Thursday, August 27, 2015

Guest Post: August is National Psoriasis Awareness Month by R. Courtney Fiess

You may have seen someone with the red, itchy, scaly skin condition known as psoriasis, but did you know that psoriasis can develop into a disease that is much more serious than just an annoying skin ailment?  August is National Psoriasis Awareness Month, so it is a great time to learn more about this disease.
What is Psoriasis?

Psoriasis is an autoimmune skin condition where skin layers sluff off due to over production, which results in spots and lesions on affected skin areas (National Psoriasis Foundation, 2015a).  The skin condition itches, stings, and burns, and can be very uncomfortable for those with the disease.  As alarming as Psoriasis skin patches may look on an individual’s skin, the disease is not contagious.  Psoriasis is caused by genetic factors in a person’s body, that are activated by an event, such as a skin injury, stress, some types of infections, or taking certain medications (National Psoriasis Foundation, 2015a).  Scientists are still researching the exact genes involved and what triggers the infection in multiple clinical trials and research studies to learn more of the specifics about the disease and how to treat it.

It is believed that around 10% of the population has the genetic markers for Psoriasis, but only 2-3 %actually have the disease activated to cause the skin reaction (National Psoriasis Foundation, 2015a).  Around 10% of those with Psoriasis will develop Psoriasis Arthritis, which is swelling of the joints and joint pain due to Psoriasis (National Psoriasis Foundation, 2015a).  Severe cases of Psoriasis Arthritis can be debilitating and cause major lifestyle disruption.   Being overweight increases the chances of severe complications from Psoriasis, and Psoriasis can be linked to other diseases, such as diabetes or kidney disease (National Psoriasis Foundation, 2015b).

Psoriasis Treatment

 There are a variety of treatments available for Psoriasis, including oral medications, Ultraviolet light therapy and topical ointments and creams (National Psoriasis Foundation, 2015a; National Institute of Arthritis and Musculoskeletal and Skin Diseases, 2013).  In addition therapy for the stress and depression associated with the condition is valuable for patients.

If you have skin symptoms or joint pain that you believe may be linked to Psoriasis, you should see your doctor or a local clinic for diagnosis.

For More Information

 The following websites are good resources to learn more about Psoriasis:


The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.  (2015). Psoriasis.  Retrieved from:

National Institute of Arthritis and Musculoskeletal and Skin Diseases.  (2013). Questions and answers about Psoriasis.  Retrieved from:

National Psoriasis Foundation.  (2015a). About Psoriasis.  Retrieved from:

National Psoriasis Foundation.  (2015b). Psoriasis Awareness Month.   Retrieved from:

Written by: R. Courtney Fiess. 

Ms.  Fiess is a Masters student in Health Studies at Texas Woman’s University. She earned her Bachelors of Science in Environmental Science from the University of Houston.  Her current focuses in Health Studies are West Nile Virus and Women’s Health.

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Thursday, August 13, 2015

Insights on Internship: Interview with Serena De La Cruz

Serena De La Cruz is one of our recent graduates. Serena graciously took time out of her busy schedule to  share her experience during her internship as well as advice for future interns. 

Can you tell us a bit more about your internship?
I completed my internship with the Area Agency on Aging in Northwest Arkansas. My job was to work with multiple senior activity and wellness centers in Northwest Arkansas. Every month, I would develop an interactive presentation on one of the monthly health observances and present these at each of the center's throughout the month. In addition, I wrote an article for the monthly newsletters.  I was also fortunate enough to be able to develop my own semester long project. I conducted needs assessments in the senior centers, took that data to find the most needed topic of education, and used that to develop a final event for the seniors. I found a dietitian to come and talk to seniors during a lunch and learn. She covered nutrition specifically for seniors and answered questions. I took what I learned from program planning through evaluation to do this. I was very fortunate to have such a wonderful educational background that prepared me for this activity.

Which Health Studies class has been the most useful during your internship?
It's hard to choose just one class that was the most helpful. I really feel like I used all of my classes combined! If I had to choose one that was specifically helpful during internship, it would be Health Communications. I was working with a population of adults over the age of 60 so how you present the information was crucial. Everything from best format and clear speaking to determining health literacy levels had to be just right in order to reach this population.

What piece of advice do you think is most important when looking for an internship?
Find a place that works with a population that you are passionate about working with. I have always enjoyed working with the elderly and therefore knew that I would wake up every morning excited for my day. I found a site that also allowed me to really take control of my experience and I think that doing so made a huge difference for me. I was able to develop my own activities while also working closely with my preceptor on things that she felt would be helpful to me.

What piece of advice is the most important during the internship?
Network, network, network. This is your chance to meet and develop relationships with others in our field. They will be your "in" after graduation. Take advantage of any opportunity because you never know who you will meet. I got my first job through a woman that I met while attending a class that my preceptor couldn't make it to. She emailed me about 3 months after I graduated with a job posting forwarded from one of her acquaintances. One month later I had a job as a project coordinator for the Northwest Arkansas Tobacco and Drug Free Coalition.

Can you tell us what you are doing now as a Health Studies graduate?
As mentioned previously, I found a job as a project coordinator pretty much straight out of school. I had a wonderful 8 months working in the non-profit world and managed a tobacco grant through the Arkansas Department of Health. I have to say, I would not have been able to do that job without the grant writing class. I had to write a grant proposal to get re-funded!

 In March, an opportunity presented itself that I couldn't pass up. I am now working for TrestleTree (a health transformation company) as a health coach. Every day I get to help people with everything from tobacco cessation to weight loss and stress. I am fortunate because I get to see my work make a direct impact in people's lives.

How did your internship help you in obtaining a job and prepare you for your job?
In terms of obtaining a job, I would have to go back to the networking piece. I really do believe that getting out there and meeting new people is key. I came across my current employer through an informational interview that I set up during my internship. When I think back to how my internship prepared me for my job, I feel that it all comes down to personal and professional development. The time that I spent actually implementing what I learned in my classes was both gratifying and encouraging. I went into my first job very confident that I had the skills to do great work.

*One last piece of advice: Sit for the CHES exam before you graduate if you can. The information is fresh in your mind and it is becoming more and more important to have when applying for jobs!

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Thursday, August 6, 2015

Guest Post: August is National Immunizations Awareness Month by Meredith Molge

Starting August 1st is the recognition of National Immunization Awareness Month (NIAM). Now I know what you may be thinking. What kind of immunizations do we need to be aware of? According to the Centers for Disease Control (CDC), NIAM, “provides an opportunity to highlight the value of immunization across the lifespan” (2015). As health educators and professionals it is important for us to recognize the different vaccinations that are out there as well as what populations may need vaccinations the most. We need to be able to talk to our patients or community members about the different vaccinations available while still being respectful and mindful of the person’s beliefs, religion, and cultural traditions. Our job as health educators and professionals is to make sure our patients and community members have every necessary tool and piece of information they need to make the best decision for their health. So let’s highlight some of the major resources that we can use for our own education as well as resources we can provide to help educate others.

According to the CDC, each week of NIAM will be designated to a certain population. Pre-teens and teens will be discussed during the week of the 2nd through the 8th, pregnant women the 9th through the 15th, adults the 16th through the 22nd, and infants and children the 23rd through the 29th (2015). The materials for NIAM has been organized by the National Public Health Information Coalition (NPHIC), and includes education toolkits, social media pages, videos in English and Spanish, as well as links to state and local health department to find more specific information for the area in which you live in (CDC, 2015). One of the first useful links provided when you type in to your Internet browser is on the left hand side of the screen listed as education and training.

Within this link you are provided with a surplus of resources. You have a link to continuing education courses that include webcasts and self-studies, net-conferences, and even a link where you can request a speaker to come to your state or region (CDC, 2015). One of the most useful parts for patients and the community is the patient education resources section. There is a total of seven links at the bottom of the page that lead you to handouts you can print out and give to patients or that build your own informational sheet on. One of the links titled “by vaccine- materials for patients” takes you to a page that has a list of vaccines and immunizations that separates the material into a “for parents” section and a “for providers” section (CDC, 2015).  This is an important link because there are so many vaccines out there and it can often get confusing for parents, young adults, the elderly, pregnant women, and even providers for what vaccines are needed at different stages in a person's life. Each vaccine is broken down into different sections including clinical, vaccine recommendations, references and resources, provider education, and materials for patients (CDC, 2015). This way we get clear and concise information regarding the vaccine so that we can explain or distribute the information to the community and our patients.

So mark your calendars everyone. August 1st starts a very important month filled with self-education and patient education. We are here to help provide information to those that need it the most. Transcribing health information into understandable terms can help the community and patients to gain a better understanding of the need and importance for immunizations.

Thank you everyone for taking the time to read this information and I have provided the link below to the main page on the CDC site as well as the link to National Public Health Information Coalition page where you can find the different toolkits discussed in the beginning portion of this blog.


Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. (2015). Recognizing National Immunization    Awareness Month. Retrieved on July 15th, 2015 from  

National Public Health Information Coalition. (2015). Toolkits, Your Online Communication             Guides. Retrieved on July 15th, 2015 from

By: Meredith Molge. 
Ms. Molge is a graduate student at Texas Woman’s University. She enjoys her job as an Exercise Technician and EKG Technician where she can apply the knowledge she learns at Texas Woman’s University and make a difference in other people’s lives. When Meredith isn’t working she enjoys running and spending time with her family. 

Monday, July 27, 2015

Guest Post: August is National Breast Feeding Month by Angela Haist

Why should breastfeeding be promoted, supported, and celebrated? Simply put, breastfeeding provides a wealth of benefits, not only for the mother and baby, but also for employers, taxpayers, and the overall health of our nation. Here are just a few of the benefits. Breast milk provides natural immunity for infants; breastfeeding decreases a mother’s risk of ovarian and breast cancers; families can save $1,200-$1,500 the first year; employers see increased worker retention, reduced absences, and lower health care costs; and breastfeeding has the potential to save up to $13 billion in health care costs (U.S. DHHS, 2015).

Every August, the World Alliance for Breastfeeding Action (WABA) promotes, protects, and supports breastfeeding through World Breastfeeding Week (WBW) – August 1-7. As a response to the 1990 Innocenti Declaration, WABA formed in 1991 by government policymakers, the World Health Organization (WHO), and UNICEF and now involves over 170 countries (WHO, 2015).
Over the years, WBW has highlighted themes like: Baby-Friendly Hospital Initiative, Mother-Friendly Workplace Initiative, Breastfeeding: Empowering Women, Breastfeeding: A Community Responsibility, Breastfeeding: It’s Your Right, and Exclusive Breastfeeding: the Gold Standard (WABA, 2012). 

This year, WBW’s theme is “Breastfeeding and Work: Let’s Make it Work!” With half of all mothers with children younger than 12 months working, this is an important issue (USBC, 2015). Many challenges exist for working mothers who breastfeed resulting in lower initiation rates and shorter duration of breastfeeding (USBC, 2015). The Affordable Care Act included a stipulation for employers to accommodate breastfeeding employees by providing reasonable break time (unpaid) to express their milk and a private, clean place (other than a restroom) to do so (USBC, 2015).
Since breastfeeding is considered the best way to provide babies with the nutrients they need, a rigorous global action to support breastfeeding among working mothers is imperative. WHO recommends “exclusive breastfeeding within one hour after birth until a baby is six months old,” and continued breastfeeding for up to two years or longer (WHO, 2015). 

WABA suggests three necessary factors to make it work for working mothers: time, space/proximity, and support (WABA, 2015). Increasing paid maternity leave, providing breastfeeding/pumping breaks, and allowing for flexible hours all help mothers to breastfeed their babies longer (WABA, 2015). Offering private areas to nurse/pump, keeping their infant nearby, and maintaining a clean work environment also help to sustain breastfeeding (WABA, 2015). Finally, informing employees about maternity laws and benefits, receiving support from employers and coworkers, and ensuring job security assist mothers to succeed at breastfeeding their babies for as long possible (WABA, 2015). 

What’s being done this month to support working mothers and breastfeeding? 

  • August 1 – The Global Big Latch On: groups of breastfeeding mothers come together at registered locations to all latch on their child at a set time to raise awareness and support breastfeeding. 
  • Texas Breastfeeding Coalition sponsors The Global Big Latch On and supports World Breastfeeding Week.
  • Texas WIC supports National Breastfeeding Month through a variety of activities: Breastfeeding and Work – Let’s Make it Work! Health Fair, Mother-Friendly Worksite seminars for employers, providing materials and toolkits to support and promote breastfeeding among working mothers (Texas DSHS, 2015).
  • Texas WIC additionally celebrates African American Breastfeeding Week from August 23-27 to support and promote breastfeeding among African American mothers who typically have the lowest breastfeeding rates (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 2014 and Texas DSHS, 2015). 
  • Most states sponsor a breastfeeding coalition or task force that provides local information on WBW events and activities. Hospitals and community centers are frequent sponsors of breastfeeding fairs. Common WBW activities include: The Big Latch On, a breastfeeding health fair, free breastfeeding classes/instruction, WBW theme display contests at hospitals, and local walks to support breastfeeding, to name a few.


Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. (2014). Breastfeeding report card United States 2014. National Center for Chronic Disease Prevention and Health Promotion, 1-8. Retrieved April 23, 2015, from

Texas Department State Health Services. (2015, April 22). Texas WIC: National breastfeeding month 2015. Retrieved July 10, 2015, from

U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. (2015). Global health topics: World breastfeeding week (August 1-7). Retrieved July 10, 2015, from

U.S. Breastfeeding Committee. (2015). Employment. Retrieved July 10, 2015, from

World Alliance for Breastfeeding Action. (2012). Nurturing the future through world breastfeeding week. Retrieved July 10, 2015, from

World Alliance for Breastfeeding Actio. (2015). World breastfeeding week. Retrieved July 10, 2015, from

World Health Organization. (2015). World breastfeeding week. Retrieved July 10, 2015, from

By: Angela Haist, BS
Ms. Haist received a Bachelor of Science in Health Education and Promotion from Oklahoma State University. Currently, Ms. Haist is pursuing a Master of Science in Health Studies at TWU. She is a breastfeeding advocate, certified personal trainer, and marathon coach who loves helping others reach their goals for healthy living. 

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Tuesday, July 21, 2015

Guest Post: UV Safety by James Banks

How many times have you been casually driving about on a summer's day and spied a billboard depicting a smiling sun and thought, "That there sun is up to no good." If your answer is, "Always, James!", then your head is in the right place! Don't get me wrong. I'm not saying that the sun isn't smiling at you. It is! I'm just saying that its pearly whites and big happy eyes are emitting unseen dangers upon your helpless human surfacing! What unseen emissions am I speaking of? UV rays!! Eek!

UV, or ultraviolet, rays are a form of radiation that comes from sunlight (American Cancer Society [ACS], 2015a). There are three different types of UV rays. They're all conveniently named which can help us more easily remember them. UVA, UVB and UVC are the three types and of the three there are only two that we need worry about. UVC, as it turns out, doesn’t make its way through our atmosphere (a literal UVC force field) and therefore does not act as a potential danger to our moisturized hides. UVA and UVB, though, do make their way through our atmosphere and are causes of concern when it comes to exposing ourselves to them (ACS, 2015a)! 

UVA rays are known to advance the aging process of skin cells and can damage the DNA within. Long-term effects of excessive UVA ray exposure typically present as wrinkles to the skin but it's important to note that damaged DNA can increase the risk of developing cancer (ACS, 2015b). Beware! That tanning bed you visit is actually making a UVA ray sponge out of you! Unfortunately that analogy is somewhat misleading as you cannot simply squeeze those rays away and down some magical UVA ray drain.

UVB rays directly damage the DNA of skin cells. So while you're spared those dreadful wrinkles from the likes of UVA, you're not spared sunburns or the increased risk of skin cancer (ACS, 2015b). That's right, friend, UVB rays are the prime culprit and usual suspect when it comes to sunburns. So next time you snag a gnarly sunburn make sure that you correctly attribute blame in your daily diary entry.

Now that you know a lot more than your friends about UV rays, it's time that you learned even more about what you can do to protect yourself from too much exposure. Knowledge, as they say, is power! First, let's consider the more salient point. UV ray strength is dependent upon a lot of factors and being aware of those factors can help you appropriately gauge your approach to not soaking them all up (ACS, 2015a):
  • The time of the day - In between the hours of 10 a.m. and 4 p.m. is when UV rays are the strongest. Midnight beach sessions, anyone?
  • Season - spring and summer bring us stronger UV rays. This, of course, is because we expect more sunlight during those seasons.
  • Altitude - This one is almost obvious. The closer you are to the sun the closer you are to the sun's rays. This is like standing next to a fire. The closer you are the hotter you become. See?
  • Cloud cover - While it's not wise to assume that you're safe from UV because you cannot see the sun, it is enough of a point to make that cloud cover can lower exposure to UV rays. Truly, UV rays still get through. It's just a diminished amount.
Can more be done? Of course! Always remember to wear UV protective clothing (when it's responsible to do so) and seek the shade. Liberally apply lotions containing SPF (Sun Protection Factors) and apply them as directed to continue their helpful effects. Remember though, that SPF lotions don't protect against UVA rays, only UVB rays. This is why you still get a tan but don't get sunburn (see above). Also remember that the higher the SPF percentage the greater amount of UVB rays you're not absorbing (Wang, n.d.). So aim high!

Finally, and best of all, eat more dark chocolate! A recent-ish study found that eating chocolate with high flavanol components can offer greater photoprotection to your skin (Williams, Tamburic & Lally, 2009). A sweet point to end on indeed!

In conclusion, I want you to know that you don't truly have to be fearful of the sun. There are things that are terribly far more frightening (e.g. Venus fly-traps). You just have to be aware of the ways that too much sunlight can damage your skin and be mindful of what you can do to combat those sunlight slights. And now you're cognizant of both. Be safe, friends!


American Cancer Society. (2015a). What is ultraviolet (UV) radiation?. Retrieved from

American Cancer Society. (2015b). What Is Cancer? Retrieved from

Wang, S. Q. (n.d.). ASK THE EXPERT: Does a higher-SPF (sun protection factor) sunscreen always protect your skin better? Retrieved from

Williams, S., Tamburic, S., & Lally, C. (2009). Eating chocolate can significantly protect the skin from UV light. Journal of Cosmetic Dermatology, 8(3), 169-173. doi:10.1111/j.1473-2165.2009.00448.x

By: James Banks.

James Banks is a graduate student at Texas Woman's University. He enjoys his job as a servant of the public for the State of Texas. When James isn't working or studying he enjoys family time, exercising and journaling.  

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