Standing out: Dr. Amy Houtrow
Chief of pediatric rehabilitation medicine at Children's Hospital of Pittsburgh of UPMC
Houtrow has been selected to sit on the National Quality Forum's Pediatric Standing Committee. She joins an elite group of clinicians, researchers and administrators that will come up with ways to improve children's health.
What worries you the most about children's health? Are there areas that should receive more attention?
I worry about how many children live in poverty and don't get enough food to eat. We know that children who live in poverty are more likely to have developmental problems and chronic diseases. We should be working hard as a society to make sure our children are given every opportunity to be healthy and successful in life. One important way we can do that is by lifting children and families out of poverty. I also worry about recent trends in childhood obesity and exposure to violence. In the health care setting and in homes and communities, we should be encouraging healthy eating and exercise, decreased screen time and increased playtime.
What can parents do better to prevent illnesses and encourage healthy living?
I would encourage parents to focus on healthy eating, lots of physical activity for their children with ample playtime, and decreasing screen time. Healthy eating is beneficial for the whole family. Similarly, enjoying physical activities with children is a great way to bond as a family. Another very important aspect of healthy living is getting immunizations and regular check-ups. Immunizations help prevent the spread of serious diseases. We've seen a rise in these diseases because many families aren't vaccinating their children.
Many parents and grandparents get health care information online. Is that smart?
We are very lucky to have such great access to information from the Internet. It is good for families to be informed, but families need to know that the Internet isn't always right. For example, there's a lot of false information about vaccines that just isn't true. There are a lot of fake scientific evidence that says that vaccines cause autism. Vaccines do not cause autism, and vaccines are very important to the health of the population by preventing the spread of diseases. Families shouldn't believe everything they read. Also, the internet shouldn't be used to diagnose problems instead of going to a doctor. The Internet can't replace your doctor or nurse practitioner. But the internet can provide a lot of helpful information. I am glad when families bring up questions and concerns, because this means that they are really engaged in their child's health.