Blogging Relieves Stress on New Mothers

New mothers who read and write blogs may feel less alone than mothers who do not participate in a blogging community, according to family studies researchers.

“It looks like blogging might be helping these women as they transition into motherhood because they may begin to feel more connected to their extended family and friends, which leads them to feel more supported,” said Brandon T. McDaniel, graduate student in human development and family studies at Penn State. “That potentially is going to spill out into other aspects of their well being, including their marital relationship with their partner, the ways that they’re feeling about their parenting stress, and eventually into their levels of depression.”

McDaniel and colleagues from Brigham Young University surveyed 157 new mothers about their media use and their well-being. The moms were all first-time parents with only one child under the age of 18 months — most much younger than this. The researchers report in the online version of Maternal and Child Health Journal that blogging had a positive impact on new mothers, but social networking — mainly Facebook and MySpace — did not seem to impact their well-being.

“We’re not saying that those who end up feeling more supported all of a sudden no longer have stresses, they’re still going to have those stressful moments you have as a parent,” said McDaniel.

“But because they’re feeling more supported, their thoughts and their feelings about that stress might change, and they begin to feel less stressed about those things.”

McDaniel pointed out several potential benefits for new mothers who blog, including giving moms both a way to connect with family and friends who do not live nearby and an outlet to use and showcase their hobbies and accomplishments, particularly for stay-at-home moms.

The researchers found that 61 percent of the mothers surveyed wrote their own blogs and 76 percent read blogs. Eighty-nine percent of the mothers who wrote their own blogs did so to “document personal experiences or share them with others,” and 86 percent wanted to stay in touch with family and friends through the blog.

Because this is one of the first studies to look at the effects of participation in online communities on new mothers, McDaniel noted that there is not enough information collected yet to determine how or why blogging and social networking have markedly different impacts on new moms. However, this study demonstrated that mothers who blogged frequently show stronger connections to their family and friends.

The researchers saw a significant correlation between a strong connection to family and friends and increased feelings of social support, which in turn led to higher marital satisfaction, less marital conflict and less parenting stress. The mothers who experienced fewer feelings of parenting stress also had fewer feelings of depression.

Study participants completed an online survey that focused on two main subjects — their media use and their well-being. Mothers rated their feelings on scales corresponding to each item. Moms also tallied time spent on different activities throughout the day, including sleep, housework, childcare tasks and computer usage. They reported spending about three hours per day on the computer, using the Internet — behind only childcare, at almost nine hours a day, and sleep, at about seven hours per day.

McDaniel is continuing this line of research and exploring why blogging has the significant impact it does with new moms, while social networking may not always show the same effect. He emphasizes that this initial study is all correlational research, and one cannot establish causation from this study.

Sarah M. Coyne and Erin K. Holmes, assistant professors, School of Family Life, Brigham Young University, also worked on this research.

[box type=”shadow”]This post originally published by Penn State Live. Photo via Flickr[/box]

Lady Lions Fall to UConn in Sweet Sixteen

The No. 4 seed Penn State Lady Lions (26-7, 13-3) suffered a 77-59 loss to No. 1 seed Connecticut (32-4, 13-3 Big East) on Sunday evening to end the 2012 season and their NCAA run. Junior Mia Nickson (Ashburn, Va.) was Penn State’s leading scorer with 19 points.

This was Penn State’s first visit to the Sweet Sixteen since 2004 when the Lady Lions advanced to the Elite Eight, but also saw their season ended in a 66-49 setback to UConn. Penn State is now 3-7 all-time versus the Huskies, 4-8 in the Sweet Sixteen and 29-23 overall in NCAA Tournament play.

Sophomore Maggie Lucas (Narberth, Pa.) was second on the squad with 15 points, while junior Alex Bentley (Indianapolis, Ind.) tallied 11. Defensively, sophomore Talia East (Philadelphia, Pa.) posted 10 rebounds and Nickson registered five.

The Huskies grabbed a 6-2 lead to start the game before fouling Bentley who hit two at the foul line to close the gap to two, 6-4. UConn followed with a 10-2 run for a 14-4 lead and sent Penn State to the bench for a timeout. East followed the timeout with a layup, but two UConn buckets sandwiching a Nickson basket kept the Huskies leading by 10, 18-8, a little less than five minutes into the half.

UConn continued to charge moving ahead by 14, 24-10, by the 11:23 mark. The Lady Lions fought back with a 9-0 run, including three-pointers from Lucas and senior Zhaque Gray (Chicago, Ill.), to come within five, 24-19. After a Husky timeout, UConn’s Tiffany Hayes hit a jumper. However, Caroline Doty fouled Nickson who made two free throws to bring Penn State back within five, 26-21.

The Lady Lions fell behind by double-digits, 33-23, after a 7-2 Husky run. Despite a three from UConn’s Bria Hartley, Penn State was within nine, 36-27, thanks to baskets from sophomore Ariel Edwards (Elmont, N.Y.) and Bentley with just over three minutes left in the half. Five points from UConn had the Lions falling behind by 14, 41-27. Nickson prevented another Husky run with a jumper, but a PSU foul sent UConn’s Hayes to the line where she made both shots giving UConn a 43-29 lead to close out the first half.

At the end of the first half, Nickson led the Lady Lions with nine points, while Lucas had seven and Bentley had six. East was Penn State’s leading rebounder with five. The Huskies opened the second half with 10 straight points, but Hayes fouled Edwards who hit two shots at the foul line to end UConn’s run. Trailing by22, 53-31, Lucas nailed a three-pointer at the 15:51 mark to bring Penn State within 19, 53-34. Hartley fouled Lucas who hit two free throws before a Nickson layup to move Penn State closer to UConn, 53-38.

After two UConn baskets, both teams were scoreless for nearly three minutes before back-to-back buckets by the Huskies hard the score at 61-38 with 10:13 to play. Penn State called a timeout and Nickson followed with scored two to end the Husky run. UConn’s lead grew to 16, 66-40, but Nickson and East prevented a Husky run with a basket each bringing the score to 68-44 with a little more than seven minutes remaining.

Nickson continued to be Penn State’s dominant scorer with another bucket at the 6:45 mark. UConn fired back with four points before Penn State scored 10 unanswered points to close the gap to 19, 74-55, with the clock at 4:20. UConn’s next three points came from free throws, making it 77-55 in favor of the Huskies. East and Nickson scored Penn State’s final two baskets to produce the final score of 77-59.

[box type=”shadow”]This post was originally published at Penn State Live by Jeff Nelson. Photo via Flickr.[/box]

Daylight Saving Time Leads to Cyberloafing

The annual shift to daylight saving time and its accompanying loss of sleep cause employees to spend more time than normal surfing the Web for content unrelated to their work, resulting in potentially massive productivity losses, according to researchers.

Web searches related to entertainment rise sharply the Monday after the shift to daylight saving time when compared to the preceding and subsequent Mondays, according to D. Lance Ferris, assistant professor of management and organization in Penn State’s Smeal College of Business, and his colleagues David T. Wagner, Singapore Management University; Christopher M. Barnes, Virginia Tech University; and Vivien K. G. Lim, National University of Singapore. They based their findings on an examination of six years worth of data from Google.

Using existing data that shows that people exhibit poorer self-control when they’re tired, the researchers said that the lost sleep due to the time change — an average of 40 minutes that Sunday night — makes employees less likely to self-regulate their behavior and more inclined to spend time cyberloafing, or surfing the Internet for personal pursuits while on the clock.

Ferris and his colleagues also conducted a lab experiment in which they monitored subjects’ sleep the night before they were required to watch a boring lecture online. The less sleep the subjects received the night before, the more time they spent surfing the Web when they were supposed to be watching the lecture.
Interruptions in sleep had the same effect. In fact, the subjects on average engaged in 8.4 minutes more of cyberloafing (or 20 percent of the assigned task time) for every hour of interrupted sleep the night before.

While a few minutes of personal Web surfing now and then may seem harmless, given that about one-third of the world’s countries participate in some form of daylight saving time, the researchers write in the Journal of Applied Psychology that “global productivity losses from a spike in employee cyberloafing are potentially staggering.” In light of their discovery and other research on the true energy-saving effects of daylight saving time, the authors encourage policymakers to revisit the costs and benefits of the time change policy.

They said their findings have implications for managers, who in the current economy, are squeezing more and more work out of fewer employees.

“In the push for high productivity, managers and organizations may cut into the sleep of employees by requiring longer work hours,” the researchers write. “This may promote vicious cycles of lost sleep, resulting in less time spent working, which could result in more frantic pushes for extended work time. Managers may find that by avoiding infringement on employee sleep, they will get more productivity out of their employees.”

The researchers said that employers can facilitate more self-regulation of their employees’ cyberloafing if they encourage their employees to get a sufficient amount of sleep. Outside of that, they recommend turning computer screens so that colleagues can see them or even providing designated break times when personal Internet use would be permissible.

[box type=”shadow”]This story originally appeared in Penn State Live, by Wyatt DuBois, 814-863-3798,[/box]

Penn State Well-Represented in Super Bowl XLVI

Penn State again will be well-represented on the field and the sidelines at the Super Bowl.

When the New England Patriots and New York Giants clash in Super Bowl XLVI on Sunday (Feb. 5) in Indianapolis, Penn State again will be well-represented on the field and the sidelines.

Several former Penn State players and staff with ties to the Nittany Lion football program will be involved in the National Football League’s Championship game, headed by new head coach Bill O’Brien and three former standout student-athletes, Kareem McKenzie, Jimmy Kennedy, and Rich Ohrnberger. O’Brien, who was introduced as Penn State’s 15th head coach on Jan. 6, is the offensive coordinator/quarterbacks coach for the AFC Champion Patriots. McKenzie, a tackle, and Kennedy, a defensive tackle, are members of the Giants, while Ohrnberger, a guard, is with New England.

For the 41st time in the Super Bowl’s 46-game history, at least one Penn State alumnus will be a member of one of the teams, with at least one former Nittany Lion guaranteed of being on this year’s title team. Thirty-three former Nittany Lions have earned a total of 49 Super Bowl rings, most recently tight end Andrew Quarless with the Super Bowl XLV champion Green Bay Packers.

In addition to the three former players, two members of the Giants’ coaching staff – Pat Flaherty and Peter Giunta – are former Penn State assistant coaches and are coaching in their second Super Bowl with the Giants.

A member of the Patriots’ coaching staff since 2007, including the last three mentoring the quarterbacks, O’Brien has been instrumental this season in helping New England advance to its second Super Bowl during his tenure. The Patriots scored 513 points (32.1 avg.) during the regular season, the AFC’s highest mark and No. 3 in the NFL. New England also ranked second in the NFL in total offense (428.0 ypg) and passing (317.8 ypg).

Under O’Brien’s tutelage, quarterback Tom Brady threw for 5,235 yards (No. 2 in NFL) and 39 touchdowns this season, as the Patriots won their final eight regular season games. Wide receiver Wes Welker led the NFL with 122 receptions and his 1,569 receiving yards to rank second in the NFL. Welker and tight end Rob Gronkowski (90-1,327) ranked No. 1-2 in the AFC in receiving yardage. Gronkowski led the NFL with 17 touchdown receptions during the regular season.

Ohrnberger missed the entire 2011 season after being placed on injured reserve on September 3. A fourth round choice of the Patriots in the 2009 NFL Draft, Ohrnberger started 35 games at Penn State, earning third team AP All-American and first team All-Big Ten honors in his senior season.

In his 11th season in the NFL and seventh with the Giants, McKenzie anchors New York’s offensive line from his right tackle spot. He has played in 161 career regular season games and has made a remarkable 153 consecutive starts since 2002, in addition to the 14 postseason games in which he has played. The Giants have featured one the NFL’s top passing attacks this season, led by quarterback Eli Manning and 1,000-yard receivers Victor Cruz and Hakeem Nicks. Originally selected by the New York Jets in the third round of the 2001 NFL Draft, McKenzie won a Super Bowl ring with the Giants during the 2007 season. A product of Willingboro, N.J., McKenzie earned All-Big Ten honors in 2000.

In his first season with the Giants and 10th overall in the NFL, Kennedy has played in six games this season, making four tackles. Drafted in the first round by the St. Louis Rams in 2003, Kennedy has 129 tackles and eight sacks in his career. A four-year starter at Penn State, Kennedy was named the 2002 Big Ten Defensive Lineman of the Year and was a two-time first team All-Big Ten selection. A semi-finalist for the 2002 Lombardi Award, he was selected first team All-America by The Sporting News as a senior.

Flaherty joined the Giants in 2004 and serves as the offensive line coach. A native of McSherrystown, Pa., Flaherty was a member of the Nittany Lions’ coaching staff in 1982 and ’83, serving as a part-time assistant coaching the offensive line under Dick Anderson. He helped Penn State win the 1982 National Championship with a Sugar Bowl victory over No. 1 Georgia. When Anderson was named head coach at Rutgers for the 1984 season, Flaherty joined the Scarlet Knights’ staff. He was at Rutgers through the 1991 season and coached in the college ranks until joining the Washington Redskins’ staff in 2000.

Giunta joined the Giants staff in 2006 and is the secondary/cornerbacks coach. From Salem, Mass., he was a part-time assistant at Penn State in 1982 and ’83, working with the tight ends. In 1981, Giunta served an internship with the Nittany Lions. He also helped Penn State win the 1982 National Championship with an 11-1 record. Giunta coached at Brown and Lehigh through 1990, joining the Philadelphia Eagles’ coaching staff in 1991. He was the defensive coordinator in 1999 when the St. Louis Rams won Super Bowl XXXIV.

Both Flaherty and Giunta were on New York’s coaching staff in 2007 when the Giants defeated the Patriots, 17-14, in Super Bowl XLII.
Seven former Nittany Lions playing in the National Football League were on 2011 playoff teams, with at least one Penn Stater on six of the squads vying for the Super Bowl XLVI title. There are 34 former Nittany Lions on NFL rosters, placing Penn State in the Top 15 nationally among schools in producing current NFL players.

A total of 325 Penn State football student-athletes have been drafted by NFL teams, including 10 first round draft choices in the past 11 years. A total of 26 Nittany Lions have been drafted since 2006, including 13 in the first three rounds.

[box type=”shadow”]This article originally appeared at Penn State Live. Photo via Flickr.[/box]

O’Brien Announces Several Members of Nittany Lion Coaching Staff

Penn State head football coach Bill O’Brien today announced six members of his first coaching staff.

Penn State head football coach Bill O’Brien today announced six members of his first coaching staff, bringing together a unit with extensive collegiate and National Football League experience.

O’Brien’s staff includes two coaches who have helped LSU and Texas win the BCS National Championship during the past 10 years. The new Penn State staff also has significant coaching experience and recruiting ties in the Mid-Atlantic, Northeast, Midwest, Southeast and Southwest regions of the United States.

During his introductory press conference last Saturday, O’Brien announced that long-time Penn State defensive line coach Larry Johnson would remain on the staff and he will continue to coach the defensive line. Ron Vanderlinden, the Nittany Lions’ linebackers coach since 2001, also has been retained by O’Brien and will continue to coach the linebackers.

Stan Hixon has been named Penn State’s Assistant Head Coach and will coach the wide receivers. Charles London (running backs), Mac McWhorter (offensive line) and John Strollo (tight ends) also are joining the Nittany Lions’ staff. O’Brien is finalizing the quarterbacks coach.

O’Brien is in the process of finalizing the defensive coordinator and secondary coach to join Johnson and Vanderlinden on the defensive staff.

O’Brien, the New England Patriots’ offensive coordinator and quarterbacks coach, is bringing several coaches to Happy Valley that he worked with during his 14 years as a collegiate assistant coach. O’Brien has previously worked with Hixon (1995-99), McWhorter (2000-01), London (2005-06) and Strollo (2005-06) at Georgia Tech or Duke prior to joining the Patriots’ coaching staff in 2007.

“I said last weekend we were going to put together the best staff for Penn State and I firmly believe we have done that,” said O’Brien. “It was crucial to get an experienced, passionate and enthusiastic staff together quickly so they can hit the ground running. All of these coaches have varied and successful backgrounds coaching in the NFL, college and high school across the country. They have developed extensive relationships with coaches that will be vital in our recruiting efforts. They are excited to meet our current players, get on the road and become part of the Penn State Football family.”
Below are brief biographies on the six members of O’Brien’s coaching staff announced today:

Hixon’s coaching career spans 32 years in the collegiate and professional ranks. The past two seasons, he has served as wide receivers coach with the Buffalo Bills and he coached wide receivers for the Washington Redskins from 2004-09. Stevie Johnson, Santana Moss and Antwaan Randle-El are among the NFL players Hixon has helped develop. From Lakeland, Fla., Hixon served as associate head coach/wide receivers coach at LSU from 2000-03. Hixon contributed to the Tigers winning the 2003 BCS National Championship and coached three first-team All-SEC receivers, including Josh Reed, the 2001 Biletnikoff Award winner, who made 94 catches for an SEC-record 1,740 yards that year. He also helped develop Michael Clayton, whose 21 career touchdown catches broke the LSU record. Hixon coached the wide receivers at Georgia Tech from 1995-99, where he worked with O’Brien, as they helped the Yellow Jackets capture the 1998 Atlantic Coast Conference championship. He also has coached at Wake Forest (1993-94), South Carolina (1989-92), Appalachian State (1983-88), and Morehead State (1980-82). Hixon is a graduate of Iowa State, where he played wide receiver, and earned his master’s degree from Morehead State.

Johnson is entering his 17th season on the Penn State staff and 13th year coaching the defensive line. He has been instrumental in the development of seven first-team All-Americans in the past 12 years, including consensus first-team tackle Devon Still in 2011. Still also was the Big Ten Defensive Lineman and Defensive Player-of-the-Year. Jared Odrick (2009), Aaron Maybin (2008), All-Pro Tamba Hali (2005), Michael Haynes (2002) and Jimmy Kennedy (2002) were first-team All-Americans and NFL first-round draft choices under Johnson’s tutelage. His efforts with Courtney Brown helped him earn All-America honors in 1999 and become the No. 1 selection in the 2000 NFL Draft. Johnson also has coached 13 first-team All-Big Ten performers and has had a large role in the success of the defense, punting and recruiting efforts during his tenure. A highly successful high school head coach in the Washington, D.C. area for more than 20 years, Johnson is a graduate of Elizabeth City (N.C.) State University, earning NAIA All-America honors at linebacker.

London comes to Penn State after serving one season as the offensive assistant/quality control coach with the Tennessee Titans under former Nittany Lion standout and Pro Football Hall of Fame inductee Mike Munchak. During the 2011 season, London helped the Titans to a 9-7 record and 245.2 passing yards per game, missing out on an AFC playoff berth via a tiebreaker. His NFL resume also includes one season as a pro scout for the Philadelphia Eagles (2010) and three years as an offensive assistant with the Chicago Bears (2007-09). He coached for three years at his alma mater, Duke, serving as a graduate assistant (2004-05) and running backs coach (2006). London was a running back and sprinter on the Blue Devils’ track and field team as an undergraduate. In 2005, he completed a coaching internship with the New England Patriots as part of the NFL’s Minority Internship program. He also earned a master’s degree from Duke.

McWhorter joins the Penn State staff after serving as Texas associate head coach and offensive line coach from 2005-10. He joined the Longhorns’ staff as tackles and tight ends coach in 2002 and played a large role in helping Texas capture the 2005 BCS National Championship and play in the 2009 BCS title game. During the Longhorns’ title season, McWhorter’s offensive line was critical in Texas setting an NCAA record with 652 points and a school record with 6,657 yards, finishing No. 2 in the nation in rushing (274.9 ypg). A native of Atlanta and a Georgia graduate, McWhorter was selected the 2008 Assistant Coach of the Year by the American Football Coaches Association. He was the assistant head coach and offensive line coach at Georgia Tech, working with O’Brien, in 2000-01. McWhorter began his career as a high school coach in Georgia and moved into the collegiate ranks at Georgia Tech from 1980-86. He was head coach at West Georgia in 1989 and also has been an assistant coach at Georgia (1991-95), Alabama (1987-88), Duke (1990), Clemson (1996-98) and Memphis (1999). Entering his 32nd season as a college coach, McWhorter was an All-SEC lineman at Georgia under coach Vince Dooley.

A 31-year coaching veteran, Strollo joins the Penn State staff after one year as the offensive line coach at Ball State. A native of Long Branch, N.J., Strollo went to Ball State with head coach Peter Lembo after serving in the same role under him at Elon (2008-10). He was the tight ends coach at Duke in 2005 and the offensive line coach during the 2006 and ’07 seasons. A Boston College graduate, Strollo began his coaching career at Middletown South (N.J.) High School and he was a graduate assistant at Springfield College, earning his master’s degree. His coaching resume also includes stints at Maine (2004), Cornell (2001-03), Lafayette (1996-2000), Massachusetts (1991-95), Northeastern (1984-90 and 1981-1982) and Washburn (1983). Strollo served as the offensive coordinator at Cornell and Northeastern.

Vanderlinden is entering in his 12th year as linebackers coach and has been the primary force in helping restore the “Linebacker U.” tradition. Vanderlinden directed junior Gerald Hodges to first-team All-Big Ten honors in 2011 and was instrumental in the development of Cameron Wake, who earned 2010 All-Pro honors. All three 2009 starting linebackers earned All-Big Ten honors and are on NFL rosters, with San Francisco’s NaVorro Bowman being named to the 2011 AP All-Pro Team and Sean Lee a rising star with the Dallas Cowboys. In 2007, All-American Dan Connor became the school’s career tackle leader and won the Bednarik Award. Vanderlinden also worked with Paul Posluszny, the 2005 Butkus Award recipient and two-time first-team All-American and Bednarik Award winner. Vanderlinden was head coach at Maryland (1997-2000), defensive coordinator at Northwestern (1992-96) and a defensive assistant coach at Colorado (1983-91). His defensive pupils at Northwestern included two-time Bednarik Award winner Pat Fitzgerald. He also coached at Michigan and Ball State after graduating from Albion College, where he twice earned all-conference honors at center.

The Nittany Lions shared the Big Ten Leaders Division title with Wisconsin and finished with a 9-4 mark during the 2011 season. Penn State played in its fourth consecutive New Year’s bowl game and 44th overall. The Nittany Lions’ 827 all-time victories rank No. 5 in the nation and their 27 bowl wins are third-highest.

Penn State opens its 126th season on Sept. 1, hosting Ohio University. Ohio State, Wisconsin, Northwestern, Indiana, Navy and Temple also will visit Beaver Stadium this fall. For season ticket information, fans should call 1-800-NITTANY weekdays from 8 a.m.-5 p.m.

[box type=”shadow”]This story originally appeared in Penn State Live. Photo via Flickr.[/box]

The Medical Minute: Hand Hygiene

Learn simple ways to promote health in your home.

Our hands are one of the chief ways we interact with our environment. Think about what you touch daily – doors, desks, food, other people, pets. Hundreds or thousands of other people have often touched the things we touch, and most of them have hands that are not sterile. People with colds or sore throats touch their mouth and nose, picking up the infectious agents on their hands. Then they transfer the infectious bacteria or virus to the surfaces they touch. Next we come along and get the germs on our own hands, touch our eyes, nose or mouth and soon are infected ourselves.

Making dinner, we handle raw meat and then make the salad, perhaps placing E. coli bacteria on the lettuce and potentially infecting the family. A server in a restaurant coming down with hepatitis could give the virus to dozens of customers if he or she uses improper hygiene.

Health care workers should be well aware of hand hygiene; it’s one of the national patient safety goals for the Joint Commission for Accreditation of Healthcare Organizations (JCAHO). Hospitals are ground zero for potential infections. Doctors, nurses and other health care personnel are supposed to sanitize their hands before and after a patient contact, but with multiple contacts throughout the day, it can easily be missed. Although patients are most susceptible to infectious agents, visitors can both bring them in and take them out.

It’s really fairly simple to keep one’s hands clean; the hard part is remembering to do it. Alcohol gel sanitizers are effective at killing bacteria and viruses, but they work best for hands that are not visibly dirty. Visible dirt should be washed off. Proper hand washing includes soap, but anti-bacterial soap is not recommended. For antibacterial soap to work, the hands must be scrubbed for 10 minutes with a stiff brush like a surgeon before operating. We do not require sterile skin, just clean skin. There is increasing evidence that using antibacterial soap has lead to resistance to the antiseptics in the soaps.

The purpose of soap is not to kill germs; it is to dissolve dirt and float it away with the germs. Hot water is not necessary to be effective, but heat helps the soap to dissolve so it can work. The most important part is time – to work, hands should be lathered together for at least 15 seconds, longer if possible – long enough to sing the “Happy Birthday” song twice.

Here are some simple rules to reduce the risk to you and your family:

  1. Wash hands before food preparation and after handling raw meat or fish.
  2. Wash hands after using the bathroom.
  3. Wash or sanitize hands before touching your eyes, nose or mouth in case you have infectious agents on your hands.
  4. Wash hands after handling garbage, dirty diapers, dirty laundry.
  5. Wash or sanitize hands before and after any medical contact, such as, cleaning a wound or changing a dressing or caring for a sick child.
  6. If you have a cough or cold, wash or sanitize your hands after sneezing or coughing or blowing your nose to reduce the spread of germs to surfaces where others can pick them up. Ideally, cough or sneeze into the crook of your arm, not your hands.

It’s important to keep these admonitions toward cleanliness in perspective, lest we become fearful of our environment. Intact skin is a good barrier. Although tiny breaks in the skin can be a huge portal of entry for bacteria, it takes a while for an infection to set in. If you are working in your yard, or tinkering with the car, or playing contact sports or other activities where you may pick up germs, it’s OK to wait to wash up when you are finished. Be careful not to touch your eyes, nose or mouth until your hands are clean and chances are, you will be fine.

Your children will get an average of eight colds per year for their first several years, and that may be a good thing. Some experts think it helps their immune systems learn to work properly. Teach them to wash up after outside play, before eating, after using the bathroom. But perfect cleanliness is neither possible nor desirable.

Keeping our hands clean is a good habit to develop. It’s not necessary to avoid dirt entirely, but it is important to keep it on the outside where it can’t hurt us.

[box type=”shadow”]This post originally appeared at Penn State Live. John Messmer is an associate professor of family and community medicine at Penn State College of Medicine and a staff physician at Penn State Hershey Medical Center. Photo via Flickr.[/box]

Penn State Selects Bill O’Brien to Lead Football Program

The Pennsylvania State University has selected Bill O’Brien as its 15th head football coach in its storied 125-year history.

The Pennsylvania State University has selected Bill O’Brien, the New England Patriots offensive coordinator, as its 15th head football coach in its storied 125-year history.

O’Brien’s appointment was announced this evening by Penn State President Rodney Erickson and Dave Joyner, acting director of athletics. A 14-year veteran in the collegiate coaching ranks prior to his National Football League experience, O’Brien will be introduced on the Penn State campus Saturday.

A member of the Patriots’ coaching staff since 2007, including the last three mentoring the quarterbacks, O’Brien has worked with some of the game’s most successful and innovative coaches and players in his 19-year coaching career. Bill Belichick, Tom Brady, Wes Welker, Randy Moss, Ralph Friedgen, George O’Leary and Chan Gailey are among the coaches and players he has teamed with throughout his career.

A graduate of Brown University, also the alma mater of Hall of Fame predecessor Joe Paterno, O’Brien joined Belichick’s staff in New England as a coaching assistant in 2007 after 14 seasons on the staffs of Georgia Tech, Maryland and Duke. He served as the Patriots’ wide receivers coach in 2008, was the quarterbacks coach in 2009-10 and was appointed offensive coordinator/quarterbacks coach prior to the 2011 season.

“The Penn State football program has a great legacy and has contributed enormously to our University community,” said Erickson. “A program of this caliber requires a special kind of leader – a leader who will embrace that legacy and maintain the University’s commitment to excellence on the field and in the classroom. We have that leader in Coach O’Brien, and I look forward to working with him in his new role.”

“We have found the man to take Penn State football forward,” said Dave Joyner, Penn State acting director of athletics. “Needless to say, we have been looking for someone with some very special qualities, beginning with a heart that beats to the values and vision of Penn State University and our Penn State football legacy and tradition. That was our starting point, and Coach O’Brien exemplifies those traits that Penn Staters hold so highly. In addition to his model characteristics as a man and a teacher, he’s all about producing winners, and doing so the right way. He will embrace tradition, demand excellence and pursue Success with Honor in every phase of our program.”

“I am thrilled to be the head coach of the Penn State football program,” stated O’Brien. “I cannot tell you how excited I am to get started, meet the team, meet the football alumni and meet all of the people that make this University so special. As head coach of this special football program, it is my responsibility to ensure that this program represents the highest level of character, respect and integrity in everything we do. That includes my coaching staff, our players and everyone involved in the football program. There is tremendous pride in Penn State football and will never, ever take that for granted.”

This season, O’Brien has been instrumental in New England earning a 13-3 record and the No. 1 seed in the AFC. The Patriots have scored 513 points (32.1 avg.), the AFC’s highest mark and No. 3 in the NFL. New England is second in the NFL in total offense (428.0 ypg) and passing (317.8 ypg).

Under O’Brien’s tutelage, Brady has thrown for 5,235 yards (No. 2 in NFL) and 39 touchdowns this season, as the Patriots won their final eight games. Wide receiver Welker leads the NFL with 122 receptions and his 1,569 receiving yards to rank second in the NFL. Welker and tight end Rob Gronkowski (90-1,327) rank No. 1-2 in the AFC in receiving yardage. Gronkowski leads the NFL with 17 touchdown receptions.

Under O’Brien’s direction, Brady became the first unanimous Associated Press MVP in 2010 in leading the Patriots to an NFL-best 14-2 mark.

O’Brien began his coaching career at his alma mater, working with the tight ends in 1993 and the inside linebackers in 1994. He joined O’Leary’s Georgia Tech staff in 1995, helping the Yellow Jackets to bowl appearances in each of his last six seasons. O’Brien was an offensive graduate assistant his initial three years in Atlanta. Working with then-offensive coordinator Friedgen, O’Brien served as the Yellow Jackets’ running backs coach from 1998-2000. Georgia Tech finished no lower than third in the Atlantic Coast Conference in rushing all three seasons. O’Brien was promoted to Georgia Tech’s offensive coordinator and quarterbacks coach in 2001 and assistant head coach in 2002.

O’Brien was reunited with Friedgen in 2003, joining his Maryland staff as running backs coach. The Terrapins finished second in the ACC in rushing in his first season and defeated West Virginia, 41-7, in the Gator Bowl. Following two years in College Park, O’Brien served as offensive coordinator and quarterbacks coach at Duke in 2005 and ’06 before joining the Patriots’ coaching staff.

Born in Dorchester, Mass. O’Brien was raised in Andover, a Boston suburb. He played linebacker and defensive end at Brown from 1990-92, graduating in 1992 with a double concentration in political science and organizational behavior management.

O’Brien and his wife, Colleen, have two sons, Jack and Michael.

Penn State is among the nation’s premier programs in success on the gridiron and in the classroom. The Nittany Lions’ 827 all-time victories rank No. 5 in the nation, their 27 bowl victories are third-highest and 96 Penn Staters have earned first team All-America honors. Penn State won National Championships in 1982 and 1986 and since joining the Big Ten Conference in 1993 has won league championships in 1994, 2005 and 2008. Beaver Stadium is the nation’s second-largest facility with a capacity of 106,572 and Penn State has ranked among the top four nationally in NCAA attendance every year since 1991.

Penn State is consistently among the nation’s most successful program in the graduation of its football student-athletes. The 2011 NCAA Graduation Rates Report revealed that Penn State and Stanford earned a football Graduation Success Rate of 87 percent, highest among the teams ranked in the final 2011 Bowl Championship Series Top 25 rankings. Among the 70 Football Bowl Subdivision teams that played in a 2011-12 bowl game, Penn State and Stanford were tied for the fifth-highest GSR.

Penn State Football student-athletes have earned a nation’s-best 15 CoSIDA Academic All-America selections (13 first-team) since 2006. The Nittany Lions’ 49 Academic All-Americans all-time rank No. 3 nationally among all Football Bowl Subdivision institutions.

The Nittany Lions shared the Big Ten Leaders Division title with Wisconsin and finished with a 9-4 mark during the 2011 season. Penn State played in its fourth consecutive New Year’s bowl game and 28th overall.

This article originally appeared at Penn State Live. Photo via Penn State Live.

Taking a Poverty Resolution

Matthew Jones didn’t consider himself to be a typical MBA student when he applied for admission to the Penn State Smeal College of Business. Rather than setting his sights on becoming a wealthy executive, he decided to devote his business and financial research interests to issues of poverty in developing countries. Jones, now a graduate of the Penn State Smeal MBA Program, continues his mission to serve others through a nonprofit he co-founded with his brother, Andrew, a current MBA student at Smeal.

Their organization, Poverty Resolutions, grew to fruition following the devastating earthquake that struck Haiti in January 2010. Jones, a seasoned traveler, decided that instead of pursuing a traditional internship through the MBA program, he would spend his time off that summer learning about the needs that existed in Haiti and what part he could have in developing long-term solutions to serve those needs.

This spring, Poverty Resolutions plans to engage American elementary schools, high schools, and colleges in the need that exists in Haiti and what they can do to help. The organization has developed a variety of educational presentations and programs, based upon age level, that are intended to illustrate the harsh realities of global poverty. Additionally, the organization has released the documentary footage showcasing their immersion in Haiti. It is their goal that the film will not only offer a glimpse of the desperation present in Haiti, but also the hope that continues to exist. Click here to view the documentary trailer.

“For me, Haiti seemed to be so close to the U.S.,” Jones recalled. “With the disaster being so literally close to home, I decided to take advantage of the time I had off to help.”

According to the organization’s research, Haiti was the poorest country in the Americas prior to the earthquake, with more than half of its citizens living on less than one U.S. dollar per day. The earthquake exacerbated this desperate situation. Thousands were driven from their homes and forced to live in tents located in fields and on sidewalks. Even now, many of these families continue to live without clean water, proper sanitation or nutritious food.

With this knowledge, Jones, his brother, and 12 other individuals teamed up to carry out an immersion in Haiti and document their experience along the way. The group felt that, in order to truly help the people in Haiti, they had to get to know them. Four of the team members, including the Jones brothers, chose to make a 28-day commitment, in which they would pledge to live on $1 a day and document their experiences living alongside Haitians in a tent city. They developed their plan based on the premise that nearly one-sixth of the world’s population lives on less than $1 a day. In addition to this standard, the team set guidelines to mirror the experience of the Haitian people as accurately as possible. The team agreed to the following rules:

  • Spend only $1 per day on food, supplies, and drinking water.
  • Live and sleep in Haiti with one blanket or sheets.
  • No toiletries: no toothpaste, no deodorant, no soap.
  • Refrain from accepting food from Haitians.
  • If caught or scavenged, food can be eaten without penalty.
  • Two sets of clothes per person.
  • No laundry facilities.

In addition to providing support to the four living in the tent cities, the other team members recorded the experience for Americans back home. As the four were filmed and photographed, the team members searched for opportunities to develop partnerships with Haitians. In addition to establishing strong relationships with the Haitians, the group also networked with fellow humanitarians to learn about what they were doing to help and how they could combine forces. Over the course of the four weeks spent in Haiti, powerful lessons were learned and connections were made with local individuals and organizations that would form the framework for Poverty Resolutions.

The main concern among Haitians with whom they interacted was a lack of jobs. They desperately wanted to improve their situation, but had no means of making money to do so. Using their own education and experience, the group began to think logically about how to spur small business development and job creation in such an impoverished area.

As with many developing countries, education typically takes a back seat to the more immediate issues surrounding food and shelter. However, it became obvious to the group that if they were going to create and sustain a solution to joblessness in Haiti, they needed to start with education.

Statistics show that only half of Haitian children attend primary school, which has led to a literacy rate of only 53 percent among the adult population. In fact, only one in five young adults attends secondary school. While Haitian children must pass a standardized test to reach this level of schooling, the group found cost to be the greatest roadblock to their education, which in turn leads to unemployment later in life.
By utilizing the network established with fellow humanitarians already focused on improving the educational system in Haiti, Jones and his cohorts set their sights on raising funds to help reduce the financial burden that prevents capable Haitian children from attending school. Poverty Resolutions currently works with an expanding network of nearly 10 Haitian schools, helping to raise funds toward educational scholarships, effective training programs for teachers, and school supply purchases.

In addition to providing educational support, Poverty Resolutions also offers programs geared toward funding small business through microfinance, which provides small financial loans to low-income clients who aspire to start or grow their own business. Farmers, artisans, and entrepreneurs who would otherwise lack access to traditional lending services may be recipients of microfinance loans, which are repaid and then reinvested into the program.

“Through donations, we aim to provide loans to support Haitian farmers so they can feed their animals, to artisans so they can purchase supplies to create their products, and to countless other individuals aspiring to build and sustain their own small businesses,” said Jones.

In order to contribute to the larger fight against poverty and the overall progress made by organizations worldwide, Poverty Resolutions has focused much of its efforts on educating and inspiring not only Haitians, but also a second generation of American students who would also be committed to the cause.

“Although younger Americans at the elementary, high school, and even college levels aren’t established financially, we believe they are important to target because of their willingness to be inspired,” Jones said. “The willingness to help is there, but most American students aren’t fully educated on the poverty crisis to know what they can do to make a difference. We aim to help them take that next step in becoming involved.”

To learn more about Poverty Resolutions or to get involved in development efforts, visit

[box type=”shadow”]This story originally appeared in Penn State Live. Contact, Lori Wilson at 814-863-9855. Photo via Flickr.[/box]

Limited Access to Higher Education May Harm Society

The rising cost of a college education and limited access to financial aid may create a less productive workforce and steeper wealth inequity, according to a study by two North American economists.

Students with low-income parents are discovering that it is more difficult to find funds to pay for a college education now compared to students of similar economic backgrounds in the 1980s, said Alexander Monge-Naranjo, assistant professor of economics, Penn State.

“The consensus was that in the 1980s, credit constraints didn’t seem to matter for those who went to college,” said Monge-Naranjo. “But according to the latest data, we see family income and parental wealth are making a big difference in who is attending college.”

Monge-Naranjo said there were several reasons for the move away from affordability. Over the last two decades, more higher-paying jobs required a college degree. The higher demand for a college education led universities to increase tuition, according to Monge-Narajo.

At the same time, money available through government loan programs remained flat or, when adjusting for in inflation, declined. During the 1990s, the percentage of undergraduates who borrowed from government lending programs increased significantly. Of those students, the ones at the top limit of their borrowing capacity tripled to 52 percent. Many more students are relying on private lenders for loans, Monge-Narajo said.
In the 1980s, credit constraints — factors that limit financial access to college funding, such as caps on financial assistance and family income — did not significantly stop students from attending college, once the researchers controlled for other factors, such as SAT score, age and race. Even poor students who had little financial resources to pay for college, but who were smart, could access credit to pursue an education, Monge-Naranjo said.

The researchers, who reported their findings in the current issue of the American Economic Review, said a shift occurred in the 1990s as more low-income students began to struggle to access credit to pay for a college. During the 1990s, youths from high-income families were 16 percent more likely to attend college than youths from low-income families.

Monge-Naranjo, who worked with Lance Lochner, associate professor, Western economics and director, CIBC Centre for Human Capital and Productivity, University of Western Ontario, used the most recent data from the National Longitudinal Surveys of Youth and the Armed Forces Qualifying Test to examine the relationships between intelligence, family income and college attendance.

According to Monge-Naranjo, constraints on financial aid could have far-reaching economic impacts. When poor but intelligent workers are unable to earn a college degree, their career choices are restricted, Monge-Naranjo said. That could mean less qualified and less productive workers will attain those positions.

“It’s a matter of economic efficiency,” said Monge-Naranjo. “Are we choosing the best individuals for the job, or just the individual whose parents are wealthy? In the long-term that may have an effect on the economy, although it may take a couple of generations to find out and, even then, perhaps be hard to quantify.”
The National Science Foundation supported this work.

[box type=”shadow”]This article was originally published by Matthew Swayne and Andrea Elyse Messer for Penn State Live. The authors can be reached at 814-865-9481. Photo via Flickr.[/box]

Satellite Images of Nighttime Lights Help Track Disease Outbreaks

The research is expected to help medical professionals to synchronize vaccination strategies.

University Park, PA

Satellite images of nighttime lights, which normally are used to detect population centers, also can help keep tabs on diseases in developing nations, according to new research. An international research team that includes Matthew Ferrari, an assistant professor of biology at Penn State, found that the new technique accurately indicates fluctuations in population density — and thus the corresponding risk of epidemic — that can elude current methods of monitoring outbreaks.

The research, reported in the current issue of the journal Science, is expected to help medical professionals to synchronize vaccination strategies with increases in population density.

Ferrari and his team used nighttime images of the three largest cities in the West African nation of Niger to correlate seasonal population fluctuations with the onset of measles epidemics during the country’s dry season, roughly from September to May. Because many pathogens that cause epidemics flourish in areas where the population density is the greatest, satellite imagery showing brighter areas — indicating greater numbers of people — then can be used to pinpoint disease hot spots. The images, taken between 2000 and 2004 by a U.S. Department of Defense satellite, were compared to records from Niger’s Ministry of Health of weekly measles outbreaks during the same years in Maradi, Zinder, and Niger’s capital, Niamey.

In many agriculturally dependent nations, such as Niger, people migrate from rural to urban areas after the growing season, explained Nita Bharti, a postdoctoral researcher at Princeton University and the first-listed author of the research paper. As people gather in cities during the dry-season months when agricultural work is unavailable, these urban centers frequently become hosts to outbreaks of crowd-dependent diseases such as measles. Because temporary and seasonal migrations are very hard to measure directly, the night lights are an important source of data for Africa and Asia, especially, where other sources of data are sometimes absent.

The team found that measles cases were most prevalent when a city’s lighted area was largest and brightest. “We found that seasonal brightness for all three cities changed similarly,” Ferrari said. “Brightness was below average for Maradi, Zinder, and Niamey during the agriculturally busy rainy season, then rose to above average as people moved to urban areas during the dry season. Measles transmission rates followed the same pattern — low in the rainy season, high in the dry season.” The team members also found that the relationship between brightness and measles transmission appeared even clearer at the local level, as did the potential value of the researchers’ technique in providing medical treatment.

For example, in Niamey, measles cases were recorded daily for three districts, or communes, during the 2003-to-2004 dry season. Both brightness and measles infection peaked early in the northern districts in February and March of 2004. A two-week mass-vaccination campaign was launched in March and April of 2004, but population density, as determined by light brightness, already had started to decline in the north of the city.
“Ultimately, the goal is to use this research to design better preventative-vaccination programs and more-efficient responsive vaccination strategies when outbreaks do occur,” Ferrari said.

Bharti added that the team’s new method is not limited to understanding measles. “Think about malaria or meningitis,” she said. “These diseases are geographically specific, for the most part, to areas where this would be a useful technique. These are places that are not so industrialized that they always will be saturated with brightness and where there may be some level of agricultural dependence so that there are detectable labor migrations.”

The researchers also are exploring the use of nighttime lights with other large-scale population-tracking methods such as the monitoring of mobile-phone usage.

“When used alone, both population-tracking methods have their shortcomings,” Bharti said. “Nighttime-lights imagery is susceptible to weather conditions, while mobile-phone usage data are biased in the portion of the population it can represent.” Bharti and her co-authors hope that when nighttime imagery is combined with other techniques, the measures will be complementary.

In addition, the team members hope to explore uses for nighttime satellite data outside of epidemiology, such as tracking population displacement and mass migration during a war or following a natural disaster.

“We now have a technique that allows us to observe and measure changes in population density,” Bharti said. “This short-term use of nighttime-lights data could apply to a number of different situations beyond seasonal migrations and infectious diseases, such as humanitarian and disaster aid. We’re excited about the potential this method has for other important global-health issues.”

In addition to Ferrari and Bharti, other authors of the study include Andrew Tatem of the University of Florida; Rebecca Grais of Epicentre, a non-profit research facility located in France; Ali Djibo of the Nigerian Ministry of Health; and Bryan Grenfell of Princeton University. The research was supported by the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation.

[box type=”shadow”]This article originally published at Penn State Live. For more information, contact Ferrari at 814-865-6080 or, or Barbara Kennedy, Penn State Science PIO, at 814-863-4682 or Photo via Flickr.[/box]