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Children's Health

How many kids exposed to lead go untested?

More Georgia children should be screened for potentially dangerous levels of lead in their blood, public health officials say.

The testing is especially important for kids in higher-risk areas, says Chris Rustin, director of environmental health for the state Department of Public Health.

Lead Counties

But children in those riskier areas are often are less likely to get lead testing than those in safer neighborhoods, he says.

Lead poisoning is particularly dangerous for children under age 6. It can cause central nervous system damage and intellectual and behavioral deficits, among other health effects.

“The neurological damage in some cases can be irreversible,’’ Rustin says.

The most dangerous situations generally occur in homes built before 1978, which contain lead paint.

Some children in older houses “are picking up lead dust,’’ Rustin says. Children can ingest dust or paint chips or inhale lead particles. Other sources of lead include toys and imported pottery.

African-American children and kids living in poverty have a higher risk of lead exposure.

Public Health officials are working with Georgia pediatricians to publicize the importance of lead screening.

Medicaid rules require testing of young children for lead poisoning, but Georgia and other states appear to have large gaps in these screenings.  full story

Agreement smooths way for autism bill

The impasse over Georgia’s autism coverage bill has ended.

A compromise between House and Senate leaders, announced Thursday, would clear the way for a vote on the measure before the General Assembly session ends next week.

And the first legislative step came Friday morning, with approval of a newly reworked bill by the Senate Insurance and Labor Committee.

Rep. Richard Smith

Rep. Richard Smith

The compromise occurred only days after the autism legislation appeared stuck and probably doomed in the House Insurance Committee.

Senate Bill 1 would require many health insurance plans to cover applied behavior analysis (ABA), a treatment designed to help young children with autism reach their full potential in learning ability. The legislation would apply only to children 6 and under, and would not require coverage by large companies that self-insure their benefits.

A similar bill was unable to win approval last year, blocked in a standoff between the Senate and the House.

At the beginning of the week, it looked as though this year’s autism bill would also fail. full story

Medical cannabis proposal nears the finish line

A two-year quest for medical cannabis in Georgia has a successful end in sight.

The state Senate passed legislation Tuesday to allow the use of medical marijuana for eight health conditions, after rejecting amendments that would have substantially changed or gutted the bill.

Rep. Allen Peake and Sen. Renee Unterman confer before the vote

Rep. Allen Peake and Sen. Renee Unterman confer before the vote

The House is expected to agree Wednesday to the version revised by the Senate, and if so, it goes to the governor for his signature.

“This is a great day,’’ said State Rep. Allen Peake (R-Macon) with a whoop after the 48-6 Senate vote. Peake has been the main sponsor of House Bill 1. “We want to bring our medical refugees home.”

Peake was referring to Georgia parents who are living with their ailing children in Colorado to give the youngsters access to medical cannabis. Colorado’s relaxed marijuana laws have made it a magnet for families whose children need the treatment.

“There are many families living out of state,’’ Sen. Butch Miller (R-Gainesville) told the Senate chamber before the debate on the bill. “No man should be separated from his family’’ due to health reasons, he added. full story

Autism bill appears stalled in Georgia House

The fight over autism treatment coverage continued in a House committee hearing Monday, pitting organizations concerned about costs against those advocating for the most effective services for children.

Sen. Charlie Bethel

Sen. Charlie Bethel

Senate Bill 1 would require many health insurance plans to cover applied behavior analysis (ABA), a treatment designed to help young children with autism reach their full potential in learning ability.

The issue is contentious. A similar bill was unable to win approval last year, stymied in a standoff between the Senate and the House. And the House Insurance Committee hearing concluded Monday with no vote taken on the bill.

The General Assembly session is expected to end next week.

One in 68 children has been diagnosed with autism nationally, with a Georgia rate of 1 in 64.

Sen. Charlie Bethel (R-Dalton), the legislation’s main sponsor, told the House panel that autism “is a public health crisis in all of our communities.”  full story

Georgians help a nation stretch its health resources

Mozambique, like many African countries, suffers from an array of health care problems.

Life expectancy there is just 50 years old. The adult HIV rate is 11 percent.

Mozambique (in dark blue)

Mozambique (in dark blue)

And, like many African nations, Mozambique has a shortage of skilled health care workers.

The World Health Organization recommends 235 health care workers per 100,000 population. Mozambique in 2012 had 75 workers per 100,000.

It’s that shortage that three Atlanta area organizations have teamed up to address.

The Task Force for Global Health, the CDC and a group of Georgia Tech students have produced a new Excel-based tool that can help a nation distribute health care workers more evenly around a country — ensuring that the sickest people have access to care.

The tool was developed for Mozambique, where it will be piloted this year. full story

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