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For HIV treatment, the earlier the better

Photo: Inquiry blog

Editor’s note: This post originally appeared on Inquiry.

New Doctors treating people with HIV have faced a tough decision. Should patients begin drug therapy before AIDS symptoms appear, and put up with the inconvenience and potential side effects? Or is it better to wait until their CD4+ T cell count – a key barometer of the immune system’s health –drops below a certain level, even though that means a greater risk of transmitting the virus to a partner?

This summer an answer finally emerged. The international START (Strategic Timing of AntiRetroviral Treatment) study, the first large, randomized and controlled clinical trial of the issue, showed the benefits of early treatment so clearly that the trial was halted prematurely so the volunteers receiving deferred treatment could begin therapy.

“Early treatment was effective everywhere in the world,” says James Neaton, a University of Minnesota biostatistics professor and principal investigator for INSIGHT (International Network for Strategic Initiatives in Global HIV Trials), which designed and conducted the trial. “We had more than a thousand people enrolled from sub-Saharan Africa, and a total of 4,685 people from 35 countries.”

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Preventing childhood obesity while promoting a positive body image

Photo: Omar Gurnah/CC 2.0/

September is National Childhood Obesity Awareness Month—a new observance that started five years ago, but is in keeping with mounting public awareness about the problem of childhood obesity. While parents are hit with messages to prevent obesity, they often get conflicting advice. So what can parents do to prevent obesity without instilling an unhealthy obsession with weight?

Researchers at the University of Minnesota’s School of Public Health recommend parents start by modifying the home environment to make it easier to engage in healthier eating and activity and by modeling healthy eating and physical activity behaviors, a positive body image, and avoidance of weight talk. Their advice is based on research gathered through Project EAT, one of the largest and most comprehensive studies to examine weight-related issues in teenagers led by Dianne Neumark-Sztainer, Ph.D. Neumark-Sztainer used the findings from Project EAT to provide parents strategies in the book, I’m, Like, So Fat! Helping Your Teen Make Healthy choices about Eating and Exercise in a Weight-Obsessed World.

Health Talk spoke with Colleen Flattum, M.S., R.D., senior program manager with Project EAT.

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The Minnesota State Fair: Where food, fun and exercise (yes, exercise) collide!

Photo: yuan2003/cc 2.0/

The Minnesota State Fair is off and running, bringing with it the symbolic end to summer and the beginning of fall and the school year. The Minnesota State Fair is best known for its shows, rides, livestock and other animals, family fun and of course – the food!

From corn dogs, cheese curds, cookies and basically anything you could possibly imagine deep-fried and/or on a stick, the Minnesota State Fair has something for everyone to enjoy.

Now, at Health Talk, we won’t try to lecture you as to what foods you should and should not eat at the State Fair because we know, honestly, that it wouldn’t be realistic. The old adage, “everything in moderation” still applies, but we can offer you some small and simple ways you can still splurge a little on your culinary favorites AND get some exercise while you’re at it.

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Back to school: Getting kids back on a normal sleep schedule

Editor’s note: This post was developed by Michael Howell, M.D., a University of Minnesota neurologist and sleep expert.

It’s that time of year again. From preschoolers to the one-year-to-go high school seniors, students across Minnesota need to adjust their schedules after a summer of flexible sleep times.

This is particularly challenging for teenagers whose body clocks are naturally inclined to run later and due to the long summer days of late sunlight exposure.  This combination creates a delay in a child’s circadian rhythm leading to anxious nights of being unable to sleep followed by impaired, groggy mornings.

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Breastfeeding at Work: Challenges and Opportunities for Minnesota’s Mothers

Photo: ECohen/CC 2.0/

Editor’s note: This post was developed by Alexis Russell, M.P.H., a 2015 graduate of the Public Health Administration and Policy Program, Division of Health Policy and Management, University of Minnesota School of Public Health and Katy Kozhimannil, Ph.D., M.P.A., associate professor, Division of Health Policy and Management, University of Minnesota School of Public Health.

August is National Breastfeeding Month. It’s also the “Back-to-school” time of year, when students and teachers prepare for the upcoming school year. It’s a time of great excitement, but, it’s also a particularly challenging time for teachers who also happen to be mothers who are breastfeeding.

In 2011, fewer than 1 in 4 Minnesota infants were breastfed to the recommended length of time. Employed mothers are one subgroup of women that struggle to meet recommendations for breastfeeding, due in part to barriers they experience as part of their day-to-day schedules and obligations at work.

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Coming to a beach near you: The ‘dad bod’

Photo: Don Johnson 395/cc 2.0/

Sometimes it’s hard to fathom how or why some trends ever gain momentum or become popular. The selfie stick? Kylie Jenner Lip Challenge? #YOLO?

Now, a new body image trend known as the ‘dad bod’ is making its way around the Internet and social media. What makes up this unique physical trait?

According to this MSN article, the dad bod is “a nice balance between a beer gut and working out.” And while this trend seems relatively harmless and all in good fun, a recent study in JAMA Internal Medicine found 67.6 million American adults aged 25 and older are obese and an additional 65.2 million are overweight.

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