Photos of Northfielders biking around town without helmets: all the cool kids are doing it

All the cool kids are doing itAs part of my public health campaign, I’m going to use this blog post to feature photos of Northfielders bicycling around town without helmets.  Why?

Because there’s substantial research available showing that:

  • the promotion of the wearing of helmets significantly discourages people from using their bikes for around-town bicycling
  • the fewer the number of people bicycling on a given street or in a concentrated geographic area, the more bike-car accident rates rise

In short, riding a bike around town without a helmet is a relatively safe activity. And society benefits (health, transportation, environmental, economic, etc.) the more that people do it.

(See my May 22 blog post, Bike helmet promotions are bad for the public health of Northfield, for more. Chime in there if you want to discuss the issue, not here.)

For some of the photos, I’ll identify people by name. For others, I’ll just post them with maybe a note about where the photo was taken.  As I add photos to this blog post, I’ll add a comment to the thread to alert everyone that a new photo has been added.

Cody Larson, Jake Olsen; Division and 4th St. Nate Nelson, Division near 5th st. alley by the Contented Cow outdoor patio Paul Niemisto on Water St. near Bridge Square

Bike helmet promotions are bad for the public health of Northfield

A crushed bike helmet in NorthfieldNo, this is not a faux news piece. I heard this story on PRI’s The World a month ago, Why Germans Don’t Like Bicycle Helmets, and started poking around to learn more.

It turns out that the promotion of the wearing of bike helmets, and especially helmet laws, reduces bicycling and the public health benefits of cycling.

The best site I found for research: The Bicycle Helmet Research Foundation in the UK.

Griff Wigley and his bike helmetSo while wearing a bike helmet might be good for you personally (I always do but even the research on that is questionable), it’s bad public policy to promote the wearing of bicycle helmets.

If you’re a parent and insist that your young kids wear helmets, realize that you’re likely creating a strong incentive for them to abandon bike riding when they become teenagers and to see driving a car as the only socially acceptable form of local transportation.

The Northfield Hospital, Northfield Community Services, the City of Northfield, and other organizations in the area concerned with the health and safety of the citizenry should quit the bike helmet safety promotions.

May 23 8 am update: I’ve changed the name of the blog post from “Bike helmets are bad for the public health of Northfield” to “Bike helmet promotions are bad for the public health of Northfield.” See the discussion below.

Anne Sabo, a mama- and sex blogger right here in River City

Anne Sabo, Griff WigleyA couple of weeks ago, I noticed a blog entry in the citizens widget on the right sidebar of Northfield.org‘s home page aggregator by someone named Quizzical mama.

A few clicks later led me to Northfielder Anne Sabo who, it turns out, is a former St. Olaf prof who now maintains three active blogs.

Northfield has a lot of bloggers but not many with more than one so I knew I needed to know more.  We had coffee yesterday morning at GBM and we’re now exploring ways to collaborate.

Anne’s sites:

Home page of Anne Sabo
Anne Sabo home page

Quizzical mama
Quizzical mama

Love, Sex, and Family
Love, Sex, and Family

NPnewheader
New porn by women

Post traumatic event counseling: New research shows it doesn’t work and may make things worse

This week’s shooting incident in Lake City makes me glad that the Northfield School District has an Emergency & Crisis Management Plan, revised in 2010.

However, there’s one big problem with it.

Section 2.29 of the District’s plan, Post-Crisis Intervention Procedures, advises that district leaders consider interventions known as Critical Incident Stress Debriefing (CISD) or Critical Incident Stress Management (CISM).

CISM is "designed to help people deal with their trauma one incident at a time, by allowing them to talk about the incident when it happens without judgment or criticism" (Wikipedia reference).

Redirect - The Surprising New Science of Psychological ChangeIt turns out, "CISD doesn’t do what it is supposed to do and may even prolong people’s distress," according to a new book I’m reading, Redirect: The Surprising New Science of Psychological Change by Timothy D. Wilson, professor of psychology at the University of Virginia. (See Timothy Wilson’s blog, follow him on Twitter, and see the book’s Facebook page.)

Neither Carleton College nor St. Olaf College have CSID as part of their crisis management plans but it’s evidently not by design, according to those I contacted. I think it’s safe to assume that if there were a traumatic event of some kind at the colleges, post traumatic event counseling would be made available.

I’ll invite some Northfield area psychologists, therapists and counselors to chime in here with their comments and questions in hopes that we all can get smarter about this issue and be better prepared should something bad happen.

Here’s an extended excerpt from Wilson’s book about CISD:

Continue reading Post traumatic event counseling: New research shows it doesn’t work and may make things worse

Northfield’s heroin problem: four years later

Ann Etter and Dr. Kristine MatsonDr. Kristine Matson, MD paid a visit to my office (AKA the GBM) this morning and I twisted her arm into posing for a photo (assisted by Ann Etter) with a copy of last Saturday’s Northfield News.

She’s featured in a front page article of the paper, Physician’s study of Northfield heroin users offers glimpse into their world

For the first time, a study of local heroin addicts — all in treatment — takes a look inside their lives: When they began using drugs, how they got into heroin, who their influences were and why they decided to get treatment.

Northfield physician Kristine Matson conducted the study. And though the number of subjects was small, Matson believes there is much to be learned from her research.

Dr. Charles ReznikoffToday’s paper has a follow-up article, Heroin reaching new group of users, featuring Dr. Charles Reznikoff, Addiction Medicine Specialist, Opiate Agonist Therapy (OAT) Clinic at the Northfield Hospital.

The photo of him is from the Moravian Church town hall forum on heroin back in Nov. 2008.

Six months ago, Charles Reznikoff’s Northfield patients fell into two specific groups: Those in treatment for addiction to prescription pain medications and a cohort of 25- to 27-year olds and their siblings being treated for heroin abuse.

By the first of the year, Reznikoff was dealing with another cohort of patients: Teenage heroin addicts with no connection to what the opiate addiction specialist often refers to as the 84-85ers. It’s a change that troubles the physician who works part-time in the city’s Northfield Hospital clinic.

Background:

Another heroin overdose, another suicide: Is growing up in Northfield dangerous to your mental health?

depressionI’ve heard from some young people (twenty-somethings) this week that one of their friends committed suicide and other died of a heroin overdose. 

I’m not providing names of the deceased, as I’ve not talked directly with their immediate families. Please refrain from referring to them by name in the comments.

The sad events prompted one of them to ask via email:

This is now the third person I have at least been acquainted with that has died due to this drug. This news comes shortly after hearing about another of my peers passing away due to suicide. The fifth person I know since I graduated in 2005. Three of my classmates or 1% of the 2005 graduating class have also committed suicide since graduation.

Which leads me to ask the question, "Does growing up in Northfield lead you to have a higher risk of depression?" Can you run a story on what options there are in or around Northfield for at-risk youth. Honestly, something has to be done.

What is being done? What more can be done?

26 Northfield area doctors rated highly by Medica on quality and cost-efficiency. Is it helpful? Is it fair?

Medica Premium Designation

Today’s Strib: Medica posts controversial doctor ratings

For the first time, the Medica health plan today began publicly rating thousands of Minnesota doctors on its website, Medica.com, in an effort to give consumers more information on their health care providers. The state’s second-largest insurer is using a "star system" to indicate which doctors meet certain thresholds for quality and cost-efficiency in 20 medical specialties.

Medica posted the ratings Wednesday in spite of pleas from the Minnesota Medical Association (MMA) to delay publication. The MMA says the system is prone to errors and unfair to doctors. Medica used three years’ of patient claims data to determine which doctors adhere to national treatment guidelines, and which have higher than average costs.

The MMA has posted a release on it’s website titled: MMA finds significant errors in Medica’s physician rating program

After reviewing the Medica Premium Designation Program, the MMA raised three serious concerns about the program: a lack of reliability testing to assure statistical accuracy in physician results, a lack of Minnesota physician involvement in the development of the rating program, and a woefully inadequate timeline for physicians to review their results and the data underlying their results.

You can search the database to find how individual doctors scored (1 star for quality, 2 stars for cost and quality).

My screencapture image on the right is the result of searching all providers within 5 miles of zip code 55057. The results came back with "More than 100 providers met the preferences you selected. The closest 100 have been returned." I then sorted those by name and listed them all on one page. Click the image, and then after the larger image pops up, click the green arrow to enlarge it further.

I counted 26 Northfield area physicians on that list of 100 with 2 stars on the Medica Premium Designation system which says:

Northfield Physicians rated by MedicaLook for the stars. Find the care you deserve. When you’re looking for a physician, simply look for the stars. They mark physicians who have met standards for quality and cost-efficient care.*

One star means a physician has met nationally recognized standards for delivering high quality care.

Two stars means a physician has been recognized not only for providing quality care, but also for meeting local benchmarks for providing cost-efficient care to their patients. They meet or exceed nationally recognized guidelines, and they’re more likely to recommend the right tests and treatment at the right times.

How do you benefit from all this? It’s simple – a doctor with two stars has proven he or she delivers value.

Your plan does not require you to use Premium Designation physicians, but when you do, your total costs for the treatment of a condition will be on average 10-20% less.

Premium Designation physicians, as a group:

  • Have lower surgery repeat rates
  • Follow nationally recognized guidelines for care, and
  • Are more likely to be aware of the latest research and clinical trials.

Even if you exercise, it may not matter if you sit too much

Griff's officeSince the late 80s, I’ve stood at my computer much of the day because of low back pain. But once that pain subsided (see this blog post on what I did), I’ve been spending more time sitting in the chair on the right than standing at my desk on the left. Bad idea. A blog post published yesterday on Scientific American’s site is startling: Can sitting too much kill you?

There is a rapidly accumulating body of evidence which suggests that prolonged sitting is very bad for our health, even for lean and otherwise physically active individuals.

… both lean and obese individuals, and even those with otherwise active lifestyles, are at increased health risk when they spend excessive amounts of time sitting down.

… sedentary time is closely associated with health risk regardless of how much physical activity you perform on a daily basis. Further, it is entirely possible to meet current physical activity guidelines while still being incredibly sedentary. Thus, to quote researcher Marc Hamilton, sitting too much is not the same as exercising too little.

The author of the SCIAM blog post, Travis Saunders, has a 5-part series on sedentary physiology on the Obesity Panacea blog. See also: Feb 2010 NY Times, Stand Up While You Read This! by Olivia Judson;
April 2010 NY Times, Room for Debate: Is All That Sitting Really Killing Us?

This has implications in the fight against obesity and makes me wonder if those in charge of Northfield area schools (K-12, colleges) are considering the implications of this research.

See: Stand-Up Desks In College Station School Fighting Obesity

stand-up desks in school"We separated the children statistically, who were in the overweight or obese categories, which according to the CDC, is greater than the 85th percentile in weight for their age-range,” says Dr. Benden. “We looked at the children in the standing classrooms and the same types of children in the seated classrooms which are ultimately the target of this effort, and they were burning 32% more calories than their seated peers."

Dr. Benden says the stand-up adjustable workstations come with stools and are fit for each students’ size and needs. The work stations also have dual foot rests, which Benden says, makes ‘standing’ at the desk more comfortable and easier on the feet. Not only does it make standing more comfortable, it also helps to alleviate pressure from the lower back. Which the study revealed, over time, improves posture… The study additionally reveals, students’ who use the desks are not only helping to burn calories, they are also improving stamina while building a stronger attention span. Research has also proved those adults who use stand-up desks can lose up to 20 pounds in a year!

It’s 4/20. Is that a problem?

Statue of Louis Pasteur at San Rafael High SchoolI don’t partake myself but the local college students I talked to this week say today is a still a significant day. I don’t worry about it.

The movie, It’s Complicated, has two very funny segments involving chemical use: one of Jane (Meryl Streep) and Jake (Alec Baldwin) getting drunk and having sex, and another of Jane, Jake and Adam (Steve Martin) getting high at a party.  The abuse of alcohol was problematic; the use of pot, not so much.

Given what’s happening on our local campuses, I’m glad to see local folks focusing their efforts on preventing alcohol abuse.

From Darkness to Light, from Depression to Joy

een-video-sshot Depression is a devastating illness with many root causes, some of them genetic.  This summer I participated in a wonderful healing program called, "Resilience Training" which was developed by Dr. Henry Emmons at the at the Penny George Institute of Health and Healing at Abbott Northwestern Hospital.

Here is my story which I presented on Dec. 14, 2009 at the St. Olaf College Boe Chapel. The video of my presentation is available from the college.

Continue reading From Darkness to Light, from Depression to Joy by Andrea Een

H1N1 vaccine myths

I haven’t had the flu since I was a kid. I never get flu shots. I wasn’t planning on getting an H1N1 shot when it becomes available but after listening to yesterday’s Midmorning show on MPR, I find myself now considering it. Medical myths and H1N1. Are you going to get the shot or not?

Continue reading H1N1 vaccine myths

Podcast: Mary Ho on H1N1 flu preparations

Griff Wigley, Mary Ho, Ross Currier

Our radio show/podcast guest on Monday: Mary Ho, Rice County Director of Pubic Health, talking with us about local preparations for the H1N1 flu season. Ross and I did the proper virus-preventive fist bump upon her departure though now I see that we may have to graduate to elbow bumps.


Click play to listen. 30 minutes.

Continue reading Podcast: Mary Ho on H1N1 flu preparations

My high-tech hearing aids

stone_deaf.jpgAbout ten years ago (I’m 57) I noticed I was starting to have trouble understanding people in places where there was a lot of background noise — pubs, coffeehouses, parties, etc. I noticed that it helped to watch their lips when they were speaking.

Each time I went in for a hearing check, I was told my that my hearing in the high-frequency range was diminishing, making it increasingly difficult to hear the consonants in people’s speech, important for understanding many words. Background noise, of course, makes it even more difficult. But I wasn’t at the point where hearing aids would help.

I finally reached the point a year ago when I knew I was ready. A trip to the UK did it, as the English accent and noisy train stations put me over the edge.

So I made an appointment with Dr. Samira Anderson at Northfield’s Allina Medical Clinic and she confirmed that I was indeed ready. I tried a relatively inexpensive pair (less than $1,000) for a week or two; then another pair in the $2,500 range for a couple of weeks. Better but not great. And then she told that a new model was just released ($5,500) and suggested I try them. Voila!

IMG_6134.JPGThe photo (click to enlarge) shows my Phonak Savia hearing aids, with a remote control device on the left that I keep in my pocket and the accompanying watch that has the same remote controls on it. The hearing aids are fully programmable and the remote devices allow me to further control them for different situations. In addition to the default setting, my remotes have a special setting for phone use (so that pressing a phone receiver against my ear doesn’t trigger the high-pitched shriek); another setting for noisy backgrounds; a third for outdoor wind; and a volume control.

Why am I blogging this here?

When I finally got over my ego problems at having hearing aids (geezer!) and began showing them to people, I was amazed at how many people (baby boomer guys, primarily) admitted to having the same hearing difficulty and had no idea that this technology existed. I now think of them no differently than my reading glasses. And if a battery runs out in the middle of a meeting, I swap it right in front of everyone, just like pulling out a kleenex and wiping smudges off my glasses. No big deal.

So this blog post is a public service announcement.

One more thing: Be careful of loud music. And always wear earplugs when riding a motorcycle.

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