Vital Record http://news.tamhsc.edu Your source for health news from the Texas A&M Health Science Center Mon, 20 Oct 2014 21:39:25 +0000 en-US hourly 1 Wielding Nature’s Sword: Researchers at Texas A&M discover new treatments against drug-resistant infections http://news.tamhsc.edu/?post=wielding-natures-sword-researchers-at-texas-am-discover-new-treatments-against-drug-resistant-infections http://news.tamhsc.edu/?post=wielding-natures-sword-researchers-at-texas-am-discover-new-treatments-against-drug-resistant-infections#comments Mon, 20 Oct 2014 19:28:02 +0000 http://news.tamhsc.edu/?post_type=post&p=21808 Since World War II, antibiotics have been our only defense against bacterial infection, but overuse and misuse have caused some bacteria to develop resistance to antibiotics. Now, researchers at Texas A&M Health Science Center have discovered an entirely new class of antimicrobials that have the potential to kill drug-resistant bacteria]]>

Since World War II, antibiotics have saved countless lives by killing disease-causing bacteria. To this day, traditional antibiotics remain the only treatment against such illnesses, but overuse and misuse have caused some bacteria to develop resistance to commonly used antibiotics. These bacteria, known as multi-drug resistant organisms (MDROs), are able to survive and even multiply in the presence of antibiotics, making treatment against them nearly impossible.

Carolyn Cannon, M.D., Ph.D., pediatric pulmonologist and associate professor at the Texas A&M College of Medicine

Carolyn Cannon, M.D., Ph.D., pediatric pulmonologist and associate professor at the Texas A&M College of Medicine

But now, after decades of using the same basic ingredients for antibiotics, a new way to treat bacterial infection is finally on the horizon. Carolyn Cannon, M.D., Ph.D., and her team at Texas A&M Health Science Center have discovered that a new set of compounds synthesized by medicinal chemist Lászlo Kürti, Ph.D., with the University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center in Dallas, have the potential to kill MDROs. Specifically, the researchers have their sights set on methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus (MRSA) – a bacterial infection caused by a strain of staph bacteria that’s become resistant to commonly used antibiotics, making it so hard to treat, it’s been deemed a “super bug.” This discovery is predicted to yield an entirely new class of treatments for a multitude of drug resistant infections.

“Microorganisms have been battling each other for millennia, so they have a whole armamentarium of ways to kill each other,” said Cannon, who is a pediatric pulmonologist and associate professor at the Texas A&M College of Medicine. “It’s just a matter of us noticing and isolating those weapons and then synthesizing them for use as treatments against pathogens, the bad guys.”

Penicillin and cephalosporin – the bases for the most commonly used modern antibiotics – were first isolated from fungi. Most new FDA-approved antibiotics are simply tweaks of those original molecules. The first molecule of Cannon and Kürti’s new class of antimicrobials was originally isolated by researchers more than a decade ago from a bacterium that originates from the ocean. Then, only tiny amounts could be extracted from cultures of the bacteria with great effort. Fast forward to present day, and the current team now has developed a simple method to synthesize the molecule and tweak it.

“The beauty of the discovery is that these compounds can now be synthesized in one pot in 30 minutes. It’s a very scalable procedure that can easily yield large quantities,” Cannon said. “We have been able to take the new compounds into the lab to study their activity, and have found that they are more active against MRSA than the gold-standard treatment, vancomycin. Plus, we have found compounds with better activity than the compound made by the bacterium from the ocean.” These constitute a completely new class of antimicrobial molecules that don’t look like anything else currently used in medicine.

While modern-day antibiotics readily go into solutions that can be injected, inhaled or ingested, these new molecules are not water soluble. That factor may seem like a major barrier, but thanks to new nanoparticle technologies, what was once an obstacle has become a momentous opportunity that Cannon’s group, as part of a National Institute of Health’s Program of Excellence in Nanotechnology, has the expertise to seize.

Nanoparticles are simply particles that exist on the nanometer scale (anything up to 100 nanometers is considered a nanoparticle). As a comparison, most bacteria are on the micrometer scale, averaging about a micron or two long. Even the largest nanoparticle – one that is 100 nanometers – is merely a tenth of a micron. Because they are so small, these nanoparticles contain some very useful properties. For instance, they can be designed to slip through sticky mucus and penetrate into biofilms. They can be synthesized from polymers, large molecules composed of many repeated subunits, designed to be broken down in the body.

“Think of a microscopic baseball with a rubber center covered by yarn, then cowhide. Our otherwise insoluble antibiotic contained in the ‘rubber center’ is shielded by a water-loving hydrophilic surface, the ‘yarn,’ which renders the nanoparticle compatible with suspension in a solution. You can decorate the outside, the ‘cowhide,’ with molecules that specifically bind to the surface of bacteria to allow accumulation of the drug at the site of the infection. This nanoparticle delivery is much more targeted than traditional antibiotics,” Cannon said.

Targeting in this precise manner allows for a dramatic drop in the amount of medication that a patient needs in order to kill infection. Further, targeting may spare beneficial bacteria that are often killed secondarily by traditional delivery of antibiotics that are dispensed throughout the body. What’s more, targeting may allow for the use of more potent drugs, since the drugs would merely affect the site of infection and not the entire body.

The next step for Cannon’s team is to test nanoparticles containing the antimicrobial molecules in animal models, which, she says, is very close to happening.

“This really is a game changer in the battle against these enemies we can’t see with the naked eye,” Cannon said. “Now, we have a weapon that is even more precise than those of their natural enemies that have been killing them for eons. We can zero in on and eliminate them with almost no collateral damage, which is huge.”

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South Texas teens get hands-on lesson about Ebola transmission http://news.tamhsc.edu/?post=south-texas-teens-get-hands-on-lesson-about-ebola-transmission http://news.tamhsc.edu/?post=south-texas-teens-get-hands-on-lesson-about-ebola-transmission#comments Thu, 16 Oct 2014 21:21:23 +0000 http://news.tamhsc.edu/?post_type=post&p=21759 High school students in South Texas learned first-hand about the transmission of Ebola this week during a simulated disease transmission lab facilitated by the Texas A&M Health Science Center Health Careers Program]]>
High school students exchanged simulated "body fluid" through test tubes to mock the transmission of Ebola.

High school students exchanged simulated “bodily fluid” through test tubes to mock the transmission of Ebola.

High school students in South Texas learned first-hand about the transmission of Ebola this week during a simulated disease transmission lab facilitated by the Texas A&M Health Science Center Health Careers Program. Instructors from the program visited Incarnate Word Academy High School in Corpus Christi on Tuesday to discuss the differences between communicable and chronic diseases, how pathogens are spread, facts and myths about Ebola, as well as symptoms, treatment and prevention strategies. Students then got to take part in a disease transmission simulation.

Ebola is spread through bodily fluids (such as saliva, blood and sweat), so each student was given a tube of unknown simulated bodily fluid (water). The students were instructed to transfer liquids into classmates’ test tubes to mock the transmission of Ebola and created a flow chart to track “infected” students down to “patient zero.”

Part of the demonstration included a discussion about the different health professionals involved in infectious disease preparedness and response.

“When most teenagers think about health professionals, they immediately think doctors, nurses, pharmacists,” said Rebecca Smith, one of the program’s instructors. “But there are other very important, rewarding professions, such as epidemiology, public health advising, emergency response, biostatistics, and behavioral and health science that are crucial in a public health emergency.”

The program’s mission is to spark area youth’s interests in health careers, especially career paths that are in high demand in South Texas and across the state.  By educating young people about these career paths and getting them interested early, the program positions them to achieve their career goals and also helps to address a growing problem in the South Texas area. An overwhelming number of counties spanning the region have been identified as Health Professional Shortage Areas by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, meaning that more health professionals are needed in the region.

By educating young people about the transmission of infectious diseases, the program hopes to instill desirable health behavior – such as washing hands, disinfecting surfaces, covering sneezes and coughs, and not sharing drinks – that can prevent the spread, and hopefully, an outbreak of such diseases at home.

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College of Nursing Alumni receive DAISY Awards http://news.tamhsc.edu/?post=college-of-nursing-alumni-receive-daisy-awards http://news.tamhsc.edu/?post=college-of-nursing-alumni-receive-daisy-awards#comments Wed, 15 Oct 2014 19:11:21 +0000 http://news.tamhsc.edu/?post_type=post&p=21728 Two Texas A&M Health Science Center College of Nursing alumni recently received the honor of the DAISY Award for Extraordinary Nurses. The DAISY Award, which stands for diseases attacking the immune system, is a program created to honor the “super human work nurses do for ... ]]>

Two Texas A&M Health Science Center College of Nursing alumni recently received the honor of the DAISY Award for Extraordinary Nurses. The DAISY Award, which stands for diseases attacking the immune system, is a program created to honor the “super human work nurses do for patients and families every day.”

Two Texas A&M Health Science Center College of Nursing alumni recently received the honor of the DAISY Award for Extraordinary Nurses.

Two Texas A&M Health Science Center College of Nursing alumni recently received the honor of the DAISY Award for Extraordinary Nurses.

Andrew Barner, BSN, RN, Seton Medical Center Williamson Intensive Care Unit, and Tori Branyon, BSN, RN, Seton Medical Center Austin Intermediate Care are both members of the College of Nursing’s 2013 Round Rock Class.

The prestigious DAISY Award is given by the DAISY Foundation to recognize and thank nurses for the gifts they give to patients and families every day. The DAISY Foundation and award were formed in the memory of Patrick Barnes who died at age 33 of complications of a rare autoimmune disorder. The Barnes family was so touched by the kindness and compassion of the nurses who delivered his medical care, that they created the Foundation.

Andrew Barner, BSN, RN, Seton Medical Center Williamson Intensive Care Unit

Andrew Barner, BSN, RN, Seton Medical Center Williamson Intensive Care Unit

“I am honored to be a recipient of the Daisy Award. I strive to put my patients’ needs first and perform patient centered care,” Barner said. “I tell all of my patients that I will treat them as if they were my parents.”

Tori Branyon, BSN, RN, Seton Medical Center Austin Intermediate Care

Tori Branyon, BSN, RN, Seton Medical Center Austin Intermediate Care

Barner and Branyon were presented with a certificate, a pin and a stone sculpture from Zimbabwe named “A Healer’s Touch,” hand carved by members of the Shona tribe, which greatly reveres its healers. The sculptures are made specifically for the DAISY Foundation and are the full-time source of income for 14 members of the tribe.

“It is an honor to be nominated and chosen for a Daisy.” Branyon said. “My aim is to treat each of my patients with compassion, provide them knowledge, and give them a touch of humor to keep things light. To have a ‘thanks’ in the form of this award is truly humbling.”

For more information on the DAISY Foundation, visit http://daisyfoundation.org/

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5 tricks for eating fewer treats on Halloween http://news.tamhsc.edu/?post=5-tricks-for-eating-fewer-treats-on-halloween http://news.tamhsc.edu/?post=5-tricks-for-eating-fewer-treats-on-halloween#comments Tue, 14 Oct 2014 21:11:08 +0000 http://news.tamhsc.edu/?post_type=post&p=21707 Halloween is the biggest holiday for candy producers, which can be a nightmare for parents. Nutritionist David Leal shares his top five tips to avoid eating too much sugar during Halloween]]>

Halloween conjures a whole brew of images: streets filled with costume-clad kids, toothy jack-o’-lanterns, spooky décor, goblins, witches, black cats and bats; and, of course, piles of candy. In fact, candy might be the main goal for many kids on All Hallows’ Eve, and for many parents, that can be nightmare.

Halloween candyHalloween is the biggest holiday for candy producers, followed by Easter, Christmas, then Valentine’s Day, according to the National Confectioners Association, and Halloween candy sales continue to rise by 1 to 3 percent each year. How much candy does the average American consume over Halloween? About 3.4 pounds, according to the National Retail Federation. Kids would need to trick or treat on foot for 180 miles (60 hours) to burn that off. Yikes!

Luckily, candy doesn’t have to consume the holiday, and parents can do a lot to help lower their children’s consumption of sweets during Halloween. David Leal, nutritionist and health educator with the Texas A&M Health Science Center, offers these five tips for making Halloween just a little less scary when it comes to your kids’ health.

1. Maintain a balanced diet. Kids (and adults) should continue eating a healthy, well-balanced diet on Halloween. That means eating a good breakfast, lunch, dinner and snacks that contain protein and complex carbohydrates. Leal recommends incorporating vegetables into lunch and dinner to make sure kids are getting the nutrients they need while filling them up so they don’t overindulge on candy that evening.

“For dinner, prepare vegetables the way you know your kids like them,” he says. “Now is not the time to introduce a new vegetable or recipe because you don’t want to take the chance that they won’t eat it.”

It’s even okay to add cheese to broccoli or a light cream sauce to green beans if that’s the way you know your kids like it. They will still ingest the nutrients and fiber vegetables provide.

2. Make Halloween about more than just candy. For many, Halloween is simply about trick-or-treating, but it can be much more than that. Leal says celebrating the holiday in ways that don’t necessarily involve candy can deter kids’ attention from the sweets and get them involved in more activity.

“Halloween comes from All Hallows’ Eve or All Saints’ Eve, which is really supposed to be a time to remember the dead,” Leal says. “We can create our own traditions that revolve around that and not just trick-or-treating.”

He suggests taking the kids to fall festivals or involving them in Halloween-themed activities, like pumpkin carving or a treasure hunt. Churches often hold family festivals on Halloween, and many cities have Halloween community parties, haunted houses, and carnivals. You may also find inspiration from traditions of Día de los Muertos (Day of the Dead), the Mexican holiday that celebrates friends and family members who have died. The holiday begins on October 31 (Halloween) and ends on November 2. Observers honor the deceased by creating skeleton figurines or painting images of skulls that contain elements and features of those who have passed. They also prepare the favorite food and beverages of the departed and visit their graves with these as gifts.

3. Stock up on candy your family doesn’t like. If you live in an area where trick-or-treaters are sure to visit your home, Leal suggests this trick: buy candy to hand out that your family doesn’t particularly crave. That way, you won’t be tempted to indulge on those treats between doorbell rings or if you end up with leftovers. Plus, it will be easier to throw out or give away if you know you’ll never eat it.

4. Incorporate fruit. Fruit is a naturally sweet treat that also happens to provide many nutrients, so why not use that to your advantage this Halloween? You can simply put together fruit kabobs for the kids (and you) to snack on, or you can get rather creative with Halloween-inspired presentations.

Leal has carved out oranges to look like jack-o’-lanterns and filled them with berries, nuts, and even a few candy corns. A peeled kiwi cut into a rectangle looks an awful lot like a Frankenstein’s monster head; complete the look with some chocolate frosting details and a toothpick through the neck. You can also use that chocolate frosting to make kumquats look like jack-o’-lanterns and bananas look like tall ghosts. The frosting doesn’t necessarily add to the nutritional value of these treats, but using it sparingly is better than binging on candy. And yes, candied apples and caramel apples are also good choices. Plus, they are much more filling than just candy so kids aren’t likely to want more than one.

5. Make candy “disappear” after Halloween. Unfortunately, this doesn’t mean making the candy disappear by eating it. If your kids go trick-or-treating and come back with a bucket full of candy, Leal suggests you let them pick out a few of their favorites, then dispose of the rest once they’re in bed.

“I heard this great story about a mom who has created this tradition of the Sugar Sprite to make the disappearance of Halloween candy easier for her kids to accept,” he said. You can adopt this story, too, or create your own version.

On Halloween night, after the kids are fast asleep in their beds, the Sugar Sprite pays them a visit. Where she is from in the Fairy Forest, the children are fueled by sugar and red dye, so she takes the candy with her to feed them. As a thank you for the food, she leaves behind a present.

Leal suggests leaving a small gift, like Legos or coloring books. Then, take the leftover candy to work to share with coworkers, distribute among the neighborhood children, or simply throw it away. With the candy out of the house after Halloween, the temptation leaves with it, and you and your kids are left guilt free.

By making these simple adjustments to the candy tradition of Halloween, your family can avoid over-indulging on sugary treats while still taking full advantage of the holiday. And the bonus: starting with Halloween sets the trend for making healthier choices throughout the holiday season that follows.

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New drug boosts immune system to protect against world’s deadliest infectious diseases http://news.tamhsc.edu/?post=new-drug-boosts-immune-system-to-protect-against-worlds-deadliest-infectious-diseases http://news.tamhsc.edu/?post=new-drug-boosts-immune-system-to-protect-against-worlds-deadliest-infectious-diseases#comments Tue, 14 Oct 2014 14:00:55 +0000 https://news.tamhsc.edu/?post_type=post&p=20087 Researchers at the Texas A&M Health Science Center (TAMHSC) and the University of Texas MD Anderson Cancer Center have developed a new therapy to stimulate the body’s natural immune system, thereby providing effective protection against a wide range of life-threatening infectious diseases. ]]>

Researchers at the Texas A&M Health Science Center (TAMHSC) and the University of Texas MD Anderson Cancer Center have developed a new therapy to stimulate the body’s natural immune system, thereby providing effective protection against a wide range of life-threatening infectious diseases. The drug, PUL-042, recently entered human clinical trials through Houston-based biotechnology company Pulmotect, Inc.

Magnus Hook, Ph.D.

Magnus Höök, Ph.D., director of the Center for Infectious and Inflammatory Diseases at the TAMHSC Institute of Biosciences and Technology, has discovered a new lung protective therapy that could alter our susceptibility to a number of deadly epidemics.

“The lungs are the point of entry for many viruses and bacteria. We hypothesized that activating the innate immune defense of the lungs might provide effective protection against a wide range of deadly pathogens,” said Magnus Höök, Ph.D., regents and distinguished professor at the TAMHSC Institute for Biosciences and Technology in Houston’s Texas Medical Center and co-founder of Pulmotect, Inc. “Based on our theory, we created a drug that stimulates the innate immune system, leading to rapid protection against many deadly lung infections.”

Originally designed to prevent and treat respiratory infections, PUL-042 is an inhaled substance that offers intense, short-term protection against bacterial, fungal and viral pathogens by protecting the lungs against infectious diseases. Initially, the team focused efforts on prevention of pneumonia in cancer patients.

“Patients receiving chemotherapy are highly susceptible to life threating respiratory infections, including pneumonia, while in their immune-compromised state,” Höök said. “PUL-042 holds promise to protect these patients from deadly infection during their most vulnerable period, allowing for significantly higher treatment success.”

Potential applications of the drug extend beyond cancer patients, reaching into the public and global health arenas. By bolstering the body’s first line of defense, PUL-042 shows promise in the areas of biodefense, as well as the prevention of seasonal and pandemic influenza and other respiratory infections, such as those commonly suffered by asthmatic patients.

PUL-042 remains effective in a patient’s system for three to four days and although short-lived, the protection is very broad with promising protective capabilities for a number of infections and pathogens that impact the health and safety of populations around the world.

The first human clinical trials are now underway, designed to assess the safety and tolerability of the inhalation solution. The next phase will include repeat dosing of the drug to expand protection and determine the efficacy in cancer patients. Depending on outcome of the trials, the drug could be available on the market in the next four to five years.

“A development seven years in the making, we are delighted to see the technology advancing into clinical trials, moving us one step closer toward our end goal: bringing this protective therapy to the market to save lives and address a critical unmet need worldwide,” Höök said. “Ultimately, this drug has the potential to alter our vulnerability to deadly epidemics and bioterror threats.”

Founded in 2007, Pulmotect’s technology is licensed by Texas A&M and the University of Texas MD Anderson Cancer Center. In 2012, the company received a $7 million grant from the Cancer Prevention Institute of Texas as well as several Small Business Innovation Research Grants from the National Institutes of Health. Additionally, Pulmotect, Inc. received an investment award from the Texas Emerging Technology Fund in 2009.

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Colonias Bound: An expedition into preventative health care http://news.tamhsc.edu/?post=colonias-bound-an-expedition-into-health-care-preventative-care http://news.tamhsc.edu/?post=colonias-bound-an-expedition-into-health-care-preventative-care#comments Mon, 13 Oct 2014 20:22:06 +0000 http://news.tamhsc.edu/?post_type=post&p=21678 This month, the Texas A&M Health Science Center is teaming up with Texas A&M University Colonias Program and Texas A&M International University College of Nursing and heading to the Laredo Colonias to bring both resources and public education to those living in the Texas border communities]]>

Terms like “settlements” and “colonies” are often only used to describe frontier-type communities in history books. But in the case of the Texas Colonias, these descriptions ring true today. These unregulated settlements often lack access to the most basic potable water and sewer services. Per capita annual income is much lower than the state average, sometimes as low as five to six thousand dollars annually, and basic health care is difficult to find, let alone afford.

This month, the Texas A&M Health Science Center is teaming up with Texas A&M University Colonias Program and Texas A&M International University College of Nursing and heading to the Laredo Colonias to bring both resources and public education to those living in the Texas border communities. Ten nursing students will participate as part of a course entitled: Care of Vulnerable Populations. This course helps students understand how best to communicate and treat people who are in situations that make them particularly susceptible to disease and health issues.

This month, the Texas A&M Health Science Center is teaming up with Texas A&M University Colonias Program and Texas A&M International University College of Nursing and heading to the Laredo Colonias to bring both resources and public education to those living in the Texas border communities.

This month, the Texas A&M Health Science Center is teaming up with Texas A&M University Colonias Program and Texas A&M International University College of Nursing and heading to the Laredo Colonias to bring both resources and public education to those living in the Texas border communities.

Why is the Colonias so vulnerable? It’s often said that your history gave you your identity. In the case of the Texas Colonias, this is certainly true. Developers took agriculturally worthless land along the Texas-Mexico border and divided the land into small plots with little to no infrastructure where residents were allowed build piecemeal homes as they could afford materials. The communities lack some of the most basic living necessities.

Robin Page, Ph.D., RN, CNM, director of education at the Texas A&M Health Science Center College of Nursing Round Rock Campus; Katie Sanders, MSN, RN, clinical assistant professor; and Colleen Neal, MSN, RN, clinical assistant professor will be leading the students on the immersion experience to visit community centers. The nursing students have prepared lessons to present to the communities of the Colonias.

“In addition to speaking at the community centers, they we will be able to visit the Colonias communities in their homes and reach out on a more personal level,” Neal said. “This not only helps us reach directly to these vulnerable populations one-on-one, but also allows our students to fully comprehend the living situations right here in Texas.”

“This is an enormously satisfying opportunity for student nurses to truly see the importance of culturally-sensitive nursing and community outreach,” said Glenda C. Walker, Ph.D., RN, dean College of Nursing and Health Sciences, Dr. F.M. Canseco School of Nursing.  “For many, this is both eye-opening and heart-lifting and several have called the experience transformative.”

The presentations will focus on four areas of intervention: first aid (first aid supplies will be given to participants to take home), bullying, men’s health (particularly cancer screenings), and domestic violence. The College of Nursing is currently dedicated to the research of domestic violence intervention and research in South Texas and in vulnerable populations, specifically.

“This is the first time we will be taking students to Colonias as part of their education,” Sanders said. “But we are really looking forward to expanding the program to go more often, and have more students participate. No matter where our nursing students go to practice, we know this experience will go with them and enhance the quality of life of each patient they come in contact with.”

“I believe, as future nurses, we need to embrace experiences that challenge us to enrich our practice,” said Christine Giammona, Texas A&M College of Nursing second degree student, class of 2015. “I hope to make a difference, in the lives of those within the Colonias community and gain insight to help me provide competent, compassionate care as I continue in my nursing career.”

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Preparing African journalists for the next health crisis http://news.tamhsc.edu/?post=preparing-african-journalists-for-the-next-health-crisis http://news.tamhsc.edu/?post=preparing-african-journalists-for-the-next-health-crisis#comments Mon, 13 Oct 2014 16:27:59 +0000 http://news.tamhsc.edu/?post_type=post&p=21669 Bernard Appiah, Dr.P.H. surveys members of the Ghana Journalist Association (GJA) working in Accra, the capital of Ghana, to better understand the professional characteristics of journalists and what factors serve as barriers or motivators in covering science stories]]>
Journalists with ten or less years experience reported writing more science articles than reporters with more than ten years experience, indicating younger reporters would benefit most from training.

Journalists with ten or less years experience reported writing more science articles than reporters with more than ten years experience, indicating younger reporters would benefit most from training.

Journalism and the media are key factors in the public’s understanding of science and health information. With the recent Ebola outbreak in Africa, the tremendous need for dissemination of accurate health information to the public has been highlighted. Findings from a Texas A&M Health Science Center study completed in Ghana and recently published in the Public Understanding of Science journal, provide insights and recommendations that could help the country’s media response to future disease outbreaks

Bernard Appiah, Dr.P.H., instructional assistant professor at the Texas A&M Health Science Center School of Public Health, surveyed members of the Ghana Journalist Association (GJA) working in Accra, the capital of Ghana, to better understand the professional characteristics of journalists and what factors serve as barriers or motivators in covering science stories. GJA is composed of both broadcast and print journalists.

Bernard Appiah, Dr.P.H.

Bernard Appiah, Dr.P.H.

The study found that in most media organizations, general reporters rather than specialized science reporters produce science stories. Barriers include lack of science writing training, no access to contact information of scientific researchers, lack of senior level media organization support and reporters being too busy with non-science stories. Top motivational factors that might influence journalists to report more science stories include receiving more training in science journalism, career advancement opportunities and better availability of science research findings.

“Of particular interest was that journalists with ten or less years experience indicated reporting more science stories than journalists with more than ten years experience, which indicates younger reporters would benefit most from training,” Appiah said.

Other recommendations include introducing science journalism as a core course to students studying journalism and government public information officers producing fact sheets/press releases in layman terms on scientific findings for distribution to the media. Also, compiling databases of both scientists and journalists to aid in media-researcher communication would be beneficial.

Additional Texas A&M researchers include Barbara Gastel, M.D., M.P.H., James Burdine, Dr.P.H., and Leon Russell, D.V.M., Ph.D.

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Hong evaluates mobile application to promote physical activity in older adults http://news.tamhsc.edu/?post=hong-evaluates-mobile-application-to-promote-physical-activity-in-older-adults http://news.tamhsc.edu/?post=hong-evaluates-mobile-application-to-promote-physical-activity-in-older-adults#comments Mon, 13 Oct 2014 15:23:45 +0000 http://news.tamhsc.edu/?post_type=post&p=21664 Yan Hong, Ph.D. leads team of researchers in the development and testing of iCanFit, a mobile-enabled web application to promote physical activity in older adults with chronic conditions]]>
Mobile health programs have become increasingly popular among older adults.

Mobile health programs have become increasingly popular among older adults.

Increasing numbers of older adults are using the Internet. Recent statistics show almost 90 percent of older adults ages 50 – 64 are online, with almost 60 percent of those older than 64 years of age online as well. With such high Internet access and use, mobile health programs have become increasingly popular. However, among the thousands of online applications and mobile tools available to promote physical activity, very few are designed and marketed towards older adults.

Yan Hong, Ph.D., associate professor at the Texas A&M Health Science Center School of Public Health, led a team of researchers in the development and testing of iCanFit, a mobile-enabled web application to promote physical activity in older adults with chronic conditions.

According to Hong, “iCanFit is designed to address common barriers to exercise noted by older adults including lack of motivation, difficulty of tracking physical activity, inadequate social support and limited knowledge on how to exercise properly.” The application features “Goal,” an interactive function that allows users to set and track physical activity goals and view progress. The application also has other functions including community resources and healthy tips.

Hong and colleagues tested usability of the app with ten older adults in a computer lab in a senior center, where they were able to identify and implement changes to improve usability and senior friendliness. Next, they had 23 older adults (ages 60-82) use the app at home for two weeks and then interviewed them concerning their experience.

Yan Hong, Ph.D.

Yan Hong, Ph.D.

“Overall, the testing revealed high levels of ease of use and usefulness of the application, and most participants stated they would continue to use the program,” said Hong.

The complete report, “Testing usability and acceptability of a web application to promote physical activity (iCanFit) among older adults” is published in the latest issue of the Journal of Medical Internet Research, Human Factors.

An efficacy trial of iCanFit is currently underway, and the application will then be further developed to assist a larger population of adults with chronic conditions.

The research team included from the Texas A&M School of Public Health Marcia Ory, Ph.D., Deborah Vollmer Dahlke, Ph.D., S. Camille Peres, Ph.D., Debra Kellstedt, M.P.H., and graduate student Rachel Coughlin; from the Texas A&M Department of Geosciences Daniel Goldberg, Ph.D. and Edgar Hernandez; and from St. Joseph Regional Health Center Jessica Cargill.

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Giroir testifies before U.S. House Committee on infectious disease preparedness and response http://news.tamhsc.edu/?post=giroir-testifies-before-u-s-house-committee-on-infectious-disease-preparedness-and-response http://news.tamhsc.edu/?post=giroir-testifies-before-u-s-house-committee-on-infectious-disease-preparedness-and-response#comments Mon, 13 Oct 2014 14:28:33 +0000 http://news.tamhsc.edu/?post_type=post&p=21657 Brett Giroir

Brett P. Giroir, CEO of Texas A&M Health Science Center and director of the Texas Task Force on Infectious Disease Preparedness and Response.

Brett P. Giroir, M.D., CEO of Texas A&M Health Science Center and director of the Texas Task Force on Infectious Disease Preparedness and Response, testified on Oct. 10 before the U.S. House of Representatives Committee on Homeland Security to address rising concern surrounding the nations infectious disease preparedness and response following the first case of Ebola being diagnosed in the United States the previous week.

In response to the Ebola diagnosis on Texas soil, Governor Rick Perry on Oct. 6 established the Task Force on Infectious Disease Preparedness and Response to assess and manage the risk in Texas, and to prospectively plan for future infectious disease threats. With Giroir at the helm, members of the task force include a wide range of experts in infectious disease and public health, seasoned biodefense leaders, and state agency professionals across major areas, including health and human services, public safety, environmental quality and public education.

Giroir began his testimony by commending the response and coordination of local, state and federal resources regarding the initial Dallas case. He then laid out seven areas of in which the Task Force will initially focus: hospital preparedness and the potential role of improved rapid diagnostics; command and control issues; organization and implementation of epidemiologic investigations and monitoring; decontamination and waste disposal; patient care issues; care of patients being monitored; and handling of domestic animals in contact with patients. The Task Force will submit initial draft assessments and recommendations in these areas by Dec. 1 for consideration by the Office of the Governor and Texas Legislature.

Drawing upon his experience as the Director of the Defense Sciences Office at the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) and as a critical care  physician-scientist, specializing in infectious diseases, Giroir recommended that the administration reinstate the position of Special Assistant to the President for Biodefense, a role that existed under both the Clinton and Bush administrations but was eliminated in early 2009. The existence of such a role, Giroir stated, will ensure central White House leadership to prepare for and direct public health responses.

When asked about why he believes this should be a priority of the current administration, Giroir responded that he believes this position should transcend whatever disease is coming around the corner, to provide directives and leadership from the highest level, at the White House.

Additionally, Giroir recommended that the federal government provide a frequently updated list of all possible medical countermeasures, including experimental therapies that may be available on an emergency basis, to treating physicians or appropriate state public health officials. This action would ensure clinicians have a complete overview of the treatment options available at any given time along with information on means of accessing the therapeutics in a timely fashion.

Third, Giroir recommended that funding be restored to the Federal Hospital Preparedness Program (HPP), which was created to provide support to improve surge capacity and enhance community and hospital preparedness for public health emergencies. HPP funds have been cut in recent years by the federal government, and that, Giroir said, has had clear, identifiable consequences in Dallas.

Finally, Giroir spoke about the Texas A&M Center for Innovation in Advanced Development and Manufacturing (CIADM), one of three government-funded biodefense centers in the United States designed to enhance the nations preparedness against pandemic influenza, and chemical, biological, radiological, and nuclear threats by accelerating the research and development of vaccines and therapetutics, and rapidly producing these in cases of national emergencies. Giroir stated that the center stands ready, and if called upon, will manufacture a wide range of vaccines or therapeutics required by the U.S. government, including products against Ebola.

There is no question that there will be opportunities for increased performance across many of the complex elements that have been brought together to effectively contain Ebola within Texas, Giroir said. While there have been lessons learned, the successes in controlling this potentially dangerous situation are a testament to the incredible skill and dedication of all those on the ground in Dallas, who in my mind are nothing less than national heroes.

More detailed written testimony from Giroir is available on the Committee on Homeland Security’s website.

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