Monday, March 31st, 2014
A 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!
Image: Piggybank/Money via Shutterstock
Add a Comment
Tuesday, August 20th, 2013
A new study of children with type 1 diabetes suggests that insulin pumps are better at controlling the disease than insulin injections. Kids who use an insulin pump may also experience fewer complications, the researchers said. Here’s more from HealthDay News:
[The researchers] compared outcomes for 345 children, aged 2 to 19, who were using insulin pumps to control their type 1 diabetes to a similar number of children who were receiving insulin injections.
The children were followed for a median of three and a half years.
During the follow-up period, episodes of dangerously low blood sugar levels (severe hypoglycemia) in the insulin-pump group fell by about half, the researchers said. In contrast, episodes of severe hypoglycemia in the insulin-injection group rose, from about seven events per 100 patients per year to more than 10 events by the end of the study.
The researchers also looked at rates of hospital admission for diabetic ketoacidosis, a shortage of insulin that causes the body to switch to burning fats and to produce acidic ketone molecules that cause complications and symptoms. This a frequent complication in children with type 1 diabetes.
Admissions for diabetic ketoacidosis were lower in the insulin-pump group than in the insulin-injection group — 2.3 and 4.7 per 100 patients per year, respectively, according to the study.
Of the 345 patients with insulin pumps, 38 stopped using them at some point during the study: six in the first year, seven in the second year, 10 in the third year and the remainder after three years.
The study authors said some children stop because they tire of the extra attention needed to manage the pump, or are concerned about the physical sight of the pump. Other children sometimes take a temporary “pump holiday” and then start using a pump again.
Image: Insulin pump, via Shutterstock
Add a Comment
Tuesday, July 2nd, 2013
The White family of Louisville, Kentucky, now has a full house. Shelly White’s 10-year-old daughter, Ryan Elizabeth, became intrigued about the plight of Haitian orphans after the 2012 earthquake. She begged her parents to adopt an orphan, even requesting donations instead of toys one Christmas. Her parents listened and the White’s welcomed a 1-year-old girl, Mya, in March. She has a cancerous tumor, but that doesn’t stop her new family from loving her. More from TODAY:
“I had a mother’s love for her right away,” says White, whose other children are 3, 6 and 9. “I can’t really explain it. I couldn’t stop thinking about her. I couldn’t get her off my heart.”
Kosair Children’s Hospital in Louisville committed to treating Mya at no cost to the Whites, which allowed the girl to receive a one-year medical visa and come to the United States before an adoption was complete. Mya arrived on May 7, with the Whites serving as her guardians as they go through the adoption process.
“We just had this love for her that was instant, and it wasn’t a hard decision because of our faith,” Shelly White says. “Peace and stage four cancer don’t go hand-in-hand, but we just have it with her.”
The Whites had called on a longtime friend and church elder, Scott Watkins, vice president of operations for Norton Healthcare. Watkins has raised $18,000 in pledges to help with the adoption, and Norton Healthcare owns the hospital providing Mya’s care.
Mya has rhabdomyosarcoma, cancer of the connective tissue, in her pelvis. After several rounds of chemotherapy, the tumor, which is protruding from her vagina, has shrunk significantly, said Dr. Stephen Wright, Kosair’s medical director.
“We think the prognosis at this point is pretty good,” he said. “We’re very pleased with how well the tumor is responding to chemotherapy.”
Mya was not getting the optimal doses of medication in China, and likely would not have survived, said Wright, who has seen Mya’s development improve in the short time she has been in Louisville.
“It’s a life-changing event that they would open their home and their hearts to somebody they did not know at all with a serious medical problem and provide her with the love that she wouldn’t get in an orphanage,” Wright said of the Whites.
Image: holding hands, via Shutterstock
Add a Comment