OnCentral | Reporting on health and quality of life in South LA

More than 9 in 10 US children had health insurance in 2011: report

Between 2008 and 2011, the number of children under 18 covered by public insurance programs rose, while private insurance coverage rates dropped.
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More than nine in 10 U.S. children were covered by health insurance in 2011, setting a record and underscoring the impact of government-sponsored insurance programs.

That's according to a new report from the Carsey Institute at the University of New Hampshire, which conducts research on youth, families and community development.

Nearly 93 percent of children younger than 18 had health insurance in 2011, which marked an uptick of more than 2 percent since 2008. The report highlighted a trend of greater reliance on public insurance: In that three-year time period, the number of children covered by public insurance increased by more than 9 percent, while those covered by private insurance decreased by 5 percent.

That's likely due to "policies enacted to increase participation in government-sponsored health insurance programs," said the study's lead author, Michael Staley, in a statement. He's a research assistant at the Carsey Institute who specializes in sociology, and explained that a lot of people are taking jobs that don't offer sufficient health benefits, leading folks to turn to public programs.


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Natural History Museum celebrates its 100th birthday all year long

L.A.'s Natural History Museum turns 100 this year and has planned months of events and new exhibits to celebrate the occasion.
Flickr via Greg Lilly Photos

Mastodons and dinosaurs, ready your party hats: The Natural History Museum (NHM) is celebrating its 100th birthday this year and the Exposition Park museum is pulling out all the stops over the coming months.

From cocktail-driven safaris to the unveiling of new exhibits and outdoor science projects, the museum will embrace its centennial while looking forward to the next one.

“By the time NHM reaches its centennial in November 2013, it will have reaffirmed and honored its past while setting a thoroughly new example of how a museum can be a part of the life of a 21st century metropolis,” said NHM President and Director Dr. Jane Pisano in a statement. “At a time when humanity’s impact on the environment is front-page news, NHM has established a new mission to inspire wonder, discovery, and responsibility for our natural and cultural worlds.” 


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Rethinking mammograms and why diet soda mixers give a better buzz: In health news today

Using diet soda as a mixer for alcoholic drinks, says a new study, can give you a considerably stronger buzz.
Chelsea Nesvig/Flickr Creative Commons

Nearly 93 percent of children younger than 18 in the U.S. were covered by health insurance in 2011, according to a new Carsey Institute brief, which marks a rise of 2.5 percent from 2008. The rate of private coverage among children decreased by five percentage points during that three-year period; the rate of public coverage, however, rose by more than nine.

A new report appearing in CA: A Cancer Journal for Clinicians finds that from 2000 to 2009, the cancer death rate among black men decreased at a faster rate than it did for white men, which translates to about 200,000 cancer deaths avoided among black people overall since the early 1990s. Still, disparities remain: Researchers noted that cancer death rates among black men are still 33 percent higher than those of their white counterparts.


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'A major step forward': Charles Drew president to be inaugurated more than 1 year after taking over

Dr. David Carlisle has been so busy keeping the South L.A.'s Charles Drew University financially and academically stable since his tenure began in July 2011 that he hasn't had time for an inauguration ceremony.
Charles Drew University

Imagine if the president of the United States got elected, but then immediately became so busy that he couldn't find time to be inaugurated until about a year-and-a-half later.

That's essentially what happened to Dr. David Carlisle, who took the reins as president of Charles Drew University in July 2011. At the time, he had enough to worry about without an impending inauguration on his plate. The South L.A. medical school was coming off years of shaky accreditation, even shakier financial stability and a beleaguered relationship with Martin Luther King, Jr. Community Hospital, which had become notorious for incompetence.

Carlisle's being appointed president was a key part of a successful last-ditch attempt to save the university. Since then, the school has taken a rather remarkable turn – for the better.


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Nearly 1 in 10 teens with mental illness drinks, smokes and uses pot weekly

Nearly one in five young teens seeking help for mental illness said they smoked cigarettes daily.
Photocapy/Flickr Creative Commons

Around one in 10 mentally ill teenagers drinks alcohol, smokes cigarettes and uses marijuana at least once a week, which doesn't bode well for those teens' long-term physical and mental health.

That's according to a new Australian study, published in the journal BMJ Open.

The rate of substance abuse among the mentally ill increased as they got older, said researchers, highlighting evidence that early "substance misuse" increases a person's risk of developing mental illness – and vice versa. (That means that early-onset mental disorders "are associated with increased risk of alcohol or other substance misuse" as well.)

All of that, of course, is "likely to contribute to increased risk of poor physical and/or mental health outcomes," as the authors put it.

Among their findings:

  • 12 percent of young teens (between the ages of 12 and 17) seeking help for mental illness said they drank at least once a week.
  • 7 percent admitted to smoking pot at least once a week.
  • 23 percent said they smoked cigarettes daily.
  • The average age at which these patterns begin is 15 years old.
  • Users of any or all of these substances were more likely to be male, older and psychotic/bipolar.


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