Archive for the ‘ Child Health ’ Category

Moving Tough on Adolescents’ Mental Health, Study Finds

Thursday, April 17th, 2014

New research has found that moving to a new home can be mentally stressful, especially for adolescents.  Reuters has more on the study, which compared military with civilian families who were moving:

To see whether these kids nonetheless show signs of difficulty with moving, the researchers looked at medical records for 6- to 17-year-old children of active duty members from the Military Health System Medical Data Repository between October 1, 2006, and September 30, 2009.

Altogether, the records for 548,336 children were included in the analysis, and nearly 180,000 – about 25 percent – had moved to a new city or town at least once during the past year.

Researchers divided the children into two groups by age: 6 to 11 years old and 12 to 17. They looked at whether each child had had at least one healthcare visit – outpatient, emergency room or hospitalization – with a mental health diagnosis during fiscal year 2009.

The study team also collected additional data from the records about the children and parents, including psychiatric history, service branch, military rank, gender, race and age.

Finally, they calculated the odds of a child having a visit for mental health diagnoses including anxiety, self-injury, adjustment, developmental, personality and mood disorders.

The study found that compared to peers who had not moved, kids between the ages of 12 and 17 who had moved over the past year had 20 percent higher odds of visiting the emergency room for a psychiatric issue, along with 4 percent higher odds of an office visit and 19 percent greater odds of a psychiatric hospitalization. Children between the ages of six and 11 had about 3 percent higher odds of having an office visit for mental health reasons.

“It shouldn’t come as a surprise to us that adolescents in particular – even more than younger people – have a difficult time making adjustments,” said Christopher Bellonci, a child and adolescent psychiatrist at Floating Hospital for Children at Tufts Medical Center.

“The job of adolescents is to find a peer group and an identity outside of the home, and that is harder when your peer group and school are disrupted by a move when they should provide support and strength,” he told Reuters Health.

For families with an upcoming move, preparing kids and teens is key, said Bellonci, who was not involved in the study.

“Change is stressful, and parents should talk with their kids about the transition coming up,” Bellonci said.

If possible, parents should help kids brainstorm ways to make the new space -such as their bedroom – their own. Getting a chance to meet future teachers and peers can also help smooth the transition to a new city. For parents and kids alike, it’s all about fostering a new support system of friends and peers.

Image: Moving truck, via Shutterstock

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Fussy Babies May Get More Screen Time Than Calmer Peers

Wednesday, April 16th, 2014

Despite repeated recommendations that parents avoid screen time for babies under age 2, a new study published in the journal Pediatrics has found that fussy babies tend to have more time in front of television and other media than their less fussy peers.  More from CNN:

“We found that babies and toddlers whose mothers rated them as having self-regulation problems – meaning, problems with calming down, soothing themselves, settling down to sleep, or waiting for food or toys – watched more TV and videos when they were age 2,” said study author Dr. Jenny Radskey, who works in the division of developmental and behavioral pediatrics at Boston Medical Center.

“Infants with self-regulation problems watched, on average, about 9 minutes more media per day than other infants. This may seem small, but screen-time habits are established in these early years.”

“Television and other entertainment media should be avoided for infants and children under age 2,” says the American Academy of Pediatrics because they say “a child’s brain develops rapidly during these first years, and young children learn best by interacting with people, not screens.”

Radskey says the infants and toddlers who had the fussiest behavior were 40% more likely to exceed those  AAP guidelines. This study also found that 42% of 2 years-olds exceeded those guidelines.

What’s not clear, according to Radskey, is whether they watched more TV because they were fussy and their parents put them in front of the TV as a distraction, or if the heavy TV use contributed to their self-regulation problems. But Radskey says one thing is clear: “Several studies show that too much screen time before age 2 or 3 is associated with language and learning delays, ADHD, and difficulties in school – probably because the screen time replaced early learning activities. And also probably because early media habits predict later media habits.”

Image: Crying baby, via Shutterstock

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Tamiflu’s Effectiveness Questioned in New Study

Monday, April 14th, 2014

The antiviral medication Tamiflu may not be any more effective than other methods of treating influenza, or flu viruses, according to a new study published in the journal BMJ.  More from Time.com:

There isn’t strong evidence to support stockpiling the products in national emergency drug depots in case of a pandemic, the researchers say. Both drugs—Tamiflu is the brand name for oseltamivir and Relenza is the brand name zanamivir—are designed to stop the influenza virus from spreading in an infected person, and claim to reduce the severity of flu symptoms and how long people are sick. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention keeps the drugs in its stockpile for use in both seasonal and pandemic flu situations, and the European Medicines Agency (EMA) and the World Health Organization also recommend the medications for treating flu.

The authors of the current review found, however, that in the case of the European approvals in particular, regulatory agencies relied on summaries of studies rather than an exhaustive analysis of raw data, known as clinical study reports, which can run to more than 1,000 pages and detail methods, protocols and statistical analyses.

After a four-year effort to obtain this data from both the manufacturers and the EMA, the authors report in the journal BMJ that those trials do not support claims that the drugs lower the risk of complications from flu, such as pneumonia, or that the benefits of the drugs outweigh their risks, which include nausea, vomiting, headaches and kidney disorders.

The authors point to not just one failure in the process of approving these medications, but a weak regulatory system in which the studies are all conducted by manufacturers, and in which the trials compared the medications against placebo rather than to existing flu treatments.

Image: Woman sick with flu, via Shutterstock

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Severe Obesity on the Rise Among U.S. Kids

Tuesday, April 8th, 2014

Despite a spate of recent studies claiming a drop in the childhood obesity rate–especially one study that claimed a 43 percent drop in preschoolers with weight problems–new research published in the journal JAMA Pediatrics has found a sharp rise in the number of U.S. kids who are severely obese.  More from CNN:

The researchers looked at data from more than 26,000 children age 2 to 19 in the United States who participated in the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey. They found that rates of overweight and obese children have been trending upward since 1999, with significant increases seen recently in the number of severely obese children.

Severe childhood obesity rates have more than doubled since 1999, according to the study. In 1999-2000, less than 1% of children fell into the Class 3 obesity category – meaning they had a body mass index 140% higher than their peers. In 2011-2012, 2.1% of children were in the same category. An additional 5.9% met the criteria for Class 2 obesity.

“I think there’s certain kids who are at greatest risk for obesity,” said lead study author Asheley Skinner, an associate professor of pediatrics at the University of North Carolina School of Medicine. “When you put them in an environment like this one… they’re more likely to gain a whole lot of weight. That’s part of what’s going on.”

The risks associated with that extra weight are scary.

Obese children are more likely to have high cholesterol, high blood pressure and type 2 diabetes later in life, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. They’re also at risk for bone and joint problems, sleep apnea and psychological problems due to poor self-esteem. Studies show that obese children and adolescents are likely to remain obese as adults.

A separate study published in the journal Pediatrics this week estimates an obese child will incur anywhere from $12,000 to $19,000 in additional medical costs throughout his or her lifetime compared to a normal weight child.

Image: Blocks spelling “Obese,” via Shutterstock

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Fathers’ Role in Food Security Studied Amid Food Stamp Cuts

Tuesday, April 8th, 2014

Dads who don’t live with their children but are involved in their lives may be helping their kids achieve better food security, researchers at Rutgers University have found.  The findings come in the wake of a reduction in food stamp funding that affected 47 million Americans in November.  More from the university:

The new research, published this month by Lenna Nepomnyaschy, assistant professor in the School of Social Work, in Social Service Review has found that nonresident father involvement in a child’s life is positively associated with lower food insecurity in both early and middle childhood. Involvement could include time spent with the child, monetary contributions and “in kind” support, such as treats, gifts and payment of medical or childcare expenses. In particular, in kind support resulted in a 10 to 12 percent reduction in food insecurity for children.

“These results add to mounting evidence that nonresident father involvement, outside of the formal child support system, positively affects children and must be considered in policy discussions related to child support, child poverty and child well-being,” says Nepomnyaschy.

Research on food insecurity for children is especially timely, as 47 million food stamp recipients in the U.S. received a $5 billion reduction in November. And Congress is preparing to cut even more out of the nutrition program. Lawmakers are currently finalizing a federal farm bill which is likely to reduce food stamp benefits by $8.7 billion over the next decade.

“As families lose food stamps, any resources a father provides become even more important,” Nepomnyaschy said. ”Men overwhelmingly want to contribute to the well-being of their children, and child support alone may not increase food security. If a woman is on welfare, the state takes her child support to reimburse the cost for welfare, rather than it benefiting the child.”

Using two nationally representative longitudinal panel data sets from the Department of Education, National Center for Education Statistics which followed children through early and middle childhood and assessed economic stability and food insecurity in the home, the researchers found this trend to be consistent across both sets of data.

“For vulnerable families, fathers’ contributions of time and material resources have a positive effect on food security,” Nepomnyaschy said. ”Having in kind support may help the mother to reallocate her resources to provide more food for the household. The father’s visits may reduce her stress and enhance her parenting, providing her the resources and time to grocery shop and cook meals.”

More than 1 in 10 children in the U.S. experience food insecurity, and children in single-mother families are at greatest risk, being three times as likely to not get enough food, than children in two-parent families.

Image: Father and children, via Shutterstock

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