Living Well

It has been a big media week for me!

First off, I had an article published in Communication World Magazine: 5 Ways to Make Your Mobile Marketing Work Harder. That was obviously on the work front; thanks to our PR agency Denterlein for lining up the opportunity.

Karen and StephanieOn the personal front...I made my television debut! My friend Karen Fabian (pictured with me at left) has launched a fantastic new program on the Boston Neighborhood Network called Living Well. In it, she's putting her 25 years of healthcare and healthy living experience to work in order to bring the people of Boston (and beyond) information and inspiration for better health.

The first show airs tomorrow (Friday, June 5th) and the series will have segments on various topics including nutrition, stretching, meditation, technology and health, inspirational stories and activities and actions we can all take to stay healthy. While Karen will present various segments, guests will include teachers, physicians, nutritionists, community leaders, researchers, business leaders, yoga teachers, coaches and others making an impact in the health and wellness industry.

I was so honored to be included in the premiere episode of Living Well, on which Karen asked me to share a bit about my experience with breast cancer


Behind the ScenesIt was so fun to watch the taping of the entire show, including segments with:

Jose Masso, Director of Active Living and Wellness for the City of Boston (pictured above and at right with Karen) discussing the HealthyBoston/ #BostonMoves initiatives;

Yoga instructor Victoria Smith demonstrating stretches for the back; and

Yoga instructor Barrett Reinhorn sharing information on having a healthy pregnancy

Karen also launched a Living Well Twitter Challenge to get at-home viewers involved; simply use the hashtag  ‪#‎livingwellbnn‬ to share your ideas for living well, follow show updates, and/or pose questions for Karen or her guests.

The show will air Fridays at 7am on the Boston Neighborhood Network (Channel 9 Comcast or Channel 15 RCN for viewers in Boston) and via live streaming for those outside of Boston at

It will also be available on the BNN YouTube channel, as well as Karen's Bare Bones Yoga channel for on-demand viewing, any time!


And before I sign off, I have to comment on the building that houses the Boston Neighborhood Network - the former MBTA Power Station in Egleston Square, which BNN purchased in 2005 and rehabilitated into a state-of-the-art media center that opened in 2007. They did a marvelous job maintaining the soaring arched windows, iron beams, and old pulley systems inside.














The mission and vision of BNN itself is also worth a read; it's a wonderful resource for the city of Boston. I hope you'll tune in.



Can the Media Help Fix Health Care?

Martha BebingerI work with a variety of healthcare brands in my day job, so when the MGH Institute of Health Professionals and the Upsilon Lambda Chapter of Sigma Theta Tau International (Honor Society of Nursing) hosted a talk entitled "Can the Media Help Fix Health Care?" at their campus in the Charlestown Navy Yard recently, I was eager to attend.

Award-wining WBUR health reporter Martha Bebinger (right) led the discussion among an audience of mostly clinicians that highlighted several key issues that healthcare providers and marketers need to consider.

1) Shopping for health insurance isn’t – and may never be – like shopping for traditional consumer goods.

We talk about this a lot with our clients at PARTNERS+simons, particularly on website redesign projects. While it’s true that consumer expectations for how to shop from and engage with a business are being set by large, consumer brands (e.g., Amazon, Zappos, Apple), the reality is that shopping for insurance is a fundamentally different type of purchase. Access to price and quality data is spotty at best, and the ability to customize or configure products is limited by the regulatory environment. Add to that the complex nature of the product itself, the perceived low value for the money, and shoppers with a 12% health literacy rate, and you can see that this is much different from shopping for books, shoes or cell phones.

On her CommonHealth blog this week, Bebinger shared “The 26 Steps I Took To (Try To) Comparison Shop For A Bone Density Test.” She simply wanted to compare prices for this exam at three different labs, and she failed, because despite the hope of transparency promised by the ACA, cost data is not easily accessible (if at all) and requires consumers to wrangle with a myriad of websites, phone calls, and industry speak like “CPT Codes” (the Current Procedural Terminology used to designate a procedure).

Likewise, quality and safety data is difficult to find and assess, as there are no industry standards on how to measure or report it. Outcomes can vary widely depending on the procedure, the precision of the machine, the experience of the people administering the procedure/test, and the body being tested. There is no industry standard that accounts for these variables.

We need to create a culture where it is ok to collect and use these kinds of measures, and Bebinger is hopeful that by covering experiences like her own in the media, we will start moving in that direction.

2) Health Plans need to revamp their phone, web, and mobile experiences to begin to address these challenges.

MA law requires managed care health insurance carriers to “establish a toll-free telephone number and website whereby insured members can obtain the estimated or maximum allowed charge and the out-of-pocket cost that the insured member shall be responsible to pay for a proposed admission, procedure or service” within 2 business days of requesting it. Harvard Pilgrim members can use a tool called NowiKnow to shop for care, Tufts Health Plan says it will launch its own online shopping tool, EmpowerMe, in July, and BCBSMA says it, too, will have an online shopping tool ready for October when insurers are supposed to be able to give patients requested prices in real time. Nationally, Aetna has figured out how to do it.

WBUR runs an online community called Healthcare Savvy designed for patients trying to figure out how to shop for healthcare. At the time of this writing, it was suffering it’s own technical difficulties.

3) It is critical that we use the language of the public, and find ways they can personally relate to our products and services.

As a journalist, Bebinger spends a lot of time translating healthcare topics into language that the general public can (and wants to) understand. She urges healthcare practitioners, legislators, and marketers to get off of the system level and down to the patient level. The cost, quality, and safety measures mentioned above are 3 major disconnects with consumers not only because of lack of availability but also because consumers don’t understand how to read/evaluate them when they are available.

Similarly, NPs confess that they are “caught in the medical model,” using the coding technology and limited by time constraints that don’t support their holistic model. They are hopeful that the switch from fee for service to outcomes-based billing will help the situation, but they have not seen any real changes on this front yet.

Bebinger doubts that healthy people will ever see enough value in these policies to pay for them, especially if we keep talking about them the way we do. She cited cases wherepeople were gaming the system (signing up for coverage in time to get a specific medical procedure and then drop it) and noted the 15% of enrollees who failed to make their second payment were responsible for 70% of the costs.

She urged the audience to present their messages/stories in a way that makes it personal for the reader/listener (and acknowledged this is the best way to pitch her a story). “Scope of Practice” isn’t a phrase that patients know or care about, but hearing a specific success story about a person’s experience with their NP (backed up with sufficient data) may get them to pay attention. This theme of telling human stories and finding ways to emotionally connect with people, was very consistent throughout the talk.

Lastly, Journalists need to steer clear of creating alarm (e.g., “death panels”), reporting errors, and not having the courage to explore the stories that are difficult to tell.

4) As scope of practice rules begin to change, there is an opportunity to educate consumers on alternative care options.

There’s still a lot of speculation around whether the ACA will create a shortage of Primary Care Physicians as predicted. Regardless of that outcome, people don’t currently understand the roles of Nurse Practitioners and Physicians Assistants and how they could support broader coverage.

The AMA and other medical societies have been pushing back on expanded scope of practice to NPs. As it stands, scope of practice is currently determined at a state level, with some states being very liberal (NH allows NPs to run their own practices) while others are not (AL doesn’t allow NPs to write a script). Unfortunately, the ACA doesn’t address this.

The fact is, there is no variation in how NPs are trained from state-to-state, and the healthcare system has become so complex that NPs now get more education than they did in the past. Nursing organizations want the public to know that NPs provide affordable, safe, high-quality outcomes; is there a role that the media can play so that the general public will be more accepting of these options?  The Robert Wood Johnson Foundation is currently doing a study comparing NP expanded scope of practice with outcomes that will hopefully support their case. There have been studies in the past showing that NPs have better outcomes with chronic disease management cases than MDs because they take a more holistic approach, but it hasn’t been widely publicized.

Overall, it was a really interesting conversation from both a professional standpoint and a personal one, as health care - and health reform -  affects all of us.


Much has been written about happiness - what it is, how to find it, how to maintain it. It's something I often think about (even more so as I get older) and occasionally write about here. So a few posts on the topic caught my eye this week:

French philosopher Albert Camus was born 100 years ago Nov 7, and Maria Popova over at Brainpickings took the opportunity to reflect back on his writings. She notes that we have become so singularly focused on the pursuit of happiness that we often overlook the fact that "unhappiness can have its own dignity and can tell us as much, if not more, about who we are than happiness." Or, as Camus himself tried to convey, the notion that we can live with a dualism:

"I can accept periods of unhappiness, because I know I will also experience happiness to come."

In a related post, Maria shares some great tips for finding your center as you try to integrate work and life, mind and spirit. Here's a snippet (and one I think is particularly important not only to creativity but to happiness in general):

#4 Build pockets of stillness into your life. Meditate. Go for walks. Ride your bike going nowhere in particular. There is a creative purpose to daydreaming, even to boredom. The best ideas come to us when we stop actively trying to coax the muse into manifesting and let the fragments of experience float around our unconscious mind in order to click into new combinations. Without this essential stage of unconscious processing, the entire flow of the creative process is broken.

This month also marks what would have been Kurt Vonnegut's 91st birthday, and Huffington Post published a post on what Vonnegut can teach us about life, gleaned from his novels (like the importance of laughter, kindness, and standing up for what you believe in).  I like this one in particular:

Art can be therapeutic: Practicing an art, no matter how well or badly, is a way to make your soul grow, for heaven's sake. Sing in the shower. Dance to the radio. Tell stories. Write a poem to a friend, even a lousy poem. Do it as well as you possible can. You will get an enormous reward. You will have created something.

Lastly, there's an interesting discussion thread about What Has Life Taught You going on over on Quora. Check it out.

I think it's the end of the year that gets us thinking about this, as we take stock of their lives, consider what we're thankful for, and make plans for the new year.

What is it that makes you happy?

Southie sunset
Sunset over South Boston | Nov 14, 2013

Related: Getting Off the Hedonic Treadmill (a timeless - and timely - post from 2005)

Blue Crush

Each morning we surf at Playa Hermosa, the beach next to our resort. Incidentally, Giselle Bundchen has a house here (we can see it from the beach) and surfs here about 4 times a year. The only drawback is we were told not to bring our cameras (lest we tempt passers-by with unattended, expensive items), so I can't take any photos of us surfing. Note to future visitors: bring a disposable camera for this purpose. There will be a professional photographer there later this week to capture the action. Until then, I'll leave you with this:

Blue Crush

The Walkstation

I need this. Seriously.

The Walkstation is an electric, height adjustable work station attached to a commercial grade treadmill with a maximum speed of 2 miles per hour, allowing office workers to burn up to 100 calories per hour.

It's the first in a series of FitWork™ products designed to get sedentary office workers moving.

As the holidays are approaching, this looks like a much better option than the hedonic treadmill :)

[via Trendwatching]

Mmmm...Camel Milk

Move over, Coconut Water. There's a new drink in town: Camel Milk.

A centuries-old staple in the Middle East and Africa, the drink has been called "liquid gold" for its healing and nutritional qualities (some even say it's an aphrodisiac). Camel milk has three times as much vitamin C as cow's milk and contains high amounts of iron, unsaturated fatty acids and B vitamins.

It hasn't been widely available in the US, mainly because camels aren't listed in the rules governing the sale of milk here (which apparently cover "milk coming from hooved mammals" - and camels don't have hooves). And also because there aren't a lot of camels here. And they don't like to be milked. CamelMIlkUSA

But that hasn't stopped Dr. Millie Hinkle, a NC-based holistic health practitioner, from creating Camel Milk USA, a company "devoted to the research, development, sales, and promotion of camel milk and camel milk products in the US."

She also founded the American Camel Coalition, an organization composed of camel owners and breeders here in the U.S. People like Larry Seigal of Ferncroft Farms, a breeder of rare white Dromedary and Bactrian camels (and, interestingly enough: French Bulldogs!!).

Camelbox500 They're all hoping to replicate the success of foreign camel dairies, like Dubai's Emirates Industries for Camel Milk & Products, which sells camel milk and camel-milk chocolate under the brand "Camelicious" - purported to be the Godiva of the Middle East. But the drink hasn't yet been FDA-approved here at home, so for now you'll have to settle for Hinkle's logo products, or take a trip abroad. Or, you could always buy your own camel.

Social Media Overload

Remember this?


It's the Twitter Curve created by Kathy Sierra back in 2006 (referenced again here in 2007) and included in a fascinating blog post about the growth of communications channels leading to continuous partial attention, to the detriment of mankind. An excerpt:

Moore's law for the brain doesn't quite work. We're evolving much, much, much too slowly... Brain 2.0 isn't coming anytime soon. And we're all feeling the enormous weight of not being able to keep up. We can't keep up with work. We can't keep up with our social life. We can't keep up with the industry, our hobbies, our families. We can't keep up with current events. We'll never read a fraction of those books on our list. And we are hurting. Worst of all, this onslaught is keeping us from doing the one thing that makes most of us the happiest... being in flow. Flow requires a depth of thinking and a focus of attention that all that context-switching prevents.

I hadn't thought about Kathy's visual in months; that is, until I saw this image making the rounds on the 'Net last week:

For the uninitiated, the letters used in making the above ransom-esque note are pulled from the most popular new media sites & tools (Twitter, YouTube, Facebook, Yahoo!, Gmail, eBay, Blogger, Flickr). The creator, to my knowledge, remains unknown.

But really, it could be any of us. Two years have passed since Kathy so keenly hit on the issue (and dozens of others have as well), and the problem only seems to have gotten worse.

Here's a peek into my world [which will hopefully shed light onto why my responses to some of you are so tardy...and my blog posts of late, fewer & farther apart]:

  • Current browser tabs open: 9 (that's pretty typical for me, I would say)
  • Yahoo! Inbox: 12,697 messages. I just checked and the oldest go back to 2003. This is from a time when I had all industry newsletters, retail promotions, and personal mail going to one account. I've since made this my personal-mail-only account, and generally keep up with those messages, but there are a lot of legacy ones still in there that I [stupidly] think I'll get through some day.
  • Gmail Inbox: 26,722 messages. Silly, I know. But this is where I now get all of my industry newsletters & retail promotions. I really enjoy reading them, I simply just can't keep up. So the volume continues to grow and grow (hooray for all that free storage!)
  • Hootsuite: 2 Twitter accounts (personal + professional) and 486 others that I follow (collectively)
  • LinkedIn: about 100 messages in the inbox; nevermind the live update feeds & discussions.
  • Facebook: 113 messages in the inbox; again, little time or energy for the live feed.
  • Netvibes Homepage: 94 RSS feeds from an assortment of sources - mainstream publishers like WSJ and NYTimes, as well as local sources and friends that blog. These guys have been getting the least attention of late (sorry!)

There's also, of course, the work email account, text messages on the phone (my new T-Mobile/Google Android phone which I LOVE, LOVE, LOVE, even though it feeds into all this craziness), and assorted activity in other accounts like Flickr, IM clients, and my social media graveyard (MySpace, Friendster). How do I manage? Well, I'm an information junkie and obsessed with emerging media, so it's my nature to consume a lot to begin with. The above outline seems out of control, but really I'm continuously scanning the headlines and subject lines and addressing the things of utmost importance [to me]. I also make time to read books, cook, and travel, among other things (lest you think I'm sitting in a dark room, illuminated by the glow of a monitor 20 hours a day).

But even I am noticing the hardship caused by continuous partial attention. It's tiring. And the value:time ratio isn't maybe as strong as it used to be, when following a lot of publishers meant I was always "in the know." Now it just means that I see a lot of the same news, in muliple places (welcome to ReTweet Nation). It's time to cut back, and/or find a trusted digital curator.

Don't get me wrong; I still love the Web and all things emerging media...I just want my life back.

From Writing Boots, channeling Kurt Vonnegut:

Here's a test: Spend one day surfing the Internet and spend another roaming your neighborhood. See how many good dinner table stories you have after each. There won't be a contest.


I've seen references to "LOHAS" twice in as many weeks. So it's time to take a look at what it means:

LOHAS stands for "lifestyles of health and sustainability."

You may not be familiar with the acronym, but you're likely familiar with the concept: it refers to that segment of the population that is looking for balance (in their diets, budgets, lifestyles) and mindfulness (through self help books, yoga practice, or eco-tourism, for example).

And as you can imagine, the LOHAS market represents big business for a variety of products and services related to good health, eco-consciousness, meditation, yoga, and holistic wellness. In fact, it was worth an estimated $209 billion domestically in 2005 — equal to the value of the aerospace industry and more than the food services industry. Last year, Americans spent $5.7 billion on the yoga subset alone — including equipment, clothing, vacations and media — which was an increase of 87% since 2004.  And here's something else of interest: while yoga practitioners may be a relatively small group (~ 7% of US adults), they are a relatively affluent one, with 44% reporting incomes of $75K+ and 24% with$100K+ (read: a marketer's dream).

Today, LOHAS consumers are estimated to account for one-third of the U.S. population (63 million adults) and over $230 billion in sales annually.

Apparently, I'm a Lohasian and I didn't even know it! Here's why:

Yoga I love my yoga practice at Charlestown Yoga. Nothing beats an hour of Hatha Flow after a stressful, desk-bound day in the office.

Ode I recently discovered (and subscribed to) Ode Magazine, a magazine and Web site "written for intelligent optimists” that focuses on ways to sustain "ourselves, our minds, our energy, our planet, our society." In fact, as part of your paid subscription, Ode will plant a tree to help stop global warming.

Source I've raved about The Source to numerous people. It's Dr. Woodson Merrell's guide to integrative medicine, including tips for better eating, exercise, and social connectivity.

And there's probably more.

While I don't consider myself an activist like, say, the other Stephanie Rogers, I would say I'm much more conscious of health and sustainability than I've ever been. And I'd venture to say that the general population is heading there as well.

Watch for the current green marketing fad to shift subtly in order to encompass simplicity and inner wellness for the consumers, not just the environmentally-friendliness of the products.

[Note: I have no affiliation with the above products and services, other than being a happy customer.]

Quorn Meat-free Products

This one's for all my health-food friends.

Many of you know that after reading The Source a few months back (great guide to healthy living, BTW), I've been trying to eat healthier on a regular basis. This includes consuming less red meat and processed foods and more chicken/fish/tofu and fresh fruits & vegetables. The Source actually provides 21 days' worth of recipes to make it easier, and many of them are so good they've become staples in our diet.

So when I received word from BzzAgent that they were launching a campaign for Quorn meat-free products, I took notice. Historically, I've avoided items in the "meat-free" and "meat-alternative" aisles at the grocery store, assuming they'd be tasteless or just plain gross. I tentatively started eating tofu after reading The Source, and still struggle with it bit thanks to the consistency (the only way I really like it is sliced thin and fried in a coconut milk & curry paste, per one of the book's recipes).

But given my newfound resolve to eat healthy, I decided to give Quorn a whirl. And I'm glad I did.

Quorn products are made from mycoprotein, a member of the fungi family (like truffles, morels, and mushrooms), which gives them a tasty, meat-like texture. Mycoprotein is a good source of protein and fiber, and contains less fat, calories, and cholesterol than meat products. Apparently, a diet rich in mycoprotein can help reduce cholesterol and manage the risk of obesity and type-2 diabetes.

Quorn There are 11 different varieties of Quorn products in the frozen food aisle at the store; I went with the Cranberry & Goat Cheese Chik'n Cutlets, figuring the fruit & cheese would offer more flavor than say, the plain Chik'n Cutlets. We popped them in the oven for about 20 minutes and ate them a couple of side dishes. DELICIOUS. 

On my next trip to the store, I purchased the Naked Chik'n Cutlets and the Gruyere Chik'n Cutlets. I cooked the former one morning before work and sliced it into a whole wheat wrap with cheese and mango salsa. YUM. We ate the latter another night after a long day at work, along with some fresh vegetables and potatoes. YUM.

So now I'm sold, and Quorn products are a staple in our diet. I realize we're heading into Memorial Day Weekend - traditionally the domain of steaks, burgers, and hot-dogs on the grill - but give Quorn a try. They are really tasty, and easy to cook - in the oven or on the grill!