Society for Adolescent Medicine Annual Meeting, March 26-29, 2008
The Society for Adolescent Medicine's annual meeting took place March 26-29 in Greensboro, N.C., and attracted more than 650 health care professionals, including pediatricians, family physicians, internal medicine specialists, Ob/Gyns, nurses, psychologists, social workers, dieticians, health educators and public health workers. Highlights included multiple presentations on adolescent obesity and research addressing adolescent sexuality, vaccination and depression.
"The theme of the meeting was 'Adolescent Obesity: Prevention and Treatment,'" said associate program chair Vaughn Rickert, Psy.D., of the Mailman School of Public Health at Columbia University in New York City. "The plenary session addressed lifestyle, medication and surgical issues; the impact of adolescent obesity in the United States and across the globe; and the impact that marketing and advertising have on increasing obesity among all peoples of the world, not just teenagers," he said.
"One of the meeting's high points was a speech by acting U.S. Surgeon General Steven K. Galson, who talked about the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services' Childhood Overweight and Obesity Prevention Initiative: 'Healthy Youth for a Healthy Future,'" Rickert said.
"Today more than 12.5 million children and adolescents 2 to 19 years of age are overweight and are at greater risk for numerous health consequences, such as cardiovascular disease and type 2 diabetes," Galson said in a statement. "By taking a look at what each of us can do in our lives and communities to make ourselves and our families healthier, we can begin to tackle this epidemic."
Other key speakers included Risa Lavizzo-Mourey, M.D., president and CEO of the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, who opened the conference with a speech about the foundation's pledge to spend $500 million on initiatives aimed at reversing the childhood obesity epidemic by 2015; and keynote speaker Kelly Brownell, Ph.D., of Yale University, who discussed clinical approaches to treat obesity and urged health professionals to become more active in advocating changes in schools, communities and the nation. "While biology may be helpful in explaining which clinical approaches are most effective, he really spoke to us about the importance of economic forces and societal responses in the United States and other nations," Rickert said.
The winner of this year's New Investigator Award, Loris Y. Hwang, M.D., of the University of California San Francisco, presented the results of a study that tracked the rate of epithelial maturation in the cervix of 145 healthy, young women (mean age 17.9 at study entry). Over a period three years, Hwang and colleagues found that maturation increased from 38 percent to 94.5 percent, and that the rate of maturation was associated with a higher frequency of sexual intercourse, use of hormonal contraceptives and cigarette smoking. "The increased maturation associated with more frequent sexual intercourse may represent an adaptive response," the authors write. "Hormonal contraception and tobacco may also exert an influence via stimulatory mechanisms."
Another noteworthy study, "Policy, Legal and Financial Issues Influencing Adolescent Vaccination," was presented by Abigail English, J.D., and Carol Ann Ford, M.D., of the University of North Carolina in Chapel Hill. "This is a potentially practice-changing study because it will help us better frame how to get adolescents immunized," Rickert said.
In that study, English, Ford and colleagues interviewed 49 state epidemiologists, health department personnel, lawyers, insurers and other experts to identify common barriers to adolescent vaccination -- including issues of consent over the human papillomavirus vaccine -- and discussed strategies for overcoming them. "A comprehensive description of factors influencing adolescent vaccination reveals variation based on stage of adolescent developmental and age," the authors conclude. "A framework that includes this complexity has the potential to inform strategies designed to improve rates of vaccine delivery to adolescent populations."
Rickert also cited a study presented by Brian A. Primack, M.D., of the University of Pittsburgh, who used data on 4,142 subjects from the National Longitudinal Survey of Adolescent Health to assess the association between excessive exposure to TV, videos, computer games and radio and the risk of depression. They found that males -- especially white males -- who watched four hours of TV a day during middle adolescence had an up to doubled risk of depression in young adulthood. They also found an elevated risk in males who spent an hour a day playing computer games.