Posted On: August 27, 2007

New Federal Guidelines Would Increase Numbers of Uninsured Children

The Bush administration is attempting to rein in spending for SCHIP--the State's Children Health Insurance Program. SCHIP provides insurance for those children who do not qualify for Medicare but who are nevertheless unable to afford private insurance.

As the article linked above notes, children in 18 states could be affected and 29,000 children in New Jersey alone could lose insurance thanks to the federal guidelines the Bush administration is pushing.

More about this health insurance program comes from Kevin Freking of the Associated Press. The AP article cites angry objections from state health officials. Of particular concern is the year-long wait mandated in the new guidelines: children would have to be uninsured for a year before qualifying for SCHIP.

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Posted On: August 25, 2007

Child Victim of Negligence Awarded $9 Million for Brain Damage and Other Injuries

Tripler Army Medical Center must, thanks to the order of U.S. District Judge David Ezra, pay $9 million to the family of Parker Kohl. Parker is a 3-year-old who suffered severe brain damage while being treated at Tipler; he now has an IQ of less than 30, must be fed through a tube, is blind and cannot walk. Judge Ezra found that the hospital was negligent in its treatment of Parker.

This resolution is the best news the family could have hoped for, as they now have the resources to care for Parker's needs.

What happened to injure this child so grievously? Parker was diagnosed with a heart defect shortly after he was born and later developed a respiratory infection that led to hospitalization--except that his condition worsened while he was in the hospital's care, leading to cardiorespiratory arrest and subsequent brain damage. According to Judge Ezra, the hospital staff's failure to monitor Parker and prevent this incident was negligent. This is an example of the importance of attentive hospital care and the disastrous consequences of a lack of such care. What can you do to prevent this kind of thing from happening to you or your child? Only one thing has a real chance of helping, and that is asking questions and speaking out if you notice anything in your care that looks improper or inadequate.

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Posted On: August 19, 2007

Washington DC Landlords Sued Over Lead Paint

Amidst all the press about Mattel's toy recall and lead paint in toys, there is a grim reminder in today's Washington Post about the most common source of lead poisoning: paint in houses. The Washington DC attorney general has finished filing cases against twelve DC landlords whose buildings were found, after testing, to have hazardous levels of lead-based paint and who did not comply with instructions to remove this dangerous material.

Doctors, after running blood test on children under 8 who lived in or frequently visited these buildings, found that the children had elevated levels of lead. In children this young, lead exposure can have permanent consequences for mental development and abilities. Thankfully the DC attorney general recognizes this and is pursuing these cases.

For more information, here is a list on the effects and symptoms of lead poisoning in young children.

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Posted On: August 17, 2007

FDA cautions against OTC cough and cold medicines for toddlers

On Wednesday, the FDA (Food and Drug Administration) issued a statement saying that children under 2 should not be given over-the-counter cough and cold medicine unless it's because of specific instructions from a healthcare provider.

What is the reason for this public health advisory? The FDA does not say, confining itself to a vague assertion that cough and cold medications may cause "harm" to extremely young children.

However, the Baltimore City Health Department submitted a petition to the federal government asking for tighter regulation of marketing for such drugs on behalf of several Maryland physicians, pointing to studies suggesting that these drugs are neither effective nor safe in children under 2.

The CDC (Centers for Disease Control) also has some important information about the effects of such drugs on very young children. An interview of theirs with Dr. Adam Cohen, who investigated infant deaths to to cold and cough medicines, is a good resource for some general facts on this topic.

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Posted On: August 15, 2007

Mattel's Recall and Lead Paint

Mattel has had to issue a second recall of its toys, right on the heels of its first, thanks to hazardous amounts of lead-based paint in the toys. This recall shines an embarrassing light on Mattel's standards for consumer safety and public accountability.

If your child owns one of the 7.3 million playsets or 1.5 million toy cars recalled by Mattel in the United States, call Mattel at 1-800-916-4997 for the cars or 1-888-597-6597 for the other toys or visit Mattel's website.

Here's what you can do about protecting your child from lead paint:

-Keep in mind that children under 5 are more vulnerable to lead poisoning

-Test children for lead exposure

-Keep in mind that buildings, particularly older ones and those in low-income areas, are a much more common source of lead poisoning than toys.

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Posted On: August 14, 2007

Car Seats: Using Them Correctly

Everyone knows small children should be in car seats, but many people forget one important detail: the car seats should be correctly installed, or their effectiveness diminishes greatly.

The police department in Roanoke, Virginia recently offered inspections of car seats, with the aid of Liberty Mutual Insurance. Such inspection services are becoming more common as people begin to be aware of the importance of not only using car seats, but using them correctly.

Here are some general tips to keep in mind about car seats:

-Reading all the instructions in the car seat manual is a must.

-Be careful that your child is not too big or too small for the seat. Do not put a newborn baby in a seat meant for larger children. It can also be dangerous to squeeze a child into a seat that is too small.

-Booster seats and combination seats are available for older children, who may be too small for regular adult seat belts until they are as old as eight.

-If your child is less than 1 year old and weighs less than 20 pounds, do not put him or her in a seat facing forward.

Other articles and resources to look at for information:

Safe Kids Worldwide: Preventing Injuries to Children in Motor Vehicle Crashes

Most car seats are used incorrectly

Four out of ten kids use car booster seats

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Posted On: August 8, 2007

Children With Some Insurance Can't Get Vaccines

USA Today has a story about yet another quirk in the American healthcare system: vaccines that are fully covered by Medicaid.for uninsured kids are out of the reach of kids with some, but not enough, health insurance.

From the article:

"It's ironic that kids who are uninsured are better off," said lead author Grace Lee, a pediatric infectious disease specialist at Harvard Medical School.

An estimated 14% of children are underinsured, Lee and colleagues report. They can pay for vaccines or get them free at federally qualified health centers or rural health clinics if they live near one. "Technically, they have access," Lee says, "but they might have to go 200 miles" to the nearest center.

Of course this means that they do not, in reality, have access because a family that cannot afford to properly insure its children probably cannot take 200 mile trips whenever it pleases.

Lack of vaccines leave these kids vulnerable to diseases such as meningitis. This is clearly a serious public health problem.

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Posted On: August 4, 2007

Virginia Tightens Car Seat and Cell Phone Laws

Virginia has passed stricter regulatory measures regarding children in cars. Starting on July 1st 2007, all children eight and younger must be secured by a child restraint device. Previously the law had only applied to children five and younger.

Furthermore, Virginia has banned drivers under 18 from using telecommunications devices, including cell phones, while driving.

More about this legislation can be found at eMaxHealth.

The ban on minors using cell phones is in keeping with laws in other states restricting cell phone use in cars and is much more lenient than many of them--for instance, an Oklahoma legislator wants mandatory jail sentencing for all crashes related to cellphone talk, as reported in the Ada Evening News.

The requirement that eight-year-olds be in special child restraints while in cars seems draconian at first glance. The silver lining is that it indicates an increased attention to car safety for children.

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Posted On: August 1, 2007

$10.4 million verdict in Montana against Evenflo

A jury in Montana returned with a $10.4 million verdict against a car-seat manufacturing company named Evenflo Co. Inc., holding that Evenflo was liable in the death of a four-and-a-half-month-old infant in 2000. The baby was in one of Evenflo's car-seats at the time of its death in a car accident.

Details of the case can be found in the Kansas City Business Journal or the Chicago Tribune.

The important facts to take away from this case are the following: firstly, that energy-absorbent foam padding can be vital to car-seat safety, especially around the child's head. Secondly, the hooks that hold the car-seat in place must be sturdy and not prone to breaking off, as the Evenflo hooks were.

Evenflo continues to deny liability and will appeal the ruling, but whatever the outcome, these general concepts about car-seats may be helpful to keep in mind.

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