Current Events in July 2017

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      Parental knowledge of teen vaccine recommendations lacking

      A new poll suggests that many parents don't know whether their child is up-to-date on vaccines

      Many parents aren’t clear on when their teen is due for their next vaccine, a new report suggests.

      Researchers from the University of Michigan surveyed 614 parents with at least one teenager and found that 33 percent of them had no idea when their teens' next vaccine was required.

      Roughly half of parents polled assumed their child’s doctor would schedule the vaccines at the appropriate time, just like when their children were little. But in reality, it doesn’t always work like that.

      Teen vaccine rates low

      “When kids are little, their pediatricians usually schedule visits to coincide with the timing of recommended vaccinations,” said poll co-director Sarah Clark.

      Clark pointed out that as children get older, well-child visits occur less frequently, and doctors “may not address vaccines during brief visits for sickness or injury.”

      “Many teens may be missing out on important vaccines simply because families aren’t aware it’s time for one,” she said.

      Only a third of teens have received the second dose of the meningitis vaccine by age 17, and less than half of teenage boys aged 13 to 17 years have received the complete human papillomavirus (HPV) vaccine series, according to data from the CDC.

      Less than half of adolescents receive an annual flu vaccine. But despite these low numbers, more than 90 percent of parents surveyed believed their teen had received all vaccines recommended for their age.

      Need for doctor proactivity

      The researchers said parents may not be up to speed on vaccine recommendations for adolescents because few states have vaccine requirements for high schoolers, unlike elementary-aged children.

      This lack of awareness may influence changes to the adolescent vaccination schedule in the coming years, Clark noted.

      “Parents rely on child health providers to guide them on vaccines – in early childhood and during the teen years,” she said. “Given the general lack of awareness about adolescent vaccines shown in this poll, there is a clear need for providers to be more proactive for their teen patients.”

      Many parents aren’t clear on when their teen is due for their next vaccine, a new report suggests. Researchers from the University of Michigan surveyed...

      Teens and young adults who binge drink increase risk of dangerous brain changes

      Researchers say drinking at a young age can have detrimental long-term consequences

      In a recent study, the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism (NIAAA) found that binge drinking is becoming a growing problem in the U.S., with 32 million Americans admitting to having more than four drinks on any one occasion in 2013.

      While it’s bad enough that adults are engaging in these unhealthy behaviors, researchers from Oregon State University say that teens are reporting heavy drinking habits as well. In a recent mini review, assistant professor Anita Cservenka says that this is particularly dangerous because of the adverse effects that alcohol can have on brain health.

      "Adolescence is a time when the brain still matures including not only biological development but also maturation of psychosocial behaviours,” she said. “Given the increase of binge and heavy drinking in young people, understanding the effects of consuming large quantities of alcohol on neural development and the impact on cognitive skills is very important.”

      Alcohol use disorders

      The review analyzed cross-sectional and longitudinal studies of young binge and heavy drinkers and how their habits affected their brain structure. In particular, the researchers examined six areas of brain development: response inhibition, working memory, verbal learning and memory, decision making and reward processing, alcohol cue reactivity, and socio-cogntive/socio-emotional processing.

      MRI scans taken of patients’ brains showed that binge and heavy-drinking teens and young adults had brains that were physically different from teens who didn’t drink. Specifically, the researchers said that teens who drank had systematically thinner and lower volume in the prefrontal cortex and cerebellar regions of their brain, as well as reduced white matter development. This is crucial, they say, because these brain areas play a key role in memory, attention, language, awareness, and consciousness.

      Additionally, the findings showed that young people who excessively drink alcohol can alter the neural structure of their brains over time, which could make them more susceptible to having alcohol dependence issues when they get older.

      “[The] brain alterations, as a result of heavy alcohol use during adolescence and young adulthood, could result in increased risk of developing an alcohol use disorder later on in life,” said Cservenka. “It is therefore important to continue raising awareness of the risks of binge drinking and to promote future research in this area.”

      The full study has been published in Frontiers of Psychology.

      In a recent study, the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism (NIAAA) found that binge drinking is becoming a growing problem in the U.S., with...

      Second Senate healthcare bill draws more opposition

      Interest groups attack increased costs, reductions in coverage

      The U.S. Senate's second attempt at legislation to repeal and replace the Affordable Care Act (ACA) may not have any brighter prospects than the first measure.

      Two GOP senators have already said they will vote against it, meaning Republican backers have no wiggle room at this point. Meanwhile, groups that have a stake in the outcome continue to line up against it.

      AARP Executive Vice President Nancy LeaMond says the second bill is nearly the same as the first when it comes imposing what she called an "age tax" on older consumers.

      "We urge the Senate to vote 'no' and start from scratch on a new health bill that lowers costs and maintains vital protections and coverage that millions of Americans count on," LeaMond said in a statement.

      Medicaid cuts

      LeaMond also blasted the bill for what she termed drastic Medicaid cuts. She said those cuts would put 17.4 million poor seniors and people with disabilities, at risk of losing health coverage.

      The American Psychological Association (APA) called the second healthcare bill worse than the first. The group said the second draft of the bill creates a two-tiered system with policies that don't provide mental health and substance abuse treatment.

      "This bill will not only irreparably damage Medicaid, like the first version, but it will also fracture the private insurance market,” said APA President Antonio E. Puente. “We urge the Senate to reject this measure and instead focus on making improvements to the Affordable Care Act to strengthen the state health insurance exchanges and cover more people.”

      Numbers crunchers

      Actuaries, the people in the insurance industry who evaluate the likelihood of future events, are also finding fault with the legislation. The American Academy of Actuaries has sent a letter to Congress and the nation's governors, pointing out what they see as flaws.

      "With legislation of this scope affecting millions of people and highly complex markets, assuring stable and sustainable markets is no simple feat," said Academy Senior Health Fellow Cori Uccello. "We provided a nonpartisan, actuarial examination of the BCRA component-by-component, and drew lawmakers' attention to critical issues."

      Blue Cross Blue Shield of Massachusetts has also come out against the measure, with CEO Andrew Dreyfus expressing the concern that it would result in the loss of coverage for millions of Americans.

      Dreyfus also criticized the proposed legislation for creating what he said would be a "new divide between those who are seriously ill and those who are healthy."

      The Senate's vote on the measure has been delayed, due to the illness of Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.). Republican moderates who are on the fence has also said they are waiting for a report from the Congressional Budget Office (CBO), expected this week, which will detail the expected impact of the legislation.

      The U.S. Senate's second attempt at legislation to repeal and replace the Affordable Care Act (ACA) may not have any brighter prospects than the first meas...