Successful RIA Case Study Posted

by Shannon Rasp August 20, 2012 11:39 AM

The Research Into Action team has just posted a new case study on KT Exchange covering our involvement in research into the non-auditory health effects of noise. Our efforts were utilized by the City of Houston to update noise laws in the fourth–largest city in the United States.


Houston is unique amongst large American cities in that there is very little zoning. Most Houstonians love the dynamic, mixed-use neighborhoods this creates, but there have been increasing calls for limits on encroaching noise from businesses located in areas that also feature residential housing.


The RIA staff, interested in the growing problem of noise pollution, conducted an extensive research review from literature published around the world and used the results to develop a technical paper summarizing the research, as well as a one-page handout suitable for both lay audiences and those specifically concerned with the non-auditory health effects of noise.


What we found surprised us. Exposure to environmental noise can cause a higher rate of cardiovascular disease, including myocardial infarctions, high blood pressure, and irregular heartbeats; it can raise cholesterol and triglyceride levels and quicken the pulse; noise-interrupted sleep can cause immunosuppression, which means that those who don’t get enough quality sleep get sick easier and for longer periods of time than those who do; children exposed to environmental noise have poorer performance in school and score lower in standardized tests; children who live or go to school near a loud noise source (such as an airport or train station or train line) also experience higher blood pressure levels, which continue into adulthood.


Clearly, loud environmental noise affects everyone. Our KT effort resulted in real changes and improved the quality of life for many Houstonians. Read all about it on our case study page here, and if you have completed similar KT efforts, let us know about them so we can include your work on KT Exchange, too!

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But Not a Drop To Drink

by Shannon Rasp July 22, 2011 02:17 PM

I love water. I love swimming in it, SCUBA diving in it, bathing in it, skiing on it, floating in it, almost everything about it. The only thing I don’t like doing with water is drinking it. I don’t like the boring taste of it, I don’t like how it sloshes around in my stomach, I don’t like going down the hall to the bathroom five times a day, and I don’t like how it makes me feel bloated.


So I was pretty excited when I started reading news articles about how the old “drink 64 ounces of water every day” lecture I’ve endured from numerous doctors over the years is being debunked by Dr. Margaret McCartney in the British Medical Journal. Now here’s a knowledge translation challenge I can get behind!


Unfortunately, it’s not that simple. McCartney (who regularly writes in the media about evidence-based medicine) wrote that the recommendation to drink six to eight glasses of water a day is “thoroughly debunked nonsense,” and that there is no high-quality scientific evidence to support it. She also pointed out that many of the organizations peddling the recommendation are backed by bottled water companies.


Dr. Heinz Valtin of the Dartmouth Medical School agreed with her, telling the Huffington Post that there aren’t any scientific studies supporting the eight-glasses-a-day rule, and that he hasn’t seen any additional evidence that would confirm the recommendation. Valtin published a review of the literature several years ago in the American Journal of Physiology.


However, McCartney’s commentary wasn’t peer-reviewed, and the Mayo Clinic acknowledges that most doctors still recommend drinking eight to nine glasses of water a day. In fact, it’s so ingrained into people’s consciousness that convincing them they might not need to be flooding their bodies with water may be a steep uphill battle.


On a side note, one interesting factoid that came out of this is the various ways it’s acceptable to get your water. I’ve always been told that my water should come from, well, water. But it turns out that’s not really the case. It’s also acceptable to get your water from fruits and vegetables, as well as liquids other than pure water. Aha! I knew it!


Despite all of this, I know when I go in for my next doctor’s appointment I will still be asked how much water I am drinking. I will still lie about it, while seriously underreporting how much Coke I drink, just to keep them off my back. What about you? Are you chugging down the water you’ve been told to every day? And what do you think about the guidelines? Tell me in the comments! 

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Can Facebook Save Lives?

by Shannon Rasp July 18, 2011 01:51 PM

I’ve been reading a knowledge translation article in disguise on Yahoo about Slate writer Deborah Copaken Kogan, who woke up on Mother’s Day to find her four year-old son, Leo, feverish and sporting a rash. She took him in to the pediatrician that day, but the doctor said it could be one of a litany of illnesses, including strep throat. Kogan, trying to cheer Leo up, took his photo while they were in the doctor’s office, and posted it with the information about what was going on to her Facebook wall.


Three of her Facebook friends (two of whom are pediatricians), seeing Leo’s swollen face and reading about his symptoms, immediately urged her to take Leo to the hospital, fearing Kawasaki disease. Kawasaki is a rare and sometimes fatal illness that accelerates quickly and can affect the heart.


Kogan, who by her own admission is a pretty laid-back mom, was frightened enough by the messages to take Leo to the hospital, where he was, indeed, diagnosed with Kawasaki disease. He’s recovering, and Kogan credits the immediacy of the Facebook feedback for saving her child’s life.


This story is hardly the first of its kind – there have been other instances of medical professionals and nonprofessionals alike spotting things in Facebook photos and urging people to seek treatment for a variety of conditions, including cancer. But this new phenomena does have its opponents – the British Medical Association recommends that doctors not “friend” patients on Facebook. The Mayo Clinic, however, developed its own Facebook-type social networking site for their patients and providers to use.


Could our society of uber-sharing lead us to improved health care? Or could it result in a spate of nonprofessional misdiagnoses that actually puts lives at increased risk? Susannah Fox with the Pew Internet and American Life project focuses on the strange new world of technology and health care, and it makes for some really interesting reading.


What do you think? Is this an example of KT done well, or do you see a danger in taking the advice of people you may have never even met? Personally, I would welcome people’s input if I chose to share a medical condition online, but when it comes to seeking treatment, I’ll still rely on my own instincts and the advice of my doctor. How about you?

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