Archive for the ‘ Child Health ’ Category

Early Childhood Hardships Can Lead to Lifelong Health Implications

Monday, March 31st, 2014

Piggy BankA study 42 years in the making found more than it was searching for, data reveals. Researchers set out to record the cognitive abilities of low-income children starting from infancy. One group was given full-time day care, meals, and stimulating activities while the other group was given nothing besides baby formula. And while the study organizers were expecting to connect children’s intellect with financial hardships (which they did), they also observed a relationship between those hardships and the overall health of the kids as they entered adulthood. More from The New York Times:

In 1972, researchers in North Carolina started following two groups of babies from poor families. In the first group, the children were given full-time day care up to age 5 that included most of their daily meals, talking, games and other stimulating activities. The other group, aside from baby formula, got nothing. The scientists were testing whether the special treatment would lead to better cognitive abilities in the long run.

Forty-two years later, the researchers found something that they had not expected to see: The group that got care was far healthier, with sharply lower rates of high blood pressure and obesity, and higher levels of so-called good cholesterol.

The study, which was published in the journal Science on Thursday, is part of a growing body of scientific evidence that hardship in early childhood has lifelong health implications. But it goes further than outlining the problem, offering evidence that a particular policy might prevent it.

“This tells us that adversity matters and it does affect adult health,” said James Heckman, a professor of economics at the University of Chicago who led the data analysis. “But it also shows us that we can do something about it, that poverty is not just a hopeless condition.”

The findings come amid a political push by the Obama administration for government-funded preschool for 4-year-olds. But a growing number of experts, Professor Heckman among them, say they believe that more effective public programs would start far earlier — in infancy, for example, because that is when many of the skills needed to take control of one’s life and become a successful adult are acquired.

The study in Science drew its data from the Carolina Abecedarian Project, in which about 100 infants from low-income families in North Carolina were followed from early infancy to their mid-30s. The project is well known in the world of social science because of its design: The infants were randomly assigned to one group or the other, allowing researchers to isolate the effects of the program. Such designs are the gold standard in medical research, but are rarely used in investigations that influence domestic social policy.

The researchers had already answered their original question about cognitive development: whether the treated children would, for example, be less likely to fail in school. The answer was yes. Over all, the participants’ abilities as infants were about the same, but by age 3 they had diverged. By age 30, those in the group given special care were four times as likely to have graduated from college.

“Forty years ago, it was all about cognition,” Professor Heckman said. “But it turned out that when you expand these capabilities — not only cognitive but social and emotional — one of the effects is better health. Nobody thought about that at the time.”…

What can you expect from your growing toddler? Take our Toddler Nutrition Quiz to find out!

How to Eat Healthy: Raising Nutrition-Smart Kids
How to Eat Healthy: Raising Nutrition-Smart Kids
How to Eat Healthy: Raising Nutrition-Smart Kids

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Smoking Bans Lead to Fewer Cases of Premature Births, Childhood Asthma

Friday, March 28th, 2014

Smoking Ban ChildrenCases of premature births and asthma-related hospital visits dropped 10 percent since the introduction of public smoking bans across North American and Europe. Data of 11 recent studies where compiled to determine the overall impact of smoke-free legislation. The studies included more than 2.5 million births and about 250,000 hospital visits for asthma attacks. According to the study, 40 percent of children worldwide are regularly exposed to second-hand smoke. More from Brigham and Women’s Hospital:

In the first comprehensive study to look at how anti-smoking laws are affecting the health of children, researchers from University of Edinburgh collaborated with researchers from Maastricht University, Hasselt University, Harvard Medical School and Brigham and Women’s Hospital, to conduct a systematic review and meta-analysis examining the effect of smoke-free legislation on child health. They found that the introduction of new laws that ban smoking in public places in North America and Europe has been followed by a decrease in rates of premature births and hospital visits for asthma attacks in children. These findings are published on March 28, 2014 in The Lancet.

Researchers analyzed 11 studies conducted in North America and Europe that included more than 2.5 million births and approximately 250,000 asthma-related hospital visits. They report that while the impact of anti-smoking laws varies between countries, the overall impact on child health is very positive. Specifically, the data show that rates of both preterm birth and hospital admissions for asthma were reduced by 10 percent following the implementation of laws that prohibited smoking in public places.

“This research has demonstrated the very considerable potential that smoke-free legislation offers to reduce preterm births and childhood asthma attacks. The many countries that are yet to enforce smoke-free legislation should in the light of these findings reconsider their positions on this important health policy question,” said Aziz Sheikh, senior author and a physician-researcher at Brigham and Women’s Hospital, visiting professor of Medicine at Harvard Medical School and Professor of Primary Care Research and Development at The University of Edinburgh.

According to information in the article, 16 percent of the world’s population is covered by smoke-free laws, while 40 percent of children worldwide are regularly exposed to second-hand smoke. Laws that prohibit smoking in public places, such as bars, restaurants and work places, are already proven to protect adults from the health threats associated with passive smoking, but research to date has not systematically evaluated the impact of smoking bans on children.

Passive smoking can cause babies to be stillborn or born prematurely and is linked to certain birth defects, asthma and lung infections. Studies have also suggested that being exposed to second hand smoke during childhood may have long term health implications, contributing to the development of chronic diseases like heart disease and diabetes in later life.

Lead researcher, Dr Jasper Been of the University of Edinburgh’s Centre for Population Health Sciences said, “Our research shows that smoking bans are an effective way to protect the health of our children.

These findings should help to accelerate the introduction of anti-smoking legislation in areas not currently protected.”

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Smoking and Breastfeeding
Smoking and Breastfeeding
Smoking and Breastfeeding

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About 1 in 3 Children Have High Cholesterol, Study Finds

Friday, March 28th, 2014

Childhood ObesityIn an alarming new study of more than 12,000 children with ages ranging from 9 to 11-years-old, 30 percent of them had “borderline” or “abnormal” cholesterol levels. And about 98 percent of those levels are caused by obesity, lack of exercise, and poor nutrition. According to the study’s author, high cholesterol levels in childhood are the greatest predictor of high cholesterol in adulthood. More from USA TODAY:

Nearly one-third of children may have worrisome levels of cholesterol, putting them at risk for cardiovascular problems decades later, according to a new study.

The study of more than 12,000 9- to 11-year-olds, presented today at the American College of Cardiology’s annual conference in Washington, found that 30 percent of those tested had “borderline” or “abnormal” levels of cholesterol.

“It’s a problem that’s underdiagnosed,” said study author Thomas Seery, a pediatric cardiologist at Texas Children’s Hospital and assistant professor at the Baylor College of Medicine, both in Houston.

The greatest predictor of high cholesterol in adulthood, Seery said, is the rate in childhood.

In 2011, an expert panel convened by the National Heart, Lung and Blood Institute issued guidelines that called, among other things, for cholesterol screening of all children before and at the end of adolescence. In the Houston study, researchers found that nearly 5,000 of the children were at risk for or had high cholesterol and roughly the same number were obese. It’s not clear whether they were tested for high cholesterol because they had a problem or if their screening was routine.

About 1 percent-2 percent of high cholesterol in children is due to inherited problems with cholesterol regulation, Seery said. The rest is caused by obesity, lack of exercise and a poor diet.

“There’s no question that we are seeing alarming increases in obesity and elevated cholesterol levels in children and adolescents,” said Steven Nissen, chairman of the department of cardiovascular medicine at the Cleveland Clinic in Ohio, who was not involved in the study.

Nissen said he is not convinced that screening all kids for high cholesterol is an effective way to approach the problem. He’s concerned that extra screening will lead doctors to prescribe more medications to children.

Any obese child should be counseled about making lifestyle changes, even without knowing his or her cholesterol levels, Nissen said. There’s no proof that screening improves patient health, but it would cost a significant amount to run blood tests on every child, he said.

Seery disagrees, as does Robert Eckel, former president of the American Heart Association. They say universal screening would at least prompt a conversation between doctor and patient about the need for a healthy lifestyle.

“We really need to emphasize prevention, and that begins in childhood,” said Eckel, an endocrinologist and professor of medicine at the University of Colorado’s Anschutz Medical Campus in Aurora. “This could be a good opportunity to sit down with parents and move them in the right direction.”

In other research presented at the conference today, doctors from New York University’s Langone Medical Center in Manhattan reported that married adults were less likely to have cardiovascular disease than people who are single, divorced or widowed. The study analyzed data on more than 3.5 million Americans and found that people who are married have a 5 percent lower risk of having any cardiovascular disease than being single.

In the study of 12,700 9- to 11-year-olds in Houston, researchers found:

• 37 percent had borderline or elevated levels of total cholesterol.

• 32 percent had borderline or low levels of “good” HDL cholesterol.

• 36 percent had borderline or elevated levels of non-HDL cholesterol.

• 46 percent had borderline or elevated levels of triglycerides.

What can you expect from your growing toddler? Take our Toddler Nutrition Quiz to find out!

Picky Eaters: 3 Ways To Encourage Healthy Eating
Picky Eaters: 3 Ways To Encourage Healthy Eating
Picky Eaters: 3 Ways To Encourage Healthy Eating


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No, It Is Not Safe to Pee in the Pool

Friday, March 28th, 2014

Kids in PoolJust in time for Spring and Summer pool parties, we finally have an answer to the age-old debate: Is it safe to pee in the pool? Turns out, it’s not as safe as Olympic swimmers make it out to be. When urine mixes with chlorine, a substance can form that can cause health problems associated with the lungs, heart, and central nervous system.  More from American Chemical Society:

Sanitary-minded pool-goers who preach “no peeing in the pool,” despite ordinary and Olympic swimmers admitting to the practice, now have scientific evidence to back up their concern. Researchers are reporting that when mixed, urine and chlorine can form substances that can cause potential health problems. Their study appears in ACS’ journal Environmental Science & Technology.

Jing Li, Ernest Blatchley, III, and colleagues note that adding chlorine to pool water is the most common way to kill disease-causing microbes and prevent swimmers from getting sick. But as people swim, splash, play — and pee — in the pool, chlorine mixes with sweat and urine and makes other substances. Two of these compounds, including trichloramine (NCl3) and cyanogen chloride (CNCl), are ubiquitous in swimming pools. The first one is associated with lung problems, and the second one can also affect the lungs, as well as the heart and central nervous system. But scientists have not yet identified all of the specific ingredients in sweat and urine that could cause these potentially harmful compounds to form. So Li’s team looked at how chlorine interacts with uric acid, a component of sweat and urine.

They mixed uric acid and chlorine, and within an hour, both NCl3 and CNCl formed. Though some uric acid comes from sweat, the scientists calculated that more than 90 percent of the compound in pools comes from urine. They conclude that swimmers can improve pool conditions by simply urinating where they’re supposed to — in the bathrooms.

Download our Complete Potty Training Guide so your little one doesn’t have any accidents this pool season.

How to Keep Your Baby Comfortable in the Summer Heat
How to Keep Your Baby Comfortable in the Summer Heat
How to Keep Your Baby Comfortable in the Summer Heat

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1 in 68 Children Has Autism, CDC Reports

Thursday, March 27th, 2014

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention released a new report stating that 1 in 68 children has an autism spectrum disorder (ASD), based on records from 11 different states that evaluated the health and educational records of 8 year olds. This is a 30 percent increase from the 1 in 88 statistic that was released just two years ago. More from CNN.com:

Children with autism continue to be overwhelmingly male. According to the new report, the CDC estimates 1 in 42 boys have autism, 4.5 times as many as girls (1 in 189).”We look at all of the characteristics of autism,” says Coleen Boyle, the director of the CDC’s National Center on Birth Defects and Developmental Disabilities.

“So we look at the age in which they’re identified. We look at their earliest diagnosis. We look at co-occuring conditions that these children might have, other developmental disabilities, whether or not they have intellectual disability, so essentially their IQ.”

The largest increase was seen in children who have average or above-average intellectual ability, according to the CDC. The study found nearly half of children with an autism spectrum disorder have average or above-average intellectual ability — an IQ above 85 — compared with one-third of children a decade ago.

The report is not designed to say why more children are being diagnosed with autism, Boyle says. But she believes increased awareness in identifying and diagnosing children contributes to the higher numbers.

More than 5,300 children are represented in the data contained in the new report, she says.

“We comb through records. We accumulate all that information and then each one of those records is reviewed by a specialist to make sure that that child meets our autism case definition,” says Boyle. The definition of autism is unchanged from the 2012 report.

One thing that hasn’t changed over the years is that children are still being diagnosed late. According to the report, the average age of diagnosis is still over age 4, even though autism can be diagnosed by age 2.

The earlier a child is diagnosed with autism, the better their chances of overcoming the difficulties that come with the disorder.

Help your child track his progress in school

Children with Autism: The Parents Perspective
Children with Autism: The Parents Perspective
Children with Autism: The Parents Perspective

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