Carmel Health

Monday, December 12, 2011

And The Winner Is...

I find that of all of the topic areas that I cover in Health class, it's the nutrition unit that students react most positively to. It's also the topic area that hopefully they think about on a daily basis. Every day they get to choose what to have for breakfast, lunch and dinner. I enjoy those moments in the cafeteria when I see students of mine standing in line for the less healthy (cough!) food items and with the raise of one eyebrow (a la Roger Moore) I can guilt them into making a healthier choice.
In class we used the Government diet analysis tool found at This assignment revealed that the website, although free and easily accessible, has its faults. Users plug in their diet and the site will analyze the contents of the foods letting you know how healthy, or otherwise, your diet may be. However,if you eat ethnic or cultural foods you probably won't find these on the site. Also if you make your own foods then you also will find the site lacking.
As is common every year the results are always cause for much discussion with students realizing that their diet isn't as healthy as they thought. I asked students this semester to condense all of the information and reflect upon their less than 140 characters. The student submissions were of a very good standard and can be found at this link.
With an i-Tunes gift card being awarded to the best submission I can reveal the top three answers, as chosen by teachers, peers and some of the people that follow @carmelhealth on Twitter.
1. "Through My Healthy Plate inputs I learned that my fat, sodium, sugar & calorie intake is better when I eat meals with my family" I felt that this reflection was particularly good as not only did it show evidence of dietary analysis but that it also showed how improvements could be made. Eating together with the family, particularly when eating at home, is so beneficial to our physical, mental and social health. What's that old adage? The family that eats together stays together?
2. "Many ppl, including myself have been tricked w/the so-called healthy foods. In order 4 me 2 improve my diet I need 2 b more careful" This reflection again showed greater reflection and was particularly health literate. I agree that food manufacturers can do so much more to educate us as consumers but perhaps this isn't in THEIR best interest. If we had better information to make healthier choices would we buy less of the profit-making, addictive junk food? I think so.
3. "I should watch my fat & salt intake while aiming to eat more fruits & vegetables, because my diet is mostly just proteins & grains" This response identifies both the strengths and weaknesses of this individuals diet. Proteins and grains are essential components of the healthy plate but it is important that a balanced diet also includes fat and salt. Although those latter two foods are needed to a much lesser extent, they do both allow our body to work more efficiently.

What is your diet like? Are there foods that you eat that maybe you could make a healthier choice? What impact has your family diet had on the health of your family? Please feel free to share your comments below.

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

Great Food Podcast - And Others

Every morning on my drive to school I plug my smart phone into my car (well, I use one of those plastic tape cassette adapters) and use the Stitcher app to play podcasts. Mostly I'll listen to sports related podcasts but I do listen to some more obscure shows (when my wife isn't in the car). One of my favorite's is the BBC4 Food Programme They discuss food related issue and the recent episode talked about food politics comparing the differences on both sides of the Atlantic.
The good thing about the podcasts are that they are free and can be accessed readily and if you subscribe to them online you can play through your ipod/phone etc.
If you are interested, other shows that I listen to include 5 live Football Daily, Farming Today, ESPN:PTI, ESPN:Around The Horn, Freakonomics Radio and The Naked Scientists.

Do YOU listen to podcasts? Which ones? Do you use any health related Apps? Please share them in the comments box.

Monday, October 24, 2011

Mental Health Brochures

Mental Health Brochures
Once again my health classes have produced some fantastic tri-fold brochures on a mental health disorder of their choice. They researched the disorder, found appropriate images, discussed symptoms and strategies, and then provided further sources of information. All this, and they produced QR codes for the first time.
Here I share just 5 of the many examples of student work that will go on display in the classroom.
Click on the image above and you will be taken to a youblisher document where you can scroll (with sound) and zoom in on the text.

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

Blood Donation

LIFESOURCE, Chicagoland's blood center will be visiting Carmel High School on October 28th for our next blood drive.
Did you know that 60% of the population is eligible to give blood and yet only 5% of the national population actually donates?
If all blood donors gave 2 to 4 times a year, it would help prevent blood shortages.
4.5 million Americans would die each year without life saving blood transfusions.

Check this link for frequently asked questions or see Miss Capelle for more details.
Are you eligible to donate? Check this link.

If you have donated blood before, I am very impressed. If you haven't donated before please consider doing so. What a wonderful feeling knowing that you have contributed to saving the life of another person. At the last blood drive we collected 125 UNITS. Can we beat that this time around?

Tuesday, October 4, 2011

Jordan Burnham - Unbreakable

Teaching the mental health unit can sometimes be tough, but when I am able to share stories like the one here, it makes the lesson so much better. I show some Jordan Burnham footage to my students to demonstrate the effects of depression and to open up the discussion of the topic of suicide.
This ESPN documentary is a great production. Take the time (15 minutes) to watch this and please share your thoughts in the comments section.

Thursday, September 8, 2011

Great Smartphone App

I am increasingly impressed with the range of health-related apps that are available for phones and tablets. The best ones among them provide great health information at your finger-tips and among those is the "Everyday Health" app that one of my students shared with me this week in class.
The "Everyday Health" app is a spin off from their website
The app includes healthy tips, a health A-Z, a Doctor Q&A, and some great food and fitness tips. Scrolling through one of the options I noticed the following information. If I wanted to burn 50 calories I could do any of the following:
Take a walk for 15 minutes, vacuum for 10 minutes or jump rope for 5 minutes.

The app is free and definitely useful. If you use any other apps that make you healthy then please recommend them in the comments section below.

Sunday, August 21, 2011

Txtng & Drivng...It Can Wait

On my journey to school for the first day of the new academic year I looked in the rear view mirror and noticed that the car behind me was driven by a student of mine. I was horrified that for the entire journey she was more interested in her cell phone than paying attention to the road.
I recently watched the excellent 10 minute video on the At&T website which ties in to their campaign to encourage drivers NOT to text while driving. Please take the time to watch the video and forward it to your friends and family.

Tips for Teens:
Be smart. Don’t text and drive. No text message is worth being distracted while you drive. Be in control.
Remember it’s your phone. You decide if and when to send and read texts so take control. Consider turning your phone off, setting it to silent or even storing it in the glove box before hitting the road.
Be caring. Never send a text message to a friend who is driving to meet you, or to anyone you know is likely behind the wheel.
Be a BFF. Friends don’t let each other text and drive. Visit to take a pledge not to text and drive, and encourage your friends to do the same.

Friday, August 19, 2011

Internet Safety

It's the start of the new school year and all of our students will be watching this great video on internet safety. I was with a class of freshman girls yesterday, and after having watched the video they were asked if they knew anyone who had shared a similar experience to the one that was portrayed. At least 1/3 of the girls raised their hands.
This is a great video to watch and share with friends and other students.

Tuesday, May 17, 2011

Jamie Oliver - TedX Video

I love these TedX videos and here one of my food heroes presents his views on the poor state of nutrition here in America. He makes it sound so easy to solve the issues....and perhaps it is.
Jamies Food Revolution returns to ABC in June.

Friday, May 13, 2011

Safe Haven Law

Illinois School Code requires that ALL school health education classes MUST teach the Abandoned Newborn Infant Protection Act. Also known as the Safe Haven Law this act has saved the lives of newborn babies that might otherwise be abandoned by their parents.

From 1991 to 1998, the incidence of newborn abandonment in public places increased 62% across the country. Dramatic accounts in the media highlighted the problem. In March 1998, a baby was found by two 13 year old boys who saw a body floating in 14 feet of water in the California Aqueduct. The red-haired, 20 inch girl was tagged Baby Jane Doe No.21 and given the name 'Grace'.

Similar issues across the country prompted states to follow the lead of Texas and provide some form of Safe Haven law.

The Safe Haven Law in Illinois allows a parent to safely relinquish an unharmed infant anonymously, without fear of prosecution.

This law provides a safe alternative to parents who might be under severe emotional distress or unable to provide for the basic needs of the infant.

  • Distressed birth parents can legally and anonymously relinquish an unharmed newborn.

  • Provides a safe place for newborns.

  • Protects the parent(s) from arrest or prosecution for abandonment.

  • Does not require that names be given when the unharmed infant is safely relinquished.

  • Babies are handed in to an staff member at any hospital, police station, sheriff office, fire station, or emergency care facility.

  • The parent has 60 days to reclaim the infant, after counselling and an inquiry. After 60 days, parental rights are terminated.

  • Parents can voluntarily complete a medical and family history questionnaire for the newborn. This could be very useful for the child and the adoptive parents.

Remember, parents don't have to use the Safe Haven law. They could also consider a traditional adoption or an open adoption where records are kept and the possibility of future contact with the child is maintained. Public assistance and food stamps can help those who might be too poor to look after a child. The Family Services Agency can help young mothers afraid of the reaction of their parents.

Monday, April 18, 2011

Hands Only CPR

It's that time of year when my students receive CPR instruction and this time around things are a little different. Current accepted theory suggests that 'hands only CPR' is equally effective and lay people are more likely to perform CPR if they know that they don't have to perform the 'mouth-to-mouth' component. In class we showed this video but I thought that the Matthew McConaughey video clip might be more memorable for our students. For more information you could visit the American Red Cross website.

Wednesday, April 13, 2011

Voting With Your Fork

Those that know me know that I advocate for healthy foods as often as possible. I encourage my students to make healthy choices as often as they can. I also let them know that they can still eat 'fast food' occasionally but they should aim to select the less harmful items.

In this short post I have included some links that you can check out if you want ideas to improve your diet:

Buy from a CSA. This will allow you to purchase locally grown, organic and seasonal produce. This boosts the local economy, reduces the use of pesticides and air miles, and will make you feel a lot healthier. You can collect the foods from the farm, or a local location. I just signed up to a CSA offered by "The Gentleman Farmer".

Support your local farmers market. Out here in the suburbs we are lucky to have access to locally grown farm produce. I regularly visited the farmers market in Palatine last year, and the nearest one to school is in Libertyville. It's a little early to know exact locations and times but they will be printed online and in the Chicago Tribune. Check out this link for the latest information available.

One of my food hero's is Jamie Oliver the British TV chef and food advocate. I think he's great not because he's English, but because he believes that we should all have access to affordable healthy foods, particularly in schools. His second season of the Food Revolution has just started on ABC. You can watch the episodes online at this link. You can also sign up for Jamies Food Revolution online and you will be sent further information about local food events in your community.

I show the excellent documentary Food Inc in class. Michael Pollan, the food journalist who appears in this movie, has written some excellent books. If you can you should find time to read one of the following: "Food Rules: An Eaters Manual", "In Defense of Food: An Eaters Manifesto" and "The Omnivore's Dilemma" (which is also available in a young readers edition).

Other quick tips that I can recommend include:

Stop drinking soda and other sweetened drinks.

Eat at home, preferably together as a family, instead of eating out.

Encourage your school to stop serving junk foods.

Consider having 'Meatless Monday', go without meat for one day a week.

Try growing your own herbs, vegetables or fruit.

Read food labels. Demand to know what is in your food.

Advocate for better food information in your school and community.

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

The Epidemic Of Unhealthy Food

As a Health teacher it really inspires me when I hear of students taking the lessons learned in class and applying them elsewhere. The nutrition unit that we have just completed is one of the topics that seems to inspire many students and their families. At this time of year I receive emails from parents saying that they have changed their eating habits based on the advice of their child.
One of my students, Maggie, wrote a paper in English class about the problems that she saw facing America and attitudes to food. Please take the time to read her paper below and post some feedback as she becomes the second guest blogger on this site!

America has a diverse culture. It is a culture of many countries, all melded together. America is also a culture of food, as diverse as our origins. A culture of food that has now become reliant on the principle of convenience and quantity. A culture of food that is making us slowly grow fatter and fatter. This way of life now so common in our country must be reversed before it is too late. We need to get rid of this unhealthy balance for three reasons: for our health, for our economy, and for our communities.

Obesity in America has been on the rise at an alarming rate, especially in children. In 1985 less than 10% of Illinois’ population was obese. In 2009, 26.5% of the population was obese. That is a huge gain, but is still nothing compared to some other states, of which over 30% of the population is now obese. Our culture of fast food and high fructose corn syrup are causing us to grow bigger and bigger. If a person is obese, they’re often a few pounds heavier than the average person. But, the underlying problems of obesity are the most worrying. These include heart disease, type 2 diabetes, and certain types of cancer. Obesity reduces the average person’s life expectancy by 6 to 7 years. Eating such unhealthy food often leads to obesity, which can lead to deadly consequences.

Part of the reason America has become addicted to unhealthy foods is because it is so common in our economy today. The government heavily subsidizes corn, which leads to the heavy use of unhealthy sweeteners, like high fructose corn syrup. The average American consumes about 60 pounds of high-fructose corn syrup every year. It’s is most every kind of food imaginable, even ketchup. Since our unhealthy food is subsidized, it is often much more expensive to buy healthy food. The balance between healthy and unhealthy food has been upset, and we are now paying the price for it. For example, a burger at McDonalds can cost just $1, while the average price for a pound of strawberries is $1.50. Although that 50 cents may not seem like much, to a struggling family it can be the deal breaker.

This plague of unhealthy food deeply affects our communities. How many times have we seen small, family owned grocery stores go out of business, while the big superstores grow and grow? In those stores there is a plethora of unhealthy choices. It has also been found that the rate of obesity is higher in poorer communities, especially in immigrants. This clearly shows the endless loop of having to choose the cheap, unhealthy food and the consequences which leave the poor in even more poverty and with their health compromised. This in turn causes the poor to no longer to be able to pay for their medical bills, which often leads to the loss of their jobs and livelihood.
It is almost unavoidable to not consume unhealthy food. It is cheap, convenient, and everywhere we look. It is just disgusting when you think about it, and something needs to be done.
We need to start in our own school. It reflects the current attitude of our country today. We need to be able to ask for labels on our food, and make a wise and healthy decision. We need to re-balance the prices of food in our cafeteria, so that people don’t have to sacrifice healthy options just because they are expensive. We need to expand the time we have for lunch, so that we won’t just spend the time in a line for the healthy choices and spend more time eating. By starting in our own school, we can slowly spread our healthy habits to others, and hopefully reverse the epidemic of unhealthy eating that is all too common in our society today.

Thursday, March 10, 2011

Mental Health - Examples of Student Work

At the end of our mental health unit my students are asked to research a mental health disorder of their choice. They have to inform their peers of the symptoms, coping strategies and treatments. They also have to provide further sources of information from the school and local community as well as on a national scale.
Some students chose to present their work in the form of a movie and the link above is a great example.

Most students presented their work as a brochure. If you click the image below it will open in a separate window. You can then use the arrows in the bottom right hand corner to scroll through the brochures.

Color Mental Health tri-folds

You can also hear a student presenting his information on depression in the latest of our podcasts. Click the link at the top of page or subscribe to us on iTunes. Remember, you can also read our Twitter tweets by following @carmelhealth.

Thursday, March 3, 2011

High Fructose Corn Syrup - How Bad Is It?

You may have seen the ads running on TV recently that tell us that High Fructose Corn Syrup (HFCS) isn't any worse than sugar and in moderation is fine as part of a balance diet. But what do you really think about HFCS?

HFCS is a popular, cheap sugar found in our sodas, fruit-flavored drinks and processed foods. It's everywhere. Don't believe me? Try and find a processed food that doesn't contain it. Michelle Obama has stated that she tries to avoid giving foods to her daughters that contain HFCS.

Some scientists believe that our bodies react differently to HCFS than other sugars. Whatever the facts, and research on both sides of the arguement is growing, the facts still remain that:

Consumption of large amounts of sugars are linked to weight gain, dental cavities, poor nutrition and an increased risk of heart disease.

With sales of HFCS products on the decline as Americans become wise to the fact that this added ingredient might pose a health risk, the Corn Refiners Association are petitioning the regulators to rename HFCS as "corn sugar".

What do you feel about this? Do you think that renaming the product might confuse consumers and make them think that it is a healthier product, or do you think that this move is a step in the right direction to educate us about the foods that we eat?

Check out the video above and then vote in the poll on the right hand side of this screen. Your comments are also very welcome.

Tuesday, February 22, 2011

Mental Health

Mental Health Informational Pamphlets

My Health students are encouraged to see mental health as an integral part of their overall health, their wellness. It's a subject that can sometimes be seen as difficult to talk about but it's students of this age that most need to be aware of the issues. 5,000 teenagers take their own life each year and my students immerse themselves in the mental health assignment to go with this topic.
Students have to research a mental illness and produce an informational pamphlet that gives information on the causes, symptoms and possible treatments for those afflicted with the illness. They also have to provide further sources of information including school based, community based and on a national level.
I have used to allow this semesters students to look at just a few of the good examples of work that were produced last semester. If you click on the image above it will allow you to scroll through some pamphlets.

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

Wise Up This Winter

This is a guest post from a recent graduate from my Health class. Jessica T is now in Journalism and she wrote a health related article for the latest edition of "Crossroads".

Sick and tired of being sick and tired? As the temperature drops, so do our immune systems. Follow these healthy tweaks to amp up during the cold and flu season.

Chicken soup
Chicken soup helps break up congestion and hot chicken vapors have been proven more effective than hot water vapors in clearing out the cold in your nose.

Stay hydrated with water
Our body works best when it is hydrated. "If we lose body fluids due to sickness then it would make sense to drink water", Health teacher Andrew Milne said. "These same fluids might also reduce congestion." Stay away from diuretics such as tea and coffee. Diuretics increase the excretion of water from the body.

Grapefruits are a good source of Vitamin C. It strengthens the immune system. It can cure a fever and is rich in fiber.
*Try sprinkling it with a pinch of sugar.

Q & A with Health teacher Andrew Milne
Q. Why do people get sick during the winter?
A. There's no real scientific reason as to why this might happen. There is less sunlight, and so we produce less Vitamin D, which may affect our immune system. Another theory is that we spend more time indoors, and so we are exposed to other people's germs more frequently.

Q. How does the weather affect our health?
A. I'm going to be so bold as to suggest that it doesn't. Germs survive less in cold environments so theoretically there should be less germs about.

Q. What can we do to prevent / lessen the risks of colds & flus?
A. I recommend boosting your immune system with Vitamin C and Zinc. Stay away from people that have colds and flu. If you have a cold or flu, sneeze into fabric instead of on your hands or uncovered. Wash hands frequently so that you don't contaminate surfaces. If you are sick - stay at home.
Tip from nurse Kathy Hunter - take a can give your immune system that extra 'boost' needed to stay healthy.

Q. Ways to stay physically fit this winter?
A. Stick to your normal fitness routine. If the weather allows, get outside - fresh air and sunlight are in short supply this time of year! Get a group of friends together so that you can motivate each other to stay fit. And yes - playing the Wii and similar games can help you burn calories.

What do you think of Jessica's article? Do you or your family have any tips for staying healthy during the winter months. Please post your thoughts or give Jessica some feedback.

Wednesday, January 26, 2011

Why Study Health?

When I was a College student, at Exeter University, studying Physical Education we were encouraged to justify the position of our subject on the school curriculum. Little did I know back then that my teaching career would take me from England, where PE is one of only four compulsory subjects taught in school, to America where there are States that do not require students to particpate in PE at all.

I no longer wear a tracksuit and am now based in a classroom teaching health, a mandatory subject, but I still maintain that ALL teachers of ALL subjects should be confident in justifying the merits of their subject.

My health classes teach students about physical, mental & emotional and social aspects of health. They learn how to embrace healthy lifestyle factors and become aware of things that influence their health. They learn strategies that allow them to maintain and improve not only their own health but also that of friends and family. Students are encouraged to spread the word of health out into their community and advocate for the health needs of others.

One of the early assignments that I set my classes is to write an essay justifying the place of health class on the curriculum and I am always pleased with the responses.

As an extension of that assignment I am now inviting responses to the question "Why should we study health?"

Monday, January 10, 2011

Feeling Tired? Me too.

As I made myself a strong coffee this morning at 5am I pondered the words of Benjamin Franklin - "Early to bed, early to rise makes a man healthy, wealthy and wise".

Recently my students were asked to set health goals and post them on this blog. If you scroll down you will notice that improving their current sleep patterns is a common goal. We ask so much of our students nowadays and it's no wonder that after school, homework, sports, drama, music and social commitments that a recent survey suggested that only 15% of teenagers got more than 8.5 hours on school nights.

The average American gets 7.5 hours of sleep per night which is significantly less than the 9 hours that their Grandparents would have got. Scientists now suggest that we should get 8 to 8.5 hours of sleep, with teenagers needing between 8.5 - 9.25 every night in order to perform to their best.

I did some research to find out the implications of having less sleep than needed. What can my students prevent if they were to catch a few more zzzzz's each night?
  • 'A' grade students get 15 minutes more sleep on average than 'B' grade students who get 15 minutes more sleep than 'C' grade students. With sufficient sleep we are more prepared to learn, we concentrate better and solve problems more effectively.
  • Tired students are more likely to reach for sugary or fried foods to counteract their drowsiness. They are also more likely to use stimulants, including caffeine or nicotine.
  • Our body repairs when we are sleeping. Students who do not get sufficient rest are more prone to developing pimples.
  • Tired students are also more likely to report higher levels of depression.

The National Sleep Foundation report that drowsy drivers kill 100,000 people every year.

Latest research is now linking sleep deprivation to obesity, type 2 diabetes, hypertension, cardiovascular disease, cancer and impaired immune function! In fact a Harvard study suggested that women with less than 5 hours of sleep were 40% more likely to develop heart disease.

So in order to help my students who are aiming to get more sleep that they do currently, here are my tips to catching the fast train to Sleepville.

  • Develop a regular sleeping habit. While I appreciate that other committments might prevent you from getting to bed at the same time each night, if you only spend 6 hours in bed you can only hope to get 6 hours of sleep. Spend more time in bed.
  • Large meals eaten within 3 hours of bedtime are likely to interfere with sleep.
  • Get off Facebook! Our biological clock misinterprets the blue rays from TV's computers and cell phones as daylight. This then keeps us awake while we are trying to sleep. Try and make your room as dark as possible.
  • A quiet, relaxing bedroom, without distractions from music, TV, cell phones and annoying siblings will promote peace and eliminate stress and chaos.

Do you have any sleep tips? Did you set a sleep related goal this year. how successful have you been? Is your lack of sleep affecting other areas of your health triangle? Post a response below or take part in the sleep quiz at the top of this page.