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To Kids' Health in 2008!

January 10, 2008
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With the end of 2007 and the beginning of a new year, KidsHealth.org, created by the nonprofit Nemours Foundation's Center for Children's Health Media, has published its third annual "10 Kids' Health Issues to Watch."

The issues chosen represent a wide range of concerns -- some may hit close to home, while others may be more far-reaching. Of course, these are not the only important issues affecting children's health -- far from it -- but the physicians and editors at KidsHealth feel that in the midst of many, these are notable:

· Bullying: Growing recognition of the impact of bullying has prompted new urgency to prevent it in schools and communities. Bullying will continue to move beyond the domain of school discipline and into the realm of public health and safety, with more states and local governments attempting to address the issue through legislation and community programs. Parents will also be called on to take a more active role in broaching the issue with their kids.

· Overtraining Little Athletes: With many kids playing and training for organized sports with an intensity once reserved for top-level athletes, doctors are learning more about the lasting impact sports injuries can have on kids' health. With new evidence of how widespread and damaging youth sports injuries can be, many parents might have to examine whether they're allowing their kids to push too hard to excel at sports. With this growing awareness, there could be a return to the fundamentals of youth sports -- helping kids learn sportsmanship and teamwork; helping them develop a lifelong love of physical activity; and, most important, letting them have fun.

· The Growing Reach of Retail Health Care: New channels for health care are cropping up, challenging traditional notions of the ideal doctor-patient relationship. Parents, confronted with many new options for accessing health care, will have to be vigilant about keeping track of health-care encounters that occur outside the doctor's office.

· Keeping Play Safe: A wave of toy recalls put new questions about toy safety -- and the dangers of lead exposure -- in the spotlight. With more products coming from overseas, many public officials are calling on Congress to ensure better enforcement of U.S. safety standards on foreign-made goods sold here, particularly those for children.

· Food Allergies: Outlawing PB&J: As food allergies become more prevalent and more persistent among children, the medical community is scrambling to figure out why and how to deal with the trend. With more school lunchrooms becoming peanut-free zones, staples like PB&J could become relics of the past.

· Obesity: Beyond the Body: It's long been known that obesity is linked to such medical conditions as diabetes, asthma, hypertension and cancer, but its psychological and social consequences took center stage in 2007. The fight against childhood obesity will focus on prevention through fitness and healthy eating strategies that are integrated into home, schools and communities.

· Covering Health Needs: Until recently, the debate over what to do about uninsured Americans had largely focused on adults, particularly the elderly. Now the focus has shifted to helping parents find affordable insurance for young people. As the number of uninsured kids grows and the debate about State Children's Health Insurance Program continues, the question of how to ensure that all kids in the United States get the health care they need is likely to be a prominent issue in the presidential race.

· Battling the Superbug: Methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus made frequent headlines as the so-called "superbug" and put the spotlight on the growing threat posed by drug-resistant bacteria. The push to promote better hand washing habits and other basic hygiene practices will continue as doctors, public-health officials and parents continue to stress how effective they are at preventing staph infections.

· Rethinking a Pill for Every Ill: New questions about the safety and effectiveness of cough and cold medicines marketed to children put the spotlight on the fact that many of the medications marketed for kids have not been tested on children. Some pediatricians see a bright side to the development: With new questions about OTC drugs for kids, parents might be a little more reluctant to reach for a pill for every ill, and a little more willing to handle everyday sicknesses with remedies that are always within reach (or not sold in stores) -- patience, rest and a little tender loving care. 

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