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Wednesday, June 26, 2013

How Being Pregnant Is Already Making Me a Better Employee

The second thing out of most people’s mouths after they find out you’re pregnant (after “Congratulations!”) is: “Your life is going to change so much.” Both my husband and I are very aware that our current lifestyle is going to be changing come November, but what I didn’t realize before getting pregnant was how much things would change even before the baby arrives.

What’s surprised me is how being a parent-to-be has already positively impacted my work self. I attended my first prenatal class yesterday, and it made me aware of how things have already changed for me:

1. Exposure to a new pool of people:
Between my work and personal relationships and my husband’s work and personal relationships, I interact with a lot of different people on a daily basis. But, going to the prenatal class yesterday and getting to know the other parents-to-be made me realize just how homogenous my professional and social circles are. The class was made up of about 10 couples, ranging in age from high schoolers to couples in their mid-40s. A number of the moms were born and raised in other countries, coming to the U.S. within the last few years. It was really interesting to meet so many different people and hear about their vastly different personal experiences.

2. Good practice for making decisions and advocating for oneself:
There are a lot of different decisions to consider during the prenatal journey, including big ones such as choosing prenatal education courses, navigating genetic testing and determining how you’d like to labor and deliver. This has been a good exercise in researching and weighing different options, negotiating a compromise with my husband that is respectful of both of our wishes and then advocating for our decisions with health care providers. It’s really sharpened my decision-making, collaboration and advocacy skills.

3. Opportunity to see public health education in action:
We work with a whole host of public health clients and spend a lot of time developing messages and materials to guide healthy behavior. It was a kick to be on the receiving end of these messages during my prenatal class. I was fascinated to observe the way in which the instructor delivered these messages both verbally as well as with printed material, and equally fascinated to see how I and others in the class reacted. The experience reinforced for me the importance of developing simple, direct and specific messages, supporting them with reputable facts and delivering them in an attractive and easy-to-understand design.
Even more important is the skill of the messenger in delivering these messages. As we always emphasize during messaging trainings, knowing your audience is essential. You may be getting the exact same message across, but a single way of delivering it isn’t going to work for everyone. Understanding your audience, especially their points of sensitivity, helps you know what approach will resonate the best.
~ Nicole


Thursday, June 20, 2013

A New Perspective on Obesity

A single word can carry tremendous power.
On Tuesday, the American Medical Association (AMA) officially recognized obesity as a disease, rather than a health condition or a marker for increased health risks. The move now classifies 78 million people – one third of everyone in America – as categorically ill.

The AMA carries significant clout, and some obesity advocates say more attention will be paid to the crisis now that the nation’s largest physician group has made this disease declaration. It could also help improve reimbursement for obesity drugs, surgery and counseling.

Naming obesity as a disease may also help color the debate on soda taxes in California, set to heat up in the coming months, in a more urgent light. Soda and other sugar-sweetened drinks are the leading contributors to the obesity crisis, particularly among children. Soda taxes have the potential to curb consumption of these dangerous products which may prevent a lifetime of (what we now may formally refer to as) disease.

What remains to be seen is how this will play out in our conversations and our collective imagination. Classifying obesity as a disease could reduce the stigma of being obese and change public perception that obesity is simply a result of irresponsible lifestyle choices. Causes of obesity are far more complex than just individual behavior, and our solutions must be creative, far reaching and policy driven.

From an advocate’s perspective, I welcome the new language. The word “disease” hits home and carries the right amount of gravitas to match the magnitude and high stakes of our current health crisis.


Wednesday, June 12, 2013

Proofread . . . Proofread . . . and Proofread Again!

Check out this picture. Do you see anything wrong with it?
On a beautiful San Francisco day, my husband and I were walking along the
waterfront, checking out all the signage for the upcoming America’s Cup. One of the murals in particular caught our eye, and when we read the text, we were surprised to discover a glaring error in grammar: “Watch the Epic Battle Closer THEN Ever.” I wonder how many levels of review the artwork for this mural went through before being placed for public view. Obviously it needed one more look.

Through the years I’ve collected binders full of helpful proofreading guidelines. I’d like to share some basic proofreading tips I’ve gleaned from the Grammar Girl:

1. Read your copy backwards. Oftentimes you miss errors because you “know” what should be there. But this method helps you catch errors that you might not find when reading from beginning to end.

2. Read the text out loud. Your ears can catch mistakes that your eyes miss.

3. Proofread a printed version of your copy. I have found that it’s easier to see errors on a hard copy of your work rather than on a computer screen.

4. If possible, set your writing aside for a while before proofreading it. This gives you a chance to clear your mind and look at what you’ve written with fresh eyes. Then you’re better able to focus on the words rather than what you think you wrote.

But the most important tip of all is, when it counts, have several eyes review your copy. Your mantra should always be: proofread . . . proofread . . . and proofread one more time!