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Worry less about children’s screen use, parents told

Parents should worry less about how much time their children spend using screens, paediatricians hav..

Parents should worry less about how much time their children spend using screens, paediatricians have said.

The first UK guidance on screen use for children says there is little evidence that it is harmful in itself.

But experts say it is important that the use of devices does not replace healthy activities, such as sleep, exercising and time with family.

The guidance avoids setting screen time limits, but does recommend not using them in the hour before bedtime.

It was informed by a review of evidence published at the same time, and follows a debate around whether youngsters should have time on devices restricted.

'Great way to explore'

The Royal College of Paediatrics and Child Health (RCPCH), which has produced the guidance for under-18s, said there was no good evidence that time in front of a screen is "toxic" to health, as is sometimes claimed.

While there are associations between higher screen use and obesity and depression, the college said it was not clear if this link was causal.

The college said it was not setting time limits for children because there was not enough evidence that screen time was harmful to child health at any age.

Instead, it has published a series of questions to help families make decisions about their screen time use:

  • Is your family's screen time under control?
  • Does screen use interfere with what your family want to do?
  • Does screen use interfere with sleep?
  • Are you able to control snacking during screen time?

Dr Max Davie, officer for health promotion for the RCPCH, said phones, computers and tablets were a "great way to explore the world", but parents were often made to feel that there was something "indefinably wrong" about them.

He said: "We want to cut through that and say 'actually if you're doing OK and you've answered these questions of yourselves and you're happy, get on and live your life and stop worrying'.

"But if there are problems and you're having difficulties, screen time can be a contributing factor."

The recommendation that children should not use the devices in the hour before bedtime comes because of evidence that they can harm sleep.

The devices stimulate the brain, and the blue light produced by them can disrupt the body's secretion of the sleep hormone melatonin.

While there are night modes on many phones, computers and tablets, there is no evidence these are effective, the college said.

Overall, it found the effect of screen time on children's health was small when considered next to other factors like sleep, physical activity, eating, bullying and poverty.

It said there was a lack of evidence that screen time is beneficial for health or wellbeing.

Its guidance recommends that families negotiate screen time limits with their children based on individual needs and how much it impacts on sleep, as well as physical and social activities.

For infants and younger children, this will involve parents deciding what content they watch and for how long they use the devices.

As children get older, there should be a move towards them having autonomy over screen use, but this should be gradual and under the guidance of an adult, the college said.

Dr Davie added: "When it comes to screen time I think it is important to encourage parents to do what is right by their family.

"However, we know this is a grey area and parents want support, and that's why we have produced this guide.

"We suggest that age-appropriate boundaries are established, negotiated by parent and child, that everyone in the family understands."

Tips for parents:

  • Mealtimes can be good opportunities for screen-free zones
  • If children's screen time use seems out of control, parents should consider intervening
  • Parents should think about their own screen use, including whether they use devices unconsciously too often
  • Younger children need face to face social interaction and screens are no substitute for this

Source: RCPCH

Meanwhile, a separate study has found that girls are twice as likely to show signs of depressive symptoms linked to social media use at age 14 compared with boys.

The research, by experts at University College London and published in EClinicalMedicine, involved nearly 11,000 young people answering questionnaires on their social media use, online harassment, sleep patterns, self-esteem and body image.

Experts not involved in the study said it added to existing evidence that heavy social media use may be harmful for mental health.

But they called for more research to better understand if it causes depression, or if depressive people are more likely to use social media excessively.

The review of evidence on screen time is published in the BMJ Open journal.

Original Article

BBC

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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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