Health Updates 24 April 2012

  • A surprising risk for toddlers on playground slides: “Although nobody keeps national statistics, orthopedic specialists say they treat a number of toddlers and young children each year with broken legs as a result of riding down the slide on a parent’s lap.  A study at Winthrop University Hospital in Mineola, NY, found that nearly 14 percent of pediatric leg fractures over an 11-month period involved toddlers riding down the slide with a parent….This may be one of the counterintuitive cases when a child is safer by himself.  If a foot gets caught while a child is riding alone, he can just stop moving or twist around until it comes free.  But when a child is sitting in an adult lap, the force of the adult’s weight behind him ends up breaking his leg.  The injury is treated with a cast from the foot to above the knee; the good news is that no surgery or resetting is needed.  The child wears the cast for four to six weeks and heals without any lasting complications.  But the damage is not merely physical.  ‘The parents are always crushed that they broke their kid’s leg and are baffled as to why nobody every told them this could happen,’ Dr. [Edward] Holt said.  ‘Sometimes one parent is angry at the other parent because that parent caused the child’s fracture.  It has some real consequences to families, and I hate to see that happen’….Dr. Holt said he did not want to discourage parents from taking their children to the playground or even playing on slides, but did want to spread the word about the risks of sliding with a child on your lap.  To prevent the injury, the best solution is to allow a child to slide by himself, with supervision and instructions on how to play safely.  Young children can be placed on the slide at the halfway point with a parent standing next to the slide.  At the very least, parents should remove a child’s shoes before riding down the slide with the child on their laps, and make sure the child’s legs don’t touch the sides or sliding surface.” (NY Times)
  • After hospitalization, men more likely to show up in ER: “Men are much more likely than women to require urgent hospital care within a month of being discharged from the hospital, a new study finds.  Researchers followed 367 men and 370 women for 30 days after they were discharged from the Boston Medical Center to determine if gender played a role in the need for follow-up urgent care, including readmission to the hospital….The study found that the return rate for urgent care within 30 days of discharge was 29 percent for women and 47 percent for men.  Men were twice as likely to go to the emergency room, according to a journal news release.  Many key factors predicted men’s return to hospital.  They were 72 percent more likely to return if they were unmarried or retired, 64 percent more likely if they had not seen their family doctor since their discharge and 53 percent more likely if they were depressed.  ‘Our findings raise the possibility that social isolation — as illustrated by the positive association with being retired or unmarried, and [having] symptoms of depression — may be important factors to target for intervention,’ wrote Dr. Suzanne Mitchell, of the department of family medicine at the Boston University School of Medicine, and colleagues, in the release.  The researchers noted that previous studies found that men’s social isolation tends to contribute to poorer health results for them, and that women are better at using health services.” (MedlinePlus)
  • Medicare funds forecast bleak, but stable: “Funding for Medicare will be exhausted in 2024, according to the annual report from the program’s trustees, but federal health officials note that the program would run dry eight years sooner if not for the Affordable Care Act.  The good news is that the 2024 projection remains unchanged from last year’s estimate (whereas in last year’s report the exhaustion date was 11 years closer than in the preceding report).  The exhaustion date didn’t creep closer in part because of using a new statistical calculation, and also because hospital expenditures were lower than expected….The bad news is that the Medicare program’s longer-term outlook has grown much bleaker….Two separate trust funds provide money for Medicare.  The Hospital Trust Fund pays for inpatient hospital and related care.  The Supplementary Medical Insurance (SMI) Trust Fund pays for outpatient physicians and other outpatient services (known as part B of Medicare) and Part D, which covers prescription drugs.  It’s the Hospital Insurance Trust Fund specifically that is projected to be exhausted in 2024.  However, ‘exhaustion’ to actuaries means that the program will only take in enough funds to pay out 75% of the benefits.  Part B — which includes doctor’s bills, outpatient expenses, and prescription drug coverage — will remain steady because it’s automatically funded each year, through legislation and insurance premiums, to meet the following year’s expected costs…The Affordable Care Act (ACA) will keep Medicare solvent for longer in part because of a provision in the law that cuts $200 billion from Medicare Advantage over a decade…The American Medical Association (AMA) said the report was more evidence of the urgent need to fix the Medicare physician payment formula to prevent possible problems with access to care.” (Emily P. Walker, MedPage Today)
  • On-the-job injuries can be lethal to US teens: “About 20,000 teens were hurt — and 88 died — from work-related injuries at private employers in 2010, a new study shows.  In many cases, the deaths and injuries were the result of poorly regulated work environments, according to researchers from the Colorado School of Public Health, in Aurora.  ‘We don’t tend to think of child labor as a major issue in the US, but we should,’ study author Carol Runyan said in a University of Colorado news release.  ‘Laws governing the employment of youth ages 14 to 17 in this country are often very lenient and, in the case of family farms, virtually non-existent’.   Of all the jobs teens do, farming is particularly hazardous….About 18 millions US workers are under age 25.  Although work offers many benefits for young people, it also can be hazardous if teens don’t receive proper training and supervision by adults.  ‘Work can help young people develop skills, explore career options, earn money and gain self-esteem,’ Runyan said. ‘But without adequate safeguards in place, work can also be dangerous for youth’.  A recent US study found that 26 percent of workers younger than 18 worked at least part of the day without an adult supervisor and as many as one-third reported not having any health and safety training…”. (HealthDay)

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