HEALTH

HHS discusses initiatives prompted by President Obama’s Memorandum on Transparency and Open Government

BY Michael Johnsen

WASHINGTON The Department of Health and Human Services on Wednesday described how the agency is following through on President Barack Obama’s three principles for promoting a transparent and open government — transparency, participation and collaboration — citing the YouTube PSA contest for promoting the H1N1 vaccine as one example. Other examples included information streaming of HHS biomedical research innovation and IdeaLab, an Web-based peer-to-peer program that serves as a clearinghouse for collaborative networking for employees of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

“These examples illustrate our commitment to the President’s vision of promoting accountability, collaboration and public engagement,” stated HHS Secretary Kathleen Sebelius.  “By working together in a transparent manner, we have developed programs that are making real contributions to creating and adopting impactful solutions that protect and improve people’s health.”

The “YouTube Know What to Do About the Flu and Prevention PSA Contest” reached populations most vulnerable to the H1N1 flu virus — young teens and adults — to take proactive actions such as washing your hands and getting a flu shot. The PSA contest provided a venue to encourage families and students to get involved and reached a large audience with a creative outlet and humor, on a serious subject. More than 250 videos were submitted for review and the winning PSA was featured on national television. 

“Our PSA Contest tapped the creativity and energy that thrives on YouTube,” stated acting assistant secretary for public affairs Jenny Backus. “We engaged people and they in turn engaged each other.  Our important messages about how to prevent the flu reached a new audience of people at increased risk from the H1N1 virus.”

These initiatives are in direct response to the Memorandum on Transparency and Open Government the President issued on Jan. 21.

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HEALTH

Research notes lack of vitamin D in one’s diet can lead to serious conditions

BY Michael Johnsen

BOSTON New research underscores that having too little vitamin D can contribute to heart disease, brittle bones, breast cancer, prostate cancer, depression and memory loss, according to the December 2009 issue of the Harvard Heart Letter.

Following are some of the highlights:

  • Calcium deposits that stiffen the arteries are more likely to develop in people with low levels of vitamin D. In one study, men low in vitamin D were twice as likely to develop heart disease;
  • Vitamin D decreases the kidneys’ production of renin, a hormone that boosts blood pressure. Several studies suggest that low vitamin D contributes to high blood pressure, and that getting more of the vitamin can help control blood pressure;
  • Some people who take a cholesterol-lowering statin stop because of muscle pain. In a study of 128 men and women with statin-related muscle pain, two-thirds of them had low vitamin D levels. Among those who took a vitamin D supplement, muscle pain disappeared in 90%;
  • Preliminary trials suggest that too little vitamin D can leave the body prone to infection, and having enough in circulation can help the body fight off the flu, tuberculosis and infections of the upper respiratory tract.

The Harvard Heart Letter noted that supplements are the best way to get vitamin D.

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Duane Reade keeps H1N1 protection a high priority

BY Alaric DeArment

NEW YORK The Duane Reade at 57th St. & 6th Ave. in Manhattan is selling bottles of hand sanitizer from bowls mounted atop the stanchion posts near the cash registers. Though fears of H1N1 have not yet faded, the onset of the normal flu season still makes hand sanitizers an essential item, thus warranting their placement in such prime retail estate.

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