Headlines: February 15, 2010
by Meg Larkin
A little over a year since its inception, the National Children’s Study is still in the process of recruiting participants and has a projected cost of over twice its original estimated budget. The study follows children from before they are born through the 21st year of their lives. It aims to study genetic, environmental, and other issues affecting the health of children over the course of their lives. The study hopes to enroll over 100,000 pregnant women in 105 countries, but it is currently under Congressional scrutiny because of its budget woes. While many see the study as important, researchers are still trying to fix design flaws in order to make the best use of the data that gets collected.
In other children’s health news, a study out of the University of Pennsylvania suggests that non-judgmental abstinence only education may be more successful in convincing children to wait to have sex. The program focused on sixth and seventh graders in Philadelphia and emphasized the risks associated with sexual behavior instead of waiting until marriage to have sex. According to the Boston Globe,
“Nearly 33 percent of the adolescents who had abstinence-only education said, when asked by researchers, that they had become sexually active during the two years following the classes. By comparison, about 42 percent of students whose classes emphasized a more comprehensive approach including abstinence and condom use responded they had engaged in sex. The students who reported the highest rate of sexual initiation - 52 percent - were those who attended lessons focused solely on safe condom use.”
The study has reignited the highly partisan debate over sex education, which has continued through the Clinton, George W. Bush and Obama presidencies.
In Kenya, an American-backed charity is helping girls go to school more often by providing reusable sanitary pads, underwear, and soap. Because many families cannot afford disposable sanitary pads, and men are more likely to make unwanted sexual advances when they know girls are ovulating, many Kenyan girls miss up to five days of school a month during their periods. The reusable pads allow them to attend school at no cost to the family.
A hormone that makes people less shy may help children and adults with autism relate better to other people. According to the Washington Post, “The study involving 13 adults with autism found that when they inhaled the hormone oxytocin they scored significantly better on a test that involved recognizing faces and performed much better in a game that involved tossing a ball with other people.” While the hormone’s effects do not last long, some hope that the positive findings may lead drug companies to develop a marketable product. Other researchers believe that if the hormone is given to children shortly after the autism diagnosis, they may be able to interact better with others as they grow up. As of yet, the hormone has primarily been tested on autistic adults, and information about the safety and efficacy of oxytocin use in children is scant.
Finally, in Massachusetts, Governor Deval Patrick wants to cap health care price increases. The Governor seeks the authority to reject proposed rate increases that are deemed excessive and also to “review and reject rates charged by hospitals, physician groups, medical imaging centers, and insurers.” The measure is aimed at controlling Massachusetts’s health care costs and enabling small businesses to provide better coverage to their workers. Under the plan, insurance rates that increase at more than the rate of medical inflation would be presumptively disapproved of. Reaction in Massachusetts reflects cautious optimism on the part of small business owners, while some health care providers have raised concerns over the proposed changes.
Meg Larkin is a second year law student at Boston University. Please feel free to email her with any questions, comments