Thanksgiving Guide: Finding Antibiotic-Free Turkeys

Nov. 20, 2020 — As Americans shop for their Thanksgiving turkeys, a public health advocacy group has issued a buying guide that rates brands based on their antibiotic use policies.

Of the 15 brands evaluated, eight got the green light, four a caution light, and three brands a red light, based on information about antibiotic use in the turkeys found on the companies’ websites.

Industry officials took issue with the report’s findings.

The news about antibiotic use in turkey production, overall, is encouraging, says Sydney Riess, a public health campaigns associate for the U.S. Public Interest Research Group, a federation of state groups that advocate against threats to public health and safety. Its report, “Talking Turkey,” was released today.

But, Riess says, “We also know there is a long way to go.”

Under FDA regulations, medically important drugs that fight germs, defined as those needed to treat human disease, cannot be used in turkeys and other feed animals to promote growth but can be used to prevent disease, she says. Some public health experts say the policy should be stricter, allowing the antibiotics to be used only to treat sick animals diagnosed by a licensed vet or, in some cases, to control a verified disease outbreak. Overuse of antibiotics leads to antibiotic resistance, an emerging global health issue.

What the Report Found

The U.S. Public Interest Research Group, or U.S. PIRG, evaluated 15 popular turkey brands, studying each brand’s website to find out about its policy on antibiotic use. Using that data, it divided the companies into green, yellow, or red categories, from most ideal to least.

Green-light companies have publicly available information on their websites saying they prohibit the use of all antibiotics or the routine use of medically important antibiotics for all whole turkeys sold.

Of the 15 brands studied, eight were classified in the green category:

  • Fossil Farms
  • Koch’s
  • Murray’s
  • Nature’s Rancher
  • Norbest
  • Organic Prairie
  • Perdue
  • Plainville Farms

According to information on their websites, companies in the yellow category may offer lines of whole turkeys raised without antibiotics, or without routine use of medically important antibiotics. But the policy does not necessarily apply to all of the whole turkeys sold by that brand, based on website information, U.S. PIRG says.

Four companies are in this yellow category:

  • Butterball
  • Foster Farms
  • Jennie-O
  • Northern Pride

Companies in the red category have no or limited information about antibiotic use in whole turkeys on their website; the data there suggests they continue to use medically important antibiotics routinely to prevent disease in health animals, U.S. PIRG says.

Red category companies include:

  • Honeysuckle White
  • Shady Brook Farms
  • Signature Farms

Industry Response

Beth Breeding, a spokesperson for the National Turkey Federation, an industry group, reviewed the report and responded. “National Turkey Federation members are committed to the judicious use of antibiotics in turkey production, and the industry has prioritized decreasing the need for the use of antibiotics used to treat people while maintaining our commitment to animal welfare,” she says.

Breeding says the report ”has numerous omissions and errors.” Among them, several companies mentioned were not contacted, she says.

The report is misleading and wrong, says Daniel Sullivan, a spokesperson for Cargill, which sells Honeysuckle White and Shady Brook Farms turkeys. “The mistake is that they are making these claims based solely on what is or is not published on a product website, not any actual data,” he says. His company does not use antibiotics in its turkeys in a preventive fashion (on healthy animals) and hasn’t since 2016, he says. “Nearly 50 percent of the birds sold under the Honeysuckle White brand and Shady Brook Farms brand are antibiotic-free, meaning they were never used. The Honest Turkey brand [also a Cargill brand] is 100 percent antibiotic free. No mention of that anywhere in the report.”

More on FDA Regulations, Public Health Concerns

The FDA updated its regulations about medically important antibiotic use in food-producing animals in 2017, saying these medicines may be used only in the feed or drinking water of food-producing animals with veterinary oversight and can’t be used to boost growth.

According to the CDC, each year in the U.S., at least 2.8 million people get an antibiotic-resistant infection, and more than 35,000 die.

According to U.S. PIRG, in 2017, turkey production used nearly 18 times more medically important antibiotics than chicken per pound of meat produced.

Expert Perspective

“The report shows that there has been progress among the top fresh turkey producers in reducing overuse [of antibiotics],” says Steven Roach, food safety program director for Food Animal Concerns Trust, a nonprofit advocating for animal welfare, who reviewed the report.

“Perdue [a major producer] no longer allows routine antibiotic use, and some other major producers are marketing some turkey raised in reduced antibiotic use programs,” he says.

“The report provides a helpful tool for consumers who are looking for a turkey and want to reward companies doing the right thing on antibiotics. One challenge for consumers and consumer advocates is the lack of transparency by companies in how they are actually using antibiotics on their farms.”

Consumers can also look for specific phrases on the turkey label, such as “No antibiotics administered,” “Raised without antibiotics,” or “No antibiotics ever,” according to U.S. PIRG.

WebMD Health News

 

Sources

Sydney Riess, public health campaigns associate, U.S. Public Interest Research Group.

U.S. Public Interest Research Group: “Talking Turkey: A Consumer Guide to Buying Turkey Raised Without Overusing Antibiotics.”

Steven Roach, food safety program director, Food Animal Concerns Trust, Chicago.

Beth Breeding, spokesperson, National Turkey Federation, Washington, D.C.

Daniel Sullivan, spokesperson, Cargill, Minneapolis.

CDC: “Antibiotic/Antimicrobial Resistance (AR/AMR).”

FDA: “Antimicrobial Resistance.”

© 2020 WebMD, LLC. All rights reserved.

Virtual Group Class at the Hamel Recreation Center

Virtual Fitness at UNH

This semester, the Hamel Rec. Center (HRC) here at UNH was able to create an environment where UNH community members can continue to engage in physical activity throughout the pandemic. There are many new policies in place, but they are in efforts to help patrons feel safe and relaxed in the gym and in group fitness classes. Unfortunately, UNH community members who have not been participating in the COVID-19 testing were unable to go to their favorite gym and group fitness classes. But that is no longer the case! Recently, the HRC has launched a schedule of various group fitness classes that are conducted virtually. To “attend” the classes, registration for the classes is required and opens 24 hours before the start time, and they can be done from any location!

Virtual group fitness classes include: POUND, Pilates, Core & More, Vinyasa Yoga, Cardio Kickboxing, and Cycling! A full schedule can be here. UNH community members can register for classes here. To register, simply click on the class of your choosing and go through the registration process. All registrations open 24 hours before the start time of the class. Once it is time to “attend” the class, return to the original class page, and a link to attend the class should appear.

To make the virtual class even more fun, invite your close contacts or roommates to do the class with you online! Even though a lot of things have changed since the start of the pandemic, it is still important to incorporate some type of body movements throughout the day to keep both your mind and body healthy. Additionally, participating in regular body movements or physical activity can help keep our spirits lifted through the release of endorphins (the happy hormone). If group fitness is not really “your thing” and you haven’t attended the HRC yet this semester but still have questions about safety protocols; check out our department highlight blog from the HRC.

If you decide to participate in the group fitness at the HRC, or have any tips for UNH community members who do not have access to the HRC; email us at healthy.unh@unh.edu!

Let’s take spirituality up a notch

When I was a kid, if I were told that I’d be writing a book about diet and nutrition when I was older, let alone having been doing a health related radio show for over 36 years, I would’ve thought that whoever told me that was out of their mind. Living in Newark, New Jersey, my parents and I consumed anything and everything that had a face or a mother except for dead, rotting, pig bodies, although we did eat bacon (as if all the other decomposing flesh bodies were somehow miraculously clean). Going through high school and college it was no different. In fact, my dietary change did not come until I was in my 30’s.

Just to put things in perspective, after I graduated from Weequahic High School and before going to Seton Hall University, I had a part-time job working for a butcher. I was the delivery guy and occasionally had to go to the slaughterhouse to pick up products for the store. Needless to say, I had no consciousness nor awareness, as change never came then despite the horrors I witnessed on an almost daily basis.

After graduating with a degree in accounting from Seton Hall, I eventually got married and moved to a town called Livingston. Livingston was basically a yuppie community where everyone was judged by the neighborhood they lived in and their income. To say it was a “plastic” community would be an understatement.

Livingston and the shallowness finally got to me. I told my wife I was fed up and wanted to move. She made it clear she had to be near her friends and New York City. I finally got my act together and split for Colorado.

I was living with a lady in Aspen at the end of 1974, when one day she said, ” let’s become vegetarians”. I have no idea what possessed me to say it, but I said, “okay”! At that point I went to the freezer and took out about $100 worth of frozen, dead body parts and gave them to a welfare mother who lived behind us. Well, everything was great for about a week or so, and then the chick split with another guy.

So here I was, a vegetarian for a couple weeks, not really knowing what to do, how to cook, or basically how to prepare anything. For about a month, I was getting by on carrot sticks, celery sticks, and yogurt. Fortunately, when I went vegan in 1990, it was a simple and natural progression. Anyway, as I walked around Aspen town, I noticed a little vegetarian restaurant called, “The Little Kitchen”.

Let me back up just a little bit. It was April of 1975, the snow was melting and the runoff of Ajax Mountain filled the streets full of knee-deep mud. Now, Aspen was great to ski in, but was a bummer to walk in when the snow was melting.

I was ready to call it quits and I needed a warmer place. I’ll elaborate on that in a minute.

But right now, back to “The Little Kitchen”. Knowing that I was going to leave Aspen and basically a new vegetarian, I needed help. So, I cruised into the restaurant and told them my plight and asked them if they would teach me how to cook. I told them in return I would wash dishes and empty their trash. They then asked me what I did for a living and I told them I was an accountant.

The owner said to me, “Let’s make a deal. You do our tax return and we’ll feed you as well”. So for the next couple of weeks I was doing their tax return, washing their dishes, emptying the trash, and learning as much as I could.

But, like I said, the mud was getting to me. So I picked up a travel book written by a guy named Foder. The name of the book was, “Hawaii”. Looking through the book I noticed that in Lahaina, on Maui, there was a little vegetarian restaurant called,” Mr. Natural’s”. I decided right then and there that I would go to Lahaina and work at “Mr. Natural’s.” To make a long story short, that’s exactly what happened.

So, I’m working at “Mr. Natural’s” and learning everything I can about my new dietary lifestyle – it was great. Every afternoon we would close for lunch at about 1 PM and go to the Sheraton Hotel in Ka’anapali and play volleyball, while somebody stayed behind to prepare dinner.

Since I was the new guy, and didn’t really know how to cook, I never thought that I would be asked to stay behind to cook dinner. Well, one afternoon, that’s exactly what happened; it was my turn. That posed a problem for me because I was at the point where I finally knew how to boil water.

I was desperate, clueless and basically up the creek without a paddle. Fortunately, there was a friend of mine sitting in the gazebo at the restaurant and I asked him if he knew how to cook. He said the only thing he knew how to cook was enchiladas. He said that his enchiladas were bean-less and dairy-less. I told him that I had no idea what an enchilada was or what he was talking about, but I needed him to show me because it was my turn to do the evening meal.

Well, the guys came back from playing volleyball and I’m asked what was for dinner. I told them enchiladas; the owner wasn’t thrilled. I told him that mine were bean-less and dairy-less. When he tried the enchilada he said it was incredible. Being the humble guy that I was, I smiled and said, “You expected anything less”? It apparently was so good that it was the only item on the menu that we served twice a week. In fact, after about a week, we were selling five dozen every night we had them on the menu and people would walk around Lahaina broadcasting, ‘enchilada’s at “Natural’s” tonight’. I never had to cook anything else.

A year later the restaurant closed, and somehow I gravitated to a little health food store in Wailuku. I never told anyone I was an accountant and basically relegated myself to being the truck driver. The guys who were running the health food store had friends in similar businesses and farms on many of the islands. I told them that if they could organize and form one company they could probably lock in the State. That’s when they found out I was an accountant and “Down to Earth” was born. “Down to Earth” became the largest natural food store chain in the islands, and I was their Chief Financial Officer and co-manager of their biggest store for 13 years.

In 1981, I started to do a weekly radio show to try and expose people to a vegetarian diet and get them away from killing innocent creatures. I still do that show today. I pay for my own airtime and have no sponsors to not compromise my honesty. One bit of a hassle was the fact that I was forced to get a Masters Degree in Nutrition to shut up all the MD’s that would call in asking for my credentials.

My doing this radio show enabled me, through endless research, to see the corruption that existed within the big food industries, the big pharmaceutical companies, the biotech industries and the government agencies. This information, unconscionable as it is, enabled me to realize how broken our health system is. This will be covered more in depth in the Introduction and throughout the book and when you finish the book you will see this clearly and it will hopefully inspire you to make changes.

I left Down to Earth in 1989, got nationally certified as a sports injury massage therapist and started traveling the world with a bunch of guys that were making a martial arts movie. After doing that for about four years I finally made it back to Honolulu and got a job as a massage therapist at the Honolulu Club, one of Hawaii’s premier fitness clubs. It was there I met the love of my life who I have been with since 1998. She made me an offer I couldn’t refuse. She said,” If you want to be with me you’ve got to stop working on naked women”. So, I went back into accounting and was the Chief Financial Officer of a large construction company for many years.

Going back to my Newark days when I was an infant, I had no idea what a “chicken” or “egg” or “fish” or “pig” or “cow” was. My dietary blueprint was thrust upon me by my parents as theirs was thrust upon them by their parents. It was by the grace of God that I was able to put things in their proper perspective and improve my health and elevate my consciousness.

The road that I started walking down in 1975 has finally led me to the point of writing my book, “A Sane Diet For An Insane World”. Hopefully, the information contained herein will be enlightening, motivating, and inspiring to encourage you to make different choices. Doing what we do out of conditioning is not always the best course to follow. I am hoping that by the grace of the many friends and personalities I have encountered along my path, you will have a better perspective of what road is the best road for you to travel on, not only for your health but your consciousness as well.

Last but not least: after being vaccinated as a kid I developed asthma, which plagued me all of my life. In 2007 I got exposed to the organic sulfur crystals, which got rid of my asthma in 3 days and has not come back in over 10 years. That, being the tip of the iceberg, has helped people reverse stage 4 cancers, autism, joint pain, blood pressure problems, migraine headaches, erectile dysfunction, gingivitis, and more. Also, because of the detoxification effects by the release of oxygen that permeates and heals all the cells in the body, it removes parasites, radiation, fluoride, free radicals, and all the other crap that is thrust upon us in the environment by Big Business.

For more, please view www.healthtalkhawaii.com and www.asanediet.com.

Namaste!

Biden Victory: What It Means for COVID, Health Care

Nov. 7, 2020 — Joe Biden’s victory sets the stage for health care to become a high-profile priority of his presidency.

The former vice president has sketched out a big health agenda: ramping up the federal response to COVID-19, boosting the Affordable Care Act, creating a new “public option” to cover uninsured Americans, and expanding Medicare and Medicaid.

But the president-elect’s long to-do list on health is likely to face significant roadblocks in Congress and the courts, experts say.

For instance, Biden’s ambitious proposals on COVID-19 — including his recent call for a national mask mandate — could be waylaid by legal challenges and run into political hurdles on Capitol Hill, where he may face a divided Congress.

Joseph Antos, PhD, a health policy expert with the conservative American Enterprise Institute, predicts Biden will encounter the same type of congressional “gridlock situation” that President Barack Obama ran into during his second term.

“We have a situation that has been like this for a very, very long time — lack of cooperation, lack of recognition that either party is capable of rising above their own electoral views to deal with problems that the country actually has.”

Antos also suggests that Biden may also face enormous political pressure to address the economic fallout from the coronavirus, including record unemployment and business closures, before anything else.

“I think it’s really going to be efforts that are intended to promote economic development and promote the economy,” he says.

In addition, Biden’s plans to expand Obamacare might face a new challenge from the Supreme Court in the year ahead. This month, the high court will take up a new case seeking to overturn the law.

Even so, experts say Biden’s plans on COVID-19 and expanding health care are likely to define his tenure in the White House as a central focus of his presidency.

“Health care will be at the very top of the list of the president’s priorities,” says Sabrina Corlette, JD, co-director of the Center on Health Insurance Reforms at Georgetown University’s McCourt School of Public Policy. “I do think, however, that the administration is going to be very preoccupied with the response to COVID-19 and the economic fallout … particularly in the first year.”

Here’s a closer look at what we can expect from a Biden presidency.

Lies Spread on Social Media Hamper Vaccinations

By Steven Reinberg
HealthDay Reporter

FRIDAY, Oct. 30, 2020 (HealthDay News) — Foreign disinformation campaigns on social media have caused vaccination rates to fall, a new study reveals.

Every 1 point increase in the effort to discredit vaccines is linked to an average 2% drop in annual vaccine coverage around the world, and a 15% increase in negative tweets about vaccination, researchers found.

Last year, the World Health Organization (WHO) listed reluctance or refusal to be vaccinated because of safety concerns as one of the top 10 threats to world health.

The proliferation of “antivaxx” messaging on social media is a public health concern because vaccination is a key way out of the coronavirus pandemic, the researchers noted.

To gauge the effect of social media use and foreign disinformation campaigns on vaccines, researchers analyzed social media activity in up to 190 countries.

They also used national survey data about public attitudes to vaccination safety and vaccination rates for the 10 most commonly reported vaccines between 2008 and 2018.

Analysis revealed that the prevalence of foreign disinformation activity was “highly statistically and substantively significant” in predicting a drop in vaccination rates.

A one-point uptick on a five-point disinformation scale was tied with an average annual 2% drop in vaccination rate, and a 12% drop across the decade. A belief that vaccines are unsafe was tied to organizing resistance on social media. The more organized the resistance, the greater the conviction that vaccines are unsafe.

Foreign disinformation increased the number of negative vaccine tweets by 15%.

“The use of social media to organize offline action is highly associated with an increase in public belief in vaccines being unsafe,” the researchers wrote.

The findings suggest that combatting disinformation and misinformation is critical to reversing the rise in vaccine hesitancy worldwide.

“These findings are especially salient in the context of the COVID-19 pandemic, given that the vaccines under development will require deployment globally to billions of people in the next year,” the researchers wrote.

“We urge policymakers to take the time before a COVID-19 vaccine is available for mass distribution as an opportunity for action against social media factors contributing to vaccine hesitancy.”

The findings were recently published online in the journal BMJ Global Health. Steven Lloyd Wilson, an assistant professor of politics at Brandeis University in Waltham, Mass., was the lead author.

More information

For more on the anti-vaccine movement, visit the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

SOURCE: BMJ, news release, Oct. 22, 2020

Study Confirms It’s Possible to Catch COVID Twice

August 24, 2020 — Researchers in Hong Kong say they’ve confirmed that a person can be infected with COVID-19 twice.There have been sporadic accounts on social media sites of people who say they’ve gotten COVID twice. But scientists have been skeptical about that possibility, saying there’s no evidence it happens.The new proof comes from a 33-year-old man in Hong Kong who first caught COVID-19 in March. He was tested for the coronavirus after he developed a cough, sore throat, fever, and a headache for 3 days. He stayed in the hospital until he twice tested negative for the virus in mid-April.

On Aug. 15, the man returned to Hong Kong from a recent trip to Spain and the U.K., areas that have recently seen a resurgence of COVID-19 cases. At the airport, he was screened for COVID-19 using a test that checks saliva for the virus. He tested positive, but this time, had no symptoms. He was taken to the hospital for monitoring. His viral load — the amount of virus he had in his body — went down over time, suggesting that his immune system was taking care of the intrusion on its own.

The special thing about his case is that each time he was hospitalized, doctors sequenced the genome of the virus that infected him. It was slightly different from one infection to the next, suggesting that the virus had mutated — or changed — in the 4 months between his infections. It also proves that it’s possible for this coronavirus to infect the same person twice.

Experts with the World Health Organization responded to the case at a news briefing Monday.

“What we are learning about infection is that people do develop an immune response. What is not completely clear yet is how strong that immune response is and for how long that immune response lasts,” said Maria Van Kerkhove, PhD, an infectious disease epidemiologist with the World Health Organization in Geneva, Switzerland.

A study on the man’s case is being prepared for publication in the journal Clinical Infectious Diseases. Experts say the finding shouldn’t cause alarm, but it does have important implications for the development of herd immunity and efforts to come up with vaccines and treatments.

“This appears to be pretty clear-cut evidence of reinfection because of sequencing and isolation of two different viruses,” says Gregory Poland, MD, an expert on vaccine development and immunology at the Mayo Clinic in Rochester, MN. “The big unknown is how often is this happening,” he says. More studies are needed to learn whether this was a rare case or something that is happening often.

Past Experience Guides Present

Until we know more, Poland says the possibility of getting COVID-19 twice shouldn’t make anyone worry.

This also happens with other kinds of coronaviruses — the ones that cause common colds. Those coronaviruses change slightly each year as they circle the globe, which allows them to keep spreading and causing their more run-of-the-mill kind of misery.

It also happens with seasonal flu. It is the reason people have to get vaccinated against the flu year after year, and why the flu vaccine has to change slightly each year in an effort to keep up with the ever-evolving influenza virus.

“We’ve been making flu vaccines for 80 years, and there are clinical trials happening as we speak to find new and better influenza vaccines,” Poland says.

There has been other evidence the virus that causes COVID-19 can change this way, too. Researchers at Howard Hughes Medical Center, at Rockefeller University in New York, recently used a key piece of the SARS-CoV-2 virus — the genetic instructions for its spike protein — to repeatedly infect human cells. Scientists watched as each new generation of the virus went on to infect a new batch of cells. Over time, as it copied itself, some of the copies changed their genes to allow them to survive after scientists attacked them with neutralizing antibodies. Those antibodies are one of the main weapons used by the immune system to recognize and disable a virus.

Though that study is still a preprint, which means it hasn’t yet been reviewed by outside experts, the authors wrote that their findings suggest the virus can change in ways that help it evade our immune system. If true, they wrote in mid-July, it means reinfection is possible, especially in people who have a weak immune response to the virus the first time they encounter it.

Good News

That seems to be true in the case of the man from Hong Kong. When doctors tested his blood to look for antibodies to the virus, they didn’t find any. That could mean that he either had a weak immune response to the virus the first time around, or that the antibodies he made during his first infection diminished over time. But during his second infection, he quickly developed more antibodies, suggesting that the second infection acted a little bit like a booster to fire up his immune system. That’s probably the reason he didn’t have any symptoms the second time, too.

That’s good news, Poland says. It means our bodies can get better at fighting off the COVID-19 virus and that catching it once means the second time might not be so bad.But the fact that the virus can change quickly this way does have some impact on the effort to come up with a vaccine that works well.“I think a potential implication of this is that we will have to give booster doses. The question is how frequently,” Poland says. That will depend on how fast the virus is changing, and how often reinfection is happening in the real world.

“I’m a little surprised at 4½ months,” Poland says, referencing the time between the Hong Kong man’s infections. “I’m not surprised by, you know, I got infected last winter and I got infected again this winter,” he says.

It also suggests that immune-based therapies such as convalescent plasma and monoclonal antibodies may be of limited help over time, since the virus might be changing in ways that help it outsmart those treatments.

Convalescent plasma is essentially a concentrated dose of antibodies from people who have recovered from a COVID-19 infection. As the virus changes, the antibodies in that plasma may not work as well for future infections.

Drug companies have learned to harness the power of monoclonal antibodies as powerful treatments against cancer and other diseases. Monoclonal antibodies, which are mass-produced in a lab, mimic the body’s natural defenses against a pathogen. Just like the virus can become resistant to natural immunity, it can change in ways that help it outsmart lab-created treatments. Some drug companies that are developing monoclonal antibodies to fight COVID-19 have already prepared for that possibility by making antibody cocktails that are designed to disable the virus by locking onto it in different places, which may help prevent it from developing resistance to those therapies.

“We have a lot to learn,” Poland says. “Now that the proof of principle has been established, and I would say it has with this man, and with our knowledge of seasonal coronaviruses, we need to look more aggressively to define how often this occurs.”

Sources

Clinical Infectious Diseases, Aug. 24, 2020.

Gregory Poland, MD, consultant, Division of Pediatric Infectious Diseases; consultant, Department of Molecular Pharmacology and Experimental Therapeutics, Mayo Clinic, Rochester, MN.

Maria Van Kerkhove, PhD, infectious disease epidemiologist, World Health Organization, Geneva, Switzerland.

 

© 2020 WebMD, LLC. All rights reserved.

9th Annual WEGO Health Awards | How it Works

The WEGO Health Awards were created to embody the mission of WEGO Health: to empower patient leaders.

Considering the WEGO Health Patient Leader Network is centered around these healthcare transformers, we knew it was up to us to celebrate their accomplishments. From this need to celebrate the leaders who make a difference, the WEGO Health Awards were born.
Since its inception in 2011, the WEGO Health Awards have proven to be one of the best ways to honor, recognize, and celebrate the work of patient advocates, influencers and healthcare collaborators who are helping others and transforming healthcare – often without any formal recognition.
With 16 different award categories, it is the only program to recognize patient leaders across all condition areas and platforms; whether running an online support group, speaking at conferences or sharing their health journey on Instagram, there is truly an award category to recognize every patient leader out there.
The program is split into four different phases:
1. Nominations | June – July
2. Endorsements | July
3. Judging | August – September
4. Celebration | October
Last year, we received over 6k nominations and over 130k endorsements. From there, our judging panels narrowed 6k nominations to 75 finalists and later to just 15 winners. In partnership with HLTH, we had our biggest WEGO Health Awards celebration ever! HLTH sponsored our 15 winners, covering admission and travel expenses, to attend the HLTH event and be honored on healthcare’s biggest stage for their advocacy achievements.
Learn more about how the WEGO Health Awards work:

NOMINATIONS
Open June 9th-July 31st
Think of nominations as a way to recognize your favorite patient leaders for the work they are doing. With 16 award categories, it’s easy to show your appreciation for all the patient advocates in your life. To start nominating, simply visit click here.
🏆 Tip for Nominees: Share out your WEGO Health profile and ask your community to recognize you for the WEGO Health Awards. Don’t be afraid to post to social, reach out to foundations, and include in any email correspondence. Your work deserves to be recognized! Once you’re nominated, you’ll receive a Nominee Media Kit for easy sharing.
Who should be nominated? Who can win a WEGO Health Award?
Anyone who is an active and leading member of an online community, and making a difference in healthcare, is eligible to be nominated. He or she should provide the community with valuable information and support to make a difference for other patients and caregivers. Nominees for an individual social channel award must have a presence on that particular social channel, of course.
Think about the advocates and influencers you see leading Facebook groups, blogging about their health journey, speaking up and giving insights to healthcare companies, presenting on national stages, and running Twitter chats. Patient Leaders have started non-profits, published podcast episodes, and authored books–there is no shortage of Patient Leaders’ contributions to the world, so let’s recognize as many of them as we can for their talents, contributions, and commitment.
How did you come up with the categories? Can I only use those to nominate someone?
The WEGO Health Awards were created based on Patient Leader feedback and the same is true of the categories we use. They might change a bit each year, but they’re created with you and your community in mind. We’ll only be selecting winners for the categories listed in our nomination form, but we’re always open to suggestions.
How do I nominate someone?
Go to our WEGO Health Awards nominations page to get started. Tell us who you want to recognize, where you follow them online, and the WEGO Health Award you think they should win. Once you’re finished nominating your favorite patient leader, feel free to share that nomination with your community or send a tweet with the hashtag #WEGOHealthAwards. And be sure to nominate early and often; we want to recognize as many patient leaders as possible.
Can I nominate myself?
Of course. We hope you’ll reach out to your community and ask them to nominate their favorite members of the online health world – and that includes you! However, you’re more than welcome to nominate yourself as part of the process. Be sure to take a moment and recognize any of the great leaders that help you on a daily basis as well.
How will I know if I am nominated?
Each nominee will be notified via email and social media (as applicable) and will be given the chance to complete/update a WEGO Health profile with additional information about themselves and their advocacy. Please note, notifications can take 24-72 hours from the time of the nomination submission

ENDORSEMENTS
Open July 1st – Jul 31st
This period provides a community-choice aspect of the program. Endorsements are a way to give nominees a visual show of support for a specific nomination, think of it like “liking” a post or photo on social media. For instance, if a nominee is nominated for Best in Show: Twitter, and you believe they deserve this recognition, your endorsement is the perfect way to show your support.
The three nominees with the most endorsements in each of the 16 categories will automatically become finalists.
🏆 Tip for Nominees: Grab Your Endorsement Badge | Once endorsements open (in July!), navigate to the ‘Awards’ tab, of your WEGO Health profile. Here you will be able to download images and badges to put on your sites to gain endorsements. We invite you to keep your badge up once endorsements are closed to proudly display your accomplishment.
What happens when I endorse a nominee? Is it the same as voting?
Endorsements were created to give network members a chance to participate in the WEGO Health Awards. Think of it as a way to give a shout-out or virtual hug to your favorite Patient Leaders.
In response to feedback from the community, the endorsement process helps select top patient leaders to move on to the finalist round. The three most endorsed nominees in each WEGO Health Award category will automatically become a finalist. There are six finalists within each category and the final award winner is selected by our panel of distinguished judges.
So, if you are nominated for an award, make sure you ask your friends, family, and community members to take a moment to endorse your efforts.
Can I endorse more than one person?
While you can only endorse a nominee once per award category they are nominated for, you can endorse as many people as you like. If you want to spread the love and endorse others, feel free to do so.
Do likes/tweets count as endorsements?
While showing your support through Facebook likes or tweets is appreciated by the nominees, we will not be counting that form of social media support towards endorsements.
Can I still become a finalist if I do not get a high number of endorsements?
Yes. While the three nominees with the highest endorsement numbers in each category will automatically become finalists, the additional three finalists will be determined by our judging panelists through numerous additional factors aside from endorsements.

JUDGING
August – September
We host multiple rounds of judging, after all, we receive thousands of nominations! Judges will be using the information provided in the nominee’s WEGO Health profile to review and score.
Determining Finalists
In the past, there were a total of five finalists, however, given community feedback, we will now be celebrating six finalists in each award category. To ensure the integrity of the program, half of the finalists will be determined through endorsement count and half will be selected through our judging process. Finalists are selected in two ways:
1. The top three endorsed nominees within a WEGO Health Award category automatically move on as finalists.
2. The subsequent three finalists in each category are selected by our network judging panelists. Finalists will be selected based on their relevance to that particular award and the information provided in a nominee’s profile. The finalist judging panels are comprised of past award winners, foundations, and organizations.
Once the top six finalists in each WEGO Health Award category have been selected, we’ll announce the finalists on our blog and then move into the final round of judging.
Selecting the Winners
Top industry experts and sponsors convene to review the six finalists in each category based on their use of social media, their fit for the award for which they’ve been nominated, and how effectively they engage their online community. Judges score individually, and then WEGO Health tallies these scores to identify the winners. No one knows the winners until we make the announcement at our annual WEGO Health Awards Virtual Ceremony.
Note: A nominee’s community size (number of fans, followers, readers, members, etc.) will not be considered. The nominee is judged based on their content and fit for the award category.
🏆 Tip for Nominees: Update Your Profile | Having a completed WEGO Health profile allows judges to gain a comprehensive understanding of your mission.
I want to be a judge for the WEGO Health Awards. How can I do that?
If you’re interested in participating, please email us at awards@wegohealth.com with the subject line ‘Be a Judge’ for additional details.
Can judges be nominees or WEGO Health Award winners?
We do allow those who were nominated to participate in the network judging process. However, if a judge is nominated for a certain award, they are not allowed to judge that category. We also give the judge the option to either remove themselves from the running or give up their judge’s spot.
How do you pick your judges?
We have many patient leaders, patients, caregivers, industry leaders, previous winners, finalists and Patient Leader Network members who connect with us throughout the year. Many of them express interest in being involved with the WEGO Health Awards. The WEGO Health team compiles a list of those enthusiasts throughout the year and connects with each before our WEGO Health Awards season. We then chat about the details, time commitment, and what is expected of the judges. Once they confirm they would like to officially participate, they are in.
How do you score the nominees? What criteria do judges use when selecting semi-finalists, finalists, and winners?
Judges score nominees on the following criteria:
• Fit for the Award | How well does this person fit the category they are nominated for? For example: if they are nominated for Rookie of the Year, have they only recently started their advocacy journey?
• Use of Social Media | How well does this Patient Leader use social media for their activism? Are they active, engaged, and responsive on their networks? Are they a power user of social media and active on multiple profiles?
• Focus on sharing of information and overall engagement | How well does this Patient Leader balance sharing of their own content with the sharing of others’ content and information?

CELEBRATION
October
The health of our community members is of utmost importance during the global COVID-19 pandemic. Though we’d love to celebrate in person, after much discussion and feedback from our Patient Leader Advisory board, we have decided to make the celebration strictly virtual to ensure all of our WEGO Health Award winners are safe and included.
Going virtual doesn’t mean the celebration stops though! We’re partnering with HLTH to bring patient leaders to the forefront of this industry celebration. Winners will be announced in a virtual ceremony during the HLTH event in early October 2020.
This year, winners will receive:
• $500 cash prize to be used towards advocacy efforts or travel
• Compensated WEGO Health 2021 Patient Leader Advisory Board Seat (estimated cash value $1500)
• Feature as a worlds’ top patient expert in HLTH’s patient-centered webinar series, as well as industry exposure opportunities throughout the year*
*Winners will have priority for speaking engagement and industry exposure events throughout 2021, depending on the state of COVID-19.
We are so eager for another season of celebrating patient leaders. There are so many tremendous patient advocates, influencers, and collaborators out there doing powerful work – we look forward to shining a much-deserved spotlight on them!
We encourage you to view all of the current WEGO Health Awards nominees in the nominee directory
Click here to view the nominees.
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More questions? Please feel free to refer to the WEGO Health Awards FAQ Page.
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Written by WEGO Health
WEGO Health is a mission-driven company connecting healthcare with the experience, skills and insights of patient leaders. We are the world’s largest network of patient leaders, working across virtually all health conditions and topics.

Take A Virtual Vacation!

Traveling This Summer

There are a lot of “cannots” and “have nots” right now. We can’t get our hair cut, hang out at Starbucks, or get our nails done. Our vacations have been canceled and replaced by speedy trips to the grocery store. All these factors play into our overall stress, and without even knowing it, we are like ticking time-bombs ready to explode. I realized I needed a way to de-stress, and I found out that virtual vacations exist!

I tried it out and visited the British Museum in London. I was supposed to go to England for spring break, and since the trip was canceled, I thought this would be a small taste of that experience. While I couldn’t tour the actual building, I was able to see many of the museum’s artifacts. Along with each piece was information on it, so it felt like I was on a high-quality tour.

After my museum visit, I zipped on over to Machu Picchu to see the ancient structures for myself. On this “vacation,” I walked through the paths with other tourists and took in the view the stunning mountains. This trip was much more realistic, and it almost felt like I was there in person.

To finish off my around-the-world tour, I took in the views of the Taj Mahal from one of its many tours. I can only imagine what it is like in person because it was stunning from the view on my laptop.

Just spending the 15 minutes touring these places calmed me down. It was fun visiting famous places in the world for free and from the comfort of my couch. Definitely check it out for an easy and effective de-stressing experience. And who knows, maybe it will give you inspiration for your next vacation once we can travel again!

Coronavirus Daily Digest: May 29, 2020

The CDC presents expansive guidelines for reopening American offices. Infections and deaths are still rising in a dozen states. And for the first time ever, the Boston Marathon is canceled. Here’s the latest news on coronavirus:

  • Let’s talk reopening: The CDC has issued sweeping new guidelines on the safest ways to reopen offices. In New York City, Mayor Bill de Blasio expects up to 400,000 residents to head back to work in the first half of next month, as the city prepares to begin lifting some of its most stringent coronavirus restrictions. Illinois is joining many of its neighboring Midwest states in reopening some retail shops, restaurants, salons, and other businesses today, but Chicagoans will have to wait.
  • The panel assembled by President Donald Trump to confront the pandemic has been sharply curtailed while the White House looks ahead to reopening.
  • Requiring patients to visit a hospital, clinic, or medical office to get an abortion pill is needlessly risking their health during the COVID-19 pandemic, a group of physicians allege in a lawsuit that seeks to suspend the federal rule.
  • Organizers canceled the Boston Marathon for the first time in its history, ending a 124-year run that had persisted through two World Wars, a volcanic eruption and even another pandemic.
  • Even as the pace of new infections quickens — with nearly 700,000 new known cases reported in the last week after the pathogen found greater footholds in Latin America and the Gulf States — many countries are sputtering into reopenings at what experts fear may be the worst time. In South Korea, more than 500 schools closed again as the country moves to stamp out a resurgence of the coronavirus in the capital, Seoul, and its surrounding metropolitan area.
  • A New York Times reporter and photographer are driving more than 3,700 miles to document life as Europe reopens, where surreal moments now seem normal, and normality surreal.
WebMD Health News

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Delicious Summer Treats!

Healthy And Refreshing Recipes

While it has only been seventy-five days since the mandatory lockdown began, it certainly feels like a lifetime. It’s hard to remember what it’s like to hang out with friends, hug loved ones, and go to the grocery store without a face mask. Many of us are nostalgic for simpler times, but we can certainly indulge in the past as long as it’s safe! Do you miss the taste of a popsicle while sitting by the pool? Or late night ice cream parlor runs? You can still enjoy these novelties this summer, so find inspiration in this list and enjoy!

  • DIY Popsicles – Did you know popsicles are super easy to make? Check out this recipe for fruit popsicles, or if you want something a little creamier, this one made with Greek yogurt might do the trick.
  • Ice Cream Cone – Not all ice cream shops are opening this year, but that doesn’t mean you can’t have any at all! Buy your favorite flavors, toppings, and some cones, and have ice cream parties whenever you like!
  • Fruit Sorbet – If ice cream isn’t your jam, maybe consider making your own fresh fruit sorbet. It is surprisingly easy, and you will have delicious results in hours.
  • Fresh Berries – Summertime is the main growing season for many berries, including strawberries, blueberries, and raspberries. Many farms offer pick-your-own services, so you can make a fun outing out of it.
  • Jello – Jello doesn’t have to be just a snack for kids, it is for all ages and can actually be made into sophisticated desserts. Try this simple strawberry jello summer salad and you’ll certainly be hooked.

For all of these suggestions, there are hundreds if not thousands of recipes out there, so there will certainly be something that you like. Get creative, taste test often, and enjoy the results! Bon appetite!