Insight News

Feb 13th


Popular chain-smoking TV characters represent progress in smoking cessation efforts

Americans love to revisit history, whether it is inside the doors of a museum, on the pages of a history book, or on television.  This includes the millions of us who love watching Enoch “Nucky” Thompson on Boardwalk Empire, which is set during Prohibition, as well as Mad Men’s Don Draper and his coworkers at Sterling Cooper Advertising in the 1960s. 

Comparing their lifestyles to today’s norms is just as interesting as analyzing the characters themselves.  For instance, the United States has spent decades trying to get people to stop smoking and, more recently, protecting people from secondhand smoke exposure.  Slowly but surely, smoking has become less acceptable, and today’s norm is that smoking is not allowed in public places such as workplaces, restaurants, bars, and many outdoor spaces.  It’s hard for most of us to imagine working in an office while someone next to us chain-smokes like Mad Men’s Don Draper. 


The Distinguished Visiting Scholar Series on health disparities research

The Distinguished Visiting Scholar Series on health disparities research

The Distinguished Visiting Scholar Series on Health Disparities Research continues with Sergio Aguilar-Gaxiola, MD, PhD, Professor of Internal Medicine, Director, UC Davis Center for Reducing Health Disparities on Friday, December 9, 12:00-1:00, University of Minnesota, 2-530 Moos Tower.  Dr. Aguilar-Gaxiola will present on "Disparities in Mental Health Status and Care in the U.S." This talk will be broadcast over the Web via Mediasite for off-site viewing. To view this presentation online live or after the event, please visit us on our website at:


Holidays and compulsive shopping

Many years ago, I remember running out to Foley’s “Red Apple Days” to catch the sale on clothes and household items before the Christmas holiday began.  It would have been okay to go out, but on this particular day, I had the flu and a fever of 101 degrees.  My husband had called me from out of town to see how I was feeling.  It was a Sunday morning, so he asked if I felt well enough to go to church.  Of course, I did not.  But, two hours later, I found my self driving to the mall (which was about 1 mile PAST my church building) trying to catch the sale.  As I drove (with perspiration on my brow), it suddenly struck me that something was very, very wrong with that picture.  How could I be too sick to praise the God that gave me the money, but well enough to spend it at a mall with people who did not even look like me!


Only one quarter of Americans with HIV have virus under control

Nearly 3 out of 4 Americans living with HIV do not have their infection under control, according to a Vital Signs report by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, released last Tuesday in advance of World AIDS Day, December 1. The authors say the low percentage is because 1 in 5 people with HIV do not realize they are infected and, of those who are aware, only 51 percent receive ongoing medical care and treatment.

Of the nearly 1.2 million people living with HIV in the United States, only an estimated 28 percent have a suppressed viral load (defined as viral load less than 200 copies of the blood-borne virus per milliliter of blood) – meaning that the virus is under control and at a level that helps keep them healthy and reduces the risk of transmitting the virus to others.


Will eating garlic and onions help prevent cancer?

Will eating garlic and onions help prevent cancer?Dear EarthTalk: Given the preponderance of carcinogenic chemicals out there today, is it true that eating certain foods like garlic or onions can actually help prevent cancer?    -- M. Stone, Boston, MA

Natural healers have extolled the cancer-preventing virtues of garlic and onions for years, but only recently do we have enough scientific research to draw some conclusions. Several animal studies showing promising results using garlic and other members of the allium family (onions, leek, shallot, and chive) to prevent tumors have led to hundreds of studies involving human garlic eaters. While it is near impossible to pinpoint a direct link between garlic consumption and cancer prevention, the National Cancer Institute (NCI) reports that “several population studies show an association between increased intake of garlic and reduced risk of certain cancers, including cancers of the stomach, colon, esophagus, pancreas, and breast.”

Understanding mental disorders

When I was in graduate school learning to become a psychologist, it quickly became apparent to me that one of the goals of our training program was to teach us how to quickly and accurately label people with various types of mental health disorders.  I distinctly remember one lecture where the professor put the word “disease” on the board by spelling is as “Dis-Ease” as a way of emphasizing that folks who suffer from various types of mental illnesses experience discomfort with their symptoms.  Later, we learned that not everybody who has a mental health problem experiences a discomfort or a lack of ease with his or her problems.

Being thankful and learning optimism

When my mother was alive, we used to go home every Thanksgiving.  It was a family tradition.  Even when she was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s Disease, we would rent a hotel and the manager would give us a free room for our family dinner. I remember our last Thanksgiving with her and how we sat around after dinner singing spirituals and gospel songs.  Even though she was dealing with memory issues, lung cancer and only had a couple of months to live, my mother sang and held our hands and kissed us all on our cheeks, our hands, and our foreheads.  In that room, we all became kids again.  We laughed, acted silly, played jokes and would even do the occasional “pop” on somebody’s head before running away—hoping to be chased and caught.
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