!IMG_1666