During the 2004 playoff and World Series run, nothing could tear Red Sox fans away from the TV—including, apparently, a medical emergency.
A study by Children's Hospital Boston researchers found that local emergency departments (EDs) saw an increase in visits when the Red Sox were losing—and a dip when they were doing well. They plotted hourly visit rates at six Boston-area EDs (including Children's) against local TV Nielsen ratings. During the lowest-rated games—American League Championship Series (ALCS) games 3 and 4 vs. the New York Yankees, when the Red Sox were losing and facing elimination—visits to the ED were about 15 percent higher than expected.
But then the Red Sox won game 4. And just like that, the tide of visits to the ED—like the Series itself—began to change.
During game 5 of the ALCS, Nielsen ratings surged and ED visits dipped about 5 percent below normal. By the World-Series-clinching game against the St. Louis Cardinals, visits were 15 percent lower than expected.
"The public health finding here is that people use discretion in deciding when to show up in the emergency department," says senior study author Kenneth Mandl, MD, MPH.
A survey of more than 10,000 adolescents nationwide finds that three in 10 think often about wanting toned or defined muscles, leading many to use hormones and dietary supplements.
Overall, 12 percent of boys and 8 percent of girls reported using products in the past year to improve their muscle mass or strength—and nearly 5 percent of boys and 2 percent of girls did so at least weekly. Among teens who thought often about their muscles, weekly supplement use was doubled among girls and 60 percent higher among boys.
The most popular products were protein powders and shakes; others included creatine, the hormone dehydroepiandrosterone, growth hormone and anabolic steroids. Anabolic steroids have known, serious side effects, but the safety of the other products is unclear.
The study, published in the August Pediatrics, also found doubled rates of weekly supplement use among girls seeking to emulate women in the media and among boys who read men's fashion or health/fitness magazines. "More and more media images show people with sculpted physiques that are impossible for most people to attain," says study leader Alison Field, ScD.
Meticulous mapping of Chicago by Children's Hospital Boston researchers and colleagues from the Harvard School of Public Health documents what many already suspect: fast-food restaurants are clustered around schools. Bryn Austin, ScD, led the study, which found three to four times more fast-food restaurants within a mile of a school than would be expected had the eateries been built without schools in mind. Half the city's schools had at least one fast-food restaurant within a 0.3-mile radius, or just over a five-minute walk, and more than three quarters had one within a 10-minute walk.
Austin and her collaborators worry about putting fast food so close to schoolchildren. "In the midst of an obesity epidemic, we're sending our schoolchildren into environments where there's an abundance of high-calorie, low-nutritional-quality, inexpensive food," says Austin.
The team's findings were reported in the September issue of the American Journal of Public Health.