Archive for the 'Health & Behavior' Category


mothering as everyday practice


What makes a good mother? Bambi Chapin has co-edited (with Kathleen Barlow) a new special issue of the journal Ethos on “Mothering as Everyday Practice.” The articles explore not just what mothers say about parenting, but what they actually do, and how they understand what defines a good mother. These ideas are far from natural or universal. Instead, they are informed by a diversity of value systems, social structures, traditions, habits and life circumstances.

Chapin undertook the research that inspired this publication while parenting her own child in the field, and she describes how others’ reactions to her mothering shaped her field relationships in unexpected ways. Likewise, her personal reactions to others’ mother-child interactions—feeling surprise or dismay—often prompted her most notable insights.

Bambi Chapin is co-editor of the December 2010 issue of Ethos on “Mothering as Everyday Practice.”


NCAA Sickle Cell Policy


Recently, the NCAA implemented a policy requiring all incoming Division I student-athletes to be screened for sickle cell trait, show proof or prior screening, or decline to be screened by signing a release waiver. The policy is being implemented as part of a settlement between the NCAA and the family of Dale Lloyd II, a Rice University football player who died in 2006 after collapsing during a conditioning workout.

The NCAA’s policy on sickle cell trait has raised a great debate between those who feel it protects student-athletes and those who feel that it might lead to them being stigmatized or discriminated against.

As a social psychologist, I started the Laboratory for the Social and Psychological study of sickle cell disease at UMBC in 2005. We conduct research on a range of issues, including social attitudes and perceptions about the condition.  I think that those arguing for and against the NCAA’s sickle cell policy are missing two important points, and that this debate creates a unique opportunity for public discourse about sickle cell trait.  


Health Care Reform and Future Graduates


A new identity as a “young professional” comes with expectations and responsibilities that are often unfamiliar and intimidating for graduating seniors. A job and regular income is step one; but even for soon-to-be grads with job offers in hand, there are other factors beyond salary such as retirement funding (nothing could seem farther away, but there’s absolutely no better time to start) and health insurance.

The latter need is particularly timely with health care reform becoming law just last week. Ideally, a job offer will include employer-subsidized health insurance. But what is a new grad who is still job hunting or an employed grad whose job offer didn’t include health insurance to do? The new law (effective six months from now) will allow children ages 26 and under to be covered by their parent’s plan. Indeed a great benefit for those whose post-college transition may take longer than anticipated. And while other aspects of the law will not be relevant to this year’s graduates, starting in 2014, future graduates will we be covered by the public Medicaid program if their income is under 133 percent of the federal poverty line. For those without access to employment-based insurance, insurance costs will be heavily subsidized for those earning up to 400 percent of the federal poverty line. But given the time delay before implementation, it’s important for job searching students to seriously take into consideration the entire compensation package (especially health insurance) of any job offer.

UMBC students interested in getting assistance with their current job search and/or learning more about salary negotiation and weighing job offers are invited to connect with the Career Services Center (


Why We Study Food

American Studies Warren Belasco

I recently gave a lecture at the University of Mississippi exploring why food matters and why it’s important to study food from a historical and psychological approach. Thanks to the The Media and Documentary Projects Center for producing a video of the lecture:

Warren Belasco, “Why Food Matters” from UM Media Documentary Projects on Vimeo.

Belasco has written three widely followed books on food culture. His latest, “Food: The Key Concepts,” is a short textbook based on his food-related American Studies courses. “Meals to Come,” examines the future of the food supply and “Appetite for Change,” published in 1990, argued that the trend toward popularity of rice and tofu in the 1960s and ’70s indicated a shift in American culture that changed the country’s behavior toward food.



in case of tornado, keep your seatbelt fastened


For 50 years the National Weather Service (NWS) has been advising people driving in the path of tornados to abandon their cars or mobile homes and lie flat in a ditch if no other shelter was available, and the Weather Channel has repeated this advice since launching 20 years ago.

That was until late last week, when the Weather Channel broadcast new tornado safety guidelines my team developed for the American Red Cross, which recommends staying in your car with the seatbelt fastened and ignition running throughout a tornado warning.

As head of the Preparedness Subcouncil of the American Red Cross, we recently spent a year reviewing scientific literature behind public safety messages related to natural hazards such as tornadoes, hurricanes, wildfires, floods, etc. We found no evidence to support the NWS suggestion that people should lie in a ditch during a tornado if they cannot find solid shelter. Instead, we found evidence that automobiles provide substantially more protection than mobile homes or being outside. (By the way, who would want to lie in a ditch in a storm with pounding rain, hail, and lightning?)

Working with one of the most active researchers in tornado safety, Dr. Tom Schmidlin from Kent State University, we developed new tornado public advisory guidelines for the Red Cross and our federal partners (FEMA, NOAA, HHS, NWS, etc). We recommended that if you are outside, or in a mobile home, and can reach a car but cannot reach a sturdy building, you should get in the car. I sent this new public advisory and the supporting literature to Dr. Greg Forbes at the Weather Channel and he immediately broadcast the updated guidelines. Click here to watch the new advisory.

American Red Cross updates tornado safety guidelines for driving

American Red Cross updates tornado safety guidelines for driving



Swine Flu Readiness 101


I appeared live on WJZ Channel 13 News April 28, 2009, to discuss the threat of pandemic flu and how families and communities can prepare themselves. We all know the basics, but here are a few simple tips to prepare yourself and your community:

– first – don’t panic

– wash hands often with either soap and water or with an alcohol based hand sanitizer

– keep about a week’s supply of food and water in the house

– if you do feel sick, do not go to work or to public places where you may infect others

– become familiar with ways that you could care for your relatives or others in your community should they become ill

– get involved with your community’s volunteer health agencies now so that you can be prepared to assist in the event of a more serious outbreak

– stay as healthy as possible with a balanced diet and regular exercise

– if the situation worsens, be prepared to follow instructions from local public health officials.



Google flu trends: Web searches as pandemic sensors

COMPUTER SCIENCE PROFESSOR TIM FININ, an expert on deep data-mining of the Web and social networks, blogs at UMBC ebiquity about the swine flu outbreak and how Web searches can predict pandemic patterns ahead of an outbreak:

Google has had a special “flu trends” site up for many months that provides “up-to-date estimates of flu activity in the United States based on aggregated search queries.”

They have found that how many people search for flu-related topics is a leading indicator for reports on how many people actually have flu symptoms. They believe that this metric “may indicate flu activity up to two weeks ahead of traditional flu surveillance systems”….

So, is Google magic? The explanation for why changes in in the level of flu searches precedes changes in the level of flu symptoms is more mundane.

“So why bother with estimates from aggregated search queries? It turns out that traditional flu surveillance systems take 1-2 weeks to collect and release surveillance data, but Google search queries can be automatically counted very quickly. By making our flu estimates available each day, Google Flu Trends may provide an early-warning system for outbreaks of influenza.


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