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Story Ideas - 2015

Story Ideas

Pregnant woman getting an ultrasound

Preventing Birth Defects

About one in every 33 babies is born with a birth defect in the United States each year.  Birth defects are serious conditions that can affect almost any part of the body, such as the heart, brain, spine, or foot. A birth defect can be found before birth, at birth, or any time after birth.  Most birth defects are found within the first year of life. Not all birth defects can be prevented. But, there are things that a woman can do before and during pregnancy to increase her chances of having a healthy baby.

If you are pregnant or planning to get pregnant, see your healthcare provider. Seeing your healthcare provider before you get pregnant can help you have a healthy pregnancy.  Prenatal care, which is health care received during pregnancy, can help find some problems early in pregnancy so they can be monitored or treated before birth.  There are other steps a woman can take to increase her chances of having a healthy baby:

  • Get 400 micrograms (mcg) of folic acid every day, starting at least one month before getting pregnant.
  • Don’t drink alcohol, smoke or use “street” drugs.
  • Talk to a healthcare provider about taking any medications, including prescription and over-the-counter medications and dietary and herbal supplements.  Also talk to a doctor before stopping any medications that are needed to treat health conditions.
  • Learn how to prevent infections during pregnancy.
  • If possible, be sure any medical conditions are under control, before becoming pregnant.  Some conditions that increase the risk for birth defects include diabetes and obesity.
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Aids Ribbon

Living with HIV

Today, an estimated 1.2 million people are living with HIV in the United States. Thanks to better treatments, people with HIV are now living longer—and with a better quality of life—than ever before. If you are living with HIV, it's important to make choices that keep you healthy and protect others.

It's very important for you to take your HIV medicines exactly as directed. Not taking medications correctly may lower the level of immune system defenders called CD4 cells and cause the level of virus in your blood (viral load) to go up. The medicines then become less effective when taken.

Be sure that your partner or partners know that you have HIV. Then they will know it's important to use condoms for all sexual activity and to be tested often for HIV. Protect your partners by keeping yourself healthy. Take all of your medicines and get tested and treated for other sexually transmitted diseases.

You can avoid spreading the virus to others by making sure they do not come into contact with your body fluids.

  • Abstinence (not having sex) is the best way to prevent the spread of HIV infection and some other STDs. If abstinence is not possible, use condoms whenever you have sex—vaginal, anal, or oral.
  • Do not share drug equipment. Blood can get into needles, syringes, and other equipment. If the blood has HIV in it, the infection can be spread to the next user.
  • Do not share items that may have your blood on them, such as razors or toothbrushes.
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Physician with a felt heart in his hands

American Heart Month

With Valentine’s Day on the horizon, many Americans are planning something special for loved ones – often involving heart-shaped cards, candy and other gifts. But February is also American Heart Month, a reminder of how important it is to focus on your own heart. Learn about your risks for heart disease and stroke and stay "heart healthy" for yourself and your loved ones.

Cardiovascular disease (CVD), including heart disease and stroke, is the number 1 killer of women and men in the United States. It accounts for one-third of all U.S. deaths and contributes an estimated $320 billion annually in health care costs and lost productivity. CVD is also a leading cause of disability, preventing Americans from working and enjoying family activities.

CVD does not affect all groups of people in the same way. Although the number of preventable deaths has declined in people aged 65 to 74 years, it has remained unchanged in people under age 65. Men are more than twice as likely as women to die from preventable heart disease and stroke.

Race and ethnicity also affect your risk. An estimated 46 percent of African American men and 48 percent of African American women have some form of CVD. African Americans are more likely than any other racial or ethnic group to have high blood pressure and to develop the condition earlier in life. About 2 in 5 African American adults have high blood pressure, yet fewer than half have the condition under control.

Many CVD deaths can be prevented through the adoption of healthier habits, healthier living spaces, and better management of conditions like high blood pressure and diabetes.

You can control a number of risk factors for CVD, including:

  • Unhealthy diet
  • Physical inactivity
  • Tobacco use
  • Obesity
  • High blood pressure
  • High blood cholesterol
  • Diabetes

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Two teens on a date

Preventing Teen Dating Violence with Healthy Relationships

Pre-teens and teens spend a lot of time thinking about, talking about, and participating in dating relationships. Adolescence is ideal for encouraging safe and respectful behaviors and skills.

Healthy dating relationships can have positive benefits, such as practicing communication skills and empathy.

Teen Dating Violence

Certain dating behaviors have a negative impact. For example, teasing and name-calling can become abusive and develop into serious forms of violence.

Teen dating violence can be physical, emotional, or sexual and can also include stalking. Consequences include depression, thoughts of suicide, and victimization later in life. This violence happens:

  • in person,
  • electronically,
  • to females and males, and
  • between current and former dating partners.

Two teens on a date

Healthy Relationships

Teens, families, organizations, and communities can work together to stop dating violence before it starts. School-based programs that give youth skills to build healthy relationships early can help.

In a healthy and safe relationship, each partner:

  • Keeps His or Her Individuality. Each partner feels free to spend time apart, enjoy other friends, and keep activities and interests that are important to them.
  • Respects Boundaries. Partners give each other physical and emotional space and respect each other’s privacy.
  • Listens.  Each partner takes time to get to know the other person and what he/she values.
  • Points Out the Positive. Each partner is respectful and encouraging, including pointing out positive qualities and giving compliments.
  • Can Agree to Disagree. Each partner will have their own point of view and feelings about the same situations. It is expected that partners, like friends or co-workers, may not always agree. What is most important is how disagreements or conflicts are handled.
  • Uses Healthy Communication. Each partner communicates in a healthy way by being honest and by expressing thoughts and feelings using respectful words.
  • Is an Equal Partner. Each partner treats the other as an equal, and both make decisions in the relationship.
  • Has Fun!

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Preventing Blindness

Did You Know: 50% of Blindness can be Prevented?

Blindness is severe vision loss that cannot be corrected by glasses, contact lenses, medicine, or surgery. The major blinding eye diseases among people 40+ years are: cataracts, age-related macular degeneration, diabetic retinopathy, and glaucoma.

Blindness and irreversible vision loss cost $139 billion in 2013, making it one of the costliest health conditions in the United States. Blindness and vision loss can severely affect quality of life, daily activities, attaining education, and social interactions.

Who's at Risk?

More than 4 million Americans aged 40+ years are visually impaired, including 1 million who are legally blind. An additional 61 million people are at risk for severe vision loss, and the number of blind and visually impaired people is expected to double by 2030 unless corrective action is taken.

Can It Be Prevented?

Approximately half of all blindness can be prevented. Many blinding eye diseases do not have symptoms in their earlier stages, so screening and early treatment are critical. People with blindness may benefit from vision rehabilitation and assistive devices to maximize their remaining vision and help them maintain an independent, productive life.

The Bottom Line

  • Risks for blinding eye diseases include: diabetes, being African-American aged 40+ years, and being 65+ years.
  • The risk of blindness can be reduced through early detection and treatment, so regular eye exams are important.
  • Rehabilitation and assistive devices can help people with vision loss maintain an independent, productive life.

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Doctor talking to his patient

National Colorectal Cancer Awareness Month: What You Need to Know

Cancer is a disease in which cells in the body grow out of control. When cancer starts in the colon or rectum, it is called colorectal cancer. Sometimes it is called colon cancer, for short.

Colorectal cancer affects men and women of all racial and ethnic groups, and is most often found in people aged 50 years or older.

Of cancers that affect both men and women, colorectal cancer is the second leading cancer killer in the United States, but it doesn't have to be. Colorectal cancer screening saves lives. Screening can find precancerous polyps—abnormal growths in the colon or rectum—so that they can be removed before turning into cancer. Someone could have polyps or colorectal cancer and not know it. If you have symptoms, they may include—

  • Blood in or on your stool (bowel movement).
  • Stomach pain, aches, or cramps that don't go away.
  • Losing weight and you don't know why.

Screening can find colorectal cancer early, when there is a greater chance that treatment will be most effective and lead to a cure. While screening rates have increased in the U.S., not enough people are getting screened for colorectal cancer. If you are aged 50 or older, get screened now.

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Teen sleeping on her bed

National Sleep Awareness Week

While we often consider sleep to be a “passive” activity, sufficient sleep is increasingly being recognized as an essential aspect of health promotion and chronic disease prevention in the public health community.

Insufficient sleep is associated with a number of chronic diseases and conditions—such as diabetes, cardiovascular disease, obesity, and depression—which threaten our nation’s health.

The following is a list of sleep hygiene tips which can be used to improve sleep.

  • Go to bed at the same time each night and rise at the same time each morning, including weekends.
  • Make sure your bedroom is a quiet, dark, and relaxing environment, which is neither too hot nor too cold.
  • Make sure your bed is comfortable and use it only for sleeping and not for other activities, such as reading, watching TV, or listening to music. Remove all TVs, computers, and other "gadgets" from the bedroom.
  • Avoid large meals before bedtime.

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Group of teens hanging out

National Youth Violence Prevention Week

Youth violence is a serious yet preventable problem that can have lasting harmful effects on victims and their family, friends, and communities. Youth violence includes harmful behaviors that can start early and continue into young adulthood.

The goal for youth violence prevention is simple—to stop this violence from happening in the first place.

The Problem

  • More than 547,000 young people ages 10 to 24 are treated in emergency departments each year for injuries sustained due to violence-related assaults.
  • On average, 12 people in this same age group are victims of homicide each day in the United States.
  • In a nationwide survey of high school students, 7% reported not going to school at least one day in the 30 days before the survey because of safety concerns.
  • In the same survey, 8% reported they had been in a physical fight on school property in the previous 12 months.

Certain factors can make individuals more vulnerable to victimization and perpetration. The following risks increase the likelihood a young person will experience violence or be involved in violence:

  • Involvement with drugs, alcohol, or tobacco
  • Poor academic performance
  • Poor behavioral control
  • High emotional distress
  • Antisocial beliefs and attitudes
  • Poor monitoring and supervision of children
  • Association with delinquent peers
  • High concentration of poverty


Preventing Youth Violence

Certain factors can also prevent individuals from experiencing or being involved in violence. These protective factors include:

  • Highly developed social skills
  • Connectedness to family or adults outside the family
  • Shared activities with family
  • Commitment to school
  • Involvement in positive social activities
  • Positive school climate


Youth violence prevention continues to advance rapidly. Research and experience in communities show it is possible to stop youth violence before it starts. Many programs and strategies have been found effective at preventing violence and related behaviors among youth.

Everyone has an important role in stopping youth violence before it starts. Examples of youth violence prevention approaches based on best-available evidence include:

Approaches for use in schools, homes, or communities:

  • Universal School-based Youth Violence Prevention Programs provide students and educators with information about violence and teach skills to nonviolently resolve disputes.
  • Parenting Skill and Family Relationship Approaches provide caregivers with support and teach communication, problem-solving, monitoring, and behavior management skills.
  • Policy, Environmental, and Structural Approaches involves changes to community environments that can enhance safety and reduce the risk for violence.

Approaches that focus on those at immediate risk:

  • Intensive Family-focused Approaches provide therapeutic services to high-risk, chronic youth offenders and their families.
  • Street Outreach and Community Mobilization Approaches connect trained staff with at-risk youth to mediate conflict, make service referrals, and change beliefs about the acceptability of violence.

Approaches that focus on very young children:

  • Early Childhood Home Visitation provides information, support, and training about child health, development, and care to families who have infants and young children.
  • Early Childhood Education offers high-quality, early education to disadvantaged children to build a strong foundation for future learning and healthy development.

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