Now Viewing: Adolescents (11-18 years)

Ranking the Healthiest Counties for Kids

Jun 13, 2013, 4:43 PM, Posted by Joe Marx

Students holding up signs at a lunch table.

Let’s say you’re moving your family to a new community.  Could be a job opportunity or life change.  When it comes to health, should you be thinking about the quality of hospital care for your kids?  Or, whether the community you’re going to is a healthy place for kids to grow up and thrive?

Well, both matter, but until recently, the things that lead to better health—and perhaps keep kids from going to the hospital in the first place—have received less attention.  But we are beginning to see a dynamic shift from emphasis on sick care to prevention and wellness.  A good example is this week’s US News & World Report ranking of “America’s 50 Healthiest Counties for Kids”. These are the folks who give us report cards on colleges, hospitals and best places to retire. Released as part of their “Best Children’s Hospitals” annual report, the article emphasizes important factors that lead to better health, or not, in the places where we live and raise our families. Things like how many kids are living in poverty, teen birth rates, infant deaths and injuries.

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Nominations Open for Girl Up Teen Advisors

May 29, 2013, 11:00 AM

Sesuagno Mola of Ethiopia, married at five, never went to school and had her first child at 14. More children would have followed in quick succession, but Sesuagno got involved with a program in her town run by Girl Up developed by the UN Foundation that empowers young girls to create a life for themselves and their families well beyond poverty and illiteracy.

In Sesuagno’s case, she joined a program developed to help teach literacy, and provide information about family planning, gardening and life skills to help reduce food contamination.

Through the program, Sesuagno learned to build shelves to keep her family’s food off the floor, built a stove that sends the smoke out of the house instead of into her lungs—a cause of pneumonia and death for thousands of girls and women in the developing world—and jointly decided with her husband, because of her time in the program, that they would wait to have their next child.

“What we support are comprehensive services for adolescent services for girls to help improve access to health services, education and safe spaces,” says Andrea Austin, a spokesperson for the UN Foundation.

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Reducing Traumatic Youth Sports Injuries: Q&A with Hosea Harvey

May 23, 2013, 10:32 AM

file Hosea Harvey, Temple University Beasley School of Law

As school winds down and camps and sports prepare for the summer season, a new study funded by the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation and published in the American Journal of Public Health on sports-related traumatic brain injuries in youth sports, is generating deserved attention.

The study, by Hosea Harvey, JD, PhD, Assistant Professor of Law at the Temple University Beasley School of Law, found that while forty four states and Washington, D.C.,  passed youth sport TBI laws  between 2009 and 2012, none of the laws focus on preventing the injuries in the first place. The laws on the books deal primarily with increasing coaches’ and parents’ ability to identify and respond to traumatic brain injuries and reducing the immediate risk of multiple brain injuries.

>>Read more in a Q&A with the Babe Ruth League Inc. about how youth sports leagues are making strides to prevent injuries.

Harvey’s conclusion is that continued research and evaluation is needed to develop a more comprehensive reduction in youth sport traumatic brain injuries.

NewPublicHealth: What did your study address?

Hosea Harvey: I looked at traumatic brain injury (TBI) laws that were passed at the state level that purported to deal with the problem of youth TBIs in sports statewide. I looked at every related state law passed between 2009 through the end of 2012, though most states only had one law that they passed that dealt with youth sports TBIs during that period.

NPH: And your study found that no state that right now has a law that says this is what you have to do in order to prevent these concussions in the first place?

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Gun Violence: Teens Demand a Plan

Jan 9, 2013, 2:53 PM

Shortly after the shooting of 20 children and six adults in Newtown, Ct., a large group of Hollywood stars released a video asking viewers to “demand a plan” on action to be taken to prevent future mass shootings.  Since then several videos have popped up on YouTube that show almost all of the actors in the video wielding weapons in films and television shows.

Another video also demands a plan on gun violence, with a compelling set of spokespeople. This one stars and was developed with minority teens in California and produced by the California Endowment, a private health foundation. At last check, the teens’ video had gotten close to 750,000 hits on YouTube.

NewPublicHealth spoke with Barbara Raymond, director of youth opportunity at the California Endowment about how the video came to be and what the next steps are for taking action on gun violence.

NewPublicHealth: How did this video come to be?

Barbara Raymond: The Endowment looks at health very broadly, including things that happen in our schools and happen in our neighborhoods. We started work a couple of years ago in 14 communities across California, and through the process we’ve worked with  over 20,000 residents and they came back so strongly saying safety and my own health prevention are our number one issues. And they drilled down further to issues including school safety and school climate and the epidemic of suspensions and extreme school discipline policies.  

We have been able to engage a whole set of young people and they have really identified these issues as well. It’s especially the young people saying that working on these issues is urgent, including violence in the community and on the streets of our neighborhoods, fixing issues in our schools and what the kids call the school-to-prison pipeline. These issues have just come up so strongly so when the Newtown tragedy happened, young people wanted to say something and react to that.  

As staff, we talked about how the tragedy would open up a whole public conversation around mental health and school safety practices and staff members suggested we reach out to the kids with the video idea.  

NPH: How were the kids involved in the development of the video?

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I’m Positive—World AIDS Day Documentary

Nov 30, 2012, 10:10 AM

Otis Harris Jr. Otis Harris Jr.

On World AIDS Day, Saturday, December 1, I’m Positive, a new documentary produced by the Kaiser Family Foundation and MTV, will introduce three young adults living with HIV. The documentary is part of a project called GYT: Get Yourself Tested, a campaign to encourage testing for STDs, including HIV. GYT is a sexual health public information partnership between the Kaiser Family Foundation and MTV.

NewPublicHealth spoke with cast member Otis Harris, who is an HIV/AIDS peer advocate who lives in Chicago.

NewPublicHealth: How old are you and how old were you when you found out that you were HIV positive?

Otis Harris Jr.: I am 25 years old and I was 22 [when I found out I was HIV positive].

NPH: What do you wish you had known then that you know now?

Otis Harris Jr.: I wish that I could have been a little more educated about the virus and what to look for and how to protect myself. And if I would have known what I know now then I probably wouldn’t have been infected.

NPH: People have been working on HIV/AIDS education efforts for so many years now, but clearly they weren’t getting through. What are the ways in which they didn’t communicate well and how can they communicate better?

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Gun Violence in Nashville

Nov 28, 2012, 9:05 AM, Posted by Manish Sethi

Manish K. Sethi, MD, is a health policy associate at the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation (RWJF) Center for Health Policy at Meharry Medical College and a Pilot Project Mini-Grant recipient and renowned orthopaedic trauma surgeon at Vanderbilt University’s Orthopaedic Institute Center for Health Policy. Sethi spoke this morning during the 2012-2013 Grand Rounds Series, sponsored by Meharry Medical College School of Medicine, on “Gun Violence in Nashville: Working Towards Community Based Solutions.”

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Human Capital Blog: What is the violence prevention program you’re directing with the RWJF Center for Health Policy at Meharry?

Sethi: We are doing a youth violence intervention program via partnership with Nashville schools funded by the RWJF Center for Health Policy at Meharry.

All of the data demonstrates that educational intervention with this age group demonstrates positive results. Currently, no such program exists in Nashville schools.

HCB: What drove your interest in this topic?

Sethi: I am a trauma surgeon and have been seeing an inordinate number of gun violence injuries in African American teenagers. I grew up in Tennessee and left for my medical training, but during childhood I never saw violence to this degree. Almost every week I see a teenager who either loses his life, or suffers major trauma secondary to a gun violence injury. I care very deeply about the future of these children and of Tennessee and I just feel that we have to do something.

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Social Environment Trumps Genetics When it Comes to Teen Friendships

Nov 14, 2012, 11:00 AM, Posted by Jason Fletcher

Jason M. Fletcher, PhD, MS, is an alumnus of the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation (RWJF) Health & Society Scholars program (2010-2012) and an associate professor of health policy at Yale School of Public Health.   Fletcher was recently lead author of the study, “How Social and Genetic Factors Predict Friendship Networks,” published October 17 in the journal PNAS (Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences). Fletcher and his colleagues found that important interactions between genetics and the social environment help determine friendship formation during high school.

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For our study, we used a national survey of adolescent friendships (Add Health, or the National Longitudinal Study of Adolescent Health) to follow up on and expand a study published last year that showed that specific genes, including a dopamine receptor gene (DRD2), may determine friendships among teens.

We found the idea of a biological basis for, in our view, the very sociologically driven outcomes of friendship formation to be too narrow and to not take into account the social and geographic constraints that underlie friendship links.  So in our research we show, using the same data as the previous study, that once we take account of schools and social environments, the previous genetic story is not confirmed by our data.

Indeed, we show that some schools produce friendships that are genetically similar, and others produce friendships that are genetically dissimilar.  And specific aspects of schools, like socioeconomic inequality, appear to partially determine the types of friendships that we observe school-by-school.

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