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1.  The Effect of Adding Ready-to-Use Supplementary Food to a General Food Distribution on Child Nutritional Status and Morbidity: A Cluster-Randomized Controlled Trial 
PLoS Medicine  2012;9(9):e1001313.
Lieven Huybregts and colleagues investigate how supplementing a general food distribution with a fortified lipid-based spread during a seasonal hunger gap in Chad affects anthropometric and morbidity outcomes for children aged 6 to 36 months.
Background
Recently, operational organizations active in child nutrition in developing countries have suggested that blanket feeding strategies be adopted to enable the prevention of child wasting. A new range of nutritional supplements is now available, with claims that they can prevent wasting in populations at risk of periodic food shortages. Evidence is lacking as to the effectiveness of such preventive interventions. This study examined the effect of a ready-to-use supplementary food (RUSF) on the prevention of wasting in 6- to 36-mo-old children within the framework of a general food distribution program.
Methods and Findings
We conducted a two-arm cluster-randomized controlled pragmatic intervention study in a sample of 1,038 children aged 6 to 36 mo in the city of Abeche, Chad. Both arms were included in a general food distribution program providing staple foods. The intervention group was given a daily 46 g of RUSF for 4 mo. Anthropometric measurements and morbidity were recorded monthly. Adding RUSF to a package of monthly household food rations for households containing a child assigned to the intervention group did not result in a reduction in cumulative incidence of wasting (incidence risk ratio: 0.86; 95% CI: 0.67, 1.11; p = 0.25). However, the intervention group had a modestly higher gain in height-for-age (+0.03 Z-score/mo; 95% CI: 0.01, 0.04; p<0.001). In addition, children in the intervention group had a significantly higher hemoglobin concentration at the end of the study than children in the control group (+3.8 g/l; 95% CI: 0.6, 7.0; p = 0.02), thereby reducing the odds of anemia (odds ratio: 0.52; 95% CI: 0.34, 0.82; p = 0.004). Adding RUSF also resulted in a significantly lower risk of self-reported diarrhea (−29.3%; 95% CI: 20.5, 37.2; p<0.001) and fever episodes (−22.5%; 95% CI: 14.0, 30.2; p<0.001). Limitations of this study include that the projected sample size was not fully attained and that significantly fewer children from the control group were present at follow-up sessions.
Conclusions
Providing RUSF as part of a general food distribution resulted in improvements in hemoglobin status and small improvements in linear growth, accompanied by an apparent reduction in morbidity.
Trial registration
ClinicalTrials.gov NCT01154595
Please see later in the article for the Editors' Summary.
Editors' Summary
Background
Good nutrition during childhood is essential for health and survival. Undernourished children are more susceptible to infections and are more likely to die from common ailments such as diarrhea than well-nourished children. Globally, undernutrition contributes to about a third of deaths among children under five years old. Experts use three physical measurements to determine whether a child is undernourished. An “underweight” child has a low weight for his or her age and gender when compared to the World Health Organization Child Growth Standards, which chart the growth of a reference population. A “stunted” child has a low height for his or her age; stunting indicates chronic undernutrition. A “wasted” child has a low weight for his or her height; wasting indicates acute undernutrition and can be caused by disasters or seasonal food shortages. Recent estimates indicate that about a fifth of young children in developing countries are underweight, and one third are stunted; in south Asia and west/central Africa, more than one tenth of children are wasted, a condition that markedly increases the risk of death.
Why Was This Study Done?
In emergency situations, international organizations support affected populations by providing “general food distributions.” Recently, there have been claims that the provision of targeted nutritional supplements within a general food distribution framework effectively prevents child wasting, but there is little evidence to support these claims. In this cluster-randomized controlled trial, the researchers investigate the effect of a targeted daily dose of a “ready-to-use supplementary food” (RUSF; a lipid-based nutrient supplement) on indicators of undernutrition in 6- to 36-month-old, non-wasted children in Chad, a country beset by a severe food crisis. Political instability in this central African country has severely reduced the nutritional status of children, and annual droughts, which affect crop production, cause a “hunger gap” between June and October. In a recent survey, one fifth of children in Chad were wasted at the beginning of this hunger gap. A cluster-randomized trial randomly assigns groups of people to receive alternative interventions and compares the outcomes in the differently treated “clusters.”
What Did the Researchers Do and Find?
The researchers randomly assigned fourteen household clusters in the city of Abeche, Chad, to the trial's intervention or control arm. All the households received a general food distribution that included staple foods; eligible children in the intervention households were also given a daily RUSF ration between June and September 2010. The researchers regularly measured the children's weights and heights, recorded illnesses reported by caregivers, and measured each child's blood hemoglobin level before and after the intervention to assess their risk of anemia, an indicator of poor nutrition. The addition of RUSF to the household food rations did not significantly reduce the cumulative incidence of wasting. That is, although fewer children in the intervention group became wasted during the trial than in the control group, this difference was not statistically significant—it could have happened by chance. However, compared to the children in the control group, those in the intervention group had a significantly greater gain in height-for-age (equivalent to a difference in height gain of 0.09 cm/month), slightly higher hemoglobin levels at the end of the study, which significantly reduced their anemia risk, and a significantly lower risk of self-reported diarrhea and fever.
What Do These Findings Mean?
Although targeted RUSF provided as part of a general food distribution had no significant effect on wasting in young children in Abeche, Chad, the intervention improved their hemoglobin status and linear growth, and reduced illness among them. Why didn't targeted RUSF prevent wasting effectively in this trial? Maybe the effect of RUSF was diluted out by the effect of the general food distribution or maybe the trial was too short to see a clear effect. Most importantly, though, the trial may have been too small to see a clear effect—the researchers were unable to enroll as many children into their trial as they had planned because of political instability in Chad, and this probably limited the trial's ability to detect small differences between the control and intervention groups. Nevertheless, because these findings provide no clear evidence that adding RUSF to a household food ration effectively prevents wasting, alternative ways to prevent acute malnutrition in Chad and other vulnerable regions of the world should be investigated.
Additional Information
Please access these websites via the online version of this summary at http://dx.doi.org/10.1371/journal.pmed.1001313.
This study is further discussed in a PLOS Medicine Perspective by Kathryn Dewey and Mary Arimond
Action Contra la Faim–France has a web page that describes the situation in Chad
The United Nations Childrens Fund, which protects the rights of children and young people around the world, provides detailed statistics on child undernutrition; it has detailed information, including videos, about the current food crisis in Chad and the Sahel
The WHO Child Growth Standards are available (in several languages)
The United Nations provides information on ongoing world efforts to reduce hunger and child mortality
The World Food Programme is the world's largest humanitarian agency fighting hunger worldwide; its website provides detailed information about malnutrition in Chad, including a video of the current food crisis in the country
Starved for Attention is an international multimedia campaign launched in 2010 by Médecins Sans Frontiéres (MSF) and the VII Photo agency to rewrite the story of childhood malnutrition; information about MSFs work in Chad to tackle malnutrition is available
doi:10.1371/journal.pmed.1001313
PMCID: PMC3445445  PMID: 23028263
2.  The Relationship Between Mother Narrative Style and Child Memory 
Background
The question of whether children and infants have memory capabilities similar to adults has long been of interest. Until recently, it was thought that compared to adults, infants have very limited memory processing abilities. Knowledge about factors affecting a child's memory abilities can help families (specifically mothers) behave in a manner that best benefits their children in language and memory skills. The present study examines one factor that may underlie a child's memory capabilities; namely the mother's narrative style.
Methods
Convenience sampling was used to select participants. Forty healthy children (mean age of 31.55 months, range 25-37 months) and their mothers were entered into the study. All participants were native Turkish speakers, from similar socioeconomic status backgrounds. Memory was assessed by a modified version of the Magic Shrinking Machine. Narrative style was assessed by the mother "reading" a Frog Story; a picture book with no words in it. Children were then grouped according to their mother's level of narrative style. Children's language skills were measured via the Turkish form of the CDI (Communicative Development Inventory) which was translated to Turkish as TIGE.
Results
To explore the relationships between mothers' narrative styles and children's memory and language skills and between children's language skills and memory capabilities, linear regressions were run. There were no significant correlations among any comparisons (P > 0.05).
Conclusions
Children's language skills do not improve according to their mothers' narrative styles, and children do not show better memory abilities when mothers use more words and longer sentences. In order to have a better understanding of these relationships, future research that includes several more variables is needed.
Keywords
Child; Mother; Memory; Narrative style
doi:10.4021/jocmr613w
PMCID: PMC3194016  PMID: 22121404
3.  Pain, power and patience - A narrative study of general practitioners' relations with chronic pain patients 
BMC Family Practice  2011;12:31.
Background
Chronic pain patients are common in general practice. In this study "chronic pain" is defined as diffuse musculoskeletal pain not due to inflammatory diseases or cancer. Effective patient-physician relations improve treatment results. The relationship between doctors and chronic pain patients is often dysfunctional. Consultation training for physicians and medical students can improve the professional ability to build effective relations, but this demands a thorough understanding of the problems in the relation. Several studies have defined the issues that frequently cause problems, but few have described the process. The aim of this study was to understand and illustrate what GPs' experience in contact with chronic pain patients and what works and does not work in these consultations.
Methods
Our theoretical perspective is constructivist, based upon the relativist view that individuals construct realities to understand and navigate the world. Five Swedish General Practitioners (GPs), two male and three female, were interviewed and asked to tell a story about a difficult encounter with a chronic pain patient. Tapes of the interviews were transcribed and analysed using narrative analysis. Three GPs told narratives suited for our analytic tools and these were included in the final results.
Results
Each narrative highlights a certain dilemma and a strategy. The dilemmas were: power game; good intentions that fail when a patient is persuaded against her own conviction; persuasion of the unwilling; transferred tiredness; distrust and dissociation from the patient. Professional strategies of listening, encouraging and teamwork were central to handling difficult situations.
Conclusions
The narratives show that GP's consultations with chronic pain patients sometimes are characterized by conflicts and difficult situations. They are facilitated by methods such as active listening and teamwork, but still may remain hard to handle. This has not before been studied among Swedish GPs. Narratives based on experience are known to be successful in education and this study suggest how narratives can serve as a training of consultation for medical students, but also in Continuing Professional Development groups for experienced doctors in practice.
doi:10.1186/1471-2296-12-31
PMCID: PMC3111583  PMID: 21575158
4.  “I feel so stupid because I can’t give a proper answer…” How older adults describe chronic pain: a qualitative study 
BMC Geriatrics  2012;12:78.
Background
Over 50% of older adults experience chronic pain. Poorly managed pain threatens independent functioning, limits social activities and detrimentally affects emotional wellbeing. Yet, chronic pain is not fully understood from older adults’ perspectives; subsequently, pain management in later life is not necessarily based on their priorities or needs. This paper reports a qualitative exploration of older adults’ accounts of living with chronic pain, focusing on how they describe pain, with a view to informing approaches to its assessment.
Methods
Cognitively intact men and women aged over sixty-five who lived in the community opted into the study through responding to advertisements in the media and via contacts with groups and organisations in North-East Scotland. Interviews were transcribed and thematically analysed using a framework approach.
Results
Qualitative individual interviews and one group interview were undertaken with 23 older adults. Following analysis, the following main themes emerged: diversity in conceptualising pain using a simple numerical score; personalising the meaning of pain by way of stories, similes and metaphors; and, contextualising pain in relation to its impact on activities.
Conclusions
The importance of attending to individuals’ stories as a meaningful way of describing pain for older adults is highlighted, suggesting that a narrative approach, as recommended and researched in other areas of medicine, may usefully be applied in pain assessment for older adults. Along with the judicious use of numerical tools, this requires innovative methods to elicit verbal accounts, such as using similes and metaphors to help older adults describe and discuss their experience, and contextualising the effects of pain on activities that are important to them.
doi:10.1186/1471-2318-12-78
PMCID: PMC3544685  PMID: 23276327
Older adults; Ageing; Qualitative research; Stories; Metaphors; Chronic pain; Community
5.  How Well Do Clinical Pain Assessment Tools Reflect Pain in Infants? 
PLoS Medicine  2008;5(6):e129.
Background
Pain in infancy is poorly understood, and medical staff often have difficulty assessing whether an infant is in pain. Current pain assessment tools rely on behavioural and physiological measures, such as change in facial expression, which may not accurately reflect pain experience. Our ability to measure cortical pain responses in young infants gives us the first opportunity to evaluate pain assessment tools with respect to the sensory input and establish whether the resultant pain scores reflect cortical pain processing.
Methods and Findings
Cortical haemodynamic activity was measured in infants, aged 25–43 wk postmenstrual, using near-infrared spectroscopy following a clinically required heel lance and compared to the magnitude of the premature infant pain profile (PIPP) score in the same infant to the same stimulus (n = 12, 33 test occasions). Overall, there was good correlation between the PIPP score and the level of cortical activity (regression coefficient = 0.72, 95% confidence interval [CI] limits 0.32–1.11, p = 0.001; correlation coefficient = 0.57). Of the different PIPP components, facial expression correlated best with cortical activity (regression coefficient = 1.26, 95% CI limits 0.84–1.67, p < 0.0001; correlation coefficient = 0.74) (n = 12, 33 test occasions). Cortical pain responses were still recorded in some infants who did not display a change in facial expression.
Conclusions
While painful stimulation generally evokes parallel cortical and behavioural responses in infants, pain may be processed at the cortical level without producing detectable behavioural changes. As a result, an infant with a low pain score based on behavioural assessment tools alone may not be pain free.
Rebeccah Slater and colleagues show that although painful stimulation generally evokes parallel cortical and behavioral responses in infants, pain may produce cortical responses without detectable behavioral changes.
Editors' Summary
Background.
Pain is a sensory and emotional experience. It is normally triggered by messages transmitted from specialized receptors (nociceptors) in the body to integrative centers in the spinal cord and brainstem and on to the brain, where it undergoes higher sensory and cognitive analysis, allowing the body to respond appropriately to the stimuli. While the experience of pain may be considered to be unpleasant, it is a useful tool in communicating to us and to others that there is something wrong with our bodies. Ultimately, these responses help restrict further damage to the body and start the process of healing.
In a clinical setting, the ability to communicate about pain allows an individual to seek strategies to ease the pain, such as taking analgesics. Being unable to effectively communicate one's experience of pain leaves the individual vulnerable to prolonged suffering. One such vulnerable group is infants.
Ignored and untreated pain in infants has been shown to have immediate and long-term effects as a result of structural and physiological changes within the nervous system. For example, the body responds to untreated pain by increased release of stress hormones, which may be associated with increased morbidity and mortality in the short term. Long-term effects of pain may include altered pain perception, chronic pain syndromes, and somatic complaints such as sleep disturbances, feeding problems, and inability to self-regulate in response to internal and external stressors. It has been proposed that attention deficit disorders, learning disorders, and behavioral problems in later childhood may be linked to repetitive pain in the preterm infant.
Why Was This Study Done?
Until as recently as the 1990s, newborns in some clinical centres underwent surgery with minimal anesthesia. Also, newborns received little or no pain management postoperatively or for painful procedures such as lumbar punctures or circumcisions. Since then, there has been growing awareness amongst clinicians that pain may be experienced from the earliest stages of postnatal life and that inadequate analgesia may lead to the type of long-term consequences mentioned above. However, gauging how much pain infants and young children are experiencing remains a substantial challenge. The researchers in this study wanted to assess the association between cortical pain responses in young infants and currently used tools for the assessment of pain in these infants. These current tools are based on behavioral and physiological measures, such as change in facial expression, and it is possible that these tools do not give an adequate measure of pain especially in infants born preterm.
What Did the Researchers Do and Find?
Twelve clinically stable infants were studied on 33 occasions when they required a heel lance to obtain a blood sample for a clinical reason. The researchers examined the relationship between brain activity and a clinical pain score, calculated using the premature infant pain profile (PIPP) in response to a painful event. Activity in the somatosensory cortex was measured noninvasively by near-infrared spectroscopy, which measures brain regional changes in oxygenated and deoxygenated hemoglobin concentration. The PIPP is a well-established pain score that ascribes a value to infant behavior such as change in facial expression.
They found that changes in brain activity in response to a painful stimulus were related to the PIPP scores. These changes were more strongly linked to the behavioral components of the PIPP, e.g., facial expression, than physiological components, e.g., heart rate. They also found that a positive brain response could occur in the absence of any facial expression.
What Do These Findings Mean?
Behaviors to communicate pain require motor responses to sensory and emotional stimuli. The maturity of this complex system in infants is not clearly understood. The results of this study raise further awareness of the ability of infants to experience pain and highlight the possibility that pain assessment based on behavioral tools alone may underestimate the pain response in infants.
Additional Information.
Please access these Web sites via the online version of this summary at http://dx.doi.org/10.1371/journal.pmed.0050129.
Important papers on pain in human neonates are discussed in the open access Paediatric Pain Letter with links to original articles
The Institute of Child Health in London has a Web site describing a three-year international project on improving the assessment of pain in hospitalized children, with many useful links
The International Association for the Study of Pain (IASP) provides accurate and up-to-date information and links about pain mechanisms and treatment
doi:10.1371/journal.pmed.0050129
PMCID: PMC2504041  PMID: 18578562
6.  Narrative Ability of Children With Speech Sound Disorders and the Prediction of Later Literacy Skills 
Purpose
The main purpose of this study was to examine how children with isolated speech sound disorders (SSDs; n = 20), children with combined SSDs and language impairment (LI; n = 20), and typically developing children (n = 20), ages 3;3 (years;months) to 6;6, differ in narrative ability. The second purpose was to determine if early narrative ability predicts school-age (8–12 years) literacy skills.
Method
This study employed a longitudinal cohort design. The children completed a narrative retelling task before their formal literacy instruction began. The narratives were analyzed and compared for group differences. Performance on these early narratives was then used to predict the children’s reading decoding, reading comprehension, and written language ability at school age.
Results
Significant group differences were found in children’s (a) ability to answer questions about the story, (b) use of story grammars, and (c) number of correct and irrelevant utterances. Regression analysis demonstrated that measures of story structure and accuracy were the best predictors of the decoding of real words, reading comprehension, and written language. Measures of syntax and lexical diversity were the best predictors of the decoding of nonsense words.
Conclusion
Combined SSDs and LI, and not isolated SSDs, impact a child’s narrative abilities. Narrative retelling is a useful task for predicting which children may be at risk for later literacy problems.
doi:10.1044/0161-1461(2011/10-0038)
PMCID: PMC3387811  PMID: 21969531
speech sound disorder; language impairment; narratives; literacy
7.  A narrative approach to explore grief experiences and treatment adherence in people with chronic pain after participation in a pain-management program: a 6-year follow-up study 
Objective
The aim of this study was to explore grief caused by chronic pain and treatment adherence, and how these experiences are integrated into ongoing life stories.
Methods
A 6-year follow-up using a qualitative mixed-methods design based on written narratives and image narratives was performed. Five women suffering from chronic pain comprised the purposive sample. They had completed an 8-week group pain-management program with two follow-ups, and thereafter continued as a self-help group. A narrative approach was used to analyze the written and image narratives guided by three analytic steps.
Results
Findings showed that experiences of grief over time were commonly associated with chronic pain. The participants’ past experiences reflected their grief at having to abandon jobs and social networks, and revealed loneliness and despair. The present life situation seemed to reflect adaptation, and hope for the future had been established. Overall, forward progression means an ongoing struggle towards a reintegrated body and a meaningful life.
Conclusion
Through such narratives, health-care workers can identify treatment adherence related to grief and pain, and learn how people might regain their lives beyond using traditional interviews.
doi:10.2147/PPA.S46272
PMCID: PMC3749063  PMID: 23990710
chronic pain; follow-up; grief; image; narrative; nursing
8.  Preventing Acute Malnutrition among Young Children in Crises: A Prospective Intervention Study in Niger 
PLoS Medicine  2014;11(9):e1001714.
Céline Langendorf and colleagues conducted a pragmatic intervention study in Niger to assess whether distributions of supplementary foods in addition to household support by cash transfer effectively reduced malnutrition in children aged 6 to 23 months.
Please see later in the article for the Editors' Summary
Background
Finding the most appropriate strategy for the prevention of moderate acute malnutrition (MAM) and severe acute malnutrition (SAM) in young children is essential in countries like Niger with annual “hunger gaps.” Options for large-scale prevention include distribution of supplementary foods, such as fortified-blended foods or lipid-based nutrient supplements (LNSs) with or without household support (cash or food transfer). To date, there has been no direct controlled comparison between these strategies leading to debate concerning their effectiveness. We compared the effectiveness of seven preventive strategies—including distribution of nutritious supplementary foods, with or without additional household support (family food ration or cash transfer), and cash transfer only—on the incidence of SAM and MAM among children aged 6–23 months over a 5-month period, partly overlapping the hunger gap, in Maradi region, Niger. We hypothesized that distributions of supplementary foods would more effectively reduce the incidence of acute malnutrition than distributions of household support by cash transfer.
Methods and Findings
We conducted a prospective intervention study in 48 rural villages located within 15 km of a health center supported by Forum Santé Niger (FORSANI)/Médecins Sans Frontières in Madarounfa. Seven groups of villages (five to 11 villages) were allocated to different strategies of monthly distributions targeting households including at least one child measuring 60 cm–80 cm (at any time during the study period whatever their nutritional status): three groups received high-quantity LNS (HQ-LNS) or medium-quantity LNS (MQ-LNS) or Super Cereal Plus (SC+) with cash (€38/month [US$52/month]); one group received SC+ and family food ration; two groups received HQ-LNS or SC+ only; one group received cash only (€43/month [US$59/month]). Children 60 cm–80 cm of participating households were assessed at each monthly distribution from August to December 2011. Primary endpoints were SAM (weight-for-length Z-score [WLZ]<−3 and/or mid-upper arm circumference [MUAC]<11.5 cm and/or bipedal edema) and MAM (−3≤WLZ<−2 and/or 11.5≤MUAC<12.5 cm). A total of 5,395 children were included in the analysis (615 to 1,054 per group). Incidence of MAM was twice lower in the strategies receiving a food supplement combined with cash compared with the cash-only strategy (cash versus HQ-LNS/cash adjusted hazard ratio [HR] = 2.30, 95% CI 1.60–3.29; cash versus SC+/cash HR = 2.42, 95% CI 1.39–4.21; cash versus MQ-LNS/cash HR = 2.07, 95% CI 1.52–2.83) or with the supplementary food only groups (HQ-LNS versus HQ-LNS/cash HR = 1.84, 95% CI 1.35–2.51; SC+ versus SC+/cash HR = 2.53, 95% CI 1.47–4.35). In addition, the incidence of SAM was three times lower in the SC+/cash group compared with the SC+ only group (SC+ only versus SC+/cash HR = 3.13, 95% CI 1.65–5.94). However, non-quantified differences between groups, may limit the interpretation of the impact of the strategies.
Conclusions
Preventive distributions combining a supplementary food and cash transfer had a better preventive effect on MAM and SAM than strategies relying on cash transfer or supplementary food alone. As a result, distribution of nutritious supplementary foods to young children in conjunction with household support should remain a pillar of emergency nutritional interventions. Additional rigorous research is vital to evaluate the effectiveness of these and other nutritional interventions in diverse settings.
Trial registration
ClinicalTrials.gov NCT01828814
Please see later in the article for the Editors' Summary
Editors' Summary
Background
Good nutrition during childhood is essential for health and survival. Undernourished children are more susceptible to infection and are more likely to die from common ailments such as diarrhoea than well-nourished children. Malnutrition can be chronic or acute. Chronic (long-term) malnutrition causes stunting. A stunted child has a low height for his or her age when compared to the World Health Organization Child Growth Standards, which chart the growth of a reference population. By contrast, acute malnutrition causes wasting. A wasted child has a low weight for his or her height. Acute malnutrition, which is responsible for more than 800,000 deaths among children under 5 years old every year (12.6% of all deaths in this age group), often follows earthquakes or other emergencies but also occurs in countries such as Niger that regularly experience a “hunger gap,” a shortage of food in the months before the annual harvest. Interventions designed to prevent acute malnutrition include distributions of supplementary food such as lipid-based nutrient supplements (LNS) and fortified cereal products (for example, super cereal plus [SC+]) targeting children and household support in the form of food or cash transfers, which allow households to buy their own food.
Why Was This Study Done?
Governments and donor agencies need to know which preventative strategy is most effective, particularly among children under 2 years old who are most vulnerable to acute malnutrition. Here, the researchers compare the effectiveness of seven preventative strategies—including the distribution of nutritious supplementary foods with and without additional household support (food or cash transfer) and cash transfer alone—on the incidence (occurrence) of moderate and severe acute malnutrition among children aged 6–23 months living in 48 villages in the Madarounfa district of Niger between August and December, 2011. Niger regularly experiences a hunger gap between June and October; 12.9% of the population of the Madarounfa district was at risk of severe food insecurity at the time of the study.
What Did the Researchers Do and Find?
The researchers allocated the villages to receive high or medium quantity LNS plus cash, SC+ plus cash or a family food ration, high quantity LNS only, SC+ only, or cash only; the cash transfer was sufficient to meet the energy needs of an average household. The interventions were distributed once a month to households that included at least one child measuring 60–80 cm in length at any time during the study period (length is used as a proxy for age when the precise age of children is unknown). Eligible children in each participating household were assessed for moderate and severe acute malnutrition as defined by the World Health Organization by measuring their weight, length, and mid-upper arm circumference at each distribution. The incidence of moderate acute malnutrition was about twice as high among children who received the cash-only intervention as among those who received any of the food supplement plus cash. For example, the incidence of moderate acute malnutrition was 3.33 cases per 100 child-months among children who received the SC+ plus cash intervention but 7.97 cases per 100 child-months among those who received the cash-only intervention. Moreover, the incidence of severe acute malnutrition was about three times higher among the children who received the SC+ only intervention than among those who received the SC+ plus cash intervention.
What Do These Findings Mean?
These findings suggest that, in this region of Niger, interventions that combined the distribution of supplementary food and a cash transfer prevented acute malnutrition more effectively than strategies that relied on cash transfer or supplementary food distribution alone. Unmeasured differences between the groups that affect the incidence of malnutrition may be responsible for some of the differences between intervention groups, and the incidences of malnutrition may have been different if the study period had covered the whole hunger gap. Moreover, these findings may not be generalizable to other regions of Niger or to other countries that experience an annual hunger gap. Despite these limitations, which highlight the need for further research into the effectiveness of nutritional interventions, these findings suggest that the distribution of supplementary foods to young children in conjunction with household support should remain an important part of nutritional interventions during the hunger gap and other emergencies.
Additional Information
Please access these websites via the online version of this summary at http://dx.doi.org/10.1371/journal.pmed.1001714.
This study is further discussed in a PLOS Medicine Perspective by Marco Kerac and Andrew Seal
More information about this prospective intervention study is available from ClinicalTrials.gov
The charity UNICEF, which protects the rights of children and young people around the world, provides detailed statistics on child undernutrition; it has detailed information about malnutrition and the humanitarian situation in Niger; a 2012 article on malnutrition among children in Niger includes a personal story about a child with severe acute malnutrition in Maradi
The World Health Organization Child Growth Standards are available (in several languages)
The United Nations Millennium Development Goals provides information on ongoing world efforts to reduce hunger and child mortality
The World Food Programme is the world's largest humanitarian agency fighting hunger worldwide; its website provides information about malnutrition in Niger, including a visual presentation on wide-scale targeted food distribution in the country
“Starved for Attention” is an international multimedia campaign launched in 2010 by Médecins Sans Frontiéres (MSF) and the VII Photo agency to rewrite the story of childhood malnutrition; information about MSF's work in Niger to tackle malnutrition is available
doi:10.1371/journal.pmed.1001714
PMCID: PMC4152259  PMID: 25180584
9.  Persistent pain in a community-based sample of children and adolescents: Sex differences in psychological constructs 
The prevalence of persistent and recurrent pain among children and adolescents has important economic, social and psychological repercussions. The impact of chronic pain in children extends beyond the affected individuals – more than one-third of parents of children with pain report clinically significant levels of stress and depression. Although many pain-related psychological factors have been examined in chronic pediatric pain populations, much of that research involved clinical samples. Community-based research, however, is necessary to uncover the way pain is experienced by youth, regardless of whether treatment is sought or is available. This study aimed to ascertain the lifetime prevalence of pediatric pain in a Canadian community-based sample, and to explore age and sex differences in children who report persistent pain and those who do not with respect to several constructs believed to play important roles in the development and maintenance of persistent pain.
BACKGROUND:
Very few studies have investigated the psychological factors associated with the pain experiences of children and adolescents in community samples.
OBJECTIVES:
To examine the lifetime prevalence of, and psychological variables associated with, persistent pain in a community sample of children and adolescents, and to explore differences according to sex, age and pain history.
METHODS:
Participants completed the Childhood Anxiety Sensitivity Index (CASI), the Child Pain Anxiety Symptoms Scale (CPASS), the Multidimensional Anxiety Scale for Children-10 (MASC-10), the Pain Catastrophizing Scale for Children (PCS-C) and a pain history questionnaire that assessed chronicity and pain frequency. After research ethics board approval, informed consent/assent was obtained from 1022 individuals recruited to participate in a study conducted at the Ontario Science Centre (Toronto, Ontario).
RESULTS:
Of the 1006 participants (54% female, mean [± SD] age 11.6±2.7 years) who provided complete data, 27% reported having experienced pain that lasted for three months or longer. A 2×2×2 (pain history, age and sex) multivariate ANOVA was conducted, with the total scores on the CASI, the CPASS, the MASC-10 and the PCS-C as dependent variables. Girls with a history of persistent pain expressed higher levels of anxiety sensitivity (P<0.001) and pain catastrophizing (P<0.001) than both girls without a pain history and boys regardless of pain history. This same pattern of results was found for anxiety and pain anxiety in the older, but not the younger, age group.
CONCLUSIONS:
Boys and girls appear to differ in terms of how age and pain history relate to the expression of pain-related psychological variables. Given the prevalence of persistent pain found in the study, more research is needed regarding the developmental implications of persistent pain in childhood and adolescence.
PMCID: PMC3206778  PMID: 22059200
Children; Persistent pain; Psychosocial factors; Sex differences
10.  Health care professionals’ pain narratives in hospitalized children’s medical records. Part 2: Structure and content 
BACKGROUND:
Although clinical narratives – described as free-text notations – have been noted to be a source of patient information, no studies have examined the composition of pain narratives in hospitalized children’s medical records.
OBJECTIVES:
To describe the structure and content of health care professionals’ narratives related to hospitalized children’s acute pain.
METHODS:
All pain narratives documented during a 24 h period were collected from the medical records of 3822 children (0 to 18 years of age) hospitalized in 32 inpatient units in eight Canadian pediatric hospitals. A qualitative descriptive exploration using a content analysis approach was performed.
RESULTS:
Three major structural elements with their respective categories and subcategories were identified: information sources, including clinician, patient, parent, dual and unknown; compositional archetypes, including baseline pain status, intermittent pain updates, single events, pain summation and pain management plan; and content, including pain declaration, pain assessment, pain intervention and multidimensional elements of care.
CONCLUSIONS:
The present qualitative analysis revealed the multidimensionality of structure and content that was used to document hospitalized children’s acute pain. The findings have the potential to inform debate on whether the multidimensionality of pain narratives’ composition is a desirable feature of documentation and how narratives can be refined and improved. There is potential for further investigation into how health care professionals’ pain narratives could have a role in generating guidelines for best pain documentation practice beyond numerical representations of pain intensity.
PMCID: PMC3805354  PMID: 24093123
Children; Documentation; Free-text; Notation; Narratives; Pain
11.  Narrative Skill in Children with Early Unilateral Brain Injury: A Possible Limit to Functional Plasticity 
Developmental Science  2010;13(4):636-647.
Children with pre- or perinatal brain injury (PL) exhibit marked plasticity for language learning. Previous work mostly focused on the emergence of earlier developing skills, such as vocabulary and syntax. Here we ask whether this plasticity for earlier developing aspects of language extends to more complex, later-developing language functions by examining the narrative production of children with PL. Using an elicitation technique that involves asking children to create stories de novo in response to a story stem, we collected narratives from 11 children with PL and 20 typically-developing (TD) children. Narratives were analyzed for length, diversity of the vocabulary used, use of complex syntax, complexity of the macro-level narrative structure and use of narrative evaluation. Children’s language performance on vocabulary and syntax tasks outside of the narrative context was also measured. Findings show that children with PL produced shorter stories, used less diverse vocabulary, produced structurally less complex stories at the macro-level, and made fewer inferences regarding the cognitive states of the story characters. These differences in the narrative task emerged even though children with PL did not differ from TD children on vocabulary and syntax tasks outside of the narrative context. Thus, findings suggest that there may be limitations to the plasticity for language functions displayed by children with PL, and that these limitations may be most apparent in complex, decontextualized language tasks such as narrative production.
doi:10.1111/j.1467-7687.2009.00920.x
PMCID: PMC3360585  PMID: 20590727
12.  Diet and Physical Activity Interventions to Prevent or Treat Obesity in South Asian Children and Adults: A Systematic Review and Meta-Analysis  
Background and Aims: The metabolic risks associated with obesity are greater for South Asian populations compared with White or other ethnic groups, and levels of obesity in childhood are known to track into adulthood. Tackling obesity in South Asians is therefore a high priority. The rationale for this systematic review is the suggestion that there may be differential effectiveness in diet and physical activity interventions in South Asian populations compared with other ethnicities. The research territory of the present review is an emergent, rather than mature, field of enquiry, but is urgently needed. Thus the aim of this systematic review and meta-analysis was to assess the effectiveness of diet and physical activity interventions to prevent or treat obesity in South Asians living in or outside of South Asia and to describe the characteristics of effective interventions. Methods: Systematic review of any type of lifestyle intervention, of any length of follow-up that reported any anthropometric measure for children or adults of South Asian ethnicity. There was no restriction on the type of comparator; randomised controlled trials, controlled clinical trials, and before-after studies were included. A comprehensive search strategy was implemented in five electronic databases: ASSIA, Cochrane Controlled Trials Register, Embase, Medline and Social Sciences Citation Index. The search was limited to English language abstracts published between January 2006 and January 2014. References were screened; data extraction and quality assessment were carried out by two reviewers. Results are presented in narrative synthesis and meta-analysis. Results: Twenty-nine studies were included, seven children, 21 adult and one mixed age. No studies in children under six were identified. Sixteen studies were conducted in South Asia, ten in Europe and three in USA. Effective or promising trials include physical activity interventions in South Asian men in Norway and South Asian school-children in the UK. A home-based, family-orientated diet and physical activity intervention improved obesity outcomes in South Asian adults in the UK, when adjusted for baseline differences. Meta-analyses of interventions in children showed no significant difference between intervention and control for body mass index or waist circumference. Meta-analyses of adult interventions showed significant improvement in weight in data from two trials adjusted for baseline differences (mean difference −1.82 kgs, 95% confidence interval −2.48 to −1.16) and in unadjusted data from three trials following sensitivity analysis (mean difference −1.20 kgs, 95% confidence interval −2.23 to −0.17). Meta-analyses showed no significant differences in body mass index and waist circumference for adults. Twenty of 24 intervention groups showed improvements in adult body mass index from baseline to follow-up; average change in high quality studies (n = 7) ranged from 0.31 to −0.8 kg/m2. There was no evidence that interventions were more or less effective according to whether the intervention was set in South Asia or not, or by socio-economic status. Conclusions: Meta-analysis of a limited number of controlled trials found an unclear picture of the effects of interventions on body mass index for South Asian children. Meta-analyses of a limited number of controlled trials showed significant improvement in weight for adults but no significant differences in body mass index and waist circumference. One high quality study in South Asian children found that a school-based physical activity intervention that was delivered within the normal school day which was culturally sensitive, was effective. There is also evidence of culturally appropriate approaches to, and characteristics of, effective interventions in adults which we believe could be transferred and used to develop effective interventions in children.
doi:10.3390/ijerph120100566
PMCID: PMC4306880  PMID: 25584423
obesity; South Asian; systematic review; children; adults; diet; physical activity
13.  Advanced Paternal Age Is Associated with Impaired Neurocognitive Outcomes during Infancy and Childhood 
PLoS Medicine  2009;6(3):e1000040.
Background
Advanced paternal age (APA) is associated with an increased risk of neurodevelopmental disorders such as autism and schizophrenia, as well as with dyslexia and reduced intelligence. The aim of this study was to examine the relationship between paternal age and performance on neurocognitive measures during infancy and childhood.
Methods and Findings
A sample of singleton children (n = 33,437) was drawn from the US Collaborative Perinatal Project. The outcome measures were assessed at 8 mo, 4 y, and 7 y (Bayley scales, Stanford Binet Intelligence Scale, Graham-Ernhart Block Sort Test, Wechsler Intelligence Scale for Children, Wide Range Achievement Test). The main analyses examined the relationship between neurocognitive measures and paternal or maternal age when adjusted for potential confounding factors. Advanced paternal age showed significant associations with poorer scores on all of the neurocognitive measures apart from the Bayley Motor score. The findings were broadly consistent in direction and effect size at all three ages. In contrast, advanced maternal age was generally associated with better scores on these same measures.
Conclusions
The offspring of older fathers show subtle impairments on tests of neurocognitive ability during infancy and childhood. In light of secular trends related to delayed fatherhood, the clinical implications and the mechanisms underlying these findings warrant closer scrutiny.
Using a sample of children from the US Collaborative Perinatal Project, John McGrath and colleagues show that the offspring of older fathers exhibit subtle impairments on tests of neurocognitive ability during infancy and childhood.
Editors' Summary
Background.
Over the last few decades, changes in society in the developed world have made it increasingly common for couples to wait until their late thirties to have children. In 1993, 25% of live births within marriage in England and Wales were to fathers aged 35–54 years, but by 2003 it was 40%. It is well known that women's fertility declines with age and that older mothers are more likely to have children with disabilities such as Down's syndrome. In contrast, many men can father children throughout their lives, and little attention has been paid to the effects of older fatherhood.
More recent evidence shows that a man's age does affect both fertility and the child's health. “Advanced paternal age” has been linked to miscarriages, birth deformities, cancer, and specific behavioral problems such as autism or schizophrenia.
Rates of autism have increased in recent decades, but the cause is unknown. Studies of twins and families have suggested there may be a complex genetic basis, and it is suspected that damage to sperm, which can accumulate over a man's lifetime, may be responsible. A woman's eggs are formed largely while she is herself in the womb, but sperm-making cells divide throughout a man's lifetime, increasing the chance of mutations in sperm.
Why Was This Study Done?
There is good evidence linking specific disorders with older fathers, but the link between a father's age and a child's more general intelligence is not as clear. A recent study suggested a link between reduced intelligence and both very young and older fathers. The authors wanted to use this large dataset to test the idea that older fathers have children who do worse on tests of intelligence. They also wanted to re-examine others' findings using this same dataset that older mothers have more intelligent children.
What Did the Researchers Do and Find?
The researchers gathered no new data but reanalyzed data on children from the US Collaborative Perinatal Project (CPP), which had used a variety of tests given to children at ages 8 months, 4 years, and 7 years, to measure cognitive ability—the ability to think and reason, including concentration, memory, learning, understanding, speaking, and reading. Some tests included assessments of “motor skills”—physical co-ordination.
The CPP dataset holds information on children of 55,908 expectant mothers who attended 12 university-affiliated hospital clinics in the United States from 1959 to 1965. The researchers excluded premature babies and multiple births and chose one pregnancy at random for each eligible woman, to keep their analysis simpler. This approach reduced the number of children in their analysis to 33,437.
The researchers analyzed the data using two models. In one, they took into account physical factors such as the parents' ages. In the other, they also took into account social factors such as the parents' level of education and income, which are linked to intelligence. In addition, the authors grouped the children by their mother's age and, within each group, looked for a link between the lowest-scoring children and the age of their father.
The researchers found that children with older fathers had lower scores on all of the measures except one measure of motor skills. In contrast, children with older mothers had higher scores. They found that the older the father, the more likely was this result found.
What Do These Findings Mean?
This study is the first to show that children of older fathers perform less well in a range of tests when young, but cannot say whether those children catch up with their peers after the age of 7 years. Results may also be biased because information was more likely to be missing for children whose father's age was not recorded.
Previous researchers had proposed that children of older mothers may perform better in tests because they experience a more nurturing home environment. If this is the case, children of older fathers do not experience the same benefit.
However, further work needs to be done to confirm these findings. Especially in newer datasets, current trends to delay parenthood mean these findings have implications for individuals, couples, and policymakers. Individuals and couples need to be aware that the ages of both partners can affect their ability to have healthy children, though the risks for individual children are small. Policymakers should consider promoting awareness of the risks of delaying parenthood or introducing policies to encourage childbearing at an optimal age.
Additional Information.
Please access these Web sites via the online version of this summary at http://dx.doi.org/10.1371/journal.pmed.1000040.
Mothers 35+ is a UK Web site with resources and information for older mothers, mothers-to-be, and would-be mothers, including information on the health implications of fathering a child late in life
The American Society for Reproductive Medicine published a Patient Information Booklet on Age and Fertility in 2003, which is available online; it contains a small section called “Fertility in the Aging Male,” but otherwise focuses on women
The online encyclopedia Wikipedia has a short article on the “Paternal age effect” (note that Wikipedia is a free online encyclopedia that anyone can edit; available in several languages)
In 2005, the UK Office of National Statistics published a booklet entitled “Perpetual postponers? Women's, men's and couple's fertility intentions and subsequent fertility behaviour” looking at data from the British Household Panel Survey
doi:10.1371/journal.pmed.1000040
PMCID: PMC2653549  PMID: 19278291
14.  A 10-year longitudinal fMRI study of narrative comprehension in children and adolescents 
NeuroImage  2012;63(3):1188-1195.
Comprehension of spoken narratives requires coordination of multiple language skills. As such, for normal children narrative skills develop well into the school years and, during this period, are particularly vulnerable in the face of brain injury or developmental disorder. For these reasons, we sought to determine the developmental trajectory of narrative processing using longitudinal fMRI scanning. 30 healthy children between the ages of 5 and 18 enrolled at ages 5, 6, or 7, were examined annually for up to 10 years. At each fMRI session, children were presented with a set of five, 30s–long, stories containing 9, 10, or 11 sentences designed to be understood by a 5 year old child. FMRI data analysis was conducted based on a hierarchical linear model (HLM) that was modified to investigate developmental changes while accounting for missing data and controlling for factors such as age, linguistic performance and IQ. Performance testing conducted after each scan indicated well above the chance (p < 0.002) comprehension performance. There was a linear increase with increasing age in bilateral superior temporal cortical activation (BA 21 and 22) linked to narrative processing. Conversely, age-related decreases in cortical activation were observed in bilateral occipital regions, cingulate and cuneus, possibly reflecting changes in the default mode networks. The dynamic changes observed in this longitudinal fMRI study support the increasing role of bilateral BAs 21 and 22 in narrative comprehension, involving non-domain-specific integration in order to achieve final story interpretation. The presence of a continued linear development of this area throughout childhood and teenage years with no apparent plateau, indicates that full maturation of narrative processing skills has not yet occurred and that it may be delayed to early adulthood.
doi:10.1016/j.neuroimage.2012.08.049
PMCID: PMC3476849  PMID: 22951258
longitudinal language development; narrative comprehension; language; fMRI; child; brain; development; functional MRI
15.  The Effect of India's Total Sanitation Campaign on Defecation Behaviors and Child Health in Rural Madhya Pradesh: A Cluster Randomized Controlled Trial 
PLoS Medicine  2014;11(8):e1001709.
Sumeet Patil and colleagues conduct a cluster randomized controlled trial to measure the effect of India's Total Sanitation Campaign in Madhya Pradesh on the availability of individual household latrines, defecation behaviors, and child health.
Please see later in the article for the Editors' Summary
Background
Poor sanitation is thought to be a major cause of enteric infections among young children. However, there are no previously published randomized trials to measure the health impacts of large-scale sanitation programs. India's Total Sanitation Campaign (TSC) is one such program that seeks to end the practice of open defecation by changing social norms and behaviors, and providing technical support and financial subsidies. The objective of this study was to measure the effect of the TSC implemented with capacity building support from the World Bank's Water and Sanitation Program in Madhya Pradesh on availability of individual household latrines (IHLs), defecation behaviors, and child health (diarrhea, highly credible gastrointestinal illness [HCGI], parasitic infections, anemia, growth).
Methods and Findings
We conducted a cluster-randomized, controlled trial in 80 rural villages. Field staff collected baseline measures of sanitation conditions, behaviors, and child health (May–July 2009), and revisited households 21 months later (February–April 2011) after the program was delivered. The study enrolled a random sample of 5,209 children <5 years old from 3,039 households that had at least one child <24 months at the beginning of the study. A random subsample of 1,150 children <24 months at enrollment were tested for soil transmitted helminth and protozoan infections in stool. The randomization successfully balanced intervention and control groups, and we estimated differences between groups in an intention to treat analysis. The intervention increased percentage of households in a village with improved sanitation facilities as defined by the WHO/UNICEF Joint Monitoring Programme by an average of 19% (95% CI for difference: 12%–26%; group means: 22% control versus 41% intervention), decreased open defecation among adults by an average of 10% (95% CI for difference: 4%–15%; group means: 73% intervention versus 84% control). However, the intervention did not improve child health measured in terms of multiple health outcomes (diarrhea, HCGI, helminth infections, anemia, growth). Limitations of the study included a relatively short follow-up period following implementation, evidence for contamination in ten of the 40 control villages, and bias possible in self-reported outcomes for diarrhea, HCGI, and open defecation behaviors.
Conclusions
The intervention led to modest increases in availability of IHLs and even more modest reductions in open defecation. These improvements were insufficient to improve child health outcomes (diarrhea, HCGI, parasite infection, anemia, growth). The results underscore the difficulty of achieving adequately large improvements in sanitation levels to deliver expected health benefits within large-scale rural sanitation programs.
Trial Registration
ClinicalTrials.gov NCT01465204
Please see later in the article for the Editors' Summary
Editors' Summary
Background
Diarrheal diseases are linked with the deaths of hundreds of thousands of young children each year in resource-limited countries. Infection with enteric pathogens (organisms such as bacteria, viruses, and parasites that infect the human intestine or gut) also affects the health and growth of many young children in these countries. A major contributor to the transmission of enteric pathogens is thought to be open defecation, which can expose individuals to direct contact with human feces containing infectious pathogens and also contaminate food and drinking water. Open defecation can be reduced by ensuring that people have access to and use toilets or latrines. Consequently, programs have been initiated in many resource-limited countries that aim to reduce open defecation by changing behaviors and by providing technical and financial support to help households build improved latrines (facilities that prevent human feces from re-entering the environment such as pit latrines with sealed squat plates; an example of an unimproved facility is a simple open hole). However, in 2011, according to the WHO/UNICEF Joint Monitoring Programme for Water Supply and Sanitation, more than 1 billion people (15% of the global population) still defecated in the open.
Why Was This Study Done?
Studies of sewerage system provision in urban areas suggest that interventions that prevent human feces entering the environment reduce diarrheal diseases. However, little is known about how rural sanitation programs, which usually focus on providing stand-alone sanitation facilities, affect diarrheal disease, intestinal parasite infections, anemia (which can be caused by parasite infections), or growth in young children. Governments and international donors need to know whether large-scale rural sanitation programs improve child health before expending further resources on these interventions or to identify an urgency to improve the existing program design or implementation so that they deliver the health impact. In this study, the researchers investigate the effect of India's Total Sanitation Campaign (TSC) on the availability of individual household latrines, defecation behaviors, and child health in rural Madhya Pradesh, one of India's less developed states. Sixty percent of people who practice open defection live in India and a quarter of global child deaths from diarrheal diseases occur in the country. India's TSC, which was initiated in 1999, includes activities designed to change social norms and behaviors and provides technical and financial support for latrine building. So far there are no published studies that rigorously evaluated whether the TSC improved child health or not.
What Did the Researchers Do and Find?
A cluster randomized controlled trial randomly assigns groups of people to receive the intervention under study and compares the outcomes with a control group that does not receive the intervention. The researchers enrolled 5,209 children aged under 5 years old living in 3,039 households in 80 rural villages in Madhya Pradesh. Half of the villages (40), chosen at random, were included in the TSC (the intervention). Field staff collected data on sanitation conditions, defecation behaviors, and child health from caregivers in each household at the start of the study and after the TSC implementation was over in the intervention villages. A random subsample of children was also tested for infection with enteric parasites. The intervention increased the percentage of households in a village with improved sanitation facilities by 19% on average. Specifically, 41% of households in the intervention villages had improved latrines on average compared to 22% of households in the control villages. The intervention also decreased the proportion of adults who self-reported open defecation from 84% to 73%. However, the intervention did not improve child health measured on the basis of multiple health outcomes, including the prevalence of gastrointestinal illnesses and intestinal parasite infections, and growth.
What Do These Findings Mean?
These findings indicate that in rural Madhya Pradesh, the TSC implemented with support from the WSP only slightly increased the availability of individual household latrines and only slightly decreased the practice of open defecation. Importantly, these findings show that these modest improvements in sanitation and in defecation behaviors were insufficient to improve health outcomes among children. The accuracy of these findings may be limited by various aspects of the study. For example, several control villages actually received the intervention, which means that these findings probably underestimate the effect of the intervention under perfect conditions. Self-reporting of defecation behavior, availability of sanitation facilities, and gastrointestinal illnesses among children may also have biased these findings. Finally, because TSC implementation varies widely across India, these findings may not apply to other Indian states or variations in the TSC implementation strategies. Overall, however, these findings highlight the challenges associated with achieving large enough improvement in access to sanitation and correspondingly large reductions in the practice of open defecation to deliver health benefits within large-scale rural sanitation programs.
Additional Information
Please access these websites via the online version of this summary at http://dx.doi.org/10.1371/journal.pmed.1001709.
This study is further discussed in a PLOS Medicine Perspective by Clarissa Brocklehurst
A PLOS Medicine Collection on water and sanitation is available
The World Health Organization (WHO) provides information on water, sanitation, and health (in several languages), on diarrhea (in several languages), and on intestinal parasites (accessed through WHO's web page on neglected tropical diseases); the 2009 WHO/UNICEF report “Diarrhea: why children are still dying and what can be done”, is available online for download
The WHO/UNICEF Joint Monitoring Programme for Water Supply and Sanitation monitors progress toward improved global sanitation; its 2014 update report is available online
The children's charity UNICEF, which protects the rights of children and young people around the world, provides information on water, sanitation, and hygiene, and on diarrhea (in several languages)
doi:10.1371/journal.pmed.1001709
PMCID: PMC4144850  PMID: 25157929
16.  Musculoskeletal pain in overweight and obese children 
This review seeks to provide a current overview of musculoskeletal pain in overweight and obese children. Databases searched were Academic Search Complete, CINAHL, Medline, Proquest Health and Medical Complete, Scopus, Google Scholar, SPORTDiscuss and Trove for studies published between 1 January 2000 and 30 December 2012. We used a broad definition of children within a 3- to 18-year age range. The search strategy included the following terms: obesity, morbid obesity, overweight, pain, musculoskeletal pain, child, adolescent, chronic pain, back pain, lower back pain, knee pain, hip pain, foot pain and pelvic pain. Two authors independently assessed each record, and any disagreement was resolved by the third author. Data were analysed using a narrative thematic approach owing to the heterogeneity of reported outcome measures. Ninety-seven records were initially identified using a variety of terms associated with children, obesity and musculoskeletal pain. Ten studies were included for thematic analysis when predetermined inclusion criteria were applied. Bone deformity and dysfunction, pain reporting and the impact of children being overweight or obese on physical activity, exercise and quality of life were the three themes identified from the literature. Chronic pain, obesity and a reduction in physical functioning and activity may contribute to a cycle of weight gain that affects a child's quality of life. Future studies are required to examine the sequela of overweight and obese children experiencing chronic musculoskeletal pain.
doi:10.1038/ijo.2013.187
PMCID: PMC3884137  PMID: 24077005
adolescent; overweight; pain; musculoskeletal; disability; child health
17.  Effect of Removing Direct Payment for Health Care on Utilisation and Health Outcomes in Ghanaian Children: A Randomised Controlled Trial 
PLoS Medicine  2009;6(1):e1000007.
Background
Delays in accessing care for malaria and other diseases can lead to disease progression, and user fees are a known barrier to accessing health care. Governments are introducing free health care to improve health outcomes. Free health care affects treatment seeking, and it is therefore assumed to lead to improved health outcomes, but there is no direct trial evidence of the impact of removing out-of-pocket payments on health outcomes in developing countries. This trial was designed to test the impact of free health care on health outcomes directly.
Methods and Findings
2,194 households containing 2,592 Ghanaian children under 5 y old were randomised into a prepayment scheme allowing free primary care including drugs, or to a control group whose families paid user fees for health care (normal practice); 165 children whose families had previously paid to enrol in the prepayment scheme formed an observational arm. The primary outcome was moderate anaemia (haemoglobin [Hb] < 8 g/dl); major secondary outcomes were health care utilisation, severe anaemia, and mortality. At baseline the randomised groups were similar. Introducing free primary health care altered the health care seeking behaviour of households; those randomised to the intervention arm used formal health care more and nonformal care less than the control group. Introducing free primary health care did not lead to any measurable difference in any health outcome. The primary outcome of moderate anaemia was detected in 37 (3.1%) children in the control and 36 children (3.2%) in the intervention arm (adjusted odds ratio 1.05, 95% confidence interval 0.66–1.67). There were four deaths in the control and five in the intervention group. Mean Hb concentration, severe anaemia, parasite prevalence, and anthropometric measurements were similar in each group. Families who previously self-enrolled in the prepayment scheme were significantly less poor, had better health measures, and used services more frequently than those in the randomised group.
Conclusions
In the study setting, removing out-of-pocket payments for health care had an impact on health care-seeking behaviour but not on the health outcomes measured.
Trial registration: ClinicalTrials.gov (#NCT00146692).
Evelyn Ansah and colleagues report on whether removing user fees has an impact on health care-seeking behavior and health outcomes in households with children in Ghana.
Editors' Summary
Background.
Every year, about 10 million children worldwide die before their fifth birthday. About half these deaths occur in developing countries in sub-Saharan Africa. Here, 166 children out of every 1,000 die before they are five. A handful of preventable diseases—acute respiratory infections, diarrhea, malaria, measles, and HIV/AIDS—are responsible for most of these deaths. For all these diseases, delays in accessing medical care contribute to the high death rate. In the case of malaria, for example, children are rarely taken to a clinic or hospital (formal health care) when they first develop symptoms, which include fever, chills, and anemia (lack of red blood cells). Instead, they are taken to traditional healers or given home remedies (informal health care). When they are finally taken to a clinic, it is often too late to save their lives. Many factors contribute to this delay in seeking formal health care. Sometimes, health care simply isn't available. In other instances, parents may worry about the quality of the service provided or may not seek formal health care because of their sociocultural beliefs. Finally, many parents cannot afford the travel costs and loss of earnings involved in taking their child to a clinic or the cost of the treatment itself.
Why Was This Study Done?
The financial cost of seeking formal health care is often the major barrier to accessing health care in poor countries. Consequently, the governments of several developing countries have introduced free health care in an effort to improve their nation's health. Such initiatives have increased the use of formal health care in several African countries; the introduction of user fees in Ghana in the early 1980s had the opposite effect. It is generally assumed that an increase in formal health care utilization improves health—but is this true? In this study, the researchers investigate the effect of removing direct payment for health care on health service utilization and health outcomes in Ghanaian children in a randomized controlled trial (a trial in which participants are randomly assigned to an “intervention” group or “control” group and various predefined outcomes are measured).
What Did the Researchers Do and Find?
The researchers enrolled nearly 2,600 children under the age of 5 y living in a poor region of Ghana. Half were assigned to the group in which a prepayment scheme (paid for by the trial) provided free primary and basic secondary health care—this was the intervention arm. The rest were assigned to the control group in which families paid for health care. The trial's main outcome was the percentage of children with moderate anemia at the end of the malaria transmission season, an indicator of the effect of the intervention on malaria-related illness. Other outcomes included health care utilization (calculated from household diaries), severe anemia, and death. The researchers report that the children in the intervention arm attended formal health care facilities slightly more often and informal health care providers slightly less often than those in the control arm. About 3% of the children in both groups had moderate anemia at the end of the malaria transmission season. In addition, similar numbers of deaths, cases of severe anemia, fever episodes, and known infections with the malaria parasite were recorded in both groups of children.
What Do These Findings Mean?
These findings show that, in this setting, the removal of out-of-pocket payments for health care changed health care-seeking behavior but not health outcomes in children. This lack of a measured effect does not necessarily mean that the provision of free health care has no effect on children's health—it could be that the increase in health care utilization in the intervention arm compared to the control arm was too modest to produce a clear effect on health. Alternatively, in Ghana, the indirect costs of seeking health care may be more important than the direct cost of paying for treatment. Although the findings of this trial may not be generalizable to other countries, they nevertheless raise the possibility that providing free health care might not be the most cost-effective way of improving health in all developing countries. Importantly, they also suggest that changes in health care utilization should not be used in future trials as a proxy measure of improvements in health.
Additional Information.
Please access these Web sites via the online version of this summary at http://dx.doi.org/10.1371/journal.pmed.1000007.
This research article is further discussed in a PLoS Medicine Perspective by Valéry Ridde and Slim Haddad
The World Health Organization provides information on child health and on global efforts to reduce child mortality, Millennium Development Goal 4; it also provides information about health in Ghana
The United Nations Web site provides further information on all the Millennium Development Goals, which were agreed to by the nations of the world in 2000 with the aim of ending extreme poverty by 2015 (in several languages)
The UK Department for International Development also provides information on the progress that is being made toward reducing child mortality
doi:10.1371/journal.pmed.1000007
PMCID: PMC2613422  PMID: 19127975
18.  The Effect of Handwashing at Recommended Times with Water Alone and With Soap on Child Diarrhea in Rural Bangladesh: An Observational Study 
PLoS Medicine  2011;8(6):e1001052.
By observing handwashing behavior in 347 households from 50 villages across rural Bangladesh in 2007, Stephen Luby and colleagues found that hand washing with soap or hand rinsing without soap before food preparation can both reduce the burden of childhood diarrhea.
Background
Standard public health interventions to improve hand hygiene in communities with high levels of child mortality encourage community residents to wash their hands with soap at five separate key times, a recommendation that would require mothers living in impoverished households to typically wash hands with soap more than ten times per day. We analyzed data from households that received no intervention in a large prospective project evaluation to assess the relationship between observed handwashing behavior and subsequent diarrhea.
Methods and Findings
Fieldworkers conducted a 5-hour structured observation and a cross-sectional survey in 347 households from 50 villages across rural Bangladesh in 2007. For the subsequent 2 years, a trained community resident visited each of the enrolled households every month and collected information on the occurrence of diarrhea in the preceding 48 hours among household residents under the age of 5 years. Compared with children living in households where persons prepared food without washing their hands, children living in households where the food preparer washed at least one hand with water only (odds ratio [OR] = 0.78; 95% confidence interval [CI] = 0.57–1.05), washed both hands with water only (OR = 0.67; 95% CI = 0.51–0.89), or washed at least one hand with soap (OR = 0.30; 95% CI = 0.19–0.47) had less diarrhea. In households where residents washed at least one hand with soap after defecation, children had less diarrhea (OR = 0.45; 95% CI = 0.26–0.77). There was no significant association between handwashing with or without soap before feeding a child, before eating, or after cleaning a child's anus who defecated and subsequent child diarrhea.
Conclusions
These observations suggest that handwashing before preparing food is a particularly important opportunity to prevent childhood diarrhea, and that handwashing with water alone can significantly reduce childhood diarrhea.
Please see later in the article for the Editors' Summary
Editors' Summary
Background
The resurgence of donor interest in regarding water and sanitation as fundamental public health issues has been a welcome step forward and will do much to improve the health of the 1.1 billion people world-wide without access to clean water and the 2.4 billion without access to improved sanitation. However, improving hygiene practices is also very important—studies have consistently shown that handwashing with soap reduces childhood diarrheal disease—but in reality is particularly difficult to do as this activity involves complex behavioral changes. Therefore although public health programs in communities with high child mortality commonly promote handwashing with soap, this practice is still uncommon and washing hands with water only is still common practice—partly because of the high cost of soap relative to income, the risk that conveniently placed soap would be stolen or wasted, and the inconvenience of fetching soap.
Handwashing promotion programs often focus on five “key times” for handwashing with soap—after defecation, after handling child feces or cleaning a child's anus, before preparing food, before feeding a child, and before eating—which would require requesting busy impoverished mothers to wash their hands with soap more than ten times a day.
Why Was This Study Done?
In addition to encouraging handwashing only at the most critical times, clarifying whether handwashing with water alone, a behavior that is seemingly much easier for people to practice, but for which there is little evidence, may be a way forward. In order to guide more focused and evidence-based recommendations, the researchers evaluated the control group of a large handwashing, hygiene/sanitation, and water quality improvement program—Sanitation, Hygiene Education and Water supply-Bangladesh (SHEWA-B), organized and supported by the Bangladesh Government, UNICEF, and the UK's Department for International Development. The researchers analyzed the relationship between handwashing behavior as observed at baseline and the subsequent experience of child diarrhea in participating households to identify which specific handwashing behaviors were associated with less diarrhea in young children.
What Did the Researchers Do and Find?
The SHEWA-B intervention targeted 19.6 million people in rural Bangladesh in 68 subdistricts. In this study and with community and household consent, the researchers organized trained field workers, using a pretested instrument, to note handwashing behavior at key times and recorded handwashing behavior of all observed household at baseline in 50 randomly selected villages that served as nonintervention control households to compare with outcomes to communities receiving the SHEWA-B program. The fieldworkers recruited community monitors, female village residents who completed 3 days training on how to administer the monthly diarrhea survey, to record the frequency of diarrhea in children aged less than 3 years in control households for the subsequent two years. The researchers used statistical models to evaluate the association between the exposure variables (household characteristics and observed handwashing) and diarrhea.
Using these methods, the researchers found that compared to no handwashing at all before food preparation, children living in households where the food preparer washed at least one hand with water only, washed both hands with water only, or washed at least one hand with soap, had less diarrhea with odds ratios (ORs) of 0.78, 0.67, and 0.19, respectively. In households where residents washed at least one hand with soap after defecation, children had less diarrhea (OR = 0.45), but there was no significant association between handwashing with or without soap before feeding a child, before eating, or after cleaning a child's anus, and subsequent child diarrhea.
What Do These Findings Mean?
These findings from 50 villages across rural Bangladesh where fecal environmental contamination, undernutrition, and diarrhea are common, suggest that handwashing before preparing food is a particularly important opportunity to prevent childhood diarrhea, and also that handwashing with water alone can significantly reduce childhood diarrhea. In contrast to current standard recommendations, these results suggest that promoting handwashing exclusively with soap may be unwarranted. Handwashing with water alone might be seen as a step on the handwashing ladder: handwashing with water is good; handwashing with soap is better. Therefore, handwashing promotion programs in rural Bangladesh should not attempt to modify handwashing behavior at all five key times, but rather, should focus primarily on handwashing after defecation and before food preparation. Furthermore, research to develop and evaluate handwashing messages that account for the limited time and soap supplies available for low-income families, and are focused on those behaviors where there is the strongest evidence for a health benefit could help identify more effective strategies.
Additional Information
Please access these Web sites via the online version of this summary at http://dx.doi.org/10.1371/journal.pmed.1001052.
A four-part collection of Policy Forum articles published in November 2010 in PLoS Medicine, called “Water and Sanitation,” provides information on water, sanitation, and hygiene
Hygiene Central provides information on improving hygiene practices
doi:10.1371/journal.pmed.1001052
PMCID: PMC3125291  PMID: 21738452
19.  When all children comprehend: increasing the external validity of narrative comprehension development research 
Narratives, also called stories, can be found in conversations, children's play interactions, reading material, and television programs. From infancy to adulthood, narrative comprehension processes interpret events and inform our understanding of physical and social environments. These processes have been extensively studied to ascertain the multifaceted nature of narrative comprehension. From this research we know that three overlapping processes (i.e., knowledge integration, goal structure understanding, and causal inference generation) proposed by the constructionist paradigm are necessary for narrative comprehension, narrative comprehension has a predictive relationship with children's later reading performance, and comprehension processes are generalizable to other contexts. Much of the previous research has emphasized internal and predictive validity; thus, limiting the generalizability of previous findings. We are concerned these limitations may be excluding underrepresented populations from benefits and implications identified by early comprehension processes research. This review identifies gaps in extant literature regarding external validity and argues for increased emphasis on externally valid research. We highlight limited research on narrative comprehension processes in children from low-income and minority populations, and argue for changes in comprehension assessments. Specifically, we argue both on- and off-line assessments should be used across various narrative types (e.g., picture books, televised narratives) with traditionally underserved and underrepresented populations. We propose increasing the generalizability of narrative comprehension processes research can inform persistent reading achievement gaps, and have practical implications for how children learn from narratives.
doi:10.3389/fpsyg.2014.00168
PMCID: PMC3952029  PMID: 24659973
narrative comprehension; development; knowledge integration; goal structure understanding; causal inferences; external validity; review
20.  The Effect of Patient Narratives on Information Search in a Web-Based Breast Cancer Decision Aid: An Eye-Tracking Study 
Background
Previous research has examined the impact of patient narratives on treatment choices, but to our knowledge, no study has examined the effect of narratives on information search. Further, no research has considered the relative impact of their format (text vs video) on health care decisions in a single study.
Objective
Our goal was to examine the impact of video and text-based narratives on information search in a Web-based patient decision aid for early stage breast cancer.
Methods
Fifty-six women were asked to imagine that they had been diagnosed with early stage breast cancer and needed to choose between two surgical treatments (lumpectomy with radiation or mastectomy). Participants were randomly assigned to view one of four versions of a Web decision aid. Two versions of the decision aid included videos of interviews with patients and physicians or videos of interviews with physicians only. To distinguish between the effect of narratives and the effect of videos, we created two text versions of the Web decision aid by replacing the patient and physician interviews with text transcripts of the videos. Participants could freely browse the Web decision aid until they developed a treatment preference. We recorded participants’ eye movements using the Tobii 1750 eye-tracking system equipped with Tobii Studio software. A priori, we defined 24 areas of interest (AOIs) in the Web decision aid. These AOIs were either separate pages of the Web decision aid or sections within a single page covering different content.
Results
We used multilevel modeling to examine the effect of narrative presence, narrative format, and their interaction on information search. There was a significant main effect of condition, P=.02; participants viewing decision aids with patient narratives spent more time searching for information than participants viewing the decision aids without narratives. The main effect of format was not significant, P=.10. However, there was a significant condition by format interaction on fixation duration, P<.001. When comparing the two video decision aids, participants viewing the narrative version spent more time searching for information than participants viewing the control version of the decision aid. In contrast, participants viewing the narrative version of the text decision aid spent less time searching for information than participants viewing the control version of the text decision aid. Further, narratives appear to have a global effect on information search; these effects were not limited to specific sections of the decision aid that contained topics discussed in the patient stories.
Conclusions
The observed increase in fixation duration with video patient testimonials is consistent with the idea that the vividness of the video content could cause greater elaboration of the message, thereby encouraging greater information search. Conversely, because reading requires more effortful processing than watching, reading patient narratives may have decreased participant motivation to engage in more reading in the remaining sections of the Web decision aid. These findings suggest that the format of patient stories may be equally as important as their content in determining their effect on decision making. More research is needed to understand why differences in format result in fundamental differences in information search.
doi:10.2196/jmir.2784
PMCID: PMC3875892  PMID: 24345424
personal narratives; decision aids; eye tracking; breast cancer
21.  Effect of Household-Based Drinking Water Chlorination on Diarrhoea among Children under Five in Orissa, India: A Double-Blind Randomised Placebo-Controlled Trial 
PLoS Medicine  2013;10(8):e1001497.
Sophie Boisson and colleagues conducted a double-blind, randomized placebo-controlled trial in Orissa, a state in southeast India, to evaluate the effect of household water treatment in preventing diarrheal illnesses in children aged under five years of age.
Please see later in the article for the Editors' Summary
Background
Boiling, disinfecting, and filtering water within the home can improve the microbiological quality of drinking water among the hundreds of millions of people who rely on unsafe water supplies. However, the impact of these interventions on diarrhoea is unclear. Most studies using open trial designs have reported a protective effect on diarrhoea while blinded studies of household water treatment in low-income settings have found no such effect. However, none of those studies were powered to detect an impact among children under five and participants were followed-up over short periods of time. The aim of this study was to measure the effect of in-home water disinfection on diarrhoea among children under five.
Methods and Findings
We conducted a double-blind randomised controlled trial between November 2010 and December 2011. The study included 2,163 households and 2,986 children under five in rural and urban communities of Orissa, India. The intervention consisted of an intensive promotion campaign and free distribution of sodium dichloroisocyanurate (NaDCC) tablets during bi-monthly households visits. An independent evaluation team visited households monthly for one year to collect health data and water samples. The primary outcome was the longitudinal prevalence of diarrhoea (3-day point prevalence) among children aged under five. Weight-for-age was also measured at each visit to assess its potential as a proxy marker for diarrhoea. Adherence was monitored each month through caregiver's reports and the presence of residual free chlorine in the child's drinking water at the time of visit. On 20% of the total household visits, children's drinking water was assayed for thermotolerant coliforms (TTC), an indicator of faecal contamination. The primary analysis was on an intention-to-treat basis. Binomial regression with a log link function and robust standard errors was used to compare prevalence of diarrhoea between arms. We used generalised estimating equations to account for clustering at the household level. The impact of the intervention on weight-for-age z scores (WAZ) was analysed using random effect linear regression.
Over the follow-up period, 84,391 child-days of observations were recorded, representing 88% of total possible child-days of observation. The longitudinal prevalence of diarrhoea among intervention children was 1.69% compared to 1.74% among controls. After adjusting for clustering within household, the prevalence ratio of the intervention to control was 0.95 (95% CI 0.79–1.13). The mean WAZ was similar among children of the intervention and control groups (−1.586 versus −1.589, respectively). Among intervention households, 51% reported their child's drinking water to be treated with the tablets at the time of visit, though only 32% of water samples tested positive for residual chlorine. Faecal contamination of drinking water was lower among intervention households than controls (geometric mean TTC count of 50 [95% CI 44–57] per 100 ml compared to 122 [95% CI 107–139] per 100 ml among controls [p<0.001] [n = 4,546]).
Conclusions
Our study was designed to overcome the shortcomings of previous double-blinded trials of household water treatment in low-income settings. The sample size was larger, the follow-up period longer, both urban and rural populations were included, and adherence and water quality were monitored extensively over time. These results provide no evidence that the intervention was protective against diarrhoea. Low compliance and modest reduction in water contamination may have contributed to the lack of effect. However, our findings are consistent with other blinded studies of similar interventions and raise additional questions about the actual health impact of household water treatment under these conditions.
Trial Registration
ClinicalTrials.gov NCT01202383
Please see later in the article for the Editors' Summary
Editors' Summary
Background
Millennium Development Goal 7 calls for halving the proportion of the global population without sustainable access to safe drinking water between 1990 and 2015. Although this target was met in 2010, according to latest figures, 768 million people world-wide still rely on unimproved drinking water sources. Access to clean drinking water is integral to good health and a key strategy in reducing diarrhoeal illness: Currently, 1.3 million children aged less than five years die of diarrhoeal illnesses every year with a sixth of such deaths occurring in one country—India. Although India has recently made substantial progress in improving water supplies throughout the country, currently almost 90% of the rural population does not have a water connection to their house and drinking water supplies throughout the country are extensively contaminated with human waste. A strategy internationally referred to as Household Water Treatment and Safe Storage (HWTS), which involves people boiling, chlorinating, and filtering water at home, has been recommended by the World Health Organization and UNICEF to improve water quality at the point of delivery.
Why Was This Study Done?
The WHO and UNICEF strategy to promote HWTS is based on previous studies from low-income settings that found that such interventions could reduce diarrhoeal illnesses by between 30%–40%. However, these studies had several limitations including reporting bias, short follow up periods, and small sample sizes; and importantly, in blinded studies (in which both the study participants and researchers are unaware of which participants are receiving the intervention or the control) have found no evidence that HWTS is protective against diarrhoeal illnesses. So the researchers conducted a blinded study (a double-blind, randomized placebo-controlled trial) in Orissa, a state in southeast India, to address those shortcomings and evaluate the effect of household water treatment in preventing diarrhoeal illnesses in children under five years of age.
What Did the Researchers Do and Find?
The researchers conducted their study in 11 informal settlements (where the inhabitants do not benefit from public water or sewers) in the state's capital city and also in 20 rural villages. 2,163 households were randomized to receive the intervention—the promotion and free distribution of sodium dichloroisocyanurate (chlorine) disinfection tablets with instruction on how to use them—or placebo tablets that were similar in appearance and had the same effervescent base as the chlorine tablets. Trained field workers visited households every month for 12 months (between December 2010 and December 2011) to record whether any child had experienced diarrhoea in the previous three days (as reported by the primary care giver). The researchers tested compliance with the intervention by asking participants if they had treated the water and also by testing for chlorine in the water.
Using these methods, the researchers found that over the 12-month follow-up period, the longitudinal prevalence of diarrhoea among children in the intervention group was 1.69% compared to 1.74% in the control group, a non-significant finding (a finding that could have happened by chance). There was also no difference in diarrhoea prevalence among other household members in the two groups and no difference in weight for age z scores (a measurement of growth) between children in the two groups. The researchers also found that although just over half (51%) of households in the intervention group reported treating their water, on testing, only 32% of water samples tested positive for chlorine. Finally, the researchers found that water quality (as measured by thermotolerant coliforms, TTCs) was better in the intervention group than the control group.
What Do These Findings Mean?
These findings suggest that treating water with chlorine tablets has no effect in reducing the prevalence of diarrhoea in both children aged under five years and in other household members in Orissa, India. However, poor compliance was a major issue with only a third of households in the intervention group confirmed as treating their water with chlorine tablets. Furthermore, these findings are limited in that the prevalence of diarrhoea was lower than expected, which may have also reduced the power of detecting a potential effect of the intervention. Nevertheless, this study raises questions about the health impact of household water treatment and highlights the key challenge of poor compliance with public health interventions.
Additional Information
Please access these websites via the online version of this summary at http://dx.doi.org/10.1371/journal.pmed.1001497.
The website of the World Health Organization has a section dedicated to household water treatment and safe storage, including a network to promote the use of HWTS and a toolkit to measure HWTS
The Water Institute hosts the communications portal for the International Network on Household Water Treatment and Safe Storage
doi:10.1371/journal.pmed.1001497
PMCID: PMC3747993  PMID: 23976883
22.  Mortality after Parental Death in Childhood: A Nationwide Cohort Study from Three Nordic Countries 
PLoS Medicine  2014;11(7):e1001679.
Jiong Li and colleagues examine mortality rates in children who lost a parent before 18 years old compared with those who did not using population-based data from Denmark, Sweden, and Finland.
Please see later in the article for the Editors' Summary
Background
Bereavement by spousal death and child death in adulthood has been shown to lead to an increased risk of mortality. Maternal death in infancy or parental death in early childhood may have an impact on mortality but evidence has been limited to short-term or selected causes of death. Little is known about long-term or cause-specific mortality after parental death in childhood.
Methods and Findings
This cohort study included all persons born in Denmark from 1968 to 2008 (n = 2,789,807) and in Sweden from 1973 to 2006 (n = 3,380,301), and a random sample of 89.3% of all born in Finland from 1987 to 2007 (n = 1,131,905). A total of 189,094 persons were included in the exposed cohort when they lost a parent before 18 years old. Log-linear Poisson regression was used to estimate mortality rate ratio (MRR). Parental death was associated with a 50% increased all-cause mortality (MRR = 1.50, 95% CI 1.43–1.58). The risks were increased for most specific cause groups and the highest MRRs were observed when the cause of child death and the cause of parental death were in the same category. Parental unnatural death was associated with a higher mortality risk (MRR = 1.84, 95% CI 1.71–2.00) than parental natural death (MRR = 1.33, 95% CI 1.24–1.41). The magnitude of the associations varied according to type of death and age at bereavement over different follow-up periods. The main limitation of the study is the lack of data on post-bereavement information on the quality of the parent-child relationship, lifestyles, and common physical environment.
Conclusions
Parental death in childhood or adolescence is associated with increased all-cause mortality into early adulthood. Since an increased mortality reflects both genetic susceptibility and long-term impacts of parental death on health and social well-being, our findings have implications in clinical responses and public health strategies.
Please see later in the article for the Editors' Summary
Editors' Summary
Background
When someone close dies, it is normal to grieve, to mourn the loss of that individual. Initially, people who have lost a loved one often feel numb and disorientated and find it hard to grasp what has happened. Later, people may feel angry or guilty, and may be overwhelmed by feelings of sadness and despair. They may become depressed or anxious and may even feel suicidal. People who are grieving can also have physical reactions to their loss such as sleep problems, changes in appetite, and illness. How long bereavement—the period of grief and mourning after a death—lasts and how badly it affects an individual depends on the relationship between the individual and the deceased person, on whether the death was expected, and on how much support the mourner receives from relatives, friends, and professionals.
Why Was This Study Done?
The loss of a life-partner or of a child is associated with an increased risk of death (mortality), and there is also some evidence that the death of a parent during childhood leads to an increased mortality risk in the short term. However, little is known about the long-term impact on mortality of early parental loss or whether the impact varies with the type of death—a natural death from illness or an unnatural death from external causes such as an accident—or with the specific cause of death. A better understanding of the impact of early bereavement on mortality is needed to ensure that bereaved children receive appropriate health and social support after a parent's death. Here, the researchers undertake a nationwide cohort study in three Nordic countries to investigate long-term and cause-specific mortality after parental death in childhood. A cohort study compares the occurrence of an event (here, death) in a group of individuals who have been exposed to a particular variable (here, early parental loss) with the occurrence of the same event in an unexposed cohort.
What Did the Researchers Do and Find?
The researchers obtained data on everyone born in Denmark from 1968 to 2008 and in Sweden from 1973 to 2006, and on most people born in Finland from 1987 to 2007 (more than 7 million individuals in total) from national registries. They identified 189,094 individuals who had lost a parent between the age of 6 months and 18 years. They then estimated the mortality rate ratio (MRR) associated with parental death during childhood or adolescence by comparing the number of deaths in this exposed cohort (after excluding children who died on the same day as a parent or shortly after from the same cause) and in the unexposed cohort. Compared with the unexposed cohort, the exposed cohort had 50% higher all-cause mortality (MRR = 1.50). The risk of mortality in the exposed cohort was increased for most major categories of cause of death but the highest MRRs were seen when the cause of death in children, adolescents, and young adults during follow-up and the cause of parental death were in the same category. Notably, parental unnatural death was associated with a higher mortality risk (MRR = 1.84) than parental natural death (MRR = 1.33). Finally, the exposed cohort had increased all-cause MRRs well into early adulthood irrespective of child age at parental death, and the magnitude of MRRs differed by child age at parental death and by type of death.
What Do These Findings Mean?
These findings show that in three high-income Nordic countries parental death during childhood and adolescence is associated with an increased risk of all-cause mortality into early adulthood, irrespective of sex and age at bereavement and after accounting for baseline characteristics such as socioeconomic status. Part of this association may be due to “confounding” factors—the people who lost a parent during childhood may have shared other unknown characteristics that increased their risk of death. Because the study was undertaken in high-income countries, these findings are unlikely to be the result of a lack of material or health care needs. Rather, the increased mortality among the exposed group reflects both genetic susceptibility and the long-term impacts of parental death on health and social well-being. Given that increased mortality probably only represents the tip of the iceberg of the adverse effects of early bereavement, these findings highlight the need to provide long-term health and social support to bereaved children.
Additional Information
Please access these websites via the online version of this summary at http://dx.doi.org/10.1371/journal.pmed.1001679.
The UK National Health Service Choices website provides information about bereavement, including personal stories; it also provides information about children and bereavement and about young people and bereavement, including links to not-for-profit organizations that support children through bereavement
The US National Cancer Institute has detailed information about dealing with bereavement for the public and for health professionals that includes a section on children and grief (in English and Spanish)
The US National Alliance for Grieving Children promotes awareness of the needs of children and teens grieving a death and provides education and resources for anyone who wants to support them
MedlinePlus provides links to other resources about bereavement (in English and Spanish)
doi:10.1371/journal.pmed.1001679
PMCID: PMC4106717  PMID: 25051501
23.  Dynamic Assessment of School-Age Children’s Narrative Ability 
Two experiments examined reliability and classification accuracy of a narration-based dynamic assessment task.
Purpose
The first experiment evaluated whether parallel results were obtained from stories created in response to 2 different wordless picture books. If so, the tasks and measures would be appropriate for assessing pretest and posttest change within a dynamic assessment format. The second experiment evaluated the extent to which children with language impairments performed differently than typically developing controls on dynamic assessment of narrative language.
Method
In the first experiment, 58 1st- and 2nd-grade children told 2 stories about wordless picture books. Stories were rated on macrostructural and microstructural aspects of language form and content, and the ratings were subjected to reliability analyses. In the second experiment, 71 children participated in dynamic assessment. There were 3 phases: a pretest phase, in which children created a story that corresponded to 1 of the wordless picture books from Experiment 1; a teaching phase, in which children attended 2 short mediation sessions that focused on storytelling ability; and a posttest phase, in which children created a story that corresponded to a second wordless picture book from Experiment 1. Analyses compared the pretest and posttest stories that were told by 2 groups of children who received mediated learning (typical and language impaired groups) and a no-treatment control group of typically developing children from Experiment 1.
Results
The results of the first experiment indicated that the narrative measures applied to stories about 2 different wordless picture books had good internal consistency. In Experiment 2, typically developing children who received mediated learning demonstrated a greater amount of pretest to posttest change than children in the language impaired and control groups. Classification analysis indicated better specificity and sensitivity values for measures of response to intervention (modifiability) and posttest storytelling than for measures of pretest storytelling. Observation of modifiability was the single best indicator of language impairment. Posttest measures and modifiability together yielded no misclassifications.
Conclusion
The first experiment supported the use of 2 wordless picture books as stimulus materials for collecting narratives before and after mediation within a dynamic assessment paradigm. The second experiment supported the use of dynamic assessment for accurately identifying language impairments in school-age children.
doi:10.1044/1092-4388(2006/074)
PMCID: PMC2367212  PMID: 17077213
assessment; bias; multicultural; narratives; children
24.  Abdominal epilepsy in chronic recurrent abdominal pain 
Background:
Abdominal epilepsy (AE) is an uncommon cause for chronic recurrent abdominal pain in children and adults. It is characterized by paroxysmal episode of abdominal pain, diverse abdominal complaints, definite electroencephalogram (EEG) abnormalities and favorable response to the introduction of anti-epileptic drugs (AED). We studied 150 children with chronic recurrent abdominal pain and after exclusion of more common etiologies for the presenting complaints; workup proceeded with an EEG. We found 111 (74%) children with an abnormal EEG and 39 (26%) children with normal EEG. All children were subjected to AED (Oxcarbazepine) and 139 (92%) children responded to AED out of which 111 (74%) children had an abnormal EEG and 27 (18%) had a normal EEG. On further follow-up the patients were symptom free, which helped us to confirm the clinical diagnosis.
Context:
Recurrent chronic abdominal pain is a common problem encountered by pediatricians. Variety of investigations are done to come to a diagnosis but a cause is rarely found. In such children diagnosis of AE should be considered and an EEG will confirm the diagnosis and treated with AED.
Aims:
To find the incidence of AE in children presenting with chronic recurrent abdominal pain and to correlate EEG findings and their clinical response to empirical AEDs in both cases and control.
Settings and Design:
Krishna Institute of Medical Sciences University, Karad, Maharashtra, India. Prospective analytical study.
Materials and Methods:
A total of 150 children with chronic recurrent abdominal pain were studied by investigations to rule out common causes of abdominal pain and an EEG. All children were then started with AED oxycarbamezepine and their response to the treatment was noted.
Results:
111 (74%) of the total 150 children showed a positive EEG change suggestive of epileptogenic activity and of which 75 (67.56%) were females and 36 (32.43%) were male, majority of children were in the age of group of 9-12 years. Temporal wave discharges were 39 (35.13%) of the total abnormal EEG's. All the children were started on AEDs and those with abnormal EEG showed 100% response to treatment while 27 (18%) children with normal EEG also responded to treatment. Twelve (8%) children did not have any improvement in symptoms.
Conclusions:
A diagnosis of AE must be considered in children with chronic recurrent abdominal pain, especially in those with suggestive history, and an EEG can save a child from lot of unnecessary investigations and suffering.
doi:10.4103/1817-1745.106468
PMCID: PMC3611899  PMID: 23559997
Abdominal epilepsy; chronic recurrent abdominal pain; electroencephalogram
25.  Impact of Intermittent Screening and Treatment for Malaria among School Children in Kenya: A Cluster Randomised Trial 
PLoS Medicine  2014;11(1):e1001594.
Katherine Halliday and colleagues conducted a cluster randomized controlled trial in Kenyan school children in an area of low to moderate malaria transmission to investigate the effect of intermittent screening and treatment of malaria on health and education.
Please see later in the article for the Editors' Summary
Background
Improving the health of school-aged children can yield substantial benefits for cognitive development and educational achievement. However, there is limited experimental evidence of the benefits of alternative school-based malaria interventions or how the impacts of interventions vary according to intensity of malaria transmission. We investigated the effect of intermittent screening and treatment (IST) for malaria on the health and education of school children in an area of low to moderate malaria transmission.
Methods and Findings
A cluster randomised trial was implemented with 5,233 children in 101 government primary schools on the south coast of Kenya in 2010–2012. The intervention was delivered to children randomly selected from classes 1 and 5 who were followed up for 24 months. Once a school term, children were screened by public health workers using malaria rapid diagnostic tests (RDTs), and children (with or without malaria symptoms) found to be RDT-positive were treated with a six dose regimen of artemether-lumefantrine (AL). Given the nature of the intervention, the trial was not blinded. The primary outcomes were anaemia and sustained attention. Secondary outcomes were malaria parasitaemia and educational achievement. Data were analysed on an intention-to-treat basis.
During the intervention period, an average of 88.3% children in intervention schools were screened at each round, of whom 17.5% were RDT-positive. 80.3% of children in the control and 80.2% in the intervention group were followed-up at 24 months. No impact of the malaria IST intervention was observed for prevalence of anaemia at either 12 or 24 months (adjusted risk ratio [Adj.RR]: 1.03, 95% CI 0.93–1.13, p = 0.621 and Adj.RR: 1.00, 95% CI 0.90–1.11, p = 0.953) respectively, or on prevalence of P. falciparum infection or scores of classroom attention. No effect of IST was observed on educational achievement in the older class, but an apparent negative effect was seen on spelling scores in the younger class at 9 and 24 months and on arithmetic scores at 24 months.
Conclusion
In this setting in Kenya, IST as implemented in this study is not effective in improving the health or education of school children. Possible reasons for the absence of an impact are the marked geographical heterogeneity in transmission, the rapid rate of reinfection following AL treatment, the variable reliability of RDTs, and the relative contribution of malaria to the aetiology of anaemia in this setting.
Trial registration
www.ClinicalTrials.gov NCT00878007
Please see later in the article for the Editors' Summary
Editors' Summary
Background
Every year, more than 200 million cases of malaria occur worldwide and more than 600,000 people, mostly children living in sub-Saharan Africa, die from this mosquito-borne parasitic infection. Malaria can be prevented by controlling the night-biting mosquitoes that transmit Plasmodium parasites and by sleeping under insecticide-treated nets to avoid mosquito bites. Infection with malaria parasites causes recurring flu-like symptoms and needs to be treated promptly with antimalarial drugs to prevent the development of anaemia (a reduction in red blood cell numbers) and potentially fatal damage to the brain and other organs. Treatment also reduces malaria transmission. In 1998, the World Health Organization and several other international bodies established the Roll Back Malaria Partnership to provide a coordinated global approach to fighting malaria. In 2008, the Partnership launched its Global Malaria Action Plan, which aims to control malaria to reduce the current burden, to eliminate malaria over time country by country, and, ultimately, to eradicate malaria.
Why Was This Study Done?
In recent years, many malaria-endemic countries (countries where malaria is always present) have implemented successful malaria control programs and reduced malaria transmission levels. In these countries, immunity to malaria is now acquired more slowly than in the past, the burden of clinical malaria is shifting from very young children to older children, and infection rates with malaria parasites are now highest among school-aged children. Chronic untreated Plasmodium infection, even when it does not cause symptoms, can negatively affect children's health, cognitive development (the acquisition of thinking skills), and educational achievement. However, little is known about how school-based malaria interventions affect the health of children or their educational outcomes. In this cluster randomized trial, the researchers investigate the effect of intermittent screening and treatment (IST) of malaria on the health and education of school children in a rural area of southern Kenya with low-to-moderate malaria transmission. Cluster randomized trials compare the outcomes of groups (“clusters”) of people randomly assigned to receive alternative interventions. IST of malaria involves periodical screening of individuals for Plasmodium infection followed by treatment of everyone who is infected, including people without symptoms, with antimalarial drugs.
What Did the Researchers Do and Find?
The researchers enrolled more than 5,000 children aged between 5 and 20 years from 101 government primary schools in Kenya into their 24-month study. Half the schools were randomly selected to receive the IST intervention (screening once a school term for infection with a malaria parasite with a rapid diagnostic test [RDT] and treatment of all RDT-positive children, with or without malaria symptoms, with six doses of artemether-lumefantrine), which was delivered to randomly selected children from classes 1 and 5 (which contained younger and older children, respectively). During the study, 17.5% of the children in the intervention schools were RDT-positive at screening on average. The prevalences of anaemia and parasitemia (the proportion of children with anaemia and the proportion who were RDT-positive, respectively) were similar in the intervention and control groups at the 12-month and 24-month follow-up and there was no difference between the two groups in classroom attention scores at the 9-month and 24-month follow-up. The IST intervention also had no effect on educational achievement in the older class but, unexpectedly, appeared to have a negative effect on spelling and arithmetic scores in the younger class.
What Do These Findings Mean?
These findings indicate that, in this setting in Kenya, IST as implemented in this study provided no health or education benefits to school children. The finding that the educational achievement of younger children was lower in the intervention group than in the control group may be a chance finding or may indicate that apprehension about the finger prick needed to take blood for the RDT had a negative effect on the performance of younger children during educational tests. The researchers suggest that their failure to demonstrate that the school-based IST intervention they tested had any long-lasting health or education benefits may be because, in a low-to-moderate malaria transmission setting, most of the children screened did not require treatment and those who did lived in focal high transmission regions, where rapid re-infection occurred between screening rounds. Importantly, however, these findings suggest that school screening using RDT could be an efficient way to identify transmission hotspots in communities that should be targeted for malaria control interventions.
Additional Information
Please access these websites via the online version of this summary at http://dx.doi.org/10.1371/journal.pmed.1001594.
This study is further discussed in a PLOS Medicine Perspective by Lorenz von Seidlein
Information is available fro m the World Health Organization on malaria (in several languages); the 2012 World Malaria Report provides details of the current global malaria situation
The US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention provide information on malaria (in English and Spanish), including a selection of personal stories about children with malaria
Information is available from the Roll Back Malaria Partnership on the global control of malaria and on the Global Malaria Action Plan (in English and French); its website includes a fact sheet about malaria in Kenya
MedlinePlus provides links to additional information on malaria (in English and Spanish)
More information about this trial is available
More information about malaria control in schools is provided in the toolkit
doi:10.1371/journal.pmed.1001594
PMCID: PMC3904819  PMID: 24492859

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