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NIH Record  
Vol. LXVI, No. 19
  September 12, 2014
U.S.-Africa Leaders Summit Encourages Health Investments
The Changing Role of Hospital Emergency Rooms
NINR Director’s Lecturer Focuses On Change
Research Festival Set, Sept. 22-24
NIEHS Fellow Cruz-Topete Earns FLARE Internship
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In Search of Long-Term Behavior Modification?
Tap Into Your Inner Change Agent to Prevent Cancer

Dr. John Pierce of the University of California, San Diego, offers tips on behavior modification.
Dr. John Pierce of the University of California, San Diego, offers tips on behavior modification.

Insight at this year’s Advances in Cancer Prevention Lecture sounded a lot like a familiar quip. How many psychiatrists does it take to change a light bulb? One, but the light bulb has to really want to change. Turns out that bit of humor has more than a grain of truth in it, according to Dr. John Pierce, director of population sciences at the University of California, San Diego. In a recent NIH lecture “How Do We Motivate Long-Term Behavior Change to Prevent Cancer?” he shared tips gleaned from the behavior intervention research he’s conducted over the last 2½ decades.

How do you get people to change their ways for life? It’s a question everyone’s asking, from professional coaches and trainers whose job it is to help folks overcome unhealthy behavior to smokers, alcoholics and overeaters who want to put an end to their own bad habits.

For proven answers, Pierce decided to approach the Women’s Healthy Eating & Living (WHEL) study—which he led in the late 1990s—from a different angle. WHEL enrolled more than 3,000 women who had been diagnosed recently with early stage breast cancer. Participants were divided into a control group and an intervention group. Lay telephone coaches then advised one group to eat more vegetables, fruits and fiber and less fat, in order to determine whether such a plant-based dietary pattern might prevent recurrence of breast cancer. Researchers followed the women a minimum of 6 years, “documenting significant movement to a plant-based dietary pattern with validation of vegetables and fruit increases with plasma carotenoid concentrations,” according to Pierce.


To Be Young, Gifted and Post-Bac
Wahl Swims Channel with Siblings to Fight Alzheimer’s

Devin Wahl
Devin Wahl

After 11 hours in cold, dark water, whipsawed by currents, scourged by jellyfish and nearly shattered by exhaustion, Devin Wahl stood up on a moonless beach in northern France.

He had just swum 24 miles across the English Channel to raise awareness—and funding—for Alzheimer’s disease.

“I landed at 10 p.m. on July 27, when it was completely dark,” says Wahl, a 24-year-old IRTA fellow. “I stood up, with no one around me. I was extremely proud.”

Sharing the glory, somewhere in the foggy distance, were his sister Danielle, age 21—“she came in 13 minutes ahead of me”—and their 19-year-old brother Dustin. Although Dustin did not complete the swim, he endured a full 7 hours in the chilly Channel waters—a noble effort—before being pulled out for safety’s sake.