Research and Reports
While officials in some school districts are still worried about the large number of uninoculated children in the schools, measles, at least, is less of a problem than ever.
The Centers for Disease Control in Atlanta reported this month that ''measles transmission is currently at the lowest level since 1925," when state health officials first began reporting communicable diseases to the national center. Between Aug. 30 and Sept. 5, there were only five measles cases reported nationally--"an all-time low for any week in any year," according to cdc's Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report.
In the first 36 weeks of 1981, according to cdc, the number of reported measles cases declined by 79 percent. Last year, 12,825 cases were reported during the 36-week period; this year, however, cdc received reports of only 2,649 cases of measles. Between Aug. 16 and Sept. 12, only 1 percent--34 out of 3,144--of the counties in the United States8p3reported cases of measles.
Officials of the center attribute the dramatic drop in measles to the "measles-elimination strategy"--the nationwide immunization effort started by cdc in 1979--and to a characteristic seasonal drop in late summer and early fall.
"School laws should be fully enforced," they recommend, "and students should be excluded from school if they lack evidence of adequate immunity to measles."
All too often, researchers have found, abused children are also poor children. But many studies conducted so far have left open the question of cause.
A new study, conducted by Laurence D. Steinberg, Ralph Catalano, and David Dooley of the University of California at Irvine, suggests that a community's economic well-being may be a predictor of child abuse.
The researchers demonstrated that increases of reported child abuse are preceded by periods of high job loss--that is, economic stress may lead normally non-abusive parents to abuse their children. In short, they write, "The loss of jobs in a community may endanger the well-being of children."
In a 30-month study of two metropolitan communities, the researchers examined unemployment rates and changes in the size of the work force, both useful "economic indicators."
They found that declines in the work force are significantly related to reported child abuse. The finding is, they write, "consistent with the hypothesis that undesirable economic change causes family stress, resulting in subsequent child abuse."
In most states, educators and others who work with children are required by law to report suspected incidents of abuse.
Children who watch large amounts of television are likely to have poor health and nutritional habits, according to a researcher at the University of Pennsylvania.
In "What Television Teaches About Doctors and Health," a report published in the October New England Journal of Medicine, George Gerbner of the university's Annenberg School of Communications writes that "prime-time nutrition is anything but balanced or relaxed."
According to Mr. Gerbner, the most common meal in prime-time and Saturday-morning television is "the snack," and it rarely consists of fruit. About one-fourth of prime-time commericals are for food--mostly sweets, snacks, and "junk" foods. Only 9 percent of these food commercials, he says, contain "objective nutritional appeals."
The study also shows high incidences of physical mayhem, drinking, and eating on television programs. But according to Mr. Gerbner, characters are generally slim, safe, and sober.
Mr. Gerbner's research shows, he says, that those who watch more television are more likely to be complacent about eating, drinking, and exercise. He also notes very high confidence in doctors due to their characteristically heroic portrayals on television.
"The cultivation of complacency," he says, "coupled with an unrealistic belief in the 'magic of medicine,' is likely to perpetuate unhealthy lifestyles and set up both patients and health professionals for disappointment, frustration, and litigation."