AMA, PTA kick off school year with health event

Vaccines and body image were among the topics discussed.

By Bob Cook — Posted Sept. 5, 2005

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Before children head back to class, the American Medical Association and the National PTA want them, and their parents, to be aware of some health issues that could affect them during the school year.

The AMA-PTA event -- "Back to School: Child and Adolescent Health" -- covered a wide range of issues, including germs, vaccines, bullying, body image problems, general psychiatric care, and obesity. The event was held Aug. 11 at the headquarters of Scholastic Inc. in New York.

Among the physician-oriented presentations at the event:

  • New meningococcal conjugate and acellular pertussis vaccines are being recommended for children ages 11 and older, said Walter A. Orenstein, MD, associate director of the Emory Vaccine Center at Emory University in Atlanta. Protecting older children from pertussis should help prevent those most vulnerable -- infants in the first few months of life -- from contracting the disease before they can be immunized, Dr. Orenstein said.
  • Physicians and parents must increase their awareness of a disorder that gives young people extreme obsessions with imagined flaws in their appearance, said Katharine A. Phillips, MD, professor of psychiatry at Brown Medical School in Providence, R.I. Body dysmorphic disorder, which affects about 1% of the population, can intensify dislike of any body area. Children and adolescents are most likely to focus on their skin, hair or weight. The condition usually appears at around age 13, Dr. Phillips said, but symptoms have been seen in children as young as 5.
  • For girls, it's more likely that being overweight jump-starts early puberty, rather than early puberty causing obesity, according to a study published in the September Pediatrics, and presented at the event. Girls who are overweight before puberty are eight times more likely than their slimmer peers to be overweight as adults, according to the study. The study used as its basis the Newton Girls Study, which followed 700 girls, starting in 1965, from their first to their 20th menstrual periods. Thirty years later, researchers checked the participants' height, weight, and, in some cases, body-fat percentage.
  • Another journal article presented came from the September Journal of the American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry. A 10-year research review found that family-based treatment was effective in treating substance abuse and behavior problems in children. Also, while such treatment did not affect the core symptoms of attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder, it did reduce the behavior problems associated with the condition.

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External links

Presentations at the AMA and National PTA's "Back to School: Child and Adolescent Health" event, Aug. 11 (link)

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