Category Archives: Adolescents (11-18 years)

Jul 28 2014
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What Protects Our Children from the Effects of Stress?

Lorraine McKelvey, PhD, is an associate professor of family and preventive medicine and pediatrics at the University of Arkansas for Medical Sciences. She is an alumna of the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation (RWJF) New Connections program (2008-2009) whose work focuses on vulnerable populations.

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For children, stress can come from sources inside and outside the family. It was recently documented that nearly two out of every three children in the United States have witnessed or been victims of violence in their homes, schools, or communities. That’s a staggering statistic when we consider the well-established link between children’s exposure to stress and their long-term mental and physical health outcomes.

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Indeed, we know that early exposure to adverse experiences can change the way that our brains develop and function. We also know that exposure to adversity increases the likelihood that children will develop psychosocial problems, like depression, aggression, and other antisocial behaviors. There is even evidence that exposure to stressors in childhood increases the likelihood of having heart disease and cancer in adulthood!

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Apr 8 2014
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Preventing Youth Violence May Cost Less Than You Think…

Adam L. Sharp, MD, MS is an emergency physician and recent University of Michigan Robert Wood Johnson Foundation Clinical Scholar (2011-2013). He works for Kaiser Permanente Southern California in the Research and Evaluation Department performing acute care health services and implementation research.

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Violence is a leading cause of death and injury in adolescents. Recent studies show effective interventions can prevent violent behavior in youth seen in the Emergency Department (ED). Adoption of this type of preventive care has not been broadly implemented in EDs, however, and cost concerns frequently create barriers to utilization of these types of best practices. Understanding the costs associated with preventive services will allow for wise stewardship over limited health care resources. In a recent publication in Pediatrics, "Cost Analysis of Youth Violence Prevention," colleagues and I predict that it costs just $17.06 to prevent an incident of youth violence.

The violence prevention intervention is a computer-assisted program using motivational interviewing techniques delivered by a trained social worker. The intervention takes about 30 minutes to perform and was evaluated within an urban ED for youth who screened positive for past year violence and alcohol abuse. The outcomes assessed were violence consequences (i.e., trouble at school because of fighting, family/friends suggested you stop fighting, arguments with family/friends because of fighting, felt cannot control fighting, trouble getting along with family/friends because of your fighting), peer victimization (i.e., hit or punched by someone, had a knife/gun used against them), and severe peer aggression (i.e., hit or punched someone, used a knife/gun against someone).

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Jan 6 2014
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Protecting Infants from Whooping Cough

Katherine A. Auger, MD, MSc, a pediatrician in the Division of Hospital Medicine, Department of General Pediatrics at Cincinnati Children’s Hospital Medical Center, is an alumna of the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation (RWJF) Clinical Scholars program.

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A 2006 recommendation from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) that all adolescents receive vaccines for pertussis, also known as whooping cough, is having a positive impact. A new study that I led shows it is associated with lower rates of infant hospitalizations for the respiratory infection than would have been expected had teens not been inoculated.

The study, published in Pediatrics, found that the CDC recommendation led not only to a significant increase in vaccination rates among teens, but also to a reduction in severe pertussis-related hospitalizations among infants, who often catch the disease from family members, including older siblings.

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May 8 2013
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Do We Know What Kids in the Hospital Think of Their Care? Check.

Nancy Ryan-Wenger, PhD, RN, CPNP, FAAN, is the director of nursing research and an investigator at the Center for Innovation in Pediatric Practice at Nationwide Children’s Hospital in Columbus, Ohio. As a grantee of the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation Interdisciplinary Nursing Quality Research Initiative (INQRI), she was a lead investigator of the first-ever study to systematically elicit the views of hospitalized children and adolescents on the quality of their nursing care, and also the first to evaluate children’s perceptions of nurses’ behavior for evidence of any disparities across demographic groups. This is part of a series of posts for National Nurses Week, highlighting how nurses are driving quality and innovation in patient care.

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Have we asked the children?

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That became a pressing question for me when I retired from academia after 30 years and joined the staff of Nationwide Children’s Hospital. I became aware of things that are highly important to hospitals, such as opinions of the quality of care. Yet when I saw the patient surveys at Nationwide, they were almost always completed by parents, and 80 percent of the questions were geared toward parents: Were they kept informed of their child’s condition? Did they have a comfortable place to sleep? Was their child treated kindly by staff member?

Those are important questions, certainly, but if you’re doing a patient survey, don’t you want to know what the patient thinks?

Have we asked the children?

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Nov 28 2012
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Gun Violence in Nashville

Manish K. Sethi, MD, is a health policy associate at the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation (RWJF) Center for Health Policy at Meharry Medical College and a Pilot Project Mini-Grant recipient and renowned orthopaedic trauma surgeon at Vanderbilt University’s Orthopaedic Institute Center for Health Policy. Sethi spoke this morning during the 2012-2013 Grand Rounds Series, sponsored by Meharry Medical College School of Medicine, on “Gun Violence in Nashville: Working Towards Community Based Solutions.”

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Human Capital Blog: What is the violence prevention program you’re directing with the RWJF Center for Health Policy at Meharry?

Sethi: We are doing a youth violence intervention program via partnership with Nashville schools funded by the RWJF Center for Health Policy at Meharry.

All of the data demonstrates that educational intervention with this age group demonstrates positive results. Currently, no such program exists in Nashville schools.

HCB: What drove your interest in this topic?

Sethi: I am a trauma surgeon and have been seeing an inordinate number of gun violence injuries in African American teenagers. I grew up in Tennessee and left for my medical training, but during childhood I never saw violence to this degree. Almost every week I see a teenager who either loses his life, or suffers major trauma secondary to a gun violence injury. I care very deeply about the future of these children and of Tennessee and I just feel that we have to do something.

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Nov 14 2012
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Social Environment Trumps Genetics When it Comes to Teen Friendships

Jason M. Fletcher, PhD, MS, is an alumnus of the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation (RWJF) Health & Society Scholars program (2010-2012) and an associate professor of health policy at Yale School of Public Health.   Fletcher was recently lead author of the study, “How Social and Genetic Factors Predict Friendship Networks,” published October 17 in the journal PNAS (Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences). Fletcher and his colleagues found that important interactions between genetics and the social environment help determine friendship formation during high school.

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For our study, we used a national survey of adolescent friendships (Add Health, or the National Longitudinal Study of Adolescent Health) to follow up on and expand a study published last year that showed that specific genes, including a dopamine receptor gene (DRD2), may determine friendships among teens.

We found the idea of a biological basis for, in our view, the very sociologically driven outcomes of friendship formation to be too narrow and to not take into account the social and geographic constraints that underlie friendship links.  So in our research we show, using the same data as the previous study, that once we take account of schools and social environments, the previous genetic story is not confirmed by our data.

Indeed, we show that some schools produce friendships that are genetically similar, and others produce friendships that are genetically dissimilar.  And specific aspects of schools, like socioeconomic inequality, appear to partially determine the types of friendships that we observe school-by-school.

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Apr 27 2012
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Project SHAPE LA: Nurse Faculty Scholar Alum Aims to Help Children Get Active

Kynna Wright-Volel, PhD, RN, MPH, PNP-BC, FAAN, an assistant professor at the University of California, Los Angeles and Robert Wood Johnson Foundation (RWJF) Nurse Faculty Scholar alumna, recently won a five-year, $1.2 million grant funded jointly by the National Institutes of Health’s National Institute of Nursing Research and Office of Behavioral Social Science Research. She will use the grant to work with the Los Angeles Unified School District to launch Project SHAPE LA™, a coordinated school-health program designed to increase physical activity among youth in Los Angeles County schools.

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Human Capital Blog: Please share your vision for Project Shape LA™, what its goals are and how many children and teens it will reach.

Kynna Wright-Volel: Project SHAPE LA™ targets 24 middle schools in underserved areas of Los Angeles and will touch nearly 12,000 students. With this grant, we want physical education teachers to ignite a passion for physical activity – to teach kids that by being active, they can be healthy and achieve their dreams. Anticipated outcomes from this program include: increased moderate to vigorous physical activity; increased scores on the California State Board of Education’s FitnessGram Test in the areas of aerobic fitness, body composition and muscular strength/endurance; and increased academic achievement, as evidenced by higher scores on the California standardized test.

HCB: Why is a project like this needed in your community?

Wright-Volel: According to the L.A. County Department of Public Health, one in five children in the Los Angeles Unified School District is considered obese. Health inequities exist as well; children who are racial and ethnic minorities and/or come from families with low incomes have higher rates of obesity.

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Sep 6 2011
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RWJF Community Health Leader Fights Asthma in East Harlem, Door to Door

In May, the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) awarded a multi-year grant to an asthma prevention and treatment program run by 2008 Robert Wood Johnson Foundation Community Health Leader Ray Lopez of New York City. Lopez is the director of environmental health services at the Little Sisters of the Assumption Family Health Service in New York’s East Harlem. The grant award is shared with the New York Academy of Medicine.

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Human Capital Blog: First, congratulations on the grant. Would you tell us about the project, please?

Ray Lopez: Our mission is to serve children in East Harlem by helping their families treat and prevent asthma incidents. Asthma rates are unusually high in New York City in general, and the problem’s even more acute in Harlem, the South Bronx and Central Brooklyn where there are all kinds of environmental factors in children’s homes. We’re focused on children in public housing, where there are a number of problems. A lot of the apartments have mold that has grown as a result of leaks, and they’ve also got a lot of cockroaches, and mice, which all contribute as well. What we do, and what this grant will help us do a lot more broadly, is to get treatment for the kids, but also to go into their apartments and get to work on reducing the environmental factors. Sometimes that means identifying moisture sources and safely cleaning the mold. Sometimes it means pressing the city’s housing authority to do major work. Sometimes it involves teaching the adults in the family about the safe use of pesticides and cleaning products. For each family we visit, we work with them to create an individualized service plan, and then we focus on remediating the asthma triggers.

Teaching is a major part of this, too, and the plan is to teach by showing and doing. Families are enrolled with us for a year, and by end of year, we hope they will have accumulated skills to manage these problems on their own in the long-term. It’s a three-year project, in all: two-plus years working with the families, and then a final phase that consists of data analysis and policy initiatives led by the New York Academy of Medicine.

HCB: And then what’s the plan with the data and the analysis?

Lopez: The plan is to build the business case for this kind of intervention, and then to persuade insurance companies and providers that it’s worth the investment to them to spend a little money up front to prevent asthma incidents, rather than paying for them in the emergency room.

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Feb 15 2011
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February's RWJF Clinical Scholars Health Policy Podcast Focuses on Philadelphia's Fight Against Childhood Obesity

In this month’s RWJF Clinical Scholars Health Policy Podcast former RWJF Clinical Scholar Donald Schwarz, M.D., M.B.A., (University of Pennsylvania, 1985-1987), Philadelphia Health Commissioner and Deputy Mayor for Health and Opportunity, discusses his work combating the childhood obesity epidemic in Philadelphia, touching on that effort’s controversial soda tax. In his conversation with podcast series host, Matthew Press, M.D., Schwarz also talks about the impact of health care reform at the city health level, and the learning curve required to transition from a career in academia to government service.

Read more about the RWJF Clinical Scholars program. For an overview of RWJF scholar and fellow opportunities, visit www.RWJFLeaders.org.