Health and Medical News and Resources

General interest items edited by Janice Flahiff

Stumped by a problem? This technique unsticks you

From the 7 March 2012 Science News Daily article

Stuck solving a problem? Seek the obscure, says Tony McCaffrey, a psychology PhD from the University of Massachusetts. “There’s a classic obstacle to innovation called ‘functional fixedness,’ which is the tendency to fixate on the common use of an object or its parts. It hinders people from solving problems.” McCaffrey has developed a systematic way of overcoming that obstacle: the “generic parts technique” (GPT), which he describes in the latest issue of Psychological Science, a journal published by the Association for Psychological Science. The article also reports on McCaffrey’s test of GPT’s effectiveness. Its results: People trained in GPT solved eight problems 67 percent more often than those who weren’t trained, and the first group solved them more than 8 times out of 10.

Here’s how GPT works: “For each object in your problem, you break it into parts and ask two questions,” explains McCaffrey, who is now a post-doctoral fellow in UMass’s engineering department. “1. Can it be broken down further? and 2. — this is the one that’s been overlooked — Does my description of the part imply a use?” So you’re given two steel rings and told to make a figure-8 out of them. Your tools? A candle and a match. Melted wax is sticky, but the wax isn’t strong enough to hold the rings together. What about the other part of the candle? The wick. The word implies a use: Wicks are set afire to give light. “That tends to hinder people’s ability to think of alternative uses for this part,” says McCaffrey. Think of the wick more generically as a piece of string and the string as strands of cotton and you’re liberated. Now you can remove the wick and tie the two rings together. Or, if you like, shred the string and make a wig for your hamster.

McCaffrey has drawn his insights by analyzing 1,001 historically innovative inventions. In every one, he found, the innovator discovered an obscure feature or an obscure function….

March 12, 2012 Posted by | Psychology | , | Leave a comment

Health monitoring? There’s an app for that

From the 9 March 2011 Science Daily article

Stay in the pink with Bluetooth personal health monitoring

Researchers in New Zealand have developed a prototype Bluetooth-enabled medical monitoring device that can be connected wirelessly to your smart phone and keep track of various physiological parameters, such as body temperature, heart rate, blood pressure and movements. The prototype could be extended to include sensors for other factors such as blood glucose as well as markers for specific diseases. The connectivity would allow patients to send data directly to their healthcare provider and receive timely advice and medication suggestions….

 

 

March 12, 2012 Posted by | Consumer Health | , , | Leave a comment

Eating Wild: Foraging Safely in a Modern World

From the 8 March 2012 Science Daily article

In an expanding “foodie” culture, people go to great lengths to get the best ingredients, seek out the most aesthetic desserts, and buy natural and organic. Less noted, though, is the movement of “foragers”: people who “eat wild” on a regular basis, supplemented by naturally growing, edible plants for which they search in their local communities, whether urban or rural….

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“People new to foraging have to be very careful. There are many plants and fungi that are poisonous or have parts that are poisonous,” she says. “Wild parsley looks a lot like poison hemlock, for example. The growing environment is also a factor, because plants will sequester toxins that are introduced to the soil or fall on their leaves, like pesticides.”

Snetselaar offers this advice to novice foragers:

1. Educate yourself. Photo guides and iPhone apps do not sufficiently show plants and their parts for those unfamiliar with vegetation to distinguish the subtle differences that prove a plant edible or poisonous. Instead, learn the terminology associated with classification and rely on a more academic guidebook that has diagrams and shows a plant’s relative size.

2. Learn from an expert. Taking a seasoned forager as a guide is a safer and more informative way to learn what to pick.

3. Forage in untainted environments. Though people have been known to forage in urban settings, be wary of vacant lots and roadsides, where unknown pollutants can lie both underneath the soil and on vegetation itself. Do not forage where fertilizers and weed killers have been used and always wash plants before eating.

4. Check ordinances in parks and protected lands. Many state and national parks do not allow visitors to disturb protected environments by removing plant life and endangering regrowth.

March 12, 2012 Posted by | Nutrition | , , , | Leave a comment

For Rapid Response To Health-Care-Associated Infections, Collaboration Needed, Survey Reveals

From the 10 March 2012 Medical News Today article

he U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) estimates that about one in every 20 patients develops an infection each year related to their hospital care. The key to preventing an outbreak of potentially deadly healthcare-associated infections (HAIs) – such as methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus (MRSA) or C. difficile – is identifying them before affected individuals can pose a transmission risk.

But, according to a survey released by the Association for Professionals in Infection Control and Epidemiology (APIC) and the American Society for Microbiology (ASM), the typical turnaround time for laboratory test results may not be meeting expectations. Greater collaboration between labs and infection preventionists may hold the key to addressing the gap – and to more effective management of some HAIs.

Most (51 percent) of the infection preventionists (IPs) surveyed indicated that they need results for MRSA screening tests within 12 hours to initiate the necessary precautions; however, MRSA cultures – a traditional method for screening – typically take 24 to 48 hours to complete.

The survey identified two factors that could be addressed to help resolve the discrepancy and reduce HAIs: the need for increased communication between IPs and lab professionals, and the lack of tools and resources for training and educating all healthcare personnel. …

March 12, 2012 Posted by | Consumer Health, health care | , , | Leave a comment

You Are What You Eat: Within-Subject Increases in Fruit and Vegetable Consumption Confer Beneficial Skin-Color Changes

From the Public Library of Science article

Fruit and vegetable consumption and ingestion of carotenoids have been found to be associated with human skin-color (yellowness) in a recent cross-sectional study. This carotenoid-based coloration contributes beneficially to the appearance of health in humans and is held to be a sexually selected cue of condition in other species…

Increased fruit and vegetable consumption confers measurable and perceptibly beneficial effects on Caucasian skin appearance within six weeks. This effect could potentially be used as a motivational tool in dietary intervention.

March 12, 2012 Posted by | Nutrition | , , | Leave a comment

   

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