August 2017 Prosperity at Work E-Tip

Economics & Job Creation:

“THE EMPLOYMENT SITUATION — July 2017”

Life Sciences:
“Yoga effective at reducing symptoms of depression”

Technology:
“How to pave over our big (cigarette) butt problem”

Healthcare:
“New biosensor stimulates sweat even when patient is resting and cool”

The Industrials:
“Heat-conducting plastic could lead to lighter electronics, cars”

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HCS has created the Prosperity at Work proposition which focuses on creating prosperous relationships between companies and their employees (associates). HCS assists companies in improving bottom line profitability by efficiently planning, organizing and implementing optimized, practical and value-added business solutions.


 

Economics & Job Creation:

THE EMPLOYMENT SITUATION — JULY 2017
Total nonfarm payroll employment increased by 209,000 in July, and the unemployment rate
was little changed at 4.3 percent, the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics reported today.
Employment increased in food services and drinking places, professional and business
services, and health care.

Household Survey Data

Both the unemployment rate, at 4.3 percent, and the number of unemployed persons, at 7.0
million, changed little in July. After declining earlier in the year, the unemployment
rate has shown little movement in recent months. (See table A-1.)

Among the major worker groups, the unemployment rates for adult men (4.0 percent), adult
women (4.0 percent), teenagers (13.2 percent), Whites (3.8 percent), Blacks (7.4 percent),
Asians (3.8 percent), and Hispanics (5.1 percent) showed little or no change in July.
(See tables A-1, A-2, and A-3.)

Among the unemployed, the number of long-term unemployed (those jobless for 27 weeks or
more) was little changed at 1.8 million in July and accounted for 25.9 percent of the
unemployed. (See table A-12.)

The labor force participation rate, at 62.9 percent, changed little in July and has shown
little movement on net over the past year. The employment-population ratio (60.2 percent)
was also little changed in July but is up by 0.4 percentage point over the year.
(See table A-1.)

The number of persons employed part time for economic reasons (sometimes referred to as
involuntary part-time workers), at 5.3 million, was essentially unchanged in July. These
individuals, who would have preferred full-time employment, were working part time because
their hours had been cut back or because they were unable to find a full-time job.
(See table A-8.)

In July, 1.6 million persons were marginally attached to the labor force, down by 321,000
from a year earlier. (The data are not seasonally adjusted.) These individuals were not in
the labor force, wanted and were available for work, and had looked for a job sometime in
the prior 12 months. They were not counted as unemployed because they had not searched for
work in the 4 weeks preceding the survey. (See table A-16.)

Among the marginally attached, there were 536,000 discouraged workers in July, essentially
unchanged over the year. Discouraged workers are persons not currently looking for work
because they believe no jobs are available for them. The remaining 1.1 million persons
marginally attached to the labor force in July had not searched for work for reasons such
as school attendance or family responsibilities. (See table A-16.)

Establishment Survey Data

Total nonfarm payroll employment increased by 209,000 in July. Job gains occurred in food
services and drinking places, professional and business services, and health care.
Employment growth has averaged 184,000 per month thus far this year, in line with the
average monthly gain in 2016 (+187,000). (See table B-1.)

Employment in food services and drinking places rose by 53,000 in July. The industry has
added 313,000 jobs over the year.

Professional and business services added 49,000 jobs in July, in line with its average
monthly job gain over the prior 12 months.

In July, health care employment increased by 39,000, with job gains occurring in ambulatory
health care services (+30,000) and hospitals (+7,000). Health care has added 327,000 jobs
over the past year.

Employment in mining was essentially unchanged in July (+1,000). From a recent low in
October 2016 through June, the industry had added an average of 7,000 jobs per month.

Employment in other major industries, including construction, manufacturing, wholesale
trade, retail trade, transportation and warehousing, information, financial activities,
and government, showed little change over the month.

The average workweek for all employees on private nonfarm payrolls was unchanged at 34.5
hours in July. In manufacturing, the workweek was also unchanged at 40.9 hours, and
overtime remained at 3.3 hours. The average workweek for production and nonsupervisory
employees on private nonfarm payrolls was 33.7 hours for the fourth consecutive month.
(See tables B-2 and B-7.)

In July, average hourly earnings for all employees on private nonfarm payrolls rose by 9
cents to $26.36. Over the year, average hourly earnings have risen by 65 cents, or 2.5
percent. In July, average hourly earnings of private-sector production and nonsupervisory
employees increased by 6 cents to $22.10. (See tables B-3 and B-8.)

The change in total nonfarm payroll employment for May was revised down from +152,000 to
+145,000, and the change for June was revised up from +222,000 to +231,000. With these
revisions, employment gains in May and June combined were 2,000 more than previously
reported. Monthly revisions result from additional reports received from businesses and
government agencies since the last published estimates and from the recalculation of
seasonal factors. Over the past 3 months, job gains have averaged 195,000 per month.

http://www.bls.gov/news.release/empsit.nr0.htm

 

Life Sciences:

“Yoga effective at reducing symptoms of depression”

 

People who suffer from depression may want to look to yoga as a complement to traditional therapies as the practice appears to lessen symptoms of the disorder, according to studies presented at the 125th Annual Convention of the American Psychological Association.

“Yoga has become increasingly popular in the West, and many new yoga practitioners cite stress-reduction and other mental health concerns as their primary reason for practicing,” said Lindsey Hopkins, PhD, of the San Francisco Veterans Affairs Medical Center, who chaired a session highlighting research on yoga and depression. “But the empirical research on yoga lags behind its popularity as a first-line approach to mental health.”

Hopkins’ research focused on the acceptability and antidepressant effects of hatha yoga, the branch of yoga that emphasizes physical exercises, along with meditative and breathing exercises, to enhance well-being. In the study, 23 male veterans participated in twice-weekly yoga classes for eight weeks. On a 1-10 scale, the average enjoyment rating for the yoga classes for these veterans was 9.4. All participants said they would recommend the program to other veterans. More importantly, participants with elevated depression scores before the yoga program had a significant reduction in depression symptoms after the eight weeks.

Another, more specific, version of hatha yoga commonly practiced in the West is Bikram yoga, also known as heated yoga. Sarah Shallit, MA, of Alliant University in San Francisco investigated Bikram yoga in 52 women, age 25-45. Just more than half were assigned to participate in twice-weekly classes for eight weeks. The rest were told they were wait-listed and used as a control condition. All participants were tested for depression levels at the beginning of the study, as well as at weeks three, six and nine. Shallit and her co-author Hopkins found that eight weeks of Bikram yoga significantly reduced symptoms of depression compared with the control group.

In the same session, Maren Nyer, PhD, and Maya Nauphal, BA, of Massachusetts General Hospital, presented data from a pilot study of 29 adults that also showed eight weeks of at least twice-weekly Bikram yoga significantly reduced symptoms of depression and improved other secondary measures including quality of life, optimism, and cognitive and physical functioning.

“The more the participants attended yoga classes, the lower their depressive symptoms at the end of the study,” said Nyer, who currently has funding from the National Center for Complementary and Integrative Health to conduct a randomized controlled trial of Bikram yoga for individuals with depression.

Elsewhere at the meeting, Nina Vollbehr, MS, of the Center for Integrative Psychiatry in the Netherlands presented data from two studies on the potential for yoga to address chronic and/or treatment-resistant depression. In the first study, 12 patients who had experienced depression for an average of 11 years participated in nine weekly yoga sessions of approximately 2.5 hours each. The researchers measured participants’ levels of depression, anxiety, stress, rumination and worry before the yoga sessions, directly after the nine weeks and four months later. Scores for depression, anxiety and stress decreased throughout the program, a benefit that persisted four months after the training. Rumination and worry did not change immediately after the treatment, but at follow up rumination and worry were decreased for the participants.

In another study, involving 74 mildly depressed university students, Vollbehr and her colleagues compared yoga to a relaxation technique. Individuals received 30 minutes of live instruction on either yoga or relaxation and were asked to perform the same exercise at home for eight days using a 15-minute instructional video. While results taken immediately after the treatment showed yoga and relaxation were equally effective at reducing symptoms, two months later, the participants in the yoga group had significantly lower scores for depression, anxiety and stress than the relaxation group.

“These studies suggest that yoga-based interventions have promise for depressed mood and that they are feasible for patients with chronic, treatment-resistant depression,” said Vollbehr.

The concept of yoga as complementary or alternative mental health treatment is so promising that the U.S. military is investigating the creation of its own treatment programs. Jacob Hyde, PsyD, of the University of Denver, gave a presentation outlining a standardized, six-week yoga treatment for U.S. military veterans enrolled in behavioral health services at the university-run clinic and could be expanded for use by the Department of Defense and the Department of Veterans Affairs.

Hopkins noted that the research on yoga as a treatment for depression is still preliminary. “At this time, we can only recommend yoga as a complementary approach, likely most effective in conjunction with standard approaches delivered by a licensed therapist,” she said. “Clearly, yoga is not a cure-all. However, based on empirical evidence, there seems to be a lot of potential.”

https://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2017/08/170803152917.htm

 

Technology:

“How to pave over our big (cigarette) butt problem”

 

Soon the footpath you walk on could be full of cigarette butts, instead of being littered with them.

Trillions of cigarette butts are produced every year worldwide, with most discarded into the environment. They take ages to break down while their toxic chemical load is released into creeks, rivers and the ocean.

Now a team at RMIT University in Melbourne, Australia, led by Dr Abbas Mohajerani has demonstrated that asphalt mixed with cigarette butts can handle heavy traffic and also reduce thermal conductivity.

This means the product could not only solve a huge waste problem but would also be useful in reducing the urban heat island effect common in cities.

Mohajerani, a senior lecturer in RMIT’s School of Engineering, said he was keen to find solutions to mounting cigarette butt waste.

“I have been trying for many years to find sustainable and practical methods for solving the problem of cigarette butt pollution,” Mohajerani said.

“In this research, we encapsulated the cigarette butts with bitumen and paraffin wax to lock in the chemicals and prevent any leaching from the asphalt concrete. The encapsulated cigarettes butts were mixed with hot asphalt mix for making samples,” Mohajerani said.

“Encapsulated cigarette butts developed in this research will be a new construction material which can be used in different applications and lightweight composite products.

“This research shows that you can create a new construction material while ridding the environment of a huge waste problem.”

About 6 trillion cigarettes are produced every year, leading to more than 1.2 million tonnes of cigarette butt waste. These figures are expected to increase by more than 50 per cent by 2025, mainly due to an increase in world population.

“Cigarette filters are designed to trap hundreds of toxic chemicals and the only ways to control these chemicals are either by effective encapsulation for the production of new lightweight aggregates or by the incorporation in fired clay bricks,” Mohajerani said.

The project is the result of five years of research. It has been published in the journal of Construction and Building Materials(Elsevier).

https://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2017/08/170806185625.htm

 

Healthcare:

“New biosensor stimulates sweat even when patient is resting and cool”

 

One downside to medical sensors that test human sweat: you have to sweat.

Sweating from exertion or a stifling room temperature can be impractical for some patients and unsafe for others. And unless they are on the second leg of the Tour de France, it’s unlikely patients will want to sweat all day for the benefit of a sensor reading.

But researchers at the University of Cincinnati have come up with a novel way to stimulate sweat glands on a small, isolated patch of skin so subjects can stay cool and comfortable and go about their daily routine without spending hours on a treadmill.

UC professor Jason Heikenfeld and UC graduate Zachary Sonner came up with a device the size of a Band-Aid that uses a chemical stimulant to produce sweat, even when the patient is relaxed and cool. The sensors also can predict how much patients sweat, an important factor in understanding the hormones or chemicals the biosensors measure. The study was published July 25 in the nanotechnology journal Lab on a Chip.

“The challenge is not only coming up with new technological breakthroughs like this, but also bringing all these technology solutions together in a reliable and manufacturable device,” Heikenfeld said.

He co-founded a biosensor company, Eccrine Systems, that is pursuing just that.

Biomedical sensors are part of a medical-device industry valued at $88 billion in the United States, according to the market-research firm IbisWorld. The industry is poised to see explosive growth in the next five years with the advent of new technology and increasing competition.

Heikenfeld helped launch the Cincinnati biosensor company in 2013 with help from UC’s Technology Accelerator program and was recently named UC’s assistant vice president of entrepreneurial affairs and technology commercialization. He serves as Eccrine System’s chief science officer and said the company’s work is starting to attract international attention.

Blood analysis is considered the gold standard for biometric analysis. But biometric testing with blood is invasive and often requires the use of a lab. It is far more difficult for doctors to perform continuous monitoring of blood over hours or days. Sweat provides a noninvasive alternative, with chemical markers that are more useful in monitoring health than saliva or tears, Heikenfeld said.

“People for a long time ignored sweat because, although it can be a higher-quality fluid for biomarkers, you can’t rely on having access to it,” Heikenfeld said. “Our goal was to achieve methods to stimulate sweat whenever needed — or for days.”

Heikenfeld, also director of UC’s Novel Devices Laboratory, has been studying the problem for seven years. Scientists say sweat provides much of the same useful information about patients as blood. The problem has always been getting the same consistent sample as is possible with a standard blood draw, he said.

“We believe that the solutes you find in blood you will find in sweat,” he said. “We have postulated that for some time and, as of right now, have not seen anything to change our hypothesis.”

Testing sweat has other possible benefits over blood, he said.

“If you do a blood draw, you get one data point,” he said. “In many cases, doctors would love to know if concentrations are increasing or decreasing over time.”

For the study, the researchers applied sensors and a gel containing carbachol, a chemical used in eyedrops, to their subject’s forearm for 2.5 minutes. They used three methods to obtain sensor data: the gel and sensors alone and in combination with memory foam padding (to provide better contact between the sensor and the skin) and iontophoresis, an electrical current at 0.2 milliamps that drives a tiny amount of carbachol into the upper layer of the skin and locally stimulates sweat glands but causes no physical sensation or discomfort.

Then they recorded data obtained from the subject’s sweat for 30 minutes using sensors that measured concentrations of sweat electrolytes. Carbachol was effective at inducing sweating under the sensor for as long as five hours. Heikenfeld said a subsequent study successful generated sensor results for several days using this process to stimulate sweat.

They used a pH-sensitive dye to observe the results. The orange dye turned blue when it reacted with sweat. This demonstrated that the sweat glands were stimulated evenly across the sensor area.

“This work represents a significant leap forward in sweat-sensing technology,” the study concluded.

“Imagine being able to monitor cardiac patients after they have been released from the hospital, or preventing dehydration in athletes or even helping ensure that your body is getting the exact right concentrations of a prescription drug,” Heikenfeld said.

“The ultimate goal is convenience and reliability for biomedical applications,” said alum Sonner, lead author of the paper.

“The end goal is to take the idea from a benchtop test to a portable device — perhaps for people in high-stress jobs like airline pilots — and analyze them for stress,” Sonner said. “If you’re a pilot, you can’t do blood draws while you’re flying the plane. But a sensor could analyze sweat so we can begin to understand how their body responds to stressful situations.”

The study comes at a time when many consumers are taking a more active role in monitoring their own body chemistry and using wearable technology to track their progress toward some athletic or wellness goal.

The sensors UC developed could help track changes in hormones such as cortisol, which is released when someone is under stress.

“Cortisol levels can help trainers know just how hard they need to train an athlete until they are pushing them too far,” he said.

That is the moment when athletic performance begins to drop off while the chance of injury dramatically increases, he said.

Possible uses go well beyond Olympic athletes. The U.S. Air Force Research Laboratory at Wright-Patterson Air Force Base, a UC research partner, is extremely interested in measuring cortisol in pilots facing mentally and physically stressful situations. Monitoring their health and performance over time using noninvasive sensors would be extremely helpful, Heikenfeld said.

Likewise, it could be useful for patients who might want to perform regular health monitoring at home after a surgery, Sonner said.

“It’s particularly useful for follow-up visits where normally there is some type of blood testing that has to be done. They could wear a disposable patch for 20 minutes instead,” Sonner said.

And saving the time and money of an unnecessary trip to the blood lab or doctor’s office? Totally worth the sweat.

https://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2017/08/170805142408.htm

 

The Industrials:

“Heat-conducting plastic could lead to lighter electronics, cars”

 

Advanced plastics could usher in lighter, cheaper, more energy-efficient product components, including those used in vehicles, LEDs and computers — if only they were better at dissipating heat.

A new technique that can change plastic’s molecular structure to help it cast off heat is a promising step in that direction.

Developed by a team of University of Michigan researchers in materials science and mechanical engineering and detailed in a new study published in Science Advances, the process is inexpensive and scalable.

The concept can likely be adapted to a variety of other plastics. In preliminary tests, it made a polymer about as thermally conductive as glass — still far less so than metals or ceramics, but six times better at dissipating heat than the same polymer without the treatment.

“Plastics are replacing metals and ceramics in many places, but they’re such poor heat conductors that nobody even considers them for applications that require heat to be dissipated efficiently,” said Jinsang Kim, U-M materials science and engineering professor. “We’re working to change that by applying thermal engineering to plastics in a way that hasn’t been done before.”

The process is a major departure from previous approaches, which have focused on adding metallic or ceramic fillers to plastics. This has met with limited success; a large amount of fillers must be added, which is expensive and can change the properties of the plastic in undesirable ways. Instead, the new technique uses a process that engineers the structure of the material itself.

Plastics are made of long chains of molecules that are tightly coiled and tangled like a bowl of spaghetti. As heat travels through the material, it must travel along and between these chains — an arduous, roundabout journey that impedes its progress.

The team — which also includes U-M associate professor of mechanical engineering Kevin Pipe, mechanical engineering graduate researcher Chen Li and materials science and engineering graduate student Apoorv Shanker — used a chemical process to expand and straighten the molecule chains. This gave heat energy a more direct route through the material. To accomplish this, they started with a typical polymer, or plastic. They first dissolved the polymer in water, then added electrolytes to the solution to raise its pH, making it alkaline.

The individual links in the polymer chain — called monomers — take on a negative charge, which causes them to repel each other. As they spread apart, they unfurl the chain’s tight coils. Finally, the water and polymer solution is sprayed onto plates using a common industrial process called spin casting, which reconstitutes it into a solid plastic film.

The uncoiled molecule chains within the plastic make it easier for heat to travel through it. The team also found that the process has a secondary benefit — it stiffens the polymer chains and helps them pack together more tightly, making them even more thermally conductive.

“Polymer molecules conduct heat by vibrating, and a stiffer molecule chain can vibrate more easily,” Shanker said. “Think of a tightly stretched guitar string compared to a loosely coiled piece of twine. The guitar string will vibrate when plucked, the twine won’t. Polymer molecule chains behave in a similar way.”

Pipe says that the work can have important consequences because of the large number of polymer applications in which temperature is important.

“Researchers have long studied ways to modify the molecular structure of polymers to engineer their mechanical, optical or electronic properties, but very few studies have examined molecular design approaches to engineer their thermal properties,” Pipe said. “While heat flow in materials is often a complex process, even small improvements in the thermal conductivities of polymers can have a large technological impact.”

The team is now looking at making composites that combine the new technique with several other heat dissipating strategies to further increase thermal conductivity. They’re also working to apply the concept to other types of polymers beyond those used in this research. A commercial product is likely several years away.

“We’re looking at using organic solvents to apply this technique to non- water soluble polymers,” Li said. “But we believe that the concept of using electrolytes to thermally engineer polymers is a versatile idea that will apply across many other materials.”

https://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2017/08/170802134751.htm

 

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