Public Health News Roundup: June 4
Special Family Court Systems Limit Kids' Time in Foster Care, Improve School Performance
With families who went through a special unified family court system that deals with divorce, child custody, juvenile delinquency, drug abuse and alcohol abuse, children spent less time in foster care and performed better in school (also an indicator of better emotional health), according to a new study in Evaluation Review. Kids whose families went through these courts were more likely to be reunited with their parents or other primary caregivers. Researchers found that children spent an average of 29 days fewer in foster care placements in counties with unified family courts, and kids were 11 percent more likely to be reunited with their parents or other caregivers. “The shortened time in foster care seen in this study can be attributed to the efficiency of unified family courts, which translates into savings for the court system and benefits to children seen through improved educational outcomes,” said Frank Sloan, PhD, of Duke University. The study was funded by the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation’s Public Health Law Research Program. Read more on education.
Diets High in Vegetables and Low in Meats Lead to Fewer Chronic Diseases, Longer Lives
Vegetarians and people with diets low in meat and high in vegetables are less likely to die from heart disease or any other chronic conditions over any particular period of time, according to a new study in JAMA Internal Medicine. In a study of more than 73,000 people from 2002 to 2007, researchers found that by December 31, 2009 about seven in 1,000 meat eaters and about five to six in 1,000 vegetarians died each year. However, researchers noted that there were a variety of contributions to this result. "It's important to note that the vegetarians in this study were more highly educated, less likely to smoke, exercised more and were thinner," said Alice Lichtenstein, director of the Cardiovascular Nutrition Laboratory at Tufts University in Boston, who was not involved with the new study, to Reuters Health. About 5 percent of Americans are vegetarian. Read more on nutrition.
CDC: Fewer Americans Struggling with Medical Bills, But Many Skipping Care Altogether
While overall fewer Americans are having difficulty paying their medical bills, the uninsured and other people who would have difficulty paying are increasingly skipping medical care completely, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). According to CDC's National Center for Health Statistics, the percentage of people under age 65 in families struggling to pay bills dropped from 21.7 to 20.3 percent from the first half of 2011 to the first half of 2012. For families with children up to 17 years old, the share dropped from 23.7 percent to 21.8 percent. Still, families of more than 54 million people are unable to pay their medical bills. "During this time period, those who were uninsured or who had public coverage were about twice as likely as those with private coverage to have problems paying medical bills," said study author Robin Cohen, a CDC health statistician. Read more on access to health care.