The 2011 American Academy of Pediatrics Annual Conference

Last month, from October 15th through the 18th, the American Academy of Pediatrics held its annual meeting. Drawing over 8000 physicians, health care professionals and others, it included health professionals who are all dedicated to the well being of infants, children, adolescents and young adults.

Held this year at the Boston Convention and Exhibition Center, the conference served to inform attendees about products and services that pertain to pediatrics and to medicine in general. The Exhibitors list included everyone from those in the pharmaceutical and health care fields to those focused on infant feeding, nutrition, computer technology and beyond.

Leslie McGuire, the Deputy Director at the Teen Screen National Center, explained that “What surprised me was how much these physicians like our kids and care deeply about their futures. In the midst of a busy professional meeting, they embraced the exuberance and energy of youth and had fun with the young patients they serve.”

She described that, as part of the conference, there was a flash mob of pediatricians and a tear-jerking rendition of the Star-Spangled Banner sung by a 10 year old blind and autistic boy.

This year’s conference theme, in staying with First Lady Michelle Obama’s initiative, was focused on childhood obesity. One highlight at the conference, according to Christina Harsanyi from SBR Health, was the new Pediatric Office of the Future that showed technology designs that help physicians to create higher quality medical care.

Seasonal Affective Disorder and The Benefits of Darkness

The clocks have gone back and winter has begun, and one in fifteen people will be affected by Seasonal Affective Disorder, or SAD. Though the early darkness and gloomy mornings can be depressing, there are actually several health benefits to the increased darkness exposure.

Unnatural reliance on artificial lighting both at home and in the office can have negative effects on a person’s health, both physically and mentally. Sleep consultant Dr. Neil Stanley has found that all living things have an instinctive need for daily darkness.

Melatonin and Cancer

In fact, scientists have actually found connections between night-time light and breast cancer. Melatonin, the “darkness hormone,” is one of our body’s natural defenses against cancer. Produced by the pineal gland, melatonin is released in response to darkness. A powerful antioxidant, melatonin is believed to suppress the growth of several types of cancerous cells, including breast and prostate cancer. Not only does lighting reduce melatonin production, it also weakens the immune system and disturbs the biological clock, messing with the body’s most healthy and natural balance. Of course, the reduced sun exposure also lessens the risk of skin cancer.

Take Advantage

While the dark can be depressing, it is important to utilize it and restore strength for next summer. Instead of turning all the lights up and forcing your body to stay up as late as it does during the summer months, why not take advantage of the early nights and catch up on the hundreds of hours of sleep you’re probably missing. And if you’re inclined to leave some lights on while you relax, you may want to consider dim ones, or even candles, for a healthy and relaxing evening.

Diabetes Cases Rise as the UK Piles on the Pounds

The heavier people get, the more likely they are to become yet another statistic in the rising numbers of people afflicted with diabetes.  The UK is showing that very clearly right now, with its latest figures revealing how there has been a 50 percent increase in diabetic sufferers since 2006.  Indeed, just in the last year figures have risen by close to 120,000 according to Britain’s not-for-profit organization, Diabetes UK

Big Bodies, Big Bucks

Apart from the danger element, this is costing the country a fortune.  Indeed, the country’s National  Health System, the NHS, (a government-based health organization that has to provide free health care for all), is now spending a staggering £9billion (nearly $14.5billion) per annum on treating its diabetic patients.  This amounts for nearly a tenth of its entire budget which is really way too much.  Of course, when it is a case of a genetic disorder (Type 1), then it is not under the person’s control or diet-related.   But in the UK it seems that these patients draining the NHS finances are suffering from Type 1.  Indeed, a staggering 90 percent of UK diabetic sufferers have Type 2. What is equally worrying is the increasing amount of children – now up to 1,400 – being diagnosed with Type 2.  In the past, this was more-or-less only seen in adults.

It really seems to be an issue of carrying around excess weight that is resulting in this huge increase in the disease which leads to a greater risk of heart problems, strokes, eye issues and more.  It’s unfortunate since so much progress is being made on the treatment of life-threatening diseases that are less within our control (such as cancer) at a time that more of us are doing this to ourselves, somewhat unnecessarily.  Clearly education is needed on how to combat this issue so people do not suffer or prematurely die, unnecessarily.

Ketchup Gets a Makeover

Heinz Ketchup is getting a makeover.  It seems that there have been quite a few complaints about how Heinz Ketchup has been served in mini-packets in restaurants over the years.  Consumers have said that the packets are too small and ultimately extremely messy; they’re just not as efficient as they should be. 

Heinz Expectations

People expect more from the big Heinz Ketchup giant and thus the company has responded with its manufacture of new, larger, more efficient packets which hold three times as much ketchup.  These are now being served in restaurants, under the name “Dip & Squeeze.”  With this new packet, the top is peeled off and a shallow cup is revealed for dipping. Or, the user can do it the old, traditional way, and tear off the end and squeeze.  Even with the second option however, there is still much more ketchup available and thus consumers end up feeling more satisfied.

The new packets have been available for a while.  In fact, over 220 million “Dip & Squeeze” packets have been shipped by Heinz since March 2011 (when they first appeared in restaurants).  They have been used in Dairy Queen and other chain restaurants now for a while, and plenty of other top eateries are in the testing process.  According to one CBS customer, they are both easy to open and great for dipping!

First Makeover

Perhaps somewhat surprisingly, this is the first time the ketchup packet from Heinz has actually had a makeover in the last four decades since it was first launched.  But the move has definitely not come too soon; company executives have been joking that it only took a year for complaints of the little messy-making packet to begin.

Zambia Gains Independence

Today – 47 years ago to be exact – Zambia gained independence, moving away from British rule.  It became the ninth African state to manage to break away from British sovereignty and Northern Rhodesia, on 25 October 1964.  It was Kenneth Kaunda, who became the country’s first president in its new independent state.  He was the head of the United National Independence Party at the time.  He ruled until 1991 and was able to unite the ethnic fighting amongst the regions in his country, promoting his “humanistic” philosophy through his government, encouraging cooperation and peace among people but at the same time, not so as to diminish the unique characteristics of the individual.

Zambia hasn’t actually changed all that much, unfortunately in the nearly half-century since that momentous day.  However, still the quality and longevity of life is not great for Zambians, especially when comparing it to what goes on in the West.  Life expectancy is less than 55-years-old and since over 15 percent of citizens are infected with the HIV virus, more than 800,000 children in Zambia either only have one parent, or no parents due to HIV/AIDS.

When it comes to work, the majority of Zambians work as subsistence farmers.  The national religion of the country is Christianity and the country’s expatriates (mainly Brits and South Africans) live in northern Zambia, working in mines, and related areas.

“The Magic Tree House” Premieres in Japan

Many parents are familiar with “The Magic Tree House” series, written by Mary Pope Osborne nearly two decades ago. In the books, brother and sister Jack and Annie venture through time to visit everywhere from ancient Egypt to the Titanic.

Coming Soon To Theaters

Now, after years of persuading, Japanese filmmakers are finally bringing the books to theaters. Osborne was opposed to selling the adaptation rights to the books for years, as she felt the educational values of the books would be lost in the films. Known for their benefits in reading, history and geography, Osborne felt the books were best left to children’s imaginations.

The Heart of the Story Remains Intact

Filmmakers visited Osborne and her husband in the U.S., and impressed them with their script and illustrations. Osborne felt that Media Factory’s vision would do a good job adapting the stories, and finally agreed to sell the rights.

At the film’s premiere in Japan, Osborne told Reuters “We thought they totally captured the spirit of the brother and sister in the story. The heart of the story was so intact to me, it was just prefect in that way.”