Health & Medicine

Can stand-up desks help kids avoid becoming obese?

Can using a stand-up desk at school help prevent obesity in kids?

Possibly yes, according to a study of 193 elementary school students conducted by researchers from the University of Louisville and Texas A&M University.

The study, published recently in the American Journal of Public Health, covered third- and fourth-grade students at three Texas elementary schools. Some sat at traditional desks, while others used a “stand-biased” desk, which had a footrest and stool so children could get off their feet when needed.

After two years, those at standing desks experienced a 5.2 percent decrease in their body mass index percentile than those using traditional school desks. (BMI or body mass index is a measurement of body fat and an indicator of obesity.) The rates were adjusted for grade, race and gender.

“Changing classrooms to stand-biased environments has the potential to affect millions of children by interrupting sedentary behavior. … This can be done simply, at a low cost, and without disrupting classroom instruction,” said Monica Wendel, a researcher at the University of Louisville School of Public Health and Information Sciences.

Standing desks in classrooms could have a major impact on public health, Wendel said.

In the past 30 years, the percentage of obese kids, ages 6 to 11, more than doubled, from 7 percent in 1980 to nearly 18 percent in 2012, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Obese children and teens are at greater risk for Type 2 diabetes, heart disease, high blood pressure, cholesterol, asthma, sleep apnea and social discrimination by peers.

App lets patients ‘speak for myself’

For patients hooked up to a ventilator, the inability to verbally communicate with doctors and nurses is unspeakably frustrating, if not potentially dangerous.

A new app, called Speak for Myself, is designed to improve communication for intubated patients who are awake and alert but cannot speak. The app was designed by a nursing school Ph.D. candidate and a professor at Florida Atlantic University.

In a limited study, it was tested on 20 patients, ages 45 to 91, in surgical, cardiovascular and neurological ICUs at three Florida hospitals. The results were recently published in the CIN: Computers, Informatics, Nursing journal.

The app enables patients to use a tablet screen to indicate the location and level of their pain. For instance, when a patient touches a specific body spot on the screen, a voice says “It hurts here.”

It also helps patients convey feelings of pain and loneliness, as well as physical needs, such as suctioning, repositioning and having to use the toilet. Patients can type in single words or full sentences to express themselves.

In one example, a patient with unresolved throat pain was able to get assessed properly using the tablet, according to the study. Health care providers discovered his pain was caused by a nasogastric tube that became twisted. In another case, a patient on a ventilator asked nurses to help document her end-of-life wishes.

According to one estimate, about 800,000 patients a year are on ventilators following surgeries or medical complications.

With easier communication, “patients will have less frustration, their pain will be better controlled and they will have a greater opportunity to participate in their own care,” according to a statement by Ruth Tappen, a nursing professor at Florida Atlantic University.

The app was developed by Rebecca Koszalinski, an assistant professor in the College of Nursing at the University of Tennessee, Knoxville.

Cancer is a bigger worry than Zika, says Mayo study

More Americans are worried about cancer than the Zika virus, and brain cancer tops their list as the “scariest” cancer.

When it comes to sleep, barely half – 49 percent – of those surveyed report getting “a good night’s sleep,” anywhere from seven to nine hours, but only half the time. About 86 percent report experiencing headaches, with stress, hunger and lack of sleep as the main triggers.

Those are among the varied findings from the second Mayo Clinic National Health Checkup survey, which polled more than 1,000 U.S. adults by phone in July.

The survey found that most Americans considered cancer the biggest U.S. health challenge, followed by obesity, neurological disease, diabetes and heart disease. The risk of Zika, ebola and HIV/AIDS were tied as the least significant health concerns. When asked to rank cancer, the most alarming was brain cancer, followed by pancreatic, lung and breast. Lowest on the list were colon and skin cancer.

Claudia Buck: 916-321-1968, @Claudia_Buck