Archive for March, 2014
Monday, March 31st, 2014
The MAXIMUS Center for Health Literacy announced a new webinar series focusing on health literacy. Each webinar in the series, entitled “Communications Tune Up”, will spotlight a different aspect and/or challenge of effective communication to populations with varied health literacy levels.
The six topics include:
- Plain Language 101: Making Sense of Complex Content (March 28) – Encore Presentation on Wednesday, April 2nd at 1pm Central.
- Quick and Easy Field Testing: Asking for Affirmation, Corrections and Suggestions (April 25)
- Design for Readability: Creating Visual Order (May 30)
- Making Content Accessible: Removing Barriers to Print and Web Information (June 27)
- Getting the Message Out: Planning and Implementing Public Health Campaigns (July 11)
- Removing Language Barriers: Reaching Your Spanish Speaking Audience (August 15)
Webinars are an hour long each and recordings will be posted as webcasts on the MAXIMUS Center for Health Literacy website. For registration links and links to previously recorded health literacy webinars from MAXIUMS, visit their Webinars page.
Friday, March 28th, 2014
The end of Marketplace Open Enrollment is now just 3 days away – March 31st – for individuals to sign up for coverage for this year. After March 31st, the next Open Enrollment period will be November 15, 2014 – February 15, 2015. As of March 27, more than 6 million individuals had signed up for coverage through the Health Insurance Marketplace.
Individuals are being encouraged to use the online enrollment options via Healthcare.gov and CuidadoDeSalud.gov or by phone using the toll free number at 1-800-318-25961-800-318-2596. Individuals are advised NOT to use a paper application form at this time to avoid missing the enrollment deadline. The Call Center continues to be staffed to provide assistance 24 hours a day, 7 days a week to provide assistance to those needing to start or complete an application, compare plans, enroll, or ask a question.
For sources of Public Service Announcements, sample Facebook and Twitter posts, blog posts, and stories of individuals who have recently received coverage, these sources have lots of information:
U.S. Department of Health and Human Services: http://www.hhs.gov/healthcare/insurance/index.html
CMS.gov Health Insurance Marketplace website
Twitter: @HealthCare.gov and several hashtags, including #GetCoveredNow and #ACA
Let’s help get the word out for people to #GetCoveredNow!
Photo credit: Healthcare.gov Facebook page
Thursday, March 27th, 2014
By now most of us are aware that our online activities are not private. From the National Security Association (NSA) spying allegations to targeted ads, online activity including search history and private data isn’t always safe from prying eyes. Many internet users are still unaware that their online activity is being monitored or that often the data generated while browsing online is used by corporations to promote products and tailor online experiences.
Data is a hot commodity and data brokers specialize in using tracking technology to collect data about you and your online activities. Data brokers compile data and then sell that data to different groups including business clients, the general public, and even other data brokers. Business clients may use the data to market new products and services to you. Your data may also be used for search or references services such as genealogy. In some cases this data can be used with malicious intent.
In a recent post Mandi Woodruff of Yahoo Finance Today notes that “it’s nearly impossible for the average consumer to expect anonymity online or off.” Despite our best efforts the data tracking industry is always evolving and “there’s little we know about data tracking and the companies that do it.” The Federal Trade Commission (FTC) will publish the results of an investigation into nine major data brokers later this year.
Luckily there are steps you can take to limit the tracking that occurs while you are online. The tools and tips outlined below may be useful when attempting to limit online tracking of your activity.
Many search engines track every search that is preformed. They use this data for various purposes including improving their search algorithm but they also share this data with websites listed in the search results page. When you click on a URL from a list of results in a search engine “that website will often get a blurb of data telling them which search terms led you to their site, along with a log of your computer location and IP address.” Websites may use this data to send more ads to you based on your search history and even your IP location. This same search history data could also be used to alert authorities to individuals with suspicious searches on topics that relate to public safety such as bomb making.
To prevent search engines from tracking your searches consider taking the following steps:
- Make a habit of deleting your search history and cookies;
- Enable the “Do Not Track” (DNT) feature
- To initiate “DNT” on your browser, go into your browser preferences and look for the tab labeled “Privacy.”
- Check the box to enable the DNT feature.
- DNT is available on Google Chrome, Mozilla Firefox, Explorer, and Safari.
- If you use a mobile device you will need to turn this feature on using the privacy settings on the mobile browser.
- Use a search engine such as DuckDuckGo or Ixquick which report that they do not track searches
Browser plugins like Ghostery and Disconnect.me allow you access to the world of data brokers. These plugins will allow you to see the data tracking sites that may be watching you while you search. These plugins allow you to see if a site is tracking you for analytics, advertisements or social media requests and lets you decide which sites to block and which ones to allow. The plugins do not stop ads from appearing but they do keep sites from tracking our online behavior in order to tailor ads to you.
Always look to be sure the URL for your connections begins with “https”. If you are sharing credit card or personal information it is important to check for this secure encryption. Using a Virtual Private Network (VPN) or all your online activity is another option to ensure your data is encrypted. Information sent over a VPN is encrypted and better protected from hackers and malware. Read the Why You Should Start Using a VPN post from Lifehacker for more information on VPNs including a list of VPN clients and apps.
While data brokers keep their work secrete the World Privacy Forums keeps a page of data broker opt out options. While it can be time consuming to go through the opt-out options on all the listed sites it is another step to take ensure you are not being tacked.
Don’t forget about the settings on your mobile devices. You will need to check your device and the apps that you use. Some apps, with access to your data, use your activity to tailor ads to you. You can adjust each app’s access to your data on the device. “The latest iPhone and Android updates also offer a new feature that stops apps from using ad tracking, but you’ll need to turn it on yourself.”
You can learn more about tracking from DuckDuckGo’s Don’t Track Us site and from the World Privacy Forum.
Wednesday, March 19th, 2014
Each March Austin, Texas hosts thousands as part of the South by Southwest (SXSW) festival. The event which has grown in size over the years now hosts three distinct programs, Interactive, Film, and Music. Because Austin is known as an academic and technology hub the Interactive portion of SXSW (SXSWi) has been a big draw for those interested in technology focused start-up businesses and innovations. In recent years SXSWi has helped launched popular apps, games, and other emerging technologies. SXSWi also attracts leaders in design, business, healthcare, and industry, who speak about their experiences and look to the event as a way to promote their projects as well as connect with future innovators. SXSWi is also anchored by a large trade show which features technology products, apps, and services from around the globe. SXSWi is a large event, in 2012 it was estimated that 20,000 people attended the Interactive portion alone.
This was my second year attending SXSWi and I was able to find a number of informative sessions and speakers that provided information on topics related to health sciences, technology, and emerging trends.
Comparing the health related sessions from 2013 and 2014 I noticed that the number of people interested in the same topics had more than doubled in size and the room where most of these health speaker panels took place was much larger than the year before. In addition, keynotes speakers such as 23andMe‘s Anne Wojcicki, who focused on health and technology attracted a large crowd.
The Future of Citizen Science, an emerging trend at SXSWi, supported by keynote speaker Adam Savage from the TV show Mythbusters, also received attention in health sessions. Jessica Richman, CEO of uBiome, provided an overview of resources and tools that are helping citizens become more involved with science. Tools discussed include SciStarter, “a service to find out about, take part in, and contribute to science through recreational activities and research projects,” Science Exchange, “a marketplace for scientific collaboration, where researchers can order experiments from the world’s best labs,” and many more.
Gregory Downing from the United States Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) spoke about the emerging role of open health data with a focus on the website Healthdata.gov. Joining the panel was Beverley Bryant, Director of Strategic Systems & Technology, for the National Health Service (NHS) England who was interested doing more to digitize specialized health services at the NHS by using strategies used by HHS to encourage the development of new Electronic Health Record (EHR) tools through government backed data challenges.
In areas of outreach the collaboration between private and non-profit entities was another growth area. In the panel Mobile Technology Solutions for the Marginalized, a project aimed at creating a resource tool for a primarily homeless population in San Francisco’s Tenderloin neighborhood was realized only when a collaborative team made up of technology experts from a local technology company partnered with the non-profit Tenderloin Technology Lab as well as with professionals and social workers from the area. LinkSF provides a mobile interface with information not only for the homeless living in the area but also for social services and concerned citizens. The realization of this project serves as an example of the outreach efforts that can be created when technology and information come together to serve the specific needs of a special population.
Networking, an important part of SXSWi, allowed me to meet with some of the panel speakers as well as other entrepreneurs in the health start-up field. As one of the only medical librarians in attendance networking with these start-ups exposed them to the role of research librarians and health data. As healthcare and health data continue to evolve the need for information experts becomes obvious. In addition, many of those interested in the health start-up field do not have a medical or even research backgrounds. Many innovators have experience with programming, data, or design but not the resources that are available to assist with the projects they are developing. Again, the librarian can play a vital role in connecting these entrepreneurs with the information they need. For those interested in citizen science and even forming collaborative relationships to serve the needs of a community, the library is again another resource and community partner to be explored. Many libraries are now providing not only resources such as books or access to the internet, many are taking part in the marker movement, providing tools, special events, and even the space for individuals to learn and explore creative ideas.
Not surprising libraries and librarians make up a growing number of those in attendance at SXSWi. This year a section of SXSWi was devoted to maker spaces. Libraries had a presence in sessions speaking about the role of the library in the maker movement as well as in sessions devoted to data and privacy. Support for libraries was also seen on the trade show floor with the “Innovative Booth for Libraries” which was co-hosted by the Association of Rural and Small Libraries (ARSL), the Digital Library Federation (DLF), the Electronic Resources & Libraries conference, EveryLibrary, the Freedom to Read Foundation (FTRF), Urban Libraries Council (ULC), and Urban Librarians Unite (ULU) and supported by Innovative Interfaces. To learn more about libraries, archives, and museums and SXSWi visit the sxswLAM webpage.
Tuesday, March 18th, 2014
The National Library of Medicine K-12 team is part of the National Library of Medicine’s Office of Outreach to Special Populations Branch (SIS). Teachers and students have been identified as a special population group that can benefit from the science and health information and resources which NLM provides.
In addition to the many online resources which may be accessed through the National Library of Medicine’s website, educators may be interested in an electronic newsletter produced monthly entitled, “NLM Education Connection.” Subscription to the newsletter is available via: https://LIST.NIH.GOV/cgi-bin/wa.exe?SUBED1=K12NLMRESOURCES&A=1 .
This month’s features include:
- Toxicology Resources for the Classroom
- Health Observances: National Nutrition Month
- Desalination Video that Wows!
Additional resources for I-12 teachers and students may be found at: http://k12.nlm.nih.gov/ .
Tuesday, March 18th, 2014
Congratulations to Cheryl Rowan, NN/LM SCR Consumer Health Coordinator, and Emily Hurst, NN/LM SCR Technology Coordinator, both of whom were accepted to the 2014 TALL Texans Leadership Development Institute. The Institute provides advanced leadership and management education in service to all the libraries of Texas and the communities they serve. Participants study strategic planning, risk-taking, conflict negotiation, team building, coaching, ethics, advocacy, personal career planning, and more. This transformational program helps attendees learn and embrace their potential to take new initiative for their institutions, their profession, and their stakeholders.
Wednesday, March 12th, 2014
25 years ago, on March 12, 1989, Tim Berners-Lee wrote a proposal for a “global hypertext system” which would lead to the development of what would become known as the World Wide Web. In 1990 the proposal took a more formalized shape and Berners-Lee finished the first known website in December of that year.
According to Berners-Lee “the Web is a powerful enabler of people, economic activity, and democracy…” The Web has clearly transformed the way we interact with one another was well as find and use information.
On the 25th anniversary of the Web’s conception Berners-Lee is asking users of the Internet to think about the following questions and help shape the future of the Web:
- How do we make the Web truly globally available to all people?
- How do we secure the web?
- What does the Web need to be more useful in education, commerce, entertainment, and social interactions?
- How do we build a universal web, accessible to all regardless of physical or cognitive capability?
The World Wide Web Consortium or W3C invites all to send a message for a virtual birthday card as well as visit the Web at 25 website to find out about upcoming events and ways to be involved in shaping the future of the web.
Watch the full video message from Berners-Lee below:
Monday, March 10th, 2014
NIH News in Health, the monthly newsletter bringing you practical health news and tips based on the latest NIH research. In this edition:
Click here to download a PDF version for printing.
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Friday, March 7th, 2014
On February 27th, 2014 the U.S. Food and Drug Administration published several proposed updates to the Nutrition Facts label found on the majority of packaged foods in the United States. According to the FDA Guidance and Regulation page, the proposed changes include the following:
- Greater understanding of nutritional science
- Updated serving size requirements and new labeling requirements for certain package sizes
- Refreshed design
In order to encourage a greater understanding of nutritional science, the FDA will require that labels include information about added sugars, updated daily values, the amount of potassium and Vitamin D, as well as continuing to include “Total Fat”, “Saturated Fat”, and “Trans Fat” amounts while “Calories from Fat” will be removed.
The serving size requirements will be changed to reflect how people currently eat and drink, which is vastly different than 20 years ago–when serving sizes were first established. Serving size on labels will now include “what people actually eat, not what they ‘should’ be eating”. In addition, items usually consumed in a single sitting (ie, 20 oz sodas) will now be labeled as one serving instead of multiple. Larger packages that are usually consumed in multiple sittings will include “dual column” labels to include nutrition information for per serving as well as per package.
The new design of the label will feature larger text for caloric information and serving sizes. Consumers will also notice a shift of Percent Daily Values to the left of the label (for prominence) from it’s original position on the right. A clear explanation of Percent Daily Values will also be included.
For more information, details, and images of the proposed changes to the Nutrition Facts label, visit the FDA Guidance & Regulation page.