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IU Health and Wellness: Back-to-school issue

July 30, 2009

This back-to-school themed IU Health and Wellness discusses the following topics:

Influenza A (H1N1)
Talking to college-age kids about sex
Nurturing your kids' interest in technology
Research involving "ladylike" behavior at a Southern sorority


flu mask image

Photo by Alex Carmichal

Precautions v. over-reaction regarding H1N1 flu. Indiana University health experts say parents and school staff will need to balance the needs for being prepared with avoiding over-reaction in the face of uncertainties about the severity of novel influenza A (H1N1) among school and community populations this coming school year. Interim recommendations for K-12 schools issued last spring by the national Centers for Disease Control and Prevention provide sound advice, say Lloyd Kolbe, associate dean for Global and Community Health at IU's School of Health, Physical Education and Recreation, and David Orentlicher, M.D., co-director for the Center for Law and Health at the IU School of Law-Indianapolis. The recommendations, issued as the new virus developed into a pandemic, offer suggestions concerning hand washing, school dismissal policy and suggested absences when a student or adult has flu-like symptoms. "The outbreak that we had earlier this year gave school authorities and others time to prepare for the correct approach should H1N1 come back," Orentlicher said. "Some precautions such as hand washing are good policy even if we don't have a flu epidemic. If teachers, administrators and parents say hand washing is important from the start, instead of waiting for outbreaks, at the least it will help prevent the spread of colds. And if H1N1 returns, we can limit the spread of the flu." Kolbe noted that evidence suggests that population immunity to the virus is low, particularly among young people. The virus also has surprised authorities by remaining active during warmer months when the spread of flu viruses typically slow down. Added to the uncertainty is the absence of a vaccine for H1N1, although one is being tested. If a vaccine is developed and administered to large numbers of people, it is likely that side effects will be routinely reported because of the sheer number of people vaccinated. "Any time you vaccinate large numbers of people, you will have higher numbers of people with the normal side effects," Orentlicher said.

The CDC recommendations for K-12 schools can be found at this Web site, The following is an abbreviated list:

  • School dismissal is not advised for a suspected or confirmed case of novel influenza A (H1N1) and, in general, is not advised unless there is a magnitude of faculty or student absenteeism that interferes with the school's ability to function.
  • Students, faculty or staff with influenza-like illness (fever with a cough or sore throat) should stay home and not attend school or go into the community except to seek medical care for at least seven days even if symptoms resolve sooner.
  • Aspirin or aspirin-containing products should not be administered to any confirmed or suspected cases of novel H1N1 influenza virus infection in those aged 18 years old and younger due to the risk of Reye syndrome. Refer to pediatric medical management for guidance regarding use of any medications, especially those containing aspirin (
  • Ill students should not attend alternative child care or congregate in other neighborhood and community settings outside of school.
  • School administrators should communicate regularly with local public health officials to obtain guidance about reporting of influenza-like illnesses in the school.

More information from the CDC about H1N1 flu is available at

Orentlicher, Samuel R. Rosen Professor of Law, can be reached at 317-658-1674 and The Center for Law and Health is located at Indiana University-Purdue University Indianapolis. Kolbe, an executive committee member of the National Education Association Health Board, can be reached at 812-856-6781 and Top

Catherine Sherwood-Laughlin

Catherine Sherwood-Laughlin

Print-Quality Photo

The birds and the bees again? Sex isn't always the easiest topic for parents and teens to discuss, yet it is critical for parents to help prepare their young adult children to deal with a range of serious sexual health issues that are common on college campuses. Conversations surrounding teens' impending independence should touch on STDs such as HIV, contraception, sexual assault prevention, and sexual orientation and gender identity. "Parents need to arm their children with sexual health information and resources available on college campuses so their teens don't become part of the growing statistics related to negative sexual health outcomes," said Catherine Sherwood-Laughlin, sexual health expert in Indiana University's School of Health, Physical Education and Recreation.

She suggests talking about the information below before children leave for college:

  • Sexually transmitted infections (STIs) and HIV: If your college student is sexually active, suggest they take the following precautions: Reduce the number of sexual partners, use latex condoms consistently and correctly to prevent infection, get tested often for STIs at the university health center, get tested often for HIV, and for daughters, encourage them to get vaccinated against cervical cancer by getting the HPV vaccine. WHY? Sexually transmitted infections acquired during college can result in a lifetime of health and fertility problems. Younger adults are at a higher risk of acquiring STIs, and they experience unintended pregnancies at a higher rate than older adults. Many of the most common STIs like chlamydia and gonorrhea do not show signs and symptoms of infection. College students might think they are disease free while they unknowingly spread these infections. People who are infected with an STI are two to five times more likely to get HIV if they are exposed to the virus through sexual contact. WHERE TO GET INFORMATION ON CAMPUS: Student health center or local health clinic, student health and wellness programs, courses in human sexuality, personal health and wellness, biology, anatomy and physiology.
  • Contraception: Use it -- and a back-up. WHY? Almost half of all pregnancies in the U.S. are unintended, and the majority of those pregnancies occurred while using a birth control method. Birth control methods can be effective in preventing pregnancy, but they have to be used consistently or correctly every time during sexual intercourse. Because no birth control method is 100 percent effective, besides abstinence, a back-up birth control method should be used in case the first method fails or is used incorrectly. WHERE TO GET INFORMATION ON CAMPUS: Student health center or local health clinic, student health and wellness programs, and courses in human sexuality, women's health, men's health and personal health.
  • Relationships and sexual violence: Talk with daughters about safety measures and how women are at a higher risk of becoming a victim of rape or acquaintance rape in college when they use drugs, attend a university with higher rates of drinking alcohol, belong in a sorority or if they drank heavily while in high school. WHY? According to the CDC, 22 percent of all sexual assault victims are between the ages of 18 and 24. In the majority of rape cases, the victim knows the perpetrator. WHERE TO GET INFORMATION ON CAMPUS: Student health center or local health clinic, student health and wellness programs, college police department, college sexual assault services, college psychological and counseling services, dean of students office, and courses in human sexuality, women's health and men's health.
  • Sexual orientation and gender identity: Diversity exists within sexual orientations and sexual expression; once at college, not only will the young adults learn more about themselves, but also about how new friends and acquaintances express their sexual orientations. Still, many people who are gay, lesbian and bisexual face prejudice and discrimination. WHY? Many young adults become more acutely aware of their sexual orientation during this time in their lives, and for some, college is a time for them to begin to explore and understand their sexual and romantic feelings and emotions for others. For some, the college environment becomes a safe place for young adults to "come out" and let others know of their sexual orientation. For those who are homosexual or bisexual, this "coming out" process is necessary for their self-esteem and psychological development. Many gay, lesbian and bisexual students delay telling their parents and use their experiences coming out among their peers to help build their confidence. WHERE TO GET INFORMATION ON CAMPUS: Student health center or local health clinic, student health and wellness programs, college lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender services, dean of students office, and courses in human sexuality, gender studies, men's health and women's health.

More information about these topics can be found at these Web sites: American College Health Association,; CDC,, and; Association of Reproductive Health Professionals,; and the American Psychological Association

Sherwood-Laughlin can be reached at 812-855-2673 and Top

kids play video games

Photo by Chris Meyer

Let 'em play? From the classroom to the office, having an understanding of computers and technology has become a requirement for success in many academic programs and well-paying careers. Young people applying to schools or interviewing for that first job will need to demonstrate competencies in using computers, software and other technologies that go well beyond texting friends or using social networks. So, as kids head back to school this fall, many parents may be wondering how to take their child's interest in technology beyond sitting on the couch playing video games. Gregory Travis, associate director of the Advanced Network Management Lab, part of the Pervasive Technology Institute's Center for Applied Cybersecurity Research (CACR) at Indiana University, says there are many things parents can do to guide a child's natural interest in technology -- toward activities that are enriching and useful to future careers. But many parents may feel too lost in the rapidly changing technical landscape to know how to guide today's tech-savvy kids toward healthy and enriching technical activity. Travis, whose lab offers technology workshops for teens every summer, says the best way to engage young people in technology is through activities they already enjoy. "When we offer technology workshops, kids always tell us they love video games, they love electronic toys, they love using the computer to keep in touch with their friends," said Travis. "Through our workshops we show them how to take that interest and learn more of the deeper ways those technologies work. We teach them basic skills used by professional computer programmers and networking professionals -- but they just see it as having fun."

Travis offers the following tips:

  • Let them play. Each parent will have a personal threshold as to how much play time and what types of games are appropriate for their kids -- but as long as games are age-appropriate, there's nothing wrong with allowing kids some play time. Gaming technology typically involves state-of-the-art practices in technology, including high-definition television, digital surround-sound technology, and cutting-edge processor and storage capabilities. Some recent studies indicate that limited exposure to video games actually teaches kids valuable skills. Just by being exposed to the technologies your kids will come up to speed on technologies from Blu-ray to Bluetooth.
  • Enroll them in technology workshops. Weekend, after-school and summer workshops are a great way for kids to get exposed to technology and technology topics with their peers. IU and a number of other institutions across the country host annual workshops and camps specifically oriented towards a technology curriculum -- many of which are free or low in cost. Watch your area announcements for these events.
  • Seek a mentor for your child. Consider other family members or friends who may be involved in the technology industry and ask them to play a mentoring role. "I would not have gotten into the field," said Travis, "were it not for a student of my father's who introduced me, a kid of 9 years old, to PLATO, the first Computer Aided Instruction system. After that, I was hooked."
  • Visit museums. Many communities, large and small, now have science and technology museums that are great at engaging children in technology. Museums such as Wonderlab in Bloomington, Ind., offer hands-on exploration for even very young children, while larger urban museums such as the Museum of Science and Industry in Chicago can engage your entire family with state-of-the-art technology exhibits.
  • Have a positive technology attitude. You may feel confused or intimidated by the latest technology, but don't share a negative or fearful attitude with your children. Encourage your children to try something new on the home computer -- and make sure to give them plenty of room to do it. Better still, turn it into a team exercise and let them know you're there because you want to learn, too.

To speak with Travis, contact Daphne Siefert-Herron at 812-856-1242 and Top

Lisbeth Berbary

Lisbeth Berbary

Print-Quality Photo

Being ladylike. Lisbeth Berbary thought she knew something about femininity until she moved from Ithaca, NY, to attend a southeastern university, where she was struck by how coiffed and feminine the women appeared -- never a hair out of place. During an 11-month ethnographic study, Berbary, now a visiting assistant professor at Indiana University, found that both explicit house rules and implicit "girl talk," or gossip, kept a tight rein on the public image of sorority members -- an image of self-described "ladylike" behavior and appearances. She also found that behaviors that left the women open to ridicule, such as going to restrooms in groups or traveling around town in groups, were in fact safety measures designed to protect the women from excessive or unwanted attention from men, including sexual assaults. "I thought the behavioral expectations were so restrictive, but then I realized that at times they were also for safety," Berbary said. "So it looked a little different to me afterward." Berbary, a researcher in the Department of Recreation, Park and Tourism Studies in IU's School of Health, Physical Education and Recreation, presented findings from "Sorority spaces: Discursive discipline and possibility," during the Ontario Research Council on Leisure Symposium in May. Her study, co-authored by Diane Samdahl at the University of Georgia, involved participant observation, in-depth interviews, artifact collection and informal interviews and observations from July 2007 to May 2008. Here are more observations:

  • Berbary observed a strongly disciplined system of expectations that both with and without awareness directed sorority members to perform certain gendered behaviors in order to be included in the culture, accepted in the sorority.
  • An overt system of discipline was provided by the sorority's ruling body, which punished unacceptable behavior by taking away privileges, such as making offending members skip social events. "They turn each other in," Berbary said. "Supposedly, there weren't hard feelings about it, because in the end, most members agreed that the reputation of the sorority was what counted. I never heard of anyone getting overly upset by this."
  • Other overt measures to keep sorority members within standards involved introducing sorority expectations through weekly new-member meetings that included information on sorority history, culture expectations and behavior issues, and oversight by the national charter.
  • The main form of covert discipline involved "girl talk." By talking about other women's behaviors, members learned how to regulate their own. "If you and your friend are talking, and she starts calling someone a slut for sleeping around, you start to learn or gauge appropriateness. You didn't want a bad reputation."
  • The French philosopher Michel Foucault discussed the idea of discipline through constant observation or surveillance, typically made possible through physical architecture, such as in prisons. Berbary relates this to the discipline in the sorority that took place through the social architecture, rather than bricks and mortar. The sorority members constantly displayed symbols of their sorority on their clothes and belongings. "By marking themselves, they made themselves vulnerable to this constant observation," Berbary said.
  • Foucault also discussed the strong likelihood of resistance in the face of such strong expectations. Berbary observed this in her study, she said, but the resistance generally was not radical enough to have them kicked out. There was room for "negotiations," but most resistance still took place within the boundaries of appropriateness set up within the sorority.

Berbary said that although her study was focused on just one sorority, her findings shed light on the ways in which many of us are disciplined by and negotiate cultural expectations of gender.

Berbary can be reached at 812-855-5835 and Top

For additional assistance with any of these tips, contact Tracy James, University Communications, at 812-855-0084 and