Green schoolyards offer physical and mental health benefits for children

A growing body of evidence supports the claim that access to safe, natural areas improves health across a wide variety of areas, including heart health, mental health, weight management, ADHD, and stress among children. A concept gaining momentum in this realm is green schoolyards. But what is a green schoolyard?

A research abstract, “Green Schoolyards Support Healthy Bodies, Minds and Communities,” that explores the concept of a green schoolyard will be presented Saturday, Sept. 16 at the American Academy of Pediatrics National Conference & Exhibition in Chicago.

“Green schoolyards can include outdoor classrooms, native gardens, storm water capture, traditional play equipment, vegetable gardens, trails, trees and more,” says Stephen Pont, MD, MPH, FAAP, medical director, Dell Children’s Texas Center for the Prevention & Treatment of Childhood Obesity and Assistant Professor of Pediatrics, UT-Austin Dell Medical School. “And outside of school time, these schoolyards can be open for the surrounding community to use, benefitting everyone.”

Full story at Science Daily

High-fat diet in pregnancy can cause mental health problems in offspring

A high-fat diet not only creates health problems for expectant mothers, but new research in an animal model suggests it alters the development of the brain and endocrine system of their offspring and has a long-term impact on offspring behavior. The new study links an unhealthy diet during pregnancy to mental health disorders such as anxiety and depression in children.

“Given the high level of dietary fat consumption and maternal obesity in developed nations, these findings have important implications for the mental health of future generations,” the researchers report.

Full story of high fat diet in pregnancy and mental health at Science Daily

Anxiety measure for children with autism proven reliable

A new method devised by a Drexel University professor to diagnose children on the spectrum for anxiety symptoms — which tend to be masked by symptoms of autism — was shown to be effective in a recent study.

“Anxiety is considered an internalizing symptom, in that it is mostly felt by the person inside their bodies and minds and is not always obvious to others,” said Connor Kerns, PhD, an assistant research professor in the A.J. Drexel Autism Institute of Drexel University’s Dornsife School of Public Health. “For example, a child may avoid a social situation because they are not socially motivated — a symptom of autism spectrum disorder — or because they are afraid of being socially rejected — a symptom of anxiety.”

Full story of anxiety measure for children with autism at Science Daily

Fact or fiction: Dispelling the myths and misconceptions of ADHD

Attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) is a very common condition diagnosed mainly in children. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), 6.4 million children between four and 17 years of age have been diagnosed with ADHD as of 2011. While many have heard of this condition, there are myths that surround the disorder and a certain stigma still exists. Joshua Cabrera, MD, clinical psychiatrist and assistant professor at the Texas A&M College of Medicine, helps break down what the condition is—and what it isn’t.

Fiction: My child is hyper, they probably have ADHD

Children are inherently energetic, sometimes even rowdy. If unruly behavior is the only symptom, then it’s difficult for a professional to say that their problem is truly a mental illness.

Full story of fact or fiction of ADHD at Science Daily

Fewer indications of ADHD in children whose mothers took vitamin D during pregnancy

Children of mothers who took vitamin D during pregnancy with resultant high levels of the vitamin in the umbilical blood have fewer symptoms of ADHD at the age of 2½ years.

These were the findings in a new study from the Odense Child Cohort just published in The Australia & New Zealand Journal of Psychiatry.

“And for every 10 nmol/L increase in the vitamin D concentration in umbilical blood, the risk of a being among the 10% highest score on the ADHD symptom scale fell by 11%,” explains one of the study’s initiators, Professor Niels Bilenberg.

1,233 children from Odense Municipality were monitored in the study. Vitamin D was measured in umbilical blood, and mothers completed the Child Behavior Checklist (CBCL) when their child was 2½ years old. The CBCL questionnaire can be used to identify early symptoms of ADHD, even though an ADHD diagnosis cannot be made at that age.

Full story of ADHD and vitamin D during pregnancy at Science Daily

Web-based technology improves pediatric ADHD care and patient outcomes

As cases of ADHD continue to rise among U.S. children, pediatricians at busy community practices are getting a much-needed assist from a web-based technology to improve the quality of ADHD care and patient outcomes.

According to a multi-institutional study published online July 26 in Pediatrics, a new web-based software program is helping reduce ADHD behavioral symptoms in children receiving care at community pediatric practices by coordinating care and ensuring patients get the most effective ADHD medications.

This is important for children with ADHD who rely on extremely busy community based pediatric practices where ADHD care is often poor — especially in the areas of medication management and monitoring, according to Jeffery Epstein, PhD, the study’s principal investigator and director of the Center for ADHD at Cincinnati Children’s Hospital Medical Center.

Full story of web-based technology and pediatric ADHD care at Science Daily

Youth sports hazing victims often in denial, research shows

The true incidence of hazing in youth sports is unknown because victims don’t report the mistreatment or fail to recognize it as hazing, according to a review of scientific literature on the subject by a team of Vanderbilt University Medical Center (VUMC) researchers.

One study revealed that of the 47 percent of student athletes who had been hazed, only 8 percent labeled the behavior as hazing. Another study found that college students perceived hazing as having more positive benefits than negative effects.

However, a third study cited in the review noted that 71 percent of students who had been hazed reported negative consequences ranging from physical to psychological issues.

“The numbers are striking,” said Alex Diamond, D.O., MPH. “Very few — if they report it at all — will identify it as hazing. Then if you ask what actually happened to them or for them to describe the events, overwhelmingly, the description turns out to be hazing. We need to educate athletes to understand what hazing is versus what positive team building is.”

Full story of youth sports hazing at Science Daily

Children with ADHD may benefit from following healthy behaviors, new study suggests

A new study shows that children with Attention Deficit and Hyperactivity Disorder follow fewer healthy lifestyle behaviors than non-ADHD youth, suggesting that they may benefit from improving lifestyle choices such as increasing water consumption, decreasing screen time and getting at least one hour of physical activity per day.

The disorder is typically managed with prescriptions like Adderall or Ritalin, though many parents are worried about side effects from these medications, and are interested in alternative ways to minimize symptoms in their children. The new study, published online in the Journal of Attention Disorders, is the first to examine the total number of healthy lifestyle behaviors children with ADHD follow, as compared to typically developing children.

“Many parents of children diagnosed with ADHD do not want their children on medication,” said Kathleen Holton, lead study author and assistant professor in American University’s Department of Health Studies and member of AU’s Center for Behavioral Neuroscience. “Having their children follow healthy lifestyle behaviors may be an effective intervention either alongside or in the place of traditional ADHD medications.”

Full story of children with ADHD and healthy behaviors at Science Daily

Percentage of US children who have chronic health conditions on the rise

The percentage of children with chronic health conditions is on the rise, and new research being presented at the Pediatric Academic Societies 2016 Meeting shows this is especially true among children who live in or near poverty.

Researchers presenting the study abstract, “National Trends in Prevalence and Co-morbid Chronic Conditions among Children with Asthma, Autism Spectrum Disorder, and Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder,” looked at data from the National Survey of Children’s Health data for 2003, 2007, 2011 and 2012 to spot trends surrounding these conditions by sociodemographic characteristics in the United States.

The study found more significant increases in asthma and Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD) among children living in poverty, as compared to their wealthier counterparts. Poor children with these conditions also were more likely to have two or more additional diseases. Those living in extreme poverty who had asthma and ADHD, for example, were roughly twice as likely to have at least one other chronic medical condition. Some of the more common co-existing conditions included developmental delays, autism, depression or anxiety, behavioral or conduct issues, speech and language problems, epilepsy/seizure disorders and learning disabilities. Among children who had public health insurance, significant increases were seen among all the chronic diseases studied.

Full story of US children with chronic health conditions on the rise at Science Daily

Strategy Found for Safely Prescribing Antidepressants to Children and Adolescents

A multidisciplinary team of Johns Hopkins researchers has developed two new strategies to treat depression in young people using the selective serotonin reuptake inhibitor (SSRI) class of medications. These strategies, published May 5 in the journal Translational Psychiatry, incorporate a new understanding of how to mitigate the risk of suicide while on SSRI treatment.

“These medications have to be dosed in a careful way,” says senior investigator Adam Kaplin, M.D., Ph.D., an assistant professor of psychiatry and neurology at the Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine. Just as with medications for high blood pressure, diabetes and anti-coagulation therapy, Kaplin says careful dosing of SSRIs is “exactly what psychiatrists have been doing for a long time in adults” to mitigate the negative effects of the medications.

Full story of safety prescribing antidepressants to children at Science Daily