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LIFESTYLE & CULTURE

14 Must-listen podcasts for wellness

The first thing you need when planning a new wellness routine is some good old inspiration. To get you started, try a few of these podcasts to get the ideas flowing.

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Let’s face it, staying healthy in body and mind is much easier said than done. We all know which foods and drinks are good for our bodies, but that doesn’t stop us craving those that aren’t! It’s easy to sign up for a gym membership, but far harder to motivate yourself to go after a long day. No matter how much you look after your mental health, there will always come those tougher times whereby your strength is tested. 

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Creating the right self-care regime takes a little trial and error, so don’t fret if you don’t get it right straight away. The first thing you need when planning a new wellness routine is some good old inspiration. To get you started, try a few of these podcasts to get the ideas flowing.

1 . Hurdle 

Hurdle is a podcast hosted by Emily Abate, a content creator, and writer from Connecticut. Emily is the fitness editor for SELF Magazine and is also a certified personal trainer. In her podcast, Emily chats to people who have coped with a tough time in their life by establishing a new wellness regime. The podcasts brings you stories of those who have found peace and strength with the use of various wellness practices. From yoga to crystals or clean-eating; here, you’ll find plenty of stories to motivate you. Emily’s mission is to encourage listeners to be the best that they can be and to ‘move with intention.’ Tune in and listen to stories from top CEOs and professional athletes, allow yourself to be moved by their tales of struggle and success.

2. Move Your DNA

Move Your DNA is created and hosted by Katy Bowman, an author and biomechanist. Katy leads discussions on how movement affects our bodies and lives while seeking to encourage you to try new ways of moving. Topics include discussions of rewilding, social media, gardening, improving sleep, and the science of wellness. The podcast discusses how our society has become more sedentary and offers tips on how you can get moving more often in your day-to-day life. With Kathy you’ll learn plenty of interesting facts plus get some great ideas to weave into your routine.

3. TED HEALTH

TED Health is an excellent podcast brought to you by TED Talks. Here you’ll find podcasts on a huge variety of different topics from daily health to new age medical breakthroughs. Learn about how your gut microbes from birth can affect your health or find out what we can learn from vaccinating vampire bats! You can also listen to a huge theme of TED Talks on the go via downloading the app. Podcasts, in general, are perfect for those times when you are traveling and just don’t have the space or motivation to read a book! Just be sure to get yourself an excellent phone tariff to save on your data usage. (Companies like smarty network offer some top affordable packages).

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4. Mind Pump

Mind Pump brings you the expertise of personal trainers and fitness thought leaders Justin Andrews, Adam Schafer, and Sal Di Stefano. The creators of Mind Pump feel that the fitness industry is often full of fad workouts and supplement advice that’s based on faux science and driving profits. Mind Pump wishes to talk about the truth of health, fitness, and wellness with no fads or fakery. For anyone who wants to get on a seriously organic fitness journey- Mind Pump is undoubtedly for you.

5. The Wellness Mama

This podcast covers topics such as fitness, natural living, stress, sleep, real food, and toxins. The creator, Kate Wells, has a journalistic background and is a mother of six children. Katie initially sought to learn more about health and wellness to help her in her own health struggles. Before long, her efforts were transformed into a fantastic podcast and blog. Episodes discuss agriculture, overcoming trauma, herbal supplements, positive parenting, and more. Tune in and learn how to improve your family’s health as well as your own.

6. Open Mind

Open Mind invites us to listen to discussions and stories about mental health with host Frankie Bridge. Throughout the podcasts, Frankie draws upon her personal experiences of mental health breakdowns, shedding light on how she has been able to draw strength and make progress. With her podcast, she aims to encourage more open discussions of mental health in society. Each episode features special guests from successful authors to actresses and reality TV stars. Whether you’ve ever experienced mental health issues or not, Open Mind is a moving series of stories that you won’t want to miss.

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7. How To Fail With Elizabeth Day

How to Fail aims to celebrate those things that just didn’t go to plan! Elizabeth Day and celebrity guests discuss the lessons that they have learned from their failures and how to use these lessons to facilitate future success. In a society where wellness is largely focused on our successes, this podcast is a real refreshing change. Learn to embrace those times when things aren’t quite perfect and discover just how you might bounce back.

8. The Hilarious World Of Depression

These podcasts provide moving, informative, and frank discussions of depression (while also managing to be funny along the way)! The podcast was created to allow people to gain some insight, and understand that those who are depressed are not alone in their struggles. Topics include:Depressions’ biggest lies exposed’ and types of therapy along with a variety of special guests. The more that we learn about mental health, the better equipped we are to help ourselves and others.

9. Yogaland

Yogaland is the fantastic creation of Andrea Ferreti, who has worked as an editor at Yoga Journal for many years. In Yogaland episodes, Andrea chats to those in the know about all things yoga and wellness. Here you’ll learn about how the practice affects our emotional lives, the effects on the body, and the use of yoga in schools. Whether you’re already a keen yogi or simply looking to get some info, this podcast is certainly an excellent wellness boost. (If you’re not a yogi now- you indeed will be converted after a few episodes).

10. The Diet Starts Tomorrow

Samantha Fishbein and Aleen Kuperman bring you this super-honest perspective on health, fitness, and weight loss. Hosts value the idea that wellness looks easy on Insta (but doesn’t often feel that way in real-time)! Here you’ll get advice on workout routines which are achievable for the working week and how to keep yourself healthy while still having plenty of fun! From drinking less alcohol to Taylor Swift’s take on eating disorders, these women have got your health education well and truly covered.

11. The Psychology Of Eating

The Psychology Of Eating is created and hosted by wellness coach Marc David who has assisted millions of individuals in breaking their problem eating habits and losing weight. The show is both powerful and unscripted, where you’ll hear Marc coach clients using a mix of both nutrition and psychology. For those looking to transform an unhealthy relationship with food, be sure to download this one and get on the path to change. Here you’ll learn all about the top trends in nutrition, brain health, hypnosis, and more.

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12. The Rambling Runner

Matt Chittim brings us this charming podcast about amateur runners who are training to keep on improving and reaching their goals. Recent episodes include interviews with Jen A. Miller, author of ‘Running: A Love Story,’ talking about her memoir and all other things running-related! Perhaps you’re looking to get into running, but you’re not sure where to start? If so, there are plenty of stories here to get you good and inspired.

13. The Habit Coach

Are you one of those people who struggles to motivate yourself? Do you like the idea of building good habits but just aren’t sure where to begin? If you’d answer yes to either of these questions, the habit coach is undoubtedly one that you need to give a go! The Habit Coach discusses ways to successfully build wellness habits, whether around sleep, health, stress, or relationships. In every episode, you’ll find plenty of easy habit suggestions along with plenty of fun facts. Let coach Asdin Doctor take you on a journey of creating those healthy habits for good.

14. Eat Move & Live Better 

Eat Move & Live Better is a podcast by Precise Nutrition who want to deliver you the message that it is possible to get healthy no matter who you are (or how busy you are)! The podcast aims to offer info that makes healthy eating and exercise both achievable and enjoyable. Each episode discusses topics such as lifestyle strategies, binge eating, nutritional strategies for old age, the ketogenic diet, and more.

When creating yourself a new wellness routine, it’s a good idea to get yourself a journal. Here you can write down your goals for each day and week, whether about food, exercise, or general self-care. Keeping track of your progress serves as an excellent motivational tool to keep on going.

Technology

In politics and pandemics, trolls use fear, anger to drive clicks

“As consumers continue to see ads that contain false claims and are intentionally designed to use their emotions to manipulate them, it’s important for them to have cool heads and understand the motives behind them.”

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Facebook users flipping through their feeds in the fall of 2016 faced a minefield of targeted advertisements pitting blacks against police, southern whites against immigrants, gun owners against Obama supporters and the LGBTQ community against the conservative right.

Photo by @uck from Unsplash.com

Placed by distant Russian trolls, they didn’t aim to prop up one candidate or cause, but to turn Americans against one another.

The ads were cheaply made and full of threatening, vulgar language.

And, according to a sweeping new analysis of more than 2,500 of the ads, they were remarkably effective, eliciting clickthrough rates as much as nine times higher than what is typical in digital advertising.

“We found that fear and anger appeals work really well in getting people to engage,” said lead author Chris Vargo, an assistant professor of Advertising, Public Relations and Media Design at University of Colorado Boulder.

The study, published in Journalism and Mass Communication Quarterly, is the first to take a comprehensive look at ads placed by the infamous Russian propaganda machine known as the Internet Research Agency (IRA) and ask: How effective were they? And what makes people click on them?

While focused on ads running in 2016, the study’s findings resonate in the age of COVID-19 and the run-up to the 2020 election, the authors say.

“As consumers continue to see ads that contain false claims and are intentionally designed to use their emotions to manipulate them, it’s important for them to have cool heads and understand the motives behind them,” said Vargo.

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For the study, Vargo and assistant professor of advertising Toby Hopp scoured 2,517 Facebook and Instagram ads downloaded from the U.S. House of Representatives Permanent Select Committee On Intelligence website. The committee made the ads publicly available in 2018 after concluding that the IRA had been creating fake U.S. personas, setting up fake social media pages, and using targeted paid advertising to “sow discord” among U.S. residents.

Using computational tools and manual coding, Vargo and Hopp analyzed every ad, looking for the inflammatory, obscene or threatening words and language hostile to a particular group’s ethnic, religious or sexual identity. They also looked at which groups each ad targeted, how many clicks the ad got, and how much the IRA paid.

Collectively, the IRA spent about $75,000 to generate about 40.5 million impressions with about 3.7 million users clicking on them – a clickthrough rate of 9.2%.

That compares to between .9% and 1.8% for a typical digital ad.

While ads using blatantly racist language didn’t do well, those using cuss words and inflammatory words (like “sissy,” “idiot,” “psychopath” and “terrorist”) or posing a potential threat did. Ads that evoked fear and anger did the best.

One IRA advertisement targeting users with an interest in the Black Lives Matter movement stated: “They killed an unarmed guy again! We MUST make the cops stop thinking that they are above the law!” Another shouted: “White supremacists are planning to raise the racist flag again!” Meanwhile, ads targeting people who sympathized with white conservative groups read “Take care of our vets; not illegals” or joked “If you voted for Obama: We don’t want your business because you are too stupid to own a firearm.”

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Only 110 out of 2,000 mentioned Donald Trump.

“This wasn’t about electing one candidate or another,” said Vargo. “It was essentially a make-Americans-hate-each-other campaign.”

The ads were often unsophisticated, with spelling or grammatical errors and poorly photoshopped images. Yet at only a few cents to distribute, the IRA got an impressive rate of return.

“I was shocked at how effective these appeals were,” said Vargo.

The authors warn that they have no doubt such troll farms are still at it.

According to some news reports, Russian trolls are already engaged in disinformation campaigns around COVID-19.

“I think with any major story, you are going to see this kind of disinformation circulated,” said Hopp. “There are bad actors out there who have goals that are counter to the aspirational goals of American democracy, and there are plenty of opportunities for them to take advantage of the current structure of social media.”

Ultimately, the authors believe better monitoring, via both machine algorithms and human reviewers, could help stem the tide of disinformation.

“We as a society need to start seriously talking about what role the platforms and government should play in times like the 2020 election or during COVID-19 when we have a compelling need for high-quality, accurate information to be distributed,” said Hopp.

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Health & Wellness

COVID-19 linked to cardiac injury, worse outcomes for patients with heart conditions

COVID-19 can have fatal consequences for people with underlying cardiovascular disease and cause cardiac injury even in patients without underlying heart conditions.

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COVID-19 can have fatal consequences for people with underlying cardiovascular disease and cause cardiac injury even in patients without underlying heart conditions, according to a review published today in JAMA Cardiology by experts at The University of Texas Health Science Center at Houston (UTHealth).

Experts have known that viral illnesses such as COVID-19 can cause respiratory infections that may lead to lung damage and even death in severe cases. Less is known about the effects on the cardiovascular system.

“It is likely that even in the absence of previous heart disease, the heart muscle can be affected by coronavirus disease,” said Mohammad Madjid, MD, MS, the study’s lead author and an assistant professor of cardiology at McGovern Medical School at UTHealth. “Overall, injury to heart muscle can happen in any patient with or without heart disease, but the risk is higher in those who already have heart disease.”

The study authors explained that research from previous coronavirus and influenza epidemics suggest that viral infections can cause acute coronary syndromes, arrhythmias, and the development of, or exacerbation of, heart failure.

In a clinical bulletin issued by the American College of Cardiology, it was revealed that the case fatality rate of COVID-19 for patients with cardiovascular disease was 10.5%. Data also points to a greater likelihood that individuals over the age of 65 with coronary heart disease or hypertension can contract the illness, as well experience more severe symptoms that will require critical care.

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According to the study authors, critical cases are those that reported respiratory failure, septic shock, and/or multiple organ dysfunction or failure that resulted in death. “It is reasonable to expect that significant cardiovascular complications linked to COVID-19 will occur in severe symptomatic patients because of the high inflammatory response associated with this illness,” said Madjid, who also sees patients at the UT Physicians Multispecialty – Bayshore clinic.

The novel virus that causes COVID-19 was first identified in January 2020. This novel virus originated in Wuhan, China, and by March 11, 2020, the World Health Organization had declared it a global pandemic. The three most common symptoms of COVID-19 include fever, cough, and shortness of breath. Other less common symptoms are muscle pain, sore throat, nasal congestion, and headache. Symptoms can appear as soon as two days after exposure to the virus to up to14 days after. There is a high viral load in both symptomatic and asymptomatic patients, meaning asymptomatic spread between person to person is likely.

Previously identified coronaviruses known to cause severe illness in humans include Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome Coronavirus (SARS-CoV) and Middle East Respiratory Syndrome (MERS-CoV). SARS-CoV was first identified in southern China in 2002, and by 2003 it had killed over 8,000 individuals in 29 countries. Data suggests that SARS-CoV may have resulted in cardiovascular complications, such as acute coronary syndrome and myocardial infarction. MERS-CoV was first discovered in 2012 in Saudi Arabia. As of 2019, 2,494 cases have been confirmed along with 858 deaths in 26 countries.

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Current COVID-19 treatment options are being researched, and there is a large effort to develop vaccines for prevention and to test antivirals for the treatment of the disease. In the meantime, the study authors encourage all individuals to consult with their health care providers about being vaccinated against influenza and that at-risk patients seek advice on receiving a pneumonia vaccine from their primary care physician. While these vaccines will not provide specific protection against COVID-19, they can help prevent superimposed infections alongside COVID-19.

Study co-authors include Payam Safavi-Naeini, MD, of the Texas Heart Institute; Scott Solomon, MD, of Harvard Medical School; and Orly Vardeny, PharmD, of the University of Minnesota.

It is worth noting that cardiovascular issues greatly affect members of the LGBTQIA community.

A 2018 study in the US, for instance, noted that lesbian, gay and bisexual adults have a “disproportionately high risk” of heart disease and other cardiac problems when compared to heterosexuals.

Another 2018 study noted that trauma, including abuse and neglect, is associated with higher cardiovascular disease risk for lesbian and bi women.


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Health & Wellness

To stay positive, live in the moment – but plan ahead

Mindfulness is when people are centered and living in the moment, rather than dwelling in the past or worrying about the future. Proactive coping is when people engage in planning to reduce the likelihood of future stress.

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A recent study from North Carolina State University finds that people who manage to balance living in the moment with planning for the future are best able to weather daily stress without succumbing to negative moods.

“It’s well established that daily stressors can make us more likely to have negative affect, or bad moods,” says Shevaun Neupert, a professor of psychology at NC State and corresponding author of a paper on the recent work. “Our work here sheds additional light on which variables influence how we respond to daily stress.”

Specifically, the researchers looked at two factors that are thought to influence how we handle stress: mindfulness and proactive coping.

Mindfulness is when people are centered and living in the moment, rather than dwelling in the past or worrying about the future. Proactive coping is when people engage in planning to reduce the likelihood of future stress.

To see how these factors influence responses to stress, the researchers looked at data from 223 study participants. The study included 116 people between the ages of 60 and 90, and 107 people between the ages of 18 and 36. All of the study participants were in the United States.

All of the study participants were asked to complete an initial survey in order to establish their tendency to engage in proactive coping. Participants were then asked to complete questionnaires for eight consecutive days that explored fluctuations in mindfulness. On those eight days, participants were also asked to report daily stressors and the extent to which they experienced negative mood.

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The researchers found that engaging in proactive coping was beneficial at limiting the effect of daily stressors, but that this advantage essentially disappeared on days when a participant reported low mindfulness.

“Our results show that a combination of proactive coping and high mindfulness result in study participants of all ages being more resilient against daily stressors,” Neupert says. “Basically, we found that proactive planning and mindfulness account for about a quarter of the variance in how stressors influenced negative affect.

“Interventions targeting daily fluctuations in mindfulness may be especially helpful for those who are high in proactive coping and may be more inclined to think ahead to the future at the expense of remaining in the present.”

The paper, “Thinking Ahead and Staying in the Present: Implications for Reactivity to Daily Stressors,” is published in the journal Personality and Individual Differences. First author of the paper is Melody Polk, an undergraduate at NC State. The paper was co-authored by Emily Smith and Ling-Rui Zhang, graduate students at NC State. The work was done with support from NC State’s College of Humanities and Social Sciences.

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LIFESTYLE & CULTURE

5 Instant ways to relieve stress

Let’s dive in and find out how you can deal with your stress instantly.

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With everything happening around the world regarding this global pandemic, stress is inevitable. No matter how hard you try to avoid it, the uncertainty of the future can get the best of you. Keeping yourself calm and healthy is the biggest challenge these days. 

Therefore, you need to try everything in your access to fight with panic, stress, depression. While there are countless ways to deal with stress, there are still very few that are practical and promise instant results. 

In this post, I’ve narrowed down some of the most effective ways that have the potential to calm your nerves. 

So, without any further discussion, let’s dive in and find out how you can deal with your stress instantly. Here you go:

Deep Breathes Always Work

Have you ever felt so stressed that you find it almost difficult to breathe? If yes, then you need to lay back immediately and stop everything that you are doing. Analyze your situation and start taking deep breaths. Keep doing so until you feel a little better and start feeling your breath again. 

This practice is very effective, and more often than not, it works. If you make it a part of your routine, you’ll notice that you’ll have fewer panic attacks. Above all, it will help you remain composed during a sudden crisis. So, next time when you get another episode of a panic attack, you should work on your breath. 

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Take a Walk 

Taking a long walk alone works similarly to taking deep breaths. The best thing about going on a walk is that it provides you with the opportunity to clear your head from the toxic thoughts, and you are able to see things clearly. Above all, it entails obvious health benefits. So, you should be doing this regardless of your anxiety and stress. 

Give CBD a Try

Understandably, you don’t always have the energy to go out and take a walk. Lucky for you, there’s a solution to this problem as well. CBD has proven health benefits. According to different medical researches, it can help efficiently when it comes to reducing stress. 

You take it in any form, but in my personal experience, CBD oil works the best. Therefore, I would recommend you try CBD oil next time you feel overwhelmed with anything that’s bothering you. 

Physically Exhaust Your Body 

One can go on and on about the benefits of the exercise. You’ll hear people telling you that you should be working out and doing physical exercises to keep yourself physically fit. But, here’s what nobody tells you. Physical exhausting yourself releases all kinds of happy hormones that are good for your mental health. Hence, they can instantly work as a stress reliever. All you have to do is, get up and start exercising. It doesn’t have to be hardcore, a simple jog or running can do just the trick. 

So, next time, whenever you feel like giving up to stress and anxiety, do one of the things as mentioned above, and you’ll do just fine.

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Health & Wellness

DOH’s Duque says don’t wait for test if you have COVID-19 symptoms; manage it

DOH’s interim guidelines on the management of persons under monitoring (PUMs) suspected with COVID-19 for home quarantine.

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Photo by Nathan Dumlao from Unsplash.com

Department of Health (DOH) Secretary Francisco Duque III advised people who have symptoms of COVID-19 to manage their condition as if they really have the disease caused by the new coronavirus instead of waiting to get tested.

As quoted by Inquirer.net from a television interview, Duque said that “if you already know the symptoms, manage it as if it’s COVID-19. If all indications suggest that it’s probably COVID-19, why wait for a test? Manage it as COVID-19 right away. You assume. That’s the way to do it.”

Among the symptoms of COVID-19 are fever, dry cough, cold, shortness of breath, and diarrhea.

Duque, however, did NOT provide the “how to” on managing COVID-19, particularly for those who are not going to get tested, or access medical facilities.

But on February 17, DOH issued Memorandum No. 2020-0090, which contained the interim guidelines on the management of persons under monitoring (PUMs) suspected with COVID-19 for home quarantine.

The guidelines enumerate people who should be home quarantined:

  1. Any person who does not exhibit any sign/symptom, has history of travel to other areas of China and/or history of exposure to a confirmed case of COVID-19 within the past 14 days.
  2. Any person who exhibits fever or any symptom of lower respiratory illness, and has a history of travel to other countries with a confirmed case of COVID-19 but without any history of exposure.
  3. Those undergoing home quarantine shall be prohibited to leave their rooms/hotels where they are quarantined until they have been certified by the local health official to have finished the 14-day requirement for quarantine procedures.

Now how to implement home quarantine?

PUMs should be isolated.

  1. Place the PUM alone in a well-ventilated room, preferably with toilet and bathroom. If this is not possible, maintain a distance of at least one meter from the PUM (for example, sleep in a separate bed).
  2. Assign one person who is of good health as caretaker of the PUM.
  3. Do not allow visitors, family members and even caregivers in the room of the PUM.
  4. Limit the activities of the PUM in his/her room only. If this is not possible, ensure that shared spaces are well-ventilated.
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PUM should use surgical mask.

  1. The PUM should wear a surgical mask fitted tightly to the nose, mouth and chin when in the same room with another household member or when talking to others.
  2. If alone, the PUM is not required to wear mask.
  3. Do not touch mask during use. If the mask gets wet or dirty with secretions (e.g. saliva), change immediately and dispose properly.
  4. After eight hours, throw used mask. Do not reuse or wash masks.
  5. After removal of mask, wash hands with water and soap, or rub hands with 70% alcohol.
The PUM should wear a surgical mask fitted tightly to the nose, mouth and chin when in the same room with another household member or when talking to others.
Photo by @anshu18 from Unsplash.com

Hand hygiene practice for all.

  1. Everyone should perform hand hygiene following contact with PUM, or if in contact with immediate environment.
  2. Perform hand hygiene by washing hands with water and soap. If hands are not visibly dirty, use 70% alcohol.
  3. When using soap and water, dry hands using disposable paper towels. If not available, use dedicated cloth towels and replace when wet.
  4. Hand hygiene should be performed before and after preparing food, before eating, after using toilet, and when hand is dirty.

Respiratory hygiene and precaution for all.

  1. Cover mouth and nose when coughing or sneezing by using surgical mask, tissues, flexed elbows, sleeves of clothes or inside the neckline of shirts. Follow this up with hand hygiene.
  2. Avoid direct contact with body fluids, particularly oral and respiratory secretions, and feces.
  3. Avoid sharing toothbrushes, cigarettes, towels, bed linen, etc.
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Food handling for PUM under home quarantine.

  1. The assigned caretaker should serve the plates/tray only up to the room door (where the PUM is staying).
  2. After eating, pick plates/tray using gloves. Perform hand hygiene afterwards.
  3. Utensils should be cleaned thoroughly with water and soap. Reused as needed.
  4. Do not share utensils with PUMs.
Gloves, tissues and masks used by PUM should be placed in separate container before disposing with other household waste.
Photo by @claybanks from Unsplash.com

Disposal of used gloves, tissue papers and masks.

  1. Immediately throw materials used to cover mouth or nose.
  2. If reusable items are used (e.g. handkerchief), immediately wash after use with water and detergent soap.
  3. Gloves, tissues and masks used by PUM should be placed in separate container before disposing with other household waste.

Cleaning and disinfection of quarantine venues.

  1. Frequently clean/disinfect frequently touched surfaces (e.g. bedside tables, door knobs, bed frames, etc). Use household disinfectant; or diluted bleach solution (i.e. 1 part bleach and 99 parts water).
  2. Clean/disinfect bathroom/toilet at least once a day.
  3. Regularly clean clothes, bed linens, towels, etc. of PUMs.

Now, this is important.

PUMs who develop symptoms should be immediately transported to the nearest health facility. In the same way, all household members of PUMs should seek immediate medical care when signs/symptoms develop.

Frequently clean/disinfect frequently touched surfaces.
Photo by @socialcut from Unsplash.com

Because the DOH is not at all considering mass testing (yet) in the Philippines, these tips may offer temporary comfort as the country continues to come to grips with COVID-19 with the country’s health department’s weaknesses in offering quality healthcare for all now highlighted.

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Technology

Video game experience, gender may improve VR learning

Males were far more likely to have video game experience, the survey found, and also learned more in the VR simulation, suggesting that either gender or prior video game experience could impact the success of VR-based learning.

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Students who used immersive virtual reality (VR) did not learn significantly better than those who used two more traditional forms of learning, but they vastly preferred the VR to computer-simulated and hands-on methods, a new Cornell study has found.

“We didn’t know exactly what we were going to see,” said Jack Madden, doctoral student in astronomy at Cornell University and first author of “Ready Student One: Exploring the Predictors of Student Learning in Virtual Reality,” which published March 25 in PLOS ONE. “But it’s amazing that this brand-new technology performed just as well as these tried-and-true methods that are used today in classrooms. So at least we’re not harming students by using VR.”

Though the virtual reality experiment didn’t change learning outcomes overall, the researchers found that students with more video game experience learned better using VR than those with little video game experience – a finding that correlated closely with gender.

The study – which has new implications as learning around the world shifts online to combat the spread of coronavirus – aimed to take a step toward determining whether new educational technology tactics, while popular, are actually effective.

“There’s been a big push for enhanced technology in classrooms,” Madden said. “I think we can be in awe of these fancy, shiny devices and it might feel like they’re helping, but we need to know if they actually are.”

Males were far more likely to have video game experience, the survey found, and also learned more in the VR simulation, suggesting that either gender or prior video game experience could impact the success of VR-based learning. Reviewing prior work, the researchers found that video games requiring players to navigate 3D spaces are more popular among males than females.

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The tech industry – as a whole – has long been criticized for being too male-centric.

In February, for instance, a study noted that “it is imperative that we construct mechanisms and policies that acknowledge the importance of inclusivity, diversity, and non-discrimination, also for the LGBTQ+ community in the development and use of robots and AI.”

“This is an interesting finding, because it could potentially imply that if you can provide learners with that experience, then you could show broad benefits from immersive learning,” said co-author Andrea Stevenson Won, assistant professor of communication and director of the Virtual Embodiment Lab at Cornell. “However, more study is definitely needed.”

“If you’re unfamiliar with navigating this kind of 3D space, you’re not going to learn as well in it, so that could be a barrier,” Madden said. “One of the conclusions of our work is that we need to do a better job of asking questions around things that might be gendered, like video game experience. There’s a lot of finer detail you need to know to make VR learning successful.”

The study’s co-authors are Natasha Holmes, the Ann S. Bower Assistant Professor in A&S; Jonathon Schuldt, associate professor of communication; and communication doctoral students Swati Pandita and Byungdoo Kim. The research was supported by Oculus Education.

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