Category Archives: Public Health/HC

The Buzz: I Like It On

So by now you might have seen friends’ Facebook status updates starting with “I like it on …”, but your question is WTH is this? Well, October is Breast Awareness Month and the attempt is to unite women around the cause.  The movement mirrors the bra color status update that went viral in January, but I feel like this social media initiative, if I can loosely call it that, doesn’t really achieves anything. By the way, the “it” is their purse. Not a sexual innuendo, but you can see how it can be confusing.

This trend, which I am not partaking in, unlike Twilight fanatics and self-serve frozen yogurt, really does nothing. For me, the bra-color postings didn’t achieve much either, but at least it was tied to breasts and it made me think for a second about that region of my body, then I slowly lingered to the new bras or semi-annual sale at Victoria’s Secret. There were no causes or organizations associated, no real message and absolutely no call to action. What was I supposed to do after I posted my bra color? How about get examined or donate to help find the cure or to support survivors? Nope, none of that.

What honestly bugs me, aside from the obvious disconnect, is that the sexual innuendo here is so blatant that it’s immature. And breast cancer is no laughing matter. Was the point to get online outlets to write about it so that people could go look it up and then have an ah-ha moment? God I hope not. I think that what could have more meaningful impact is having us share the awkward stories of our first examine maybe through a “dislike.” Who knows – the possibilities are there! Whatever it is, it needs to connect us to a clear message with a clear call to action.

I understand that this is a touchy subject. My grandmother died of breast cancer. I get examined yearly and urge my mom and her sisters to get examined and actually talk about their risks. Please don’t take my words as being insensitive to breast cancer. It comes from two places – wishing we did more to raise awareness and raise funds for research and what I do on a daily basis – social media strategy. We have the ability to truly create change, impact behavior and generate meaningful awareness. I just don’t think “I like it on” does that.

What are your thoughts?


Putting Ease in Visiting the Dr’s Office

I opened my mail today and found a bill for a no-show fee from my dermatologist. Not happy. After multiple tries to cancel, I finally resorted to leaving a voicemail on their machine. So, in my fury, it got me thinking (insert Windows 7 self here) … what if health care providers entered the 21st century?

I know that many physicians are moving online. It makes sense! For me, the second place I look for physician recommendations is online (the first – family/friend recommendations). I ask these questions: are there online reviews of the physician; does the practice’s website look professional; does the physcian take my insurance? So after I get through all these question, I look for the “Contact Us” box, pick up my phone and make the call.

As I dial, I start to wonder, is there another way of doing this? Maybe. Below are a few things healthcare providers can do to increase efficiencies, reduce cost and improve service.

  1. Online Appointment Scheduling: This allows for patients to make appointments off-hours, based on availability of our physician. Additionally, this allows me to cancel the appointment with ease. It’s like booking a hotel really!
  2. Text/Email Reminders:  After easily making my appointment, I would receive a confirmation email of my appointment! Better yet, it sends me an Outlook calendar with a reminder of paperwork I may need to fill out. Also, a few days before my appointment, I receive a text message reminder rather than having an automated machine leave a voice message on my cell, or having someone call me (see cost-savings and maximizing efficiencies)
  3. Pre-Visit Paperwork Online: I saw this once and absolutely loved it! After I scheduled my appointment, the receptionist told me to go online and fill out my paperwork to save me the 30 extra minutes I needed to arrive. Instead, I filled out all the forms about my health history online! On the day of my appointment, I was in! No cramped hand from writing in small boxes! Double win.
  4. Online Bill Pay: This is an easy one and lost of HCPs are already doing this. It  makes everyone’s lives easier!

Some of you may be thinking – well these are quite expensive ventures. I disagree. The number of people who are currently working in doctors’ offices can be reduced because work will be transitioned from appointment work and computing data.  Also, online scheduling and confirmations means less likelihood of no shows, so more patients in the door. We’ll maximize utilization of staff, increase flow of patients and reduce redundancies. Plus, we won’t have to wait on hold for 15 minutes listening to elevator music.

What do you think? What are things you wish your doctor’s office would move online?

Such a Drag …

J0428519_2How many of your friends are smokers? Out of those friends, how many of them are LGBT? In my last blog entry, I discussed the overwhelming inclination within LGBT individuals to fit in, fit into a world that isn’t ready to accept them, and fit into a community that hasn’t fully accepted itself. There ar e many of us out there, those who have dealt with the trials and tribulations of uncertainty with our sexual identity, strained and sometimes forced growth, and acceptance — of ourselves. So where do we turn — we turn to our neighbor and ask, “Do you have a light?”

Tobacco-use is a major public health issue in the LGBT community, showing one of the highest smoking rates out of all disproportionately affected populations. The LGBT community is approximately 40-70 percent more likely to smoke than heterosexuals. According to the American Legacy Foundation, research indicates that up to half of LGBT adults smoke, and LGBT youth tobacco use rates are on the rise (59 percent compared to 35 percent of straight teens (CDC)).

So what are the factors that contribute to why the LGBT community have drastically higher rates of smoking?

  • Self-esteem issues
  • Need for peer acceptance
  • Need for rebellion and liberation
  • Depression
  • Struggle with sexuality

To the tobacco industry, this brand loyal audience was the ideal market. In 1992, the first tobacco ad surfaced in a gay publication, Genre, a fashion and lifestyle magazine for gay men. The ad campaign stemmed from Philip Morris. Despite the controversy that unfolded, their efforts were unwavering. In 1994, Philip Morris debuted Parliament as the first tobacco brand to advertise in LGBT media. The ad, featuring two women and one man, ran in OUT magazine. This gay-vague representation continued for three years with various Parliament ads for gays and lesbians.

Despite federal attempts to reduce smoking rates, numbers have leveled off in the past 10 years, while marketing and advertising of tobacco products to the LGBT community continues. In 2005, American Spirit Cigarettes unveiled an advertisement with political innuendos surrounding gay marriage. Click here to view the ad. Though the ad does not blatantly state the gay and lesbian target, the message and audience are clear.

“This is a community already ravaged by addictions”, said Hal Offen, president of the Coalition of Lavender-Americans on Smoking and Health (CLASH), an organization of lesbian, gay, and bisexual tobacco control professionals. “We don’t need the Marlboro Man to help pull the trigger.”

According to the American Cancer Society, tobacco use kills at least 30,000 gays and lesbians each year in the United States. We need to recognize this life-threatening, yet preventable public health issue in our community. For more information about smoking cessation and prevention, check out these sites: