Tuesday, January 24, 2012

Public Health Headlines

A couple of public health headlines taken from the AMA Morning Rounds this week:

US obesity rates may be leveling off.
New data indicating that US obesity rates have stabilized generated extensive news coverage, including segments on two national television networks, with many sources contrasting the high prevalence of obesity with the fact that rates are not climbing. NBC Nightly News (1/17, story 6, 2:45, Williams) reported, "in new numbers just out, the CDC finds about one in three American adults and one in six kids and teenagers in this country are heavy enough to be considered obese." The CBS Evening News (1/17, story 8, 0:20, Pelley) reported that "these are about the same levels as in 2003."
The AP (1/18) reports that two "CDC reports summarize results of national health surveys in children and adults, which are conducted every two years." According to the AP, "The 2009-2010 reports involved nearly 6,000 adults and about 4,000 children, from infancy through age 19." The findings, divided into two reports (one on adults and one onchildren and adolescents ) "were released online in the Journal of the American Medical Association."
USA Today (1/18, Hellmich) reports in "Your Life" that, according to the data, "The average body mass index (BMI) of men rose to 28.7 in 2010 up from 27.7 in 2000," while "the average BMI" of women "remained unchanged at about 28.5."

Only 25% of kids use sunscreen regularly.
The Los Angeles Times (1/24, Roan) "Booster Shots" blog reports that "kids are really bad about using sunscreen consistently," according to a study published Jan. 23 online in Pediatrics. "Researchers studied fifth-grade children in Massachusetts in 2004 and then re-surveyed the same 360 children three years later. In the first survey, more than half of the kids said they had experienced at least one sunburn, and this rate did not change three years later."
"Despite numerous efforts to encourage people to wear sunscreen, a new study shows only 1 in 4 children regularly uses sunscreen," WebMD (1/24, Warner) reports. "The results showed that half of the children reported routinely wearing sunscreen in 2004, but only 25% did so in 2007." The article adds, "Researchers say the results show that the time between ages 11 and 14 is a critical time in developing attitudes about tanning and wearing sunscreen, especially among girls."
ABC News (1/24, Carollo) points out, "Most of the study participants said they liked the appearance of a tan, and the number of children who said they spent time in the sun to get a tan increased over the three-year period." Lead author Stephen Dusza, said, "At the same time, there was a signficant reduction in reported sunscreen use." Notably, "Dusza and dermatologists not involved in the research said the findings highlight the importance of finding effective ways to educate children of this impressionable age group about sun safety and the potential dangers of excessive exposure to ultraviolet light."

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