What Science Says You Can Do to Help Reduce Your Cancer Risk

Millions of people are diagnosed with cancer each year, and while not all cases of cancer are preventable, between one third and one half of these cases could be prevented by changing some everyday behaviors. Knowing that your behavior can have a real impact on your health is helpful, but what specific things can you do? Here’s some advice backed by scientific evidence that may help prevent certain cancers: Don’t start or quit smoking. You…

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Your Brain on Ads: Ground breaking research by UCLA researchers

Dr. Matt Lieberman and former Psych in Action blogger Dr. Emily Falk are getting a lot of attention for their paper in Psychological Science that found that the specific brain regions that were activated while viewing health related advertisements predicted the ad’s success in the population at large — even though the viewers were not aware of the neural activation and were expressing different opinions about the ads.  Read about the implications of these findings in…

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The Politics of Eating and Exercising: Are We Getting It Right?

Eat healthier. Exercise. Our culture is currently full of messages telling us to change our habits, to turn us into a leaner, healthier society. While these messages are easier said than done, they’re perfectly warranted: The Centers for Disease Control reports that childhood obesity has tripled since the 1970s. So what can we do to fight childhood obesity? According to Kristen Harrison and other researchers in the Division of Nutrition Sciences at the University of…

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Changing How We Look at Mental Illness and Changing Lives

One in five children in the US suffers from mental illness, but less than 25% of those children actually receive mental health services. That’s absolutely terrifying, especially if you consider all the kids who have other psychological struggles but don’t meet diagnostic criteria for a psychological disorder. How many children then aren’t getting the help they so desperately need? What kind of effect is that having on the future generations of workers, leaders, innovators, educators,…

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Can’t Get No (Body) Satisfaction: Media Effects on Body Image

A  version of this article will appear in the next Psychology in Action Newsletter. Turn on the TV or open a magazine these days, and chances are your eyes will be filled with images of “beauty”: ultra-thin models, men with bulging biceps and washboard abs, celebrities with perfect complexions and flawless figures. In some cases, even leaving the house to drive down a billboard-laden street can cause you to arrive at work or school with heightened…

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NY Times doctor ignores decades of research

A man who can not control his blood sugar levels (he’s diabetic) comes into a medical clinic with gangrene so aggressive that people in the clinic hallway can smell his rotting flesh. This is the story Dr. Pauline W. Chen writes about in her NY Times Health article, “When Doctor’s Advice is Ignored at Home”.

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FDA New Cigarette Warning Labels

If you’ve been following the news lately, you may have read about the FDA’s new cigarette warning labels. Beginning in September of 2012, cigarette packages will begin to have warning labels that include pictures and will be displayed much more prominently on packages and in advertisements. Many of the warning labels include photographs of different aspects of the risks of smoking (mouth cancer, tracheotomy, premature babies, etc). To view these images and find out more…

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Dr. Rodney Hammond: A successful career of blending research and community work

One of the goals of the American Psychological Association is “to advance the communication and application of psychological knowledge to benefit society.” As the head of the Center for Disease Control’s Division of Violence Prevention, Dr. Rodney Hammond has worked to achieve this goal by bringing scientific rigor and leadership to curbing violence in our country.

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Testing theoretical models while answering real world questions

In my previous blog post I wrote about the need for applying health research to improve community health. Another glaring need is to conduct research that both test theoretical models and addresses community-relevant questions. What does this mean? Dr. Eve Brank and Lindsey Wylie outline a perfect example in their recent Monitor on Psychology article “If you want a toy, eat your broccoli.” Learning theories suggest that learning associations between objects can take place through…

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Using health data to improve community health

Often in academia the direct arrow from research findings to improving the human condition is hard to see. I believe this is a major problem specifically  in the area of health and wellness. Governmental organizations, the private sector, and foundations spend billions of dollars on health research and yet the health of U.S. individuals and the health care system is dismal. The UCLA Center for Health Policy Research however is trying to change this.  With…

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Women’s Health and Perceptions of Gender

For many pressing health issues, including HIV/AIDS, cancer (in particular lung cancer), and suicide completion, women have lower rates than men. Women are the minority at birth, but the number of women (in the national surveys) far surpass men in survival rates across the lifespan, with a broad gender difference easily noticed when visiting my grandfather’s retirement community. Given that for most problems, most obviously genetic disorders, women come out as “more fit” from a…

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Pre-Maternity Leave Requested!

The upcoming article by Christine Dunkel Schetter outlines a number of difficulties that may negatively impact the infant’s birth weight and duration of the pregnancy. The sources of stressors outlined in the article are broad, including financial stressors, problems in ones romantic relationships, family responsibilities, employment conditions, and pregnancy-related concerns. Both episodic and chronic stressors appear to have such a strong negative impact on the infant’s development and health. This may put parents in a…

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Childhood Sexual Assault: Impacts are broad, but not for all victims?

Psychologists often rely on grouping participants together based on shared characteristics (e.g., are girls better than boy in reading ability). The goal is to broadly understand the relationships between potential causes and effects, and, ideally learn from them. In the first example above, perhaps reading interventions targeting boys may be an effect if the study documents a gender difference in that direction. The problem is that some people may mistake such findings to indicate that…

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Is a snickers bar the new cigarette?

Does eating too much fat and sugar have the same consequences as smoking? We don’t know…maybe because the answer is being covered up by the food industry. A compelling article by Brownell and Warner (2009) available here compares the tobacco industry’s errant actions to the food industry’s latest tactics. The tobacco industry tried for years to deny the negative health effects of smoking and second hand smoke. This included lying to the public, paying policy…

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Will my kid be overweight as an adult?

What are the risk factors for obesity? What predicts which children will become obese as adults? Here are a few psychological and behavioral risk factors that have been identified: – Diet restriction. Children who try to restrict the types and amounts of foods they eat on a consistent basis are more likely to be obese as adults. –  Compensatory behaviors. Children who try to undo the calories they ate by using laxatives or exercising for…

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Making the System Safer

In the last 50 years, no one thinks that drivers have gotten better, but fatalities per mile driven have fallen over 80%. How has this become possible? What have we learned from this example that can be applied to other areas? David Hemenway is a professor of Health Policy at the, Harvard School of Public Health and the director of the Harvard Injury Control Research Center. He has been working on compiling success stories in…

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