Monday, November 18th, 2013
Boys are slightly more likely than girls to be born prematurely, a new international study on newborn health has found. Additionally, boys don’t tend to fare as well as girls world-wide. More from The Associated Press:
“This is a double whammy for boys,” said Dr. Joy Lawn of the London School of Hygiene & Tropical Medicine, who led the team of researchers. “It’s a pattern that happens all over the world.”
The gender difference isn’t large: About 55 percent of preterm births in 2010 were male, the report found. Nor is it clear exactly why it happens.
The finding comes from a series of international studies being published Friday that examine newborn health and prematurity. About 15 million babies worldwide are born too soon, most of them in Africa and parts of Asia where survival is difficult for fragile newborns. Globally, about 1 million babies die as a direct result of preterm birth and another million die of conditions for which prematurity is an added risk, the researchers calculated.
Friday’s report offers some of the first estimates of how many preemie survivors go on to suffer certain disabilities, and found that where these babies are born, and how early, determines their risk.
Overall, Lawn said about 7 percent of survivors have two of the most burdensome disabilities: neurologic-developmental impairment ranging from learning disabilities to cerebral palsy, and vision loss.
But the biggest risk is to the youngest preemies, those born before 28 weeks gestation. Worldwide, 52 percent of them are estimated to have some degree of neurodevelopmental impairment, the report found.
Moreover, the risk of impairment in middle-income countries is double that of wealthy countries like the U.S.
For example, China is saving more preemies’ lives but at the cost of their vision, Lawn said.
Middle-income countries are missing out on a lesson the U.S. learned the hard way several decades ago, that giving these tiny babies too much oxygen can trigger a potentially blinding condition called retinopathy of prematurity.
“Disability is not something that’s inevitable. It’s preventable,” she said, calling for improved quality of care including eye checks to prevent or reduce vision loss.
The March of Dimes reported this month that 11.5 percent of U.S. births now are preterm. That rate is inching down, thanks mostly to fewer babies being born just a few weeks early as standards for elective deliveries have tightened, but it still is higher than in similar countries.
Image: Newborn baby, via Shutterstock
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Thursday, November 14th, 2013
The blogosphere has lit up over the writings of a South Dakota mom whose blog went from 8 followers to more than 750,000 hits after she wrote a post advocating that boys should be allowed to play with guns, said kids who are being bullied should “toughen up,” and lamented a culture of over-protective parents. More from ABC News:
Stephanie Metz’s maternal outburst has the provocative title, “Why My Kids Are NOT The Center Of My World.”
“I think a lot of people have kids and raising kids is never easy,” Metz, 29, of Rapid City, S.D., told ABC News. “There are many viewpoints, but I think a lot of people agreed with what I said and they just want to share my post.”
Metz was inspired to write her post on Oct. 25 after her son Hendrix, 4, (she has another son Jameson, 2) decided to bring a different object to show and tell, after he told his mother his initial choice may resemble a weapon. That original toy, which is pictured below, may get him in trouble, he told his mother.
This, she writes, is what infuriates her. “How long will it be before their typical boy-ish behavior gets them suspended from school?” she worries.
“The mentality of our society in 2013 is nauseating to me, friends,” Metz writes in her blog.
Metz warns parents that constantly sheltering their children and protecting them from all things “evil” sets a child up for failure.
“Kids are being raised to never have to deal with adversity,” Metz told ABC News. “I don’t think we are raising a generation that will be able to function in the real world.”
“Society is constantly coddling your kids,” Metz said. For example, she says, kids are awarded with trophies even if they didn’t win.
Some of her blog examines the topic of bullying, for which Metz said she has received the most backlash about.
“Understand I am not condoning kids to be cruel to each other, but I think kids need to toughen up when kids are not nice to them,” Metz said.
Read one reaction to Metz’s post here, in which the writer argues that the culture of protection and reaction against all forms of bullying is “more reaction than cause.”
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Monday, September 2nd, 2013
A new government report reveals that a surprising number of boys received the vaccine for human papillomavirus (HPV) last year, the first year that it was recommended for adolescent boys. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention says 1 in 5 boys received at least one dose of the HPV vaccine, NBC News reports.
Shared through sexual contact, HPV can cause cervical cancer in women and genital warts in both sexes, and in rare cases, throat and anal cancer. The vaccine was first recommended for girls ages 11 and 12 beginning in 2006, and then recommended for boys in 2011. More from NBC News:
The shots are largely intended not to protect boys from disease, but to stop them from spreading a sexually transmitted virus to girls that could cause cervical cancer.
The vaccine hasn’t been very popular among girls. The government report issued Thursday is the first real sense of how many boys are getting the shots.
“It’s a good start,” said Shannon Stokley, a vaccination expert with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
Introduced in 2006, the vaccine protects against human papillomavirus, which is spread during sex. Most infections go away on their own, without people developing symptoms. But the virus can cause cervical cancer in females, genital warts in both sexes, and some other, less common conditions like throat and anal cancer.
The vaccine was first recommended for girls ages 11 and 12 because it works best if given before a teen starts to have sex. In 2011, it was also recommended for boys that age to help prevent the virus’s spread.
The CDC report covers vaccination rates for last year, the first full year since the shots were advised for boys. It’s based on telephone calls to families for about 19,000 boys and girls ages 13 to 17.
About 21 percent of the boys had gotten at least one of the three doses. Less than 7 percent were fully vaccinated.
The rates look relatively good compared to the initial rates for some other vaccines aimed at adolescents. For example, the initial rate for a meningococcal vaccine was just 12 percent.
Rates tend to start low when a vaccine is first recommended and build after. So the HPV numbers for boys are reason to be optimistic, said the CDC’s Dr. Melinda Wharton, although she added a word of caution.
“Given how the coverage level has stalled for girls, though, a solid start isn’t enough,” she said.
Image: Three teen boys, via Shutterstock
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Friday, August 23rd, 2013
A report by the National Center for Health Statistics reveals that circumcisions of newborn boys in U.S. hospitals have dropped 6 percentage points over the last 30 years, from 64.5 percent in 1979 to 58.3 percent in 2010. The sharpest declines took place in Western states, Reuters reports. The federal analysis shows that circumcision rates have risen and fallen over the years, possibly in response to changing advice from the American Academy of Pediatrics. Last year the academy revised its policy on circumcision, saying that the benefits of circumcision outweigh the risks.
The analysis didn’t include circumcisions performed outside the hospital in religious ceremonies, for example, or those performed when a boy is older.
Here are further details from USA Today:
One factor that may account for the overall decline in hospital-based circumcisions may be the decreased time babies now spend in the hospital, says pediatrician Douglas Diekema of the Treuman Katz Center for Pediatric Bioethics at Seattle Children’s Research Institute.
“Often they’re going home within 24 hours, so in some places, these procedures are increasingly being done by the pediatrician during the follow-up period in the doctor’s office or clinic as opposed to the hospital,” Diekema says.
The steep decline in the West may be related to higher rates of immigrants from countries where circumcision is less common, he says.
Recent research suggests circumcision does “help prevent certain kinds of infections,” says pediatrics group president Thomas McInerny. In particular, “there is some evidence that the cells that make up the inner surface of the foreskin may provide an optimal target for the HIV virus.” Research also shows that circumcised males have a lower risk of urinary tract infections and penile cancer, he says.
Complications associated with circumcisions are rare, and include minor bleeding, local infection and pain, says Diekema, but those factors can be easily treated.
A cost study reported last year in the Archives of Pediatrics & Adolescent Medicine said falling infant circumcision rates in the U.S. could end up costing the country billions of health care dollars when men and their female partners develop AIDS and other sexually transmitted infections and cancers that could have been prevented.
The health benefits evidence was not so strong that the AAP felt compelled to recommend routine circumcision for all newborn boys, says McInerny. “We wanted to give parents the information as we understand it from the research and let them make the decision.”
Image: Newborn boy, via Shutterstock
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Thursday, August 22nd, 2013
A recent essay on TIME magazine’s website argues that schools are becoming “hostile environments for young boys.” In the aftermath of school violence in places including Newtown, Connecticut, many schools have adopted zero tolerance policies related to firearms, but those rules are sometimes interpreted very strictly, with boys as young as seven being suspended for pretending to “shoot” bad guys with pencils, or for throwing imaginary hand grenades. As a result, writer Christina Hoff Sommers worries that schools are no longer letting boys engage in the action-oriented, good-guys-versus-bad-guys play that she says comes naturally to them.
Here’s more from her essay on TIME.com:
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Across the country, schools are policing and punishing the distinctive, assertive sociability of boys. Many much-loved games have vanished from school playgrounds. At some schools, tug of war has been replaced with “tug of peace.” Since the 1990s, elimination games like dodgeball, red rover and tag have been under a cloud—too damaging to self-esteem and too violent, say certain experts. Young boys, with few exceptions, love action narratives. These usually involve heroes, bad guys, rescues and shoot-ups. As boys’ play proceeds, plots become more elaborate and the boys more transfixed. When researchers ask boys why they do it, the standard reply is, “Because it’s fun.”
According to at least one study, such play rarely escalates into real aggression—only about 1% of the time. But when two researchers, Mary Ellin Logue and Hattie Harvey, surveyed classroom practices of 98 teachers of 4-year-olds, they found that this style of play was the least tolerated. Nearly half of teachers stopped or redirected boys’ dramatic play daily or several times a week—whereas less than a third reported stopping or redirecting girls’ dramatic play weekly.
Play is a critical basis for learning. And boys’ heroic play is no exception. Logue and Harvey found that “bad guy” play improved children’s conversation and imaginative writing. Such play, say the authors, also builds moral imagination, social competence and imparts critical lessons about personal limits and self-restraint. Logue and Harvey worry that the growing intolerance for boys’ action-narrative-play choices may be undermining their early language development and weakening their attachment to school.
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