HEALTH

HHS partners with Ad Council, Sesame Workshop to develop PSAs on H1N1

BY Michael Johnsen

WASHINGTON Health and Human Services secretary Kathleen Sebelius on Friday announced that HHS is joining the Ad Council and Sesame Workshop, the nonprofit educational organization behind “Sesame Street,” to launch a national public-service advertising campaign designed to encourage American families and children to take steps to protect themselves from the 2009 H1N1 flu virus.

“Since the outbreak of the H1N1 flu, many Americans have expressed concern about how they can protect themselves from being infected,” stated Peggy Conlon, president and CEO of the Ad Council. “We are proud to continue our longstanding partnership with the Department of Health and Human Services for this critical campaign that will educate parents and children about how to stay healthy. We are also grateful to Sesame Workshop for providing their resources and talent for the PSAs.”

As part of HHS and the Ad Council’s campaign, Sesame Workshop produced a television PSA featuring “Sesame Street’s” Elmo and Gordon explaining the importance of such healthy habits as washing your hands, avoid touching your eyes, nose and mouth, and sneezing into the bend of your arm.

The campaign was unveiled Friday morning by Sebelius at the HHS/Department of Education Childcare Center in Washington, D.C. The PSAs will be distributed nationwide and will be supported in airtime donated by television stations.

The new PSA campaign focuses on the importance of providing parents, teachers and children with accurate information about how to practice healthy habits, highlighting proper hand-washing and simple everyday actions that lead to staying healthy and keeping germs away. Created by Sesame Workshop, the television PSAs encourage audiences to visit www.cdc.gov to get more information on how to stay healthy. The PSAs are an extension of Sesame’s Healthy Habits for Life initiative, which helps young children and their caregivers establish an early foundation of healthy habits.

The Ad Council will be distributing the PSAs via satellite to television stations nationwide.

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Vitamin D intake can help asthma, COPD patients

BY Michael Johnsen

SAN DIEGO Vitamin D may slow the progressive decline in the ability to breathe that can occur in people with asthma, as a result of human airway smooth muscle proliferation, according to researchers at the University of Pennsylvania in a study released Wednesday.

The group found that calcitriol, a form of vitamin D synthesized within the body, reduced growth-factor-induced HASM proliferation in cells isolated from both persons with asthma and from persons without the disease. The proliferation is a part of process called airway remodeling, which occurs in many people with asthma, and leads to reduced lung function over time.

The researchers believe that by slowing airway remodeling, they can prevent or forestall the irreversible decline in breathing that leaves many asthmatics even more vulnerable when they suffer an asthma attack.

“Calcitriol has recently earned prominence for its anti-inflammatory effects,” stated Gautam Damera, who presented the research at the American Thoracic Society’s 105th International Conference on Wednesday. “But our study is the first to reveal the potent role of calcitriol in inhibiting ASM proliferation.”

The investigators have also conducted experiments to determine whether calcitriol, which is currently used to treat psoriasis, could be an effective therapy for COPD.

Although preliminary, their data shows that calcitriol appears to reduce pro-inflammatory cytokine secretions in COPD. As with asthma, the researchers believe, calcitriol may also have the added benefit of slowing, if not stopping, the progression of airway remodeling. Others in the field believe calcitriol may also have the potential to inhibit the development and growth of several types of cancer.

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Northwestern U. students win Diabetes Mine Design Challenge

BY Michael Johnsen

EVANSTON, Ill. Two Northwestern University teams took home the top two prizes awarded earlier this week in the Diabetes Mine Design Challenge, which asked teams to create new tools for improving life with diabetes.

The top winners were Eric Schickli, a graduate student in the Master of Science in Engineering Design and Innovation program in the McCormick School of Engineering and Applied Science, and Samantha Katz, a graduate student in the MMM program, a joint MBA and Master of Engineering Management program between the Kellogg School of Management and the McCormick School of Engineering and Applied Science.

For their efforts, they received a $10,000 prize.

The competition — run by the diabetes information Web site www.diabetesmine.com — was open to anyone, and judges received more than 150 entries, many from top universities across the country.

Schickli and Katz’s winning design was called the LifeCase and LifeApp system, a combined hardware and software system for iPhones that combines a lancer, test strips, a glucose meter, wireless insulin pump management and disease management software all in one package.

“I was looking for an independent study project, and my mother is a Type 1 diabetic, so I knew this would be a way I could help diabetics like her,” Schickli said. “She also had a network of people that we could tap for user interviews.”

By interviewing diabetics and researching diabetic products, the two quickly learned the main complaint about diabetic devices.

“Diabetics have to carry around cases filled with multiple devices to test their blood glucose, and it’s so cumbersome,” Katz said. “They were all looking for devices that could improve their lives and make diabetes take up less of their day,” Schickli added. They decided that an interface that combined aspects of diabetes management into one convenient device would be ideal.

Their final design is a modified iPhone case, complete with a glucose meter, lancer and strip storage. The software interface combines diabetes management software, insulin pump management software, and logs of meals and glucose readings.

The Most Creative award ($5,000) was won by an undergraduate team of Design for America students: Kushal Amin, Can Arican, Hannah Chung, Rita Huen, Mert Iseri, Kevin Li, Justin Liu, Yuri F. Malina, Katy Mess, and Sourya Roy. Involvement in the project crossed the borders of McCormick — students from the Weinberg College of Arts and Sciences and School of Education and Social Policy also participated.

Their design, “Jerry the Bear with Diabetes,” is an interactive stuffed toy and web-based play space for children with diabetes. Design for America is a new student-led initiative that creates social impact through human centered participatory design.

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