Raising hell may be good for your health.


Concern for our health is normal, but what do we actually need in order to live long and healthy lives? Diet, exercise, and moderation don’t seem to be enough. Mental well-being has been gaining recognition as a key element to healthy living, though there is some disagreement as to what best contributes to mental health.

Religious advocates say, and some surveys suggest, that religion is good for health. But what is really being identified are the health benefits of humanity’s social nature, which are then ascribed to mainstream religion. Religion, however, shouldn’t be able to take the credit for human instinct. It turns out that, when handled correctly, health can improve without the assistance of religion.

To make this clear, we first need to step back and review the religious claims. Harold Koenig of Duke University argues in his 2001 book, The Link Between Religion and Health: Psychoneuroimmunology and the Faith Factor, that a battery of studies that poll for religious data show a correlation between church attendance and good health. According to a 1999 article in the New Republic, the studies recorded demographic data on participants, including questions regarding religious faith and frequency of church attendance, and monitored their health over several years.

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However, Koenig’s findings only use the data from religions that have no built-in health risks. For example, Christian Scientists don’t factor into the results because they shun medicine. Furthermore, there weren’t enough Muslims in the study to provide conclusive statistics about the benefits or liabilities of Islam.

It’s possible, of course, that practicing a religious faith with certain features could have certain health benefits. But this doesn’t necessarily mean that these faithful will live longer lives and have better health than their nontheistic counterparts. Another study, conducted in England, looks into other factors in a person’s lifestyle that may prove salutary.

John Drury, in a recent unpublished study conducted at the University of Sussex, suggests that social or political protesting can be good for you. The benefits derive from the power of “collective action” which arises when a group of people gather for a common cause and act in unison for a purpose. In the case of a protest or demonstration, activists intend to improve a community, and that sense of purpose provides feelings of happiness and fulfillment.

Drury relates protesting to events unrelated to activism, such as a New Year’s Eve gathering where collective action empowers the participants. “The main factors contributing to a sense of empowerment were the realization of the collective identity, the sense of movement potential, unity and mutual support within a crowd,” said Drury.

The report doesn’t mention the role of religion in the benefits of protesting. It would be unfair to claim that protesting is only for nonreligious people and that they can be the only ones to experience the euphoria of protesting or demonstrating for a cause. Conversely, the report doesn’t take into account the darker side of collective action. While well-meaning people gather every day to improve their communities, there are others who gather for purposes which, if uncontrolled, could have highly negative effects. Instead of a peaceful demonstration, a mob mentality could prevail, which has been the cause of soccer riots, sexual assaults, and abortion clinic violence. So, while collective action can be used to energize people with a common cause for a positive purpose, a sense of moral and social responsibility must be part of any protesting effort in order to prevent ill effects.

But an important insight to be gained from Drury’s report is that, when it comes to the health benefits of group action, community involvement is the driving force, whether it is a local or global community and whether the motivation is secular or religious.

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Healthy living, therefore, isn’t a benefit that only religion can offer. Religion can’t lay claim to social interaction and the origin of the community. Rather, those are aspects of humanity that have been part of our genetic blueprint for longer than today’s religions have existed. Therefore, studies that correlate a healthful life with religion take for granted the social structure that religion provides, as if to claim that religious affiliation is the only way one can enjoy this social structure or that specificreligious beliefs are necessary for a sound mind and body.

Nonetheless, to the credit of mainstream religions, they have centuries of experience creating committed communities. And within a church congregation exists a social structure that features established rituals and accepted behaviors. Thus, when someone joins a church, she or he is soon expected to perform those rituals and adhere to those behaviors. But this doesn’t mean that the same health benefits are unavailable to others. One can also participate in a community that doesn’t require the worship of a deity yet still provides the social structure of a congregation. Liberal churches and humanist groups are two examples. But participation in a charity or activist organization also can provide the necessary ingredients. Indeed, in almost any group of people with a common interest that is acting to improve a community, social interaction and a sense of purpose develop. The health benefits, therefore, should naturally follow.

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But there’s an unamusing irony. A recent Gallup poll indicates that Catholic church attendance has dropped in the wake of the pedophilia scandal that has garnered so much media attention. We can therefore ask how healthy regular church involvement has been for the victims of priestly misconduct. And we can also ask, if church attendance grants good health, but regular attendance at Catholic churches continues to drop, will the health of those Catholics who now abstain from church services suffer as a result?

Clearly, rather than pin hopes for a healthy life on religion, it would be better for us to choose a philosophy and lifestyle for the sense it makes. Then we should keep in mind that what the health-religion studies suggest is that if we live in relative solitude we won’t be able to reap all of benefits available. For humanists, an excellent approach to life enhancement would be to find a worthy, moral cause and volunteer. There’s nothing to lose. But what can be gained is a sense of purpose, a community, and all the health benefits that come with them.

Outposts are picking up sales of mops, brooms


Eager for a clean sweep in mop and broom sales, many retailers plan to enhance the category’s variety and promotional activity.

Buyers polled by Supermarket News focus on off-rack and other supplemental display methods to increase planned purchases for this impulse category. Retailers find success using secondarydisplays and in-and-out promotions of basic mops, brooms and accessories, such as small brushes and sponge mop refills.

For instance, sales double when Harp’s Food Stores, Springdale, Ark., displays corn brooms by checkout lanes during peak selling periods, according to Art Bundy, director, nonfood.

“Vendors are aggressive in their costing to us, and we move a large amount of product through floor displays,” he said. “This exposes customers to the items at prominent spots in the traffic pattern.”

Off-rack in-and-outs build higher category volume for retailers supplied by Certified Grocers Midwest, Chicago, said Jerry Willts, director, health and beauty aids and general merchandise. Certified’s retailers place mops, brooms and brushes at high-traffic locations.

“Stores with the new set reported volume gains of around 10%,” Willts noted.

Cross-merchandising of brushes and brooms in other sections also builds sales for the category.

Displaying pastry and basting brushes close to the checkouts during major holiday periods increases movement by 5-10% at Holiday Plus Stores, Bloomington, Minn., noted Stan Christianson, buyer, nonfoods. Also, he said, “we cross-merchandise push-brooms with patio and outdoor promotions.”

Ads and promotional shippers increase customer awareness; while building interest in selections.

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Although Charley Bros., New Stanton, Pa., promotes the category all year, it ties advertising to sales peaks, according to Charles Robson, buyer. To round out the assortment, the company is considering a new 12-item Super Valu private label Chateau selection of mops, brooms and brushes.

Our retailers will do more off-rack and in-and-out promoting in high-traffic locations – including the registers – to bolster impulse purchases. We’ve had good success with a promotion offering $1 off with the trade-in of an old mop or broom.

Stores introduced larger mop and broom assortments in enhanced fixtures to improve presentations. They widened accessories and increased stockkeeping units by 20%. The wider choices include products as small as a nail brush, and a line of utility brushes.

We will promote the category very aggressively to build more planned purchases. This is a high-impulse department that must stand out in order to raise shopper awareness.

We cross-merchandise push-brooms with patio and outdoor promotions. We also tie in smaller brushes with grocery merchandising programs during heavy baking seasons. Sales of pastry and basting brushes displayed at checkouts increase 5-10%.

We’ll run “buy one, get one free” promotions for mops and brooms. These offer $1 coupons for stick goods purchases.

Mops and brooms represent over $300,000 in annual business for us. It’s a category that generates profit of about 35%.

Although many mop and broom products are basic selections, customers react to promotions, which trigger stronger sales.

Many consumers replace a mop or broom during the heavy peak shopping periods. Our sales last year reflected this demand. The big mop and broom seasons are April-May and September-December.

A complete department drives the business. To maximize shelf turns and customer traffic, we increased assortments and enlarged display treatments. We’ve enlarged the section because sales there are still climbing and product choices are increasing.

We will change the merchandise assortment slightly by adding some scrubbers and sponges. These sell better in the spring, and this year we plan to promote them more heavily.

Our sections run 12-28 ft. They include national and local products. Sales of the highlighted items double when they’re set up as secondary broom displays at the front end.

Vendors are aggressive in their costing to us, and we move many products through floor displays. This exposes customers to the items at prominent spots in the traffic pattern. We’ll repeat this in 1990.

We’ll continue looking for new items to add greater interest in the section. We keep it updated with accessories for household and kitchen cleaning needs.

We look for items that tie in with household cleaning uses, such as dishcloths, clothespins and other related products. These are displayed with basic brooms, mops and brushes.

New items cause movement in the category. We try to introduce items in the spring, when many consumers are thinking about house cleaning.

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We may increase our Topco variety beyond the 10 items carried, as it does very well. A bigger private label assortment gives customers a wider product option in the section. We carry Topco in other product sections and it benefits our volume.

Spotting additional mop and broom displays around the store works well for us. We put these in the center aisle and in high-traffic grocery areas.

Advertised mop and broom features jolt memories, and customers jot them down on their lists. This makes it a planned purchase. While it’s a flat category, mops and brooms represent the bulk of volume in the section. We highlight them in off-rack displays.

Eight to 10 mop and broom items are featured. These are changed about midway through the program to give displays a fresh, new look. We’ll start out with sponges, buckets, mops and brooms, and depending on what items are available on allowance, change the mix by introducing, say, scrub brushes, toilet tissue holders and similar selections for the second half of the promotion period. We find varying the kind of cleaning accessories adds interest to the presentations.

We highlight the mop, brush and broom category in spring and fall, with one or two items sold at good consumer savings.

We’ll buy a large supply to carry over the six- or eight-week promotion period, and back up the program with print ads. These will be merchandised at several spots around the store and close to cleaning supplies and the regular mop and broom rack. Sometimes it could be a sponge mop, or an angle or corn broom.

When we do this, sale items increase five times their normal shelf turns, also having a favorable impact on the regular category setting.

Although we promote the category year-round, we advertise brooms and sponge mops at least monthly at retail price points. We intend to continue focusing on floor displays to draw attention to advertised items.

During spring and fall peak cleaning seasons, we feature additional items. This year we may add a Super Valu Chateau private label mop and broom program. The 12-item assortment is something we don’t have in the stores now.

When we advertise features, we like to have floor displays that attract consumers’ attention. They walk right into it as they go through the household aisle. We like to have two or three displays set up at a time because they drive volume up 30-35% during the promotion.

We get good results offering rebate forms at point of purchase. Although some manufacturers are phasing these out, they are still popular with consumers, especially in this category. Redemptions are high in this market area.

We are considering introducing some new private label Nash Finch Our Family broom and sponge selections in about 100 stores this year. But I don’t know at this point if we’ll go deeply into private label brooms and mops. Private label will give consumers a value-priced option.

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Purchases in this category are more impulse than planned. However, the person who is looking for a mop refill is definitely planning the purchase. It is on the shopping list. A vegetable brush would be more of an impulse item.

Because of space, we usually limit off-rack display to one shipper – usually a mop or broom purchased on deal and priced lower than normal. This is set up in the regular broom and rack aisle. Placing it close to the main section is enough to focus consumer attention on the regular selection during the spring cleaning season. We may promote a sponge this way, as well.

There is much potential business out there for mops and brooms. We do an excellent job with “buy a broom and get a mop free” promotions. They work so well that we run them four or five times a year.

Mops and brooms are an impulse category, but there are ways of making the section more of a planned expenditure. We have a lot of stores that increase sales with barrels for off-shelf broom and mop displays. We also promote brushes in shippers.


Rubbermaid gets a handle on mops and brooms

Rubbermaid gets a handle on mops and brooms
WOOSTER, Ohio – Rubbermaid Inc. is banking on its proven brand name, cross-merchandising capabilities and advertising know-how to propel its latest home cleanup venture – a full line of brooms, spin mop reviews, brushes and sponges – to the forefront of the $1 billion stick goods and small wares category.
The plastics giant’s program, which is making its debut at this week’s International Housewares Exposition in Chicago, is generating considerable interest among retailers and manufacturers. Rubbermaid is entering the category with the same vigor and marketing savvy it did with food storage products six years ago and recycling containers last August.
“Our philosophy as a business is to bring to the customer a complete package – a total marketing mix program rather than a product and price,” noted Wolf Schmitt, president and general manager of the housewares products division at Rubbermaid. “Our concept is not just to sell in, but to bring to the retailers a package that both sells in and sells out.”
The company’s home cleanup team, which also includes Raymond Pezzi, vice president of marketing, Andrius Birutis, product manager, and Porter Kauffman, national sales manager, has spent three years conducting extensive consumer and retail research and gathering statistics and other data on markets, programs, products, features and colors.
Based on those studies, the company has developed a product line of 50 basic items in the broom, twist and shout mop, brush and sponge categories. The products, which come in bright blue with coordinated black packaging, will ship to retailers early in the second half of this year. The company also plans to incorporate rubber gloves and vacuum cleaner bags into the program.

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According to Rubbermaid, the cleaning aids business, which generates about $675 million at wholesale ($300 million in brooms, brushes and mops; $200 million in sponges, scrubbers and wipes; $55 million in rubber gloves, and $120 million in vacuum cleaner bags), needs to be reinvigorated.
“Other than repackaging existing lines, when you look at the business over the last 10 or 20 years, it’s not had any great investment of creativity or resources,” Schmitt said. “The product lines have been developed over many, many years so, as a result, there’s a real hodgepodge of product. The quality is very inconsistent.”
In creating its line, Rubbermaid used resources from two subsidiaries – Viking Brush Ltd. in Canada, which is a full-line operation, and Rubbermaid Commercial Products. All items except rubber gloves, which are imported, are being manufactured at various locations in North America.
While manufacturing plants are scattered, the company has centralized distribution, using one facility in Statesville, N.C. “We have chosen to centralize this product in order to respond a lot quicker to retailers’ needs,” Kauffman noted, adding that “this category turns a lot faster than other categories we’re experienced in.”
Drawing from these resources is just one of many strategic advantages the company has, Schmitt noted. Rubbermaid’s stamp of approval from consumers will help to move the products.
“We think that in the ’90s our customers will more than ever look for destination brands that they know will pull consumers into their stores,” Schmitt said. “We happen to be one of those companies that fit this description.”
The potential to cross-merchandise the line with similar cleaning products already in the company’s mix, such as refuse containers, buckets and laundry baskets, is appealing to retailers, said Pezzi.
“There’s a tremendous synergy with Rubbermaid and cleaning,” he said. “There are great opportunities with tie-in promotions. Retailers are looking at purchasing from companies that can supply their needs, and present themselves in a cohesive manner without fragmentation.”
A retailer, for example, may promote Rubbermaid buckets and best spin mop on an end-cap display to drive sales.
“Retailers are excited about the possibility of integrating what we currently do with our cleaning products,” Kauffman said. “It will drive incremental volume for retailers.”
To draw consumers into the stores, Rubbermaid’s program will be backed by a national television, print and radio advertising campaign. The company will advertise the line by itself as well as integrate it with other home cleanup products.
Rubbermaid, which is celebrating its 70th anniversary, will spend more money on advertising this year than ever before. The Rubbermaid name will reach each adult 63 times in 1990, making 11 billion impressions in all.
While assessing the category, Rubbermaid found too many products can be a problem for retailers. “Right now an awful lot of retailers have way too many SKUs and as a result they simply can’t service them all,” said Pezzi.
To avoid this problem, the company conducted retail store audits, looking at every single product in the line. Based on this information it was able to develop a program that includes the key products in an average retail planogram.
“We will be expanding our product selection to meet more and more needs, and we will be developing new types of products that will be unique to the marketplace,” said Birutis
Prices on products range from $1.29 for a sponge scrubber to $15.99 for a push broom. “We are extremely competitive with those people who deliver a quality product and are at the top of this market,” Schmitt said, adding that “price is not a major driver with a lot of consumers today; it’s quality that’s important.”
In designing the line, the team literally started from scratch. And as it does with all products, Birutis noted, Rubbermaid paid tremendous attention to details. “We looked at each element of a product and tried to give it advantages over what’s out there now,” he said.
Schmitt added, “We have a tremendous number of little advantages. If you add them all up you have a significant advantage, we think, competitively.”
For example, Rubbermaid talked to numerous chemical cleaning companies and found that certain colors connote different values to consumers. Pastel colors, for example, connote lighter cleaning. Primary colors, on the other hand, are associated with heavier cleaning. “Blue was the dominate theme in our studies,” Schmitt said. “It connotes crisp, strong cleaning to the consumer.”
The company also stressed ergonomics while developing the line. “Most people hate to clean. When designing these products we tried to do everything we could to make cleaning easier for consumers,” noted Birutis. “Quality is related to convenience,” he added.
To make cleaning easier for consumers, handles were contoured to fit comfortably in the hand without pinching. On scrub brushes, for example, the handles are open instead of closed to fit any size or shape hand. Pot scrubbers are angled to fit easily inside cookware. On o cedar spin mop, the yarn is sewn into the piece that connects it to the stick. This is to keep the yarn from falling out.
Brooms have been angled to fit into tight corners and bristles are soft in order to pick up dirt more easily. The brooms are also lightweight to make cleaning easier. The edges of dust pans are serrated so that consumers can clean the dust off the brush. The list goes on and on.
The same attention has been paid to packaging. Rubbermaid actually took consumers through a simulated store environment to determine how long they look at a planogram, what they look at and how much copy they read. “We found that consumers zero in on what the brand is and what the product is,” said Birutis. The company, therefore, made the red Rubbermaid logo and the product description, in white, much larger than usual.
“There’s low readership on copy so we played up what consumers want to see to create shelf impact,” he said, adding that the carding contains brief descriptions of products and features in yellow.

The stethoscope you must have

Dr Raj Thakkar is impressed with the acoustic quality of an electronic stethoscope.
Practice-based commissioning and GPSIs have paved the way to ever-greater specialisation among GPs.
But in order to practise medicine to a high standard, all doctors, specialists or generalists, have to develop and maintain skills, be reflective and have access to reliable, high-quality medical equipment.
Easy to use
The best stethoscope review is no exception. What do GPs require from a stethoscope?
It has to look professional and be light and easy to use, but most importantly, it must offer high-quality acoustics. The Littmann 3000 electronic stethoscope fits the bill.
This is a stethoscope that amplifies physical signs using electronic gadgetry, rather than simple physics.
A stylish take on the standard format, it features a single diaphragm obliquely attached to an ergonomically designed metallic end-piece.
The tube and earpieces are attached in the usual way. But while these earpieces look like the conventional plugs, each supports a precision speaker.

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Although the stethoscope requires a AAA battery, it is surprisingly lightweight.
The 3000 is incredibly comfortable to use, as I would expect from any Littmann.
The controls appear simple, with one four-way button on the top of the chest piece. But I must admit that to make it work, the button needs more pressure than is ideal.
Two sides of the button increase and decrease the volume, while the other two are used to select high or low frequency modes. The frequency controls are also used to switch the stethoscope for sales on or, if held down, to switch it off.
An auto power down function helps to conserve the battery if you forget to switch off manually. Nevertheless, each battery provides an estimated 200 hours of clinical time, according to the comprehensive product manual.
Natural acoustic quality
Tones sent through the earpieces signal when the stethoscope is being switched on and off and whether high or low frequency mode has been selected.
In use, I found the Littmann 3000 pleasingly louder than my current Cardiology model. The acoustic quality of the Littmann 3000 makes it sound natural, rather than digital.
Correct positioning of the chest piece is vital to prevent unwanted sounds being picked up by the stethoscope’s highly sensitive amplifier. Noise from the operator’s hand, or any other slight movement, may be transmitted, although the earpieces are very good at cutting out unwanted sounds.
Manual stethoscopes allow the user to change frequencies effortlessly and without much thought, whereas the Littmann 3000 does require a conscious effort for this, but it is something that I am sure will quickly become second nature.
The stethoscope set comes with a selection of earpieces and an instruction manual, and the battery is pre-installed.
I have only one other minor criticism. A CD featuring heart sounds, or perhaps a demonstration DVD, would have been a nice touch. But the bottom line is, the Littmann 3000 electronic stethoscopelooks good and is easy to use. The sound quality is impressive, at times too sensitive. While having to change frequencies using a button will take some getting used to, this is the best qualitystethoscope that I have used.
– An independent review by Dr Raj Thakkar, a GP in Woodburn Green, Buckinghamshire
– Equipment provided by Williams Medical Supplies.
Equipment: 3M Littmann Lightweight II Review 3000 electronic stethoscope, available in black, navy blue and burgundy

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Vân Anh