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Children's Health Matters

Children's Health Matters is a column that shares the latest reporting, research, commentary and ideas on pediatric health and child development; prevention models to reduce health disparities for ill children and children born into poverty; links between maternal and children’s health; and broader trends in children's health and well-being.

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On Tuesday night, news reports focused on the Senate’s expected passing of a bill that changes how Medicare pays doctors. But for children's advocates, the big news was the two-year extension of the Children's Health Insurance program. Here's why it matters.

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A documentary premiering on PBS on Monday tracks the lives of Chicago teens struggling to regain their footing and stay in school after their home lives have fallen apart. The film's three heart-wrenching human stories give deeper meaning to the abstractions of statistics.

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A new study out this week from researchers at UC San Francisco suggests that a mutated form of enterovirus D68 is strongly linked to at least some cases of polio-like limb paralysis. But only a small subset of affected children are affected, for reasons that aren't entirely clear.

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An updated look at youth suicides recently found that suicide rates in rural U.S. counties are double those of urban areas. Figuring out the causes behind the widening disparity is more difficult, but lack of access to mental health services is a big part of the problem in rural areas.

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A new study of kids in the Los Angeles basin found that as air quality “improved dramatically” in recent years, so did the capacity of children's lungs. The study's attributes the gains to more stringent emissions standards. But can the air quality gains continue amid a resurgent economy?

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Two high-profile studies came out this week with similar conclusions: Exposing kids to microbes and allergens may well lead to fewer allergies and better-adjusted immune systems. Tolerance of potential triggers, the studies suggest, is looking more and more like an acquired skill.

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A leading researcher on the ways in which doctors talk to parents about vaccines has a new suggestion for how we might boost immunization rates. Drawing on the theory of nudges, Dr. Douglas Opel suggests parents should have to "opt-out" of vaccinating their kids rather than "opt-in."

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We know that kids who grow up with a lot of adversity are far more likely to suffer poor health and early death as adults. But how well do we understand the means by which early trauma is translated into health problems decades later? Researchers are still teasing apart the mechanisms at work.

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One of the silver linings of the ongoing measles outbreak has been the attention it's placed on the controversial practice of vaccine exemptions. Smart, surprising coverage of Mississippi's tough policy on these exemptions shows why they matter, and how states differ.

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If you write about children’s health or health policy more generally, there’s one topic you won't be able to escape this year: the Children’s Health Insurance Program. The program’s funding will expire in September 2015 unless Congress renews it. Advocates say the program fills a vital need.

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