Creating a Bubble of Safety in an Otherwise Destructive Environment

The Boston Health Care for the Homeless Program is in the process of finalizing a “safe space” for heroin users within their center. A room with a nurse present would create a safer environment for people who are currently high and need a place where medical attention is readily available should they need it. It is important to understand what this “safe space” truly is: “It’s not a place where people would be injecting…[It would be] a place where people would come if they’re high and they need a safe place to be that’s not a street corner or not a bathroom by themselves, where they’re at high risk of dying if they do overdose,” says Dr. Jessie Galea in an article from wbur’s Common Health.

This initiative comes at a time of great concern over the opioid epidemic that is spreading across the United States. In Massachusetts, the number of confirmed cases of unintentional opioid overdose deaths in 2014 was a 57% increase over the number of cases recorded in 2012, as reported by the Massachusetts Department of Public Health. This form of harm reduction policy may come as a shock to some people- it is strange thing to conceive the provision of a space where heroin users who are currently high will be allowed to stay without facing legal penalty. While this is an unconventional method to combat drug overdoses, it is certainly a step in the right direction. Something needs to be done. Our current policies in place create an environment that leads addicts to endanger themselves even further. In order to fully address the opioid epidemic, policy implementation is going to have to target all of the factors contributing to the epidemic, rather than solely tightening restrictions on opioid prescriptions (though that should not be slighted). By creating a safe space where people who are currently experiencing a high can come, this could lead to many lives saved who would’ve otherwise overdosed because medical treatment could not be sought in time. In addition, we may see a rise in users who admit themselves into treatment and detox centers. It is important to think creatively when trying to combat an epidemic of the magnitude that we see with the opioid epidemic in the U.S., and to be open to unconventional ideas.


By Jackie Sheridan


What You Need to Know: Ebola

If you’ve been keeping up with the news at all lately, chances are you have heard a lot of talk about Ebola. The outbreak of the virus has recently spread beyond Africa, and as expected many people are nervous. The news keeps telling us that the United States can easily combat the virus, but you still can’t help but worry, right? Especially after hearing of the death of Thomas Duncan, the first person to contract Ebola in the United States, it is easy to panic. Before you do, however, it is important to educate yourself. We hear all the extreme statistics and horror stories surrounding the outbreak, but how much do we really know? Determining the facts about Ebola can greatly help reduce the stress you may be feeling.

What is Ebola?
Ebola is a virus originally transmitted to people through wild animals, but now spreads human to human. The recent outbreak in West Africa is the largest and most complex outbreak since the virus was first discovered in 1976.

How does it spread?
Ebola spreads through direct contact through broken skin, like a wound, or mucous membranes, like the eyes, with blood, secretions, organs, or other bodily fluids of infected people and also with materials like bedding and clothing that have been contaminated with these fluids.

What are the symptoms?
The first symptoms of Ebola are a fever, fatigue, muscle pain, headache and sore throat. Eventually, these are followed by vomiting, diarrhea, a rash, impaired kidney and liver function, and in some cases, internal and external bleeding.

How long are you contagious for once you contract the virus?
People are not contagious until they start developing symptoms. It may take anywhere from 2 to 21 days after contracting the virus for symptoms to appear. Once diagnosed, a person is contagious as long as their bodily fluids contain the virus. These bodily fluids include but are not limited to urine, sweat, feces, saliva, vomit, semen, and breast milk.

What is the fatality rate?
There have been other outbreaks of different strains of Ebola with fatality rates of 90%, but the average fatality rate is about 50% for this specific outbreak.

Is there a vaccine?
There are 2 vaccine candidates undergoing evaluation, but at this point in time there is no FDA approved treatment or vaccine for the virus.

What is the United States doing to prevent an outbreak in the US?
The World Health Organization (WHO) suggests that in order to prevent further Ebola outbreaks, it is important to maintain surveillance for the virus at airports. WHO also wants to support at-risk countries to develop preparedness plans.

What does all this mean?
The United States is caring for the few cases here to the best of their abilities. The country currently does not have a Surgeon General appointed, but the government is assuring the public not to worry. Our country has the resources to contain the virus for those cases that are already diagnosed. There are not many precautions to be taken from the public, just be aware of the symptoms and avoid bodily fluids of others. At this point in time, there is no real need to panic about contracting the virus, the country is mainly focusing on continuing to screen people entering the US in hopes of stopping the virus from spreading.

For more information please visit or to read an interesting article on other things you may want to know about Ebola, check out this article from USA Today

What You Need to Know (WYNTK)

In today’s world there are lots of public health issues being addressed, but do you actually know much about them? You may have heard about them or know a little bit, but UPHA thinks it is important to stay educated, that way we can eventually be the change and make the world a better place. That’s why we’ve started this new post called “What You Need to Know”. Whenever there is a public health issue relevant in the media that we feel should be discussed, we will provide the facts in this segment and open up the conversation. Feel free to comment or join us at our weekly meetings (Tuesdays at 8:30 in PSY B39) to talk more about any of the topics we post about, or email us at if you have any ideas about something you think should be featured as a WYNTK.

Volunteer Opportunities in the Greater Boston Area

1) Boomerangs ( – Thrift store to raise money for the AIDS Action Committee

2) Boston Health Care for the Homeless ( – Many specialized roles to help homeless people in Boston access the care they need

3) Health Leads ( – Become an advocate for patients, connecting them to resources

4) Peer Health Exchange ( – Teach health workshops in local schools

5) Lemuel Shattuck Hospital ( – Public Health Hospital which provides care to patients referred primarily by public agencies and private health care providers

6) Cradles to Crayons ( – Inspect, sort, and package all donations into individualized packages for children in need

7) Boston Rescue Mission ( –
Many opportunities available to help the homeless in Boston

8) Check out groups at the CSC! (

Fitness Apps You’ll Want to Use

By: Dea Biancarelli

Taking care of your body is one of the most important things you can do for

your health. We all know that eating right and being physically active are necessary

to prevent the health problems that are associated with overweight. Technology has

caught on too, produces games such as Wii Fit and creating hundreds of apps that

claim to make us healthier, stronger and happier. With so many apps on the market

though, how do you know which ones will be useful and which ones will just take

up valuable space on your phone? After testing out some of the most popular apps, I

created a top 5 list of fitness apps that are simple and useful.


1. Most Useful Gym App: Nike Training Club Cost: Free


If you want to start working out but don’t know what to

do, need to squeeze a quick workout in at home, or lose

motivation half way through your workout this app is for

you. Nike Training Club has tons of workouts for beginners,

intermediate or advanced. It also has different workouts for

your fitness goals, whether you want to get lean with cardio,

toned with light weights or build some serious muscle. It also

has a category called “Get Focused”, 15 minute workouts that

target specific areas. Each move has pictures and a short video

clip that teach you how to do each move. Once you click “Do

Workout” Nike Training Club leads you through the workout,

telling you what move to do, giving tips on form throughout

and a few motivational words. It beeps to alert you of the next

move. The app tracks your progress and unlocks rewards and

badges once you’ve hit certain goals. It’s like a personal trainer

in your phone (and for free)!


2. Most Useful Overall Health App: Argus Cost: Free


There are tons of apps on the market that allow you to track

how many calories you consume and how much activity you do

each day, but I find that I stop using these apps after a few days

because of inconvenience. Argus is different. By using timers

and pictures to record data instead of having you painstakingly

enter in your information approach, Argus is user friendly. The

set up is a fun, cool design, similar to a Facebook timeline that

shows you what choices you’ve been making throughout the

day. It can track all health aspects of your life: eating habits,

sleep cycle, fitness, a pedometer and even water intake. Argus

allows you to set goals and gives you notifications throughout

the day to help you reach them.


3. Most Useful App for Those Who Hate to Run: Zombies, Run! Cost: $4.99


Although the price tag is a little pricey for an app, Zombies,

Run! is a great way to make running interesting. It’s similar

to a real life video game. The app tells you a story of a zombie

outbreak, which you star in as the hero. The story continues as

you run, so you don’t continuously have to touch your phone

while working out. Players can create an account and log in to

compare scores with other zombie runners across the country.


4. Most Useful App for the Busy: Human Price: Free


Do you barely have time in your busy schedule for physical

activity? Are you craving something simple, easy and laid back?

Try Human, an app that helps you reach the recommended 30

minutes of physical activity. This simple app challenges you to

“get your daily 30” by adding up all physical activity that your

phone records if stuck in your pocket or attached to your arm.

It’s perfect for those of us who are too busy to be updating an

app or don’t have time for a daily hour workout but still want

to get the necessary amount of activity. It tracks your activity

for the current week, your weekly average and your streak of

daily fitness.


5. Most Useful App for the Charitable Cardio Fan: Charity Miles


Why not do some good during your next cardio session?

While there are tons of great apps on the market for those who like to run or

bike, from ones that record a run via GPS to tracking your pace and calorie

count, but an app I believe all runners and bikers can make use of is Charity

Miles. Charity Miles donates money to a charity of a user’s choice for every

mile they complete. It tracks walking, running and biking. The app is simple.

After selecting your charity, just press start and it records the distance you’ve

travelled. Although 75 cents may not seem like much, all those miles can

really add up!

All of these apps I believe are easy to use in your everyday life and can help

you achieve your fitness goals. Agree? Disagree? What fitness apps do you

like to use? Comment your thoughts below!

Dear Government; Sincerely, Public Health

By: Stephanie Smith

Dear Government,

For almost a full week now, you’ve been shutdown—stemming from disagreements between the Senate and the House of Representatives over the passage of the Affordable Care Act, also known as Obamacare. But aside from the effect that the new act has on the accessibility and affordability of health insurance for Americans, this shutdown is also affecting the national public health agenda.

We’ve seen photos of National Parks and Monuments with information about the unfortunate closure taped to the entrance, but did you think about the implications that this shutdown would have on your agencies involved in health care? Here’s a break down of everything that’s shutdown in the public health sphere, that needs to be restored.

Clinical Trials Halted  The National Institutes of Health (NIH) is unable to accept any new participants or patients to research studies or their hospital, in Maryland. Any clinical trials that were planned to begin are being put on hold. However, it is important to know that those already enrolled in research studies or are already patients in the hospital, prior to the shutdown, are being treated in the same manner that they would have been before October 1st.

CDC Disruption  The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention is unable to support the seasonal flu program and outbreak detection. The CDC will lose the opportunity to continue monitoring infectious disease rates during this shutdown. Though there are still several programs running, only about 4,000 of the 13,000 employees of the CDC are working at this time.

FDA Impairment  The Food and Drug Administration will be unable to support the usual food safety, nutrition, and cosmetics activities. Routine inspections involving compliance and enforcement, the monitoring of imports and lab research needed to inform public health decisions are closed.

Aside from these issues, seniors and children that receive healthy food through government-funded organizations will not have access to these services. The employees of all of these agencies are also suffering from the closing of their workplaces.

So please, for the sake of the nation, figure out a way to compromise.


All Americans That Care About the Health of the Nation

International Public Health: What is It?

By: Jenny Gilbert

When I tell people I study public health, there are two images that usually come to their minds: a doctor or an aid worker in emergency relief abroad. While both of these tracks of work can definitely be involved in public health, studying the health of populations is a lot broader than the movies make it look. Today I’m going to focus on the second one – the idea that public health is purely humanitarian. While non-profit organizations make up a huge portion of public health, for-profit researchers, governmental figures, consultants, and many others are also key players in health around the world. This post will largely focus on international health efforts, though its concepts are relevant to domestic projects as well.

While I was working on a research project last summer, I was surprised to hear one of the doctors mention her concerns of organizations that saw public health as purely charity and volunteering. We’ve moved so far beyond that image of a doctor or aid worker coming in with money and fixing everything, she explained, adding that communities can take ownership of projects by making them sustainable enough that outside money is no longer needed. Her words struck a cord. Of the many NGOs that exist in the world, relatively few that I’ve seen managed to circumvent heavy corruption, especially in poorer regions of the world. One of my biggest concerns on college campuses today is that students in volunteering and fundraising groups sometimes do not understand the NGOs they are donating to well enough to know if the funding is going toward activities which will actually help others. Public health projects don’t just need frontline workers. They also need people in the background who are grounded in research, operations, finances, and a variety of technical skills to keep large projects running smoothly.

Only so many people with these types of backgrounds will be willing to work for purely humanitarian reasons. Very few people enter public health without wanting to help others, but it’s rarely easy or effective to send foreigners abroad to countries and areas they don’t know well for extended periods of time. Rather than sending someone who both doesn’t fit in well and may build tensions, many programs today are focusing on hiring only within the area where their project takes place while sending foreigners to check in. People often argue that foreigners should not be involved at all outside of their countries, but without oversight of where the money goes, especially in poorer areas, corruption will likely occur. The aim, then, should not be for public health projects to make the highly educated into heroes on center stage, but rather quiet teachers and operations workers behind the curtains until the project is no longer their own. In an ideal world donations will be temporary until the project becomes permanent, and those who kept it running smoothly might not have taken photos with a “saved” foreign child in their arms, but will know of the lives they’ve supported when they see the results speak for themselves.