Author Archive

New Obesity Data And Tips To Avoid It

New data published in JAMA today finds that there has been no significant change in rates of overweight/obesity overall for children between age 2 to 19 years of age since 2003. This is unfortunate news in the big fight against overweight and obesity. Conclusions from the study, “Obesity prevalence remains high and thus it is important to continue surveillance.” Obesity rates remain high at with 17% of children and more than 1/3 of adults.

The good news is that there was improvement in one small group, toddlers age 2 to 5. Numbers from National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey(NHANES) show reductions in overweight and obesity for the preschoolers by as much as 43% during the last decade. Really hoping this is a canary in a coal mine situation — perhaps they’re chirping a clue. Learning the “why” behind the reduction in obesity for preschoolers feels like a huge opportunity. However for the mass of people researched in total (over 9,000 from birth to age > 60 years) the data confirms we’re not done tipping the scales.

The research article evaluated rates of overweight and obesity between 2003-04 NHANES data and 2011-12 data on children and adults. The CDC is highlighting the success in the toddlers, stating:

While the precise reasons for the decline in obesity among 2 to 5 year olds are not clear, many child care centers have started to improve their nutrition and physical activity standards over the past few years.  In addition, CDC data show decreases in consumption of sugar-sweetened beverages among youth in recent years. Another possible factor might be the improvement in breastfeeding rates in the United States, which is beneficial to staving off obesity in breastfed children.

It’s wonderful to see signs of improvement in the small population of children included in the NHANES data but this research article doesn’t investigate how the improvements were made and/if they are stable. More research will have to unfold. We’re all desperate — parents, pediatricians, public health experts — for solutions that work in not only curbing, but reversing the rates of overweight and obesity. This data can potentially focus the light on where we need to look to study cause and effect to determine possible success stories and strategies. Five quick tips for parents now: Read full post »

The Moment Is Now

Today my heart is stuck in my typical quarterly crisis about how I’m spending time on earth. Each goodbye with the boys leaves me a bit emptied. I planned to write about kids’ check-ups and health insurance today, which I will do– but tomorrow, because my heart is here:

It’s becoming more obvious to me that the current work-life-balance crisis I’m swirled up in (or smashed into) was triggered by the recent deaths of 2 people I loved, a delicious movie about connection and time, the juxtaposition in watching Jimmy Fallen express love for his Winnie just a minute before Will Smith mentioned everyone’s art could be used to enhance lives, and a voice in me that’s getting louder and louder. I’m hearing the echoes of this voice in almost everything I do right now. Yes I desperately want to work to improve children’s health. Yes I desperately want to witness my life. The gist of the echoes are urging me to consider how I carve out time for mindfulness and unhurried time with the boys. Over the last 24 hours I also read two articles, “Recline! How ‘Leaning In’ is Killing Us” and “Clinging to Each Other, We Survived the Storm” and I knew I could sit quietly no longer. (pssst, read those articles) Read full post »

Want A Copy Of Mama Doc Medicine?

Mama Doc Medicine Cover Hi-ResMama Doc Medicine shipped from online retailers over the weekend. It’s been such an exciting time to hear from colleagues and friends all over the US reading the book. Much of the book content stems from writing I’ve shared here and I remain so thankful for all those who continue to help me learn how to translate science and health information.

Like every blogger on planet earth, I’m so thankful for comments on the blog. I learn a ton from parents, pediatricians, and all you experts here. Conversation can be exceptionally fruitful. As a tiny token of appreciation for the comments (you can also read about my appreciation in the Acknowledgment section of the book) I’m giving away 20 copies of the book to loyal followers and commenters. I’ll sign and endorse the book for you or for whomever you’d like!

2 Ways To Get A Signed Copy Of Mama Doc Medicine:

  1. If you’re a loyal follower and/or specifically a loyal commenter (Viki, you know who you are) please leave a comment below. WordPress (the service that hosts the blog) knows how many comments you’ve left previously (it tracks commenters by the email address you use when leaving a comment). However if you’re a loyal reader who doesn’t leave comments, will you please leave a comment below so I know you’ve been here reading? For 10 who respond/comment here, we’ll send copies to you as a thanks! Leave a comment below (perhaps including a post you’d like me to write). I’ll email you back for details to send you a book if you’re one of the frequent commenters or prove/insist you’re a very loyal reader :-) You have 1 week (until March 4th) to leave a comment. Please do!
  2. 10 copies of the book will also be gifted through GoodReads giveaway (just click on the link, register on Good Reads, and enter). Ten winners will be randomly selected by GoodReads as winners. You have until March 4th to enter the GoodReads giveaway as well.

Many thanks for all of your support. Really hope you enjoy the book and find the links, infographics and stories helpful!

Goodreads Book Giveaway

Mama Doc Medicine by Wendy Sue Swanson

Mama Doc Medicine

by Wendy Sue Swanson

Giveaway ends March 04, 2014.

See the giveaway details
at Goodreads.

Enter to win

 

We Want Your BPOD

And now for something a little different….We want to animate your child’s BPOD (Best Part of Day). Send us a short recording of your child talking about their BPOD and we’ll bring their experience to life in an animated video (see video above)! We’ll never disclose their name or age, just share their journey and insight through their words.

Email your recording to my Seattle Mama Doc email (seattlemamadoc@seattlechildrens.org) by Feb 26, and we’ll select 5-10 recordings to animate and share the first week of March. As a note, I typically record these audio recordings on my iPhone (in “voice memos”) and it allows me to email or share them easily. See below for more details & the text you’ll need to include when you send your audio files! Read full post »

My Three Valentines

Valentine constructionI had to bring my valentine supplies to work today. Have yet to construct them or profess my love on these big red hearts but I will before heading home. I’m not buying the boys any flowers or candy (their school friends did, thank goodness) but I do revel in the opportunity to put words on a heart each year on February 14th.

Yesterday I had meetings all day. The best part of my work day came at the end during a delightful interview (with ParentMap) when I was asked, “What time do you love or treasure most with your boys?” My response was totally off the cuff. But I’ll say, even just getting an opportunity to respond to the question was a huge delight. I’ve been reading and reflecting on how we share our journey of parenthood because of a Slate article I read earlier this week entitled, “My Life Is A Waking Nightmare.” The author protests the amount of negativity we share about parenthood.

As I reflected on the interview last night I realized it was the foundation for my three valentines. Everything in my heart is different after having children, of course. My romantic love for my husband remains and is nurtured with time but these little boys take up huge real estate now. For the rest of time I’ll always send at least 3 valentines. Just the way it is now after having my boys.

If you’re curious, here’s what I said (I’m paraphrasing). Don’t worry I’ll condense this for the cards!

Read full post »

Caffeine Intake High For Children But Shifting

CoffeeI was up helping my son for the majority of the night. He’s got a stomach bug (which he got from his brother) therefore I was up dealing with the enormous mess that comes with vomiting in the middle of the night. I know you know my woe. This is the second round of this bug at our house so I was clearly exhausted when 6 am rolled around.

First thing I reached for was my cup of coffee. Pretty typical for a working mom just trying to get by. As I write about caffeine, from my perch in this dear coffee town, I’m in no way suggesting we parents should ditch the latte! In fact the health benefits of moderate coffee intake during adulthood continue to unfold amidst ongoing small concerns. The pendulum seems to swing back and forth on the health benefits lurking in coffee. Moderation, like always, is key.

Yet when it comes to children, we may be more lax about caffeine intake than ideal. Caffeine consumption is pretty high in the US with more than 70% of children having caffeine on a daily basis. New research out today evaluating trends in caffeine intake from 1999 to 2010 illuminates the shifts in our children’s consumption. The researchers summed it up best here:

Mean caffeine intake has not increased among children and adolescents in recent years. However, coffee and energy drinks represent a greater proportion of caffeine intake as soda intake has declined, and generally have higher concentrations and amounts of caffeine than soda.

Read full post »

CVS Stops Selling Tobacco

Doctors are tough critics — as well they should be. Today the news that CVS Caremark pharmacies will no longer sell tobacco brought about quite a bit of rapid online dialogue. Even President Obama chimed-in with praise, a response that some in the business world say is worth billions for CVS. Having a good reputation, particularly when you’re in the business of delivering health care and lending health advice, seems essential. In my mind we should praise and celebrate what today brings – leadership for making it harder to get addicted to tobacco products we know seriously harm health.

But not all doctors may think a move to ban the sale of tobacco in a health care environment is enough. Dr Sunny Chan, a family doctor in Canada, asked the tough question about our health care providers (HCP) working environment:

Meanwhile, Texas pediatrician Dr Bryan Vartabedian wrote a blog post this morning asking CVS to take a bigger step  by banning sales of unhealthy sugar-sweetened beverages (that we know are associated with obesity) and junk food. He wrote,

You can’t make money peddling savory snacks while at once setting the pace for a healthy lifestyle.  And condemning one vice works for the press release, but not as a brand offering health solutions.

When focusing singularly on CVS’ decision to stop selling tobacco products, it’s easy to say the choice is a phenomenal one. Not promoting (or profiting) from the sale of carcinogens is always in the best interest of our communities and our long-term health. I return to what Centers For Disease Control’s Director, Dr Thomas Friedman, recently wrote in JAMA , “Tobacco is, quite simply, in a league of its own in terms of the sheer numbers and varieties of ways it kills and maims people.” Read full post »

A Detour From The Kid’s Menu

Wikimedia Creative Commons

Last weekend while heading home from a weekend medical conference in Canada we exited off the interstate to drive through the Skagit Valley on the country roads. The skies were clear and the valley stunning. The land is so spacious in the valley, stuck between the mountains and the sea, it inspires a feeling of brimmed, fertile opportunity. The moment we exited the highway the drive home immediately felt more of an adventure.

Unsurprising to any parent who drives with children in the car, as I ate up the scenery the boys got hungry. We pulled off the road to grab a late, impromptu lunch. For once we weren’t in a hurry so spontaneity governed as we honed in on a spot where we could sit down and eat while looking over the Puget Sound. The plan was nearly thwarted–as we opened the door to the tiny restaurant just off Chuckanut Drive I immediately saw a sign declaring they didn’t serve children under age 9. Instead of being outraged by the ageism, I asked if we could have lunch. The boys were tucked under my arm. They’re 5 and 7 and clearly look nothing like a near 10 year-old. The restaurant was nearly empty as it was close to 2pm. The waitress smiled.

Turns out we looked like better business than no business and we were seated in the back corner. Read full post »

Tanning Beds: Clear and Present Danger

tanning_signTanning beds are a known carcinogen. Word on the street (or in the hallway) may not reflect true knowledge of the dangers. I know plenty of cancer survivors who use tanning beds. Therefore it’s obvious to me that there is a clear disconnect between the science of tanning risks and our insight.

Although you may think tanning beds are a thing of the 1990s, widespread use continues. In fact, new research published today in JAMA Dermatology finds that 35% of adults in Western countries have used a tanning bed during their life while 14% have used a tanning bed within the last year. Tanning beds deliver ultraviolet (UV) radiation that damages skin cells or cells in our eyes. The Center for Disease Control explains it this way, “Indoor tanning exposes users to both UV-A and UV-B rays, which damage the skin and can lead to cancer. Using a tanning bed is particularly dangerous for younger users; people who begin tanning younger than age 35 have a 59% higher risk of melanoma. Using tanning beds also increases the risk of wrinkles and eye damage, and changes skin texture. Indoor tanning is a known and preventable cause of skin cancer, skin aging, and wrinkling.”

In my opinion it’s worth your time to figure out ways to ban indoor tanning for those in your home.

Education and tanning have an unfortunate relationship. Going to college actually increases your exposure to the carcinogen. In the JAMA study, researchers found that 55% of university students have used a tanning bed and 43% have used a tanning bed within the last year. Indoor tanning is a known real threat to human health, on par with the risks incurred from things like cigarettes. It’s predicted the rate skin cancer due to indoor tanning will continue to surpass the number of lung cancer cases caused by smoking. Smoking causes other health problems (elevated BP, heart disease) so the comparison is imperfect. That being said, researchers explain that indoor tanning is a relatively new behavior that has grown in popularity, whereas smoking rates are declining in the US and other Western countries.

Teens And Tanning:

  • The JAMA study found 19.3% of adolescents (< 19 years) in Western countries have used a tanning bed. Read full post »

Bieber In Jail For DUI, Parents Everywhere Have An Opportunity

Miami-Dade County Corrections Department Photo from the nydailynews.com

Miami-Dade County Corrections Department Photo from the nydailynews.com

Justin Bieber was arrested early this morning in Florida for a DUI. The smirk on his face is a bit misplaced. While it’s no longer a surprise when we hear about a celebrity’s challenge with drugs and alcohol, Bieber serves up a perfect moment for education. I mean this kid (he’s 19 years old) really could have killed himself last night. Thank goodness he’s only in jail. You got Bieber Fever in your house? Now’s the moment to step in. The number one thing parents must remember is that data and research consistently show that a parent’s opinion and guidance on avoiding alcohol remains the most powerful influence over a teen’s decision to drink alcohol underage.

Check out this powerful infographic on girls and alcohol. One in five high school girls binge-drink. 1 in 5!

Alcohol-related injuries kill over 5,000 teens every year. Bieber’s decision-making presents a huge opportunity to protect our own children. I’m reposting this data because we just can’t forget how powerful we are, as parents, when protecting our children as they grow. Our job today is simply to remember our super power–that we have influence. Don’t brush this story off as “Bieber’s a mess and an outlier.” Lamborghini or not, every teen is at risk for making this kind of choice.

 

Read full post »