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Recently, an editor sent me a study to cover on concussions in teenagers. At least, that’s what we thought the research was about, based on the title of its press release: “Teenagers who have had a concussion also have higher rates of suicide attempts.”
And I was excited to cover the study. Like gut bacteria and anything to do with chocolate or coffee or stem cells, concussion is a hot topic right now. That’s partly because brain scientists are just beginning to understand the lasting impacts of these sometimes subtle but probably cumulative injuries.
And they affect everybody from pro athletes to pee wee football players. So when parents and coaches see the word “concussion,” their thoughts rightfully turn to young athletes. About half of concussions in kids ages 8 to 19 are sports-related, according to a nationwide study of concussions published in 2010 in the journal Pediatrics.
The press release said the study found that kids who have had concussions were not only more likely to try to commit suicide, but to engage in other sorts of high-risk behaviors like taking drugs, stealing cars, setting fires and bullying.
The message here is that a kid who gets hit in the head too many times – presumably playing sports – might turn to drug abuse, self-injury and other sorts of criminal behaviors. And that’s the way it was covered in the press. Continue reading
Image by Victor Bonomi via flickr.
We know that about 45 percent of American kids are growing up in families that are poor or near poor, and that this degree of social inequality helps explain why the health status of Americans is failing to keep up with progress in other wealthy nations.
But how to make things better is not so clear, I insisted in a recent post. I may have spoken too soon. There is now solid evidence from a long-running study in North Carolina that early childhood programs can produce health benefits that persist into adulthood. Continue reading
The state of Hawaii continues to investigate the death of a three-year-old girl who went into a coma after visiting a dentist’s office.
Last month, I wrote about the coverage by Susan Essoyan of the Honolulu Star Advertiser. I also put together a pediatric anesthesia tip sheet with links to some helpful resources.
In the meantime, reporter Alia Wong has also been following the tragic story of the death of Finley Boyle and weighed in with a long Jan. 21 piece for the Honolulu Civil Beat. Wong brings us up to date on the kinds of questions that are being raised in the wake of the child’s death. She writes that questions are being raised about whether dentist Lilly Geyer, who was treating Finley, should have been advertising herself as a “children’s dentist.”
And she explains that “pediatric dentists do a rigorous and competitive two-year residency program in which they get training in specific skills such as child sedation while general dentists aren’t required to do a residency program.”
In a Q&A for AHCJ, she reveals what other questions have come up and what she learned about sedating children for dental procedures. See what story ideas her experience might spark for you.
Small Smiles, one of the nation’s largest dental chains, is facing exclusion from Medicaid, David Heath of the Center for Public Integrity reported this week.
The chain has been accused of performing unnecessary treatments on children to boost profits. With Medicaid dental providers in short supply in many communities, the ouster of Small Smiles from the program could send thousands of poor families in search of new dentists.
“The inspector general of the Department of Health and Human Services notified the chain last week that after years of monitoring, the company remains out of compliance with the terms of a 2010 settlement of a whistleblower lawsuit brought by the Justice Department,” Heath wrote in his March 11 report. Continue reading
“You as a society have made a decision that child poverty is what you want. I can only assume that’s the case. Otherwise you would do what European countries are doing and use taxes and transfers to reduce child poverty.” – Michael Marmot
Sir Michael Marmot isn’t the first to call out the United States for its exceptionally high rate of child poverty. About 45 percent of American kids are growing up in families that are poor or near poor (below 199 percent of the federal poverty level), up from 40 percent in 2006, according to a recent analysis.
This degree of social inequality helps explain why the health status of Americans is failing to keep up with progress in other wealthy nations. But how to make things better is not so clear. Two remarkable studies in the Journal of the American Medical Association this month highlight some of the paradoxes and hidden pitfalls inherent in efforts to boost the socioeconomic status of poor kids. Continue reading
Open wide! A free one-day dental clinic for low-income children may be coming to a school or community center near you.
February is Children’s Dental Health Month, an opportunity for oral health professionals and advocates to raise awareness about the importance of getting care to kids, particularly those who might otherwise go without.
On Friday, Feb. 7, the American Dental Association is officially kicking off its 12th annual Give Kids a Smile Day program with free care for kids at the Howard University College of Dentistry here in Washington, D.C.
Similar events are being planned throughout the country. To find out what is going on in own area, check with your local or state dental society.
Give Kids a Smile clinics are typically organized differently than the big free Mission of Mercy events that have crowds of adults lining up spontaneously at fairgrounds and gymnasiums. The 175 children expected at the Howard University dental college were screened in December by volunteer dentists who visited local elementary schools. The kids will be getting their needed follow-up treatments on Give Kids a Smile Day. Continue reading
A Hawaiian pre-schooler died after lapsing into a coma in a dentist’s chair. Now state authorities are investigating her dentist, according to a report by Susan Essoyan of the Honolulu Star-Advertiser. (The articles are behind a paywall but AHCJ has been given permission to republish them here.)
“The state Department of Commerce and Consumer Affairs has begun an investigation of Kailua dentist Dr. Lilly Geyer after a 3-year-old girl fell into a coma while she was in the dentist’s chair and later died,” Essoyan reported on Jan. 8.
“Finley Puleo Boyle, the only child of Ashley and Evan Boyle of Kailua, never awoke after losing consciousness and suffering massive brain damage following heavy sedation at the dentist’s office Dec. 3, her mother said.”
The little girl died Jan. 3 at a local hospice. Continue reading
Image by The National Guard via flickr.
Catherine Saint Louis of The New York Times took a hard national look at the pediatric dental benefits being offered on the state exchanges under the Affordable Care Act.
Her reporting led her to the troubling gulf that oral health advocates have been warning about.
While kids’ dental coverage is included as one of the 10 essential health benefits under the nation’s health care reform law, “pediatric dental care is handled differently” from other coverage on the federal and state exchanges, she wrote in her Dec. 16 story, “A Gap In the Affordable Care Act.”
Dental plans “are often sold separately from medical insurance, and dental coverage for children is optional,” she noted. “People shopping on the exchanges are not required to buy it and do not receive financial support for buying it.”
Experts have cautioned that the problems could leave millions of children without access to dental care. Continue reading
Image by thor_mark via flickr.
Health plans had poor results last year on reducing the use of antibiotics and on ensuring that chemically dependent patients received recommended and timely follow-up care, according to the State of Health Care Quality Report 2013
from the National Committee for Quality Assurance (NCQA) released last week.
Health plans had good results last year on getting more children to have their body mass index (BMI) measured and get referrals for nutrition counseling, NCQA reported.
By showing trends in how managed care plans deliver care, this annual report is a rich source of data for health care journalists. Continue reading
As state health insurance marketplaces opened for business, Marissa Evans of Kaiser Health News offered a nice consumer-friendly Q&A on pediatric dental and vision care under the Affordable Care Act.
It started like this:
Q: “Will I be required to buy pediatric dental care if I purchase insurance on the exchange?
A: “Most likely, no. Children’s dental care may be included in some plans offered on the marketplaces. But many insurers may offer it as a stand-alone policy, which you are not required to buy under federal law, though people in some states are required to do so. Nevada and Washington state, for example, are requiring this coverage…”
Now there is the rub for health care reporters.
When it comes to the new health insurance exchanges, every state has its own pediatric dental benefits story.
In the next five years, an estimated 3 million children are expected to become eligible to receive private dental benefits through the insurance marketplaces set up by the states. They will be among the approximately 8.7 million children who stand to gain extensive dental coverage through the ACA.
(Another 3.2 million kids are anticipated to get coverage under Medicaid and another 2.5 million through employer-sponsored insurance, according to the American Dental Association. All told, the health care reform law could reduce the number of children without dental benefits by 55 percent, the ADA finds.)
But back to pediatric dental benefits on the exchanges. How is your state coping with the challenges of offering them? And will the benefits result in getting more kids the dental care they need?
Time – and good reporting – will tell. To help with that good reporting, see this tip sheet on pediatric dental benefits under the ACA and be sure to tune in for today’s webcast, “Will families buy kids’ dental benefits on new exchanges?” at noon ET.