Pediatrics: Public Health Updates

Nov 28, 2011, 6:08 PM, Posted by

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.

Vaccinating Children Against Chickenpox Also Helps Protect Babies Not Yet Eligible for the Vaccine

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.

Preventing and Treating Flat Head Syndrome in Babies

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.

AAP Issues Booster Dose Recommendations for Meningococcal Vaccine

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.

AAP Encourages Pediatricians to Talk to Adolescent Boys about Sexual Health and Health Care

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.

Healthcare for Young Adults in Prison

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.

This commentary originally appeared on the RWJF New Public Health blog.