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!

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“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!?

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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Be Thankful and Respect Cities…lessons from Venice

I’m thankful for beautiful and clean cities. Venice (Venezia) Italy is a land of rich history and worthy of “respect”.  This is the social marketing message I got from the people working, living, or visiting there in my short visit,  as they also have a more visible campaign #RESPECT ENJOY VENICE . I was thankful to see the main square area as in a few days it completely flooded likely due to the rain and the Cruise ships allowed in which change the water volume in the old city canals — we made it through the forthcoming flood but several did not ironically the week we left.  It was certainly an “experience” and the children had fun as all in rainbow colored plastic galoshes patiently lined up to ‘walk the plank’ across San Marco square.

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As we also took a different direction to less water filled stores and restaurants it occured to me how civilized everyone was. I also observed very little trash and no huge problem with vandalistic graffiti like tagging which plagues most cities today.

We cannot deal with more vandalism, especially ‘dirty tagging’ as this contributes to our uneasiness, there is proof that once one negative event happens another one is right behind hence the Broken Window Syndrome (see theory). So why are so many people doing this in other cities and countries where they are visiting? Is it due to lack of empathy or intended damage (due to jealousy of the respected city or town history)?  Perhaps all graffiti artists need to ban together to develop a new ‘ethos’ of informing and discussing with younger generations to come.

Would people like the Colosseum full of multi-colored tags?  The White House and surroundings monuments? How about St. Petersburg? The Greek isles, or on the off-white color of the Acropolis (it was bad enough that pieces of it were taken away by Lord Elgen himself to ‘whiten’ the stone thus ruining the natural color of the rock and marble)?!

Do people have any idea of how many months and years of hard labor (albeit most was indeed ‘slave’ labor) it took to create these masterpieces?  Do people know the true reasons why  “Venice” was created in the first place? Basically to avoid being sacked and completely vandalized/destroyed as their mainland was during the barbarian invasions. Can and should continents like Europe do something about the issue and ban together?  Maybe create a good social marketing campaign or practically a type of coding of spray cans (similar to gun monitoring “aimed” to better control) so that we can trace back vandals….. People are poor enough, have hardships enough, they cannot bear to pay taxes to ‘fix’ their personal property let alone public property, especially to clean up streets and monuments. This is part of our community health literacy to be responsible citizens and visitors.

Let’s ask for RESPECT of all cities and great historical monuments around the globe. Let’s be THANKFUL for their existence, and for those who maintain them including taxpayers, city planners, cleaners and artisans everywhere!

Seeing the beauty and reading up on history was the basic inspiration of this poem:

Venezia (Venice)

Vivaldi played his seasons four
Now Gondoliers paddle to shore
San Marco, Giorgio, and Theodore
So many in Venezia.

For all her glory and her pain
Of wondrous knights for faith doth slain
The mists remain on stones of goth
She sinks inside, the days of sloth
The city of Venezia.

(Barbara K.)

 

Seeing red signs? color, nature, and signs

One of my students was interested in seeing what adjectives we associate with colors and how our mood is potentially are affected by color in the short or long-term. Her project truly reflects both nature (certain colors calm while others excite us neurologically) and nurture (what we see, hear in our culture reflects our perceptions).

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Red Moon — photo by Bill Coast (c) 2018

There is an entire ‘color psychology’ out there and many articles written like this one : Color Psychology: Does It Affect How You Feel? (VeryWellMind, September 2018). A while ago I had posted about the “Dark Moon….” and last summer there was a “Red Moon” citing starting late July through more recent weeks in August.

As leaves and seasons change to Fall-Winter our vegetables and fruits become deeper oranges and reds like vitamin C- rich pomegranates, cranberries, or Beta-carotene pumpkin pickings from the fields.  We eventually have these part of our Thanksgiving tables (if you are American) or your pumpkin soup like this great pumpkin-ginger recipe by my favorite ‘food revolutionist‘ and British chef, Jamie Oliver. Jamie’s TedEx talk about obesity in America and dietary changes around the world is still current today in our attempt to curb over-eating and eating food that is neither good for us or our communities. We love comfort foods to pep up our moods but let’s consider what we put inside our body today.

The month of November starts with health issues including Alzheimer’s Awareness, Diabetes Awareness, Tobacco Awareness and COPD month, and we end up thinking about all our extra calories after eating our turkey dinner. Perhaps our need for extra food is part of our packing up for our natural winter ‘hibernation’ as some may also suffer from seasonal affective disorders? There is a SAD test you can take today to determine if you indeed suffer from this disorder, consider environmental changes like diet and ‘light treatment’… again on the issue of colors — yellow, blue, red… ergonomics research on firetrucks has proved that lime yellow is a safer color than red, yet we seem to be stuck on the former as our preferred color of firetrucks around the world. Old habits die hard, including our own health literacy habits. Red is an ‘excitable’ color it makes sense that fire alarms are still red, and the red ‘do not smoke sign’ is just as common. I personally think Starbucks has the best line on its “thank you for not smoking” sign reminding people about maintaining the coffee’s smell and taste —  simply brilliant!

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