Tuesday, August 24, 2010

Six Impossible (Public Health) Things

I was recently reminded of a wonderful quote from Alice in Wonderland this past weekend as I watched Tim Burton's version of Lewis Carroll's fanciful book.

Alice laughed. "There's no use trying", she said. "One can't believe impossible things." "I daresay you haven't had much practice, " said the Queen. "When I was your age, I always did it half an hour a day. Why, sometimes, I've believed as many as six impossible things before breakfast."

In public health it is easy to get discouraged by the unending challenges and become like Alice in our thinking. We start behaving as though it is our job to simply maintain the status quo. When we stop believing in impossible things, mediocrity becomes the norm and our communities suffer. I would like to challenge all organizations and individuals in Louisville who are dedicated to improving the health of our city to make a list of "6 Impossible Public Health Things" that you will believe in the coming months.

Here's my list:

1. All Louisvillians will maintain a healthy weight through access to healthy affordable food, improved infrastructure that supports physical activity, and public policies that discourage unhealthy choices.

2. All new mothers will be supported in their decision to breastfeed through education, social acceptance, and access to public areas that allow and encourage breastfeeding.

3. Air and water quality will improve due to increased public transportation use, improved infrastructure, public policies that encourage responsible land use and social acceptance of alternative forms of energy.

4. Our schools will become models of healthy environments through policies to improve school lunches, eliminate vending machines, improve infrastructure and safety around schools and increase time devoted to physical activity.

5. Organizations will work together to improve the effectiveness of their initiatives. Coalitions and partnerships will ensure that resources are used wisely and organizations will feel comfortable sharing resources and information.

6. Evidence-based programming will become the standard for all organizations and policy initiatives. Organizations will understand the importance of program sustainability and will build evaluation activities into all programs to ensure continuous improvement.

When enough people believe and exert their creativity and energy into effective actions then the once impossible thing becomes reality. Join us in believing. Join us in acting on those beliefs.

Please share your 6 "Impossible" Things with us.

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

Daily Health Choices--How Do You Decide?

Monday night, I watched the premiere of Showtime's new series The Big C. It's about a woman who finds out she has melanoma and the changes she makes to her life when faced with a terminal illness. I must admit that I tuned into the show originally because I heard the non-stop advertisements and thought the plot was interesting; however, I came away from the show marveling at how many relevant health topics were introduced and how the main character makes her own health decisions. Consider the following issues and choices that were portrayed during the first episode of The Big C:

  • Melanoma--although melanoma ranks in the top 10 most common cancers in the U.S., it is rarely discussed on television or in everyday life. How many of us have spent time in the sun this summer without sunscreen? How many of us have used a tanning bed to look good for a special event?

  • Patient Advocacy--the main character has no one to accompany her to appointments, assist in communication with her doctor or to provide a sounding board for decisions or concerns. She relies completely on her doctor for advice and information and chooses not to undergo treatment. Would her decision be the same with an advocate?

  • Teenage Smoking/Weight Loss--the decisions surrounding a teen's use of cigarettes to lose weight are discussed. The complicated issues of self-control, social acceptance, and fad diets are brought to light when the main character offers to pay the teen to lose weight (if she quits smoking).

  • Mental Health -- loneliness, the stress of single parenting, anger management, self-efficacy, and acceptance are all touched on in this episode.

Wow--and that was just in 30 minutes! The truth is we all make many decisions that affect our health every day. For example, just this morning you probably decided what to eat for breakfast, to floss your teeth or not, whether to walk, bike, or drive to work, whether to take the stairs or the elevator, etc. Many of our daily health decisions are made without conscious effort, by default, by other people, without appropriate information, under stress, or without emotional support. How are you making your health decisions? Who do you rely on for information? We would love to hear your comments.

Monday, August 16, 2010

Building a Foundation, a.k.a Helping People Get "It"

"If you have built castles in the air, your work need not be lost; that is where they should be. Now put the foundations under them."
Henry David Thoreau

When I first read that quote, it made me think about health literacy. I think of the castles in the air as well-meaning health advice, preventive interventions, and information that is intended to help people improve their health and wellness. Unfortunately, sometimes the advice, interventions and informational materials are not easily understood by the consumer, and may as well be like the castles built in air - they are unreachable and frustrating - you don't even know what you don't know! With all the conflicting information about our health, sometimes we get our wires crossed.

What is needed is a good foundation - something that links great advice, interventions and materials to the earth where consumers and get to it. After reading the definition of health literacy in the link above, let me simplify it for you - look at this picture. I like the image shown - the woman sitting on the stool is engaged with the woman holding the medicine bottle -- it looks like there is some good foundation building going on there.

Our goal is to do some foundation building out there. When people are able to understand the information that affects their health and wellness, kids are healthy enough to go to school, adults don't miss work, families save money, and society as a whole benefits.

We welcome your comments and want to know what you think!

Tuesday, August 10, 2010

What If.....

The boxes are unpacked, the deskspace claimed, and the pictures hung (well, almost). Synergy Solutions wouldn't have made it this far without asking "What if....."

What if health programming in Louisville could be more effective?

What if non-profits could get the same high-quality service as big corporations?

What if health consumers actually understood health information?

What if we could make a difference in our community's health?

We are dedicated to turning our "What Ifs" into reality. Contact us if you would like more information about how we can work together to help your organization reach its health-related goals.

For helpful links about current health initiatives in Louisville, health literacy, or the state of Louisville's health click on the highlighted phrases above.

Sunday, August 8, 2010

Synergy Solutions moves to the Creative Campus

The Creative Campus is located in Butchertown in Louisville, KY. Built in the 1800's, the Creative campus is a three building property directly off of I-64 on Story Avenue. Scroll over the the green words for more information on the history of Butchertown, and a map of our location.

The Creative Campus supports a culture of collaboration between innovate businesses and organizations, with a community meeting room and courtyard and weekly gatherings. We are incredibly excited to be a part of this inspiring place and look forward to building relationships with our co-inhabitors.

Synergy Solutions is committed to inspiring individuals and organizations in building health programs that are effective, empowering and equitable. As we grow, we will keep you updated on the work we do through this blog and appreciate your comments, thoughts and support.