A summary of important health news from the past week.
Since October, there have been 278 confirmed and probable mumps cases in Washington state. These cases have occurred across five counties. Mumps is a viral disease that is extremely contagious. The best protection against mumps is the Measles, Mumps, and Rubella (MMR) vaccine.
Depression and Anxiety Tied to Cancer Deaths
A recent longitudinal study of about 163,000 adults in the UK found that individuals with anxiety and depression had higher rates of cancer deaths compared to peers of equal physical health. While the study cannot conclude there is a causal association, it emphasizes the importance of mental health and warrants further research.
This week, the FDA issued a warning regarding a toxic chemical found in homeopathic infant teething products. The chemical, Belladonna, is a hallucinogenic that is dangerous when consumed in large quantities. The Standard Homeopathic Company in Los Angeles, California has refused to recall the products. The FDA's Center for Drug Evaluation and Research is urging parents to avoid these teething aids.
Cancer Deaths Rise in Poor States, Fall Everywhere Else
A recent study found that cancer death rates in poorer areas of the country rose by nearly 50% from 1980 to 2014, whereas death rates in wealthier areas of the country fell by nearly half in the same time period. Researchers point to regional trends in smoking, obesity, physical activity and access to healthcare as accounting for some of the disparities.
Girls feel less 'smart' than boys by age 6, research says
A study published by Science on Thursday found that 6-year-old girls are more likely to believe that boys, rather than girls, are “really, really smart.” Researchers found that while girls are just as likely as boys to believe they can succeed academically, girls are less likely to view themselves as “brilliant.” From their results, the researchers inferred that gender stereotypes influence children as young as six.
By: Hannah Heitz
Recent news has focused on the extreme fragmentation in the child mental healthcare system. While the adult system is certainly not considered cohesive or fluid, the system for children is far more disjointed. Adults enter into the mental healthcare system actively or through legal processes, whereas children often do not have the ability to advocate for their own mental health care access. Due to the stigma associated with mental illnesses, this increased barrier to care may have a negative impact on service access. For example, if a child is afraid to tell a parent they have symptoms of anxiety, he or she may not receive care. Interestingly, child mental health prevalence is generally similar to adult mental illness prevalence. Children usually receive treatment from general practitioners, juvenile justice system, school-based services, specialty mental healthcare, complementary or alternative medicine, and other avenues of social services. Children are also a unique population in that they are rapidly changing, and this rapid development, both physical and cognitive, creates a need for highly dynamic mental health care prevention, treatment, and policy.
According to Costello, et al. only 45% of youth with disorders utilize treatment. Youth are more likely to receive services for externalizing disorders, such as ADHD and conduct disorder, while children with internalizing disorders, like anxiety and depression, are less likely to receive treatment. Additionally, 40% of children with one mental illness have at least one other co-morbid illness. Mental illnesses have varying ages of onset, for example, anxiety has the earliest onset around six years old, whereas risk for substance use disorder increases with age. About one quarter to one fifth of youth with mental illness have severely impaired functioning.
A key issue with the current knowledge of child mental health is the lack of solid research. Child mental health care services frequently fluctuate and come from numerous sources. There is not a great deal of evidence for the efficacy of interventions or preventive measures. Interestingly, poverty level was not associated with mental illness development, according to recent research by Merikangas, et al., whereas children of parents who have not graduated from college or children of divorced parents have an increased risk of mental illness. Knowing that these populations have an increased risk could prove useful in identifying target groups for preventive interventions. Further study exploring how parental divorce and lower levels of parental education might impact child development and increase risk for poor mental health outcomes would be beneficial. From a policy perspective, targeting these groups specifically with increased access to support services and specialty mental health care could help to both decrease development of mental illness and effectively manage mental illnesses.
The complexity of co-morbid mental illnesses, and mental illnesses in general, is difficult to treat without specialized training. As shown in the research, only one fourth of youth with mental illness get access to specialty care. While there are numerous other sources for care, such as the school counselors and primary care providers, few providers have training comparable to that of specialty mental healthcare providers. As seen in the work of the Georgia Center of Excellence in Child and Adolescent Behavioral Health (COE), school mental health is often provided by overworked counselors with numerous other responsibilities. A recent COE initiative provided child counselors in schools part-time in underserved communities. Following the success of this program, policymakers should consider implementing the program at a wider, sustainable scale with thorough evaluation of its effects.
Creating improvements in child mental health care access and treatment should be considered a high priority. Improving child mental health can have a positive impact across the lifespan, resulting in increased individual wellbeing and potentially decreased cost to the healthcare system. The economic burden of youth mental illnesses, considering both the individual and the family, is as high as one quarter of a trillion dollars. Ideally, with more research and a stronger understanding of the development of mental illness during childhood, researchers can partner with policymakers to identify sensitive periods of development for preventive interventions, while also coordinating improved means of identifying and treating those who are most in need.
1: Costello EJ, He JP, Sampson NA, Kessler RC, Merikangas KR. Services for adolescents with psychiatric disorders: 12-month data from the National Comorbidity Survey-Adolescent. Psychiatr Serv. 2014 Mar 1;65(3):359-66. doi: 10.1176/appi.ps.201100518
2: Merikangas KR, He JP, Burstein M, Swendsen J, Avenevoli S, Case B, Georgiades K, Heaton L, Swanson S, Olfson M. Lifetime prevalence of mental disorders in U.S. adolescents: results from the National Comorbidity Survey Replication--Adolescent Supplement (NCS-A). J Am Acad Child Adolesc Psychiatry. 2011 Jan;50(1):32-45.
A summary of important health news from the past week.
Germany becomes latest country to OK medical marijuana legalization
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