Thursday, February 19, 2009

Recess Helps Kids Learn and Behave Better

The playground.

It is where kids go during recess, to make friends and develop important social skills. But a new study done by the Albert Einstein School of Medicine suggests it may also have a crucial role in a child’s education. The study found that children who receive at least 15 minutes of recess each day not only behave better, but learn more.

Ed Smith Elementary School in Syracuse believes in this study wholeheartedly.

“They go out rain or shine. It would have to be a terrible storm or minus temperatures,” says Principal Daryl Hall.

Even though New York State does not have a recess requirement, Ed Smith School schedules each grade level a separate 30 minute slot of outdoor recess in addition to lunch. For some of the school’s students, this may be the only time they get outside all day.

PTO President Lisa Neville says, “Some neighborhoods are safe and comfortable enough for children to play outside and many aren’t. Kids need to get outside and have unstructured free time, or recess, because we don’t know for sure they get it at home.”

A special task force of parents and teachers raised $40,000 to build a new playground for kids to choose to do whatever they want during recess.

But local pediatrician, Dr. Robert Dracker, is not convinced that unstructured free time is worthwhile because it takes away from time that could be used for a child’s development or education.  But Dr. Dracker does say it is important for the kids to go outdoors because they don’t go outside enough anymore.

Hall says Ed Smith School recognizes the need for structured activities and provides students with brain gym, or breaks and activities in classrooms throughout the day. But both doctor and principal agree that going outdoors for recess is a priority. 

Wednesday, February 18, 2009

Most Syracuse Nursing Homes Given Poorest Rating by Government.

The government is trying to make choosing a nursing home easier. It recently came out with a new five star rating system, and it's giving most Syracuse nursing homes only one star, the lowest rating possible.

Growing old is not always easy, for Betty and William Dwight, it only got harder as their health became worse.
"I just pass out on the floor and I don't even know it" said Betty Dwight.
"They brought me in because I was so exhausted from taking care of her" said her husband of sixty three years, William Dwight.

They needed help and Rosewood Health Center was their only option.
"There was no other place. This was the only bed open" said William Dwight.

Many have an experience like the Dwights. For families that can choose a home for their loved one, Medicare is looking to make that decision easier. The government rates nursing homes from one to five stars.

Rosewood Heights Health Center is one of eight nursing homes in the Syracuse area and surrounding ten miles that received one star, the poorest rating. Thirteen nursing homes were rated in this area.
"What you'll find is that maybe with the exception of one or two, everybody is a one out of five stars," said Paul Scarpinato, Director or Rosewood Heights.

To determine the overall rating, surveyors look at three areas: health inspections, staffing, and quality measures. Scarpinato says since the nursing homes aren't equal on all levels, it's too hard to compare.
"You're going to find that you're not comparing apples to apples.
The size of the facility, the complexity of folks they take in, do play into the information that shows up in the quality measures as well as staffing."

Scarpinato also says there is more to choosing a nursing home than just looking at a star system.
"You need to go take a look a walk through, go see what's going on for yourself. Go look at the condition of the building, the rooms, see the interaction of the staff of the residents."

Bit it's not just one star facilities like Rosewood Heights that says families should look at more than just the five star quality ranking when choosing a nursing home. Tracy Engle is the director of Nottingham Nursing home, a five star facility. She say families have several things to consider when trying to choose the right nursing home.
"Look at the activities calendar, how many different activities do they have going on? Observe a meal."

Engle also says she doesn't always agree with how the star system ranks nursing homes. SHE
"Yes we are a five star facility, some of the other facilities, that didn't get five stars, I don't think it's an accurate representation of the care they provide."

Betty and William Dwight say overall, they are happy with the care they receive at Rosewood, but in their short time at the nursing home, they say there's been one big exception.
"We were all night without an aid or anybody. And we need to ring the bell usually to go to the John, because we need help," said Betty Dwight. William Dwight said that "from 11 o'clock to 8 o'clock this morning, nobody came."
"Yeah, we had to hold it or forget it," said Betty Dwight.

As for improving Rosewood Heights, Scarpinato says it's not the number of stars he's interested in. "I'm going to focus in on our day to day operations. The residents that we have, the systems that we have, the financial reimbursements that we have, and make the best shot at improving out health inspections and quality measures."

Scarpinato says he hopes Medicare's rating system evolves in the future, but until then he says families should trust their own judgement.

The Dangers of Smoking Hookah

Every week some people may stop by Hollywood Hookah on Marshall Street to smoke flavored tobacco. Others may have a hookah in their home.

Some of those people may not know what they are inhaling could be harmful to their health. According to officials from Tobacco Free Onondaga County during forty to sixty minute sessions smoking hookah is equivalent to smoking ten cigarettes.

"I was under the impression that just smoking the pure tobacco was not as nearly as bad. They always tell you that all the things all the things they add to it are so much worse. And had thought that the pure tobacco wasn't bad." Rob Solonick patron of Hollywood Hookah.

Jenny Dickinson from Onondaga Health Department says there are a lot of myths about smoking hookah.

"The misinterpretation there is hookah is more natural and it doesn;t have many health affects as if that it is just a misconception there are a lot of negative health affects associated with hookah as well as cigarettte use."

According to Jenny Dickinson people who smoke hookah are more at risk for getting oral and bladder cancer, cancer of the esophagus and gum disease.

The mouth piece used to inahle the smoke has been known to carry hepatitis and turberculosis. For more information about the harmful use of smoking hookah you can visit

Monday, February 16, 2009

Work Hard, Play Hard

All work and no play may not be a good thing, especially for school kids. A new study shows children who get more free time during the school day behave better in class.

One local elementary school agrees with this study and has taken steps to make sure there’s time for recess.

At Edward Smith Elementary, for thirty minutes every day, they swing, run, and play in the snow. Principal Daryl Hall says, “Most classes try and get out every single day, they’re religious about it.”

In New York State, there’s no set standard for recess time. But at this school, Principal Hall has worked with parents to make recess a priority. They got new equipment, games, and balls to do just that. Principal Hall believes kids behave better in the classroom when they get a break from sitting and learning.

PTO president Lisa Neville strongly agrees with the school’s recess policy. She has three kids in the school now. She is a strong believe in free time, especially since kids don’t get much of it anymore.

Doctor Robert Dracker has a different point of view. Dracker says, “To just have play time or break time where it’s a free for all lets them release energy and interact, it sounds nice, but not really sure or convinced how useful it would be.”

Doctor Dracker recommends some structured activity, such as dance, meditation, or even cooking classes.

At Smith, they already get a lot of structure in the classroom already. This school’s philosophy is work hard and then play hard.

Athletes are pushing their bodies to the limit

By: Beth Croughan

More and more headlines are shedding light on the risks athletes are exposing themselves to throughout their playing years; from concussions to weight problems later in life. And at Syracuse University, where division one sports are a priority, some athletes are pushing themselves and their bodies to the limits.

23-year-old Jordan Davis runs over 100 miles every week.

He's working towards joining the ranks of a very elite group of athletes. The four-minute mile club. Jordan has been running for over nine years. And his body has begun to see the effects of all that working out.

“When I was 18 years old, compared to now I’m 23, it takes me longer to feel better running in the mornings, instead of taking 15 minutes to feel better, it takes me 40 minutes.” Jordan Davis

And Jordan Davis is not alone. Megan Skelly is the leading scorer for the Syracuse University Women's Hockey team.

“I think your joints wear down in any sport…but that comes with any sport, my playing hockey outweighs any personal toughness down the road.” Megan Skelly

Aside from aches and pains, Megan and Jordan have played through some serious injuries. Jordan suffered a broken foot and continued to race, while Megan stepped out on the ice with a torn Achilles tendon. Both of the athletes have said it’s difficult to sit out.

But that's when Syracuse University Athletic Trainer Denny Kellington, says players need to take responsibility for themselves and address serious injuries when they arise. “Disrupting a joint,” Kellington says, could potentially lead to arthritis down the road.

And if athletes don’t take care of their bodies once their playing career is over, Kellington says they could also experience other unhealthy side effects, like weight gain. But Kellington says playing collegiate sports has significant health benefits like lower cholesterol and a decreased chance of diabetes.

And for runner Jordan Davis, he says the personal benefits he sees from running, are greater, than any potential risks.

“I’m pretty sure when I’m 50 I’m going to need to get some kind of knee surgery, or back surgery, or hip surgery, something is going to go wrong, but to be honest with you, I’m 23 and I’m going to keep doing what I’m doing until I can’t do it anymore and even when I can’t do it anymore, I’m probably still going to run.” Jordan Davis

Athlete's Bodies Taking a Hit

By Torie Wells

Elite athletes are often seen as almost super-human, but new research suggests their bodies are taking a hit. Weight gain, brain damage from concussions, and joint damage are all side effects doctors are seeing in college and professional athletes. At Syracuse University, players are already feeling the effects of their sports. But, some sports trainers think some of that damage can be avoided if players realize they aren't invincible.

Every week SU graduate student Jordan Davis puts over a hundred miles on his body. With each step, he's working to shave seconds off his race time. At 23, Davis has reached an elite level of fitness, competing against division one athletes across the country. But being this strong, over time, is already taking a toll.

"It takes me longer to warm up, it takes me more time to feel better running in the mornings," he said.

Soreness and stiffness are one thing. For that, he can take preventative measures like icing his legs, and physical therapy to prevent tightness. But injury from over training, is another, and it's a reality constantly in the back of Davis' mind.

"When you're training, you're riding on the fence, and whichever way you fall is either with success or injury," said Davis.

He's been on both sides.

"We were in the middle of a workout and I felt my foot break, so I went up to the coach and was like 'my foot's broken man' and he was like 'we've got only one more race left," said Davis.
That attitude of putting the game, before the body, is also true for SU women's hockey player Megan Skelly."

"I hyper-extended my calf muscle, and tour my achilles tendon," said Skelly, "but I kept playing."

Injuries like that, and even concussions, are nothing out of the ordinary, she said. While she knows head injuries can cause brain damage, it's never stopped her, she said.

College athletes take many precautions with stretching, padding and building strength, said SU football trainer Denny Kellington. Beyond that, it's about personal responsibility.

"If you sprain or disrupt a joint you do disrupt the integrity of that joint, so yes, you may have arthritis down the road," said Kellington, "but if you take care of yourself after you stop playing you will be fine."

Athletes also have to be careful of weight gain, said Kellington. They can't keep eating what they aren't burning. If athletes are smart about their bodies, the benefits of collegiate athletics are certainly there, he said.

"Improved health, lowered cholesterol, decreased chance of diabetes, heart disease," Kellington said.

Davis and Skelly sometimes neglect their bodies in the interest of succeeding with their sport, they said.

"My playing hockey outweighs any personal toughness down the road," Skelly said.

But for now, they're more concerned with the mental benefits of being on a team and doing what they love.

"I'm going to keep doing what I'm doing until I can't do it anymore and even when I cant do it, I'm probably still going to run," Davis said.

Maryland Sports Injury Center: Prevention and Care of Athletic Injury

CNN article on Brain Injury in Athletes

New NFL Rules

Sunday, February 15, 2009

Local Nursing Homes Critical of Government Ratings

                                                 (AP Photo/Matt Rourke)

Do the research.

That's the message nursing home directors are sending to Good Medicine when asked about a new Five-Star Quality Rating System from the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid.

This after the majority of nursing homes in Central New York were rated poorly--including eight homes within 20 miles of Syracuse receiving a one-star rating.

The system rates nursing homes based on three factors: health inspections, nursing staff and quality of care.

"The goal is to provide families a straightforward assessment of nursing home quality with meaningful distinctions between high and low performing homes," said CMS administrator Kerry Weems in a press release.

However, sharp criticism has followed on both ends of the rating spectrum.

Rosewood Heights Health Center in Syracuse was rated as a one-star facility. Its director Paul Scarpinato says all the information used to critique each nursing home has always been available to the public, claiming CMS is just simplifying data.

"People are just going to go so far and that’s it. It’s a simple way for someone to look and say that’s how I’m going to judge a place," Scarpinato worried.

But it isn't only the poorly-rated that are critical of the ratings. The Nottingham Residential Health Care Facility received a five-star ranking, and even its director Tracy Engle remains skeptical.

"It’s a snapshot of time that it’s looking at. The data that it’s pulling from is the information that was submitted at the time, and those characteristics change quite frequently," Engle stressed.

So if the rating system isn't all it's cracked up to be, how should you go about choosing a nursing home for a loved one?

"Look at the condition of the building, the rooms, see the interaction of the staff with the residents, talk with other folks in the area – so, people should do legwork when they’re looking at putting a family member in a facility," said Scarpinato.

Engle tends to agree.

"I would never rely on the star rating system to determine where I would put a loved one. I want to go to the facility, I want to meet the staff, I want to see the interaction between the staff and the residents, I want to see how the residents are taken care of – I want to see it for myself," Engle ads.

And it's not just nursing home directors. Weems cautions people not to rely solely on the rankings when choosing a nursing home.

"Because the quality and conditions within a nursing home can change at anytime, this stem is not intended to be the only tool families use in selecting the right nursing facility for a loved one," Weems said.

The Dangers of Smoking Hookah

It's something that's becoming more and more popular: smoking hookah.

"I like the idea of setting up the hookah and sitting around the couch with like five friends," said Tamara Cohen.

Firing up this contraption is one way she relaxes. The Syracuse University senior smokes tobacco through a water pipe. She said smoking through the pipe goes back to her culture and from the time spent in Israel. She said the device helps to set a nice mood.

"For me the benefits outweigh the costs because it creates a nice situation."

Smoking tobacco, or hookah, involves inhaling smoke through a hose as heat pulls the burned tobacco flavor down to the water. Even though the smoke may calm you down, it's making dangerous changes inside your body.

"It's a drug like any can become addicting," said Jenny Dickinson of the Onondaga County Health Department. It doesn't matter if people smoke alone or with friends because it's dangerous either way, says Dickinson.

There are some people who smoke with friends by going to the latest hot spot on Marshall Street. People go to Hollywood Hookah to enjoy the social atmosphere. Employees there maintain a close watch over their customers and make sure they remain hydrated.

"We give them a water, we have a certain amount of waters that we'll give out free a night," said Ali Rideau who works at the bar. "The girls, the waitresses that come around, their job is to ask 'do you need anything to drink, is there anything we can get you?'"

"It's something else to do than the typical party scene," said freshman Rob Solonick. it was his first time visiting the bar and he brought a few friends along with him. "it's just something different than say going to a frat."

A Syracuse University professor of drugs and human behavior says these gatherings are a fad and warns that a 30-to-60 minute hookah session equates to smoking several packs of cigarettes. Rideau said she knows smoking hookah contains dangerous chemicals, but it's safer than smoking cigarettes.

"For your concern be aware that it is still nicotine, that you're still getting some in your body so it isn't completely healthy, but not to the point where you're going to get lung cancer." Rideau said smoking the kind of hookah offered at the bar is safer than smoking cigarettes.

According to the World Health Organization, the amount of nicotine in just one puff of hookah tobacco is equal to smoking 10 cigarettes. Although the concentration of nicotine is lower in hookah than cigs, the amount someone inhales is much greater. According to documents from the County Health Department, there's a lack of awareness and misperceptions amongst hookah users on the dangers of smoking hookah.

"Yea I was always under the impression, just the pure tobacco, wasn't as bad as smoking cigs, because they always tell you about the addicting attitude," said Solonick. "I just thought the pure tobacco wasn't as bad."

"If someone would have told me that 10 years ago I probably wouldn't have done it," said Cohen.

Sunday, February 8, 2009

Online medical help for CNY refugees

They come to Central New York by the thousands. They are refugees, looking for safe shelter and a better life. They are fleeing life threatening persecution or oppression in their home countries.

The people
streaming into our community have many needs. Foremost is health care. But language and cultural differences can hamper a refugee's access to medical treatment.

A new internet resource may help some new immigrants clear those health care barriers. The Refugee Health Information Network offers multi-language help for refugees and their health care providers. The site includes links to US government agencies, online intake forms for medical office use and financial eligibility information.

According to the Refugee Resettlement Program at the Center for New Americans in Syracuse, NY, refugees now coming to Central New York are from Sudan, Somalia, Liberia, Burma, Cambodia, Uzbekistan, Cuba, Vietnam, Columbia, Congo D.R., Burundi, and Ethiopia.