Monday, October 27, 2008

Posters galore

As usual, the poster sessions located in the back of the Public Health Expo offer an impressive variety of research. Aisle after aisle of presenters explained their work to interested onlookers Sunday afternoon after the Opening General Session officially got the Annual Meeting under way.

With universal health care on everyone’s minds this election cycle, an assessment of pilot programs will be important to finding areas with room for improvement. One poster, titled “Improving Access to Health Care for all Vermonters: Assessing Knowledge about Catamount Health,” did just that. Researchers found that despite press coverage about Catamount Health, a plan implemented in October 2007 to cover uninsured Vermonters, community-based organizations and health care providers generally had a poor understanding of the program.

Changing gears completely, researchers from the University of Pennsylvania and the Philadelphia Department of Public Health explored rates of prenatal HIV testing for foreign-born and undocumented women in Philadelphia. They found that contrary to their original hypothesis, undocumented immigrants had similar rates of being offered and accepting prenatal HIV testing compared to other pregnant women. However, foreign-born, Medicaid-eligible immigrants had the lowest acceptance rate, perhaps due to factors such as cultural and language barriers, perceived lack of risk of contracting HIV or previous testing via the immigration process.

Walk a few more aisles over and you’ll find posters with a completely different flavor…literally. Jayagopal Parla and Gurucharan Khalsa explored the psychosomatic effect of tastes in weight loss and health promotion. They concluded that utilization and appropriate balance of six tastes — sweet, sour, salty, pungent, bitter and astringent — have a significant function in understanding and preventing eating disorders and diseases. Preference for sweet and salty tastes in particular is a strong contributing factor to obesity, and choice of foods is influenced by a wide spectrum of economic, social and behavioral factors as well as psychological responses to stressors, researchers said.

Stop by the poster sessions whenever you get a free moment — you’re bound to find something to (pardon the pun) whet your appetite.

— P.T.

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