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Spanking ‘harms kids’: Leading doctors group advises against corporal punishment

When a 14-year old Texas boy stole his moms new BMW to go on a joyride with friends last month, his ..

When a 14-year old Texas boy stole his moms new BMW to go on a joyride with friends last month, his mom found him in traffic, pulled him over, and spanked him with a belt, ABC affiliate KGO-TV in San Francisco reported. The episode was caught on her daughters camera and started an online conversation about corporal punishment.

It's a hot topic.

The American Academy of Pediatrics has just come out with a new policy statement urging that parents avoid both "physical punishment and verbal abuse of children," citing evidence that links corporal punishment to "an increased risk of negative behavioral, cognitive, psychosocial, and emotional outcomes for children."

Corporal punishment — defined as noninjurious, open-handed hitting with the intention of modifying child behavior — is both ineffective for changing behavior and damaging to children and teens, the AAP said.

"In one study, young children who were spanked more than twice a month at age 3 were more aggressive at age 5," a press release accompanying the policy statement this week said. "Those same children at age 9 still exhibited negative behaviors and lower receptive vocabulary scores, according to the research."

The effects of corporal punishment as well as harsh verbal abuse can actually change a child's brain, the organization said.

"Research has shown that striking a child, yelling at or shaming them can elevate stress hormones and lead to changes in the brain's architecture. Harsh verbal abuse is also linked to mental health problems in preteens and adolescents," the release said.

The AAP urges doctors to advise parents against using corporal punishment either in a moment of anger or in a planned response to misbehavior, and to opt instead for "positive and effective parenting strategies of discipline."

“Adults caring for children [should] use healthy forms of discipline, such as positive reinforcement of appropriate behaviors, setting limits, redirecting, and setting future expectations,” the organization said.

The AAP's new policy statement "strengthens its call to ban corporal punishment," it said. In 2000, the group recommended that all states to abolish the practice of corporal punishment in schools.

This week's statement, focused on families, also seems to build on an earlier one in 1998 that recommended pediatricians "use a comprehensive approach" when advising parents and encourage the development of disciplinary "methods other than spanking."

Support of corporal punishment is generally declining in the U.S.: In 1995, 80 percent of parents reported spanking their child, which fell to 67 percent of parents in 2013, one poll found.

But in 2015, over half of U.S. adults believed it was necessary to use physical force to discipline a child. This was true across different ethnic groups as well as different regions of the country, according to a study published in the Journal of Child and Family Studies.

Since 1989, the United Nations Convention on Rights of the Child has called on all member states to ban corporal punishment, and 53 countries have done so.

But in the U.S., nineteen states still allowed corporal punishment in schools as of 2016, according to a study which also said and physical discipline was meted out to 160,000 children in the 2011-12 school year.

"I hear from many parents, 'I was hit and I turned out fine,' to which I say, 'Every developing little brain is different,'" said Dr. Edith Bracho-Sanchez, a pediatrician in California and a consultant to ABC News.

"The goal I hear from parents is a desire to teach, and when children are hit, they see themselves as the victim and automatically turn off their learning,” Bracho-Sanchez said.

"It is important for parents to remember children are always watching, so we as adults need to model the behavior we want to see in children”, Bracho-Sanchez said. "Consistent limits and consequences are also very important … For example, if the child doesnt pick up her toys, say you will put them away for the rest of the day and actually follow through."

Repeated use of corporal punishment has been associated with increased aggression in school, and increased risk of mental health and substance abuse disorders. In one study, it was even associated with physical dating violence as adolescents, the AAP said. On a biological level, young adults who experienced significant corporal punishment actually had visible changes to the brain itself on imaging, and elevated cortisol hormone levels that are associated with toxic stress.

The AAP recommendation focuses more broadly than on just physical punishment, saying parents should avoid any disciplinary action, including verbal abuse, that shames or humiliates a child.

The group is also reminding pediatricians to advocate for effective discipline policies in their states and communities.

“I dont think were getting softer," said Dr. Ryan Brown, a board-certified pediatrician and a member of the AAP's council on child abuse and neglect in a statement. "I think were getting smarter with our discipline.”

Dr. Tiffany Yeh completed pediatrics residency at Brown University, and is currently an endocrinology fellow at New York-Presbyterian Weill Cornell Medical Center and a member of the ABC News Medical Unit.

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The organization helping to bring new drugs for rare diseases to market

A research team has reason to celebrate after the Food and Drug Administration granted it approval o..

A research team has reason to celebrate after the Food and Drug Administration granted it approval on Friday to begin a clinical trial for a new pediatric brain cancer drug, one that might have ended up overlooked by pharmaceutical companies.

The lead researcher on the team, Dr. Teresa Purzner has already beat impossible odds. The neurosurgeon and mom of three managed to get the approval in record time and with little money thanks to the help of a team of scientific altruists called SPARK.

The development of new medications in the United States is driven by pharmaceutical companies; researchers at universities rarely bring their discoveries to the bedside. For every 10,000 potential new medicines sitting on laboratory shelves around the country, only one will ever reach patients in need, according to the National Institutes of Health. Why? Because the process can take 10 to 15 years, costing upwards of a billion dollars per drug.

As a result, the number of new medications approved by the FDA has remained stagnant at about 31 per year over the past 10 years. The majority of these medications are similar to already existing ones, and many target diseases for which there are large markets — like hypertension and high cholesterol — and therefore, a return on investment.

Enter SPARK, a non-profit program created in partnership between Stanford University and volunteers from the biotechnology, pharmaceutical, and investment industries, which helps academic researchers bring their discoveries to patients. Since its founding, SPARK has given special consideration to projects typically neglected by pharmaceutical companies, including rare diseases and diseases affecting children.

Purzner put her neurosurgery practice on pause to study medulloblastoma, a type of childhood brain cancer. Compared to diseases like hypertension and high cholesterol, which affect millions of Americans, medulloblastoma is rare, affecting only 250 to 500 children every year.

“Theres something especially poignant about seeing children —beautiful, wonderful, innocent things — and seeing the impact of the therapies we are giving them. The medications, the radiation therapies impact their cognition, their quality of life and their ability to function as independent adults in the future,” Purzner said in an interview with ABC News.

Purzner had a clear goal: to find a targeted therapy that could shut down the basic biochemical pathway responsible for the development of this cancer, and she did. She tested the potential drug in mice with good results, and she just received FDA approval to test it in clinical trials, which she will do through the Pediatric Brain Tumor Consortium. She did it all in five years and for a price tag of $500,000.

“To get from my initial findings in the lab to the point where the Pediatric Brain Tumor Consortium picked it up for clinical trials would have never happened without the help of SPARK… they gave me a clear pathway and made me believe it was possible,” said Purzner.

Every year, SPARK provides 10 teams with funding and expert mentorship to promote efficient and cost-effective drug development. (more…)

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Widowed father works with congresswoman on legislation to prevent maternal deaths

Sitting in the hospital room, mother and newborn baby were sound asleep.

“I was overjoyed. I reme..

Sitting in the hospital room, mother and newborn baby were sound asleep.

"I was overjoyed. I remember thinking my family is complete," Charles Johnson told ABC News.

But then he looked down and saw his wife Kiras catheter turn pink and then red with blood.

April 12, 2016 was supposed to be a joyous day for the Johnson family, but it turned into a "nightmare."

Ten hours later, Kira Johnson died as a result of internal bleeding following a cesarean section.

Now, two years later, Johnson is raising two children on his own and advocating to rectify the country's maternal health policies and regulations to prevent anyone else from sharing the same tragedy. Johnson took to Capitol Hill to share his wife's story before members of Congress, working alongside a congresswoman who experienced her own personal difficulties during pregnancy.

Charles and Kira Johnson welcomed their first son Charles V. in 2014. He was delivered via C-section. Two years later, the Johnson family relocated from Atlanta to Los Angeles and learned they were expecting their second baby boy.

"Kira and I had always wanted two boys," Johnson said. "I was excited."

The Johnsons decided to have Langston delivered at Cedars Sinai medical center, a non-profit hospital that is currently ranked as the eighth best hospital in the country by U.S. News and World Report.

Charles Johnson said his wife was in exceptional health and that she took all the necessary prenatal measures to ensure their second child would be born healthy. Since their first son was born via C-section, the doctor suggested the same for their second. (more…)

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States look to breathalyze convicted drunk drivers to reduce fatalities

This story is from Kaiser Health News

On Jan. 1, California joined the majority of states that ha..

This story is from Kaiser Health News

On Jan. 1, California joined the majority of states that have laws requiring drivers with drunken-driving convictions to install breathalyzers in vehicles they own or operate.

Researchers, public health advocates and political leaders believe these laws are helping reduce alcohol-related road deaths.

The gadgets, known as ignition interlock devices, are mounted on the steering wheel of a vehicle and prevent it from starting if the drivers blood-alcohol reading is above a predetermined level.

In California, the breathalyzers are mandatory only for repeat offenders. Five other states — Georgia, Indiana, Massachusetts, Montana and Ohio — have similar laws. Thirty-two states and D.C. require the devices even for first-time offenders.

The advent of such laws across the United States in the past 15 years has been accompanied by some good news: Deaths involving drunken driving are only about half of what they were in the early 1980s, though they have ticked back up in recent years. The long-term decline is largely attributable to greater public awareness, stricter seat belt enforcement and the establishment in 2000 of a nationwide legal blood-alcohol threshold of 0.08 percent — far below the 0.15 percent standard commonly used before then.

State Sen. Jerry Hill (D-San Mateo), the author of the California law, said breathalyzers in cars will make roads safer than under the current law, which generally relies on license restrictions and suspensions.

“Weve seen people on a suspended license continue to drive and continue to cause destruction,” said Hill, who lost his best friend to drunken driving in the 1980s.

There is some evidence that the breathalyzers have an impact. Nationally, from 2006 to 2016, ignition-locking breathalyzers prevented 2.3 million attempts to drive by people with a blood-alcohol level at or above 0.08 percent — the legal threshold for driving under the influence — according to a 2017 report by the advocacy group Mothers Against Drunk Driving.

Emma McGinty, an associate professor at the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health, found that laws requiring interlocks for all DUI offenders were associated with a 7 percent drop in the rate of fatal crashes caused by drunken drivers. Another study found that laws covering all offenders were associated with 15 percent fewer alcohol-related fatalities compared with states that have less stringent laws. (more…)

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