Category Archives: Uncategorized

On Solitude and Connection

I sit next to a lovely window on the last day of my writing retreat pondering the snow blowing sideways as the wind carries it drifting across the yard. Someone in the other side of the house where I’m staying strums a guitar slowly. It’s lovely. There were children in that side of the house this morning, running up and down stairs, laughing at times, voices serious at times. There was music, “Hello darkness, my old friend; I’ve come to talk with you again,” mellow and folksy, soothing. There were the sounds of cooking and a family, not a biological family, I don’t think, but a community of selected family sharing breakfast before they took off to do chores on the farm in the falling snow. I sat in my dining room, just on the far side of the shared kitchen door enjoying my solitude and also enjoying the sounds of their community. These disparate moments, their community, my solitude led me to reflect on the importance of connection and aloneness. Not loneliness, but the need I sometimes feel to be alone, to feel my own rhythms, to do things in my own time, not influenced by the rhythms and time of others. Their time together seemed so effortless, so comfortable. My seclusion felt the same.

I learned during my 3-month writing retreat in Florence, Italy, that my creativity is best fed with time away from not only those I love, but basically everyone. I did make two wonderful friends during that time, Emma, a sculptor, and Iris, a barista at the coffee shop I frequented, but our friendships were mostly bounded by Emma’s shop and Iris’s restaurant. When working on my time, my days developed a cadence, a pattern that they rarely have at home in my “normal” life. I rose whenever I awoke, usually around 8 am when construction started on the apartment building across the way. I drew for a while, journaled for a while, walked to a new area of the city, shopped for lunch, returned home, worked on projects until I was ready for dinner and then cooked for myself or chose a restaurant nearby. My evenings were free-form. I strolled the city looking for street art or listened to buskers. I took cooking, pasta making, or wine tasting classes. I often bought a gelato or a cappuccino (or both) before walking back home to read for a while before sleep. Sometimes I went to museums or art exhibits. Sometimes I took short trips outside the city on truffle hunting expeditions or olive oil and cheese tastings. But mostly, I spent my days strolling Florence and soaking in the inspiration it so freely provided. I discovered a taste for Negroni and aperitivo (gin and olives, two things I’d never had a taste for).                                                               

And I wrote. Thirty blog posts in three months. I outlined two books and drafted chapters for each. It was one of the most personally and professionally productive times of my life. Professional productivity is usually something else for me. I never have trouble meeting deadlines for academic presentations, journal articles, or book chapters, although my model typically involves finishing everything in the 11th hour. I’m not a procrastinator, per se, I just process for a long time, then write under pressure. My personal writing is different. Something, like the snow outside, triggers a memory, a thought, an idea, and I write.

Writing, for me, is part of this, but not the whole picture. I live life fully, with activity, passion, engagement, and energy. Often those things are driven by other people and events, often to a beat not my own. I work at the tempo demanded in the moment. I adapt. On writing retreats, I nurture my own pace. I find my own rhythm.

I guess my message is this. We all need connection and aloneness, time to engage outwardly and time to reflect inwardly, and time to create. On this snowy afternoon, I am content to sit by this window, let these words flow from my fingers, and simply be in the moment. Tomorrow I return to the rhythm of my family, of the reality of four people coordinating their lives together. I will miss this solitude. I will return gratefully to the hustle and bustle of my day-to-day life, until the pull for solitude draws me on to my next writing retreat.

On Horses, Cats, and an Old White Farmhouse

Photo by Bradshaw Speight on Unsplash

Tonight I lie in bed in an 1800s farm house listening to the low, deep hoot of a great horned owl, the insistent back and forth calls of coyotes in the distance, and the sound of sporadic cars driving past on the country road outside. The owl and the coyotes lull me while the road sounds take me back to memories from my childhood, to a time when I was probably 4 years old, to an old white farmhouse on a country road near Mechanicsburg, Ohio. My grandparents lived on this farm, gardened, raised horses, and always had wild cats living in the barn.

I remember the farmhouse, the front door that no one ever used, the door near the kitchen that everyone came and went through. I can’t remember now if they grew crops or not, but I clearly remember the horses. I was captivated by them. Captivated and a bit frightened. I was too young to be around them without adults present and much too small to ride them. Of course, I had ridden carnival ponies, chained to a merry-go-round that listlessly slogged around a circle, heads down, the squeals of delighted children on their backs filling the air. I didn’t feel sorry for those horses, not then, only excited to have a chance to ride them. My sorrow for them came later. But these horses were entirely different animals. They were huge, and beautiful, and strong. They ran in the fields, roamed in the pastures, grazing whenever and wherever they desired. They seemed so free.

Photo by Josephine Amalie Paysen on Unsplash

Once, I was allowed near one of the horses, a big blonde gelding, when it was outside being groomed by one of my aunts. It was special that I was allowed to stay near her and near the horse. My aunt instructed me to stay away from its back legs and to never approach a horse from behind so I wouldn’t risk being kicked. She told me I could lay my hand along its back. The horse was so big, my hand came only part way up its side. I couldn’t reach the top of its back, so I caressed down its left side. I could feel the strong inhale and exhale of its breath, I could feel its contented sighs and nickers at being brushed and groomed. Then my aunt picked up the horse’s right front foot to groom its hoof, and it shifted to the left, right onto my right foot. The pain took my breath away and I couldn’t make a sound. I had no words to tell her that the horse was standing on my foot. I froze, completely still. I couldn’t move. Waves of pain coursed through my foot. Fortunately, the horse quickly shifted its weight and lifted its foot off mine. I moved away, sat down on the driveway and cried, silent tears of relief, pain, humiliation because I knew I wouldn’t be allowed out there again when a horse was groomed if anyone found out what had happened. Fortunately, the only thing hurt was my pride.

After that, I largely kept my distance from the horses, watching them from the safety of the far side of the fence. I was told never to approach the horses, but if they came to me, that was fine. One afternoon I was leaning against the fence separating the yard from the pasture and one of the horses who was grazing in the field came toward me. I wasn’t afraid because sometimes we were allowed to give them a piece of carrot, their soft lips tickling my hand as they took the offering from my open palm. On this occasion, I didn’t have a carrot. I was just leaning on the fence, watching. The horse grazed its way over to the fence and then for no apparent reason kicked me between the rails. It kicked me hard, knocking me off my feet. Again, I was fortunate. Nothing was broken, but I had a beautiful bruise for a while. I didn’t tell anyone about that either.

Photo by Andriyko Podilnyk on Unsplash

To this day, I find horses to be both majestic and mystifying, beautiful and unpredictable. Fortunately, I had better luck with the wild barn cats, especially the kittens. I have always been a cat person. I love cats. One spring, a litter of three golden kittens was born in the barn. We weren’t allowed to play in the barn because there were so many dangerous tools and farm implements in there. But I did have permission to carefully look for the kittens. They were born near the front door of the barn, so if I was quiet and lucky, I might catch sight of one of them. I knew not to scare the momma because she would move them. I didn’t want that to happen. Calmly I would sit outside the barn door on the driveway hoping to catch a glimpse of one of the three. As they grew, they got more curious. I learned to tell them apart. One was playful and confident, interested in everything, curious. A second elegant and languid, slow moving, but aware in its movement. The third was timid and looked for the others to move first. I wanted them to want to come to me. I wanted to pet them, to hold them, to tame them. “Barn cats aren’t pets”, my Grandmother said. I secretly disagreed. My sister got to hold one first. The curious one came right up to her and she picked it up. She and I were both “animal whisperers”, but she was better at it. One time she actually walked up to a blue jay in our front yard and just picked it up. So, I wasn’t surprised when the curious kitten chose to come to her. I was jealous, though, and more determined than ever to entice one of the kittens to me. One day the elegant one strolled near me and laid down in the driveway near my ankle. I reached out carefully, not wanting to scare it away, and it let me touch it. I ran my fingers down the soft baby fur on its back. The kitten let me pet it for a moment, then got up, stretched, and strolled back into the barn. Yes! I was going to stay patient and someday the kitten might let me hold it. The next time we visited, the mother had moved them farther into the barn and we didn’t see them again. Still, in that one moment, the kitten had chosen to me. I felt special.

Tonight, as I lie in bed listening to the sound of cars on this country road, I am transported back to my childhood and I remember another old white farmhouse. We rarely spent the night there, but, when we did, I could hear the sound of occasional traffic on the road outside and the deep quiet of the country. It was so peaceful, the world passing by as I fell asleep. I think I will sleep well surrounded by those sounds tonight.

A Milk Cup, A Whistle, and Love

Grandma, Poppa, and the milk cup

When I was a baby, my first words were “bite butter” and my Poppa cheerfully obliged. When I was a toddler, I had a cup with a bird whistle on the handle that said “WHISTLE FOR MILK.” I loved that cup and blowing the whistle made me break out in peals of laughter. When I blew the whistle, my Grandma would scurry over to my highchair (I was only allowed to have the cup in my highchair.) and pour a little milk in my cup. Once I drank the small amount of milk she gave me, I’d blow the whistle again and she’d give me more. This went on until I’d had enough milk. Each round accompanied by my squeals of delight. Once I’d drunk my fill, I would stop blowing the whistle. Grandma would look at me expectantly and I’d shake my head. It became a game for us.

Clearly, my love of dairy started young. This story isn’t about that, though. This story is about love and the painstaking task of putting that cup back together again. Sometime, I don’t remember when, the cup was broken. I probably dropped it. I’m sure I was crushed. I likely cried as only a brokenhearted toddler can. 

Someone, I don’t know who, took the time to painstakingly glue the pieces back together, even the very small slivers. My Mother, who kept the cup for me for years, says she didn’t do it; she says my Grandmother would never have taken the time to do it, and that my Poppa didn’t do it. She has no idea who did. My guess is that my Mother is wrong. I think it probably was my Poppa or my Grandma. But, really, who it was doesn’t matter.

What matters is that today, that cup with its fault lines has pride of place on my desk. I look at it whenever I work. That cup, cracks and all, is as precious to me today as it was when I played the milk drinking game with my Grandma. It’s more precious because someone who loved me, because one would only take on this effort for someone they love, took the time and demonstrated the incredible patience necessary to glue the cup back together again. When I look at that cup, I know I was loved. Bonus, I can still blow the whistle, but now the milk is almond milk and I pour it myself.

A cherished holiday tradition and an invitation to share one of yours


Holidays are very important to me. They are a time for family, friends, community. For me, they are a time to reflect, for 2 solid months on the gifts I have been given in my life, the blessings, the joys, and a time to plan for what comes next. They are also a time for traditions, both new ones and those that connect us with generations past. I have a number of new and old ones that I have shared in my family. I thought through this post I would invite you to share your favorite holiday tradition as I share one of mine.

The story of the Christmas bowls:

In the early 1900s, when my Poppa, Lee Anthony Pence was a boy growing up in a small Indiana town, “exotic” fruits like oranges were a special treat because they grew either all the way west in California, or all the way south in Florida. Apples were plentiful in autumn and many families kept bushels of them in their root cellars to eat throughout the winter, while others were boiled with sugar into applesauce and canned to enjoy year round. Peanuts were also common, but pecans, almonds, cashews, and Brazil nuts, were rarer. Candy was a special treat. Allowance was earned once a month, typically a nickel or a dime at a time and often tied to the accomplishment of chores.

A tradition in our family for four generations has been that on Christmas morning we awake to bowls under the tree, one for each person. The bowls contain an apple, an orange, some mixed nuts (they used to be in shells, but now I use unshelled ones), and candy. The traditional candy was colorful ribbon candy and sugared orange slices. Now I try to personalize candies to the preferences of each person for whom I (and my elves) prepare a bowl.

The surprise at the bottom of the bowl is a coin, to represent prosperity and good luck in the new year.

Sharing this tradition with my children and other family members helps me feel close to my past, to my Poppa, and creates a continuity across generations that I cherish. Do you have a cherished holiday tradition? If so, please share it in the comments below and keep this conversation going.

Happy Holidays!

Merry Christmas! 🎁🌲❄️⛄️🎅


Kansas Health Foundation Distinguished Chair leaves Wichita State University because of Kansas campus concealed carry law

I know the title of this post reads like a headline. That is intentional. I am claiming my voice; I am also speaking for those who have tried and not been heard, for those who are fearful to speak because of concerns over repercussions from doing so. I speak from the privileged position of a funded Distinguished Chair and tenured full professor. After 33 years of experience teaching at the college and university levels, I speak from my ability to retire.

I hoped this last year that the Kansas Legislature and Governor Brownback would come to their senses. That hope died this spring when the Kansas legislature refused to hear debate on the controversial law that will allow concealed carry on Kansas university, college, and community college campuses effective July 1, 2017. To make matters worse, no gun training, no background check, no gun handlers license is required. ANYONE over 18 can carry a gun into my classroom.

For 10 years, I have served as the Kansas Health Foundation Distinguished Chair in Strategic Communication and Professor in the Elliott School of Communication at Wichita State University. I have advanced the KHFs mission to “improve the health of all Kansans”.

After careful soul searching, I have come to the incredibly difficult decision that I cannot continue in this position. The day this law applies to WSU, I will retire from the university, from a job I love, and from a context where I believe I have made a positive contribution. I leave behind students that I love, colleagues I admire, and an administration that I have found to be very supportive.

The long and the short of it is this. I can not work in a climate in which students are fearful to claim their voices because the person next to them in my classroom may have both different views and a gun. I cannot work in an environment where I am fearful to challenge my students to reach their full potential because they may have guns. I find this law to be the antithesis of everything a civil society stands for. As a strategic communication scholar and teacher, I find this policy to be in opposition to the goals of higher education. I see my job as supporting the personal, relational, and character development of my students, as challenging them to be the best person, student, citizen they can be, as helping them to explore diverse perspectives and develop critical thinking skills. None of these goals can be achieved in a climate of fear and repression.

My full resignation letter is included below:


President John Bardo                                                                                                 1845 Fairmount St.                                                                                                     Wichita State University                                                                                 Wichita, KS 67260

Dear President Bardo,

I am grateful for the amazing opportunity I’ve had for the 10 years I’ve spent at Wichita State University. Serving as the Kansas Health Foundation Distinguished Chair in Strategic Communication / Professor, Elliott School of Communication has been an honor and a pleasure. I have found dedicated colleagues, an administration supportive of faculty innovation, and motivated and engaged students who have inspired me.

Sadly, after much soul searching, I have found it necessary to retire from the university effective July 1, 2017.

While I have found the support to engage in work that I believe has enriched students and communities, I find the climate in Kansas to be more and more regressive, repressive, and in opposition to the values of higher education including critical thinking, evidence based reasoning, global citizenship, and social responsibility.

I see this most clearly in the concealed carry policy that goes into effect July 1, which can’t help but dampen open, frank conversation, so necessary for promoting intellectual growth and an informed citizenry. Worse, this ill-advised policy puts the health and safety of students, faculty, and staff at risk.

Clear, open, critical discussion cannot take place in an environment of threat and fear. Knowing that people will now be free to conceal and carry guns in classrooms without training and without licenses can’t help but dampen the free exploration of ideas. In the current social and political climate, when civility and respect for diverse perspectives often seem to be in short supply, many people already feel marginalized and threatened. Guns on campus will make it that much more difficult for them to feel safe.

As someone who has experienced gun violence personally, I do not feel safe with guns in the classroom. I cannot do my best as a teacher, as an educator tasked with supporting students as they challenge and reflect critically on their personal beliefs, as they struggle with relationships and communication dynamics. I cannot guarantee my students that they will get the best from me. I cannot promise that I will encourage the growth that they are capable of in whatever directions they choose. I cannot tell them that they are safe to claim their voices, their truths, when someone next to them, who might have a different view, may also have a gun.

In 2007, I came to Wichita State because of the Kansas Health Foundation’s mission to “improve the health of all Kansans.” Their gift that funded my position was the largest Wichita State had received at that time. I have worked hard as a teacher and scholar to honor their commitment. In many ways, it has been easy. Their vision corresponds with my personal and professional commitments to make a positive contribution to communities and to promote health and wellness. In recognition of my success in meeting these objectives while at WSU, I have won numerous campus, community, state and discipline-based awards as a teacher, mentor, and scholar.

In 2007, Wichita State University, the Elliott School of Communication, and the Kansas Health Foundation honored me with this position. I have embraced that honor. However, this gun policy is indication of a political context that threatens the health of all Kansans. This is no longer a context I can support. This is no longer a context in which I can work. I regret that I have to make this decision.

With deepest gratitude,

Deborah S. Ballard-Reisch

Deborah S. Ballard-Reisch, PhD                                                                   Kansas Health Foundation Distinguished Chair in Strategic Communication / Professor, Elliott School of Communication             Wichita State University                                                                                      Wichita, Kansas 67260

Cc:         Jeffrey Jarman, ESC Director / Ron Matson, Dean, Fairmount                     College of Liberal Arts & Sciences

On why I LOVE Daylight Saving Time!

Ok, so while I’m in Italy this year on a writing retreat and not teaching, “Fall Back Day” will not impact me as it usually does. However, I’m still happy that the European Union, like the U.S., and a total of 70 countries worldwide, practice Daylight Saving Time! Like many of you, I often feel like there are simply not enough hours in the day to do everything I need to do. So often I wish for just one… more… hour… Once a year, I get that hour and I “feel” as if I have more TIME. I wake up earlier. I am productive longer. I feel like there is TIME to get things done. I even feel as if there is TIME left over at the end of the day to relax! That is why “Fall Back Day”, the glow of it which carries me for about 7-10 days beyond the actual day, is my favorite day of the year.

So, why Daylight Saving Time?

Did you know that Benjamin Franklin, the U.S. inventor and politician, first proposed Daylight Saving Time in 1784 and that Germany was the first country to implement it in 1916? It took a while to catch on. Also, Daylight Saving Time hasn’t always been an hour. Sometimes it’s been ½ hour or 2 hours

The original idea was to maximize the daylight hours and, among other things, reduce energy expenditures. Conserving energy in times of war has been the most common reason for the implementation of DST over the years. The general consensus in study findings seems to be that even though we get up in the dark in the fall, the extra energy used then is more than offset by the energy saved by having an extra hour of daylight in the evening. I can only speak to having more energy myself for 7-10 days and getting more done.

History of DST

On April 30, 1916, Germany and Austria became the first counties to use Daylight Saving Time to conserve fuel needed for electricity production. They advanced the clock one hour until the following October. Other countries including Belgium, Denmark, France, Italy, Luxembourg, Netherlands, Norway, Portugal, Sweden, Turkey, and Tasmania adopted the same policy. Great Britain, Manitoba, and Nova Scotia  followed later in 1916. In 1917, Australia and Newfoundland began saving daylight. The U.S. didn’t hop on the bandwagon until March 19, 1918 when “An Act to Preserve Daylight and Provide Standard Time for the United States” was enacted.

That first pass at DST lasted 7 months until Congress overroad President Woodrow Wilson’s veto to end it. During WWII, Daylight Saving Time reappeared, again as an energy conservation measure and it lasted in the U.S. from February 9, 1942 until September 30, 1945. From 1945-1966, U.S. states got to decide if they wanted to observe DST or not. On April 12, 1966, President Lyndon Johnson supported, and Congress approved, the “Uniform Time Act”. The only way around Daylight Saving Time then was for a state legislature to determine that an entire state would stay on Standard Time. In 1972, Congress allowed states with more than one time zone to decide independently for each time zone whether or not to follow DST or stay on Standard Time.

On January 4, 1974, during the Vietnam War, President Richard Nixon signed into law the “Emergency Daylight Saving Time Energy Conservation Act of 1973”. Congress amended the Act, and Standard Time returned on October 27, 1974. Daylight Saving Time resumed on February 23, 1975 and ended on October 26, 1975. In 1986, Congress decided that DST would begin at 2:00 a.m. on the first Sunday of April and end at 2:00 a.m. on the last Sunday of October.

Some areas in the U.S. don’t observe DST, specifically, Arizona, Hawaii, American Samoa, the Commonwealth of Northern Mariana Islands, Guam, Puerto Rico, and the Virgin Islands.

The “Energy Policy Act of 2005” extended Daylight Saving Time in the U.S. beginning in 2007. Since 2007, DST begins at 2:00 a.m. on the second Sunday of March and ends at 2:00 a.m. on the first Sunday of November.

In conclusion:

In the EU, DST begins at 1:00 a.m. Greenwich Mean Time on the last Sunday of March and ends at 1:00 a.m. GMT on the last Sunday of October. That means that in Italy, I get my extra hour a week before you get yours in the U.S. I’m not totally clear on the implications of tha, but I’m hoping to figure out a way to get both “fall back” hours.

Anyway, that’s the scoop on Daylight Saving Time. The rumor that a bunch of Congressmen getting drunk in a bar decided to dupe the American public has no merit. Check back with me next spring. I’m likely to be a bit less exuberant then, when I have to give my hour back, than I am now when I get one for free. Ciao and enjoy that extra hour of sleep!

Hunger is a public health problem – Kansas Public Health Association, Virginia Lockhart Health Education Award, 9/19/13

Dr. Deborah Ballard-Reisch’s remarks upon receipt of the Virginia Lockhart Health Education Award from the Kansas Public Health Association, September 19, 2013


1) I wish to thank Pamela O’Neal a former student, constant friend and support, and public health cliff jumper for nominating me for this award

2) I am thankful to the KPHA for honoring me with an award named after a true KS public health pioneer, Virginia Pence Lockhart

3) I am eternally grateful to the Kansas Health Foundation for endowing Wichita State University and the Elliott School of Communication with the gift that funded the Kansas Health Foundation Distinguished Chair in Strategic Communication which I have been honored to hold since August 2007. This position has allowed me to follow my passions in support of community-based approaches to research & health promotion 

4) I would like to thank my students, friends and family who both jump off cliffs with me and show me other cliffs to conquer

5) I would like to especially thank my son Stefan who is with me today and my daughter Alyssa who is a junior at UNLV for their constant love, support, and adventurous spirits. 


 I would like to build on the perspective of Virginia Pence Lockhart – who stated in 1965 “Health cannot be given to the people, it demands their participation – beneficial action follows self education”. From my perspective, individuals and communities need to educate themselves on public health issues, while public health educators need to educate themselves on communities. Effective public health initiatives must be appropriately tailored to contexts.


 In the words of Rick McNary, founder of Numana Inc. of El Dorado, KS, I am in the hunger space. 

1) It gives me PAUSE that in 2012, 14.5% of US households were food insecure – 72% of them families with children. Food insecurity impacts more than 49 million Americans.

2) It gives me PAUSE that the US House of Representatives is considering a proposal to cut the SNAP program while millions of Americans are struggling to find good jobs and to afford healthy food for their families.

In public health, we talk about obesity epidemics – 1/3 of adults and 17% of children – 25.5% of the total U.S. population are obese – that’s 79 million people.

We talk about a diabetes epidemic – 8.3% of the U.S. population, 25.8 million people have type 2 diabetes.

However, it gives me PAUSE that we often overlook the potential role food insecurity may play as an underlying contributor to these problems.

 While these issues give me pause, 

1) I am INSPIRED that there are legislators who “get it”. More than 30 legislators took the SNAP Challenge to eat on $4.50 a day during August. I am grateful for the insights they gained.

Congresswoman Robin Kelly  IL stated – “You can’t get the healthiest foods because they’re too expensive”. 

Congressman Jim McGovern MA concluded – “People in this country should have a right to food, to have enough to eat, to have access to nutritious food. 

2) I am INSPIRED by Numana, Inc. and Stop Hunger Now and their food packaging efforts that allow people to “get their hands dirty” to “feed the starving” people around the globe. Empowering people leads to sustainable change.

3) I am INSPIRED by my students who even today are planning what has morphed from a WSU Hunger Awareness Day in 2010 to a month long campus-wide collaboration.

4) I am INSPIRED by our community and university partners around the world who have shared their experiences with us and invited us to speak on their campuses using our experiences as a model to help them form their own initiatives.


 1) We can educate ourselves:

Join the Wichita State University Hunger Awareness team and me. Take the SNAP Challenge and live on $4.50 a day for food! We’ll be doing this over the next two weeks. We want your blog posts, facebook posts, tweets, emails.  We understand people best when we can walk in their shoes.

2) We can take steps in our daily lives to make a difference:

Shop the Feed USA Target/ Feeding America collection sponsored by Lauren Bush at local Target stores.

Take part in the No Kid Hungry Campaign – You eat at their restaurants; they donate. Participating restaurants in the Wichita area taking part are Arby’s, Orange Leaf Frozen Yogurt, Cici’s Pizza.

Join me for the 4th Kansas Hunger Dialogue – which will be held at the Hyatt Regency in Wichita on February 26, 2014. Join university and community partners to discuss strategies to wipe out hunger here in Kansas and talk about model programs we have already developed.

Lobby Congressional representatives! Critical decisions that impact the most vulnerable Americans are under consideration now. We must make our voices heard.

In closing, I would like to quote Bob Dole & Tom Daschle in their LA Times article published September 19, 2013. “As a nation blessed with a bounty of food, we are a nation with a duty to fight hunger”.  

Food insecurity is a public health problem.  

Food insecurity is a public health problem that impacts many other public health problems.

ImageEducated, we’ve got the power to end hunger and food insecurity, perhaps not by 2015 as the UN Millennium Goals outlined, but in our lifetimes. 

Thank you again for bestowing this prestigious award on me. 

Communication Strategies to Keep Marriages Strong

My colleague, Dr. Dan Weigel and I have been conducting research with committed married and romantically involved couples for over two decades.  The article attached is a compilation of the findings of our research condensed into 10  Communication Strategies to Keep Marriages Strong.

Some folks using MAC computers are having trouble getting to the above link. Try copying it, opening it in a new browser and accessing from there. Sorry for the inconvenience!

Responses to questions on health care reform

First, thanks for all the feedback on my prior blog with powerpoint on health care reform. Below I’ve tried to address some of the remaining issues that have arisen.  I am more committed than ever to REAL reform and this this ongoing conversation is critical to that end. Our health care system is broken. Worse yet, it is destroying businesses and individuals. It must be fixed now! I’m not convinced we yet have THE answer. I am convinced ongoing dialogue is critical to getting us there. Special thanks for my friend Chris Purk for constantly challenging me. Much of the response below was culled from an ongoing conversation we are having on facebook! Please join in! A great source for discussion on the health care needs of our nation, check out the nonpartisan National Coalition on Health Care at:


Premise #1:

If this health care bill isn’t the answer, our representative MUST craft one that IS! The power of special interests and lobbyists in the realm of health care reform have stopped the process of real reform for decades. We have been trying to take small steps for a very long time. PPOs, HMOs, managed care have all been stop gap efforts to control costs and increase the quality of care. They haven’t done so.

Premise #2:

There is simply no incentive for insurance companies, pharmaceutical companies, or health care providers to lower rates. It’s in their best interests to keep the run away price increases going. Bottom line: They make more money this way!

Premise #3:

Any cost estimates on either side: that health care reform won’t cost a thing OR that it will cost trillions are flawed. NO ONE can anticipate the contingencies that will ACTUALLY lower costs. The capitalist model says if you increase competition, costs will drop. That’s what a public option would do.

Premise #4:

This issue is NOT just about the un and underinsured. Health care costs are hurting EVERYONE!  We are already paying for the un and underinsured. They go to emergency rooms sicker and take longer to regain health (if they do at all) than those with insurance. They are less likely to get standard preventative care than those with insurance. They pay all they can and we (taxpayers) shoulder the rest. Insurance and preventative care are BETTER options than emergency room visits. Emergency rooms visits, the most expensive health care in the country, should not be the first line of health care for anyone.

BUT, the current health care system is NOT hurting only the un or underinsured. It’s hurting everyone – BUSINESSES that can’t afford to pay premiums are cutting benefits to employees and many are cutting insurance benefits all together or anticipate significantly reducing them in the near future. Business leaders are arguing that the single biggest factor in reduced R&D and their inability to expand the workforce are health benefits. We can’t get jobs for people if employers can’t afford to hire them.

EMPLOYEES are paying higher health care premiums and finding themselves with less coverage. People can’t afford to change jobs due to the fact that they may not be able to get insurance coverage, especially if someone in the family has a chronic or preexisting condition. People are losing their homes to cover medical costs; a large percentage of both personal bankruptcies and home foreclosures are linked to health care costs. And all this for a health care system that is ranked 37th in the world!

My personal “out-of-pocket” costs for health insurance doubled for next year, my co-pays on everything increased at least 20% and more medications are not covered at all. Fortunately except for my daughter’s issues with migraines, we don’t need any medications on an ongoing basis. As you know my daughter has been having problems with migraines. My COPAY for 10 migraine tablets (which she could use up in 5 days) was $90 last week. This is nothing compared to the costs of medications many pay for chronic conditions. On a related note, I don’t know if you’re aware of this or not, but the very same drugs that cost so much here cost much less in other parts of the world. We subsidize American pharmaceutical companies to sell drugs overseas by paying more for medications here at home. We attach taxes on international pharmaceuticals so they don’t compete with American makers here in the U.S. hurting the American taxpayer all the way around for the benefit of big business.

I’m LOVING the content ideas many of you have discussed. A number of them are part of the current discussion including not being able to drop people who get sick or refuse to insure them when they have preexisting conditions. None of them, at this point, will reduce costs by increasing competition.  The system is broken! We need to fix it now before it permanently sinks our entire economy! Those we elected to represent us need to get the job done. It’s time!

Help with conversations on health care reform

Last week I was at the National Communication Association Convention in Chicago. As I rode the shuttle from one location to another, I overheard a gentleman pontificating about the “fact” that the overwhelming majority of Americans oppose health care reform. He continued in this vein the whole trip back. I sat there, struggling with myself.  One side of me said “It’s been a long day…This guy isn’t going to listen anyway… If he’s going to blatantly make up statistics that are totally contrary to the findings of actual polls with actual people, there’s no room for discussion….They’re not talking to you anyway and it would be rude to interrupt.”  The other side of me was saying “Seriously, if you don’t challenging these uninformed blowhards at every opportunity, people will accept what they say with such confidence even if it IS blatantly inaccurate”….”You’ve got the stats, call him on this!…. “Seriously, speak up!!!!!”  The tired side won out.

However, that means that you, dear readers, who may have found yourself in similar circumstances and chose not to speak might benefit from the attached powerpoint.  Tammy Allen, Lynn Stephan and I developed this for The Group in Wichita and thought we might share it here. Let us know what you think. Agree…. disagree…. whatever you think.  For us the critical issue is that we engage….which I regret to say I did NOT on the bus ride in Chicago.