Low Birth Weights Tell Troubling Tale of Two Cities

birth-weight-disparitiesBy Fernando De Maio, PhD, Patricia O’Campo, PhD, David Ansell, MD, MPH, and Raj C. Shah, MD

Health inequities — differences that are avoidable, unnecessary and unjust — are a striking feature of cities in the United States, including Chicago. While it is true that all of our city’s 77 communities have experienced an improvement in some key health indicators over the past three decades, inequities between communities have grown over this time.

New research from the Center for Community Health Equity — a collaboration of Rush University Medical Center and DePaul University — explores the prevalence of low birth weight deliveries in Chicago communities. (Our study defined this prevalence as the percentage of live births at less than 2,500 grams, or roughly 5.5 pounds.) This statistic is an important indicator of population health and is widely used to study the health effects of racism.

Good health, as we have seen again and again, is a product of social justice, and Chicago’s deep-rooted racial/ethnic segregation harms the health of its residents. Across Chicago communities, the proportion of low birth weight is 10 percent, with the best-off communities near 3 percent and the worst-off communities approaching 20 percent. Segregation plays an important role in explaining these differences: The most highly segregated African-American communities, among them Avalon Park and Washington Heights, have the most prevalent low birth weight rates. Accounting for 70 percent of the differences between communities are segregation, unemployment and low educational attainment, which are factors that all highly correlated with low birth weight.

Continue reading

Protecting Kids From Microwave-Related Scalding

By Kyran Quinlan, MD, MPH

When he was 3 years old, Zamari was at home, waiting for his soup being heated in the microwave. His mother was home with him, but involved in a conversation. Zamari could tell that the microwave had finished cooking and it was time to eat. He couldn’t wait. He left where he was with his mother and went into the kitchen. He opened the door of the microwave and removed the bowl of soup from it, and as he did, it spilled on him. On his chest. Scalding hot soup on his chest.

And he screamed. He says it felt like someone had put a torch on him.

His mother heard his cries and came running. She took his shirt off and pulled his burned, peeling chest skin off with it. He was brought to the hospital and was admitted to the burn unit for care of his wound. He was in tremendous pain. His wound required dressing changes in the operating room. The hospital stay lasted a week and left him with a permanent large scar on his chest.

Continue reading

Is a Gluten-Free Diet Right for My Child?

gluten-childrenBy Anil Kesavan, MD

Food and its impact on health is a common topic of conversation among people. There are television shows, books and countless websites dedicated to the subject. In recent years, one of the most common culprits of concern when it comes to food is gluten.

As a pediatric gastroenterologist at Rush, I often hear questions about gluten. Many of my patients’ parents ask me how a gluten-free diet can affect their child’s health or help improve different symptoms. The answers to their questions are not always simple.

What is gluten?

Let’s start with the basics. Gluten has been an integral part of the human diet for thousands of years. There is currently no scientific evidence that states gluten is intrinsically harmful to healthy children.

Here are some things you should know about gluten: Continue reading

Rush and the ‘Transformative’ SPARK Autism Study

aarts-spark-heerwagenBy Katy Heerwagen

At the Autism Assessment, Research, Treatment and Services (AARTS) Center, we see a wide range of individuals with autism spectrum disorder. As a lifespan center, we may see a 12-month-old for an evaluation and hours later provide therapy for a man in his 40s. In a given day, I can deliver play-based interventions to a nonverbal 2-year-old boy in the morning and provide career-focused counseling to a 27-year-old woman exploring technology jobs in the afternoon. We encounter individuals who have been able to develop a comprehensive program of services and those who continuously struggle to access often-costly resources.

In each of my experiences, I return to the same thought: How can a single disorder look so vastly different for every individual I see?

‘So much we do not know’

This question is at the center of a new research initiative led by members of various departments here at Rush. The SPARK study — Simons Foundation Powering Autism Research for Knowledge — is, at its core, an ambitious, first-of-its-kind autism genetics study aiming to involve 50,000 individuals with autism and their family members. The goal is simple: to advance our understanding of the genetic components of autism and speed up autism research. In adopting this mission, we acknowledge that there is still so much we do not know, and that we need the investment of tens of thousands of individuals to answer the many questions that remain.

Continue reading

Gallery Night 2016: Celebrating Snow City Artists

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

By Jonathan Heuring

Snow City Arts, a valued arts education partner with Rush University Medical Center for more than 18 years, will hold its annual student exhibition and fundraiser, “Gallery Night 2016: Free to Make,” on Friday, Sept. 9. Snow City Arts is the only organization of its kind in Chicago, inspiring and educating children and youth in hospitals through the arts. Snow City Arts is proud to call Rush its longest-standing hospital partner, having established itself on the pediatric ward in 1998.

Snow City Arts uses professional teaching artists trained in the fields of visual art, creative writing, music, theater and media arts. These artists work bedside or in small group settings with patients at Rush University Children’s Hospital free of charge, and provide an arts education that aligns with State and Federal learning standards.

Gallery Night 2016 is the annual celebration of the work of done throughout the year by students in the hospital. This year, more than 400 works of art from more than 150 students will be publicly displayed on Friday at the Ballroom of the School of the Art Institute. This event is the culmination of work happening every day at Rush, by patients as young as 3 years old, into their early 20s. Snow City Arts works with a wide range of patients, from those who are in the hospital for a brief stay, or who come for regular treatments for ten years or more.

Snow City Arts is thrilled to have the opportunity to display their students’ work in such an esteemed artistic venue. Guests at the event can purchase prints of the student work (such as the ones shown here), download albums of student compositions, and bid on unique silent auction packages and experiences.

The highlight of the evening will be the presentation of the 2016 Neisser Award to Keith Boyd, MD, associate professor in the Department of Pediatrics and senior associate dean of Rush Medical College. Dr. Boyd has been a passionate supporter of arts education for children, exemplified by more than 12 years of exemplary service on the board of directors at Snow City Arts.
For more information or to purchase tickets to Gallery Night 2016, go to the Snow City Arts website at www.snowcityarts.org.

Jonathan Heuring is development and communications director for Snow City Arts.

Ricky’s Journey: Fighting Cancer at Age 4

mocks-kent

Paul Kent, MD (left), with Ricky Mock and parents Sue and Dave Mock.

By Sue Mock

Our journey began when Ricky, our beautiful, amazing, fun, special boy, was just 4 years old. Right after his fourth birthday, Ricky started complaining that his leg hurt. Over the next six months, he had about four episodes in which he was inconsolable due to the pain in his leg.

After discussing these episodes with our pediatrician, he referred us to a local orthopedic physician. The orthopedic doctor took an X-ray and said it looked like Ricky had a stress fracture, which is basically impossible for a 4-year-old. So he sent us for an MRI and bone scan at another institution. But even after those tests, he wasn’t sure what was going on with Ricky.

That’s when he referred us to Rush. Our doctor told us that even though he was affiliated with another hospital, he personally would take his family to Midwest Orthopedics at Rush.

A diagnosis no parent wants to hear

Things continued to snowball at the speed of light after our first visit at Rush. Exactly two weeks after his bone biopsy, Ricky was diagnosed with Ewing’s sarcoma, a bone cancer that primarily affects children.

Continue reading

Enabling Speech, Transforming Lives

speech-therapy-readingBy Karen Tessler, PhD

As the speech language pathologist at the Rush Craniofacial Center, I have the great honor of working with patients and families who are coping with birth defects that affect the head and face. These families give new and true meaning to the concept of beauty.

Cleft lip and palate is the most common birth defect, affecting about 1 in 800 births per year. In the Craniofacial Center, we see children with those as well as other less common craniofacial anomalies, such as Apert’s syndrome, which affects skull and facial growth, fingers, toes and the palate.

These congenital defects not only cause irregular appearance, they also result in speech deficits such as hypernasality and articulation disorders. These difficulties affect the ability for these patients to produce speech that others will easily understand.

By using assessment techniques and instituting resonance and articulation therapy, speech pathologists help their patients achieve normal or greatly improved speaking ability. This function, which most of us take for granted, is crucial to a child’s cognitive development, social acceptance and educational success.

Continue reading