HEALTH

CDC releases guides for health professionals, parents on FASDs

BY Michael Johnsen

ATLANTA The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention on Monday announced the availability of several new products that can guide in the identification, prevention and management of fetal alcohol spectrum disorders — disorders resulting from women drinking alcohol during pregnancy.

The products include a curriculum development guide for use with medical and allied health students and practitioners, and two reports from the National Task Force on Fetal Alcohol Syndrome and Fetal Alcohol Effect, with recommendations on promoting and improving effective prevention strategies to reduce alcohol use and alcohol-exposed pregnancies, and on improving and expanding efforts regarding early identification, diagnostic services and quality research on interventions for individuals with FASDs and their families.

The products include the Competency-Based Curriculum Development Guide Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorders for Medical and Allied Health Education and Practice, a guide designed to improve prevention, identification and management of FASDs, and can be used to develop educational programs and materials in a range of formats based on the needs of learners. Based on seven core competencies, it is intended for use with medical and allied health students and practitioners.

Also listed is the Reducing Alcohol-Exposed Pregnancies: A Report of the National Task Force on Fetal Alcohol Syndrome and Fetal Alcohol Effect. This report reviews current evidence on prevention strategies to reduce alcohol use and alcohol-exposed pregnancies, provides recommendations on promoting and improving these strategies and offers future research directions in the field of FASD prevention. It also serves as a guide for those in the research and practice fields interested in selecting and implementing effective, scientifically-tested interventions for women at risk for an alcohol-exposed pregnancy.

And A Call to Action: Advancing Essential Services and Research on Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorders – A Report of the National Task Force on Fetal Alcohol Syndrome and Fetal Alcohol Effect highlights 10 recommendations to improve and expand efforts regarding early identification, diagnostic services and quality research on interventions for individuals with FASDs and their families. The intent of this report is to guide federal, state and local agencies, researchers and clinicians, family support groups, and other partners on actions needed to advance essential services for individuals with FASDs and their families and to promote continued intervention research efforts.

The CDC also listed five things mothers should know about drinking during pregnancy:

  • Drinking alcohol during pregnancy can cause a baby to be born with birth defects and have disabilities. These conditions, called fetal alcohol spectrum disorders, or FASDs, are among the top preventable birth defects and developmental disabilities. FASDs can cause problems in how a person grows, learns, looks and acts. FASDs can also cause birth defects of the heart, brain, and other major organs. These problems last a lifetime;
  • There is no known amount of alcohol that is safe to drink while pregnant. All drinks with alcohol can hurt an unborn baby. A 12-ounce can of beer has as much alcohol as a 5-ounce glass of wine or a 1-ounce shot of liquor;
  • There is no safe time to drink during pregnancy. Alcohol can harm a baby at any time during pregnancy. It can cause problems in the early weeks of pregnancy, before a woman even knows she is pregnant;
  • Too many women continue to drink during pregnancy. About 1 in 12 pregnant women in the United States reports alcohol use. And about 1 in 30 pregnant women in the United States reports binge drinking (having five or more drinks at one time);
  • Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorders are 100% preventable — if a woman does not drink alcohol while she is pregnant.

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Swine flu update: Cases confirmed at NYC prep school

BY Michael Johnsen

NEW YORK As of 1 p.m. Monday, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention confirmed 20 additional cases of swine flu in New York, bringing the total number of swine flu cases so far to 40 overall and 28 in New York.

The New York City Department of Health is investigating a cluster of illness at the St. Francis Preparatory School in Queens, where 100 students missed classes because of flu-like illness last week. Daily calls with hospitals and monitoring of admissions have yet to suggest a wider or more severe outbreak.

The 20 additional cases of swine flu were associated with the St. Francis Preparatory School, the CDC confirmed.

All of the patients suffered only minor illness.

The NYC Health Department has also identified 17 more probable cases within the St. Francis school cluster. Nasal swabs from those patients are undergoing confirmatory testing at the CDC.

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Study: Breast-feeding reduces risk of cardiovascular disease, related illnesses

BY Michael Johnsen

PITTSBURGH The longer women breast-feed, the lower their risk of heart attacks, strokes and cardiovascular disease, reported University of Pittsburgh researchers in a study published in the May issue of Obstetrics & Gynecology.

“Heart disease is the leading cause of death for women, so it’s vitally important for us to know what we can do to protect ourselves,” stated Eleanor Bimla Schwarz, assistant professor of medicine, epidemiology, and obstetrics, gynecology and reproductive sciences at the University of Pittsburgh. “We have known for years that breastfeeding is important for babies’ health; we now know that it is important for mothers’ health as well.”

According to the study, postmenopausal women who breastfed for at least one month had lower rates of diabetes, high blood pressure and high cholesterol, all known to cause heart disease. Women who had breastfed their babies for more than a year were 10% less likely to have had a heart attack, stroke, or developed heart disease than women who had never breastfed.

Schwarz and colleagues found that the benefits from breastfeeding were long-term ? an average of 35 years had passed since women enrolled in the study had last breastfed an infant.

“The longer a mother nurses her baby, the better for both of them,” Schwarz pointed out. “Our study provides another good reason for workplace policies to encourage women to breastfeed their infants.”

The findings are based on 139,681 postmenopausal women enrolled in the Women’s Health Initiative study of chronic disease, initiated in 1994.

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