Monthly Archives: January 2007

Schools bring back Boxing Lessons

 
Amir Khan
The schools hope they might find another Olympic boxing medallist.
Boxing is being reintroduced in several schools to help pupils develop their mental and physical skills.

Some schools in Bromley, south London are incorporating the sport into PE lessons, under the supervision of the Amateur Boxing Association of England.

Boxing has not been taught in schools since 1962, when a campaign to ban it from PE classes won popular support.

Peter McCabe, chief executive of brain injury association Headway, urged the schools involved to reconsider.

Olympic Games

The director of sport at Beckenham’s Kelsey Park Sports College, Matthew Strange, believes there could be a place for boxing within the national curriculum “due to the massive impact it can have on those young people involved”.

“This type of activity requires young people to develop a range of mental and physical skills that are transferable to other aspects of learning.

“It is therefore possible to see this programme developing substantially as we approach the Olympics of 2012,” he adds.

His school reintroduced boxing after it gave a new home to a local boxing club that had closed down.

It had such a positive effect on the pupils involved that the school decided to take things further.

Fitness

Head teacher of Orpington’s Priory School, Nicholas Ware, told the BBC his school had reintroduced boxing because it had wanted to offer “as wide a range of sporting opportunities for young people as possible” as part of the school’s new sports status.

He added: “In a sense, we are not really boxing yet.

“We have had a year where students are engaged in fitness for boxing which has involved no contact whatsoever – it’s really based around fitness using the pads and using the gloves.

“With all the right safety equipment and close supervision from the Amateur Boxing Association, those who have been through this year’s initial training are now engaged in sparring,” Mr Ware said.

He added that only pupils who had opted to take part were involved and that it was certainly not compulsory.

“This is purely for developing fitness levels in youngsters and getting them engaged in sport and trying to identify who may be another Amir Khan.”

‘Brain damage’

But Headway’s Mr McCabe said he was astonished that boxing was being reintroduced to schools.

“I am pleased to hear that they have not really got involved in fights yet and I would urge the school to reconsider. I think the governors have a responsibility.

“Eleven medical associations around the world have said chronic brain damage is caused by recurrent blows to the head, experienced by all boxers.

“As long as it is legal to hit an opponent above the neck – there aren’t any safety precautions which can prevent this damage.”

He stressed that there was a long list of boxers who had died or sustained serious injuries in the ring.

“Children below the age of consent should not be allowed or encouraged to box.

“It’s quite wrong and will result in more injuries which Headway will have to deal with.”

1960s campaign

A spokeswoman for the Department for Education and Skills said it did not specify which sports should be taught in schools so boxing is not on the national curriculum.

“But schools are free to offer it if they choose. They should of course bear in mind the safety precautions that should be in place.

“Generally we consider boxing to be best offered through boxing clubs with qualified boxing coaches.”

Chairman of the Amateur Boxing Association Keith Walters said boxing in schools could benefit children by boosting their overall fitness, reaching out to disengaged young people and improving their self-esteem, discipline and self confidence.

In the early 1960s Edith Summerskill MP tried to get boxing removed from schools sports curriculum but lost several votes in Parliament.

However, her campaign won popular support and after many parents wrote to schools asking their children to be excused from classes involving boxing, the sport was gradually removed from schools.

Fibre ‘lowers breast cancer risk’

    

 
Bread
Wholemeal bread should be part of a high-fibre diet.
Pre-menopausal women who eat large amounts of fibre could halve their breast cancer risk, a UK study has suggested.

The University of Leeds researchers, who studied 35,000 women, found those who ate 30g of fibre a day had half the risk of those who ate less than 20g.

They said women should try to increase their fibre intake.

Experts said the International Journal of Epidemiology study was more evidence of the benefits of a healthy diet.

The average person in the UK eats 12g of fibre a day.

To eat 30g, a person would need to eat a high-fibre cereal for breakfast, switch from white or brown bread to wholemeal and ensure they have five portions of fruit and vegetables a day.

A team from the University of Leeds Centre for Epidemiology and Biostatistics have been monitoring the eating habits and health of more than 35,000 women for seven years.

They were aged 35 to 69 at the beginning of the study.

Diet was assessed using a 217-item food questionnaire.

Processing

Unlike other studies looking at fibre intake and breast cancer risk, the women studied had a range of diets including groups who were wholly vegetarian or who did not eat red meat.

Just under 16,000 women were pre-menopausal when they entered the study, with 18,000 post-menopausal.

257 pre-menopausal women developed breast cancer during the study, which was initially funded by the World Cancer Research Fund.

They were found to be women who had a greater percentage of energy derived from protein, and lower intakes of dietary fibre and vitamin C, compared to women who did not develop cancer.

However, the effect was not seen in the post-menopausal group, in which 350 developed breast cancer.

The researchers say this may be because fibre affects the way the body processes and regulates the female hormone oestrogen.

Levels of the hormone are higher in pre-menopausal women.

Early exposure

Professor Janet Cade, who led the research, said: “Our study found no protective effect in the older group, but significant evidence of a link in the pre-menopausal women.

“The relevant exposure may be earlier in life, explaining why the protective effect was not shown in the post-menopausal group.”

She added: “In addition, post-menopausal women with high body mass indexes [who are overweight or obese] have an increased risk of breast cancer.

“Their weight may over-ride any other effects such as benefits from fibre.”

Professor Cade added: “It goes along with the general healthy eating advice to make sure that you are getting plenty of fibre in your diet through breakfast cereals, bread, pasta, fruit and vegetables.”

Ed Yong, cancer information officer at Cancer Research UK, said: “We already advise eating a diet rich in fibre to reduce the risk of bowel cancer. “This study suggests that it could help protect against breast cancer in younger women too.”

He added: “Until now, the evidence that fibre could reduce the risk of breast cancer has been inconsistent.

“This study suggests that this is because any protective effects are limited to women before their menopause.

“It further highlights the importance of eating a healthy diet for reducing the risk of cancer.”

Dr Sarah Cant, of the charity Breakthrough Breast Cancer said separating out the individual effects of different food was difficult.

Children’s drug treatment boost

 
Pills
The law will aid research into children’s cancer treatment.
Children will have access to improved treatment following changes to European laws, campaigners say.

From this week, any new medicine licensed in Europe must be examined for its potential use for children.

The changes will apply to all kinds of drugs, but cancer experts say they will be of particular benefit to children with the disease.

Cancer Research UK says the law will allow more knowledge about how anti-cancer drugs work in children.

The charity says such research is currently affected by drug company concerns over the challenges of developing medicines for children.

Around 2,000 people under the age of 19 are diagnosed with cancer in the UK each year.

Children with a wide range of conditions are currently given scaled-down doses of medication designed for adults which may not have gone through full clinical trials.

This means doctors often have to estimate the dose which a child will need, increasing the risk of dangerous side-effects or ineffective treatment.

The Association of the British Pharmaceutical Industry (ABPI) estimates 90% of children in neonatal intensive care units are given unlicensed medicines, as are 45% of medicines used on general children’s wards and up to 20% of drugs prescribed to children by GPs.

Drug company benefits

Under the new legislation, there will have to be a paediatric investigation plan which sets out which age groups will need to be studied before a drug can be made available to patients.

The law makes distinctions between the different needs of newborns (nought to one-month-old), infants (one to 23 months), young children (two to 12 years) and adolescents (aged 12-18).

Applications could be made for medicines which would clearly not be used on children, such as hormone replacement therapy, to be exempt from the law.

The changes apply to both new and existing medicines.

Pharmaceutical companies will be rewarded for putting extra efforts into researching children’s medicines with a six-month patent extension on new medicines and exclusivity on data on medicines which are out of patents for 10 years.

Dr Sally Burtles, director of Cancer Research UK’s drug development office, said: “Childhood cancers are very different from adult tumours.

“This new law presents a massive boost to drug discovery programmes across Europe and will encourage further collaboration between pharmaceutical companies and childhood cancer experts.”

Dr Richard Tiner, medical director of the ABPI, said: “This new legislation represents a huge opportunity for European research into children’s medicines and the UK is probably the most prepared country in the EU to take this forward.

“Clinical trials obviously raise questions of ethics, plus each stage of a child’s development from infant to teenager requires different formulations.

“As a result, patient numbers per drug may be small – especially for rare conditions.

“In the past this made it difficult for drug companies to recoup the massive costs of research.”

MPs voice childhood obesity fear

 
Boy eating chips
Levels of obesity rose in children between 1995-2004.
The government has been too slow to react to rising levels of childhood obesity, an MPs’ report has warned.

Despite a target to halt the rise of obesity among under-11s by 2010, the Commons public accounts committee said little concrete action had been taken.

There is no clear leadership among departments who have been “confused” and “dithering”, said the MPs.

But the government insisted progress was being made in encouraging healthy food choices and physical activity.

Levels of obesity in children aged two to 10 years rose from 9.9% to 13.4% between 1995 and 2004, according to the Health Survey for England.

A joint target was set in 2004 between the Departments of Health, Education and Skills and Culture, Media and Sport to halt the year-on-year increases by 2010.

But the Public Accounts Committee said there was a lack of co-ordination across the departments and called for the appointment of a high-profile leader to galvanise them into action.

There was also criticism of the failure to engage parents in tackling the causes of obesity.

Although a national programme to measure and weigh all children in primary schools in England had been launched, it had been unclear if parents would be told if their child was overweight and at risk of serious health problems, said the committee.

The government’s attempts to work with the food industry to influence marketing of unhealthy food to children have also been unsuccessful, the report said.

A public information campaign planned by the government should start “as soon as possible” if the target is to be met in the next three and a half years, they said.

No ‘quick fixes’

Edward Leigh, MP, chairman of the committee said: “The extent to which children in this country are obese is alarming.

“More alarming still is evidence that unless we act, the proportion of children who are obese will increase sharply.

“It is lamentable that, long after the target was set, there is still so much dithering and confusion and still so little co-ordination.”

The committee also found that the government couldn’t tell if its strategies were working because of the two-year delay in reporting of national figures.

Public Health Minister Caroline Flint said there were no easy answers or quick fix solutions to childhood obesity.

“The evidence on which this report is based was gathered in 2005 and early 2006. In the interim we have achieved an enormous amount.

She listed labelling on food packets and Ofcom’s recommendations on limiting junk food adverts to children as achievements.

“We will monitor the impact of the changes and are committed to taking further action if necessary.”

Tough target

Dr Ian Campbell, medical director of Weight Concern, said there was never any chance of the government hitting the target.

“There is no question that the government has not done enough and what they have done has not been done quickly enough but some progress has been made.

“What’s missing is a national umbrella organisation that will bring to task the government departments because there’s too many people working in isolation.”

Dr David Haslam, clinical director of the National Obesity Forum, said the government had set themselves a very difficult task as all the evidence has shown it’s an almost impossible problem to solve.

But he added that there were things that should have been done quickly, such as incentivising GPs to manage childhood obesity in their contract.

“When it come to implementation they have failed utterly.

A British Heart Foundation spokesman said the scale of the problem was “alarming”, with over 1.7 million children in England alone predicted to be obese by 2010.

He said the government must ensure that it leads the fight, and does everything it can to strive to reach challenging targets, including enforcing bans on junk food advertising to children.

Stress ‘harms brain in the womb’

 
Image of a baby
Infants were anxious and fearful.
Children whose mothers were stressed out during pregnancy are vulnerable to mental and behavioural problems like ADHD, mounting evidence suggests.

Latest UK research by Professor Vivette Glover of Imperial College London found stress caused by rows with or violence by a partner was particularly damaging.

Experts blame high levels of the stress hormone cortisol crossing the placenta.

Professor Glover found high cortisol in the amniotic fluid bathing the baby in the womb tallied with the damage.

The babies exposed to the highest levels of cortisol during their development had lower IQs at 18 months.

The same infants were also more likely to be anxious and fearful, she told a conference of the Royal College of Psychiatrists.

About a million children in the UK have neurodevelopmental problems – ADHD, cognitive delay, anxiety and so on.

About 15% of this might be due to antenatal stress.”

Professor Glover.

Professor Glover said: “We looked at what stresses were most harmful.

“We found that if the woman had a partner who was being emotionally cruel to them while they were pregnant it had a really significant effect on their baby’s future development.

“It really shows that the partner has a big role to play.”

The work suggests maternal stress is a true risk factor in its own right, although Professor Glover acknowledged that genetic factors and home environment after birth would also have an impact on a child’s development.

She said most babies grow up unaffected by a stressful womb environment.

Big impact

However, she said maternal stress increases the risk of a range of problems – it doubles the risk of attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), for example.

“We should be screening women in pregnancy for stress and intervening.

“It has big public health implications. About a million children in the UK have neurodevelopmental problems – ADHD, cognitive delay, anxiety and so on.

“About 15% of this might be due to antenatal stress.

“If we could reduce the mother’s stress while she is pregnant we might be able to potentially improve the outcome for about 150,000 children,” Professor Glover said.

Dr David Coghill, senior lecturer and honorary consultant in child and adolescent psychiatry at the University of Dundee, said pregnant women should not be “unduly concerned” by the findings.

He explained: “We are talking about here is extremely high levels of stress and distress.

“Stress is a normal factor of daily life and is something that the body copes with very well.

“However, it is a warning for people who may be facing more severe stresses and for those around women who are pregnant that increasing stress levels above what is normal for a person is not a good thing to do at that time.”

Professor Glover has submitted her work for publication in a peer-reviewed journal.

Hospital Response – problems in pregnancy

When you were pregnant, did you ever have to had an extra scan or an extra test, and if so, how quickly did your hospital sort this out for you?

I only ask as in the last week or so, 2 friends-of-friends have had need for a scan at one of our local hospitals, and have had to wait a week.

Case 1 – 6 weeks pregnant, and has some bleeding. She’s 41, reasonable amount of blood loss. Goes to see GP, he refers her for an urgent scan – she has to wait 7 days.

Case 2 – 36 weeks pregnant, her waters break. Fortunately just her fore waters although midwife is concerned as quite a bit of fluid lost. She’s high risk as sadly had a baby still born 3 years ago. MW referred for urgent scan – had to wait 8 days.

Now when I was pregnant, I had a few occasions where I was referred for urgent scans, non-urgent scans, blood tests and was admitted a few times, and the hospital I went to were brilliant. For the urgent scan, I was in the next day. That said, I didn’t exactly have a great birth experience there and I had decided that if I had another, I wouldn’t go there. I’m now having 2nd thoughts!

Is 7-8 day wait the norm or was I just very lucky? I’d be interested in your experiences.

    

Child Diabetes care ‘worsening’

 
Child with diabetes
Many children do not control their blood sugar levels well.
Many children with diabetes are at risk of losing limbs because the financial problems of the NHS in England are hitting services, a charity warns.

Diabetes UK says 80% of children with diabetes have poor glucose control – putting them at risk of complications.

The Department of Health admitted services were patchy, but said measures would be announced next month.

In the UK, there are 20,000 children under the age of 15 with insulin-dependent, or type 1 diabetes.

Another 1,000 children have type 2, which is associated with obesity – but many more are undiagnosed.

The Diabetes UK report said services for children with diabetes had deterioriated in 75% of the areas studied between 2005 and 2006.

It said NHS deficits had led to paediatric diabetes specialist nurses (PDSNs) being overstretched.

According to the Royal College of Nursing, there should be no more than 70 children to each nurse.

But the report said some NHS trusts have caseloads of up to 300 children.

It found that almost every region in Engalnd had seen an increase in the number of children managed by each PDSN.

Psychological support

Over a third (40%) of trusts had no protocols for transferring children into adult diabetic care while nearly a third of youngsters who wanted psychological support did not receive it.

Douglas Smallwood, chief executive of Diabetes UK, said: “No wonder 80% of children have poor blood glucose control.

“Most are struggling to even see a specialist nurse, so any additional support is out of the question.

“With the inevitable explosion of children with type 2 diabetes, with no additional resources, nurses will be faced with ever increasing caseloads.

“We can’t afford to wait until our children start to lose their sight or need kidney dialysis before we make sure services improve.

“It is time resources are provided to supply the best possible specialised care and support for children with diabetes.”

InfoBank launched

A “Diabetes InfoBank” is also being launched, which will show progress in meeting Government targets.

People will be able to access information on diabetic care in their area by going to www.diabetes.org.uk/infobank.

Diabetes can lead to complications like heart disease, strokes, nerve damage which can cause amputations, blindness and kidney failure.

A Department of Health spokesperson said: “We recognise that diabetes care for children is variable.

“We are publishing a report next month which is the result of a wide ranging working group, which included parents, clinicians, commissioners, cross-government departments and Diabetes UK, set up to look at the issues.

“The report will make recommendations in a number of areas including provision of appropriate services for younger people.”

Day-time Cot Death Risk Warning

 
baby lying on its back
Babies should be put to sleep on their back to reduce cot death risk.
Measures to cut the risk of cot death must be taken for day-time naps as well as night-time sleeps, expert say.

Researchers said this includes both the advice that babies should sleep on their backs and that they should be in the same room as their parents.

They found three-quarters of babies who died during the day were sleeping in a room where an adult was not present.

The study, published in the International Journal of Epidemiology, studied 1,625 children.

Around 300 babies under the age of one die each year in the UK from cot death, or sudden infant death syndrome.

“For day-time naps, we suggest keeping your baby nearby in a carrycot or in a playpen while you go about your daily chores or, if possible, having a nap whenever your baby naps”
Joyce Epstein, of the Foundation for the Study of Infant Deaths

The latest research, carried out by experts from Bristol University, Newcastle’s Royal Victoria Infirmary and the Nuffield Institute for Health, was conducted over three years and included 325 infants in the UK who died and 1,300 of a similar age who did not.

The overwhelming majority of deaths – 83% – occurred at night-time, but of those that happened during the day, 75% were when babies were left in rooms unattended.

The study, partly funded by the Foundation for the Study of Infant Deaths, found that one in four of the babies left unattended had bedclothes over their head, compared to one in 10 where a parent was present.

The results also showed that death could happen extremely quickly.

Among the deaths that happened during the day, 38% were observed to be alive 30 minutes before they were found dead and 9% 10 minutes before they were found.

Ignore

Report co-author Peter Fleming said: “I think what this shows is that we cannot ignore what has traditionally been done.

“In the past and in other cultures it is unheard of to leave babies on their own, it is something people in western countries should get back to.”

And Joyce Epstein, director of the Foundation for the Study of Infant Deaths, said: “Parents have long been advised of the importance of sleeping babies on their back and not letting their head get covered by bedclothes, and this study shows that the advice needs to be followed day and night.

“For day-time naps, we suggest keeping your baby nearby in a carrycot or in a playpen while you go about your daily chores or, if possible, having a nap whenever your baby naps.”

Tantrums – help!

Hi, I’m new to this site, but already need advice! I have twin girls, 16 months, and one of them has started throwing horrifc tantrums.

Yesterday she screamed for 2 hours non-stop over her dinner. She wanted to do it herself, but ends up throwing it everywhere and then doesn’t eat anything, so I took it off her, nut sure that was the right thing to do though? I gave her a yoghurt, but all she wanted to do was squeeze the pot until it flew out everywhere. I ended up giving her chocolate buttons to stop the screaming, I know that was completely wrong and I’m so annoyed with myself for doing it.

I know she’s got to the age where she wants to be independent, so should I just let her get on with it? What do I do when she doesn’t eat anything cause it’s all over the floor?!

Help!

ps the other twin is as placid as anything!