UF study hopes to create an app to help with adolescent asthma

11 Apr
Woody Joseph is  a third-year public relations student at the University of Florida who aspires to become a public relations practitioner in the political realm. His ultimate desire is to become an advocate for social justice and a promoter of equality on all levels of society.

Woody Joseph is a third-year public relations student at the University of Florida who aspires to become a public relations practitioner in the political realm. His ultimate desire is to become an advocate for social justice and a promoter of equality on all levels of society.

Editor’s note: This is part of a series of contributing bloggers beginning their careers as journalists/public relations professionals at the University of Florida. Please see my earlier post about getting journalists excited about science writing early on.

By Woody Joseph

A recent study underway at the University of Florida is developing a mobile application, called Team Speak, that will attempt to help young individuals manage asthma. The project was funded by the National Institutes of Health earlier this year.

According to the Department of Clinical and Health Psychology at UF, the Team Speak project uses mobile health technology that researchers hope will help adolescents and their caregivers identify asthma management goals, develop behavioral strategies to meet those goals and strengthen communication skills between adolescents and parents.

The study targets adolescents with asthma between the ages of 12 and 15 and their parents.

“The reason we picked this age range is this is an age when parents look to teenagers to take more responsibility for their care, but sometimes kids aren’t interested in doing that yet,” said David Fedele, the study’s lead investigator in a press release. “They aren’t prepared, or they don’t have the knowledge or skills to take on that increased responsibility, even though they may want to.”

The Team Speak project hopes to encourage interventions to help manage asthma within individual families by collecting data from a small chunk of time and then inform the families on the next possible steps in asthma management, Fedele said.

The project consists of two phases, said Andrew McConville, lab coordinator and research assistant for the Team Speak project.

Phase one of the project involves the creating the app. Using a pilot program, an advisory board consisting of the parents of the participants receives feedback from the target audience.

Phase two of the  project is compiling the feedback and then tailoring the final version of the application for a four-month randomized control group trial.

The trial will include two groups. One group would be assigned to simply use the application. The other group is a self-guided control group that is given a diary to document their symptoms and handouts to better manage their asthma.

“Creating an app that would target self-management in asthma is an important psychological domain for lots of different illnesses, especially chronic illness, McConville said.

A secondary function of this project is to help adolescents take charge of their illness.

We also hope to help adolescents make the transition to independently manage asthma so that later down the line they could prevent avoidable symptoms and possible emergency room visits, McConville said.

When asked about the Team Speak mobile application and how it can help with asthma students’ responses were positive.

“I have been dealing with asthma my entire life,” Denard Smith, a third-year criminal justice major. “When I was younger the resources available to me were limited but it is interesting to see how technology is advancing to the point where a mobile app can help with asthma.”

Sarah Bounaim, a third-year education major, also believes that the app would be effective.

“My younger brother has asthma and being that my parents have always desired to instill independence within us, this app can help him take control over his chronic illness,” she said.

The Team Speak project is currently seeking more participant. If you or a family member is interested in participating in the study and would like to see if you are eligible, contact the UF Youth Asthma Research Lab at 352-273-5124.

 

Future of technology may pose problems for health

23 Mar IMG_3060
Bailey Garner is a second-year student at the University of Florida studying along the Pre-PA track.  She decided to change her major from communications to psychology because of her desire to become a physician assistant.  Garner has a huge passion for fitness and nutrition, and she enjoys maintaining a healthy lifestyle and inspiring others to do so.  She hopes to one day attend the UF Physician Assistant program.

Bailey Garner is a second-year student at the University of Florida studying along the Pre-PA track. She decided to change her major from communications to psychology because of her desire to become a physician assistant. Garner has a huge passion for fitness and nutrition, and she enjoys maintaining a healthy lifestyle and inspiring others to do so. She hopes to one day attend the UF Physician Assistant program.

Editor’s note: This is part of a series of contributing bloggers beginning their careers as journalists/public relations professionals at the University of Florida. Please see my earlier post about getting journalists excited about science writing early on.

By Bailey Garner

Though technology gives people the opportunity to improve their overall health, the rapid advance of this technology could jeopardize that possibility.

With tech gadgets and software constantly evolving, people are continuing to be consumed by the convenience of having everything at the palm of their hand.  This convenience could eventually lead to detrimental effects towards people’s health.

In 1990, 11.4 percent of Floridians were obese, according to the State of Obesity website.  In just 24 years, that statistic has more than doubled, and though the advancement of technology is not the only factor, it is one of the biggest.

“There are so many different factors that lead to obesity,” said Dr. Karla Pagan Shelnutt, associate professor and extension nutrition specialist at the University of Florida.  “The family and home environment is a big one, and if they’re spending a lot of time in front of the screen, they’re not being as active as they should be.”

This is why the general recommendation for children is less than two hours of screen time per day, Shelnutt said.

“There is definitely an association between screen time and food choices and not being active,” said Shelnutt.  “It’s like a double whammy when you’re sitting inside and watching TV all day. Not only are these kids not moving, but they’re being exposed to advertisements for unhealthy foods.”

“If they’re on their computer playing a game, there are always advertisements there for unhealthy items.”

When it comes to health, people need to keep in mind that there are multiple aspects including physical, mental, emotional and social, Shelnutt said.  With technology continuously becoming a barrier between person-to-person interactions, emotional and social health fall short, she added.

As technology rises, physical health has been put at risk as well.  Although many phone applications have been created to promote a healthier lifestyle, people are constantly distracted by the entertainment technology provides.

“I see people at the gym with their phones every day, every hour and every minute,” said Nikko Tan, fitness associate at UF RecSports.  “Some people like to use it for music, and other people use their phone for Facebook, Twitter and Instagram in between sets or even when they’re walking from the treadmill to the water fountain.”

IMG_3060

Jackie Carranza, first-year UF Pharmacy student, ditches technology during her workout at Southwest Recreation Center on a Saturday morning. Carranza says she tries to stay away from her phone while at the gym so she can have effective workouts. Photo by Bailey Garner.

Students even go to the extent of taking pictures of themselves while working out, Tan said.

“You have a rest period, you don’t really know what you’re doing, you don’t want to seem awkward and just stand there so the easiest thing for people to do is go on their phone,” said Hakeem White, CEO and founder of  fitness and nutrition company, Hakeem Getz You Gainz.

Being thoroughly dedicated to his health and well being, White is able to see the negatives and positives of technology.

“It’s a 50-50 honestly,” said White, who is also a nutrition major at UF and a UF RecSports personal trainer.  “You have apps nowadays and programs that can help you track what you eat and can help you with your workout or show you proper form.”

However, there is also an overabundance of social media that can distract people who are working towards their fitness goals, White said.

One glance at a college campus can give anyone an idea of what the future of technology may be like.  With fancy gadgets emerging such as the hover board, even walking may eventually become a thing of the past.

“Society as a whole is losing traction on their health and their fitness, and that’s definitely in decline,” said White.  “At the rate we’re going, technology is just making life a lot easier.”

However, technology continues to give people the opportunity to lead a healthy lifestyle.  Shelnutt uses her Fitbit to track her steps as she participates in the Walk Challenge at UF, Shelnutt said.  Tan has recorded over 600 miles on his Nike+ Running app, Tan said.  White continues to track his food intake and how effective his workouts are through his use of technology, White said.

“I think if we don’t get a grasp on how we use technology, it can get out of hand,” White said.  “But if you use the aspects of technology that are around properly to aid in your fitness, it can be very beneficial.”

Teaching Science Communication through Blogging and Twitter

8 May

Professor of Journalism Julie Dodd and master’s graduates Hannah O. Brown (MAMC 2014) and Rebecca Burton (MAMC 2014) presented a poster at UF’s first annual Social Media and Sustainability Conference on April 17, at the Marin H. Levin Advocacy Center at the UF College of Law. The conference was hosted by the UF Center for Adaptive Innovation, Resilience, Ethics, and Science (CAIRES).

“Teaching Science Communication through Blogging and Twitter” examined a science writing project in Multimedia Writing (JOU3109). Students had to report and write stories with an environmental, health, science or technology angle and then work toward getting their stories published. Dodd is the instructor for the 150-student course, and Brown was one of the lab instructors.

One of the publication outlets for the students’ stories was Layman’s Terms Media, Burton’s blog that covers science, health and environmental issues. Burton and her blog were recognized by Scientific American’s The SA Incubator, which recognizes the next generation of science writers and journalists. Several students in Multimedia Writing worked with Burton to have their stories published on her blog.

In addition to reading the poster, conference participants could view the blog on an iPad and listen to audio interviews with students who published on the blog. The audio interviews are posted on the blog.

Burton, who created the blog while she was a marine biology and journalism major at Florida International University, is Communications Coordinator for UF’s Florida Sea Grant. Brown taught Multimedia Writing for four semesters while a master’s student. She is Leadership Director at UF Hillel. Dodd and the Multimedia Writing lab instructors received the 2012 UF Office of Sustainability Award for Academic Programs for the EHST project.

 

Sunburned and scared: Fear motivates positive health behaviors, study shows

2 Jul
Photo courtesy of Wikipedia Commons

Photo courtesy of Wikipedia Commons

“A little sun never hurt nobody,” has always been one of my mottos growing up in the Sunshine state.

When I was a child, my somewhat peculiar father would always tell us that sunscreen was no good.  A frequent reader of  “all-natural” health books, he was convinced that the chemicals in sunscreen were the culprits of skin cancer, not the actual UV rays.

As children, my siblings and I were accustomed to the yearly “this-is-the-worst-sunburn-of-my-life” summer burn. I remember sleeping on my back all night unable to move. But my pink skin would heal and each sunburn after that was “harmless” and didn’t hurt. I didn’t necessarily believe my father, but I did like the look of a sun-kissed glow,  so I didn’t protest.

But, as I am getting older, I’m paying much more attention to how I will look in 10 years, and I’ve gotten better at wearing sunscreen. Still working on the reapplying part.

I don’t want to have wrinkles at 30 years old.

But then again, my years as a lifeguard and swim instructor are bound to catch up with me someday.

A new study found that I’m not alone in my motivation to wear sunscreen.

Researchers at the University of Buffalo found that the fear of skin cancer (and maybe premature wrinkles) is what motivates people to wear sunscreen, not statistics about the likelihood of developing skin cancer. Emotions play a key role in the summertime positive health behavior of slathering on protective lotion.

“Most health behavior studies don’t account for the more visceral, emotional reactions that lead people to do risky behaviors, like eat junk food or ignore the protective benefits of sunscreen,” said Marc Kiviniemi, lead researcher and assistant professor of community health and health behavior at the University of Buffalo.

Kivineimi and his team analyzed data from the National Cancer Institute.  Fifteen hundred random participants who had never had skin cancer were asked how often they used sunscreen and how much they feared skin cancer.

“Our research looked at the interplay of emotions and facts in decision making– that is, how do cognitive and affective risks jointly work to influence behavior?”  Kiviniemi said. “The nature of their interrelation as an influence on behavior has not been examined until this study.”

Kiviniemi said the results of the study can aid public health professionals in raising awareness about skin cancer and the importance of sunscreen use.

“These findings show that clinicians might want to think more about feelings when encouraging people to use sunscreen,” he said. “In addition to providing educational information about risk, encouraging people to consider how they feel about cancer and how worried they are about it might inspire preventive behaviors.”

But there are many different ways to induce this type of fear, and researchers still have more questions regarding the right amount of fear to influence positive health behavior.

Kiviniemi’s next project is to examine the same relationship among other behaviors such as getting a colonoscopy and using condoms.

“This study is important because most of what we do in public health communications focuses on spreading knowledge and information,” he said. “By not addressing emotions, we’re potentially missing a rich influence on behavior when interventions don’t address feelings.”

Future of global water conservation: sewage to treatment to tap

11 Jun
Lana Nasser is a junior studying public relations student at the University of Florida. She enjoys writing personality profiles, feature articles, blogging about skincare and beauty, and learning about the field of sociology.

Lana Nasser is a junior studying public relations student at the University of Florida. She enjoys writing personality profiles, feature articles, blogging about skincare and beauty, and learning about the field of sociology.

Editor’s note: This is part of a series of contributing bloggers beginning their careers as journalists/public relations professionals at the University of Florida. Please see my earlier post about getting journalists excited about science writing early on.

By Lana Nasser

The idea of drinking reclaimed wastewater may be off-putting to some, but as technology sophistication increases, people might not be able to tell the difference.

Due to the growing necessity for water in the United States and around the world, scientists are considering alternative and more sustainable methods of providing drinkable water, like reclaimed wastewater. Reclaimed wastewater is water that has undergone extensive treatment through advanced water technologies like reverse osmosis and multi-step filtration.

“Psychologically, a human being says, ‘Yuck! I don’t want to drink treated sewage,’” said Joseph Delfino, professor in the department of environmental engineering sciences at the University of Florida. “In most places where they get water out of a river, they’re already drinking water that has been through industries, people, animals, but we tend to disregard it.”

Currently, many scientists are studying public perception of recycled water.  Shane Snyder, professor of environmental engineering at the University of Arizona said that if people trusted the treatment process, they might understand that recycling water is unavoidable.

Professionals in the field, like Snyder, hope that public opinion will begin to change.

John Million, an environmental engineering graduate from the University of Florida agreed.

“There are technologies and practices that can take wastewater and treat it to be used again by humans,” he said.

How does wastewater become drinking water?

First, water undergoes advanced primary treatment, where it is separated from large particles. The water then goes into sedimentation tanks where chemicals are used to make scum rise to the top and primary sludge fall to the bottom. Once 80 percent of the solids have been removed and the water is separated, the wastewater is clean enough to be released into the ocean.

The second step is extensive filtration. During this step, bacteria are added to the primary treated wastewater. These bacteria help ingest organic chemicals.

Finally, the water is filtered again to remove any other remaining solids.  It is then disinfected with chlorine.

It is no secret that there are readily available technologies able to make reclaimed water drinkable through various procedures, but this expensive and energy intensive process raises questions of sustainability.

“If we throw enough money at it, we can treat anything to better water to drinking water quality. The issue is, is there a sustainable way to do it?” said Paul Chadik, associate professor in the department of environmental engineering at the University of Florida.

Due to the current need for diverse sources of potable water, some states around the nation are already drinking reclaimed water. The Orange County Water District in California opened a $480 million state-of-the art water reclamation facility in 2008. This facility is claimed to be the largest in the United States, and costs about $29 million a year to operate.

Resources that treat wastewater also require extensive backup systems in case of emergency.

“In our current system, if the plant were to break down, you would be able to drink it without having an adverse reaction. But if you drink wastewater that is improperly treated because the plant has broken down, it would be detrimental,” Chadik said.

In terms of reliability, Chadik believes that large numbers of efficient and readily available backup systems would be needed to take effect without delay in times of crisis.

In many places around the nation, precious resources like groundwater are being used for purposes in which treated wastewater could be used instead.

“Most of the drinking water we have is used to water lawns and flush toilets,” Chadik said. “That water doesn’t need to be very pure. It would be more sustainable to take our wastewater and use it to irrigate land that needs it.”

Americans spend billions of dollars every year treating water to drinking water quality when only about 10 percent of it is used for drinking or cooking. The rest of it is flushed down the toilet or drain.

The growing use of recycled wastewater for purposes such as irrigation, landscaping, industry and toilet flushing is an efficient way to conserve the fresh water resources we have left.

“Nature has done its thing historically for as long as the planets been around so things go up and down, but of course we’re here and we’re the one animals species that pays attention to things,” Delfino said.

Related links:

UF Water Reclamation Facility

Gainesville’s recycling questions answered

11 Jun
Brynn Huzzen have grew up in Gainesville, Fla. and is now a journalism major at the University of Florida. She has a strong passion for helping animals and the environment and hopes to be able to use the  skills she is learning at UF to later protect the world we live in. The research she did for this article really opened her eyes to the impact of waste on the environment and how important it is to recycle. I truly believe that if everyone in Florida participated more in environmentally friendly

Brynn Huzzen  grew up in Gainesville, Fla. and is now a journalism major at the University of Florida. She has a strong passion for helping animals and the environment and hopes to be able to use the
skills she is learning at UF to later protect the world in which we live. The research she did for this article really opened her eyes to the impact of waste on the environment and how important it is to recycle.

Editor’s note: This is part of a series of contributing bloggers beginning their careers as journalists/public relations professionals at the University of Florida. Please see my earlier post about getting journalists excited about science writing early on.

By Brynn Huzzen

While researching the recycling and hazardous waste disposal facilities in Gainesville, I realized how much information they have that the majority of people living in Gainesville do not know.  I asked many people to contribute questions about local recycling or waste disposal and did my best to find answers to them, with the help of Steve Joplin, solid waste manager for The City of Gainesville.  Below, he answers all of your submitted recycling answers.

Why is it that there are some apartment complexes in Gainesville that do not recycle?

“There should not be any apartment complexes in Gainesville that don’t recycle. All multi-family units are required to provide convenient and accessible recycling of all designated recyclables (everything recycled in the residential program). Our inspectors should be checking each apartment complex at least once a year to make sure they’re in compliance with the mandatory recycling ordinance. If [residents] know of any apartment complexes that aren’t offering recycling to their tenants, we would like to have the names or addresses of those places.”

 Why is the recycling in apartment complexes not regulated better? For example, residents have seen maintenance men dumping recyclables into the dumpster.

“If residents have seen maintenance men dumping recyclables into garbage dumpsters, that probably means the apartment complex isn’t providing enough recycling containers to handle the amount of recycling being generated there. We have the authority by ordinance to require the complex to provide additional recycling containers if we can document that what they currently have is insufficient. We frequently need help from the residents to deal with this issue since we either need a witness who saw maintenance throwing away recyclables, or we need to have one of our staff witness it. If an apartment resident will alert us to this activity we can usually do something about it, and we can keep the source of the information anonymous.”

 Does it matter if glass or canned recycling is rinsed before it is put in the bin?

“Yes, it does matter if glass and cans are rinsed.  All recyclable materials should be clean for processing.  Recyclable materials that are not clean may be considered contaminated and therefore be thrown away.”

 What sorts of green initiatives/recycling programs are local businesses implementing?

“All businesses in Gainesville for whom designated recyclable materials make up 15 percent or more of their waste stream are required to recycle. Some businesses do the minimum amount needed to comply with the ordinance; others look for ways to recycle everything they can. For example, although Gainesville doesn’t currently require food scraps to be recycled, a number of businesses in town either have an arrangement with someone to collect and compost their food scraps, or they compost them themselves. We also have at least one paint & body shop that recycles its plastic automobile bumpers.”

 What kinds of plastics are recyclable and what can people do with the ones that are not recyclable?

 

“All plastics in the category of bottles, jars, jugs and tubs are recyclable in Gainesville.  Some types of plastics such as Solo cups and clear plastic clamshell containers are not recyclable in our system because it is not economically feasible due to the lack of markets for the material in the area.”

 Is it okay to recycle cardboard that is treated in plastic like for frozen food items?

“Yes, pasteboard from the frozen food section is recyclable in our system.”

 Where can I dispose of Styrofoam?

“During the holidays some stores will even take the formed Styrofoam because of the high mailing demand at those times of the year.  Publix will take their Styrofoam veggie trays to be reused.”

 What types of batteries need to be taken to a hazardous waste facility?

“Regular disposable household batteries are no longer hazardous and can be thrown away.  However, other batteries such as the NiCad or rechargeable batteries are hazardous and will need to be taken to the Household Hazardous Waste Collection Center, 5125 NE 63 Ave, 334-3440. Examples of batteries to be taken to the HHWCC are:  car, boat, lawnmower and lawn equipment batteries.  The smaller [hazardous] batteries are watch and hearing-aid batteries, along with all the household batteries that are rechargeable. Another hazardous material of interest is the fluorescent light bulb.  This type of light bulb has mercury in it and should be taken to the HHWCC. ”

*Note – Keep in mind that garbage and recycling service does not handle hazardous waste so therefore all hazardous waste must be taken to the HHWCC.”

 

If you have any questions, contact Steve Joplin, joplinsh@cityofgainesville.org, solid waste manager at The City of Gainesville.

Eat, love and die. The short, but meaningful lives of love “bugs”

9 May

lovebugs_other_lg

If you live in Florida, you’ve probably already noticed that the second annual swarm of love bugs is here again. So I felt this was an appropriate  repost. If you already haven’t read more about these pesky creatures and why their important to our ecosystem!

Summer Science explained: 

Summer Science explained is a new blog series on Layman’s Terms Media. Each week, phenomena that are unique to summer time will be broken down and explained. I am currently taking suggestions for topics, so if there is something you’ve always wondered about feel free to contact me and pitch an idea!

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The bugs we love to hate

Miss Plecia is all dolled up. She has been stuffing herself full of organic material and nectar in her swampy-syle pad for the past 20 days with hopes of finding her lifelong mate. Continue reading

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