Essays, poems and Stories of an African-American

Saturday, 17 October 2015

Music From A Public Health Perspective

Music is one way many relax or enjoy their leisure time. But, I was asking myself what are some points I can categorically attribute to music as a health benefit. There are benefits that can be garnered by young and old. The benefits I can share with you are:

-Music has anti-anxiety properties.
-Music, increases alertness and interest in surroundings, a raised heartbeat, a continued sucking reflex in babies.
-Music increases the body's production of the antibody immunoglobulin A and natural killer cells-the cells that attack invading viruses and boost the immune system's effectiveness.
-Music also reduces levels of the stress hormone cortisol.

Music is a means of taking part in recreation. "Taking part in recreational activities, particularly outdoors, can improve your physical wellness. In fact, people who frequently take advantage of park activities have fewer doctor visits, lower body mass indexes and lower systolic blood pressures than those who don't," states Rachel Morgan in a LiveStrong Magazine.

I came across articles attesting to music having a healing therapy. In one study of premature babies (preemies); alertness, sucking reflex, raised heartbeat and restful sleep were gauged when music was played and when it was not. During the playing of music, there was an increased alertness and interest in surroundings, a raised heartbeat, a continued sucking reflex which meant that feeding would continue for such babies and the babies' alertness was high throughout the study. This study, was conducted by researchers at Beth Israel Medical Center's Louis Armstrong Center for Music and Medicine conducted the study, which included 272 premature babies 32 weeks gestation or older in 11 mid-Atlantic NICUs. They examined the effects of three types of music: a lullaby selected and sung by the baby's parents; an "ocean disc," a round instrument, invented by the Remo drum company, that mimics the sounds of the womb; and a gato box, a drum-like instrument used to simulate two-tone heartbeat rhythms. The two instruments were played live by certified music therapists, who matched their music to the babies' breathing and heart rhythms. The researchers found that the gato box, the Remo ocean disc and singing all slowed a baby's heart rate, although singing was the most effective. Singing also increased the amount of time babies stayed quietly alert, and sucking behavior improved most with the gato box, while the ocean disc enhanced sleep.  "The music therapy also lowered the parents' stress," says Joanne Loewy, the study's lead author, director of the Armstrong center and co-editor of the journal Music and Medicine. Researchers from McGill University in montreal, found that listening to and playing music increase the body's production of the antibody immunoglobulin A and natural killer cells — the cells that attack invading viruses and boost the immune system's effectiveness. Music also reduces levels of the stress hormone cortisol.

The testimony by David Binanay where music helped him heal from a psychosis, raises an interesting series of questions. Can music help heal us? What role does music play in our health and happiness? Can music be a form of medicine?

Music, is used in such places like Boston Children's Hospital, where the idea of using music to help patients as young as premature babies in the neonatal intensive care unit has taken off in the last decade.

There are many examples where music is increasingly becoming central to therapy. So, go on take some time and listen to that beat doing the rounds. Or hum a tune even if it is off tune. The body will not judge you in the strict America-has-Idols way.


Friday, 16 October 2015

Health Advocacy From a Public Health Perspective; A personal Journey!

A long time ago, when I was introduced to a group of other young students under Rotary International I never knew I would later (25 years after) still be a zealous community/public health advocate and activist. Part of my post-doctoral work will be a text book in which I shall write short topics to cause more interest in healthy lifestyles as well as debunk myths.

In my earlier life, I learnt how to improve on myself by reading materials on health and interventions for resource-constrained communities. It is through such means that I got to learn what were known as "Appropriate Technologies." 

For instance if we were to talk to people in rural communities with less means about boiling water, we did not have to use electric kettles to demonstrate the point. But, being in such settings, we also had to use what was immediate and part of everyday life. We had to 'accessorize.'

There are similarities I note as the then mere follower of instructions from very highly placed medical doctors from Ministry of Health and my present circumstances as a scholar/practitioner gaining more understanding in public health and science.

Public health is a story, a science, an art, a principle, a practice and a goal. It deals with health, hygiene and diseases. It deals with health, hygiene and prevention of diseases. It is health promotion, prevention and preparedness all in one.

Public health as a field of study is a dynamic interdisciplinary package whose goal is the promotion of health and prevention of diseases in populations. It protects, improves the health of individuals, families, communities and populations locally and globally. Public health: improves global health;  advances environmental health; and creates healthier communities. In a nutshell like Greg martin would put it, "public health is a discipline that addresses health at a population level.

I have seen this happen in my life too. From my work in Africa to presently as a volunteer health advocate. Back in africa,In 1993, I was introduced to the concept of community health as well as Community-led Integrated HIV Prevention Practices. This was at a time when Uganda was preparing to make a self assessment of her health campaigns, especially the HIV Campaign. I was part of the Demographic Health Survey (DHS) Expanded Programme on Immunization so I managed to see first hand what it meant to work with grassroot communities. I learnt and utilized my community engagement skills. I enjoyed it and had the opportunity to travel when we were promoting country-wide Routine Immunization campaigns. By 2006, I had travelled to all parts of Uganda as a Community Trainer for small communities to own skills in health-care. This was possible under the auspices of United Nations International Children's Emergency Fund (UNICEF) and  World Health Organization (WHO) sponsored efforts in Uganda and Africa such as the; Reach Every District Approach (RED).  Uganda, became a model for many African countries and these countries used to send people to uganda to be trained. Currently, I am a health advocate helping contribute to new immigrants' knowledge as far as access and equity. I also encourage them to be involved in good  health practices in America. I hope to use my public health knowledge to advance well-being for all.