Managing Feelings of Loss and Grief

The Covid-19 pandemic has resulted in tremendous loss for many people around the world. Such loss has presented in a variety of ways: loss of income, loss of healthcare, and loss of life and loved ones.

Loss, or the fear of loss, can bring about bad feelings and symptoms of stress and anxiety. These feelings can range from mild to debilitating, or completely unbearable. This is normal even when not living through a pandemic; behavioral, emotional and mental health conditions occur in 1 in 5 people in the US, and 1 in 4 globally, according to the World Health Organization.

It is important to identify healthy ways of coping and practicing self care to address these symptoms, and know that continued support may be necessary long after the obvious triggers are gone. There are many options for care and in many settings; finding a healthy method that works for your personal situation will increase your chance for success. This Healthline article is a great resource to help figure out what type of support might work best for you, based on how you’re feeling.

If you are faced with grief now or in the future, it’s important to understand that there is no “right” way to grieve. Grief is different for everyone and the intensity of emotions brought on by the experience can change over time, and sometimes even moment to moment. When supporting someone else who is grieving, take your cues from the person as to what would be comforting or helpful to them. If you aren’t sure, ask – and be specific.

The National Institute on Mental Health has representatives available via phone or online chat; additionally, several mental and emotional healthcare providers offer several options for receiving care and support, and within various insurance plan models. Some trusted websites are listed below.

Penn Counseling Pracheta Trivedi – , M.Ed., LPC, Counselor

Jacqueline Cahalan, PhD, Licensed Clinical Psychologist

The Boris Lawrence Henson Foundation

Maintaining a Healthy Diet: In Quarantine, and After

For many across the country, the experience of quarantine and social distancing has gone on for several weeks. Even at SBRC, we are scratching our heads at dinner time, trying to think of new, creative ideas for what to eat! Many families are making all their meals at home, while others are using curbside pickup and delivery options from their favorite local restaurants. Coupled with what for many has resulted in reduced physical activity, we thought it would be a good idea to review some tips for maintaining healthy eating habits during the Covid-19 pandemic. In this article we will focus on nutrition; advice on food safety can be found here.

It is important to consider your personal health conditions (or those of the people you prepare food for) when making food choices. One should carefully consider levels of sodium, sugars and cholesterol in foods; this should be considered across all meals consumed in a day to reduce risk, and is especially the case for patients with high blood pressure, diabetes, autoimmune diseases and other diagnoses. Think carefully especially when ordering out, where there is less control over ingredients. Alcohol consumption should be carefully monitored as well. The United States Department of Agriculture has released a useful phone app on it’s website called the MyPlateApp to help families design a plan that meets their food preferences, health goals, and budget.
MyPlateApp

And don’t forget to drink plenty of water!

One final note: Smoking is well known to be significantly associated with many negative outcomes, including respiratory disease and cancer. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention notes that indoor smoking poses significant health risks, especially for young children and people with asthma:

2ndHandSmoke

Covid-19 Treatment: A Note on Drug Development

We are following the news as it relates to products being created to combat the Covid-19 pandemic. This include development of new drug therapies to treat symptoms of the disease (and potentially reduce the risk of death), vaccines to prevent getting the disease in the first place, and diagnostics (i.e., tests) to understand if a person has the Covid-19 or has developed immunity after having been exposed to the disease. Some of these products are being developed “from scratch,” while others are already approved therapies for other conditions and are being assessed to understand how they might treat Covid-19.

What’s important to understand is that each of these products must be tested thoroughly to ensure safety for use in all types of patients affected by a disease, including adults, children, infants, and persons who are managing other conditions (i.e., have comorbidities). Some of these tests occur in a laboratory, while others are done as clinical trials. We may learn that some therapies are safe and work very well for some patients but are less safe or effective in others.

Additionally, the development process for drug therapies in particular requires time. Time is necessary to not only figure out all that is needed to create a product, but also to assess how effective the product is at doing what it’s intended to do, and to understand what side effects might result from its use. This is even the case for products that have already received regulatory safety approval for another condition (i.e., has another indication). In times of global crisis, there is an opportunity to move more quickly than usual; however, the safety of the population at large is the priority. The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has developed a useful infographic on the drug development process:

DrugApprovalProcess_Infographic_edited_legal

There are many research scientists, public health professionals, manufacturers and health care providers working around the world to develop all the products we will need to combat Covid-19, and understand their effects. We salute them all!

Yours in health,

Fanta Waterman PhD, MPH

Why We Need to Flatten the Curve – and How

As we try to understand the risks and consequences of Covid-19, the phrase “flattening the curve” has been heard or said several times. To help understand this better, let’s consider the following analogy to our own households, and changes we have personally made to weather this storm: groceries.

No one wants to run out of something important to get through the day, especially since options for replacing it might be challenging (store is closed or out of stock, manufacturing process is long which affects supply at any given time, etc.). The natural response is to spread out the time between periods that you will need to replenish those very important items, so that when you absolutely do, there is a better chance it will be there for you. This is bread, this is milk, and yes, this is toilet paper too. We closely monitor our cupboards and linen closets and try not to use too much of one thing too soon, so that we don’t have to go out and buy it again, only to find out there are none available right now.

That’s EXACTLY the same concept at play while we attempt to flatten the curve: slow down the rate of infection of Covid-19 so that all the supplies necessary to address the disease in a hospitalized patient (including ventilators) are available for everyone that needs them. To keep the “pantry” of our health system stocked and ready to take care of everyone over time.

This video explains the risk to the health system and human lives in the United States and provides an excellent explanation of why we all need to work to #flattenthecurve and practice #socialdistancing.

Safely Disinfecting Your Home

We are still learning how long COVID-19 can survive on surfaces, and how far the virus travels in the air (current estimate: 6 feet or more). Whether you’re in isolation, self-quarantine, or practicing aggressive social distancing, reducing the risk of infection in your home is always good practice. In addition to frequent hand washing, use a disinfectant to clean surfaces that frequently come into contact with humans several times a day (be careful with electronics!). These include, but are not limited to:

– Countertops and cabinet handles
– Faucets, knobs and spigots
– Inside the car (dashboard, center console, car/booster seats, and buttons
– Dining tables
– Musical instruments
– Toilet seats
– Door handles
– Remote controls
– Cell phones, tablets, and similar devices
– Purses
– Washer and dryer

Do not just spray: spray and wipe each surface. Be sure to use disposable kitchen or hand towels to further reduce the spread of infection. Wash your hands when you’re finished.

Additionally, be sure to take the appropriate safety precautions when using chemicals and disinfectants. Make sure the space is well-ventilated so you can access fresh air, and refrain from mixing substances in an attempt to increase potency or effect. This Good Housekeeping article from 2019 provides some helpful tips for using disinfectants.

Coronavirus (COVID-19) Pandemic

In the wake of the Covid-19 (novel coronavirus) pandemic, SBRC will be posting several resources on our website; we also strongly recommend regular visits to reputable health websites such as CDC.gov, state and local health department websites and WHO.int to keep informed as this situation evolves, and for tips on keeping yourself, your families and your employees safe. We have all hopefully received the advice to wash our hands thoroughly and often, and to practice social distancing.

Social distancing includes limiting – even eliminating where possible – congregating indoors, decreasing our exposure to places where the virus can be easily spread, and making thoughtful adjustments to social calendars and daily interactions to slow down the rate that this virus spreads. These are not always easy changes to implement, but they are very, VERY important to restoring public health and keeping our health system working.

We live in a global community more now than ever before, and while we look to our leaders to ensure that our response to this pandemic has global cooperation, we each can – and should – contribute to this effort locally by practicing good hygiene, social distancing, and patience.

Take care, and be well.

Fanta Waterman, PhD, MPH
Managing Director, Serrette Brown Research and Consulting, LLC

Post-doctoral Research Fellow and Grantee, 2013 – 2014
The National Coordinating Center for Public Health Services and Systems Research and Public Health Practice-Based Research Networks

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