Category Archives: Child welfare
>>NewPublicHealth continues a new series to highlight some of the best public health education and outreach campaigns every month. Submit your ideas for Public Health Campaign of the Month to info@newPublichealth.org.
Glass thermometers. Compact fluorescent light (CFL) bulbs. Medical equipment. Gauges and other science equipment. Thermostats, switches and other electrical devices.
Mercury lives in all of these devices—and all can be found in schools. While it may be common, mercury is also incredibly dangerous. Mercury poisoning can negatively impact the nervous system, lungs and kidneys. It can even lead to brain damage or death.
Often mercury poisoning is the result of a kid thinking it’s “cool”— taking it, playing with, passing it around to friends. Metallic mercury easily vaporizes into a colorless, odorless, hazardous gas.
The Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry (ATSDR), part of the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), has released a new website that brings together a suite of tools to educate kids, teachers, school administrators and parents about the dangers of mercury poisoning. They include an interactive human body illustration and facts sheets, as well as a 30-second “Don’t Mess With Mercury” animated video to raise awareness about the dangers of mercury.
“Thanks to decades of neuroscience research on brain development, adversity and toxic stress, we now understand how a child who is exposed to violence, or neglect, or homelessness at an early age may develop behavioral and physical health problems later in life,” said Jane Lowe, Senior Adviser for Program Development at the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation (RWJF). “We can now use this rapidly evolving knowledge to create real-world solutions.”
RWJF.org recently pulled together a collection of resources on “adverse childhood experiences”—how common they are and what they can mean for the adults those traumatized children become. The website includes an infographic that illustrates the subject:
NewPublicHealth has previously written about the importance of addressing and changing youth violence, so that these behaviors don’t become even more severe—and more damaging—while spreading from act to act and person to person. In a Q&A, Kristin Schubert, MPH and then-interim director of RWJF’s Public Health, spoke about the Foundation’s approach to the issue of violence prevention and strategies in the field that are working to create change.
“We know that the child who was abused is that much more likely to be a victim or perpetrator of bullying a few years down the line, and then is that much more likely to be a victim or perpetrator of dating violence a few years later in high school, and then is much more likely to be a part of more family violence later on. There’s no form of violence that stands alone,” she said. “It’s a multigenerational phenomenon that is passed down.
“This context is so essential—in considering why someone engages in violent behavior, it’s important to recognize that it’s not just the ‘bad apple,’ it’s not the person. It’s the behavior. As Gary Slutkin of CeaseFire says, ‘Violence is a learned behavior.’”
Schubert pointed to the Adverse Childhood Experiences Study, which found that the more “adverse” events a child faces in their youth—from maltreatment to neglect to abuse to witnessing violence—the more likely they are to have health problems later in life. That includes hypertension, diabetes and heart disease.
>>Read the full NewPublicHealth interview.
>>Read more about Adverse Childhood Experiences.
Despite decades of outreach around car seat safety, car crashes remain the number one cause of death for children under the age of 12, according to the U.S. National Highway and Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA). The numbers from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) are also stark and troubling: more than 1,200 U.S. children ages 14 years and younger died in motor vehicle crashes in 2010, and approximately 171,000 were injured.
What makes these statistics even more tragic is the fact that many of these deaths and injuries are preventable by following these simple edicts—put kids in the right seat and use it the right way. In fact, NHTSA has identified child seat safety restraints as the most effective way to protect young children in motor vehicle crashes.
Child safety seats reduce the risk of death in passenger cars by 71 percent for infants and by 54 percent for kids ages 1 to 4, according to the CDC. For children ages 4 to 8, booster seats cut the risk of serious injury by 45 percent.
This week is Child Passenger Safety Week. It also marks the launch of the new BuckleUpForLife.org, Cincinnati Children’s and Toyota’s community-based safety program designed to educate families on critical safety behaviors and provide child car seats to families in need.
The website features the “Making Safety a Snap” online tool—a series of quick questions and videos that demonstrate exactly how parents and caregivers can make sure their child has the right safety seat and is using it properly.
You can follow a live Buckle Up for Life Twitter Q&A starting at 2 p.m. today. Use the hashtag #BuckleUpforLife to join the discussion and have your child car seats questions answered by their experts.
DoSomething.org, a service and information website aimed at getting teens involved in their communities, has some startling statistics on bullying:
- About 160,000 teens skip school each year because of bullying
- More than 3.2 million students are victims of bullying each year
- 1 in 7 students in grades K-12 are either a bully or a victim of bullying
- 71 percent of students report incidents of bullying as a problem at their school
Which is why a new book on bullying prevention, "A Public Health Approach to Bullying Prevention" from the American Public Health Association (APHA), is a welcome addition as the school year starts back up. The new book is intended as a resource for both parents and educators to help stem the problem of bullying at school.
“With its public health perspective and approach, this book can lead us steps closer to eliminating the physical and mental anguish that bullying has on our nation’s children and communities,” said Georges Benjamin, MD, executive director of the APHA. “The book’s collection of various perspectives offers a comprehensive tool for parents and professionals to ensure healthy and safe schools.”
The book includes successful bullying prevention efforts implemented in southwestern Pennsylvania schools and essays by professionals working to develop approaches that might implement similar success in other U.S. school communities. Authors include psychologists, educators, social workers and public health program workers—and all have experience addressing bullying in the school environment.
“The goal ultimately, is to enable and empower students, teachers, school administration and parents to take on the work and responsibility of providing a safer and healthier environment for children,” explained Matthew Masiello, MD, MPH, Center for Health Promotion, Disease Prevention Director at the Windber Research Institute in Windber, Pennsylvania and co-editor of the book.
“A public health approach to bullying prevention…may be our best approach to providing legitimate and sustainable hope to our children at a time when it is becoming increasingly more difficult to do so,” says Masiello.
The cost of book is $30 for APHA members and $50 for non members. It can be ordered through the APHA bookstore.
RWJF ‘Commission to Build a Healthier America’ Reconvenes to Focus on Early Childhood and Improving Community Health
What do the needs of children in early childhood and improving community health have to do with each other? Everything, according to a group of panelists who addressed the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation (RWJF) Commission to Build a Healthier America at a public meeting in Washington, D.C. yesterday.
Early childhood education and other interventions early in life, particularly for low-income children, can set kids on a path to better jobs, increased income and less toxic stressors such as violence and food insecurity, according to testimony at the today’s meeting. And that in turn creates more stable and healthier communities. Those two issues are the focus of the Commission, which plans to release actionable recommendations in September.
Yesterday’s event marks the first time the Commission is reconvening since it issued recommendations for improving health for all Americans in 2009. It will be co-chaired again by Mark McClellan, MD, PhD, director of the Engelberg Center for Health Care Reform at The Brookings Institution and former Administrator of the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services, and Alice M. Rivlin, PhD, senior economist at The Brookings Institution and former director of the Office of Management and Budget.
“Although we have seen progress since the Commission issued its recommendations in 2009, we still have a long way to go before America achieves its full health potential,” said RWJF President and CEO Risa Lavizzo-Mourey, MD, MBA at the Commission’s public meeting in Washington. “We know what works: giving children a healthy start with quality child care and early childhood development programs, and building healthy communities where everyone has an opportunity to make healthy choices. That is why RWJF is reconvening the Commission, to concentrate on these two critical areas.”
Pediatrics, the journal of the American Academy of Pediatrics, reports on some key public health concerns for children and teens in the current issue, published online today.
Giving the varicella (chickenpox) vaccine to children 12 months of age and older has significantly increased protection for infants too young for the shot, according to a study in the December 2011 issue of Pediatrics. The researchers say that before varicella vaccination began for children 12 months of age and older in 1995, infants were four times more likely to die from a varicella infection compared to children ages 1 to 14 years. Researchers tracked cases in children under 1 year of age from 1995 to 2007 and found that the infections declined by 90 percent even though infants were not eligible for the vaccine. The researchers say that because exposure to the virus continues to occur, improving vaccination coverage in all age groups will further reduce the risk for infants. Get more vaccine news.
The recommendation by the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) that infants sleep on their backs to reduce the risk of sudden infant death syndrome, has resulted in an increase of reports of babies with positional skull deformities (flat heads). The AAP has issued a revised clinical report to help pediatricians differentiate between infants with positional skull deformities and infants with a more serious condition that can lead to neurological damage or severe deformity. According to the report, most positional skull deformities can be corrected with physical therapy and noninvasive measures and special helmets—which can costs hundreds to thousands of dollars and are often not covered by insurance—are rarely necessary. The AAP says that if the condition appears to be worsening by 6 months, referrals should be made to pediatric neurosurgeons to decide if intervention is needed. Read more on maternal and infant health.
The American Academy of Pediatrics is recommending that in addition to teens receiving a meningococcal vaccine at age 11 or 12, a booster shot should also be given at age 16. Adolescents who get their first dose of meningococcal vaccine at or after 16 years of age do not need a booster dose. Additional booster recommendations are included in the policy statement for children who received the vaccine earlier due to certain health conditions and who are at increased risk of disease.
A new report from the American Academy of Pediatrics encourages pediatricians to discuss age-appropriate sexual and reproductive health issues with adolescent male patients during routine office visits. The report also urges the physicians to deliver appropriate sexual and reproductive health care—including taking a sexual history, conducting an examination, administering vaccinations and providing age-appropriate guidance related to sex, relationships and prevention of sexually transmitted infections, HIV and unintended pregnancy. Read more on sexual health and teen pregnancy.
A policy statement just released by the American Academy of Pediatrics emphasizes that incarcerated youth are entitled to the same standards of medical and mental health care as their peers in the community. The policy statement stresses that clinicians caring for incarcerated youth should have training and expertise in pediatrics or adolescent medicine. According to the policy statement, youth in the juvenile justice system should receive:
- A comprehensive history and physical exam
- Dental screening
- Mental health screening for psychiatric illness, substance abuse and neurological and developmental disorders
- HIV and sexually transmitted infection testing
- Pregnancy screening for all girls beyond the age of puberty
The policy statement also points out that that youth in prison have higher rates of substance abuse and mental health disorders and urges pediatricians to advocate for interventions that will be linked to continued care in the community following prison release.
Advocates say the immediate response should be a call to 911. “That’s an emergency, a child is being assaulted,” says Mitru Ciarlante, director of the Youth Initiative at the National Center for Victims of Crime. Trained operators will then contact the police and dispatch experts trained to handle the specific assault that has occurred. “Every one of us is responsible for keeping children safe,” says Ciarlante.
If you suspect abuse is taking place but haven’t witnessed it, calling the police can be a more intimidating step, says Ciarlante, who suggests instead calling Childhelp National Child Abuse Hotline, 1-800-4-A-CHILD. The hotline line is staffed 24 hours a day, seven days a week with professional crisis counselors who, through interpreters, can provide assistance in 170 languages. The hotline offers crisis intervention, information, literature, and referrals to thousands of emergency, social service, and support resources. All calls are anonymous and confidential.
Almost all groups who handle children crises have updated their websites since the news broke at Penn State to better help the public seek out help for children who might be in trouble, says Ciarlante. While many are baffled by the alleged hesitation to call authorities at Penn State, Ciarlante says many people hesitate to report crimes against children for a variety of reasons. They may not be sure abuse is taking place, for example, or may not be able to admit the seriousness of the problem for a range of personal reasons.
Experts at Stop It Now, the Child Sex Abuse Prevention and Protection Center, say they hope the cases being investigated at Penn State can be a catalyst to bring attention to the issue of sexual abuse of children in the U.S. Over 90,000 children are sexually assaulted in America each year. Many more take place but are never reported, says Ciarlante.