Kids' Health Issues to Watch in 2011
The physicians and editors at Nemours' KidsHealth.org, a website devoted to children's health and development, sifted through scores of health issues affecting children and families to choose 10 important trends to keep tabs on in 2011.
Issues such as sexting, cyberbullying and LGBT (lesbian, gay, bisexual, or transgender) teens were major news stories in 2010 and will be important in coming years. Of course, these are not the only important issues affecting children's health — far from it — but the experts at KidsHealth feel that the following are notable areas for the new year:
* Obesity-Related Health Problems in Kids – Obese teens are 16 times more likely to become severely obese in adulthood compared with those who are normal weight or overweight. It's vital that parents do all they can to help kids reach and maintain a healthy weight. It's not just about their future. It's about their present.
* Supporting LGBT Kids – Lesbian, gay, bisexual or transgender (LGBT) youths have one of the highest rates of suicide attempts, especially if they are rejected by their families. A 2008 study indicates that parental acceptance of their child's sexual orientation, or even a neutral reaction, could go a long way toward lessening these risks.
* Cyberbullying: New Problems, New Tactics – Bullying is an old problem that remains difficult to bring under control, in part because technology offers new ways for kids to pick on one another. Despite the torment, some kids don't tell their parents about cyberbullying because they are afraid they'll lose their online privileges.
* Understanding Health-Care Reform – Millions of U.S. kids, mostly from low-income and working-class families, have no or insufficient health coverage. It's important for parents to understand health-care reform legislation, especially since it has benefits for kids that many parents aren't aware of or don't understand.
* Sexting: What Parents Need to Know – It's easy for teens to get caught up in the idea of capturing — and sharing — their exploits, but it can be hard for them to grasp the permanent consequences of their tech interactions. It's up to parents to explain to their kids, early and often, that once an image or message is sent, it is out of their control and cannot be taken back.
* Fighting Nature Deficit Disorder – Parents are all too aware of how much time their kids spend parked on the couch watching TV or glued to a computer/cell phone/gaming system. Mix this with parental fear of "stranger danger" and you get kids spending less and less time exploring and enjoying the great outdoors.
* Epigenetics: How Grandma's Health Affects Your Child's – Transgenerational epigenetic inheritance — or epigenetics, for short — doesn't exactly roll off the tongue. Yet this idea that environmental factors (such as diet, stress, lifestyle choices and behaviors) can change the health not only of the people who are exposed to them, but also the health of their descendants, is something we'll be hearing more and more about.
* What Electronic Records Mean for Health Care – In this increasingly paper-free era, medical records have lagged behind, but that's changing. The government has established rules and financial incentives to spur adoption of electronic records, which are expected to reduce paperwork and administrative burdens, cut costs, reduce medical errors and improve the quality of care for patients.
* The Rise of Psychiatric Diagnoses in Younger Kids – A recent study found that the rate of antipsychotic medications given to kids 2 to 5 years old doubled between 1999 and 2007. While the number of younger kids affected still is very small, the growing trend alarms mental health experts.
* Acting Locally to Help Globally – Major disasters around the world not only generate heavy news coverage they also move people to lend a helping hand to those affected. Away from the limelight, however, are countless smaller everyday health crises that also need attention. Helping others lets parents teach kids important lessons about the value of sharing and sacrifice.
To read more on each topic, visit: http://kidshealth.org/parent/kh_misc/2011_issues_center.html.