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October 2013

Government Shutdown and Virus Research

We're coming off a very hard few weeks for research.

To touch on just one repercussion of the US government shutdown, US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention furloughed 68% of its staff worldwide. So research came to a virtual standstill, one result of which was leaving most unpredictable and mutable human-disease viruses unmonitored, as well as possibly affecting vaccine development.

That cessation has the potential to affect everyone. However, it may be especially likely to affect members of vulnerable groups that are already less likely to follow suggested schedules on vaccinations and may need little to increase their suspicion of health research.

Proof that some populations don't trust public health advice isn't hard to find. For research on existing group vaccine compliance, I've searched PsycEXTRA for conference materials on research just from the past year and just on H1N1, or Swine Flu, a 2009 global pandemic that caused an estimated 274,000 hospitalizations and approximately 12,470 deaths.

The following research was conducted that highlights existing problems with reaching disaffected populations.

  • "Psychological Analysis of H1N1 Vaccination Decisions" (2013, Shivers et al.) reported on a study in which participants were African American college students from Howard University. Studies have shown African Americans are less likely to receive vaccinations because they distrust a medical establishment that in the past conducted harmful experiments on Black populations without their knowledge or consent. This study examined how stages-of-health behavioral change were able to influence the decision for African American college students to be vaccinated against H1N1.
  • "Pandemic H1N1 Messaging: Reactions and Experiences of Manitoba First Nations and Metis People" (2012, Driedger) looked at how risk communication challenges can be compounded by historical legacies of mistrust. The researcher explored Manitoba, Canada First Nations people's safety and trust concerns about information on protective behaviors and risks associated with H1N1 and the H1N1 vaccine and how it could be mitigated.
  • "Vulnerability' in a Pandemic: A Case Study of the H1N1 Response" (Jardine, 2012) examined the experiences and perspectives of two target groups (pregnant women and seniors), who as vulnerable populations were prioritized for receipt of specific types of risk information and health services. The research examined whether people felt stigmatized by being categorized as part of an entire population group rather than by their individual circumstances.
  • "Cultural Representations of Influenza: Perspectives From a Malaysian Pig Farm During Swine Flu" (Goodwin, 2012) questioned respondents from Malaysia and Europe as to who they believed to be at greatest risk during the swine flu pandemic in 2009 and whether they would attribute that risk to certain groups. Members of groups seen as high risk were also asked whether they had experienced prejudice.

Trust of establishment advice in some groups has shallow and fragile roots, and action or inaction that doesn't make it better will only make it worse. One of our government's jobs is to nurture that trust and show that everyone's health matters. Our trust that safeguarding public health is primary and consistent should never, ever be hostage to political grandstanding. When safeguards fail, when timely research isn't available, when segments of the population believe that vaccinations aren't good for them, then our old enemies plague, influenza, smallpox, typhus, measles, yellow fever, cholera, malaria, HIV/AIDS, and other antibiotic-resistant horrors of a global world may be waiting right around the corner.

To replicate the search, enter the term pandemic as an any field search and limit by document types conference abstract, conference presentation, and conferences program. Limit your results to those published within the past year.

April 2013

Take a Walk on the Wild Side

Is there a song, or even a snatch of a song, that if you hear it pulls you into someone entirely different than you are right now? I have settled into a staid and respectable middle age, but even so, there's music, like a certain Lou Reed song, that can make me as restless as a 17-year-old intoxicated by the surge of her heart and pound of her blood in the mystery of a spring night.

There is another band (not naming names, but it's a really early book of the Bible and doesn't rhyme with anything I can think of) that I associate with a time when life seemed to have closed in on me. For years, if I heard their music in a public place, I'd be instantly depressed and want to leave.

When we're young most of us experience explosions of hormones, ideas, and experiences — easily as heady as alcohol or drugs — that are marinated in and stamped by the music of the time. Music is as evocative as any time capsule.

What information could we find in PsycEXTRA that speaks to the power of music and emotion? Let's do a thesaurus search for Music and its narrower terms and Emotion. Among our 60+ results, we'd find the following:

  • "Help! Prosocial Songs Influence Prosocial Behaviour Via Values" (Fischer, Chan-Goldstein, & Boer, 2012) is a conference presentation that examined whether prosocial music increases prosocial behavior, and if so, whether the effect is mediated through culture-specific perceptions of prosocial values. It also examined the effect on behavior and emotions of specific messages within songs.
  • "Does a Nation's Mood Lurk in Its Songs and Blogs?" (Carey, 2009) is a New York Times article in which a pair of University of Vermont statisticians argued that linguistic analysis of song lyrics, blogs, and speeches could add a new and valuable dimension to a growing area of mass psychology, the determination of national well-being.
  • "Benjamin Zander on Music and Passion" (Zander, 2008) is a multimedia presentation on two passions: classical music and helping us all realize our untapped love for it—and by extension, our untapped love for all new possibilities, new experiences, new connections.
  • "How Music Can Affect Mental Health" is one of a number of fact sheets that discussed how music can be a positive force for mental health, calming, relaxing, intellectually stimulating. Music can and does affect our emotions, creating "channels" in our mind, patterns of thinking.

Results are found as far back as the 19th century. For example, "The Teaching of English Literature, With Special Reference to Secondary Schools" (Trent) is a conference presentation from 1896 owned by the National Education Association that makes the point that music is essential to youth education and has been since it was a main pillar of classic Greek education because it harnesses and directs youth passions.

As Stevie Wonder sang, "Music is a world within itself with a language we all understand." Yep, folks. "You can feel it all over."

January 2013

What Will Newtown Mean?

At the edge of a graveyard 150 years ago, Abraham Lincoln condensed a nation's grief into a 2-minute speech that recognized — in Gettysburg's dead — symbols of sacrifice for an ideal of government.

As a people, we stand now at the edge of another set of graves, 20 of them heartbreakingly small, the victims of the latest school massacre in Newtown, Connecticut. These victims were collateral damage at the nexus of another case of mental illness and easy access to lethal weaponry, and they are now symbols of a different kind of war: This was the 16th mass shooting in the United States this year and the 31st since the Columbine High School massacre in 1999 (Harper's, 2012).

Will the facts show that Newtown, finally, is the watershed moment that will inspire us to take real action on mental health and gun control? What will these lives have been sacrificed for? Only time will tell, but it seems likely that many researchers will view this as a pivotal historical and psychological moment.

Where can that researcher turn for fast and authoritative coverage of the tragedy and its aftermath? This is just the sort of situation that PsycEXTRA was created for. Because it's a database of gray literature and outside of the peer-review system, we can gather, index, and make resources available quickly, within weeks and even days of an event.

Here is a partial list of Newtown-specific materials (there were 28 entries found using the keyword Newtown) in PsycEXTRA available within a few weeks after its occurrence.

  • In a press release on December 18, the Tuesday after the shooting, Colorado governor John Hickenlooper asked for an expansion of mental health services to make mental health records readily available for background checks on firearm purchases. Unique Identifier: 684532012-001
  • Within hours of the attack, APA's Psychology Help Center published a web article expressing condolences to the families of the victims and providing tips for managing distress and building resilience in the shooting aftermath. Unique Identifier: 682962012-001
  • A video from CNN, Newtown Wants Change After Mass Shooting, discussed mental health issues, gun control, and school safety. Unique Identifier: 684882012-001
  • In a speech from the Senate floor, Senator Barbara Mikulski spoke on the need to limit access to military-style weapons and to provide adequate mental health care screening. Unique Identifier: 684542012-001
  • The Connecticut Department of Mental Health and Addiction Services provided a directory of resources available to help people cope with the tragedy, including local and national resources. Unique Identifier: 684312012-001
  • On December 17, the U.S. Department of Education published blog posts for schools (Resources for Schools to Prepare for and Recover from Crisis) and parents (Resources for Parents following Traumatic Events). Unique Identifiers: 684592012-002 and 684592012-001

Newspaper coverage has, of course, been extensive. Articles from the Washington Post, the New York Times, the Chicago Tribune, the Hartford Courant, and other respected publications are also archived.

Perhaps this time, a change will come. Although, as Joe Biden noted about the Obama administration's effort to curb gun violence, "We know there's no silver bullet."

Older Sample Searches Podcasts

2012 PsycEXTRA Podcasts

Provides an archive of podcasts from 2012 about PsycEXTRA content highlights.

2011 PsycEXTRA Podcasts

Provides an archive of podcasts from 2011 about PsycEXTRA content highlights.

2010 PsycEXTRA Podcasts

Provides an archive of podcasts from 2010 about PsycEXTRA content highlights

2009 PsycEXTRA Podcasts

An archive of podcasts from 2009 about PsycEXTRA content highlights.

2008 PsycEXTRA Podcasts

An archive of podcasts from 2008 about PsycEXTRA content highlights.

2007 PsycEXTRA Podcasts

An archive of podcasts from 2007 about PsycEXTRA content highlights.