Check out this video about placebos… and ethics.

And remember: the GREEN M&Ms are the ones that increase your interest in sex. Trust me, I’m an expert.

(They don’t, really. Unless you REALLY believe it. Which you shouldn’t.)

the feminist puzzle of orgasm

I’m REALLY excited about the talk by Elisabeth Lloyd, Professor of Philosophy of Science at Indiana University. Her book Case of the Female Orgasm: bias in the science of evolution caused quite a hubbub when it was published not because it was about sex or about evolution but because it concluded that women’s orgasms are functionless and were not subject to selection pressure.

Why is this a big deal? Well there are feminists who respond at a gut level to the idea that evolution didn’t think women’s orgasms were important with the sense that evolution is the arbiter of value, or that even to discuss women’s sexuality in terms of biology is inherently devaluing.

I disagree, and, needless to say, so does Lloyd. She calls it “The Lucky Bonus” account – we get orgasms FREE! For fun! Is there anything more feminist than that?

And what could be more validating to women’s sexuality than to make it the subject of serious scientific inquiry, regardless of what the conclusions are? Better science leads to better understanding and, eventually, better health for everyone.

mindfulness in the mainstream

The week classes started, the Boston Globe published this story about mindfulness meditation among college age folks. Mindfulness is an evidence-based and ancient way to manage anxiety and achieve a greater clarity of being. It’s NOT new age mumbo jumbo; the science behind mindfulness meditation as a way to treat and manage anxiety, depression, smoking, stress, and more is quite solid.

The Smith College Wellness Office is putting together a number of mindfulness-related events this semester, including Yoga for Better Academics, on Mondays at 5pm in Ainsworth 151. No reservation necessary, no fee, just walk in whenever it’s convenient for you.

Also, look for “Art is Good for You” in the museum on Friday Sept 25 at noon. Learn how to use visual art and the museum to train your brain to disengage, focus on one thing at a time, and reengage fully energized and renewed.

the Gardisil hubbub

So there was some stuff in the news about the HPV vaccine Gardisil, and its potential benefits and risks as discussed in the Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA). The CDC and FDA issued a statement here. Here’s their summary:

“Based on the review of available information by FDA and CDC, Gardasil continues to be safe and effective, and its benefits continue to outweigh its risks.

“CDC has not changed its recommendations for use of Gardasil.  FDA has not made any changes to the prescribing information for how the vaccine is used.  In addition, FDA routinely reviews manufacturing information, and has not identified any issues affecting the safety, purity and potency of Gardasil.

“Public health and safety are priorities for FDA and CDC.  As with all licensed vaccines, we will continue to closely monitor the safety of Gardasil.  FDA and CDC continue to find that Gardasil is a safe and effective vaccine that will potentially benefit the health of millions of women by providing protection against the types of HPV in the vaccine that cause cervical, vulvar and vaginal cancer, genital warts, and other HPV-related genital diseases in females.”

In short, you should get it if you haven’t yet.

what to do about the flu: wash your hands

Everyone who works in public health knows this already.

Don’t want to get sick? Wash your hands. After using the bathroom, before you eat, and whenever they’re dirty. Wash your hands. Seriously. Washing your hands is the single most effective way to prevent the transmission of communicable diseases. Warm water, soap, and as much time as it takes for you to sing “twinkle twinkle little star.” Done.

What will it take to get people to follow this simple, easy, effective advice?

Proximity -> Obesity

The NYT reports on a study about high school students’ BMIs as a function of the school’s proximity to a fast food joint. Turns out those within 1/10th of a mile of junk food had slightly (*slightly*) higher BMIs.

But maybe it’s just proximity to FOOD – they didn’t measure proximity to healthy restaurants. I wonder if folks who live in houses with active dining rooms have slightly higher BMIs compared to students who live in other houses?

Results Not Typical

The Federal Trade Commission has proposed revisions to its Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising (warning: very dry reading). The big news here is that they want to mandate not just a “results not typical” disclaimer when a company uses testimonials in advertising, but an explicit statement of what the typical results are.

So rather than seeing the woman who lost 150 pounds and reading at the bottom of the screen “results not typical,” you’d see the woman who lost 150 pounds and read at the bottom of the screen “average dieter lost 4 pounds in 6 months” or whatever.

The change is based on research shows that people perceive testimonials as typical, even if there’s a disclaimer to the contrary.

To me, this is like the difference between “perfect use efficacy” statistics and “typical use efficacy” statistics with contraception. Condoms: perfect use, 98% effective; typical use, 85% effective. I think it’s fair and important to tell people what the best results could be, what the likelihood is, AND what variables mediate the difference between the two. Lubricating the condom, smoothing out air bubbles, storing it safely… there are lots of things people can do to decrease the likelihood of condom failure.

Ditto with diets. But companies have a vested interest in people failing at weight loss – or rather, in people losing and then regaining. That initial success anchors a person to a product/strategy/whatever so that they forget the later reversion. So giving people a fair accounting of their likely success might just help them set more realistic expectations and goal for themselves, which is one of the strategies for success.

As far as I can tell, the guidelines only really become important if a company is sued for misrepresenting their product. Still. Seems like a good idea to me.

Sex, Morals, the Law…

This article from the Guttmacher Institute on abstinence only sex education is a wonderful example of de-politicizing a public health issue.

But the relationship between laws and morality is complex. The article thoroughly debunks the myth that “telling kids about sex will cause them to have it.” Yet there are those who believe that giving information about sex to young people is inherently wrong, regardless of the outcome, and for them this article will seem to be missing the point.

The three stated goals of sex education in public schools are to: (1) prevent unintended pregnancy; (2) prevent STI transmission; and (3) delay sexual behavior. I think everyone can agree that those are good goals. And the evidence is unambiguous:

“A panel of public health experts, including representatives of the American Public Health Association, the Academy of Pediatrics and the Institute of Medicine, testified [before Congress] that there is no evidence base to support the current massive federal investment in abstinence-only programs.”

What does this mean, though, for the people who believe it’s just wrong to talk to kids about sex, even if it does prevent pregnancies (and preventing pregnancies prevents abortions) and STIs and even delays sexual behavior?

Sex and morality are closely tied. Who controls sex in a society controls nothing less than the genetic destiny of the species. It’s a big deal. The science is clear. What do we do about the morality part?

The 5 Second Rule is Really the 30 Second Rule!

The Boston Globe reports on a study by students at Connecticut College about how long food can be on the floor and still be safe to eat.

Got Wellness?

The Wellness Office is amazed by the overwhelmingly positive response from the campus to this campaign! Boy are we grateful to Hayat Abuza and everyone over at the Chapel who made them happen!

We printed a very limited number of the posters (we don’t even have a couple extra to send to the President!) but the numerous requests for copies have motivated us to find a way to get posters to anyone who wants one.

So here’s our plan: in mid-April, the Wellness Office will table in the lower level of the Campus Center, where we will have sign up sheets and copies of each of the Got Wellness posters, so you can pre-order the posters you’d like. The posters will cost $1 for students with ID and $2 each to faculty and staff with ID. When the posters are printed, we’ll mail them to your campus address.

Over the next few weeks you’ll see a number of other posters featuring other administrators, faculty and students. Those posters, as well as the President’s, will all be available to order.

Details, when they are available, will be posted on the Wellness Office’s Facebook page, on eDigest, and here on the blog.

Thanks for your support!