Monday, November 11, 2013

Zombies, Run!

Couch potatoes of the world, you have met your match.  What if your survival depended on your ability to outrun (or out-walk) a zombie horde?  What if exercise could be (gasp) not only fun but an entertaining adrenaline rush?

The "Zombies, Run" app* defies easy description - it tracks your pace and miles, it's an engrossing and well-acted story, and every now and then you'll have to run for your life to escape the zombies!  One of the residents mentioned it to me a few weeks ago, and I was hooked after the first time I tried it.  Three days a week, now, I put on my running shoes, put in my headphones, open the app, and tap on my next mission.  I set it to track my miles using GPS (outside) or accelerometer (treadmill), choose my playlist, and enable or disable zombie chases (more on that in a sec).  I then become "Runner 5," essential to the survival of the human race after a zombie apocalypse.  I run for medical supplies, ammunition, even rescue small children, all while the app's incredibly sophisticated story arc unfolds.  And, if I enabled those zombie chases, I will randomly hear "warning - zombies approaching" at times, after which I must either speed up by 20% for 60 seconds or drop my supplies to distract the zoms and get away.

This app is a blast.  I look forward to hearing what is going to happen next in the story as soon as I finish each mission.  The app design is very smart; you can't lose (if the zoms catch you, you just drop your stuff as above and the story continues), the characters frequently say encouraging things ("that's a great pace, Runner 5!"), the scenes mix with your own music**, and you can run or walk for whatever length of time you want (just stop the mission wherever you are and you can pick it up next time).  I am not a fan of horror or scary anything, and this story has just enough of an adrenaline rush for my taste without completely creeping me out (though I don't recommend running late at night with it...or maybe that's just me...).

As I was out saving the world this morning, I realized that I need to tell my patients about this app.  It's the perfect antidote to "boring" exercise, after all.  Prescribing apps is mainstream these days (check out Table 3 in the hyperlink), and apparently, patients want us to prescribe them more often .  So, I'm going to look for opportunities to discuss "Zombies, Run" with my patients this week, and I'll let you know how it goes.

After all, you never know when you might need to outrun a horde of zombies.

* Available for Apple and Android. The sequel, "Zombies, Run 2," is what I actually use (and is the hyperlink above) - all of the missions from the original "Zombies, Run" app but a 2nd season, tracks for races, and more.  And, at least as of this writing, it's 50% off right now...

** Jen's "Zombies, Run" playlist:
Muse's Absolution album
Survival (Muse)
Uprising (Muse)
Madness (Muse again - yes, Muse is the perfect zombie-running soundtrack!)
Help I'm Alive (Metric)
Another Way to Die (Jack White & Alicia Keys)
Awake and Alive (Skillet)
Never Surrender (Skillet)
The Great Escape (Boys Like Girls)
Save Our City (Ludo)
Battle Cry (Ludo)
New Way to Bleed (Evanescence)
Whisper (Evanescence)
Bring Me to Life (Evanescence)
Thank You for the Venom (My Chemical Romance)
Heaven Help Us (My Chemical Romance)
Breath (Breaking Benjamin)
Until the End (Breaking Benjamin)
Run (Addison Road)
I Just Wanna Run (The Downtown Fiction)

Tuesday, November 5, 2013

Punishing non-vaccinators isn't the answer

A resident sent me this article a few days ago and asked for my opinion:
(apparently this is turning into a regular occurence!)

If you don't have Medscape access, it's basically calling for unvaccinators to be liable if they, or their unvaccinated child, makes someone ill.  While I am strongly in favor of vaccinations (and have written about my ire re: influenza myths before), I fear that this stance may be taking things too far.  Here's what I wrote back:
Vaccination is a victim of its own success; because we rarely see measles, or mumps, or polio in the US anymore, it doesn’t feel like a real risk to many people.  Compare that to the 1960s, when millions of children were in iron lungs fighting for their lives with polio – and people lined up with their children for hours for Dr. Salk’s then-experimental polio vaccine!  
I’m a little uncomfortable with the idea of punishing non-vaccinators.  Most of these non-vaccinators want to do what is right for themselves and their families, and they’re confused about the mixed messages that they're hearing about vaccine safety.  They've been put in a very difficult spot by Jenny McCarthy,  the now discredited Andrew Wakefield, and other villains of the anti-vaccine crusade.  Given that most of the diseases that we vaccinate against are rarely seen, I can see why someone would decide to “play it safe” by avoiding the risks that they have heard so much about when the risk of disease (“perceived susceptibility”according to the Health Belief Model) is very low. 
Remember, most people are rational actors – they make choices that make sense according to their knowledge, beliefs, and surrounding social norms.  Punishing people who don’t have medical degrees and have done their best to choose wisely for themselves and their families with these confusing, contradictory viewpoints will not help increase vaccination rates.
What would help, in my humble opinion, is1) publicizing outbreaks of these diseases in the world and in the US - when’s the last time that you heard about the pertussis outbreak in the US, for example, and how it’s killing infants?  why isn’t this front page news???  or the poliooutbreak in Syria?  some vivid pictures and stats would help put these diseases back into the public’s consciousness.
2) having a greater number of intelligent voices decrying Ms. McCarthy, Wakefield, etc.  they are using all of their energy to denounce vaccination, while docs have to divide their energy among countless issues in our office.  We need some public personas to publicly shift the debate.
 I'm not convinced that the blame game is going to solve undervaccination in the US.