Are healthy and unhealthy habits contagious? Can a person’s friends and families influence his or her risk of disease?A new study from Harvard-affiliated Brigham and Women’s Hospital (BWH) reports an association between the habits of people connected to a participant and that person’s self-reported level of neurological disability. The findings help lay important groundwork by developing and making accessible scalable tools to allow clinical researchers to assess social networks in a quantifiable way.The results are published online today in Nature Communications.“We find that there’s a strong relationship between the health habits of people in a patient’s social network and outcomes that are of interest to physicians who specialize in multiple sclerosis [MS],” said lead author Amar Dhand, a neurologist in the Department of Neurology at BWH and assistant professor of neurology at Harvard Medical School. “This relationship must not be ignored when considering an individual with neurological disabilities. We need to ask, ‘Is this person’s risk based solely on their biology, or is it influenced by the healthy or unhealthy lifestyles of those around them?’”Dhand and colleagues developed a social network-assessment tool that can be applied to any patient population. To test it, they used the tool to measure the social networks of 1,493 people at risk of multiple sclerosis. To assess their neurological disability, participants were asked to report on several abilities, including walking, using arms and hands, vision, speaking clearly, swallowing, cognition, sensation, and bowel and bladder function. “We need to ask, ‘Is this person’s risk based solely on their biology, or is it influenced by the healthy or unhealthy lifestyles of those around them?’” — Amar Dhand Using data from a cohort of participants in the federally funded Genes and Environment in Multiple Sclerosis (GEMS) Project, the team plotted a montage of each participant’s social network. They found that the average network consisted of eight people who were densely linked. The team also plotted the milieu of health habits around each participant, including exercise, smoking, and seeing a doctor. They found that the health habits of a person’s friends and family were strongly associated with the participant’s self-reported neurological dysfunction, and the percent of network members who had a negative health influence had the strongest association with disability.While it’s still early for the GEMS Project cohort — participants have been enrolled in the study for less than five years — Dhand and colleagues plan to continue assessing the relationship between participants’ social networks as well as genetic risk and other environmental factors in the development of MS symptoms.“We hypothesize that there is a link between social networks and neuro-immunological function, and, downstream, we plan to look at what social network features are related to disease susceptibility,” said Dhand.Funding for this work was provided by National Institutes of Health grants K23HD083489, K08NS079493, and National Multiple Sclerosis Society RG-5003-A-2. The authors declare no competing interests.
In order to promote female entrepreneurship, Saint Mary’s College created the Women’s Entrepreneurial Initiative (WEI), a program designed to assist current female-owned and operated small businesses and create an interest in entrepreneurship among women, Susan Vance, senior project director for WEI and professor at the College said.In order to help execute the program, the College hired Martha Smith, a local business owner and program director for WEI. Smith has first-hand experience in entrepreneurship.Vance said she hopes the program will become a helpful resource for local businesses.Smith also wants to see the program reach out to female entrepreneurs.“[I hope the program will] provide a forum or a home for businesswomen to come and network and obtain resources and information to run a smoother operation if they already have a business,” Smith said.Smith said she also wanted to see WEI create an interest in owning a business within the College community.According to Vance, the College was awarded a $245,000 Small Business Administration two-year grant to support WEI in October 2009. Since that time the College has worked to aid local female business owners.Vance said the program has a two-part focus.“One part is externally, in the community, we want to be really viewed as the go-to place,” Vance said. “If you’re a woman and you want to start a small business or you want to launch a small business we want you to think about Saint Mary’s as the first place to go to.”Vance said the second part of the program was to focus on educating students about entrepreneurship.“We also are very interested in our Saint Mary’s women as well,” she said. “So what we want to do is engage the Saint Mary’s women with those women within the community, those women business owners. Also in addition to that we want to get students excited about starting their own businesses.”During the Spring 2010 semester, WEI offered a Small Business Consulting course where teams of students were paired with local female-owned companies. During the partnerships, students worked to create plans for better efficiency for the companies.According to Smith, one team of students was able to help a company create better efficiency with a computer program.Smith said Saint Mary’s senior Kathleen Mills was able to simplify a major computer issue at Nicholas J Salon and Spa in South Bend.Smith said Mills and her team of three other students were able to transform a computer task that originally took five hours into a 30 second job.“There was a success story, one of the students solved a problem for a local business owner. [The company] had asituation with the computers and it was taking them five hours to do a job,” Smith said.Smith owns two businesses of her own — a mini storage unit company and a textile company. Both businesses are in the Michiana area. According to Vance, Smith is a valuable asset to the program because she has the capabilities to assist in reaching out to the Latina women interested in entrepreneurship.“I can relate to other women business owners,” Smith said. “I sort of feel their pain and there’s a kinship.”Vance said the College has created a new course that will be supported by the grant. The New Ventures course will allow groups of students to create their own business. Vance will be teaching the course. Students will be responsible for creating their product or service, marketing it to the local community and running the company. Students will be required to take the course for two semesters, and at the end of the second semester they will create an exit strategy and close their company.The money that students have earned from their business will go towards paying of the start-up loan they received at the beginning of the course. After they have paid off their loan, students will donate the money to local charities.Vance said New Ventures will be offered for the first time during the Fall 2010 and Spring 2011 semesters.
Sign up for our COVID-19 newsletter to stay up-to-date on the latest coronavirus news throughout New York Funeral arrangements have been set for the slain NYPD officer from Massapequa who died Monday after he was shot in the head by an alleged gunman in Queens Village.A wake will be held at Chapey & Sons Funeral Home in Bethpage for Officer Brian Moore on Thursday from 2 p.m. to 4:30 p.m. and 7 p.m. to 9:30 p.m. The fallen officer’s funeral is scheduled for 11 a.m. at St. James Roman Catholic Church in Seaford on Friday.Police said Moore, 25, a member of the 105th Precinct’s anti-crime team, was shot in the head Saturday allegedly by 35-year-old Demetrius Blackwell while on patrol in the vicinity of 212th Street and 104th Ave.Blackwell, an ex-con who previously spent five years in prison for attempted murder, was initially charged with first-degree attempted murder, but the charges are likely to be upgraded to first-degree murder after Moore succumbed to his injuries Monday.Officer Moore and his partner were both in plainclothes and sitting inside an unmarked patrol car when they spotted Blackwell “adjusting an object in his waistband,” in the Queens Village section of South Queens at 6:15 p.m. Saturday, NYPD Commissioner Bill Bratton said.Moore, the driver, pulled up behind Blackwell and inquired about his actions, Bratton said. That’s when police said Blackwell allegedly turned toward the officers and fired several shots, striking Officer Moore in the head.“Both officers were still seated in the vehicle and did not have an opportunity to get out or return fire,” Bratton said. Moore has been described as a dedicated officer born into a police family. Both his father and uncle are retired NYPD sergeants and he has a cousin who is also a police officer, officials said.“Officer Moore did God’s work, like his father and his uncle before him,” Bratton said Monday. “He was doing God’s work when he confronted a felon. He was doing it when he was struck down. He did it to prevent crime and disorder, and to keep the community free from fear. He did it to make New York City safer and fairer.”Nassau County police released a statement late Monday expressing “its deepest regret and sadness” over Moore’s death.Gov. Andrew Cuomo Tuesday ordered flags on all state government buildings to be flown at half-staff in memory of the slain officer and Nassau County Executive Ed Mangano ordered flags at half-staff on county buildings through June 2.“Like so many of his brothers and sisters in uniform, Officer Moore served with selflessness and courage, and he will be greatly missed,” Cuomo said.