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Health Highlights: Feb. 20, 2014

Here are some of the latest health and medical news developments, compiled by the editors of HealthDay:

Fatal Crash Rates for Older Drivers Falling: Study

The number of older American drivers involved in deadly traffic crashes has fallen sharply since the mid-1990s, according to a new study.

It found that fatal crash rates per licensed driver decreased 30 percent for middle-aged drivers and 42 percent for older drivers between 1997 and 2012, the Associated Press.

Based on miles driven, rates of deadly crashes declined 26 percent for middle-aged drivers and 39 percent for older drivers between 1995 and 2008, according to the study by the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety.

The greatest decrease occurred among drivers age 80 and over and was nearly twice that of middle-aged drivers and those ages 70 to 74, the Associated Press reported.

Seniors are less likely to be involved in deadly crashes because they're healthier and vehicles are safer, according to the institute.

"This should help ease fears that aging baby boomers are a safety threat," said study co-author and the institute's senior vice president for research Anne McCartt, the AP reported.

"No matter how we looked at the fatal crash data for this age group -- by licensed drivers or miles driven -- the fatal crash involvement rates for drivers 70 and older declined, and did so at a faster pace than the rates for drivers ages 35 to 54," she noted.

The decline in older drivers' risk of being involved in fatal crashes has occurred at the same time that they're logging more miles per year. For example, drivers 75 and older increased their annual mileage by more than 50 percent from 1995 to 2008, the AP reported.

"The fact that older drivers increased their average mileage ... may indicate that they are remaining physically and mentally comfortable with driving tasks," according to the institute.

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Doctors Seek Help in Dealing With ADHD in Children

Many pediatricians and family doctors in the United States lack expertise in diagnosing and treating attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) in children, and are seeking help from child mental health experts.

One of those specialists is Dr. Peter Jensen, a well-known child psychiatrist who offers ADHD education seminars to health professionals through his nonprofit Resource of Advancing Children's Health Institute, The New York Times reported.

The intensive three-day sessions are held about 10 times a year across the U.S. and about 2,000 health professionals have attended them.

There are only 8,300 child psychiatrists in the U.S. and this low number means that many children with ADHD have to be seen by pediatricians and family doctors, most of whom received little or no training about the disorder in medical school, The Times reported.

Even if medical schools devoted more time to ADHD and other child mental health issues, the benefits wouldn't be seen for 20 or 30 years, Jensen noted.

"We have the problem now, and it needs to be addressed now," the former associate director of child and adolescent research at the U.S. National Institute of Mental Health told The Times.

His seminars emphasize role-playing and lively debate.

"Most continuing medical education is somebody standing up at a podium transmitting facts," Jensen told The Times. "But with ADHD that's like showing a slide show of how to swim the butterfly, and expecting people to go home and swim the butterfly. It takes real hands-on training."

One in seven children in the U.S. is diagnosed with ADHD by the time they turn 18, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention says. ADHD is the second most common (asthma is first) long-term medical condition in children.

Posted: February 2014


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