Health and Medical News and Resources

General interest items edited by Janice Flahiff

[Podcast] Early Stress Gets Under the Skin: Promising Initiatives to Help Children Facing Chronic Adversity

From the 7 May 2014 item at the Brookings Institute

Disadvantaged children who often experience deep poverty, violence, and neglect simultaneously are particularly vulnerable to the pernicious effects of chronic stress. New research reveals that chronic stress alters childrens’ rapidly developing biological systems in ways that undermine their ability to succeed in school and in life. But there is good evidence that specialized programs can help caretakers learn to be more supportive and responsive. High-quality childcare can offer a safe, warm, and predictable environment amid otherwise chaotic lives, and home visiting programs can help both parents and foster parents learn to provide an environment of greatly reduced stress for their children.

On May 7, Princeton University and the Brookings Institution released the Spring 2014 volume and accompanying policy brief of the Future of Children. The release event featured researchers and policy experts who explained how chronic stress “gets under the skin” to disrupt normal development and how programs can provide the support so urgently needed by children who face chronic stress.

 

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May 8, 2014 Posted by | Educational Resources (Health Professionals), Health Education (General Public), Public Health | , , , , , | Leave a comment

[News article] Malnourished Children Still Have Hope Beyond First 1,000 Days

English: World map showing % of children under...

English: World map showing % of children under the age of 5 under height. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

 

From the 11 December 2013 ScienceDaily article

 

Children who are malnourished during their first 1,000 days (conception to age 2) often experience developmental setbacks that affect them for life.

To that end, philanthropic groups have funded massive global health initiatives for impoverished infants and pregnant women around the world. While money flows justifiably to this cause, programs for children past the 1,000-day mark are seen as having little hope, and garner less support.

But new research from Brigham Young University is finding that global health workers should not give up on impoverished children after that critical time frame.

In a longitudinal study of 8,000 children from four poverty-laden countries, BYU health science assistant professor Ben Crookston and colleagues found that the developmental damage of malnutrition during the first 1,000 days is not irreversible.

“The first 1,000 days are extremely critical, but we found that the programs aimed at helping children after those first two years are still impactful,” Crookston said.

Specifically, the study found that nutritional recovery after early growth faltering might have significant benefits on schooling and cognitive achievement.

The data for the study, which comes from the international “Young Lives” project led by the University of Oxford, tracked the first eight years of life of children from Ethiopia, Peru, India and Vietnam.

Initially, Crookston and his colleagues found what they expected with the data: Children who had stunted growth (in this case, shorter than expected height at 1 year of age) ended up behind in school and scoring lower on cognitive tests at 8 years of age.

However, kids who experienced “catch-up growth,” scored relatively better on tests than those who continued to grow slowly and were in more age-appropriate classes by the age of 8.

 

Read the entire article here

 

 

 

December 13, 2013 Posted by | Nutrition | , , , , | Leave a comment

[Press release] Behavior problems in preschool and child care centers may be an issue of genes

From the 24 October 2013 EurkAlert

BEND, Ore. – A new study suggests that some children may be genetically predisposed to developing behavioral problems in child care and preschool settings.

Previous research has found that some children develop behavior problems at child care centers and preschools, despite the benefit of academic gains. It was never known, however, why some youngsters struggle in these settings and others flourish. The new study indicates that some children may be acting out due to poor self-control and temperament problems that they inherited from their parents.

The study’s lead author Shannon Lipscomb, an assistant professor of human development and family sciences at Oregon State University-Cascades, said the findings point to the reason that some children develop problem behavior at care centers, despite the best efforts of teachers and caregivers. The results are published online today in the International Journal of Behavioral Development.

“Assuming that findings like this are replicated, we can stop worrying so much that all children will develop behavior problems at center-based care facilities, because it has been a concern,” she said. “But some children (with this genetic predisposition) may be better able to manage their behavior in a different setting, in a home or smaller group size.”

Researchers from Oregon State University and other institutions collected data in 10 states from 233 families linked through adoption and obtained genetic data from birth parents as well as the children. They found that birth parents who had high rates of negative emotion and self-control, based on a self-reported temperament scale, were more likely to have children who struggled with behavioral issues such as lack of self-control and anger, in child care centers. They controlled for adoptive parent’s characteristics, and still found a modest effect based on the genetic link.

“We aren’t recommending that children are genetically tested, but parents and caregivers can assess a child’s needs and help them get to a setting that might be more appropriate,” Lipscomb said. “This study helps us to explain why some children struggle so much with large peer groups and heightened social interactions. It may not be a problem with a teacher or parent, but that they are struggling on a biological level.”`

 

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Lipscomb is in OSU’s College of Public Health and Human Sciences. She is an expert on early childhood development and school readiness, and is particularly interested in adult influences on young children.

Researchers from the University of Oregon, Pennsylvania State University, University of Pittsburgh, University of California, Riverside, Yale Child Study Center, and Oregon Social Learning Center contributed to this study, which was supported by grants from the National Institutes of Health.

 

Related article by Lipscomb

Academic gains found among high risk kids in Head Start

 

October 25, 2013 Posted by | Psychiatry, Psychology | , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

[Repost] Childhood economic status affects substance use among young adults

A NIDA educational pamphlet.

A NIDA educational pamphlet. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

 

From the 29 July 2013 EurekAlert

 

DURHAM, N.C. – Children who grow up in poverty are more likely than wealthier children to smoke cigarettes, but they are less likely to binge drink and are no more prone to use marijuana, according to researchers at Duke Medicine.

The researchers also found that economic strains in early life – including family worries about paying bills or needing to sell possessions for cash – independently erode a child’s self-control, regardless of strong parenting in adolescence. Lack of self-control often leads to substance use.

The findings, appearing July 30, 2013, in the Journal of Pediatric Psychology, debunk common assumptions about who abuses substances, and provide a basis for better approaches to prevent young people from falling into drug and alcohol addiction.

“Poverty during childhood not only appears to affect child development, but can have lasting effects on the types of health choices made during adolescence and early adulthood, especially as it relates to cigarette smoking,” said senior author Bernard Fuemmeler, Ph.D., MPH, MS, associate professor in Community and Family Medicine at Duke University School of Medicine. “Economic strains may shape an individual’s capacity for self-control by diminishing opportunities for self-regulation, or affecting important brain structures.”

Fuemmeler and colleagues at Duke set out to examine the direct effect of childhood economic strains on smoking, binge drinking, and marijuana use in young adults. They also sought to determine how financial difficulties impact self-control, and how positive parenting might mitigate the tendency to use drugs and alcohol.

The group analyzed data from 1,285 children and caregivers included in a representative sample of U.S. families studied from 1986-2009. Economic status was measured by annual family income, plus a survey with questions about economic problems such as difficulty paying bills or postponing medical care. Additional information was gathered to gauge childhood self-control and parental interactions.

Among the study participants who were transitioning to adulthood, young people who lived in poverty as children were far more likely to become regular cigarette smokers than children who grew up in wealthier households. The impoverished children also scored low on self-control measures.

“Poor self-control may be a product of limited learning resources and opportunities for developing appropriate behaviors,” Fuemmeler said.

Binge drinking, however, was much more common among the wealthier young people. And surprisingly, those who had good self-control as children were more likely to engage in heavy episodic drinking as young adults.

Neither wealth nor poverty appeared to influence marijuana use, although positive parenting did reduce the use of this drug. Parents who were nurturing and accepting, in fact, diminished the likelihood of young people using any of the substances.

The researchers also found no correlation between economic hardship and poor parenting – a contradiction to some other studies.

“We suspected we’d find a relationship between parenting and economic problems – the idea that economic strains may cause parents to have less capacity to deal with their children, but that relationship wasn’t there,” Fuemmeler said. “That means it’s not necessarily poverty that affects the parenting strategy, but poverty that affects the children’s self-control.”

Fuemmeler said the findings are important given the increase in U.S. children living in poverty. The U.S. Census Bureau reported 22 percent of children lived in poverty in 2010, compared to 18 percent in 2000.

“Continued work is needed to better understand how economic strains may influence the development of self-control, as well as to identify other potential mediators between economic strains and substance use outcomes,” Fuemmeler said.

 

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In addition to Fuemmeler, study authors include Chien-Ti Lee, Joseph McClernon, Scott H. Kollins and Kevin Prybol.

The National Institutes of Health (RO1 DA030487), the National Cancer Institute (K07CA124905) and the National Institute on Drug Abuse (K24DA023464) funded the study.

 

 

July 30, 2013 Posted by | Consumer Health | , , , , , | Leave a comment

The Roots of Newtown, Part II: Purposeless boys

Janice Flahiff:

 

Originally posted on The Fly:

Come back Mom and Dad

You’re growing apart; you know that I’m growing up sad

I need some attention

I shoot into the light.

– Peter Gabriel, “Family Snapshot”

Purposeless boys are dangerous.

Michael Gurian, in his book The Purpose of Boys (2010), lists some of the effects of the growing population of boys without purpose.

  • For every 100 girls in public schools, 335 boys are expelled.
  • For every 100 girls ages 15-19 who commit suicide, 549 boys in the same age range kill themselves.
  • For every 100 women ages 18-21 in correctional facilities, there are 1,430 men behind bars.
  • For every 100 American women who earn a bachelor’s degree, 73 American men earn the same degree.

The key, Gurian points out, is that all boys intuitively crave being a part of, and contributing to, something that gives them status, respect, and purpose.Boys playing. Without a proper path to purpose…

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February 2, 2013 Posted by | Psychology | , , , , , , | Leave a comment

October is Children’s Health Month

Child Development

Child Development (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

From an email recently received from USA.gov

October is Children’s Health Month. If you are a parent or caregiver, check out these resources to help promote your child’s good health:

  • Vaccines — Vaccination is one of the best ways to protect children from several potentially serious diseases. Get recommended vaccine information based on your child’s age group.
  • Nutrition Resources and 10 Kid-Friendly Veggies and Fruits (pdf) – Encourage children to eat vegetables and fruits by making it fun. Get ideas for healthy snacks and meals.
  • Child Development — Get the basics about healthy development; learn about specific conditions that affect development; get parenting tips; and more.
  • Developmental Milestones — Skills such as crawling, walking, and waving are developmental milestones. Check out milestones for children between the ages of two months and five years.
  • Oral Health — Find out what you can do to help prevent tooth decay and other oral diseases.
  • Child Safety — Get resources to help keep your child safe during different stages of development.
  • Physical Activity — Children need 60 minutes of play with moderate to vigorous activity every day. Get ideas for steps you can take to increase your child’s level of activity.

Many elements contribute to a child’s good health and overall well-being. Find additional topics on children’s health.

October 18, 2012 Posted by | Consumer Health | , , , , | Leave a comment

How Early Social Deprivation Impairs Long-Term Cognitive Function

 

Brain structures involved in dealing with fear...

Brain structures involved in dealing with fear and stress. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

 

From the 17 September 2012 article at Medical News Today

 

A growing body of research shows that children who suffer severe neglect and social isolation have cognitive and social impairments as adults. A study from Boston Children’s Hospital shows, for the first time, how these functional impairments arise: Social isolation during early life prevents the cells that make up the brain’s white matter from maturing and producing the right amount of myelin, the fatty “insulation” on nerve fibers that helps them transmit long-distance messages within the brain…

When isolation occurred during a “critical period,” starting three weeks after birth, cells called oligodendrocytes failed to mature in the prefrontal cortex, a brain region important for cognitive function and social behavior. As a result, nerve fibers had thinner coatings of myelin, which is produced by oligodendrocytes, and the mice showed impairments in social interaction and working memory.

 

 

September 17, 2012 Posted by | Consumer Health, Psychology | , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

People Merge Supernatural and Scientific Beliefs When Reasoning With the Unknown, Study Shows

 

From the 30 August 2012 article at Science News Daily

Reliance on supernatural explanations for major life events, such as death and illness, often increases rather than declines with age, according to a new psychology study from The University of Texas at Austin.

The study, published in the June issue of Child Development, offers new insight into developmental learning.

“As children assimilate cultural concepts into their intuitive belief systems — from God to atoms to evolution — they engage in coexistence thinking,” said Cristine Legare, assistant professor of psychology and lead author of the study. “When they merge supernatural and scientific explanations, they integrate them in a variety of predictable and universal ways.”..

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According to the findings, participants of all age groups agreed with biological explanations for at least one event. Yet supernatural explanations such as witchcraft were also frequently supported among children (ages 5 and up) and universally among adults.

Among the adult participants, only 26 percent believed the illness could be caused by either biology or witchcraft. And 38 percent split biological and scientific explanations into one theory. For example: “Witchcraft, which is mixed with evil spirits, and unprotected sex caused AIDS.” However, 57 percent combined both witchcraft and biological explanations. For example: “A witch can put an HIV-infected person in your path.”

Legare said the findings contradict the common assumption that supernatural beliefs dissipate with age and knowledge.

“The findings show supernatural explanations for topics of core concern to humans are pervasive across cultures,” Legare said. “If anything, in both industrialized and developing countries, supernatural explanations are frequently endorsed more often among adults than younger children.”

The results provide evidence that reasoning about supernatural phenomena is a fundamental and enduring aspect of human thinking, Legare said.

“The standard assumption that scientific and religious explanations compete should be re-evaluated in light of substantial psychological evidence,” Legare said. “The data, which spans diverse cultural contexts across the lifespan, shows supernatural reasoning is not necessarily replaced with scientific explanations following gains in knowledge, education or technology.”

 

 

August 31, 2012 Posted by | Psychology | , , , | Leave a comment

School Absenteeism, Mental Health Problems Linked

HealthDay news image

From the 29 December Medical News Today article

School absenteeism is a significant problem, and students who are frequently absent from school more often have symptoms of psychiatric disorders. A new longitudinal study of more than 17,000 youths has found that frequently missing school is associated with a higher prevalence of mental health problems later on in adolescence, and that mental health problems during one year also predict missing additional school days in the following year for students in middle and high school….

Read the article


December 29, 2011 Posted by | Psychology | , , , , , | Leave a comment

Teens Who Express Own Views With Mom Resist Peer Pressures Best

HealthDay news image

From the 29 December 2011 Medical News Today article

Teens who more openly express their own viewpoints in discussions with their moms, even if their viewpoints disagree, are more likely than others to resist peer pressure to use drugs or drink.

That’s one of the findings of a new longitudinal study by researchers at the University of Virginia. The study appears in the journal Child Development.

The researchers looked at more than 150 teens and their parents, a group that was racially, ethnically, and socioeconomically diverse. The teens were studied at ages 13, 15, and 16 to gather information on substance use, interactions with moms, social skills, and close friendships. Researchers used not just the youths’ own reports, but information from parents and peers. They also observed teens’ social interactions with family members and peers.

They found that teens who hold their own in family discussions were better at standing up to peer influences to use drugs or alcohol. Among the best protected were teens who had learned to argue well with their moms about such topics as grades, money, household rules, and friends. Arguing well was defined as trying to persuade their mothers with reasoned arguments, rather than with pressure, whining, or insults.

“The healthy autonomy they’d established at home seemed to carry over into their relationships with peers,” suggests Joseph P. Allen, Hugh P. Kelly Professor of Psychology at the University of Virginia, who led the study. …

Read the news article here


December 29, 2011 Posted by | Psychology | , , , , , | Leave a comment

Elderly Can Be As Fast As Young In Some Brain Tasks

“If you look at aging research, you find some studies that show older people are not impaired in accuracy, but other studies that show that older people do suffer when it comes to speed.  What this model does is look at both together to reconcile the results.”

From a December 2011  Ohio State University news release 

COLUMBUS, Ohio – Both children and the elderly have slower response times when they have to make quick decisions in some settings.

But recent research suggests that much of that slower response is a conscious choice to emphasize accuracy over speed.

In fact, healthy older people can be trained to respond faster in some decision-making tasks without hurting their accuracy – meaning their cognitive skills in this area aren’t so different from younger adults.

Roger Ratcliff

“Many people think that it is just natural for older people’s brains to slow down as they age, but we’re finding that isn’t always true,” said Roger Ratcliff, professor of psychology at Ohio State University and co-author of the studies.

“At least in some situations, 70-year-olds may have response times similar to those of 25-year olds.”

Ratcliff and his colleagues have been studying cognitive processes and aging in their lab for about a decade.  In a new study published online this month in the journal Child Development, they extended their work to children.

Ratcliff said their results in children are what most scientists would have expected: very young children have slower response times and poorer accuracy compared to adults, and these improve as the children mature.

But the more interesting finding is that older adults don’t necessarily have slower brain processing than younger people, said Gail McKoon, professor of psychology at Ohio State and co-author of the studies.

“Older people don’t want to make any errors at all, and that causes them to slow down.  We found that it is difficult to get them out of the habit, but they can with practice,” McKoon said.

Researchers uncovered this surprising finding by using a model developed by Ratcliff that considers both the reaction time and the accuracy shown by participants in speeded tasks.  Most models only consider one of these variables.

“If you look at aging research, you find some studies that show older people are not impaired in accuracy, but other studies that show that older people do suffer when it comes to speed.  What this model does is look at both together to reconcile the results,” Ratcliff said.

Ratcliff, McKoon and their colleagues have used several of the same experiments in children, young adults and the elderly….

Read the entire press release

December 28, 2011 Posted by | Medical and Health Research News, Psychology | , , , | 2 Comments

Change the environment, not the child’s environment

From a 17 Aug Eureka News Alert

Hamilton, ON (August 16, 2011) — A successful new rehabilitation approach to treating children with cerebral palsy puts its focus on where a child lives and plays, not just improving the child’s balance, posture and movement skills.

Called a “context-focused intervention”, McMaster University and the University of Alberta researchers report in a new study this approach is just as beneficial as traditional child-focused therapy, offering parents an additional treatment option for their child.

The McMaster study, in conjunction with researchers at the University of Alberta’s Faculty of Rehabilitation Medicine and Alberta Health Services in Calgary, is the first randomized trial to examine the effects of therapy focused on changing a child’s task or environment, not the child. It appeared in the July issue of the medical journal Developmental Medicine and Child Neurology.

Context-focused and child-focused therapies were evaluated in a randomized controlled trial of 128 children with cerebral palsy ranging in age from one year to almost six year old. The children, from 19 different rehabilitation centres in Ontario and Alberta, received one of the two approaches for six months. Therapy was provided by occupational therapists and physical therapists. Between assessments at six and nine months, they returned to their regular therapy schedule.

Researchers found that while both groups improved significantly over the study, there were “no significant differences in daily functioning” between the two treatment groups, reported lead author Mary Law, professor in McMaster’s School of Rehabilitation Science and co-founder of the university’s CanChild Centre for Childhood Disability Research.

Cerebral palsy is caused by damage in the brain before or just after birth that results in problems with muscle tone and movement, and impacts ability to perform everyday activities. More than 50,000 Canadians have cerebral palsy, which occurs in about two of 1,000 babies.

During the study, parents in both groups received general information and education about their child’s disability as well as specific strategies to practice at home.

In the child-focused approach, therapists identified the underlying impairment – tone, posture, range of motion – and provided therapy to improve the child’s skills and abilities…..

 

Read the article

August 18, 2011 Posted by | Uncategorized | , , , | Leave a comment

   

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