Aetna Latest Healthy Living News Latest Healthy Living News from Aetna en Aetna Latest Healthy Living News Latest Healthy Living News from Aetna TYPO3 - get.content.right Tue, 22 Jul 2014 14:28:00 -0400 Teens at Top High Schools Take Fewer Health Risks Going to a top-performing public high school can reduce very risky health behaviors among... What Is the Doctor's Reaction? The high school a teen goes to matters — in ways that can't always be controlled and aren't always fair. Researchers in Los Angeles were interested in how going to a more successful high school affected the choices teens make in terms of risky healthy behaviors. This is very hard to study in general, because there are so many "confounders." Confounders are factors that muddy the waters of a study and make it harder for researchers to understand the results. When it comes to successful schools and risky behaviors, what most commonly confounds studies is that successful schools tend to be in communities where parents have higher incomes and more education. So if kids do better, it's hard to know if it was the school or the parents that made a difference. To try to sort this out, the researchers looked at two groups of teens that had many similarities. They were from similar ethnic backgrounds and came from families with similar income and educational backgrounds. And their families were motivated to help them succeed. All the teens also applied to lotteries to get into successful public charter schools. The difference between the two groups was that one group got into the schools, and one group didn't.  The researchers compared math and English test scores, school retention and risky health behaviors between the two groups. They divided the risky health behaviors into two groups: risky (alcohol, tobacco or drug use, unprotected sex) and very risky (binge drinking, substance use at school, risky sex, gang participation). The teens that got into the charter schools had higher test scores, were more likely to stay in school, and were less likely to have very risky behaviors than those who didn't get in. When it comes to risky behaviors, while there was a difference (those who got in seemed to have fewer), it wasn't statistically significant. Which isn't all that surprising. No matter where they go to school, teens are still teens — and a certain amount of risk-taking comes with the territory. There are many reasons this could happen. Here is what the researchers suggest:
  • Teens who learn more, and have better grades, may make better health decisions.
  • The school environment may make a difference. For example, being in a higher-performing school may mean less exposure to kids who are making risky decisions — so the peer pressure to do so may be less.
  • Getting better grades may give kids more opportunities and more hope for their future, which may lead to less interest in taking risks.
  • Being in school or doing more homework may leave less time to get into trouble.
What Changes Can I Make Now? Whatever the reason for the difference, this study certainly underlines what we have known for some time: better schools can lead to better futures for kids. That's why it's really important that we do everything possible to improve schools, especially in low-income areas, and especially for children whose parents may be less able to support them and advocate for them. It's also very important for parents to do everything they can to get their children into the best-performing school possible. This is most important for low-income families and those with less education. As much as possible, they should avail themselves of every resource possible, and try to get their children into charter schools and other better-performing schools, and even private schools that offer scholarships. Teachers, doctors, coaches, family members and friends should try to educate and support parents in any way they can in this process. What Can I Expect Looking to the Future? The divide between rich and poor has been widening in this country. Unless we pay attention to the findings of this study and others like it, and do something, the gap will widen further. This is a matter of social justice; hopefully we can come together to do the right thing for all children.]]>
Mon, 21 Jul 2014 14:16:00 -0400
Affluent Teens More Likely to Use Hookah Nearly 1 in 5 high school seniors has smoked tobacco through a hookah, or water pipe, a new survey... What Is the Doctor's Reaction? If you are the parent of a high school student, it's time to talk to them about hookahs. Why? Because according to a study just released in the journal Pediatrics, 18% of high school seniors have smoked them. A hookah is a water pipe that is used to smoke a specially made tobacco. The tobacco is often flavored, with flavors such as mint or licorice. Hookahs come in all shapes and sizes. There are even some electronic versions. Usually, a group of people smokes a hookah together, inhaling smoke from the mouthpiece and passing it from person to person. Smoking hookahs is an ancient practice, begun centuries ago in Persia and Asia. Perhaps because it is so ancient, many youth and young adults think that it isn't as dangerous as smoking cigarettes. But it is actually just as dangerous, if not more so. The smoke you inhale from a hookah is just as full of toxins and cancer-causing chemicals as the smoke from a cigarette. It carries all the same health risks as smoking cigarettes. It also contains nicotine, the chemical that causes addiction to cigarettes. What makes it possibly more dangerous is the way it is smoked. It takes an average of 20 puffs to smoke a cigarette. But in smoking a hookah with other people over an hour, you can take 200 puffs. That's a whole lot more toxins inhaled. According to the study, youth who smoke tobacco or use alcohol or other drugs are more likely to smoke hookahs. That's not surprising. What was a little surprising was that the youth who smoke hookahs, unlike those who use other forms of tobacco, are more likely to have parents with more education and income. What Changes Can I Make Now? The most important thing we all can do is educate ourselves and others about the health risks of smoking hookahs. That's why parents need to talk to their children, teachers need to talk to their students and coaches need to talk to their athletes. Anyone who interacts with young people should find out what they know about hookahs, and whether they are smoking them. We need to talk to youth about the risks, such as cancer of the mouth, esophagus, stomach and lungs. Talk to them about how they can end up with even higher risks of these terrible diseases than with other forms of tobacco. Overall, fewer youth are smoking these days. So putting it in these terms may help them see hookah smoking differently. What Can I Expect Looking to the Future? Youth will always take risks and try things that aren't healthy for them. It's our job as caring adults to do everything we can to reduce the risks, and keep them as healthy and safe as we can. Talking about hookahs is another way to do that.]]> Mon, 07 Jul 2014 00:00:00 -0400 Middle-School Sexting Linked to Having Sex Middle school students who send and receive sexually explicit messages (sexts) are also more... What Is the Doctor's Reaction? Parents may use a cell phone to send and receive calls. It is a phone, after all. Teens do the same thing with their cell phones. But in this age of technology, your teen is likely to be doing more than just talking. You should worry that he or she may be sexting. Sexting means sending and receiving sexual pictures or text messages. It is big problem because sexts can:
  • Lead to risky sexual activity
  • Be shared with people who are not meant to see them
A new study in the journal Pediatrics looked at how sexting and sexual behaviors might be related in middle-school students. About 1,200 students from Los Angeles completed questionnaires. The students were between the ages of 10 and 15 years in grades 6 through 8. Almost 75% of middle school students had a cell phone that could send and receive texts. Of this group:
  • 1 in 5 had received a sext
  • 1 in 20 had sent a sext
Researchers found that sexting was more common among teens who text a lot. Students who texted 100 or more times a day (an average of more than 4 texts per hour) were:
  • More than twice as likely to receive a sext
  • Nearly 5 times as likely to send a sext
Students who had sexted also were more likely to have had sex (vaginal, oral or anal) than those who had not:
  • 7 times as likely if they had received a sext
  • 3 times as likely if they had sent a sext
The study noted differences on who sends or receives sexts based on gender, race, and sexual orientation. Some examples include:
  • Males were more likely to send a sext.
  • African-American students were more likely to receive a sext.
  • Students who self-identified as gay, lesbian, bisexual or unsure were more likely to send a sext.
The researchers are worried about their findings. They show that sexting is common in middle school and among youth as young as 10. Sexting is most common among those having early sexual activity. This increases the risk of sexually transmitted infections and teen pregnancy. What Changes Can I Make Now? Parents must know about sexting. It is a serious problem that can lead to risky behaviors. It also can damage how a teen feels about herself or himself. This is especially true when a sext goes public. The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends that parents talk with their children about sexting as soon as they get their first cell phones. Here are some tips:
  • Ask your child if she knows what sexting is. It is important to understand what your child already knows about this topic.
  • Use language she can understand at her age. If your child is too young to know about sex, explain that texts should never have pictures of people without clothes on. If your child is older, you can use the word sexting and give examples. 
  • Explain that sexting cannot be undone. Once a message or picture is sent, your child cannot take it back. It can be spread quickly and be seen by others.
  • Teach your child to follow the "What would grandma think?" rule. If grandma should not see it, then they should not send it.
  • Warn your child that sexting can be a crime. It can involve the police. It can go on their permanent record for life. This could prevent your child from going to college or getting a job.
  • Bring up stories from the news. Show your child that sexting has real costs and punishments.
  • Talk with your child about peer pressure. Practice with your child how to refuse if she is asked to sext.
The conversation should be about more than just sexting. Talk about the risks of sex. Talk about how to stay safe. Make sure your child knows:
  • How pregnancy happens
  • How to avoid getting pregnant
  • What sexually transmitted infections (like HIV) are
  • Ways to say "no" to having sex
What Can I Expect Looking to the Future? Expect your pediatrician to discuss sexting (and sex in general) with your teen at a young age. As a parent, you should do the same. Sexting should become part of health education programs in all middle schools, too. Research should look more closely at how middle-school students interact with one another using texts. There is a need to know more about the use of sexting in all parts of the country (urban, suburban and rural). The impact of sexting on the mental health of teens also needs to be explored.]]>
Mon, 30 Jun 2014 18:11:00 -0400
Parents Talk to Kids Less with Background TV Having TV on in the background while you play with your toddler may hinder the child's language... What Is the Doctor's Reaction? If you want your toddler to talk more, shut off the TV. We aren't talking about Dora the Explorer here, although shutting that off is a good idea as well. (The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends that children under the age of 2 not watch any TV at all.) We are talking about shows parents want to watch. It's understandable that parents might want to turn on the TV. Toddlers aren't exactly amazing conversationalists. So, unless you are really a big fan of blocks or banging on pans, time with them isn't always scintillating. Having Oprah, or the History Channel, or the news on in the background might help entertain parents while they entertain toddlers. The problem is that the TV distracts the parents. And when they are distracted, they interact less with their children. That's what researchers found when they observed 49 parents and toddlers for an hour. For half of the hour, the TV was on in the background with shows for adults or older children. When the TV was on, parents said fewer words to their children. This is important, because we know that verbal interactions with caregivers are crucial for children's language development. It's also important, say the researchers, because American children under the age of 2 are exposed to an average of 5.5 hours of background television each day. This could have serious implications for language development. What Changes Can I Make Now? The best thing to do is to turn off the television, plain and simple. Play with your child. Read stories -- pick ones you like. Maybe they won't understand all the words. That's OK. Hearing you read them, and being close to you as you do, will encourage their development. If being alone with your toddler makes you so stir-crazy that you want to reach for the TV remote, get out. Go to a museum, or to the park. You could even just go for a walk around the block with your child in a stroller or carrier (the exercise will be good for you). Or explore the outdoors in your yard. Try going to the library. Look for a parents' group, or a play group. That way, you can talk to other adults, and your child will get the stimulation of being around other children.    What Can I Expect Looking to the Future? Media, including TV, computers and smartphones, have become an increasingly large part of everyday life. So it's really important that we understand the impact media can have on children. We need to understand the impact on their development and behavior. We also need to understand the impact on the relationships and interactions between children and their caregivers. This study is very helpful. We need more like it if we are going to have the information we need to make the best decisions about media, children and families.]]> Mon, 16 Jun 2014 13:38:00 -0400 Vaccine Slashes Hospital Stays for Diarrhea Use of the rotavirus vaccine has dramatically reduced hospital stays for severe diarrhea among... What Is the Doctor's Reaction? Diarrhea is no fun! Children who have it do not feel well. Diarrhea leads to water loss (dehydration). This can be very dangerous, especially in infants. Some have to spend time in the hospital. Some may die. Rotavirus is a common cause of diarrhea in babies and young children. The first rotavirus vaccine was approved in 2006. Before that, this disease was a big problem. Almost all children in the United States had a rotavirus infection before their fifth birthdays. Each year:
  • Half a million young children had to see a doctor
  • More than 200,000 had to go to the emergency room (ER)
  • 55,000 to 70,000 stayed in the hospital overnight or longer
  • 20 to 60 died
A new study in the journal Pediatrics looks at how well the rotavirus vaccine has worked. Researchers looked at information on more than 406,000 children under the age of 5. This included:
  • Hospital stays
  • Trips to the ER
  • Visits to the doctor
The researchers compared rates in the 5 years before and 5 years after the vaccine came into use. The biggest drops were seen in the 2009-2010 rotavirus season. Compared with pre-vaccine years:
  • Hospital stays for kids diagnosed with rotavirus diarrhea went down by 94%
  • Hospital stays for any diarrhea went down by 54%
  • Trips to the ER for any diarrhea dropped by almost one-third (31%)
  • Visits to the doctor for any diarrhea dropped by 20%
The researchers also compared children who got the rotavirus vaccine with those who did not. During the 2010-2011 season, vaccinated children had 90% fewer hospital stays for rotavirus than those who did not get the vaccine. They also had fewer hospital stays and trips to the ER for diarrhea caused by any germ. The vaccine even stopped the spread of rotavirus infection to children who did not get the vaccine. During the 2009-2010 season, hospital stays for these children went down by 77% compared with pre-vaccine rates. The study authors estimate that between 2007 and 2011, the rotavirus vaccine reduced diarrhea-related visits by 1.5 million. It looks like the rotavirus vaccine works very, very well! What Changes Can I Make Now? The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommends the rotavirus vaccine for all babies. So does the American Academy of Pediatrics. Vaccination against rotavirus will protect your child from serious disease. It also will help stop the spread of rotavirus in the community. The vaccine is very good at preventing diarrhea caused by rotavirus.
  • Almost all babies who get the vaccine will be protected from severe rotavirus diarrhea.
  • Most babies will not get rotavirus diarrhea at all.
  • The vaccine will not prevent diarrhea caused by other germs.
Rotavirus vaccine is taken by mouth (not a shot). Two brands are available. One requires 2 doses for protection. The other requires 3 doses. There are no other major differences between these 2 vaccines. Your baby gets the doses at these ages:
  • 2 months
  • 4 months
  • 6 months (if needed)
Infants should receive all recommended doses of rotavirus vaccine in their first 6 months of life. The rotavirus vaccine can be given at the same time as all other recommended vaccines. Like rotavirus, many vaccines are given as a series (not just one dose). Some require boosters every few years. Here is the CDC's latest vaccine schedule and advice for children up to 6 years old. Ask any questions you have about vaccines at your child's checkups. You also can find reliable information on these websites:
  • CDC Vaccine Information Statements
  • CDC for Parents: Vaccines for Your Children
  • AAP Childhood Immunization Support Program
  • Why Immunize?
  • National Network for Immunization Information
  • Vaccinate Your Baby
What Can I Expect Looking to the Future? The rotavirus vaccine will continue to be an important part of the vaccine schedule for children. Families should be sure that all babies get all recommended doses. If that happens, we can expect even fewer cases of serious rotavirus disease each year. Research also will continue on how well the rotavirus vaccine affects the use of health care services and the cost savings it creates.]]>
Mon, 09 Jun 2014 18:55:00 -0400