A. Janet Tomiyama, PhD, an alumna of the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation (RWJF) Health & Society Scholars program (2009-2011), is assistant professor of psychology and director of the Dieting, Stress, and Health (DiSH) Lab at the University of California, Los Angeles. She was recently named the 2013 recipient of the Early Career Investigator Award from the Society of Behavioral Medicine. Her favorite comfort food: potato chips.
What’s your favorite comfort food? Ice cream, pizza, chocolate—everyone’s got a preference, whether they’re from Los Angeles, London, Sao Paolo, or Tokyo. Stress eating is as universal as eating itself; indeed, even Cervantes in his 1605 classic Don Quixote addressed the practice with the line, “All sorrows are less with bread.” Humans seem to reach for food as a way to soothe negative emotions, and that food is often high-fat, high-sugar, and high-calorie. That’s why comfort eating is often blamed as one reason stress is bad for health—because stress causes us to find comfort in a dozen cookies.
If you’re like me, you’ll be surprised but delighted to know it’s not just humans that engage in comfort eating! Eating high-fat, sugary foods in response to stress is a behavior that we see in non-human species like rodents and primates. Under chronic stress conditions, for example, rats will shift their food intake away from standard food pellets to the rodent version of “comfort food” (researchers often use Crisco mixed with sugar).
Even more amazing: it works. These comfort-eating rats showed dampened biological stress reactivity in a stress system called the Hypothalamic-Pituitary-Adrenal (HPA) axis. Sustained over-activity of the HPA axis is associated with poor health, and these studies suggest that comfort eating is playing an important role in managing an organism’s stress levels.
Brita Roy, MD, MPH, MS, is a Robert Wood Johnson Foundation (RWJF)/U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs Clinical Scholar, and Carley Riley, MD, MPP, is an RWJF Clinical Scholar.
You awake to the sound of your alarm, not feeling as rested as you’d hoped. Hurriedly bathing and dressing, you then grab a breakfast bar and stumble over your long-neglected bicycle to climb into your car, joining other anonymous drivers enduring their morning commutes.
Unfortunately, these sorts of mornings, all too common to Americans, create negative stress and worsen health. Under time constraints and other pressures, stressed individuals engage in less healthy behaviors: eating more unhealthy foods, exercising less, smoking more, and sleeping less than their less stressed counterparts. And the persistent assault of low-grade stressors, such as air and noise pollution, constant rush, lack of nature, and social isolation repeatedly trigger our bodies’ stress responses, promote persistent low-level inflammation, and subsequently undermine our cardiovascular and overall health.
Beyond these familiar stressors, emerging research is showing how the nature of our communities and our relationships within them—our social environment—also influence our health. We are learning that living in neighborhoods in which residents do not know or trust each other increases negative stress levels. And how living in communities in which residents do not have confidence in their government or do not believe they can affect change to better their lives also creates stress.
We have greater understanding of how people living in neighborhoods with high crime and violence rates experience more chronic stress. And we are finding that living and working in environments in which we feel powerless augments the negative health effects of stress.
A new NPR/Robert Wood Johnson Foundation/Harvard School of Public Health poll released today finds that about half of the public reported a major stressful event or experience in the past year. Nearly half (43 percent) reported that the most stressful experiences related to health.
More than half of those who experienced a great deal of stress in the past month say too many overall responsibilities and financial problems were contributors. More than a third of those with a great deal of stress say the contributors include their own health problems and health problems of family members.
“Stress touches everyone. Unfortunately, many of those feeling the most stress get trapped in cycles that can be very unhealthy. If we are going to build a culture of health in America, one big step we can take is recognizing the causes and effects not just of our own stress and the stress of those closest to us, but of others we encounter in our day-to-day lives,” says Risa Lavizzo-Mourey, MD, RWJF president and CEO.
A growing demand for acute care nurse practitioners (ACNPs) has created significant opportunity in this field, as well as a significant need for postgraduate residency programs, according to an article in the Journal for Nurse Practitioners.
Faced with issues such as the mandated reduction of work hours for residents, hospitals are turning to ACNPs to boost patient safety and satisfaction, writes Catherine Harris, PhD, MBA, CRNP, director of the ACNP program at Thomas Jefferson University in Philadelphia. Yet ACNP education emphasizes care across the life span instead of focusing on specialties—such as trauma, critical care, and cardiology—that hospital patients count on.
Arthur Kellermann, MD, MPH, an alumnus of the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation (RWJF) Clinical Scholars and Health Policy Fellows programs, is professor and dean of the F. Edward Hébert School of Medicine, Uniformed Services University of the Health Sciences, Bethesda, MD. He is co-author of the new RAND report, “Redirecting Innovation in U.S. Health Care: Options to Decrease Spending and Increase Value.” Here, he shares recommendations for a brave new world of medical technology.
Americans take justifiable pride in our capacity for innovation. From putting the first men on the moon to developing the Internet, we lead the world in developing innovative technologies. Health care is no exception. The United States holds more Nobel prizes in medicine than any other nation.
Novel drugs, biologics, diagnostics, and medical devices have transformed American health care, but not always for the better.
Some innovations have made a big difference. Combination antiretroviral therapy changed HIV infection from a death sentence to a treatable, chronic disease. Before an effective vaccine was developed, Hemophilus Influenze type b, a bacterial disease, was a major cause of death and mental disability in young children. Today, it is virtually eradicated here and in Western Europe.
ABC’s NY Med, a documentary series about hospital life, has a lesson for nurses in the digital age: Think before you post.
Katie Duke, RN, an emergency room nurse at NewYork-Presbyterian Hospital who is featured in the series, learned that lesson the hard way.
During the show’s season premiere on June 26, Duke was summarily fired after posting a photo of a messy trauma room on a social media website. She was hired soon after at a different hospital, according to an article about the episode on AOL.com.
“I’ve been in that emergency room for six years ... in a matter of ten minutes, I am no longer,” Duke said, according to the AOL article. “This post that has gotten me fired was a picture of an empty trauma room with a comment underneath.”
Around the country, print, broadcast, and online media outlets are covering the groundbreaking work of Robert Wood Johnson Foundation (RWJF) leaders, scholars, fellows, alumni, and grantees. Some recent examples:
Changes in hormone levels during early menopause could be linked to an increased risk of heart disease, finds a new study co-authored by RWJF Health & Society Scholars program alumna Rebecca Thurston, PhD. Health Canal covers the study, describing it as a first-of-its-kind evaluation because it used nuclear magnetic resonance spectroscopy to assess the lipoproteins that carry cholesterol through the blood, rather than relying on conventional blood tests. Thurston’s study was published in the Journal of Lipid Research.
For Alice Goffman, PhD, an RWJF Scholars in Health Policy Research alumna, an undergraduate assignment turned into a six-year study of a low-income Philadelphia neighborhood in which, she concluded, “the young men in this community feel hunted.” In the resulting book, On the Run: Fugitive Life in an American City, Goffman says that a “climate of fear and suspicion pervades everyday life” in the community. The New York Times Sunday Book Review calls Goffman’s work “riveting” and her ability to understand her subjects “astonishing.”
The Colorado Department of Health Care Policy and Financing has received a $13.6 million grant from the federal Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services to integrate and coordinate physical, behavioral, and social-health needs for people enrolled in both Medicare and Medicaid, reports the Northern Colorado Business Report. The story quotes Susan Birch, MBS, BSN, RN, executive director of the department: “This grant allows Colorado to coordinate our members' care, while achieving greater value and health outcomes for our citizens who are on both Medicare and Medicaid.” Birch is an RWJF Executive Nurse Fellows alumna.
The nation’s community health centers are poised for expansion thanks to the availability of new funds authorized under the Affordable Care Act.
In June, the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services announced the availability of up to $300 million to expand community health center services throughout the nation. The funds are intended to help centers expand service hours, hire more medical providers, and add services in areas including oral and behavioral health, pharmacy, and vision.
Community health centers “deliver comprehensive, high-quality preventive and primary care to patients regardless of their ability to pay,” according to the Health Resources and Services Administration (HRSA). Currently, nearly 1,300 such centers provide care to more than 21 million patients across the country.
"These funds will allow health centers to expand health services to better serve newly insured patients,” said HRSA Administrator Mary Wakefield, RN, PhD, FAAN.
Existing grantees of HRSA’s health center program are eligible to apply for funding. Applications demonstrating how funds will be used to expand services are due by July 1.
Learn more about the application process here.
Health care worker fatigue was a factor in more than 1,600 events reported to the Pennsylvania Patient Safety Authority, according to an analysis in the June issue of the Pennsylvania Patient Safety Advisory. Thirty-seven of those events, which occurred over a nine-year period, were categorized as harmful, with four resulting in patient deaths.
“Recent literature shows that one of the first efforts made to reduce events related to fatigue was targeted to limiting the hours worked,” Theresa V. Arnold, DPM, manager of clinical analysis for the Authority, said in a news release. “However, further study suggests a more comprehensive approach is needed, as simply reducing hours does not address fatigue that is caused by disruption in sleep and extended work hours.”
In the Pennsylvania analysis, the most common medication errors involving worker fatigue were wrong dose given, dose omission, and extra dose given. The most common errors related to a procedure, treatment, or test were lab errors. Other errors included problems with radiology/imaging and surgical invasive procedures.
More information on health care worker fatigue and patient safety is available here.
Have you signed up to receive Sharing Nursing’s Knowledge? The monthly Robert Wood Johnson Foundation (RWJF) e-newsletter will keep you up to date on the work of the Foundation’s nursing programs, and the latest news, research, and trends related to academic progression, leadership, and other essential nursing issues. Following are some of the stories in the June 2014 issue.
Campaign for Action Is Chalking Up Successes that Will Improve Patient Care
Three years after it launched, the Future of Nursing: Campaign for Action is making steady progress on nurse education, practice, interprofessional collaboration, data collection, and diversity, according to a series of indicators released last month. Led by RWJF and AARP, the Campaign has created Action Coalitions in all 50 states and the District of Columbia that are working to implement recommendations from the Institute of Medicine. “Because of the Campaign, there’s more awareness about the importance of preparing the nursing workforce to address our nation’s most pressing health care challenges: access, quality, and cost,” says RWJF Senior Program Officer Nancy Fishman, MPH.
Pioneering Nurse Scientist Addresses Asthma-Related Disparities
Kamal Eldeirawi, PhD, RN, a pioneering scientist with expertise in immigrant health, was born in the Gaza Strip in Palestine, where he saw the profound impact of poverty and disadvantage on health in his own community. A career in nursing, the RWJF Nurse Faculty Scholar believed, would allow him to make a difference at both the individual and population-wide levels. Today, Eldeirawi, is researching risk factors that contribute to asthma in Mexican American children living in the United States, and the effects of immigration and acculturation on children’s health.