Wellness brings the necessary elements of balance and health to our business lives to better ourselves and those around us.

6 Tips to spot counterfeit COVID-19 masks when shopping online

With the more contagious COVID-19 omicron variant on the rise, mask mandates are returning, especially indoors and while traveling. Even if your state has not reinstated a mask mandate, health officials recommend mask usage to prevent the spread of omicron. 

For the past two years, masks have become commonplace and easy to buy, both instores and online. However, with the rise of mask retailers, many fakes and counterfeit COVID-19 masks have also emerged from third party marketplaces. 

Currently, the top recommended masks for the best protection against omicron and other COVID-19 variants are the N95, KN95, and KF94. 

As you shop for your next mask to combat the omicron surge, these tips will help you steer clear of counterfeit COVID-19 masks and fakes sellers online. 

6 Tips to spot a counterfeit COVID-19 mask and find reliable sellers 

1. Listing claims to be “legitimate” and “genuine”

According to the CDC, listings that claim to be “legitimate” and “genuine” in their product descriptions often are not. Product listings that appear to be overselling the fact that they are legitimate are likely fakes, especially on third party marketplaces. If the product overly boasts it’s reputability, it might be worth doing some further digging into the seller and the product quality through other methods listed below. 

2. It’s too good to be true

Like the previous tip, this is another way to weed out the fakes. Are there price changes or swings? Is the mask priced at a significantly lower amount compared to other retailers and competition? Does the seller boast an “unlimited stock”, even during times of global mask shortage, especially for highly sought respirator masks such as the N95? If so, these are signs that the product is likely not legitimate. 

Take the time to read through customer reviews. (Photo by Jonas Leupe on Unsplash)

3. Read customer reviews 

Another method to ensure you receive a legitimate mask, is to read what other buyers have said about the product. Be sure to read not only the positive reviews but the negative as well. The negative reviews will tell you what issues to look out for and can alert you to the possibility of counterfeit products. The amount of reviews a product has also can give you a sense of the seller’s sales record. Products with more reviews likely have made more sales and, if the reviews are good, then the product is more likely to be legitimate. Still, be on the lookout for reviews that seem automated or generic. Some untrustworthy retailers may plant fake positive reviews to sway buyers. 

4. Check the packaging 

Legitimate COVID-19 masks and respirators should come in sealed packaging. You should be the first to open it. If the packaging is flimsy or looks to have been tampered with or there is no appropriate packing at all, then this is a red flag. 

Additionally, respirator masks require an expiration date because the particle-repelling electrostatic charge on these masks degrades over time. If there is no expiration date on your respirator mask, that is also a red flag. 

5. Inconsistencies on seller’s website and contact information 

Another guideline from the CDC is to check the seller’s site for inconsistencies and errors. They advise to: 

  • Look for bad grammar, typos, and other errors.
  • Watch for cookie-cutter websites, where the sellers interchange several websites, making mistakes.
  • Mixing up names/logos
  • Leaving the site partially undone with dummy text
  • Blank pages
  • An odd privacy policy page and/or broken links.
  • Domain squatting type activity (misspell the domain).

The seller should also provide contact information that is legitimate. Most third party marketplaces require the seller and buyer to interact within an on-site messaging system. Sellers should not try to bypass this system to display personal contact information, says CDC guidelines

You might be interested: What to expect from Omicron flight cancellations and new travel requirements

Legit masks will have approval numbers and proper logo and spelling. (Photo by Obi Onyeador on Unsplash)

6. There’s no branding, incorrect logo and spelling, and missing approval number

Lastly, a big red flag is if your mask or respirator lacks proper branding, logo, or approval number. Counterfeit COVID-19 masks may look like a legitimate brand, but the logo may be wrong or the brand name has been misspelled. 

On respirator masks such as N95, NIOSH—spelled correctly—should be in block letters. Additionally, legitimate N95 masks have approval numbers that start with the letters “TC-84A,” followed by four additional digits. This number can be found on the mask or the bands. You can check the number on the NIOSH Certified Equipment List.

5 Top exercises to reach your New Year fitness goals in just 11 minutes a day

Every year we all make the same New Year’s resolutions. This year will definitely be the year you say, as you head back to the gym for the first time in months. However, as many of us know from experience, keeping up with our fitness goals can be a challenge. 

The COVID-19 pandemic has changed our levels of physical activity over the past two years. Many of us have become used to spending more time indoors and sedentary, raising some concerns about the long-term health effects of sedentary lifestyles.

For Hispanic and Latino populations, primary health concerns include high cholesterol, diabetes, obesity, high blood pressure, and heart disease. These issues can be improved or prevented through exercise and lifestyle changes. 

However, busy lives and work often prevent us from taking the time to exercise consistently. We already know sitting at a desk for hours a day isn’t good for us, but it often seems impossible to squeeze in a daily workout, especially when for years we have been told to live by the “1 hour of exercise” rule. Some days, one full hour just isn’t possible.

Luckily, a new study has found that we can still reap health benefits by exercising even for just 11 minutes a day. Maybe we won’t have to scrap our fitness goals just yet.  

Benefits of just 11 minutes of exercise a day

In the study conducted by the Norwegian School of Sports Medicine, researchers found that just 11 minutes of moderate exercise per day can give you long-term health benefits, offset the effects of prolonged sitting, and add years to your life. 

The study sampled 44,000 men and women for a period between four and 14 and a half years, using activity monitors to measure “moderate-to-vigorous” physical activity. Researchers used these calculations and compared them to participants’ time while sedentary. Through their data, they found that overall, people who exercised for 35 minutes a day saw the biggest results in terms of health, but the study also showed that those who exercised at least 11 minutes a day also saw benefits. 

But 11 minutes is much less than the “1 hour” previous studies have reported, so what’s changed? Well, nothing, except how researchers approached collecting their data. Previous studies relied on “self-reported exposure data,” meaning exercise times were based on people’s recollections of physical activity, rather than hard data. Human memory is flawed, as we all know, and many people are prone to either overestimate their exercise time and intensity or underestimate the amount of time spent sedentary. 

You might be interested: When is the best time of day to exercise?

Reaching your fitness goals: Exercises to try at home

So what can you do to reach your 11-minute exercise quota and stick to your New Year fitness goals? 

There are tons of options. Here are our top 5: 

office exercises

Photo by Kari Shea on Unsplash

  1. Yoga: Practicing yoga is a great way to get your body moving while also relieving stress and fostering your mind-body connection. If you’ve been practicing yoga for a while, just unroll your mat, set a timer for 11 minutes and go through any number of combinations of your favorite yoga poses. If you’re new to yoga there are also many resources online. Just open up YouTube and search for some beginner yoga videos to get yourself started. 
  2. Full body workout: When selecting your exercises, try to pick a sequence of movements that will engage your body in a workout of moderate effort. Mix in cardio and weights to reap the most benefits. There are plenty of great short workout routines to follow online, many of which require no equipment either. This 10-minute standing abs workout is one of my go-tos. 
  3. Dancing: Who doesn’t love to dance? This one is pretty easy and requires no equipment. Just pop on some of your favorite upbeat tunes and get moving! Dance like no one’s watching. You only need about 3 – 4 songs to reach your 11-minute mark, but you’ll likely want to keep going once you get into it. 
  4. A brisk walk: Many of us underestimate the power of a good walk. While winter months may make it more of a challenge or daunting task, a short brisk walk every day will do wonders for your health. Additionally, just spending time in nature while you move will also help improve your mental health. However, if you really can’t get outside for a walk, then try this indoor walking routine.
  5. Bike riding: Lastly, like walking, bike riding often gets looked over. But again, the benefits of a quick bike ride are so worth it. Just take a spin around the block. You can even go on a social distance bike ride with friends or family. And being out in nature will boost your mood too.

Reaching your New Year fitness goals doesn’t seem so daunting when it’s just 11 minutes, right?

 

 

Another reason to exercise every day during the holidays

William B. Farquhar, Professor at University of Delaware shares how daily exercise can prevent high blood pressure–a primary health concern for Hispanic and Latino populations. 

Yes, of course we all know we should exercise every day during the holiday season to help counter the onslaught of excess calories that started on Thanksgiving and will mercifully end with a New Year’s toast.

We may even tire of hearing about exercise and weight from family, friends and the media. But an equally important reason to exercise every day is related to blood pressure, not waistline.

As a physiologist who has studied exercise and health for over 20 years, I can tell you that exercise lowers blood pressure – and does so right away.
Whether you go for a daily run or brisk walk, every time you finish exercising your blood pressure goes down, and stays down for many hours, which is good for your overall health. Here’s why.

Immediate drop in blood pressure occurs

The immediate blood pressure lowering effect of exercise is referred to as “post-exercise hypotension,” and many studies have shown that blood pressure declines 5 to 7 mmHg after every exercise session. The mechanisms responsible for lowering blood pressure immediately after exercise are not fully understood, but involve dilation of the blood vessels. Whatever the precise cause, this phenomenon is clearly beneficial.

During exercise the opposite occurs, blood pressure actually increases dramatically. Why? We are hardwired to exercise. When we exercise, our working muscles need oxygen-rich blood. Our brain signals the heart to increase blood flow and blood pressure rises. Systolic blood pressure (top number) can exceed 180 mmHg during hard exercise.

This sounds like a crazy-high number, and it would be if a reading like this were taken while seated, but it is not unusual during strenuous exercise. High blood pressure values during exercise are offset by the many low values recorded after exercise, to the benefit of the body.

high blood pressure, hypertension

Photo by Thirdman from Pexels

Why worry about blood pressure? Simply put, high blood pressure (i.e., hypertension) kills. It is estimated that hypertension is a primary or contributing cause of death of more than 400,000 Americans annually. Estimates suggest that one billion people worldwide have hypertension. Here in the U.S., one-third of the population is hypertensive, and these numbers are projected to rise 7 percent by 2030. This is not just a concern for older adults – one estimate suggests that 19 percent of young adults have hypertension.

Hypertension increases the risk of heart disease, stroke and kidney disease. The societal costs of hypertension are astronomical. When you consider the cost of health care services, medications and missed days of work, estimates suggest that hypertension costs the U.S. US$46 billion per year. Often, there are no signs or symptoms of hypertension, which is why it is referred to as the “silent killer.” Even among adults who have been diagnosed with hypertension, nearly half do not have it under control despite taking medications. Needless to say, anything you can do to lower your blood pressure will lower your risk of disease.

Great news: You don’t have to spend hours on this

As my colleagues and I point out in the Mayo Clinic Proceedings, exercise guidelines for those with hypertension emphasize the importance of daily or near-daily exercise to lower blood pressure. While the guidelines focus on those diagnosed with hypertension, daily exercise can benefit everyone.

To some, daily exercise may seem onerous, but the good news is that the exercise need not be intense or lengthy – moderate intensity exercise such as brisk walking for 30 minutes will lead to reductions in blood pressure. There is even evidence that short exercise bouts throughout the day (e.g., 10 minutes, three times per day) can lower blood pressure.

The bottom line is that exercising every day (and obviously eating less) will help prevent holiday weight gain, but an equally important benefit of daily exercise is lower blood pressure.The Conversation

You might be interested: Start the conversation about Latino health concerns this Family Health History Day 


William B. Farquhar, Professor of Kinesiology & Applied Physiology, University of Delaware

This article is republished from The Conversation under a Creative Commons license. Read the original article.

Start the conversation about Latino health concerns this Family Health History Day 

Did you know, Thanksgiving is also National Family Health History Day? Officially designated as such in 2004 by the surgeon general, this day is dedicated to learning your family health history and starting conversations about the topic with your loved ones. 

Knowing your family health history is important and can help you prevent and watch for certain health risks that may run in your family.  It’s especially important to know your family health history when it comes to diseases such as cancer, diabetes, and heart disease. These diseases are often inherited and knowing your family health history can help you be aware and take preventive measures. By knowing your health risks, you can make lifestyle changes and screen for illnesses before they happen. 

Additionally, some of these diseases can also skip generations. You may think you have a pretty good understanding of your family’s health history, but usually this only includes one or two generations that you have known in your lifetime. Asking grandparents about their parents and other relatives will help give a fuller picture of what health risks may run in your family and what diseases may pop up again after skipping generations. 

Starting these conversations with family members may be hard, but they are necessary not only for your health but for the health, but for the health of everyone in your family and of future generations. 

Common Latino and Hispanic health concerns 

For Latino and Hispanic families, some health concerns you may want to look out for include: high cholesterol, diabetes, obesity, high blood pressure, cancer, and heart disease. 

According to the CDC, heart disease and cancer in Hispanics are the two leading causes of death, accounting for about 2 of 5 deaths. Statistically, Latinos are more likely to suffer from heart disease and on average, Hispanic women at risk of heart disease are likely to develop the condition 10 years earlier than non-Hispanics according to data from Go Red for Women

Other health concerns that Latinos and Hispanics should discuss with family members are chronic liver disease, chronic kidney diseases, and strokes. 

Data shows that Hispanic Americans have twice the rate of chronic liver disease compared to non-Hispanic whites and are more likely than whites to die of chronic liver disease. 

Hispanics are also 1.5 times more likely to have kidney failure compared to other Americans, and 20 percent of people on the kidney transplant waiting list are Hispanic. 

Getting the conversation started

To get started talking about your family health history with your loved ones, begin by asking questions. The CDC outlines questions you can use to get the conversation started such as: 

  • Do you have any chronic diseases, such as heart disease or diabetes, or health conditions, such as high blood pressure or high cholesterol?
  • Have you had any other serious diseases, such as cancer or stroke? What type of cancer?
  • How old were you when each of these diseases or health conditions was diagnosed? (If your relative doesn’t remember the exact age, knowing the approximate age is still useful.)
  • What is your family’s ancestry? From what countries or regions did your ancestors come to the United States?
  • What were the causes and ages of death for relatives who have died?

Photo by Gustavo Fring from Pexels

After asking these questions, record the information and update it as you learn more about your family health history. 

The CDC offers a free web-based tool called My Family Health Portrait, to help you organize the information. My Family Health Portrait also allows you to share this information easily with your doctor and other family members.

Once you have collected this information, you can then discuss these concerns with your doctor and make plans for screening tests and other examinations. 

Start the conversation this Thanksgiving with your loved ones and help each other learn more about your family health history to keep each other healthy for years to come!

vegan diet

Latinas shift to vegan diet, improving focus and productivity at work

It’s no secret that what we eat impacts how we perform. The types of food we consume contributes to our mood, energy levels, and productivity. As part of World Vegan Month this November, we are diving into the benefits of a vegan diet. 

In general, plant-based eating can improve one’s health, it’s typically more affordable, and much more eco-friendly. In fact, a vegan diet uses much fewer resources, requiring five times less water than producing animal-based foods. 

For the Latinx population specifically, it has been found that diet-related health issues common within the community can be reduced through plant-based eating. 

Latinx and Hispanic individuals are more prone to health risks such as high cholesterol, diabetes, obesity and high blood pressure. Statistically, Latinos are also more likely to suffer from heart disease

Transitioning to a vegan diet, or simply incorporating more plant-based meals into one’s existing diet, can significantly help to reduce these health risks. Affordability also makes veganism an attractive alternative, especially for middle- to lower- income communities. 

“It’s much more cost-effective to prepare plant-based dishes using rice, beans, and vegetables than it is to feed one’s family using animal products,” said holistic nutritionist and bilingual foodie writer, Carolyn Scott-Hamilton, in an article with VegNews

Currently, about 3 percent of Latinos in the U.S. are vegetarian or vegan, according to the Vegetarian Resource Group. This number is close to the national average for adults: 3.5 percent for females and 3.2 percent for males. 

In fact, for many Mexican-Americans, a vegan diet is not far off from what their ancestors once ate in pre-Columbian times, according to NPR. Many traditional dishes by indigenous natives were plant-based. The meats we think of today as traditional to Latinx dishes–beef, bork, chicken, lamb–were brought over by the Spaniards. 

Boosting your productivity at work through plant-based eating 

In a study conducted by City Pantry on healthy eating habits, experts weighed in on how foods affect our levels of productivity and focus. 

According Dr Uma Naidoo – board-certified psychiatrist at Harvard Medical School and nutrition specialist – reducing inflammation is key to keeping energy and productivity levels up during the workday. 

“Low-grade inflammation flips off a metabolic switch in the chemical pathway that produces energy,” she said. “When inflammation is present in the body, less energy is available to the brain, so it’s important to eat anti-inflammatory foods to ensure workers wake up in a good mood and stay energized and focused through the entire morning.”

Foods to avoid are those high in artificial sweeteners, added and refined sugars, trans fats, and processed meats and cheeses. 

Plant-based foods are associated with lower levels of inflammation, which means incorporating more vegan options into your diet can improve your energy and focus throughout the day. 

You might be interested: 10 Snacks to boost productivity and get you through the work day

There is no one way to approach veganism and many often transition into the diet slowly. Others may choose to only eat plant-based on certain days, such as the Instagram account Meatless Mondays, which encourages people to swap out meat at least one day a week and provides a variety of fun and fresh meatless meals to try.

To start incorporating some vegan meal choices into your diet to boost your productivity, Dr. Naidoo recommends focusing on foods with natural fats such as nuts, avocados, and extra virgin olive oil.

 “Fat is a key component for mental health. Your brain is made up of 60 percent fat and in order to perform at its best, it requires a constant supply of omega-3-fatty acids,” Dr. Naidoo explained.

As busy women and entrepreneurs, staying focused and energized is so important. If you’re feeling low on energy, it might be time to reevaluate your food choices and shake things up! And what better month to try out plant-based eating than World Vegan Month? 

Latinas in Business Intern Fe-Licitty Branch contributed to this article. 

Domestic violence does not stop with privilege, money, or education — it can happen to anyone

October is recognized nationwide as Domestic Violence Awareness Month (DVAM). Launched in 1987, Domestic Violence Awareness month works to connect and unite individuals and organizations on domestic violence issues and raise awareness for those issues. Over the past three decades, much progress has been made to support domestic violence victims and survivors, to hold abusers accountable, and to create and update legislation to further those goals. 

Despite the plethora of resources and support available, recognizing domestic abuse and taking the necessary steps to remove oneself from a dangerous situation can still be difficult for many victims. Domestic abuse is a crime that happens behind closed doors, making it hard for others to see the signs and obtain help for victims. Often, victims of domestic violence are made to feel trapped and isolated by their abusers. This makes it difficult for victims to reach out for help. Since the pandemic began, there has been an unsurprising increase in domestic abuse. Isolation, rising tensions, financial stress and pressures are all common circumstances that can lead to domestic abuse. However, it is possible to help victims get out of the cycle of abuse

domestic violence

Photo by Anete Lusina from Pexels

Recognizing the signs of domestic violence

Domestic violence is nationally recognized as a public health issue and causes serious health-related consequences such as: physical injuries like broken bones or head trauma and endure long term effects due to chronic stress, anxiety, and other mental health issues.

Sometimes, even when someone knows all the signs and what to look out for, they simply cannot recognize that they are a victim or that what they are experiencing is abuse. Many believe domestic abuse only happens to certain people or only happens in ways they have seen portrayed in the media. However, domestic violence is an issue that can affect anyone, no matter their level of success or status. It can occur in relationships of any gender and the abuse may not only be physical, but can also be verbal, and may include sexual assault, threats, financial control, and/or isolation. 

The story of Leidy -a fictional name for protection purposes- is a good example of how domestic violence can happen regardless of status, privilege, and education. Her story shows how she learned to recognize the abuse she was facing and how she ultimately overcame it, healed, and built a better life for herself and her children. 

Leidy, a woman living in CA, had just come out of a prolonged divorce. She met her new husband, Kevin, but after a couple of years, he started to complain about lack of job opportunities. 

Eventually, Kevin was offered a job in New York. It was an exciting change filled with uncertainty but Leidy’s kids were looking forward to experiencing a new life in a new city as exciting as The Big Apple.  

Kevin, a hard worker, quickly moved up in position and started making excellent pay. On the other hand, Leidy was sustaining the house and watching the kids. She had no career of her own but was at peace in that she believed the sacrifice was worth it because Kevin was giving her so much in return. She enjoyed his presence as they shared this experience together. Amidst the lows involving disagreements, the highs kept Leidy thankful for him. 

Soon, everything took a turn. Kevin began having mood swings. Nothing was sufficient for him. He became demanding and jealous. Leidy felt as if she was walking on eggshells waiting for the moment Kevin would snap. 

Having moved to a new city, adapting to a new place was a slow process. Leidy did not have friends she could trust, although it was easy for her to get along with others, cultural barriers still existed. Adapting was exhausting for her. Soon, going to grad school was a decision Leidy made to distract herself and think about her career. 

Red flags in a domestic violence situation 

Although she was making all the household decisions, she was not given control over credit cards or checking accounts. She was required to get approval from Kevin for everything related to finances including buying groceries. She rationalized Kevin’s behavior by telling herself that the mood swings were related to stress at work but the situation soon escalated to yelling and fighting. Leidy was physically harmed a few times but didn’t dare to go to the police or ask for a restraining order, ashamed that she might be causing Kevin’s behavior. He would apologize profusely every time after the abuse and send her flowers.  

Photo by Anete Lusina from Pexels

Eventually, a neighbor alerted Leidy about a women’s organization. She felt ashamed and to her core, believing the abuse was her fault. A judge and a teacher participating in the group shared their own abuse situation. They told Leidy domestic violence does not stop with privilege, money, or education and that stuck with her for years. 

Communicating through Kevin’s co-worker, Leidy demanded that he leave. It never came to a restraining order as she was terrified Kevin would want to hurt her or the kids in the future as a way to get revenge. 

Leidy went on to become a successful domestic violence advocate in pursuit of giving others a voice. She felt a sense of peace and gratitude when finding a way out of her situation helping other amazing women.

Leidy’s story shows that domestic abuse can happen to anyone, even people with successful careers, financial stability, and higher education. Like many victims of domestic abuse, Leidy tried to rationalize her partner’s behavior and later blamed herself, feeling she was somehow at fault for how she had been treated. These feelings are common in victims of domestic abuse and denial and fear often keeps victims from seeking help.

Photo by Anete Lusina from Pexels

Resources for victims of domestic abuse

Below is a list of resources for anyone who may be struggling through domestic violence. These organizations are here to help. Just like the women’s organization in Leidy’s story, these organizations are equipped to offer aid and resources to victims of domestic violence and abuse. Recognizing you are experiencing domestic abuse and reaching out for help can be frightening, but it is the first step toward leaving the situation and healing. These organizations can help you connect with others and make a plan for the future. 

The National Coalition Against Domestic Violence 

Domestic Violence Awareness Project

The National Domestic Violence Hotline 

The National Child Traumatic Stress Network

Additional Resources By State (PDF) 

Latinas in Business Interns Nancy Robles and Val Gaytan contributed to this article. 

Gov. Phil Murphy awards $4 million in grant funding to community organizations assisting residents in health insurance enrollment

Navigator organizations to provide assistance to uninsured and underserved NJ residents during the upcoming ACA Open Enrollment Period and year-round. 

Governor Phil Murphy and Department of Banking and Insurance (DOBI) Commissioner Marlene Caride recently announced the award of nearly $4 million in grant funding for community organizations to serve as state Navigators. These organizations will provide free outreach, education, and enrollment assistance to residents shopping for health insurance during the Affordable Care Act Open Enrollment Period. Open Enrollment at Get Covered New Jersey, the state’s official health insurance marketplace, begins on November 1st.  

The administration is increasing its investment in Navigators this year by nearly half a million dollars, and expanding the number of awardees, to help consumers enroll in quality, affordable health insurance. 

“Since day one, our administration has fought to improve access to health insurance based on our belief that health care is a fundamental right,” said Governor Murphy. “With this investment, we will expand the network of Navigators in our state and ensure that residents who need health insurance can get the help they need to obtain the coverage and care they deserve.” 

Get healthcare assistance through Get Covered NJ 

Get Covered New Jersey is the state’s official health insurance marketplace. Established by law on June 28, 2019 by Governor Phil Murphy, the marketplace is part of the state’s work to improve access to healthcare coverage for NJ residents and build up the progress made through the Affordable Care Act. 

NJ Diver's licenses

Governor of New Jersey Phil Murphy established the state’s official health insurance marketplace, GetCoveredNJ in 2019.

GetCoveredNJ is focused on increasing access to affordable, high-quality health insurance for residents of New Jersey. The marketplace is where individuals and families can easily shop for and buy health coverage, and the only place to receive financial help. You can use GetCoveredNJ to compare health plans and calculate costs, and to choose the plan that works best for you and your family. It is the only place you will be able to apply for financial help to lower your monthly insurance premium and out-of-pocket costs. Through GetCoveredNJ you may also find out if you might qualify for free or low-cost health insurance through New Jersey’s publicly funded health insurance program, NJ FamilyCare.

During the inaugural GetCoveredNJ Open Enrollment Period, enrollment increased by nearly 10 percent over the previous open enrollment. The upcoming Open Enrollment Period at Get Covered New Jersey will run from November 1, 2021 to January 31, 2022, and is the only time during the year residents without coverage through an employer or other program can enroll in health insurance, unless they have a major life event.

With the GetCoveredNJ marketplace, New Jersey can also have a longer Open Enrollment Period and establish Special Enrollment Periods in order to respond to the needs of its residents. For the 2021 plan year, Open Enrollment started November 1, 2020 and ended January 31, 2021. A COVID-19 Special Enrollment Period is now in effect.

GetCoveredNJ allows the state to improve access to healthcare by investing in more outreach and trained experts to provide enrollment help within the community. By continuing to strengthen these Navigator organizations, more residents will have a chance to attain healthcare and assistance throughout the application process. 

“Navigators are an important part of reaching the state’s uninsured residents and ensuring they have access to quality, affordable health coverage and available financial help in their own community. With expanded state and federal financial help available in 2022, we want to ensure as many residents as possible take advantage of low-cost health coverage that is available,” said Commissioner Marlene Caride. “We are excited to continue to expand our network of community organizations providing free, unbiased enrollment assistance to residents. We look forward to working with our community partners as we work to get New Jersey residents covered this Open Enrollment Period and throughout the year.”

Comprehensive list of Navigator organizations  

A total of 18 organizations will be funded for the 2021-2022 year to serve as Navigators to support enrollment assistance in the State-Based Marketplace, expanded from 16 organizations awarded funding last year. All of the organizations serving as Navigators will have the ability to assist residents in-person and remotely. 

A total of $3.9 million will be awarded for the 2021-2022 year, compared to $3.5 million awarded in the 2020-2021 grant year. Navigator grants will support the work of organizations that conduct public education activities and offer free and impartial assistance to consumers to shop for and enroll in coverage on the marketplace, and help them apply for financial help. Grantee activities will include outreach and education year-round for 2022 coverage, including in advance of and during the Open Enrollment Period.

Where to find Navigator Organizations: 

AtlantiCare | Contact: 888-569-1000

Resources

  • LGBTQ health services
  • LifeCenter Fitness
  • Community Program:
    • Healthy Children
    • Healing hearts

Center For Family Services inc. | Contact: 877.922.2377 or access@centerffs.org

Resources

  • NJ COVID
  • Resources for Managing Traumatic Stress
  • Sesame Street in Communities 
  • Resources For Parents and Caregivers
  • Food Access
  • Financial Resources

Family Resource Network | Contact: 800-372-6510, Fax: (609) 392-5621

Resources: 

  • Applied Behavior Analysis
  • Individual Support 
  • Increase Accessibility
  • Home Independence
  • Scholarship Programs
  • Training & In-service Self Advocacy Training
  • Vocational Services
  • After-School Program
  • Network Support Services

Foodbank of Monmouth & Ocean County Fulfill | Contact: 732-918-26000 or main@fulfillnj.org

Resources: 

  • Tax refund Assistance
  • Providing Food
  • Kids Feeding Program
  • Culinary Training
  • Mobile Pantries
  • Affordable Healthcare

Health Research and Educational Trust of New Jersey | Contact: 609-275-4000 

Resources: 

  • ACCME Academy-find course, resources, support tools, and a community of
  • practice. 
  • Advancing Social Justice Resources
  • Educational Design Resources
  • Research Opportunities

HOPES Community-action Partnership Incorporated | Contact: 855-654-6737

Resources: 

  • Infant Head start Program
  • Adult Financial Literacy Workshop
  • Seniors Assisted
  • Transportation Program

Lakewood Resource and Referral Center | Contact: 732-942-9292

Resources: 

  • Affordable Housing
  • assistance
  • Community Education
  • Vaccination awareness

New jersey Citizen Action Educational Fund | Contact: 973-643-8800

Resources: 

  • Free Tax Preparation
  • Financial Coaching
  • Fair Houses Services
  • Consumer’s education

New Jersey Shares | Contact: 609-883-1626 or info@njshares.com

Resources: 

  • NJ Shares Energy Grant
  • Municipal Water Newark & Parsippany- Troy Hills
  • Aqua Aid Program
  • Verizon NJ communications
  • Lifeline Program

Newark Community Health Centers Inc | Contact:  800-994-6242

Resources: 

  • Women’s Health Program
  • Dental Program
  • Behavioral Health Program
  • Specialty Services
  • Pediatric Program

North Hudson Community Action Corporation | Contact: 201-210-0200

Resources: 

  • Program administration
  • Pregnant Woman
  • Parent Family Community
  • engagement
  • Educational Program

Planned Parenthood of Northern, Central and southern New Jersey Inc. | Contact: 800-230-7526

Resources: 

  • Free STD testing
  • HIV Testing and Counseling
  • Cancer Screening
  • Abortion

Southern Jersey Family Medical Centers Inc. | Contact:  609-567-0200

Resources: 

  • Behavioral Health
  • Migrant Health
  • Patient Support Services
  • Women’s Health care

St. James Health Inc. | Contact:  973-789-8111

Resources: 

  • Family Planning
  • Geriatrics
  • Prevention, screening
  • Pharmacy Services
  • Social Work
  • Sports Medicine

The Oranges ACA Navigator Project Inc. | Contact: 973-500-6031

Resources: 

  • NJ Family Care Covered Services
  • Doctor Visits
  • Eyeglasses
  • Prescriptions
  • Mental Health Services
  • Immunizations 

University Hospital | Contact:  (973) 972-4300

Resources: 

  • Specialized Services
  • Diversity & Inclusion
  • LGBTQ training resources
  • Billing and Financial Counseling

Urban League of Hudson County | Contact:  201-451-8888

Resources: 

  • Affordable Housing & Community development
  • After school Computer learning
  • Child & Adult Care food program
  • Child Care
  • CEO Program

Zufall Health Center | Contact: 973-328-9100 or info@zufallhealth.org

Resources:

  • Covid Testing/ Info
  • Community Programs
  • Outreach Programs
  • Dental Services
  • Patient Support

Enrollment for 2021 coverage remains open through the end of the year through the COVID-19 Special Enrollment Period. Additionally, residents who qualify for NJ FamilyCare (New Jersey’s Medicaid and Children’s Health Insurance Program) can enroll year-round. More information on health insurance options can be found at GetCovered.NJ.gov

Education is key to breast cancer prevention in Latina women

October marks Breast Cancer Awareness Month, an annual international health campaign to increase awareness of the disease and raise funds for research into its cause, prevention, diagnosis, treatment, and cure. 

Overall, breast cancer is the most common non-skin cancer amongst women worldwide. Among Hispanic women, it is the most commonly diagnosed cancer and the leading cause of death, with an estimated 3,200 deaths in 2018 according to a Cancer.org fact sheet. Additionally, there were an estimated 24,000 cases of Hispanic women diagnosed in 2018. 

Breast Cancer education and prevention for Latinas

Latinas are warriors and champions in everything they do, from being successful entrepreneurs to battling cancer, the Latina spirit always perseveres through adversity. Organizations such as Latinas Contra Cancer and ALAS-WINGS were created by Latina cancer survivors with the mission to help other women through education, resources, and support. 

Education is one of the key prevention measures against breast cancer. While breast cancer is the leading cause of death among Hispanic women, they still exhibit 25-30% lower overall mortality rates compared to non-Hispanic white women. 

In fact, studies have shown that the risk of breast cancer is even lower in those who are foreign-born. This is attributed to many cultural factors such as younger age at first birth, less use of menopausal hormone therapy, higher rates of breastfeeding, and different diets. 

The biggest issue facing Hispanic women when it comes to breast cancer is early detection and diagnosis. Breast cancer is less likely to be diagnosed at the earliest stage in Hispanic women compared to non-Hispanic white women. 

According to data provided by Cancer.org, in 2005-2009, 56% of breast cancers among Hispanic women were diagnosed at a local stage, compared to 64% among non-Hispanic white women. Due to later detection, Hispanic women are more likely to be diagnosed with tumors that are larger and are hormone receptor negative, which are more difficult to treat. 

Additionally, Hispanic women are less likely to receive regular mammography screening due to a variety of factors. These factors include difficulties related to access to care, insurance coverage, and a higher prevalence of unmet healthcare needs

Latinas Contra Cancer is working to address these factors by raising awareness about cancer in the Latino community, increasing access to quality care, working to decrease mortality and improving the quality of the health care experience. Their mission is to create an inclusive health care system that provides services to the underserved Latino population around issues of breast and other cancers.  

You might be interested: Marcela Berland, a pioneer in working from home, combines work and maternity

Reducing risk factors through lifestyle changes 

While there are some risk factors such as age, genetics, and family history that cannot be changed, there are many risk factors that can be prevented through lifestyle changes. 

Some of these manageable risk factors include diet and exercise, weight management, alcohol consumption, menopausal hormone treatment, and breastfeeding habits. 

By adapting a health-conscious lifestyle, many risk factors may be prevented. Above all, continued education and awareness will help women make informed decisions about their health and contribute to the prevention and early detection of breast cancer. 

For additional resources visit: 

Cancer.org 

Latinas Contra Cancer

ALAS-WINGS 

NationalBreastCancer.Org

Fatigue, brain fog, joint pain? You may be suffering from long-Covid

Asymptomatic Covid-19 and “long-Covid” are becoming a greater concern as many may be suffering from the virus without even knowing. 

Asymptomatic Covid and long-Covid have been flying under the radar however, the affects of both should not be overlooked. It’s estimated that 1 in 3 people who have Covid-19 are asymptomatic. Asymptomatic Covid is more likely to occur in healthy and younger age groups, including children and in households where another member has contracted Covid. Individuals who have been in contact with others who have tested positive for the virus but do not display symptoms after contact could be asymptomatic. 

Additionally, about a fifth of asymptomatic individuals went on to develop what has been termed “long-Covid,” according to an analysis by FAIR Health. Current research suggests older individuals are more likely to contract long Covid, but it has been found in many younger individuals as well. Data from a study conducted by King’s College London found that 1-2% of people in their 20s who had the virus would develop long Covid. For people in their 60s that number increased to about 5%. Long-Covid has also been found to be twice as common among women according to the BBC. 

Photo by Liza Summer from Pexels

What is long-Covid and how does it affect the body? 

Long-Covid is characterized by symptoms continuing for more than 12 weeks after infection which cannot be explained by another cause. Those who contracted Covid and were asymptomatic may not even know they are suffering from long-Covid afterwards. 

“There’s a myth out there that it only occurs with severe COVID, and obviously it occurs far more frequently in mild COVID,” said Eric Topol, founder and director of the Scripps Research Translational Institute, in an article with National Geographic

Many symptoms of long-Covid are often overlooked or written off as unrelated making the syndrome hard to pin down. Long-Covid can include a large range of symptoms such as pain, breathing difficulties, fatigue, brain fog, dizziness, sleep disturbance, and hypertension.

These symptoms can range from mild to severe and can impact your daily life, making ordinary tasks more difficult, and in extreme cases can lead to debilitating effects such as hallucinations, skin conditions, short-term memory loss, insomnia, hearing and vision changes, and gastro-intestinal problems.

Other symptoms according to the CDC, include: 

  • Cough
  • Joint pain
  • Chest pain
  • Memory, concentration or sleep problems
  • Muscle pain or headache
  • Fast or pounding heartbeat
  • Loss of smell or taste
  • Depression or anxiety
  • Fever
  • Worsened symptoms after physical or mental activities

The potential debilitating effects of long-Covid is cause for concern and individuals should keep an eye out for any changes to their health, even if they do not believe they have contracted Covid-19.

You might be interested: Brain fog can be alerting you about these medical conditions

Diagnosing and treating long-Covid 

While the cause of long-Covid is not yet known, experts theorize that the infection may make some people’s immune systems “go into overdrive,” attacking other parts of the body while combating the virus. 

Another theory presented in a BBC article stated that “fragments of the virus could remain in the body, possibly lying dormant and then becoming reactivated.” However, there is little evidence to support this theory at the moment.

The range of long-Covid’s symptoms has made it difficult to detect and treat. BBC reported that a study conducted by University College London found “200 symptoms affecting 10 organ systems in people with long Covid.”

According to Melissa Pinto, associate professor in the Sue & Bill Gross School of Nursing at University of California Irvine, researchers found that some people who tested positive for Covid-19 but hadn’t reported symptoms at the time of infection  later came in with symptoms associated with long-Covid. 

Photo by cottonbro from Pexels

In diagnosing long-Covid, researchers and medical professionals must first test for any other underlying or preexisting conditions that may be causing symptoms.

Ann Parker, assistant professor of medicine at Johns Hopkins and a specialist in post-acute COVID-19 care, said, “When a patient comes to see us, we do a very thorough evaluation because we still don’t know exactly what to attribute to COVID and what might be a pre-existing underlying syndrome. The last thing I want to have happen is to say to a patient, yes, this is because you had COVID and miss something else that we could have addressed.”

We are only just beginning to understand the effects of long-Covid and how to detect and treat it. With so much still unknown, it is important for individuals who have contracted Covid-19 to continue monitoring their health even after recovery. For those who may have been asymptomatic, you may not even know you had Covid or have long-Covid. In this case, individuals who have been in contact with people who tested positive for the virus should consider getting tested even if no symptoms are present.