Donate

Health

From KQED

San Jose Police Crack Down On Violence

The San Jose Police Department is cracking down on violent crime after the city's 25th homicide this year.

KQED Launches Affordable Care Act Guide

Are you confused about Obamacare? KQED and The California Report created a guide to help answer your questions about the Affordable Care Act.

California Prop. 46: Raising the Medical Malpractice Award Ceiling

Our California Election Watch 2014 series continues with a debate on Proposition 46. The initiative would raise the ceiling on awards in medical malpractice lawsuits and allow for random alcohol and drug testing of doctors, among other provisions. Prop. 46 pits trial lawyers, who support the measure, against doctors and insurers who oppose it. We'll talk with representatives from both sides.

UC Students Struggle to Access Mental Health Services

Health services directors at the University of California are raising alarms that students throughout the system cannot access mental health services in reasonable time periods. A typical student who calls in complaining of mild anxiety and procrastination in the first weeks of the semester could be waiting until finals to get a regular therapy appointment.

PBS NewsHour

Has the focus on physical activity ruined playtime for kids?

Photo illustration by Getty Images

Photo illustration by Getty Images

A third of children in the U.S. are obese, and encouraging more active play is frequently cited as a great way to keep kids in shape. But creating scheduled playtime built only around physical activity might be draining the broader benefits out of play, a new study in Canada found.

A team of scientists at the University of Montreal set out to discover how children define play. 25 kids between 7 and 11 were interviewed and asked to take photographs to describe their favorite ways to play. The results of their novel study are published in the journal Qualatative Health Research.

The researchers found that physical activity is only one part of what kids like about playing, and that regimented physical play built around fitness doesn’t satisfy all needs for many kids, or meet their own definition of “play.” “By focusing on the physical activity aspect of play, authorities put aside several aspects of play that are beneficial to young people’s emotional and social health,” said the study’s supervisor, Professor Katherine Frohlich.

The researchers isolated four key elements of play from their interviews with the children.

  • Play happens only “as an end in itself.” Children understand play only for fun, not as a means to get physical activity or to improve their social skills.
  • Many forms of play the kids preferred were not active, including playing games, reading, or watching movies.
  • Children didn’t feel attached to scheduled activities. The study described their feelings as “ambiguous.”
  • Risk is a central and pleasurable part of play, and building too much safety into playtime subtracts this important element for many kids.

The study’s abstract concludes that there is “a dissonance between children’s play promoted for physical health and the meaning of play for children as emotionally contingent, intrinsically motivated, and purposeless.” The researchers hope their findings will encourage parents and educators to think about how to better structure playtime.

For more on play, don’t miss the PBS NewsHour American Graduate report on California’s Playmaker school, where educators have tossed out desks, seating charts and grades in favor of a curriculum based on play.

The post Has the focus on physical activity ruined playtime for kids? appeared first on PBS NewsHour.

Adults with autism locked out of health coverage due to age limits

It’s getting easier for parents of young children with autism to get insurers to cover a pricey treatment called applied behavioral analysis. Once kids turn 21, however, it’s a different ballgame entirely.

Many states have mandates that require insurers to cover this therapy, but they typically have age caps ranging from 17 to 21, says Katie Keith, research director at the Trimpa Group, a consulting firm that works with autism advocacy groups. In addition, the federal Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services recently announced that all Medicaid and Children’s Health Insurance Programs for low-income families must cover comprehensive autism treatment for kids—until they’re 21.

After I wrote about the new Medicaid coverage requirements, the mother of a 23-year-old with autism wrote in asking about coverage options for her son.

Unfortunately, once someone with autism turns 21, “they fall off a cliff,” says Lorri Unumb, vice president of state government affairs at Autism Speaks, an advocacy organization.Unfortunately, once someone with autism turns 21, “they fall off a cliff,” says Lorri Unumb, vice president of state government affairs at Autism Speaks, an advocacy organization. “It’s the next big frontier that’s got to be addressed.”

Parents of older children have a few options. Some state autism mandates don’t have age caps, including New York, California, Massachusetts, the District of Columbia, Wisconsin and Indiana, according to Keith.

If an insurer denies therapy and a parent lives in one of the states that has an age cap on its autism mandate, it’s worth appealing, Unumb believes. The appeal may be bolstered, she said, by the federal mental health parity law, which bars plans from imposing quantitative or qualitative treatment limitations on mental health care that are more restrictive than those on benefits for physical health conditions.

Like dollar caps on benefits, age is a quantitative limit, says Unumb.

Although the courts have yet to address the issue, she says, “In my opinion, all of these age caps are probably invalid under mental health parity.”


Kaiser Health News is an editorially independent program of the Henry J. Kaiser Family Foundation, a nonprofit, nonpartisan health policy research and communication organization not affiliated with Kaiser Permanente.

The post Adults with autism locked out of health coverage due to age limits appeared first on PBS NewsHour.

First weeks of college life can be deadly for some freshmen

Dalton Debrick died of alcohol before his first day of classes at Texas Tech University.

Dalton Debrick died of alcohol poisoning before his first day of classes at Texas Tech University.

Late last month, police responded to a noise complaint at an off-campus residence near Texas Tech University. Among the party-goers celebrating the start of a new school year was Dalton Debrick, a freshman rushing with the Alpha Sigma Phi fraternity. The police would return just a few hours later to find his body. The freshman died of alcohol poisoning 24 hours before his first day of college.

“Dalton was a good kid with a very bright future helping others,” his family said in a statement. “He was still discovering himself, but he said he wanted to work with kids somehow. He talked about coaching or even youth ministry. What we know is that none of those possible futures will happen because he died because no one cared enough to stop it or take care of him.”

The day before Debrick’s death, an international student at Michigan State University died after a night of drinking during the university’s “move-in weekend.” Two days later, a freshman at Pennsylvania State University committed suicide by jumping from a construction crane on campus. A week after that, a Towson University freshman died after falling into a glass door during a party.

At least eight freshmen at U.S. colleges have died in the first few weeks of this school year. The deaths have cast a shadow over the campuses on which the students spent too little time, but they’re also a cross-section of the kinds of issues and decisions facing freshmen as they begin their college careers — and of the choices some young students may not be prepared to make. Even colleges with the best approaches to educating students about mental health issues may have very little time to reach those who may be vulnerable.

“It’s a huge transition and all the support systems are different,” said Pete Goldsmith, dean of students at Indiana University at Bloomington. “For students who have lived in very structured situations and environments, going to a college campus when very suddenly they have this new kind of freedom and new choices to make, it can be pretty overwhelming.”

IU, too, has recently lost students just beginning their time on campus. In a high-profile tragedy last year, a freshman died after falling down a flight of stairs during a party. Since then, the university has put a stronger emphasis on what’s called bystander intervention through its “Culture of Care” program. In many cases, a student’s life could be saved if his or her peers reacted more quickly in getting help, Goldsmith said. Like those at virtually all colleges, IU freshmen go through orientation programming, including watching a musical sketch about drinking and sexual assault.

But there’s only so much a student can learn — and only so much a university can say — during a few hours of orientation, Goldsmith acknowledged. So the university tries to reach out to incoming students earlier and earlier, he said, so that they have a better understanding of what to expect before they even arrive on campus.

“We urge parents to have conversations with students about drug and alcohol use,” Goldsmith said. “We encourage parents to think through what their own expectations are for this first year. Parents and students are so focused on getting into college, there’s not always a lot of attention given to what’s going to happen once they’re actually there.”

Even the most prepared students can still fall victim to the high-risk behaviors that sometimes accompany the first few weeks and months of college, however. Amy Murphy, dean of students at Texas Tech University, said most students actually arrive at college with healthy attitudes and behaviors, but then fall under the spell of “the college effect.”

Texas Tech began the new school year with campus flags at half-mast. Seven of its students have died in the last month, six of them in off-campus car accidents.

“The ‘college effect’ is the idea that once students are on campus, they’re exposed to these higher-risk behaviors and are then more likely to participate in them,” Murphy said. “It’s this unhealthy minority that is somehow so influential on the healthy majority. Colleges have to work on better messaging to convey to new students that the majority of campus does actually have the same healthy attitudes as they do.”

Murphy said this misconception comes from images in movies and television and even from older siblings’ memories of what college is supposed to be. When the freshmen arrive on campus, they see older students still attempting to live up to that image and they try to follow suit, particularly when it comes to alcohol consumption, said George Koob, the director of the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism at the National Institutes of Health.

“Humans are copycat organisms,” Koob said. “There has to be a standard of appropriate behavior that can be conveyed by juniors and seniors who managed to get that far in college without any problems. I really think there has to be standards that kids can look up to in their peer groups, appropriate behavior that they can model.”

Koob also said that today’s students generally tend to arrive on campus exhibiting healthy behaviors and attitudes about drinking. In fact, according to the institute, binge drinking has decreased among college students in recent years. But, at the same time, alcohol-related hospitalization has increased as much as 70 percent.

While fewer students are binge drinking, Koob said, those who still do are drinking more than ever.

“Anecdotally, we’re hearing about higher numbers of students, particularly freshmen, ending up in ER situations,” he said. “Over the last 10 years, we’ve seen a fairly dramatic increase of alcohol-related hospitalizations in this age group. It does seem that there’s an attitude now to drink as fast as possible and as intensely as possible and that’s very dangerous.”

Jiayi Dai, a Michigan State University student from China, died in August. Police said alcohol was likely involved in
         her death.

Jiayi Dai, a Michigan State University student from China, died in August. Police said alcohol was likely involved in her death.

In the case of Jiayi Dai, the Chinese student who died at Michigan State, the university acknowledged that it provides education about alcohol abuse during international student orientation, but not information on where students could seek help after drinking too much. “That’s probably what we will now do in the future,” Peter Briggs, director of the university’s office for international students and scholars, told the Lansing State Journal.

Drugs and alcohol abuse are not the only issues that have college officials worried.

The mental health of freshmen, and students in general, remains difficult to address. Suicide is the second most common cause of death for college students, according to a 2011 study, and is more prevalent than alcohol poisoning. Gwyn Ashcom, the health promotion chair at the American College Health Association, said it’s important for colleges to stress that it’s normal for students to feel “a whirlwind of emotions.” And colleges have to be careful that the advice they provide doesn’t get mixed into that same vortex and spat back out.

“During those first few weeks students are bombarded with information, which can be overwhelming,” Ashcom said. “I think we do the best we can to educate students. I think not being afraid to have conversations with students as well as staff and faculty is important. Conversations need to be happening not just via the health and counseling centers and other typical routes, but in the classroom as well.”

At Texas Tech, Murphy said, officials try to split the university’s population into “subgroups” like first-generation students or fraternity members so that specific issues common to certain types of students can more easily addressed. Speaking to smaller numbers of students at a time can also help the freshmen know who they can go to for help, she said.

“The current generation of students may be less equipped for dealing with stress than previous ones, or at least equipped in different ways,” Murphy said. “Universities have to understand their students as they are now. There’s a combination of factors that are influencing these early behaviors. They’re freshmen. They’re seeking out ways to feel more comfortable in this new social environment. That’s the challenge we’re presented with. How do you help those students feel supported in a short amount of time?”

Inside Higher Ed is a free, daily online publication covering the fast-changing world of higher education.

PBS NewsHour coverage of higher education is supported by the Lumina Foundation and American Graduate: Let’s Make it Happen, a public media initiative made possible by the Corporation for Public Broadcasting.

The post First weeks of college life can be deadly for some freshmen appeared first on PBS NewsHour.

Guide: Finding long-term care help for your aging loved one

Long-Term Care Steps

Mom forgets her insulin shot. Dad loses the utility bills. A foot slides in the bathtub. The stove top is left burning. Too often, it’s the little slip-ups that end in disastrous consequences for aging relatives. And while the vast majority of Americans over the age of 40 say they would prefer to stay in their own homes as long as possible, a recent AP-NORC poll reveals that roughly 60 percent of them admit they haven’t discussed their preferences for future living assistance with relatives, let alone taken the time to map out financial arrangements with them. When those conversations finally take place – often in panic mode – the web of social service agencies, in-home care providers and assisted living arrangements can be dizzying.

To help guide the conversation in your own family, and then connect with the appropriate resources in your community, PBS NewsHour has partnered with the nonprofit National Council on Aging to bring you this cheat sheet.

Resources:

Step 1: Have the conversation

Step 2: Connect with community services

Step 3: See if you’re eligible for benefits

Step 4: Make the home safe

Step 5: Find and compare long-term care providers

Step 6: Start planning for your own long-term care


The National Council on Aging (NCOA) is a nonprofit service and advocacy organization representing older adults and the community organizations that serve them.

The post Guide: Finding long-term care help for your aging loved one appeared first on PBS NewsHour.