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Actress Meaghan Martin: Teenagers, Self-Esteem, And Contact Lenses

When I asked Meaghan Martin (star of Mean Girls 2, 10 Things I Hate About You and Camp Rock among others) what was the most difficult thing about being a teen these days, she didn’t hesitate: “Being a teen has always been difficult, but today there are so many ways to be rejected. Between Facebook, Twitter, and other online sites, it seems as if every day there’s a new way to be un-friended, excluded, or picked on.”

I interviewed Meaghan about her perspectives on teen self-esteem issues and the impact that physical appearance can have on young men and women. You can listen to the edited interview here (starts at minute 12:02):

The most striking thing about Meaghan is that she is a genuinely nice person. Down-to-earth, confident, empathic – she exudes an inner peace that is downright wholesome. How did she escape her teen years relatively unscathed by hormonal angst, I wondered? The secret, she said, was loving parents.

“I was a typical nerd as a kid. I had glasses, braces, and an asthma inhaler. But I didn’t care what others thought of me, because my parents told me that I was a good person who could do anything I wanted in life. They taught me self-confidence, and supported me 100% in anything I wanted to do. I was so blessed to have parents like that.”

I chuckled as I remembered my pre-teen and teen years, sharing with Meaghan that I was a lot like her – except that I had traded the asthma inhaler for acne. For me, Read more »

Kids With Dyslexia: Predicting Their Reading Skills With MRI

An international team of researchers has developed a rather reliable test that predicts the future improvement of reading abilities in kids with dyslexia. The method uses functional MRI (fMRI) and diffusion tensor magnetic resonance imaging (DTI) to scan the brain, and data crunching software to interpret the data. The researchers hope that the finding will help parents and therapists uniquely identify which learning tools are best for each child.

From the announcement by Vanderbilt University :

The 45 children who took part in the study ranged in age from 11 to 14 years old. Each child first took a battery of tests to determine their reading abilities. Based on these tests, the researchers classified 25 children as having dyslexia, which means that they exhibited significant difficulty learning to read despite having typical intelligence, vision and hearing and access to typical reading instruction.

During the fMRI scan, the youths were shown pairs of printed words and asked to identify pairs that rhymed, even though they might be spelled differently. The researchers investigated activity patterns in a brain area on the right side of the head, near the temple, known as the right inferior frontal gyrus, noting that some of the children with dyslexia activated this area much more than others. DTI scans of these same children revealed stronger connections in the right superior longitudinal fasciculus, a network of brain fibers linking the front and rear of brain. Read more »

*This blog post was originally published at Medgadget*

Depression In Preschoolers?

Preschooler depressionThe New York Times Magazine recently featured an article on preschooler depression. Pamela Paul wrote:

Diagnosis of any mental disorder at this young age is subject to debate. No one wants to pathologize a typical preschooler’s tantrums, mood swings and torrent of developmental stages. Grandparents are highly suspicious; parents often don’t want to know. “How many times have you heard, ‘They’ll grow out of it’ or ‘That’s just how he is’?” says Melissa Nishawala, a child psychiatrist at the New York University Child Study Center.

And some in the field have reservations, too. Classifying preschool depression as a medical disorder carries a risk of disease-mongering. “Given the influence of Big Pharma, we have to be sure that every time a child’s ice cream falls off the cone and he cries, we don’t label him depressed,” cautions Rahil Briggs, an infant-toddler psychologist at Children’s Hospital at Montefiore in New York. Though research does not support the use of antidepressants in children this young, medication of preschoolers, often off label, is on the rise. One child psychologist told me about a conference he attended where he met frustrated drug-industry representatives. “They want to give these kids medicines, but we can’t figure out the diagnoses.” As Daniel Klein warns, “Right now the problem may be underdiagnosis, but these things can flip completely.”

Reference: “Can Preschoolers Be Depressed?” (The New York Times Magazine, August 25, 2010).

*This blog post was originally published at Shrink Rap*

Active Kids, Outdoor Play, And Little Mishaps

Outdoor play“Play, Incorporating Animistic and Magical Thinking Is Important Because It: Fosters the healthy, creative and emotional growth of a child; Forms the best foundation for later intellectual growth. Provides a way in which children get to know the world and creates possibilities for different ways of responding to it. Fosters empathy and wonder.”  – Rachel Carson, “A Sense of Wonder

Remember “Red Light, Green Light,” “One-Two-Three,” “Tag, You’re It,” “Mother, May I?” or “Kickball?” These are just some of the good old-fashioned outdoor games kids used to play, and they are making a comeback. There’s nothing better than the sound of kids playing outdoors. Even kids playing outside making up their own games can bring them a lot joy and can be great exercise. With all the technology that surrounds us today, it’s great to see kids playing in the park and in their backyards.

It’s no secret that outdoor play and fresh air are great for kids’ overall physical and emotional well-being. In fact, a study in the journal Pediatrics concludes that children ages 8 and 9 who had more than 15 minutes of recess had better classroom behavior. This study suggests that school children in this age group should be provided with daily recess. Read more »

*This blog post was originally published at Health in 30*

Why A Good Childhood Isn’t About Good Grades

Spring and standardized school testing become synonymous in many areas of the country for many public school students, including for my own children attending schools in Massachusetts.

As this annual rite of passage rolls around, I’m reminded of how important it is to help our kids remember that they’re so much more than the sum of their grades, test scores, and project results. Think back on your childhood: What do you remember? Is it the grades, the teachers, the homework amount? Did you have standardized tests and, if so, do you remember the results?

I recall blips of taking tests and filling out scantron sheets for all sorts of tests throughout my educational life. I recall being in class when graded papers, projects and tests were handed back to us. But the moments I recall the most were the times I overcame a challenge or a hurdle that seemed insurmountable at the time — and grew from it in unimaginable ways. Read more »

*This blog post was originally published at Dr. Gwenn Is In*

Latest Interviews

IDEA Labs: Medical Students Take The Lead In Healthcare Innovation

It’s no secret that doctors are disappointed with the way that the U.S. healthcare system is evolving. Most feel helpless about improving their work conditions or solving technical problems in patient care. Fortunately one young medical student was undeterred by the mountain of disappointment carried by his senior clinician mentors…

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How To Be A Successful Patient: Young Doctors Offer Some Advice

I am proud to be a part of the American Resident Project an initiative that promotes the writing of medical students residents and new physicians as they explore ideas for transforming American health care delivery. I recently had the opportunity to interview three of the writing fellows about how to…

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Latest Book Reviews

Book Review: Is Empathy Learned By Faking It Till It’s Real?

I m often asked to do book reviews on my blog and I rarely agree to them. This is because it takes me a long time to read a book and then if I don t enjoy it I figure the author would rather me remain silent than publish my…

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The Spirit Of The Place: Samuel Shem’s New Book May Depress You

When I was in medical school I read Samuel Shem s House Of God as a right of passage. At the time I found it to be a cynical yet eerily accurate portrayal of the underbelly of academic medicine. I gained comfort from its gallows humor and it made me…

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Eat To Save Your Life: Another Half-True Diet Book

I am hesitant to review diet books because they are so often a tangled mess of fact and fiction. Teasing out their truth from falsehood is about as exhausting as delousing a long-haired elementary school student. However after being approached by the authors’ PR agency with the promise of a…

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