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Children's Health

Georgia, South still low in health rankings

Georgia retained its ranking of 38th in a newly released 2014 state-by-state health report card.

healthyfoodimageSouthern states generally ranked at the bottom in the annual report by America’s Health Rankings.

The report says Georgia has strengths that include a low prevalence of binge drinking; a low rate of drug deaths; and a low occupational fatality rate.

Since 1990, Georgia’s infant mortality has decreased by 48 percent from 12.6 to 6.6 deaths per 1,000 live births, the report said. And in the past year, premature deaths in Georgia decreased by 8 percent.

The report said Georgia’s weaknesses include a low rate of high school graduation, a high prevalence of low-birthweight babies, and a limited availability of dentists.

In the past two years, obesity increased from 28 percent of Georgia adults to 30.3 percent. And in the past year, diabetes increased from 9.9 percent to 10.8 percent of adults.

Georgia also has a high level of uninsured residents, where it’s ranked 46th. full story

Contest targets teen prescription drug abuse

The video begins with a teenage boy opening a cabinet to grab a bottle of prescription drugs.

“A few little pills can’t hurt, right?’’ says the narrator.

The teenager then is shown on the floor, apparently unconscious.

The video, produced by George Walton Comprehensive High School students in Marietta, won a Georgia high school video contest aimed at preventing prescription drug abuse among teenagers.

YouTube Preview ImagePrescription drug abuse is a problem that affects almost all age groups.

Among teens, a national CDC-sponsored survey in 2013 found that nearly one in five high school students has taken a prescription drug without a doctor’s prescription. The survey asked if they’d ever taken a drug such as OxyContin, Percocet, Vicodin, Adderall, Ritalin or Xanax, without a prescription.  full story

Will 2015 be the year for medical marijuana?

marlo

Marlo Smith

Marlo Smith used to have up to 30 seizures a day. Now she’s down to roughly one seizure every two or three days.

The improvement in the youngster’s condition came after she and her mother and siblings moved from Georgia to Colorado.

Colorado has relaxed its laws against marijuana use, and has drawn many families from other states seeking medical cannabis treatment. Marlo, 7, is receiving three doses a day of cannabis oil there.

Meanwhile, her father, Dr. James Smith, is still in Georgia, living apart from his family and continuing his work as an emergency physician at Gwinnett Medical Center.

But if a Georgia House bill to legalize medical marijuana is approved in next year’s General Assembly, the Smiths could be reunited and resume their normal family life in metro Atlanta.

If that occurs, a hopeful Dr. Smith told reporters Wednesday, “I get to see her all the time. I get to have my family back. It’d be Christmas.’’

State Rep. Allen Peake introduced James and Courtney Smith at a state Capitol news conference focused on his bill to make medical marijuana legal in Georgia. Peake, a Macon Republican, said the Smiths are among at least 17 Georgia families living in Colorado so they can have access to medical marijuana. full story

State Medicaid chief stepping down

Jerry Dubberly is leaving his position as Georgia’s Medicaid director, effective Jan. 2.

Jerry Dubberly

Jerry Dubberly

He’s stepping down from what experts consider a vitally important job in Georgia health care.

As Medicaid chief, Dubberly oversees the services for about 1.9 million Georgians in Medicaid and PeachCare, with a state budget of more than $2.5 billion.

Dubberly could not be reached for comment.

The Department of Community Health said in an email statement to GHN that Commissioner Clyde Reese is working on filling the vacancy.

It’s difficult to find someone to do the job well, experts say. full story

Premature births show slow decline in state

Georgia’s preterm birth rate remained steady in 2013 at 12.7 percent, earning the state a “C’’ grade on an annual March of Dimes report card released Thursday.

The data, though, show Georgia’s premature birth generally declining since 2006, when the percentage hit 14.1 percent.

The national preterm birth rate, meanwhile, fell to 11.7 percent in 2013, the lowest in 17 years, the March of Dimes said.

Women in some rural counties are having to drive long distances to deliver their babies.Preterm births — those before 37 completed weeks of pregnancy — cost the U.S. more than $26 billion annually, according to the Institute of Medicine. And preterm birth is the leading cause of newborn death.

Babies who survive an early birth often face the risk of lifelong medical challenges, such as breathing problems and cerebral palsy. Even babies born just a few weeks early have higher rates of hospitalization and illness than full-term infants.

The report card shows Georgia did well in reducing late preterm births, and the percentage of Georgia women who smoke also has dropped. Smoking by the mother is a risk factor for early births.

Yet one problem area has become worse: Insurance coverage for women in the state. full story

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