On the Pulse

Helipad transforms into a teaching garden for patients

Kirsten Thompson in the garden

Kirsten Thompson in the new garden

With a nationwide spotlight on fighting childhood obesity since obesity prevalence among kids and teens in the U.S. has almost tripled, it’s important we find ways to instill healthy lifestyles in today’s youth to prevent them from developing health issues down the road.

At Seattle Children’s, dietitian Kirsten Thompson found a unique way to teach kids and their families about making healthy choices by transforming the hospital’s old helipad into a teaching garden for patients and families.

Thompson, whose master’s thesis was about gardening with kids, began looking for a place to plant a teaching garden when she joined Children’s in 2008. The opportunity finally arrived this spring when the Building Hope expansion was completed and the helipad moved to a site near the new Emergency Department.

Every Wednesday, Thompson works with Children’s patients in the garden for an hour to teach them how to raise vegetables. They then head inside to the hospital’s Eat Well Be Well studio to prepare healthy, garden-inspired meals.

“The goal is to encourage and empower kids and families to eat healthy,” Thompson said.

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Eight tips for heading back to school after a Crohn’s or ulcerative colitis diagnosis

The Crohn’s & Colitis Foundation of America recently featured this question from a parent on its Facebook page: “My son was just diagnosed with Crohn’s at the end of last school year. We did a lot of resting over summer break and he was feeling almost normal again. School is now back in session and he is starting a flare up. I know he feels bad and I am letting him take his time in the morning but I want him to attempt to go to school. I don’t want to push him too hard but I think it is important that he try to start the day and then if it’s too much come home. How do you other families handle this?”

This post received nearly 200 comments and advice from parents, a nod to the fact that while going back to school is a time of excitement, it can also be very stressful if your child has a recent diagnosis of inflammatory bowel disease (IBD), which includes Crohn’s disease and ulcerative colitis. In children with IBD, the digestive tract becomes swollen and inflamed. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention estimates that IBD affects about one million Americans, occurring most frequently in people ages 15 to 30.

To help with the transition back to school, I’d like to share eight tips for parents. These tips and more are also in a video produced by Seattle Children’s.

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Vaccinations vital for teens as they head back to school

Vaccines for teensAs summer comes to a close, parents are getting their preteens and teens ready for back-to-school, from stocking up on pencils, notebooks and new clothes, to preparing for their busy fall schedules. But what’s also important to add to the list, is making sure teens are up-to-date on their recommended vaccinations.

As kids grow up, protection from certain childhood vaccines begins to wear off. Teens may also be exposed to different diseases than they were when they were younger. Therefore, it’s important for parents to know what vaccines can protect their kids, their schoolmates and our communities from unnecessary illness.

Ed Marcuse, MD, MPH, a pediatrician at Seattle Children’s Hospital, has a special interest in immunizations and wants parents to know that today’s vaccines are a very safe and effective way to prevent the infections that teens are at risk of contracting.

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Back to school nutrition, packing healthy meals for kids

BacktoSchoolLunchboxThe transition back to school is fast approaching and while kids may be wondering whether or not their Captain America lunchbox is still cool, parents are thinking about what should go in it.

Celia Framson, MPH, RD, CD, a clinical pediatric dietitian at Seattle Children’s Hospital, says parents shouldn’t panic about packing the perfect lunch for their child. Instead, they should involve kids in the packing process and focus on providing a balanced meal that meets a child’s taste preferences and nutritional needs. Parents should also model healthy behaviors that their kids can learn from so they can adopt healthy habits that will last a lifetime.
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Researchers pinpoint decision-making parts of brain that can affect addiction, ADHD

The brainWhen “Glee” star Cory Monteith died last month from an overdose of heroin and alcohol, his fans were baffled. Monteith, 31, seemed to have everything—a great job, fame and a loving girlfriend and co-star. He had just completed a stint in rehab in April, too. But the pull of addiction is strong and even the smartest people don’t make the best decisions when faced with temptation.

Now, a team led by Susan Ferguson, PhD, from Seattle Children’s Research Institute, and John Neumaier, MD, PhD, from the University of Washington, has used a new technique to identify and learn more about a key reward-based, decision-making part of the brain, the striatum.

The team’s findings have implications for addiction, attention deficit/hyperactivity disorder and obsessive compulsive disorder. Perhaps one day, with the help of medications targeting this part of the brain, addicts like Monteith can better control their urges and avoid tragic endings.

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Dangerous dares, stopping the next cinnamon challenge

SONY DSCNow that kids are headed back to school, more time with friends, an increased amount of peer pressure and less supervision all combine to make a dangerous mix. “I dare you” is how it usually begins – a few simple words, a group of kids and a smartphone to document the foolery. From the cinnamon challenge, attempting to swallow a tablespoon of cinnamon in 60 seconds without drinking water, to the milk challenge, attempting to drink a gallon of milk in one hour without vomiting, a recent trend in the media has parents and doctors sounding the alarm.

However, more and more kids are attempting rather than avoiding the dangerous dares and challenges they see on the internet. Which begs the question, are we doing enough to end the trend? Or are we waiting for the next cinnamon challenge to hit the web?

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Fat letters from schools spur childhood obesity debate

Childhood obesityReceiving report cards from schools is a standard practice that helps parents stay informed about their child’s academic performance. But now, schools in some states have been going one step further and are also letting parents know how their child’s weight measures up.

A new report released this week in Pediatrics has spurred debate around this issue as it states that Body Mass Index (BMI) screenings in schools and subsequently informing parents about their child’s weight category is a necessary step in the fight against the childhood obesity epidemic.

Twenty one states, not currently including Washington, have enacted policies or made recommendations about collecting height and weight data and assessing body composition in schools. In some states, like Massachusetts and Arkansas, a confidential letter that has been dubbed a “fat letter” is mailed to parents whose child has a high BMI, informing them of their child’s weight status and advising them to talk with a doctor.  

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Doctor offers tips for a smooth transition from summer to school

BacktoSchoolPack away the flip-flops and beachwear. Bring on the mechanical pencils and 3-ring binders. School is almost back in session, and it’s time for kids to transition to a more structured, scholarly schedule.

Heading back to school can be a stressful time for parents and kids, but planning ahead and talking through issues can help. Mollie Grow, MD, MPH, a pediatrician at Seattle Children’s Hospital, offers tips to ease the transition from summer to school.

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Magnets pose an increasing risk to children

MagnetsAn 8-year-old girl comes to the emergency room with what her parents think is stomach flu, then is rushed into surgery after X-rays show she swallowed three tiny magnets. A toddler eats magnets that look like candy, then has part of her bowels removed after the magnets click together inside her.

They’re stories that make parents squirm – and they’re becoming all too familiar to Julie Brown, MD, co-director of pediatric emergency medicine research at Seattle Children’s. Brown treats children in Seattle Children’s Emergency Department and is seeing more and more cases where kids accidentally swallow magnets or insert them into their nose, ears or other orifices, with potentially life-threatening consequences.

In a study published Aug. 6 in Annals of Emergency Medicine, she and her colleagues found that this is a national trend: From 2002 to 2011, there was a significant increase in kids receiving emergency care after accidentally taking magnets into their bodies, indicating that magnet-related injuries are an increasing public health problem for children.

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Dating violence a common experience for teens

Teen datingRecent research presented at the American Psychological Association’s meeting in Honolulu finds that about one in three American teens report being victims of dating violence. Almost one in three teens also acknowledge they’ve committed violence toward a date.

Researchers analyzed information collected in 2011 and 2012 from 1,058 youths, ages 14 to 20, in the Growing Up with Media study, a national online survey funded by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. The study defines teen dating violence as physical, sexual or psychological/emotional violence within a dating relationship.

“When we think about violence, we often think about someone being punched or beaten. Physical abuse is a devastating type of dating violence, but psychological and sexual violence also hurt keenly and can cause lasting damage,” said Jen Brown, a nurse with Seattle Children’s adolescent medicine team.

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