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Use the cloud to become 'data smart'

Business/Careers - Thu, 01/29/2015 - 12:00am

(BPT) - No matter your job or the size of your business, you are probably aware of the piles of digital information inside your company. Data is everywhere.

You know this information can provide valuable insights, whether you’re in marketing, sales, human resources, product development or finance. But how do you tap into the data to make better decisions if you’re not a trained data analyst?

There’s good news: Cloud services make it much simpler for you to analyze data so you can make the right calls and become more persuasive with your boss, your co-workers and your customers.

“Business analytics is going mainstream,” says James Phillips, general manager at Microsoft Corp., who oversees the company’s Power BI cloud service. “And, with the cloud, you can get started fast. In a matter of minutes, you can pull in a variety of data to create reports and visualizations.”

Follow these five tips to start getting data smart in your job:

1. Identify the data. Wondering where to start? You likely already have data you can analyze in your financial, inventory, marketing and customer systems. To help you dig into this data, free cloud services such as Power BI ( can connect to other services such as Salesforce and Marketo. If you want to explore data outside your organization, free datasets, such as those on, are available on the Web.

2. Build on the tools and skills you have. You likely use Microsoft Excel to some degree, but even if you’re not an expert, your information and any analysis you do in Excel can be fed into cloud services.

3. Visualize. With the new tools, you can tell a story with data. They offer drag-and-drop ways to go beyond typical charts and look at information in multiple dimensions, over time, with maps and more. They’re great for creating presentations and plans.

4. Go real time. Keep your finger on the pulse of your business by mashing up data in easy-to-use dashboards. Cloud services keep your dashboards up-to-date, providing insights about what your business looks like moment to moment so you can make better decisions, faster. Your bosses and teammates will be impressed. 

5. Care to share. When choosing your service, look for features that make it easy to share reports and findings with co-workers. And encourage them to use the services so everyone has the opportunity to contribute insights.  

Now is the time to become data smart. Today’s cloud services make it simpler than ever to analyze your data and find the insights that will help your business.

Categories: Lifestyle

Identifying pain medication addiction in your friends; yourself

Community Cares - Mon, 01/26/2015 - 12:00am

(BPT) - If you’ve ever taken them, you know prescription opioids can provide a clinically safe and effective solution to pain management. They can also be very addictive, however, and protecting against addiction requires vigilance on the part of the patient as well as his or her doctors, nurses, caregivers, pharmacists and benefits providers.

A Nation in Pain, Express Script’s comprehensive report on pain-medication usage in the United States, shows that while the number of Americans using prescription drugs like codeine, hydrocodone or OxyContin has declined, the use of potentially dangerous high doses and medication combinations, and other risky usage patterns are all on the rise.

If you believe someone you love is abusing pain medication, it’s important that you act immediately. Addiction to prescription opioids can be fatal. In fact, death from prescription drug overdoses is more common than cases of cocaine or heroin-related deaths combined.

If you or a loved one uses prescription pain medications, be aware of these signs that could indicate a dependence on or an addiction to the medication.

Suspicious behavior

This can include a wide array of options, such as:

* Seeking or obtaining prescriptions from multiple prescribers and filling at multiple pharmacies, especially ones that are not in close physical proximity.

* Using pain medications to “feel good” rather than to treat discomfort

* Frequent claims that the pharmacy didn’t provide enough medication or that medications have been lost

* Avoiding doctor appointments because the office counts pills or performs urine drug screens

Mood changes

A prescription drug addiction can drastically alter the user’s mood. Look for the following warning signs in yourself or your loved one:

* Bouts of anger or depression

* Increased alcohol use or abuse

* Feelings of anxiety

* Displays of aggressive behavior toward the doctor, pharmacy or caregivers related to opioid medications

Increased medication use

One of the most conclusive ways to determine if you or someone you love is addicted to opioids is to look for abnormalities in the medication’s use. These abnormalities could include:

* Taking more pills or taking medicine more frequently than prescribed

* Seeking early refills of opioid medication

* Using opioids with other high-risk medications, like muscle relaxants and anti-anxiety medications that increase euphoria

* Use of additional medication to treat severe side effects (such as stimulants to combat drowsiness, sedatives to regulate sleep patterns, etc.).

* Experiencing withdrawal symptoms, such as nausea, diarrhea, muscle pain, sweating and agitation. These are all signs of a body’s dependence on prescription opioids.

Where can you get help?

If you identify with any of these signs or symptoms or you recognize them in a loved one, notify the prescribing physician immediately. The doctor can alter the pain therapy to a less addictive option or begin to safely withdraw the patient from the medication. Patients should not try to abruptly discontinue any medication without a physician’s supervision.

There are many resources for parents and caregivers concerned with opiate dependence/addiction. The patient’s physician can refer counseling services and addiction treatment as needed. Support groups, such as Narcotics Anonymous, offer counseling and other services for patients dealing with addiction to pain medications. In addition, many employers offer free, confidential assistance programs to help employees, or their dependents, who are trying to overcome an addiction or other personal concerns.

The one thing you can’t afford to do is wait. Addiction to pain medication is an illness, not a crime, and your immediate intervention could save a life.

Categories: Lifestyle

Fascinating felines: The surprising truths about 5 common cat myths

Community Cares - Wed, 01/21/2015 - 12:00am

(BPT) - Americans’ love affair with pets continues to grow with approximately 69 million households owning a pet, according to American Veterinary Medical Association. In fact, pet ownership has tripled since the 1970s, and today there are 74.1 million owned cats alone. Felines are great companion animals, but there is still a surprising amount of widely accepted misinformation about cats – and it’s causing a multitude of issues.

“Cats are fantastic pets for both young and old, but misconceptions can cause a host of problems for cats, from their individual health to overpopulation,” says Esther Mechler, president of Marian’s Dream: Philanthropy for Animal Advocates. “Understanding the facts isn’t just interesting, as it can literally help you save lives.”

Check out these top five cat myths and the surprising truths behind each:

Myth: There are plenty of shelters and foster homes to help pets in need until they find their forever home.

Fact: Approximately 7.6 million companion animals enter animal shelters nationwide every year, including 3.4 million cats, according to “More than 70 percent of cats in shelters do not find homes,” says Mechler. “Fostering is limited and unfortunately many shelters refuse to admit cats if no empty cages are available. This begs the question of where these unwanted cats can go. Millions of cats are euthanized annually or abandoned into the wild – where they often face injury, sickness and death.”

Myth: Cats don’t need to be spayed or neutered until they are 6 months old.

Fact: Most shelter cats are fixed at two months of age prior to adoption, but many households cats are not fixed until much later, which dramatically increases the odds of unexpected litters. By six months, most cats have gone through at least one heat cycle and many have already produced a litter. “‘Fix felines by five’ is our recommendation,” Mechler says. “This reduces the chance of unwanted litters and benefits the cat’s health and the community as a whole. Don’t delay longer than five months!” Learn more at

Myth: Cats won’t mate with their siblings or parents.

Fact: Cats do not limit which cats they mate with – this includes littermates and parents. This is another valid reason to proactively spay and neuter cats by five months of age. “A surprising number of people do not realize that siblings can and will reproduce,” says Mechler. “But it happens all the time, so expect it.”

Myth: Limiting unwanted litters is the only reason for spaying.

Fact: “Cats spayed before their first heat cycle have a 91 percent lower risk for developing mammary cancer,” says Mechler. “This is a wonderful benefit, because mammary gland cancer kills an estimated 75,000 cats every year. In fact, cats have a greater risk – by 1,500 times – of dying from mammary gland cancer than from contracting rabies.”

Additional benefits of spaying and neutering include many positive behavioral changes, such as:
* Reduced roaming behaviors
* Reduced aggression
* Reduced marking
* Reduced howling and other heat-related behaviors

Myth: Cats mate most often in the summer.

Fact: Cats may seem to mate all year long, but peak mating times correlate with the seasons (equinox). When the days start to get longer in January and February, additional sunlight signals a female cat’s pituitary gland to start ovulation and she will go into heat. “This is why spring is considered kitten season,” says Mechler. “After about 62 days of gestation, litters are born and there is always a flood of kittens going into shelters each spring. But cats can get pregnant at almost any time late winter or throughout the summer in most regions, even just  few weeks after giving birth to a litter.”

In conclusion, pet owners are often unaware of how early cats can go into heat – to prevent mammary cancer, unwanted litters and ‘bad behaviors’ like howling, spraying and roaming it is best to have them fixed by five months of age, as recommended by Dr. Richard Speck in The Case for Neutering at Five Months of Age published in Today's Veterinary Practice.

Marian’s Dream continues to work hard to inform people and their vets about the importance of earlier spaying and neutering through the “Fix by Five” campaign. Learn more and find a qualified vet near you at

Categories: Lifestyle

Why women need to reassess retirement planning

Community Cares - Tue, 01/20/2015 - 12:00am

(BPT) - Men and women are not the same when it comes to retirement planning. Consider this: A husband and a wife of the same age, earning the same salary and looking to retire during the same year need to account for different factors in retirement planning. This is true even if they share a household, hold joint responsibility for their finances and equally contribute to the amount of incoming funds.

Despite a remarkable career trajectory and rapidly changing roles in the workplace, women need to account for longer life spans as well as unique career patterns. Many women are feeling the impact of these differing retirement realties.

“According to a recent Merrill Edge Report, nearly six in 10 women fear not having enough money throughout retirement, and their amounts are notably higher than their male counterparts,” says Sharon Miller, head of National Sales for Preferred Banking and Merrill Edge at Bank of America. “It’s important that both women and men recognize the retirement landscape is changing, and proactively address the factors and situations that are personally unique to them to help ensure a financially secure retirement.”

So what can women do to better prepare? How can they plan to address these factors and live comfortably in retirement? Here are a few important tips to help you pursue your investment goals:

* Start now to maximize contributions: Save and invest as soon as you can through your employer-sponsored retirement plan, such as a 401(k) or 403(b) account, or set up an automatic transfer from your bank or brokerage account into your personal IRA, Simplified Employee Pension (SEP-IRA) or SIMPLE IRA. Whatever options you choose, aim to increase and diversify your contributions as frequently as possible. But, remember that diversification does not ensure a profit or protect against loss in declining markets.

* Take advantage of unexpected money: If you receive a significant influx in funds, such as a lump-sum bonus, insurance payout, tax refund, divorce settlement or inheritance, avoid the lure of spending frivolously and think about the long-term. If you are willing to assume the risk, consider investing some, or even all of the funds.

* Try not to sacrifice growth for safety: Guard against being too passive in your approach to retirement investing. Be strategic by increasing your level of involvement and make investment decisions based on your retirement liquidity needs and risk tolerance, which is essential to building a robust portfolio.

* Take care of your health now: Practicing preventive healthcare can make an impact on your bottom line by lowering healthcare costs and allowing you to contribute more to your long-term future. It can also help cut costs during retirement and will hopefully lead to a longer and healthier life, too.

* Consider waiting to collect Social Security: While everyone’s situation is different, if you can delay retirement, you may be able to reap significant rewards. By working longer or using income from other sources first, your Social Security benefit grows 8 percent each year until you reach age 70 in the current market.

The bottom line is that while both men and women should invest as much as they can, as early as they can, women face some different realities when it comes to planning for retirement. For additional resources on how to better prepare for the changing retirement landscape, visit

Categories: Lifestyle

3 ways to become more environmentally friendly in 2015

Community Cares - Tue, 01/20/2015 - 12:00am

(BPT) - Whether you’re motivated by a workplace initiative, a personal goal or the opportunity to teach your children lifelong positive habits, now is a great time to become more environmentally friendly. Earth Day is April 22, but there’s still plenty of time to develop eco-friendly habits before the big day arrives.

Here are three ways your family can create positive environmental change starting today.


Research shows that less than 2 percent of waste in the United States is recycled, yet almost half of all trash can be recycled. School lunches are one source of waste that most families don’t consider. These are packed each morning and tossed away each afternoon once lunchtime is finished.

To increase awareness of recycling options during lunch, Entenmann’s Little Bites Snacks has partnered with the recycling and upcycling experts at TerraCycle for the “Turn Trash to Cash” program, giving students the chance to recycle their Little Bites snack pouches and earn money for their school. TerraCycle can recycle the pouches to create products like tote bags, pencil cases and even picnic benches.

You can learn more about the campaign by visiting TerraCycle on Facebook.

Protect water resources

Water is one of the most important resources people have, yet every year billions of gallons are needlessly wasted. You can conserve water in your home by teaching your children to take shorter showers or baths, turning off dripping faucets and avoiding letting the water run while they are brushing their teeth.

You can also reduce water waste in your home by investing in water-saving appliances and by reducing or eliminating the practice of watering your lawn, relying on rain to do so instead.

Help plant a tree

Few things are as beautiful as a tall, healthy tree. But trees are more than just a beautiful backdrop, as they are also essential to the environment. Here are four reasons why from the Arbor Day Foundation:

1. Trees help clean the air. They improve the quality of the air you breathe by capturing dust and pollution particles that can affect your health.

2. Trees help fight climate change. As trees grow, they remove greenhouse gases like carbon dioxide from the air, store carbon, and release pure oxygen into the atmosphere.

3. Trees planted along waterways can help filter out chemicals that might otherwise wash to water sources. They also can create stable soil and help prevent soil erosion, flooding and even landslides.

4. Trees properly planted around a home can help lower air conditioning and heating costs by up to 25 percent.

This year Entenmann’s is partnering with the Arbor Day Foundation for the Little Bites’ Earth Day Sweepstakes. For every entry, fan or not, received through the Little Bites Facebook page, Entenmann’s will donate $1 to the Arbor Day Foundation to plant a tree – up to 25,000 trees in total. The sweepstakes starts March 1. You can learn more at

Environmentally friendly habits are easy to pick up and they can be a great way to bond with your children on a shared project while developing lifelong habits. So don’t wait another minute! Start your family down the eco-friendly path today.

Categories: Lifestyle

5 winter car care tips that save you money

Automotive - Tue, 01/20/2015 - 12:00am

(BPT) - Winter is when car trouble can cause big financial problems. So how do you keep your car winter-ready for severe weather and protect your budget? The right preventive care is essential, and the good news is that there are many simple things you can do to get your car ready for extreme weather without blowing your budget.

Before severe weather strikes, make sure to check these items off your car-care list:

* Avoid the “E.” A full tank of gas provides a comforting feeling. It’s also an effective way to protect your car in severe weather. An empty tank leaves room for the moisture inside to turn to ice. Keep your tank at least half full at all times to help prevent starting issues caused by a frozen fuel line.

* Check vital fluids. As simple as filling up, make sure to check and top off your vehicle’s antifreeze and examine your brake system, which includes your brake fluid. Ready-to-use Prestone 50/50 Prediluted antifreeze features Cor-Guard inhibitors that prevent corrosion and help keep your engine running longer while premium Prestone brake fluid helps ensure your vehicle’s brakes will be ready when you need them most.

* Double-check the tires. Driving on underinflated or worn tires makes it even more difficult to drive in ice or snow. Use a tire gauge to test the tire’s actual pressure and apply air as needed. Your tires should have the appropriate amount of pressure printed on its side. To check the wear of your tires, insert a penny into the tread. If you can see any part of Abraham Lincoln’s head, it’s time to replace the tires.

* Be ready to battle ice. Ice on the roads is one problem, but ice on your windshield is another problem entirely. Prestone’s De-Icer Windshield Washer Fluid is designed to help melt ice and frost fast for streak-free and clear visibility down to -27 degrees.

* Prep for emergencies. Sometimes even the best planning can’t prevent a severe-weather accident. That’s why it’s good to pack a winter survival kit with an ice scraper, shovel, blankets, extra clothing, bottled water, jumper cables and a first aid kit for the backseat or trunk of your car. And don’t forget the cat litter – in case your tires need a little extra traction.

Not all winter car care maintenance needs to be handled in a mechanic’s garage. Easy DIY projects can help ensure your vehicle’s performance this winter and save you time and money in the long run. Get started on your preventive list today and you’ll be ready for whatever the season brings.

Categories: Lifestyle

The secret to small-business growth in 2015? Effective communication

Business/Careers - Mon, 01/19/2015 - 12:00am

(BPT) - Good communication is essential for every successful business operation – especially for small businesses that must build customer relationships to drive sales. Yet breakdowns can occur at every stage of small business communications, from a misspelled newspaper ad to a headset that makes sales people sound like they’re speaking through two tin cans and some twine, whether they’re in the office or on the road.

“Improved communications can equal increased revenue for small businesses,” says Judi Hembrough, director of SMB marketing for Plantronics, a leading maker of audio headsets. “However, small-business managers juggle a lot, and they may not always have the time to emphasize effective communication. Fortunately, focusing on a few key areas can greatly enhance communication with a modest investment of resources.”

While you may be an expert in your business, not all small-business people are expert communicators. Yet better communication aids a small business on multiple levels. It facilitates sales efforts and improves customer service, eases interaction between employees and managers, boosts productivity, and helps mobile and remote workers stay connected.

Small-business leaders can improve both internal and external communication with a few tactics and tools:

* Use technology designed to facilitate business communication.

Despite the rise in digital communication modes, phone interaction remains a critical communication tool. In fact, 70 percent of businesses say phone and conference calls are either important or critically important to achieving their business objectives, according to a recent survey by B2B marketing agency Bredin. Additionally, 67 percent of small-business owners surveyed by Bredin said that a quarter or more of all customer issues initiated by email communication and 55 percent initiated by instant message had to be resolved with a phone call.

The right technology can help improve phone communication for both in-office and remote workers, even when they’re on the go. High-quality headsets like Plantronics Voyager Legend provide superior voice clarity, leading-edge design and mobility. Superior noise cancellation and advanced WindSmart technology ensure clear, precise communication even outdoors. Plus, with dual connectivity you can connect to your desk phone or PC along with your mobile device. Visit to learn more about communication technology for small businesses.

* Provide employees with scripts for common situations.

Twenty percent of in-house workers and 18 percent of remote or field workers spend three-quarters or more of their work time on the phone, according to the Bredin survey. Providing employees working scripts, and training them on how to adjust responses for evolving situations can help improve customer care, facilitate effective communication and ensure employees are communicating according to your business standards and identity. Start by defining the different types of phone interactions employees might have with customers and prospects. Next, craft a good greeting that is concise and appropriate for the employee’s role in your organization. Incorporate into each script key phrases that communicate the information you want the employee to convey during the call.

* Facilitate communication with remote workers.

Remote and mobile workers may be a vital part of your business, but they can feel left out by the nature of their work situation. Provide them with the technology they need for effective communication by phone, email and teleconferencing, and use the technology to ensure remote workers feel included. For example, set up teleconferencing or video-conferencing so that remote workers can participate in company meetings.

* Minimize in-office distractions.

Offices can be busy, noisy places, especially if employees work in cubicles or open spaces. As much as possible, try to eliminate distractions that could hinder easy communication. Urge workers to conduct phone communication in a calm, low voice and be mindful of those working around them. Additionally, give them the opportunity to mask noise with headsets that cover both ears. Finally, encourage employees to establish a schedule for checking email, rather than letting it interrupt them every few minutes.  

In conclusion, better communication is the key to effective sales and stellar customer service – both critical aspects to success. From supplying technologically advanced headsets to staff to properly training employees to be as effective as possible, communication improvements will drive business in 2015 and beyond.

Categories: Lifestyle

Teachers: Tips to bring classroom energy levels back to normal after break

Education - Fri, 01/16/2015 - 12:00am

(BPT) - The start of the spring semester in the classroom is a great time for teachers to refresh the room so all learning goals can be accomplished before the end of the year. Sometimes a refresh involves disinfecting everything to help students stay healthy. Perhaps this year's refresh even involves incorporating some new decor and bright colors. This semester, help your students stay energized all spring long, right up until the final bell rings for summer break:

1. Give the classroom new decorations to celebrate the upcoming spring events – The calendar is full of great educational moments during the winter and spring months. From Learn to Read month in February to Arbor Day in April, you can decorate the walls in your classroom with educational materials to help students look forward to each celebration.

Melissa Taylor of the blog Imagination Soup recommends you ask parents to help you out by bringing in old magazine articles celebrating the different holidays. You can find great quotes and photos inside to pin on bulletin boards, helping students understand each holiday’s importance.

Another idea includes posting colorful posters with fun facts about each of the holidays or events. These teaching decorations will be a hit with the students and aid you in presenting the importance of events like President's Day and Black History Month.

2. Ask students for decorating help by assigning them educational projects related to the time of the year. For example, set up a reading corner of the room and have each student create and decorate a flower to turn the corner into a cozy garden space. Your crayons and colored pencils are probably well-used from the fall semester, so use the Staples Teacher Rewards program to refresh your stock. This program gives participating teachers up to 10 percent back on teaching and art supplies. With scissors, glue sticks and Scotch tape all restocked, your students won't have any roadblocks to keep them from expressing their creativity with the classroom work you assign.

3. Add some cozy factors in the classroom to brighten the last few months of winter. Taylor recommends bringing in rugs, pillows and lamps for extra warmth to help energize the students and make the room feel warm and friendly.

4. Between the winter weather, childhood illnesses and glitter that is so prevalent during the holiday season, your classroom may need help getting rid of the germs. Be sure to restock all your supplies, like Purell Advanced Instant Hand Sanitizer and Lysol Disinfecting Wipes. Both are available at Staples so you can quickly attack germs and help your students – and yourself – stay healthy throughout the year. Make it fun for your students with games, like singing the song, "Row, Row, Row Your Boat," while washing hands with soap and water, or challenging your students to see who can clean their desktop the fastest using a Lysol wipe.

There are only a few short months of school left, which means you have limited time to help students learn everything they need to so they can advance to the next level. If energy is falling in the new calendar year, do what you can with classroom supplies and decorations to revive them for an awesome classroom experience.

Categories: Lifestyle

7 big (but easy) ways businesses can reduce employee absenteeism

Business/Careers - Thu, 01/15/2015 - 12:00am

(BPT) - An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure – especially for small businesses grappling with the high costs of worker absenteeism. Employee time lost to health issues costs American businesses $84 billion a year. For U.S. businesses, helping workers stay healthy costs far less than the financial impact of having them miss work for illness or injury.

With cold and flu season in full swing, HR directors and other business leaders should take steps to help employees stay healthy and on the job. Here are seven steps your small company can take to help reduce worker absenteeism:

1. Encourage healthful habits.

Simple factors such as getting enough sleep and frequent hand washing can go a long way toward keeping people healthy. While you can’t make workers get seven to eight hours of sleep, you can spread the word on how it’s done. Key tricks? Turn off the electronic devices an hour before bedtime, avoid caffeine and alcohol, and go to bed at the same time every night.

Employers can more directly encourage other healthful habits, such as hygiene. Create mini-health stations throughout the office and include hand sanitizer, fresh tissues and a covered receptacle nearby. Post signs with proper hand-washing guidelines in company restrooms. You can promote a healthy diet by providing healthful options such as trail mix and water in vending machines. Distribute healthy recipes (try the spaghetti squash!).

2. Provide 24/7 support through a wellness program.

Businesses that offer employee wellness programs like the health and wellness solutions provided by Provant can lower their medical costs and offer a spectrum of additional benefits, including reduced absenteeism. Customized workplace wellness programs give employees round-the-clock access to valuable information, health professionals and advice, live or via technology, that can help them stay healthy. Plus, these programs can help employees manage diseases, assess their health and set personal wellness goals.

3. Reward well-being actions.

Sometimes inertia is all that stands between employees and improved health. You can inspire employees to be healthier by offering, say, an exercise class at lunch. Provant health incentive programs such as reimbursement for gym memberships, health challenges for most miles walked in a month, insurance premium reimbursements, or rewards points (good for merchandise) for healthful habits have seen marked increases in engagement and significant health risk migration for those rewarded for their healthy choices.

4. De-stress the workplace

Stress is part of having a job, but you can help workers stay healthy and be more productive by helping them manage that stress. Give them chances to get up from their desk – how about making that next meeting a walking one? Offer a workshop on relaxation techniques, and make sure your health plan offers an Employee Assistance Program for mental health help. Have a de-stress zone in the office.

5. Provide auxiliary benefits.

Auxiliary benefits such as dental or vision coverage support employees’ overall health maintenance and value-adds such as partnerships with local farms for vegetables, dry-cleaning drop-off service, and onsite fitness classes create a convenience factor that encourages healthy engagement. In addition to supporting employee health, they are a low-cost way to round out a benefits package without increasing monthly premium costs.

6. Tell them to stay home.

Despite their best efforts, employees will get sick. When that happens, it may be best to encourage them to stay home. Workers suffering with a virus like the flu or a bad cold could spread the illness throughout the office if they come to work when sick. And those with non-communicable illness or injuries may extend the total amount of time they miss from work if they push themselves to return too soon or don’t take the time they need to make a full recovery.

7. The obvious - Get a flu shot.

Sometimes the answer is right under your nose. Make it easy to get flu shots. You can even bring nurses right to your workplace or offer a remote flu program, making it convenient for individuals to get vaccinated.

To learn more about wellness programs that can help reduce employee absenteeism, visit

Categories: Lifestyle

Five essential elements that should be in every adult student's tool kit

Education - Mon, 01/12/2015 - 12:00am

(BPT) - The face of the average college student is changing, with more working adults heading back to school to complete degrees and enhance their careers. Being an adult learner means bringing life experience to the table, but it also means juggling more responsibilities alongside coursework – including working, managing a home and family commitments. That’s why there are five essential elements that every adult learner should have in their arsenal of tools to support educational success.

1. Technology
Whether you’re attending class on campus or obtaining an education through online study, the right technology can help streamline the learning process. In addition to a quality computer and mobile device, it’s smart to brush up on the basic software programs you’ll use regularly in class. Online tutorials and free classes at your local library help ensure that your technical skills are ready when class starts.

2. Tutor
Students may find certain course topics more challenging than others, and having a tutor at your disposal can make a big difference in keeping up with more difficult curriculums. “Hiring an independent tutor can be expensive, so be sure to research colleges that offer tutoring services at no extra cost,” says Tracy Lorenz, president of Western International University. “At West we provide students with complimentary, one-to-one interactive tutoring sessions. These are available online in real-time, 24/7 – which is particularly important to adult learners.” Learn more at

3. Time-management tools
Adult learners must divide their time between many different demands. To cut the chaos, research smart time-management tools that can keep you organized every day. Apps and online calendars are ideal and many times can be synced with the schedules of other family members, so everyone knows the tasks for the day and you don’t risk missing a project deadline or your child’s soccer game.

4. Writing resources
No matter what field of study you decide to pursue, you will be doing a lot of writing to complete your college degree. Having papers reviewed prior to submitting them can help reduce errors and improve grades. The West Writing Center offers current West students tools for success with their writing. Resources are provided to assist with organization, structure, style, grammar, and formatting guidelines for citations and references. In addition, students can have their papers reviewed during an interactive tutoring session and receive immediate feedback prior to turning in the assignment.

5. Support system
Being a working adult who is also a student can be complex, which is why having a support system in place can make a big difference. It’s important to have family and friends who are encouraging and available to lend a helpful hand – whether that means picking up the kids from school, helping you brainstorm ideas for an upcoming paper or simply offering to listen. Having a solid support system is the last essential component that should be in every adult student’s toolkit.

“Higher education is evolving and more adults are working while attending college,” says Lorenz. “With desire, dedication and the right resources, getting a degree and career-relevant skills can be a fulfilling process that helps boost career and personal fulfillment in the future.”

Categories: Lifestyle

Teenagers want parents to be involved in their lives

Community Cares - Mon, 01/12/2015 - 12:00am

(BPT) - Today’s changing social environment and confusing messages about drugs and alcohol may be making it even more difficult for teenagers to get their bearings as they move toward adulthood. That is why it is more important than ever for parents to know what is going on in their kids’ lives and have the skills to respond to their teens appropriately.

Specifically, as drugs and alcohol are becoming more accessible and more states are legalizing marijuana, many teens may believe that the use of marijuana or other substances is now okay. Parents should know that legalization of marijuana does not mean it is harmless, and increased availability of other substances does not make them less harmful, either. Marijuana and other substances can cause permanent damage to the teenage brain, and teens can become addicted more quickly than adults.

This is a time when parents need to become involved in their teens’ lives and help them navigate these complex issues. While many parents may think of their teens as grown-ups and able to fully take care of themselves, teenagers have said that this is a time when they need their parents the most. Asking questions and being involved shows teenagers that their parents care.

“Even though teens may sometimes indicate otherwise, through my experience as a psychiatrist to teenagers, I have found that most of them want their parents involved in their lives to provide guidance and support,” says Dr. Thomas Wright, chief medical officer at Rosecrance, one of the country’s leading teen substance abuse treatment centers. “Teens want their parents to actively parent them and provide them guidance they need, including direction around substances.”

Studies have shown that parents who play an active role in the lives of their teens can positively impact their children’s behavior and influence them to cease or abstain from ever using substances. In contrast, research shows that teens whose parents expect them to engage in risky behaviors such as drinking and using drugs are more likely to do so.

“It is critical that parents understand their role and take conscious measures to support their teens in living a healthy and happy life,” Wright says. “Parents should ask what their teens are doing, address the pressures they are facing, act immediately when they suspect their teen is in trouble, and advocate for help if their teen needs it to help them live a healthy life.”

Starting a conversation with a teen about substances can be daunting. It can be even more overwhelming for a parent when their teenage child approaches them with questions before they have had a chance to prepare. For a helpful guide to talking with a teenager about marijuana visit

Categories: Lifestyle

Tips for maintaining your diesel vehicle during the winter months

Automotive - Fri, 01/09/2015 - 12:00am

(BPT) - Gone are the days when the only diesel vehicles on the road were commercial and heavy duty trucks. According to, 44 new clean diesel car, truck and SUV models were available in the 2014 model year. Experts are predicting consumers will have more than 58 diesel vehicle models to choose from in North America by 2017.

Consumers are choosing diesel over traditional gasoline vehicles for various reasons including better gas mileage, towing capacity and better resale value. If you are considering purchasing a diesel vehicle or you already own one, here are some tips to maintaining it during the winter months.

Replace your engine air filter - Diesels use a lot of air, so it’s important that your air filter is clean and able to work as efficiently as possible. While air filters can last between 10,000 and 30,000 miles, it is a good idea to have the air filter evaluated every 3,000 to 6,000 miles for wear. A clean air filter can improve the vehicle’s gas mileage.

Use a premium oil filter - Sulfur residue and carbon deposits are created when fuel does not burn completely. A premium oil filter made with high quality media will remove corrosive particles from the oil. Essentially, you get what you pay for when it comes to oil filters. Oil filters that cost less are often made with lesser-quality materials, resulting in quicker break down and little or no filtration.

Cooling systems are critical on diesel engines - Flush your cooling system and replace your antifreeze with the manufacturer’s recommended mix ratio. Also check that the engine light is working properly on the dashboard. An overheating engine that’s not caught in time can result in expensive engine damage.

One way to prevent condensation from building up in your fuel tank is to keep a full tank of gas, but an easy and convenient alternative is using a diesel performance product like Royal Purple’s Max-Tane. Formulated for year-round use, it is compatible with any type or grade of diesel fuel. Some of the benefits of using Max-Tane include improved engine start up in cold temperatures, improved cold flow by preventing gelling and cleans deposits from fuel injectors.

Taking care of your diesel during the winter months will ensure you can rely on your vehicle for years to come.

Categories: Lifestyle

Live and let live: Americans favor a kinder approach for managing cat populations

Community Cares - Thu, 01/08/2015 - 12:00am

(BPT) - Shocking statistics show that nearly three-quarters of the cats who enter our nation’s animal shelters each year, most of whom are free-roaming and un-owned, are killed. Fortunately, Americans’ love of animals doesn’t end with the pets that live in their homes; their care extends to the millions of cats who do not have owners and simply live throughout towns and cities. Across the country a growing number of communities are adopting humane ways to manage these populations and reduce the number killed in shelters.

People favor the idea of trapping, neutering and returning (TNR) cats over lethal injection by a ratio of nearly three to one, a survey by national animal welfare organization Best Friends Animal Society reveals. Furthermore, the health and welfare of the cats (38 percent) and public health (31 percent) were the most important factors in their choice, the survey found. Through TNR, cats are humanely trapped and taken to a veterinarian who spays/neuters them, tips one ear as a visual signal that this cat has been sterilized, and then returns the animals to their outdoor home to live out their lives.  

“Uncontrolled population growth among homeless cats isn’t good for anyone – the animals or the community,” says Gregory Castle, CEO of Best Friends. “Yet adoption isn’t always feasible for cats that are used to living outdoors.”

Many TNR advocates use the term “community cats” to describe populations of homeless felines because many of the cats don’t fit the typical image of “feral.” They live in close proximity to, and interact with, humans, accepting food and affection from people in the community. They may be strays who have become lost or were abandoned, or they may be the offspring of strays, having never lived in a human home. Rather than belonging to no one, these cats become companions to people throughout the community. No one is sure exactly how many community cats live in the U.S., but 30 million to 40 million is a widely accepted estimate.

“As communities are recognizing that killing the animals is neither humane nor effective – and is quite costly to taxpayers – TNR programs have emerged as a kinder means to reduce populations while also ensuring that free-roaming cats stay as healthy as possible,” Castle says.

TNR programs address concerns for public health and the health of the animals. Cats are not only neutered when trapped, but also can be vaccinated against diseases, which helps protect community health. Neutered animals tend to be less territorial and are less stressed over finding mates and rearing young.

Volunteers in communities across the country, and many municipalities, operate TNR programs. Un-owned cats are humanely trapped, neutered and vaccinated, then released into the community to live out their natural lives. The programs have proven very effective; a University of Florida study found a decrease of 66 percent in cats brought to a shelter from a ZIP code where a focused TNR program was in place. Programs in Randolph County, North Carolina, and on the campus of the University of Central Florida also significantly reduced the size of cat colonies.

The Albuquerque, New Mexico, and San Antonio, Texas, Community Cats Projects, partnerships of Best Friends Animal Society and PetSmart Charities, Inc., have been particularly successful. In Albuquerque, for example, shelter deaths of cats and kittens are down 88 percent, from more than 2,800 during the first nine months of 2011 to 337 for the same period this year. And in San Antonio, where intake numbers were rising dramatically before the program’s launch in April 2012, intake of cats and kittens is now declining sharply, and shelter deaths are 84 percent lower than in 2011.

Neutering community cats ensures they won’t produce more un-owned cats, and humanely returning them back into the community allows them to live out their lives. Information to help communities and volunteers launch TNR programs can be found at

“The results of our public opinion survey confirm what we see firsthand in communities around the country – there is widespread support for TNR and community programs,” Castle says. “It’s hardly surprising, really. These programs are not only better for cats, they’re better for communities, too.”

Categories: Lifestyle

The perfect car tips for any trip

Automotive - Wed, 01/07/2015 - 12:00am

(BPT) - Across the country people are planning to take longer road trips this year. If you plan to be one of them, here are five maintenance tips to consider for today’s cars.

* New tires? “For four-wheel drive cars and trucks, buy new tires as a complete set,” says Engineer and Vice President Tom Taylor. “Mixing old and new tires or just mixing tire brands can create small differences in tire diameter that may be enough to overheat and damage four-wheel drive parts.”

* What spare tire? Adding air to the spare used to be all that was needed, but many newer cars do not have a spare tire. They may have “run-flat” tires or come equipped with an air compressor and sealant. Become familiar with your vehicle’s spare tire system before you leave town and decide if it is adequate. Maybe you will want to upgrade to a full size spare.

* Why new struts? Pushing down on a fender and counting the bounces is not a good test for the shocks and struts on modern cars. “Some people are happy that their struts seem to be lasting forever but they don’t realize that the struts actually wore out thousands of miles ago,” says Taylor. “Bad struts lead to unnecessary wear on a whole slew of additional parts including the brakes, rubber boots, suspension bushings and engine mounts.” For the safest handling and braking, replace your struts and shocks at 50,000 miles or at the mileage recommended by the manufacturer.

* Just the belt? Modern engine belts last a long time. Most car owners do not resist when their mechanic tells them it is time to replace the belts after many miles or years. “Owners should listen to their mechanics when they are told the belt tensioners need to be replaced along with the belt,” says Taylor. “Those are the spring-loaded pulleys that keep the belt at the correct tension. Putting a new belt on old tensioners can mean premature wear on the new belt or damage to the alternator or other components spun by the belt.”

* Hose looks new? New engine hoses also now last much longer than they used to. Hoses do eventually fail and the damage often starts in the hose’s inner layers where it is out of sight. A burst radiator hose still means a disrupted trip and today’s aluminum alloy engines are often even more susceptible to heat damage. Follow the guidance of your repair manual or mechanic on when to replace hoses.

Some owners may get away with leaving a radiator hose untouched for decades, but for the rest, common sense assessment of risks and rewards shows why these tips are worth following.

Categories: Lifestyle

You can prevent cervical cancer

Community Cares - Tue, 01/06/2015 - 12:00am

(BPT) - If it weren’t for a woman named Sandy, Brenda T. might have a very different story to tell.

Two years ago, when Brenda was 50 years old, she didn’t have health insurance, and was going to a free clinic in Schenectady, New York. That’s where she met Sandy, a women’s health advocate. “Whenever I saw Sandy, she asked whether I'd had my Pap test,” Brenda says. “She kept nagging me. So I finally did go.”

Brenda, the mother of three and grandmother of two, learned she had cervical cancer. She needed surgery. “I was terrified. I was told that if I had been screened earlier, the cancer wouldn’t be so bad that I needed a partial hysterectomy.”

Even though cervical cancer can be prevented and treated successfully, every year about 12,000 women in the U.S. are diagnosed with it and 4,000 women die from it, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).

But there is good news: you can prevent cervical cancer, with regular screening tests and follow-up. Two screening tests help prevent it or find it early. The Pap test (or Pap smear) looks for precancers – cell changes on the cervix that might become cancer if they are not treated. The HPV test looks for the virus (human papillomavirus) that causes most cervical cancers.

The Pap test is recommended for women between the ages of 21 and 65. If test results are normal, another Pap test may not be needed for three years. If you are 30 years old or older, you may choose to also have an HPV test along with the Pap test, every five years. You and your doctor can decide what is right for you.

“If I could say anything to other women, it is to get checked for cervical cancer regularly,” says Brenda. “If I hadn’t gone when I did, who knows what condition I would be in? There are screening services out there, whether you have insurance or not!”

If you have a low income or do not have insurance, you may be eligible for free or low-cost cervical cancer screening through CDC’s National Breast and Cervical Cancer Early Detection Program.

“I’m happy and healthy now. I get checked regularly and make sure my daughter does, too,” Brenda says. “When my grandkids are old enough, I want them to get the HPV vaccine – it can prevent cervical cancer. I’m proud to say I’m cancer-free and in great health. And I’m very thankful to Sandy for being so persistent. She may have saved my life!”

To learn more, call 1-800-CDC-INFO or visit for information on cervical cancer. For information on the National Breast and Cervical Cancer Early Detection Program, visit To learn about HPV vaccine, visit And check out CDC’s Inside Knowledge: Get the Facts About Gynecologic Cancer Campaign at

Categories: Lifestyle

Providing children with a balanced diet of vitamins and nutrients

Community Cares - Mon, 01/05/2015 - 12:00am
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(BPT) - Children grow healthy and strong thanks to good, nutritious meals and exercise. However, there are millions of children who aren’t getting the full nutrition they need for development. They’re missing essential vitamins and minerals from their daily diets.

1. Wanted: Healthy children who grow up strong

Parents all over the world have the same dream, for their children to grow up healthy and happy.

2. Sometimes diets aren’t enough

When children receive the proper nutrients during their formative years, they have increased energy and better health as they grow. In fact, a child’s future health, mental capacity, and earning potential are determined by the time he or she turns 5 years old.

3. Supplemental vitamins and minerals not always available

Some families aren’t able to afford, or grow, the variety of nutritious foods necessary to give their children the essential nutrients required to thrive.

4. Vitamin Angels fills the need

Walgreens is teaming up with Vitamin Angels to provide life-changing vitamins to millions of children in the U.S. and across the globe who are at risk of vitamin deficiencies.

5. You can get involved

With every vitamin purchase, Walgreens will donate 1 percent of sales to Vitamin Angels.

6. Children around the world receiving needed vitamins

To date, Walgreens has raised funds to aid 28 million children around the world with life-changing vitamins and nutrients.

7. Reaching the goal

Walgreens is dedicated to providing 100 million children in the U.S. and around the world with life-changing vitamins by the end of 2017.

8. Lack of nutrition a global concern

Children across the globe, like this little girl from Kenya, will benefit from the essential nutrients found in vitamins that they may not get in their daily diet.

9. Helping others while helping yourself

All vitamins available at Walgreens are eligible. So while you’re keeping healthy, you are supporting the goal to reach 100 million children in the U.S. and abroad with life-changing vitamins.

Categories: Lifestyle

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