Thursday Dish: Is there such a thing as healthy comfort food?

Mancuso-comfort-food-593x444Comfort food: It’s good for the soul. It soothes the spirit. But healthy? Can comfort food really be healthy?

Not just healthy. Plant-based. (It’s true!)

In this recipe from the good folks at the Food for Health blog, the grilled tofu, vegetarian Dal (a lentil dish), brown rice and sauteed kale combine to provide a nice balance of protein, whole grains, fiber and flavor. Check out the full recipe here.

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Photo of the Week: Carla Sandy, MD

As part of National Health IT Week,  Carla Sandy, MD, Chief of OB/Gyn for Mid-Atlantic Permanente Medical Group of Kaiser Permanente, discussed integrated, technologically coordinated care to support nationally recognized birth outcomes yesterday in Washington, DC. 

Dr. Sandy speaks at Congressional briefing.

Dr. Sandy speaks at Congressional briefing.

Dr. Sandy brought her son Calvin along, who found a fan in DC Mayor Vincent Gray.

Mayor Gray meets Calvin

Mayor Gray meets Calvin.

How are your kids handling the stress of heading back to school?

Understanding our kids’ physical health is one thing. Tuning in to their emotions can be quite another.

According to the National Institute of Mental Health, the number of children with a diagnosable anxiety disorder is now up to a staggering 25 percent. As we’re now a few weeks into a brand new school year, this might be a good time to pause and check in on the anxiety levels of the kids in our lives.

In this episode of Total Health Radio, we explore key questions around anxiety in children. In what way do symptoms of anxiety look different in a child than in an adult? How do we differentiate between a high level of stress and something more serious? How do we help our kids identify triggers? And importantly, we look at how we can best help our kids by becoming aware of – and getting a handle on – our own anxieties.

Total Health Questionnaire: Erin Meade

Erin Meade is the Senior Consultant for Marketing & Events at the Center for Total Health. She has been at the Center since the beginning, and has loved every minute. 

Erin Meade

Erin Meade

Q: In a few words, what does Total Health mean to you?
Total Health means being healthy enough to do the things I want to do, when I want to do them. Not having my health get in the way. Right now, getting back into marathon running shape is number one (if only my hip would cooperate!).

Q: Which person, living or dead, is your health hero or role model?
My mom. She’s always been a runner, and even as the years go by, she keeps getting up and out at least five days a week. She’s also become quite the yogi.

Q: What is your favorite food?
Cheese, mashed potatoes, and ice cream. Not at the same time.

Q: What do you most value in your work? What inspires you to continue?
The best part of working at the Center for Total Health is meeting new people from diverse backgrounds. It’s a constant inspiration to hear about all the amazing things going on to improve clinical, personal, and community health.

Q: If you could change one thing in health care, what would it be?
Everyone would have an electronic record that would travel with them through life, regardless of employer or insurance. No more completing a family history every time you visit a new doctor.

Q: Where do/would you most like to live?
A: On a beach.

Q: Where do/would you most like to travel?
I love traveling. My favorite places so far are Paris, Prague, and Lisbon; next on my to-travel list is Iceland. I also always love going home to Pittsburgh (Here We Go Steelers!).

Q: What do you consider your greatest achievement so far?
Running two marathons.

Q: If you could have dinner with any three people, living or dead, who would you pick?
 My two grandfathers, who died before I was born. And probably Dave Eggers, who is my favorite writer.

Is there someone you’d like us to feature in this series? Nominate them! Send us a message here with your suggestion.

What Does Environmentally Sustainable Health Care Look Like?

It’s all you’ve ever wanted to know about the greening of health care!  In our earlier post, we told you about the recent publication of the book, Greening Health Care, by Kaiser Permanente’s Kathy Gerwig.  Today, we begin a series of excerpts from the book — and we start with an introduction and overview from the preface.

The very nature of health care is changing. Health care reform, clinical innovations, electronic medical records, social connectivity, technological advances, baby boomers’ expectations about quality of life, demands for price to align with value, and ways the environment contributes to disease are some of the factors behind the changes. These changes offer profound, new opportunities to address environmental issues across the health care sector and beyond.image

In this changing landscape, what does environmentally sustainable health care look like? Let’s take an imaginary visit to a hospital for a routine doctor visit. Approaching the medical facility, the first thing we notice is that the building is smaller than we expected. There is a convenient transit stop at the front entrance. And the parking lot pavement allows rainwater to filter through to be cleaned and returned to the aquifer. We notice that instead of lawns there are native plantings that minimize water and pesticide use.

There is a garden path that takes us by a stream that was brought back to life from where it was hidden in a concrete culvert decades ago. We enjoy the birds that have rediscovered this tranquil place. You notice a labyrinth and take a meditative respite.

Once inside, we’re walking on nonvinyl, nonpolluting material on the carpets and floors, and we notice how much natural light floods into the lobby and hallways from specially designed window glass, shades, and blinds that allow sunlight in while minimizing afternoon heat. The walls are painted in soothing colors and patterns that mimic the adjoining landscape. The energy efficient lighting fixtures glow with a pleasing hue. You see a plaque on the wall indicating that the building is carbon-neutral.

In the bathroom, the toilets and sinks are water-conserving, and the soap does not contain harmful anti-bacterial agents. The paper towels are made from 100 percent recycled, post- consumer waste, and the used towels go into a compost container. In the waiting room, the fabric on the chairs was selected to avoid harmful chemicals that can cause adverse health effects.

In the exam room, your temperature and blood pressure are taken with mercury-free devices. You notice the purple exam gloves used by the clinical staff. These are latex-safe for worker and patient safety, and they are environmentally preferable.

If you are here for a biopsy, your doctor will use a rigid endoscope (for minimally invasive surgery) which is steam sterilized to avoid the use of chemicals that are hazardous to the environment and to staff. Read More

Reversing the Epidemic of Inactivity

EVS Pic - Black Bold SmallerIn the final installment of her seven-part series on Exercise as a Vital Sign (EVS), Kaiser Permanente physician Latifat Apatira blogs about how far we have come and the long road ahead toward reversing what she describes as “the epidemic of inactivity.”

She writes that health care providers have a duty to evaluate each patient’s physical activity habits. And that Kaiser Permanente is moving in the right direction through efforts to work closer with community partners on a wide range of initiatives aimed at promoting exercise and healthy living.

“To combat inactivity, we need programs like EVS,” Dr. Apatira writes. “But we also need changes in our policies, built environments, and culture to reframe the role physical activity plays in our lives every day.”

Physical activity, she writes, needs to be something that people do not only because it’s the healthy choice, “but because it’s the easy choice, the comfortable choice, or the fun choice.”

Read the blog in its entirety:

What We All Should Know About Headaches

Is there anything that can get in the way of your day’s activities worse than a headache? We’ve all been there. But did you know that there are several different types of headaches you may be suffering from – and each has its own causes? It’s true. The good news: There are things you can do to deal with – and sometimes even prevent – the headaches plaguing you. In this episode of Total Health Radio, our guest physician walks us through the different types of headaches, shares how we can identify our own personal triggers, and explores options for how we can best manage headache pain when one strikes. Have a listen.

Tuesday Dish: Behold the Virtues of Melon with Lime and Chile

Melons-and-chili-1Tell us this isn’t one of the most surprising — and eye-catching — recipes you’ve seen all summer. We dare you.

From our friends at the Food for Health blog, Kaiser Permanente physician and chef Benjamin Maring, MD, brings us an easy (and delicious-sounding) recipe for Melon with Lime and Chile. The photo alone is inspiring, and we are looking forward to our next run to the local farmers market to check out their selection of melons — cantaloupe and honeydew aren’t the only varieties that would complement this dish.

Dr. Maring suggests this is a perfect snack for hot summer days and an ideal starter for a dinner party — and who are we to argue? If you’re as intrigued (and hungry) as we are, check out the recipe here.

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Caffeine and Kids: What’s the Buzz?

As your kids head back to school, you may notice that they — and many of their friends — seem to be weighed down with nearly as many commitments as adults. How they manage that level of responsibility is worth considering. With the rise of coffee house culture, the popularity of soda, and the explosion of energy drinks on the market, the amount of caffeine consumed by teens and even younger children is on the rise.

If you are concerned about the caffeine habits of a child in your life, this episode of Total Health Radio can help. In it, Kaiser Permanente’s Michael Nelson, MD, shares the symptoms that signal your child might have a problem, as well as how to broach the topic — and what you can do to protect your child’s health.

Total Health Questionnaire: Yen Greene

Yen Greene is the Operations Specialist at the Center for Total Health. She’s loved by all she meets because of her cheerful can-do attitude. Yen has been at the Center for Total Health for about three years.

Yen Greene

Yen Greene

Q: In a few words, what does Total Health mean to you?
A: Total Health is the whole you… the condition of your mind and body. Be fit so you’re ale to chase your child around now, and continue to do so in the future.

Q: Which person, living or dead, is your health hero or role model?
My friend, Von! A full time employee, a catering business, mother of 4 kids and still has time to exercise daily! She cooks for the family and still sticks to her healthy food choices.

Q: What is your favorite food?
Everything! Beef Spicy Noodle Soup.

Q: What do you value most in your work? What inspires you to continue?
I value all different projects I manage on a day to day basis. I believe that my work does make a difference in future workflow for others.

Q: If you could change one thing in health care, what would it be?
I want to change the communication aspect of health care. How patients get the quality of care that they deserve. What are their rights vs. privileges?

Q: Where would you most like to live?

Q: Where do/would you most like to travel?
Europe or Fiji

Q: What do you consider your greatest achievement so far?
For work – working with different individuals and departments to understand the concepts/definition between what is considered a capital expenses vs operation expense. FUN STUFF!    Personal – being healthy and a family!

Q: If you could have dinner with any three people, living or dead, who would you pick?
Dinner with Damien and Elly [husband and daughter]… together and not by myself!

Is there someone you would like to see profiled in our Total Health Questionnaire? Nominate them in the comments!

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