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Children's Health

The limits of physical evidence in sex abuse cases

Historically, the hymen, a thin piece of skin-like tissue that stretches partly across the opening of the vagina, has been known as the “virginity shield.”

It’s commonly believed that if the hymen is undamaged, sexual penetration has not occurred, particularly in the case of a child.

But this idea is false. Sometimes, a woman may have an intact hymen and show no signs of physical damage even after having been sexually assaulted. And the same is true of a little girl.

Gail Hornor, a pediatric nurse practitioner and child maltreatment researcher at Nationwide Children’s Hospital in Columbus, Ohio, says the myth about the hymen has been around forever and comes up often in her work. People find it especially hard to believe that a sexually abused child would not show some physical evidence of what happened.  full story

2 more hospitals closing baby delivery units

Dr. Roslyn Banks-Jackson worries about what will happen to many women of Emanuel County when the local hospital shuts its labor and delivery unit.

Dr. Roslyn Banks-Jackson

Dr. Roslyn Banks-Jackson

She’s the only ob/gyn currently practicing in the east-central Georgia county. And the practice, Emanuel OB/GYN Clinic, owned by the hospital, will soon be closing as well.

Many of her low-income patients have no transportation, and they either walk or have to get rides from friends or relatives to get to their appointments.

When the closures come, those of Banks-Jackson’s patients who do have cars will be driving 30 to 40 minutes to other counties to deliver their babies, said her office manager, Ashley Williamson. Some patients may wind up delivering in the local emergency room, Williamson added.

Emanuel Medical Center, citing high costs and low reimbursements, decided last month to close the hospital’s obstetrical program June 30.

“I’m 100 percent positive we’ll have worsening [patient] outcomes as a county,’’ Banks-Jackson said Monday. For patients without a car, “I seriously doubt they’ll get prenatal care.’’

The shuttering of the labor and delivery unit follows similar actions by other hospitals across the state. The obstetrical closures have hit especially hard in rural Georgia, where health care has been imperiled by doctor shortages and shaky hospital finances. full story

Teen suicide gets new priority in Georgia

He was a solid student, loved sports, and was active in a youth group.

Jason Flatt with his father, Clark.

Jason Flatt with his father, Clark.

But Jason Flatt, who lived in suburban Nashville, used his father’s gun to commit suicide at age 16.

Since his 1997 death, his father, Clark Flatt, has helped raise awareness of youth suicide, including among educators.

He created the nonprofit Jason Foundation, which works to prevent teenage suicide. And 10 years after his death, the Jason Flatt Act was passed in Tennessee, requiring educators to complete two hours of youth suicide awareness and prevention training each year in order to be able to be licensed to teach in Tennessee.

The General Assembly recently passed a bill that would make Georgia the 14th state to pass the Jason Flatt Act.

Youth suicide “is a hugely growing problem and is heartbreaking,’’ says state Rep. Katie Dempsey (R-Rome), the legislation’s lead sponsor. full story

Health legislation — Who won and who lost?

With the 2015 General Assembly session ending last week, here’s a list of the health care winners and losers during the 40 days of the Legislature.

clipboardAgree with GHN’s list? What did we leave out? Let us know . . .

Winners from the Legislative session:

Children’s health – Medical cannabis use was legalized for children with seizure disorders, so Georgia families living in Colorado to get access to the medicine can return home. Legislation was approved to require insurers to cover applied behavior analysis for young children with autism.

Primary care doctors and ob/gyns – They got a long-delayed pay bump of $23 million in state funds for treating Medicaid patients, which will be matched by an even higher amount from the feds.

The hospital industry – It lobbied hard and protected itself from changes to the state’s regulations for health care facilities, known as CON laws. (But hospitals got no legislative action on expanding Medicaid, a step that has buoyed the finances of struggling health care facilities in other states.) full story

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

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