Need To Know, the PBS newsmagazine, recently took a look at the use of antipsychotics in foster children. Shoshana Guy’s piece opens with an anecdote about one 10-year-old foster child (now adopted) in Texas and expands from there. In nine years as a ward of the state, the boy was prescribed 20 different drugs by nine different doctors. After his adoption, a new, private physician diagnosed him only with ADHD, treatable with a single medication.
Antipsychotics are designed primarily to treat bipolar disorder and schizophrenia, diseases which affect about 3 percent of the population. Yet somehow, they’re the top selling class of drugs in the United States with $14.6 billion in sales in 2009.
Specific numbers on foster children are hard to come by, but the 2010 paper cited in the broadcast, Antipsychotic Medication use in Medicaid Children and Adolescents (48-page PDF), is a good start. Broader forces, such as pharmaceutical marketing and the increasing frequency of mental illness diagnoses for children are at work here, Guy found, but that doesn’t mean that the foster care environment itself isn’t also a factor. It’s a system in which people are frequently looking for ways to “manage” problematic children. Judging by a companion post on Need to Know, this sounds like a story that will develop significantly in the coming year.
…foster care children are prescribed drugs at a rate much greater than that of other kids. Concern over their well-being — not to mention the amount it costs to treat them — has prompted the Government Accountability Office to investigate potentially abusive prescribing practices in America’s state foster care systems. The GAO findings are expected to come out later this year.
Fluportal.org, a Corporation for Public Broadcasting-funded site built to help public media cover H1N1 and related issues, has completed its grant and will stop updating at the end of this month.
As a fitting capstone to a very well-executed and valuable resource, the staff has posted an exhaustive, honest review of what the site did, where things went right and where they went wrong. It’s a lengthy read, but one that gives insight into how best to organize and execute a health-related, issue-oriented Web resource.
Other resources on the site look into health reporting and how to communicate information about H1N1 to the public:
The Dallas-based George W. Bush Institute, a think tank founded by the former president, is working on a new public television program (in cooperation with Grace Creek Media) that plans to focus on global health issues in addition to domestic policy and education. According to The Dallas Morning News‘ Lori Stahl, two episodes of “Ideas In Action with Jim Glassman” have already been taped, and the program will start airing on PBS and some cable stations in February.
Host Jim Glassman, who also heads Bush’s think tank, brings with him a solid, if somewhat partisan, resume. He hosted TechnoPolitics on PBS in the late ’90s, published The New Republic in the ’80s and has long written conservative-leaning columns in various media outlets, including The Washington Post and SHNS.
Stahl writes that PBS viewers have already begun to push back against what they fear will inevitably be idealogically motivated programming. Glassman’s response? The show will fall somewhere between neutral and “absurdly biased.”
Glassman said the new show will not try to promote a political viewpoint. Noting that he’s well-acquainted with PBS standards from a stint hosting the PBS series TechnoPolitics, Glassman said, “If you get something that’s absurdly biased, people aren’t going to watch it.”
At the same time, he acknowledged that the Bush Institute is looking for places to influence the course of civic action, not just generate more debate.
“We’re not going to shy away from the fact that we’ve built the Bush Institute on principles,” Glassman said, noting that other public television show hosts are not entirely neutral. He cited Bill Moyers, William Buckley and Tavis Smiley as examples.
She leads with big numbers from the Center for Responsive Politics, including $400 million from the health care sector and $120 million from insurers in the first nine months of 2009 alone. To drive those numbers home, the Center’s Dave Levinthal even called it one of the “biggest lobbying efforts ever on a single piece of legislation that the United States has ever seen.”
According to Levinthal, health reform’s unique combination of a massive industry and a long, drawn-out process has created a sort of perfect storm for lobbyists. He added that, while strides have been made since the Abramoff days, lobbyists still have a long way to go in the transparency department. An analysis released by the center finds that “the senators who opposed the health insurance reform bill passed on Christmas Eve received an average of nearly 30 percent more political donations from political action committees and individual employees of health and health insurance-related groups and companies since 1989.”
One of the creative commons licensed shots of H1N1 street art spotlighted by fluportal.org. Photo by Brazilian artist guitavares via Flickr.
Fluportal also has tackled some media ethics issues related to the outbreak, notably in a post where staff from PRI’s The World had to consider how to frame the German medical establishment’s reluctance to recommend the H1N1 vaccine. After all, they did not want to confuse listeners or have a negative impact on public health, but they also weren’t going to “censor” the sincere opinions of German doctors, even if they conflicted with CDC advice.