PEDIATRICS recent issues

Socioeconomic Disadvantage and the Pace of Biological Aging in Children

BACKGROUND AND OBJECTIVES:

Children who grow up in socioeconomic disadvantage face increased burden of disease and disability throughout their lives. One hypothesized mechanism for this increased burden is that early-life disadvantage accelerates biological processes of aging, increasing vulnerability to subsequent disease. To evaluate this hypothesis and the potential impact of preventive interventions, measures are needed that can quantify early acceleration of biological aging in childhood.

METHODS:

Saliva DNA methylation and socioeconomic circumstances were measured in N = 600 children and adolescents aged 8 to 18 years (48% female) participating in the Texas Twin Project. We measured pace of biological aging using the DunedinPoAm DNA methylation algorithm, developed to quantify the pace-of-aging–related decline in system integrity. We tested if children in more disadvantaged families and neighborhoods exhibited a faster pace of aging as compared with children in more affluent contexts.

RESULTS:

Children living in more disadvantaged families and neighborhoods exhibited a faster DunedinPoAm-measured pace of aging (r = 0.18; P = .001 for both). Latinx-identifying children exhibited a faster DunedinPoAm-measured pace of aging compared with both White- and Latinx White–identifying children, consistent with higher levels of disadvantage in this group. Children with more advanced pubertal development, higher BMI, and more tobacco exposure exhibited faster a faster DunedinPoAm-measured pace of aging. However, DunedinPoAm-measured pace of aging associations with socioeconomic disadvantage were robust to control for these factors.

CONCLUSIONS:

Children growing up under conditions of socioeconomic disadvantage exhibit a faster pace of biological aging. DNA methylation pace of aging might be useful as a surrogate end point in evaluation of programs and policies to address the childhood social determinants of lifelong health disparities.

Improving Delayed Antibiotic Prescribing for Acute Otitis Media

OBJECTIVES:

Acute otitis media (AOM) is the most-common indication for antibiotics in children. Delayed antibiotic prescribing for AOM can significantly reduce unnecessary antibiotic use and is recommended by the American Academy of Pediatrics for select children. We sought to improve delayed prescribing for AOM across 8 outpatient pediatric practices in Colorado.

METHODS:

Through a collaborative initiative with American Academy of Pediatrics and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, we implemented an economical 6-month antimicrobial stewardship intervention that included education, audit and feedback, online resources, and content expertise. Practices used The Model for Improvement and plan-do-study-act cycles to improve delayed antibiotic prescribing. Generalized estimating equations were used to generate relative risk ratios (RRRs) for outcomes at the intervention end and 3- and 6-months postintervention. Practice surveys were evaluated.

RESULTS:

In total, 69 clinicians at 8 practice sites implemented 27 plan-do-study-act cycles. Practices varied by size (range: 6–37 providers), payer type, and geographic setting. The rate of delayed antibiotic prescribing increased from 2% at baseline to 21% at intervention end (RRR: 8.96; 95% confidence interval [CI]: 4.68–17.17). Five practices submitted postintervention data. The rate of delayed prescribing at 3 months and 6 months postintervention remained significantly higher than baseline (3 months postintervention, RRR: 8.46; 95% CI: 4.18–17.11; 6 months postintervention, RRR: 6.69; 95% CI: 3.53–12.65) and did not differ from intervention end (3 months postintervention, RRR: 1.12; 95% CI: 0.62–2.05; 6-months postintervention, RRR: 0.89; 95% CI: 0.53–1.49).

CONCLUSIONS:

Baseline rate of delayed prescribing was low. A low-cost intervention resulted in a significant and sustained increase in delayed antibiotic prescribing across a diversity of settings.

Clinical and Biochemical Markers of Risk in Uncomplicated Severe Acute Malnutrition

BACKGROUND AND OBJECTIVES:

Use of mid–upper arm circumference (MUAC) as a single screening tool for severe acute malnutrition (SAM) assumes that children with a low weight-for-height z score (WHZ) and normal MUAC have lower risks of morbidity and mortality. However, the pathophysiology and functional severity associated with different anthropometric phenotypes of SAM have never been well characterized. We compared clinical characteristics, biochemical features, and health and nutrition histories of nonedematous children with SAM who had (1) low WHZ only, (2) both low WHZ and low MUAC, or (3) low MUAC only.

METHODS:

In Bangladesh, Burkina Faso, and Liberia, we conducted a multicentric cohort study in uncomplicated, nonedematous children with SAM and low MUAC only (n = 161), low WHZ only (n = 138), or a combination of low MUAC and low WHZ (n = 152). Alongside routine anthropometric measurements, we collected a wide range of critical indicators of clinical and nutritional status and viability; these included serum leptin, an adipocytokine negatively associated with mortality risk in SAM.

RESULTS:

Median leptin levels at diagnosis were lower in children with low WHZ only (215.8 pg/mL; P < .001) and in those with combined WHZ and MUAC deficits (180.1 pg/mL; P < .001) than in children with low MUAC only (331.50 pg/mL). The same pattern emerged on a wide range of clinical indicators, including signs of severe wasting, dehydration, serum ferritin levels, and caretaker-reported health deterioration, and was replicated across study sites.

CONCLUSIONS:

Illustrative of the likely heterogeneous functional severity of the different anthropometric phenotypes of SAM, our results confirm the need to retain low WHZ as an independent diagnostic criterion.

A Combined Reach Out and Read and Imagination Library Program on Kindergarten Readiness

OBJECTIVES:

Sharing books with preschoolers is known to improve kindergarten readiness. Both Reach Out and Read (ROR) and Dolly Parton’s Imagination Library (DPIL) have shown positive effects on book sharing at home. We developed a novel combined ROR/DPIL program and examined the effect on kindergarten readiness assessment (KRA) scores.

METHODS:

At urban ROR primary care sites, patients <5 years living in the city school district were enrolled from July 2015 through January 2019 in the ROR/DPIL program when seen for a clinic visit. The literacy subtest of the KRA was examined for participants entering kindergarten in the fall of 2016, 2017, and 2018. The "on-track" rate of participants was compared with nonparticipant groups.

RESULTS:

A total of 797 kindergarten-aged ROR/DPIL participants were matched to Ohio KRA scores for 2016, 2017, and 2018 school years. The percentages of students "on-track" on KRA literacy subtests increased significantly by cohort (2016, 42.9% [95% confidence interval (CI): 34.9%–50.9%] versus 2017, 50.9% [95% CI: 44.9%–56.9%] versus 2018, 58.3% [95% CI: 53.3%–63.3%], P = .004). ROR/DPIL participants were compared with a proportionate stratified random sample of 1580 non-ROR/DPIL peers. On-track in literacy did not significantly differ between groups (2016 [P = .262], 2017 [P = .653], 2018 [P = .656]), nor did they differ after restricting analysis to economically disadvantaged children (2016 [P = .191], 2017 [P = .721], 2018 [P = .191]).

CONCLUSIONS:

With these results, we suggest that a program combining literacy anticipatory guidance at clinic visits and more books in the home can potentially improve kindergarten readiness. Pediatric health care providers can play an important role in promoting kindergarten readiness through literacy promotion.

Pediatric Advance Care Planning and Families Positive Caregiving Appraisals: An RCT

BACKGROUND AND OBJECTIVES:

Little is known about how families respond to pediatric advance care planning. Physicians are concerned that initiating pediatric advance care planning conversations with families is too distressing for families. We examined the effect of family centered pediatric advance care planning intervention for teens with cancer (FACE-TC) advance care planning on families’ appraisals of their caregiving, distress, and strain.

METHODS:

In a randomized clinical trial with adolescents with cancer and their families conducted from July 2016 to April 2019 in 4 tertiary pediatric hospitals, adolescents and family dyads were randomly assigned at a 2:1 intervention/control ratio to either the 3 weekly sessions of FACE-TC (Advance Care Planning Survey; Next Steps: Respecting Choices; Five Wishes) or treatment-as-usual. Only the family member was included in this study. Generalized estimating equations assessed the intervention effect measured by Family Appraisal of Caregiving Questionnaire.

RESULTS:

Families’ (n = 126) mean age was 46 years; 83% were female, and 82% were white. FACE-TC families significantly increased positive caregiving appraisals at 3-months postintervention, compared with those in the control group (β = .35; 95% confidence interval [CI] 0.19 to 0.36; P = .03). No significant differences were found between groups for strain (β = –.14; 95% CI = –0.42 to 0.15; P = .35) or distress (β = –.01; CI = –0.35 to 0.32; P = .93).

CONCLUSIONS:

Families benefited from participation in FACE-TC, which resulted in positive appraisals of their caregiving for their child with cancer, while not significantly burdening them with distress or strain. Clinicians can be assured of the tolerability of this family-supported model.

Comparing Pediatric Gastroenteritis Emergency Department Care in Canada and the United States

BACKGROUND:

Between-country variation in health care resource use and its impact on outcomes in acute care settings have been challenging to disentangle from illness severity by using administrative data.

METHODS:

We conducted a preplanned analysis employing patient-level emergency department (ED) data from children enrolled in 2 previously conducted clinical trials. Participants aged 3 to <48 months with <72 hours of gastroenteritis were recruited in pediatric EDs in the United States (N = 10 sites; 588 participants) and Canada (N = 6 sites; 827 participants). The primary outcome was an unscheduled health care provider visit within 7 days; the secondary outcomes were intravenous fluid administration and hospitalization at or within 7 days of the index visit.

RESULTS:

In adjusted analysis, unscheduled revisits within 7 days did not differ (adjusted odds ratio [aOR]: 0.72; 95% confidence interval (CI): 0.50 to 1.02). At the index ED visit, although participants in Canada were assessed as being more dehydrated, intravenous fluids were administered more frequently in the United States (aOR: 4.6; 95% CI: 2.9 to 7.1). Intravenous fluid administration rates did not differ after enrollment (aOR: 1.4; 95% CI: 0.7 to 2.8; US cohort with Canadian as referent). Overall, intravenous rehydration was higher in the United States (aOR: 3.8; 95% CI: 2.5 to 5.7). Although hospitalization rates during the 7 days after enrollment (aOR: 1.1; 95% CI: 0.4 to 2.6) did not differ, hospitalization at the index visit was more common in the United States (3.9% vs 2.3%; aOR: 3.2; 95% CI: 1.6 to 6.8).

CONCLUSIONS:

Among children with gastroenteritis and similar disease severity, revisit rates were similar in our 2 study cohorts, despite lower rates of intravenous rehydration and hospitalization in Canadian-based EDs.

Self-reported and Documented Substance Use Among Adolescents in the Pediatric Hospital

BACKGROUND AND OBJECTIVES:

Adolescent substance use is associated with numerous adverse health outcomes. A hospitalization represents an opportunity to identify and address substance use. We sought to describe self-reported and documented substance use among hospitalized adolescents.

METHODS:

We conducted a cross-sectional survey of adolescents aged 14 to 18 years old admitted to two pediatric hospitals between August 2019 and March 2020. Using previously validated questions, we assessed the proportion of adolescents reporting ever, monthly, and weekly use of alcohol, marijuana, tobacco, electronic cigarettes, and other illicit drugs and nonmedical use of prescription medications. We reviewed medical records for substance use documentation.

RESULTS:

Among 306 respondents, 57% were older (16–18 years old), 53% were female, and 55% were of non-Hispanic white race and ethnicity. The most frequently reported substances ever used were alcohol (39%), marijuana (33%), and electronic cigarettes (31%); 104 (34%) respondents reported ever use of >1 substance. Compared with younger adolescents, those aged 16 to 18 years were more likely to report ever use of alcohol (29% vs 46%; P = .002), marijuana (22% vs 41%; P < .001), and ≥2 drugs (26% vs 40%; P = .009). A positive substance use history was rarely documented (11% of records reviewed), and concordance between documented and self-reported substance use was also rare.

CONCLUSIONS:

In this study of hospitalized adolescents, the most commonly reported substances used were alcohol, marijuana, and electronic cigarettes. Positive substance use documentation was rare and often discordant with self-reported substance use. Efforts to improve systematic screening for substance use and interventions for prevention and cessation in hospitalized adolescents are critically needed.

Fluoroquinolone Antibiotics and Tendon Injury in Adolescents

OBJECTIVES:

To estimate the association between fluoroquinolone use and tendon injury in adolescents.

METHODS:

We conducted an active-comparator, new-user cohort study using population-based claims data from 2000 to 2018. We included adolescents (aged 12–18 years) with an outpatient prescription fill for an oral fluoroquinolone or comparator broad-spectrum antibiotic. The primary outcome was Achilles, quadricep, patellar, or tibial tendon rupture identified by diagnosis and procedure codes. Tendinitis was a secondary outcome. We used weighting to adjust for measured confounding and a negative control outcome to assess residual confounding.

RESULTS:

The cohort included 4.4 million adolescents with 7.6 million fills for fluoroquinolone (275 767 fills) or comparator (7 365 684) antibiotics. In the 90 days after the index antibiotic prescription, there were 842 tendon ruptures and 16 750 tendinitis diagnoses (crude rates 0.47 and 9.34 per 1000 person-years, respectively). The weighted 90-day tendon rupture risks were 13.6 per 100 000 fluoroquinolone-treated adolescents and 11.6 per 100 000 comparator-treated adolescents (fluoroquinolone-associated excess risk: 1.9 per 100 000 adolescents; 95% confidence interval –2.6 to 6.4); the corresponding number needed to treat to harm was 52 632. For tendinitis, the weighted 90-day risks were 200.8 per 100 000 fluoroquinolone-treated adolescents and 178.1 per 100 000 comparator-treated adolescents (excess risk: 22.7 per 100 000; 95% confidence interval 4.1 to 41.3); the number needed to treat to harm was 4405.

CONCLUSIONS:

The excess risk of tendon rupture associated with fluoroquinolone treatment was extremely small, and these events were rare. The excess risk of tendinitis associated with fluoroquinolone treatment was also small. Other more common potential adverse drug effects may be more important to consider for treatment decision-making, particularly in adolescents without other risk factors for tendon injury.

Short-Duration Electronic Health Record Option Buttons to Reduce Prolonged Length of Antibiotic Therapy in Outpatients

BACKGROUND:

Prolonged antibiotic therapy may be associated with increased adverse events and antibiotic resistance. We deployed an intervention in the electronic health record (EHR) to reduce antibiotic duration for pediatric outpatients.

METHODS:

A preintervention and postintervention interrupted time series analysis of antibiotic duration for 7 antibiotics was performed for patients discharged from the ED and clinics of a children’s hospital network from 2012 to 2018. In February 2015, clickable 5- and 7-day duration option buttons were deployed in the EHR for clindamycin, cephalexin, ciprofloxacin and levofloxacin, trimethoprim-sulfamethoxazole, amoxicillin, and cefdinir, with an additional 10-day option for the latter 2. Prescribers were able to enter a free-text duration. The option buttons were not announced, and were not linked to a specific diagnosis or quality improvement initiative. The primary outcome was proportion of prescriptions per month with duration of 10 days. Balancing secondary outcomes were reorders of the same agent, return to clinic, and inpatient admissions within 30 days.

RESULTS:

There were 54 315 prescriptions for the 7 antibiotics associated with 39 894 patients, 18 683 clinic visits, and 35 632 ED visits. Overall, a –5.1% (95% confidence interval [CI], –8.3% to –2.0%) change in the proportion of prescriptions with a 10-day duration was attributable to the intervention, with larger effects noted for clindamycin (–20.8% [95% CI, –26.9% to –14.7%]) and cephalexin (–9.9% [95% CI, –14.3% to –5.4%]). There was no increase in the reorders of the same agent, return clinical encounters, or inpatient admissions within 30 days.

CONCLUSIONS:

A simple intervention in the EHR can safely reduce duration of antibiotic therapy.

Longitudinal Associations Between Symptoms of ADHD and BMI From Late Childhood to Early Adulthood

BACKGROUND AND OBJECTIVES:

Attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) and obesity are 2 frequent conditions that co-occur, which has implications for the management of both conditions. We hypothesized that ADHD symptoms predict BMI and vice versa from late childhood (10–12 years) up to early adulthood (20–22 years).

METHODS:

Participants were adolescents in the Netherlands (n = 2773, 52.5% male, mean age = 11 years at baseline, 5 waves up to mean age 22) from the Tracking Adolescents’ Individual Lives Survey cohort. We examined bidirectional relationship between ADHD symptoms (hyperactivity/impulsivity and inattention) and BMI using the random intercept cross-lagged panel model. Time-varying covariates were pubertal status, stimulant use, depressive symptoms, and family functioning, and socioeconomic status was a time-invariant covariate.

RESULTS:

We found a time-invariant association of BMI with hyperactivity and impulsivity, but not with inattention, which was slightly stronger in female adolescents (female: r = 0.102; male: r = 0.086, P < .05). No longitudinal direct effects were found between ADHD symptoms and BMI during this period.

CONCLUSIONS:

Over the course of adolescence, the link between ADHD and BMI is stable and is predominantly with hyperactive and impulsive symptoms rather than inattention. There was no direct effect of ADHD symptoms on BMI increase nor of BMI on enhanced ADHD symptoms during this developmental period. The findings point to a shared genetic or familial background and/or potential causal effects established already earlier in childhood, thus suggesting that intervention and prevention programs targeting overweight and obesity in children with ADHD should be implemented in early childhood.

Trends in Bronchiolitis ICU Admissions and Ventilation Practices: 2010-2019

OBJECTIVES:

To determine the changes in ICU admissions, ventilatory support, length of stay, and cost for patients with bronchiolitis in the United States.

METHODS:

Retrospective cross-sectional study of the Pediatric Health Information Systems database. All patients age <2 years admitted with bronchiolitis and discharged between January 1, 2010 and December 31, 2019, were included. Outcomes included proportions of annual ICU admissions, invasive mechanical ventilation (IMV), noninvasive ventilation (NIV), and cost.

RESULTS:

Of 203 859 admissions for bronchiolitis, 39 442 (19.3%) were admitted to an ICU, 6751 (3.3%) received IMV, and 9983 (4.9%) received NIV. ICU admissions for bronchiolitis doubled from 11.7% in 2010 to 24.5% in 2019 (P < .001 for trend), whereas ICU admissions for all children in Pediatric Health Information Systems <2 years of age increased from 16.0% to 21.1% during the same period (P < .001 for trend). Use of NIV increased sevenfold from 1.2% in 2010 to 9.5% in 2019 (P < .001 for trend). Use of IMV did not significantly change (3.3% in 2010 to 2.8% in 2019, P = .414 for trend). In mixed-effects multivariable logistic regression, discharge year was a significant predictor of NIV (odds ratio: 1.24; 95% confidence interval [CI]: 1.23–1.24) and ICU admission (odds ratio: 1.09; 95% CI: 1.09–1.09) but not IMV (odds ratio: 1.00; 95% CI: 1.00–1.00).

CONCLUSIONS:

The proportions of children with bronchiolitis admitted to an ICU and receiving NIV have substantially increased, whereas the proportion receiving IMV is unchanged over the past decade. Further study is needed to better understand the factors underlying these temporal patterns.

Trends in Retinopathy of Prematurity Screening and Treatment: 2008-2018

BACKGROUND AND OBJECTIVES:

Retinopathy of prematurity (ROP) is the leading avoidable and treatable cause of childhood blindness in the United States. The objective of this study was to evaluate trends of ROP screening, incidence, and treatment in US NICUs over the last 11 years.

METHODS:

Using standardized data submitted by NICUs from US Vermont Oxford Network member hospitals from 2008 to 2018 on very low birth weight infants hospitalized at the recommended age for ROP screening, we assessed trends in the proportion of eligible infants who received ROP screening, incidence, and treatment of ROP using logistic regression models.

RESULTS:

This study included 381 065 very low birth weight infants at 819 US NICUs participating in Vermont Oxford Network. Over time, more eligible infants received ROP screening (89% in 2008 to 91% in 2018, trend P < .001). Among those screened, overall ROP (stages 1–5, 37% in 2008 to 32% in 2018), severe ROP (stages 3–5, 8% in 2008 to 6% in 2018), and retinal ablation (6% in 2008 to 2% in 2018) declined and anti–vascular endothelial growth factor injections (1% in 2012 to 2% in 2018) increased (all trend P < .001).

CONCLUSIONS:

Among US hospitals from 2008 to 2018, the proportion of ROP screening among infants hospitalized at the recommended age increased, less overall and severe ROP were reported, less retinal ablation was performed, and more anti–vascular endothelial growth factor treatment was used. Despite increased ROP screening over time, 10% of infants were not screened, representing an opportunity for improvement in health care delivery.

Pharmacologic Treatment in Functional Abdominal Pain Disorders in Children: A Systematic Review

CONTEXT:

Functional abdominal pain disorders (FAPDs) are common in childhood, impacting quality of life and school attendance. There are several compounds available for the treatment of pediatric FAPDs, but their efficacy and safety are unclear because of a lack of head-to-head randomized controlled trials (RCTs).

OBJECTIVE:

To systematically review the efficacy and safety of the pharmacologic treatments available for pediatric FAPDs.

DATA SOURCES:

Electronic databases were searched from inception to February 2021.

STUDY SELECTION:

RCTs or systematic reviews were included if the researchers investigated a study population of children (4–18 years) in whom FAPDs were treated with pharmacologic interventions and compared with placebo, no treatment, or any other agent.

DATA EXTRACTION:

Two reviewers independently performed data extraction and assessed their quality. Any interresearcher disagreements in the assessments were resolved by a third investigator.

RESULTS:

Seventeen articles representing 1197 children with an FAPD were included. Trials investigating antispasmodics, antidepressants, antibiotics, antihistaminic, antiemetic, histamine-2-receptor antagonist, 5-HT4-receptor agonist, melatonin, and buspirone were included. No studies were found on treatment with laxatives, antidiarrheals, analgesics, antimigraines, and serotonergics.

LIMITATIONS:

The overall quality of evidence on the basis of the Grading of Recommendations, Assessment, Development and Evaluations system was very low to low.

CONCLUSIONS:

On the basis of current evidence, it is not possible to recommend any specific pharmacologic agent for the treatment of pediatric FAPDs. However, agents such as antispasmodics or antidepressants can be discussed in daily practice because of their favorable treatment outcomes and the lack of important side effects. High-quality RCTs are necessary to provide adequate pharmacologic treatment. For future intervention trials, we recommend using homogenous outcome measures and instruments, a large sample size, and long-term follow-up.

A Real-time Risk-Prediction Model for Pediatric Venous Thromboembolic Events

BACKGROUND:

Hospital-associated venous thromboembolism (HA-VTE) is an increasing cause of morbidity in pediatric populations, yet identification of high-risk patients remains challenging. General pediatric models have been derived from case-control studies, but few have been validated. We developed and validated a predictive model for pediatric HA-VTE using a large, retrospective cohort.

METHODS:

The derivation cohort included 111 352 admissions to Monroe Carell Jr. Children’s Hospital at Vanderbilt. Potential variables were identified a priori, and corresponding data were extracted. Logistic regression was used to estimate the association of potential risk factors with development of HA-VTE. Variable inclusion in the model was based on univariate analysis, availability in routine medical records, and clinician expertise. The model was validated by using a separate cohort with 44 138 admissions.

RESULTS:

A total of 815 encounters were identified with HA-VTE in the derivation cohort. Variables strongly associated with HA-VTE include history of thrombosis (odds ratio [OR] 8.7; 95% confidence interval [CI] 6.6–11.3; P < .01), presence of a central line (OR 4.9; 95% CI 4.0–5.8; P < .01), and patients with cardiology conditions (OR 4.0; 95% CI 3.3–4.8; P < .01). Eleven variables were included, which yielded excellent discriminatory ability in both the derivation cohort (concordance statistic = 0.908) and the validation cohort (concordance statistic = 0.904).

CONCLUSIONS:

We created and validated a risk-prediction model that identifies pediatric patients at risk for HA-VTE development. We anticipate early identification of high-risk patients will increase prophylactic interventions and decrease the incidence of pediatric HA-VTE.

Promotion of Meal Premiums in Child-Directed TV Advertising for Childrens Fast-food Meals

BACKGROUND:

Fast-food intake is a modifiable obesity risk factor in early childhood, and child-directed fast-food marketing is common. Per self-regulatory guidelines regarding deception, premiums (ie, incentives or toy giveaways) in child-directed advertisements must be secondary to the advertised product.

METHODS:

Content analyses were performed of all child-directed fast-food television (TV) advertisements aired on four national US children’s TV networks, February 1, 2019, through January 31, 2020, to assess the emphasis of premiums relative to food. We quantified the percent of the audio transcript (word count) and visual airtime (seconds) that included premiums or food and the on-screen size of premiums relative to food in randomly selected frames from each advertisement.

RESULTS:

There were 28 unique child-directed advertisements for children’s fast-food meals in the study year; 27 advertisements were from one restaurant and accounted for nearly all (99.8%) of the total airtime for the 28 advertisements. Premiums were present in 27 of the 28 unique advertisements. On average, premiums (versus food) accounted for 53.0% (vs 16.0%) of words in the audio transcript and 59.2% (vs 54.3%) of the visual airtime per advertisement. In the random subset of frames that includes both premiums and food imagery, imagery of premiums accounted for 9.7% (95% CI: 6.4%–13.0%) of the on-screen area, whereas imagery of food accounted for 5.7% (95% CI: 4.4%–7.0%), an average ratio of 1.9:1 within each frame when excluding one large outlier.

CONCLUSIONS:

Child-directed fast-food TV advertisements emphasize premiums over food in violation of self-regulatory guidelines, counter to childhood obesity prevention efforts.

Prognostic Communication Between Oncologists and Parents of Children With Advanced Cancer

BACKGROUND AND OBJECTIVES:

Parents of children with cancer perceive deficits in quality of prognostic communication. How oncologists disclose information about disease progression and incurability and how prognostic communication impacts parental understanding of prognosis are poorly understood. In this study, we aimed to (1) characterize communication strategies used by pediatric oncologists to share prognostic information across a child’s advancing illness course and (2) explore relationships between different communication approaches and concordance of oncologist-parent prognostic understanding.

METHODS:

In this prospective, longitudinal, mixed-methods study, serial disease reevaluation conversations were audio recorded across an advancing illness course for children with cancer and their families. Surveys and interviews also were conducted with oncologists and caregivers at specific time points targeting disease progression.

RESULTS:

Seventeen children experienced advancing illness on study, resulting in 141 recordings (40 hours). Fewer than 4% of recorded dialogue constituted prognostic communication, with most codes (77%) occurring during discussions about frank disease progression. Most recordings at study entry contained little or no prognosis communication dialogue, and oncologists rated curability lower than parents across all dyads. Parent-oncologist discordance typically was preceded by conversations without incurability statements; ultimately, concordance was achieved in most cases after the oncologist made direct statements about incurability. Content analysis revealed 3 distinct patterns (absent, deferred, and seed planting) describing the provision of prognostic communication across an advancing pediatric cancer course.

CONCLUSIONS:

When oncologists provided direct statements about incurability, prognostic understanding appeared to improve. Further research is needed to determine optimal timing for prognostic disclosure in alignment with patient and family preferences.

Inpatient Use and Outcomes at Childrens Hospitals During the Early COVID-19 Pandemic

BACKGROUND AND OBJECTIVES:

The coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) pandemic has led to changes in health care use, including decreased emergency department visits for children. In this study, we sought to describe the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on inpatient use within children’s hospitals.

METHODS:

We performed a retrospective study using the Pediatric Health Information System. We compared inpatient use and clinical outcomes for children 0 to 18 years of age during the COVID-19 period (March 15 to August 29, 2020) to the same time frame in the previous 3 years (pre-COVID-19 period). Adjusted generalized linear mixed models were used to examine the association of the pandemic period with inpatient use. We assessed trends overall and for a subgroup of 15 medical All Patient Refined Diagnosis Related Groups (APR-DRGs).

RESULTS:

We identified 424 856 hospitalizations (mean: 141 619 hospitalizations per year) in the pre-COVID-19 period and 91 532 in the COVID-19 period. Compared with the median number of hospitalizations in the pre-COVID-19 period, we observed declines in hospitalizations overall (35.1%), and by APR-DRG (range: 8.5%–81.3%) with asthma (81.3%), bronchiolitis (80.1%), and pneumonia (71.4%) experiencing the greatest declines. Overall readmission rates were lower during the COVID-19 period; however, other outcomes, including length of stay, cost, ICU use, and mortality remained similar to the pre-COVID-19 period with some variability by APR-DRGs.

CONCLUSIONS:

US children’s hospitals observed substantial reductions in inpatient admissions with largely unchanged hospital-level outcomes during the COVID-19 pandemic. Although the impact on use varied by condition, the most notable declines were related to inpatient admissions for respiratory conditions, including asthma, bronchiolitis, and pneumonia.

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