March 18, 2010

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Fund drive close to finish line

In a few weeks, The Chestnut Hill Community Fund Drive will come to a close. For the second year in a row, it looks like the drive will meet its goal of raising $100,000.

Each year the community fund drive puts out a broad appeal to the members of the community to raise money for a number of worthy causes — from funding for Meals on Wheels to upkeep for pocket parks and train station gardens.

You see, the Community Fund Drive distributes every dollar raised to community organizations. The money raised goes directly into making the neighborhood better by aiding services that benefit many and maintaining green spaces enjoyed by all.

The remarkable part of this is that these last few years of successful fundraising have come during a time when chartable donations are not easy to come by. People everywhere, no matter what their personal situation, are giving less.

Many contributed to the cause.

Dr. Susan Bray, Dr. John Scanlon of Chestnut Hill Hospital and Jane Piotrowski chaired the drive, overseeing volunteer efforts to solicit donations. Chestnut Hill Hospital lent a big hand by giving a total of $20,000, $10,000 of which will be used for the Pastorius Park Concert series. And, the entire board of the Chestnut Hill Community Association also made contributions

But just as important was the generosity of 585 people who contributed to the fund. It will make Chestnut hill a better place.

There’s still time to contribute: Call Noreen at 215-248-8810.

Luck of the Irish?

The Irish may be known for luck, as we’re so often reminded on St. Patrick’s Day. But they are also well known for biblical suffering. It’s that suffering that comes to mind when reviewing the ongoing saga of Jennifer Zoga and the Good Food Market.

As detailed on page one this week by Jennifer Katz, Zoga is facing yet another obstacle in a violation notice from the city’s Department of Licenses and Inspections. If the department shuts down her deli case, Zoga said she will be forced out of business. Someone, we’re not sure who, is making a federal case out of Zoga’s deli case, phoning in complaints abut the way in which her food is wrapped.

If Zoga is forced to close the market, the reputation of Chestnut Hill will no doubt take a hit the likes of which it hasn’t seen since angry neighbors stopped Napoleon Café from opening on Gravers Lane. If forces in the neighborhood team up to chase out a local resident who’s opened a business that should serve as a model for what Chestnut Hill wants, what will other potential entrepreneurs think?

I’ll tell you what they’ll think. They won’t invest a dime. Few would want to go through what Zoga has gone through this last year. Opening up a local market, owned and operated by local people, should not be a battle. But Zoga’s case appears to be one in which a resident with a business plan and a willingness to invest everything in the neighborhood is given the shaft.

If Chestnut Hill can’t figure out a way for neighbors and businesses to coexist, the vacancy rate of Avenue shops will not improve any time soon. Nor will Chestnut Hill’s reputation.

There’s far more in the balance than the fate of a market.

Pete Mazzaccaro


Commentary: Health care reform talk misses importance of ‘self care’

The long discussion about health care reform by the United States Government omitted what I believe is the most important single issue, the issue that could unite Republicans and Democrats and everybody else, and could result in a system that would work and be affordable. Specifically, it overlooked the fundamental truth that a health care system that works effectively based on good self care.

The primacy of self care could be considered a “Republican” position, emphasizing personal accountability, decentralization, and economy. But the primacy of self care is also a “Democratic” position, which emphasizes that a stress on self care is a sham unless self care is possible, that is, unless people have the facilities to care for themselves.

Many people and decision-makers ignore the realities that a large percentage of citizens of the United States do not know how to care for themselves, and even if they do, many do not have the funds or the facilities to do so.

The “Democratic” position ignores the reality that health is all about self care, and that nobody can be healthy by being cared for; all good health is the result of good self care.

I write you with real urgency, because we have been looking for commonalities Self care is that commonality. Not only is it the commonalty, but it is the whole key to an effective, economical health care system.

Of course doctors want their patients to be healthy, but first of all they want to do well themselves. Of course pharmaceutical companies want to produce products that will improve the health of individual patients and indeed of the world, but that is not their primary motivation. Of course hospitals want to be places where people can come to mend, but first of all they have to pay the bills or else they close. Of course employers want their employees to be healthy so they can come to work and do a good job, but the health of their employees is not their primary interest.

There are only two sectors that have the health of the citizenry as a primary interest. Those two sectors are the government and the individual. The government wants the people to be healthy because, as Disraeli said, the ultimate security of any nation rests in the health of its citizenry. Sick people are less productive and can be destructive to themselves and others. Sick people are costly, because it is far more expensive to take care of a sick, non-productive person than it is to get taxes from an individual who is well and working.

Then, of course, there is the other sector: people really do want to be healthy. Unfortunately, many do not know how. There is in the United States an epidemic of obesity, of diabetes, of emotional illness, of suicide, of homicide, and all of these are directly related to people not knowing how to or not being able to take care of themselves. The life expectancy of the average American is around 77 years, but there are dramatic differences in that depending upon how people live. Those who have emotional illnesses have a life expectancy that is 20 years – repeat, 20 years – less than those who do not. This is not because they have genes that lead to more systemic illnesses. This is because they either do not know how to care for themselves or do not want to care for themselves.

The life expectancy of American citizens is not among the longest in the world. In fact, we are just about average, way below Macau and Scandinavian countries and about the same level as many of the so-called developing nations. The life expectancy in some countries is literally twice as long as it is in others, and the cause of that is not genetics, nor is it even how much money is spent on health care. It is whether individuals know how to care for themselves and can care for themselves.

The United States spends much more money on its health care system than any other country, but we do not have the healthiest citizenry. Canada spends far less, yet life expectancy in Canada is longer. That is not because Canadian doctors are better, or Canadian hospitals are better. In fact, probably they are not on average as good as those in the United States.

The difference is that there are many more poor people in the United States than there are in Canada, poor people who have not learned how to care for themselves, and if they have learned, cannot care for themselves because they cannot afford to get care – simple, basic care.

Health care reform is stalled. It will continue to be stalled unless a significant number of Democrats and Republicans recognize that the important issue has never even been discussed. The important issues are: How can the people of the United States learn how to take care of themselves, and how can they use that knowledge by virtue of having the necessary facilities available?

Those are the two issues. Those are the only two issues. The economics of educating and providing fundamental care are really quite simple. The methods of educating and providing patient care are both quite simple. The effectiveness of educating and providing basic care is great.

Why, then, are there not people advocating for this approach? Because those who are speaking up are doing so from their own point of view – the doctors, the hospitals, the insurance companies, the pharmaceutical companies, the medical device companies, and all those who profit from people being sick and from the whole illness industry. Individual patients do not really have a voice. And the government is considered by many – if not most citizens with fear and concern. So nothing happens, because the doctors, the hospitals, the insurance companies, the pharmaceutical companies, the medical device companies do not really want people to be healthy. It is not in their best interest.

Please recognize that the key to health care reform is helping people care for themselves. Please recognize that both Democrats and Republicans who are seriously interested in having Americans be healthy can unite behind a program that works towards self care. Of course, that approach will not be popular with the “major players.” But the major players are not really interested in the health of the American citizenry.

George L. Spaeth, M.D. is a Chestnut Hill resident and Louis J. Esposito Research Professor of Wills Eye Institute. A version of this letter was sent to President Barack Obama.


Natural remedies for the common cold

Many, many, many years ago I heard Howard Stern talk about his own remedy for the common cold, which was to drink a bottle of Nyquil along with a bottle of wine, and when he’d wake up three days later, his cold would be gone. If this is even close to your idea of good folk medicine, then it’s probably best to stop reading here.

There are many products on the market that claim to decrease the length of the common cold, but what they are actually doing is simply treating the symptoms.  In most cases a cold will resolve itself in 7 to 10 days, but what a miserable time that can be without some sort of relief.  

The treatment of the symptoms, unstuffing your nose or soothing your throat, is all that really matters. For years I’ve used products like Dimetapp and Tylenol Cold and Sinus, and they have allowed me to breathe in the middle of the night.  But I’ve been trying to get away from ingredients I can’t pronounce by going back to the folk remedies of yore.             

Now for my disclaimer.  I am not a doctor, nor do I play one on TV.  These claims have not been evaluated by the FDA nor have they been endorsed by the pharmaceutical industry.  Use your own common sense when trying anything “new” and seek mainstream medical advise if you have any questions regarding contraindications with any medicine you may be currently taking.  I say “new” because many of these home remedies have been used for thousands of years, back to the time of Hippocrates, but they may be new to you.

The best defense is usually a good offense, so better to avoid colds all together by intercepting them during that first tickle in the throat.  I immediately start a regimen of ACV cocktails taken three to five times throughout the day and definitely right before bedtime.  That’s not Absolut Cranberry Vodka, but Apple Cider Vinegar.  ACV is a well-kept secret to banishing colds and the flu from your life. It has hundreds of other health promoting uses which are worth researching but for now we’ll concentrate on its awesome, natural, bacteria-fighting, cold-kicking po -wers. 

The ACV I’m referring to is organic, raw and unfiltered, not pasteurized or distilled.  Raw vinegar contains over 40 naturally occurring substances including vitamins and minerals, enzymes and beneficial bacteria that may not be present in others due to over-processing, heating and filtration. 

To make an ACV cocktail, put one to two tablespoons of the ACV in the bottom of a mug, add an equal amount of raw honey (also an antibacterial agent) and add 8 ounces of warm, not hot, water, sip and enjoy.  If you add water that is so hot that you cannot keep your finger in it, you may kill off the enzymes for which, you just paid an extra couple bucks. 

Use that raw honey alone, by the teaspoonful, to soothe sore throats and for nocturnal coughs.   It works just as well as any over-the-counter cough suppressant you can buy and has many more uses. Baklava, for example, is my favorite.

If you are hard-core, or just thrifty, like me, you can make your own ACV by buying raw (unpasteurized) apple cider. Remove the cap and replace with several layers of cheesecloth secured by a rubber band (keeps out fruit flies).  Shake daily to promote aeration, and in several weeks you’ll have your own homemade vinegar.  Your nose will tell you when it’s ready.  A gallon sounds like a lot of vinegar, but if you read everything that it can do at, you’ll be using it up in no time.

Not a particular favorite of mine, but for those that can’t stand vinegar and aren’t allergic, garlic is another amazing wonder drug.  Raw garlic, non-irradiated and organic, is also a natural, very potent antibiotic.  It is known to kill staph and other strains of bacteria that have become resistant to modern antibiotics. 

If the cell walls of a clove of garlic are damaged, by smashing or cutting etc, a chemical reaction occurs that ultimately creates a compound known as allicin.  It is this compound that is identified as having strong antibiotic as well as anti-fungal and anti-viral properties. My sister-in-law uses this method for preempting a cold: Mash the garlic, let it sit for 7-15 minutes, to let the allicin form, and then suck on the clove for as long as you can stand it.  

Another method is to take six pressed or mashed and chopped cloves (also let sit for 7-15 minutes for the allicin to form) and mix in a glass of warm, but not hot, water and gargle with this solution twice a day for several days.

Garlic not your cup of tea?  Try squeezing half a lemon into a cup with some raw honey, a pinch of cayenne pepper (optional), and some hot, not boiling, water.  This virgin hot toddy is used to prevent as well as shorten the duration of a cold if taken a few times a day.  Grandmothers swear by it and sometimes try to sneak in garlic and ginger as well.  The rest of the year, add some brandy.

For a stuffy nose, use ointments that contain either or all of these ingredients: camphor, eucalyptus or menthol to help clear nasal passages.  You can also try your hand at using a Neti pot.  It takes some getting used to, but once mastered can help prevent colds and flu. 

This is how it works:  The mucus membranes that line the sinus, nostrils and the back of the throat trap anything we breathe including cold and flu producing germs.  Usually our system can handle these germs but if overtaxed, the germs win out. 

The Neti pot, which looks a lot like a teapot or a mini-Genie lamp, is filled with a warm, not hot, saline solution, which is poured into one nostril and then exits the other. 

It’s not pretty, but it is extremely effective.  The saltwater clears out excess – we’ll just call it – stuff, and allows the mucous membranes to regain control. Easy sneezy.  The trick here is getting the right salinity, too much and it burns, too little and it feels like you are drowning and is not as effective.  There are packets you can buy that figure it all out for you.  Also, don’t use iodized salt. It burns. 

Keep some homemade chicken stock on hand as it is now confirmed what Granny knew all along, chicken soup is good for the soul and helps quell neutrophils, which may cause coughs and stuffy nose. 

Best of health during this cold and flu season.  Spread the word, not the germs!

Reach me at ecologic.chlocal@g-








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