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The Morning Report provides a quick look at today’s medical news, research and features.  









Daily After School Activity Improves Kids’ Attention, Cognitive Skills
Children who get at least an hour of physical activity every day after school are better able to pay attention, avoid distraction and switch between cognitive tasks.

Researchers placed 221 children aged 7-9 in either a Fitness Improves Thinking in Kids (FITKids) after school program or a wait-list control group. The children randomly assigned to the FITKids exercise group wore heart-rate monitors and pedometers during 70 minute sessions of moderate-to-vigorous physical activity, which included an average of 4,500 steps.  That was followed by a healthy snack and then another 45-55 minutes of a low organization skill game.  The FITKids program occurred during 150 out of 170 school days.

Physical fitness improved six percent for those in the FITKids program, and less than one percent for subjects in the control group. Children in the exercise group demonstrated substantial increases in “attentional inhibition,” a measure of their ability to block out distractions and focus on the task at hand, and “cognitive flexibility,” which involves switching between intellectual tasks while maintaining speed and accuracy.

“Kids in the intervention group improved two-fold compared to the wait-list kids in terms of their accuracy on cognitive tasks, according to Hillman. “Given that no significant differences were observed for children assigned to the wait-list control, the key implication from this study is that participating in a daily, afterschool PA program enhances executive control.” (Full article at Physicians News)

Gov’t Reveals Drug Company Payments to Docs
Striving to shine a light on potential ethical conflicts in medicine, the Obama administration is releasing data on drug company payments to tens of thousands of individual doctors. As conceived, the so-called Open Payments program was intended to allow patients to easily look up their own doctors online. That functionality won’t be ready yet. And although preliminary data to be released Tuesday will be incomplete, it’s expected to be useful for professional researchers.

The investigative journalism website ProPublica says it has tracked 3.4 million payments to health professionals since 2009 totaling more than $4 billion. More than half that amount was for research.

The American Medical Association says it is “extremely concerned” about release of the payments file, adding that the data may contain inaccuracies and lacks context to help the average person evaluate the information. The federal Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services provided individual doctors an opportunity to inspect their data prior to release, but the AMA says the window was short and the process cumbersome.

Consumer groups call the disclosure program the “Sunshine Act,” and say it’s overdue.

“Research has shown over and over that these financial relationships influence doctors, even a meal,” said John Santa, medical director for health projects with Consumers Union. “Studies also show that doctors believe it does not affect them, but strongly believe it affects other doctors.” (More at Physicians News)

AAP Advises Docs To Endorse IUDs and Implants
To prevent teen pregnancies, pediatricians should talk with their adolescent patients about birth control, starting with hormonal implants and IUDs, according to an updated policy statement from the American Academy of Pediatrics.

Nearly half of all teens are sexually active during high school, and about 750,000 young women become pregnant each year, federal data show. “More than 80 percent of these pregnancies (are) unplanned, indicating an unmet need for effective contraception in this population,” an expert panel wrote in the AAP policy statement published Monday.

In discussing birth control with their patients, pediatricians should encourage teens to abstain from sex if they are not emotionally ready for it, the panel wrote.”However, existing data suggest that, over time, perfect adherence to abstinence is low. Therefore, pediatricians should not rely on abstinence counseling alone.”

The expert panel emphasized that progestin implants and IUDs are the most effective options for women who want to avoid becoming pregnant. The implants are inserted into the inside of the upper arm and are effective for three years. The IUDs can last for three to 10 years, depending on the type. (LA Times)


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