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Thursday, January 7, 2016

Will this be the year?

I imagine most of you are like me. We make New Year's resolutions – usually to get fit, lose weight and save money – in good faith. 

We start out enthusiastically. We’re sure that this year will be different; 2016 is the year we will succeed.

From the number of people crowding into my gym this week I know I’m not alone.

But this year I am hopeful that all my good intentions won’t fall apart by the end of the month.  Why? New research of “ask don’t tell” gives some insight into human behavior.

Simple yes or no questions, rather than declarative statements, are the key.
Rather than stating “this is the year I am going to get fit and exercise,” it is better to ask, “Will I go to the gym today?”

Marketing researchers from the University of California, Irvine, the University at Albany, State University of New York, the University of Idaho and Washington State University examined why questions work in a recent article in the Journal of Consumer Psychology. Their findings offer guidance to social marketers, policy makers and others seeking to impact human behavior.

"If you question a person about performing a future behavior, the likelihood of that behavior happening will change," said Dave Sprott, a co-author and senior associate dean of the Carson College of Business, Washington State University.

They explained, using recycling as an example. The basic idea is that when people are asked “Will you recycle?” it causes a psychological response that can influence their behavior when they get a chance to recycle. The question reminds them that recycling is good for the environment but may also make them feel uncomfortable if they are not recycling. Thus, they become motivated to recycle to alleviate their feelings of discomfort.

Another example: the research predicts that asking children, “Will you drink and drive?” will be more effective than parents admonishing them to “Don’t drink and drive.”

I decided to try the concept out and simply asked myself, “Are you going to the aqua fit class today?” The answer was yes and I went. The next day I asked the same question and it worked. So far so good.

~ Paula   

Friday, December 4, 2015

Unpeeled: A World Without Bananas

I love food even if that love is unrequited. I have several food allergies that leave me with limited food staples in my pantry, and one of them – the banana – is rumored to be in danger of becoming extinct (yet again). 

While I don’t love bananas like my cousin who eats a banana with every meal (yes, that’s breakfast, lunch and dinner), it is an easy gym energy boost and the convenient “driving children everywhere” snack. I’ve come to love baking with bananas since going gluten- and soy-free. You can’t beat the convenience and quick energy pick me up.

So what’s happening to our beloved bananas? Years ago, our parents and grandparents enjoyed a variety of bananas called Gros Michel that were apparently far superior in taste and texture to the supermarket bananas we see today, a variety called the Cavendish. In 1965, a disease eradicated the Gros Michel variety, and today the same deadly strain of Panama disease has infected the Cavendish variety in Asia and Africa. Now, it’s knocking on Central America’s door, threatening the area that exports most of the world’s bananas. The banana industry is in crisis. Many less developed countries, like Mozambique, look to the banana for commerce and food security.

While the cause of the disease in bananas has been identified, there is no cure. The good news is that the banana-killing fungus will take time to eradicate the world’s banana crops, and hopefully researchers can find a cure or solution by then.

In the meanwhile, I’d like to share with you my favorite banana bread recipes to enjoy during the holidays.

Prior to learning about my gluten allergy, this Tyler Florence banana bread with pecans was my favorite. Make sure you create the banana cream as directed. I think it’s delicious.

There's even a video to show you how to make it:

Now, this gluten-free, grain-free and dairy-free Chocolate Banana Muffins by Teraxerin Baking is one I turn to over and over again for my banana bread fix. It’s moist and tasty. You won’t even miss the gluten.

Don’t go bananas with this fruit, but do enjoy it while you can.


Thursday, November 12, 2015

3, 2, 1 . . . Action! Live streaming with Periscope

Every time you hop on the Internet there seems to be a new social media tool everyone is talking about. The latest darling of the social media world is Periscope, an app that enables you to broadcast live from your mobile device. Scopes, as broadcasts are called, are used to inform, educate and entertain. The biggest caveat for public relations professionals to remember is that scopes are LIVE. 

As always, it’s important to thoroughly evaluate a social media tool to determine if it’s an appropriate channel for your campaign rather than just jumping on the bandwagon. Below is an overview of Periscope, how it can be part of your public relations toolbox and best practices for successful scopes.

What is Periscope?
Periscope is an app enabling users to live stream to over 20 million viewers and counting. Users are notified when people they follow start broadcasting. Viewers can type in comments or questions during the broadcast, and the broadcaster can respond to comments live as they stream across the screen. Scopes are only available for replay for 24 hours on the app itself, but you can extend the life of a scope by saving it to your mobile phone camera roll or online with a service such as Now that the app is included with the new Apple TV, some people think it will replace evening cable TV watching.

Why use Periscope?
In today’s “me, me, me” society, it’s no big surprise that individuals would jump on to Periscope as another way to share their lives with anyone who will watch. But the app is also gaining popularity among businesses, government and community-based organizations as a communications tool. Scopes can help organizations introduce their brand, establish their expertise, showcase what they do and give the public access to a perspective they can’t get elsewhere. Some ways organizations are using Periscope is to teach viewers about a specific topic, broadcast press conferences, host question and answer sessions and share personal stories.

Tips for a good scope
·      Make a plan: Before you even consider pressing play on your first scope, take the time to plan out your strategy. Is your audience on Periscope? What is your goal for using Periscope? What will your broadcasts be about? What unique content can you offer? Broadcasting consistently is key, so take the time now to put together an editorial calendar to identify topics, speakers and broadcast dates. If you have a hard time coming up with more than a few ideas, then Periscope may not be the best channel for your campaign.
·      Use the right equipment: No one expects your scope to have the same quality as Hollywood’s latest blockbuster, but you do need to make sure the lighting is good, viewers can hear what you’re saying and the camera is steady. For example, if you’re filming a question and answer session, mount your phone on a tripod, use a wired microphone, open up blinds to let in natural light and film your speaker at eye level. Always shoot in landscape so your scope will look good on other devices (TV or computer).
·      Pick the right person to film: People want to be entertained, even if your topic is more CNN than TMZ. You need to put a personality in front of the camera. You want someone who is real, authentic and engaging. They need to be comfortable in front of the camera and with broadcasting live. And, most importantly, they have to be able to stay on message while interacting with viewers’ comments and questions.
·      Plan your scope: The typical scope is five to 10 minutes long. Your scope is live as soon as you press your record button, but don’t forget that most of your viewers will join your broadcast after it starts. You’ll want to leave a buffer at the beginning to give people time to join. Scopes always start with the rear facing camera, and you can switch to the front facing camera at any time during your broadcast. If you’re stationary, set up your device so it’s facing your computer screen, and use a nice opening graphic or video you’ve prerecorded. Use the first thirty seconds of your broadcast to welcome viewers, tease your topic and introduce yourself. If you’re in the field, think about a nice setting you can use for your opening image or design a title card in advance that you can print out and hold in front of the camera. At the 30 second mark, switch the camera to face you and dive into your topic. End your scope with a question and answer session, a call to action, by asking your viewers to share your scope and by teasing your next scope.
·      Promote your scope: Establishing a regular broadcast schedule will also help you promote your scopes. Promote your scope on your various social media channels the day before and the day of broadcast. Also promote it on Twitter about 15 to 30 minutes before you start broadcasting. Promote your next scope at the end of your broadcast. Upload your scope to your YouTube channel so it lives beyond the 24-hour replay available on the Periscope app.  

Friday, October 30, 2015

Would You Care for a Shot of Insulin to Go Along With That Soda?

An aisle of obesity, diabetes and a host
of other medical problems awaits you
at your local grocery store.
And they're on SALE!

The soda industry has been saying, and testifying, for years that a calorie is a calorie is a calorie and that sugary drinks aren’t the problem when it comes to obesity. Nope – we all just don’t exercise enough.

Well now a new study is out showing that all calories are not the same and that surgery calories work very differently on the body than calories from other sources, such as starches. 

For years my wife and I have discussed that when we were kids, people didn’t drink sodas in near the amount that they do today, and that there virtually were no fat kids. Back then a large soda was 12 ounces, and there were no refills. Now a small soda comes in a 24-ounce container with unlimited refills. And it’s really disturbing to talk to teenagers and young adults who say they don’t like the taste of water and that they only drink soda.  OMG!

While I rarely buy soda anymore, I recently wanted to get a 6-pack of 12-ounce cans. I couldn’t do it. A 12-pack was the fewest I could buy. And it is getting harder and harder to even get a 12-ounce can out of a machine anymore. Most machines only have 20-ounce bottles now.  So on those rare occasions when I’m looking for a can of soda, I can’t even get that.  I’m forced to get 20 ounces or nothing. So I get nothing. 

And don't get me started on the fact that a bottle of water often costs more than the same size of bottled soda. 

The good news is that the word is getting out. The consumption of sugary drinks is trending down. But there’s still a long ways to go before America’s increasing waistline starts to deflate.  I only hope those people who don’t like water rediscover it and turn away from sugary drinks before they need to include a shot of insulin with each bottle of soda they drink.


Friday, September 4, 2015

Kick the Diet Coke Habit!

So you think you're doing yourself a favor by drinking Diet Coke instead of regular Coke? Au Contraire, my friends. As you may know by now, sugary beverages like Coke are proven contributors to obesity, diabetes and tooth decay. However, Diet Coke takes the harmful effects of regular Coke even further, which can lead to a greater likelihood of heart disease, stroke, diabetes, weight gain and high blood pressure.

Yesterday I noticed a blurb in the Sports Section of the Contra Costa Times about Dave Baldwin, the offensive coordinator for Oregon State. He was quoted as saying, "Every man has a vice, and if he doesn't, then he's lying to you. And this is my vice." The vice he's referring to is that he drinks 16-19 Diet Cokes a day. I can only imagine the condition of his body since they didn't provide a photo in the newspaper. If he doesn't succumb to all the health hazards inherent to his Diet Coke habit, he must be some kind of super human.

Check out this article from Yahoo Health by Korin Miller, "What One Can of Diet Coke Does to Your Body in One Hour." It should make you think twice--and hopefully catch Mr. Baldwin's attention as well--about whether or not you want to drink another can of Diet Coke.

I know we're in a major drought here in California, but you really should drink water!


Thursday, August 27, 2015

So, you think you know public health? (A health inequity primer)

People tend to be very uncomfortable talking about race, ethnicity, gender, sex or poverty. 

That’s a shame. 

These issues are inextricably tied to most of society’s problems, yet very few people can communicate properly around them – let alone take real action. 

This is a major roadblock for those working to improve the public’s health. Nearly every county health officer that Brown·Miller Communications has interviewed for our ongoing Health Officers Communications Project identifies inequity as a major health threat. But what does that mean in the context of health?

Health inequities are systemic differences in health outcomes that spring from unfair social conditions or disparities in the distribution of resources. For example, low-income families are more likely to live near polluters that increase the risk for asthma. African-Americans are more likely to see tobacco advertisements, start smoking and develop lung cancer. Women are more likely to be victims of domestic violence.

All of these adverse health outcomes are the result of social problems and, in general, not personal behavior, genetics or happenstance. Yet many in the health arena focus on fixing the aftermath of these outcomes, instead of the basic inputs that are overwhelmingly preventable. 

In other words, our obsession with health care reform and pharmaceuticals has distracted us from the real roots of our problems.

Low-cost policies and programs that decrease pollution in low-income areas can prevent high-cost asthma. Controls on tobacco marketing can prevent young African-Americans from becoming addicted. Changes in social norms, through public relations campaigns, education and organizing, can prevent domestic violence. 

Prevention is key. 

But for prevention to be successful, health leaders must work with every other sector of society to push for social changes that influence public health.

That means county health officers must work with other county departments (housing, economic development, human services, etc.) to address the social determinants of health. They also must communicate better with community organizations, advocacy groups and stakeholders to coordinate their work for maximum impact. We’re working with all of them to help make this happen.

But you, dear reader, can also help turn the tide against health inequities by changing the way you think and the way your organization works, thus helping shape society’s norms.

Here are a few steps:

1. Recognize your privilege. Bear with me – I’m not trying to be “politically correct.” But I am going to be frank. Every person is born into their own unique situation that frames their behavior, interacts with other’s preconceptions and guides their path in life. Some situations make it easier to be healthy and successful. If you’re born to two white parents, in a wealthy neighborhood, you’re much less likely than the average person to have heart disease when you’re fifty. But if you were born a black foster child, in a low-income neighborhood, you’re much more likely to take up smoking (because of intense marketing at the local convenience store), eat fast food (because that’s your only option) and gain weight (because the city never invested in public parks in your community). Then, you will probably develop heart disease by your fiftieth birthday.

Life is like a marathon. But in this marathon, some people begin at the starting line, while others begin one step from the finish line. Addressing health inequity requires us all to ask a critical question: where did I start my marathon? 

2. Communicate and act in a manner that recognizes oppression and counters it. It is important to recognize when something you say or do perpetuates inequity.  Don’t stumble into prejudicial behavior like assuming certain groups “don’t show up” or “don’t fit in,” or that going into a particular community is a “safety concern.” Don’t assume certain groups are being hypersensitive when they react to your actions. From their perspective, you may have inadvertently participated in an injustice. Don’t dilute action by focusing on “helping everyone” when certain groups have greater needs and we only have a limited capacity for action. 

3. Change business as usual. Create a “new normal” by openly challenging oppression when you see it. This can be done by working with community organizations to call for change, putting pressure on elected officials and business leaders, or reforming your own organization from the inside. The key is to open up lines of communication between as many groups as possible to build community capacity.

I have only touched the tip of the iceberg in this primer. If you want to dive even deeper into the subject of health inequity, the National Association of County and City Health Officials (NACCHO) offers a free online course on the subject called “Roots of Health Inequity.” It’s highly interactive and very informative. I strongly recommend it.