Children's Health

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  • Tucker Carlson teams with hate group to spread junk science about transgender kids

    American College of Pediatricians is a small and deceptively named anti-LGBTQ hate group meant to be confused with American Academy of Pediatrics

    Blog ››› ››› BRENNAN SUEN

    Fox News’ Tucker Carlson hosted Dr. Michelle Cretella, president of the anti-LGBTQ hate group American College of Pediatricians (ACPeds), on his show to attack transgender children, their parents, and their doctors. During the appearance, Cretella spread anti-transgender junk science and said transgender children are “engag[ing] in magical thinking” and that treating them is “child abuse.”

    ACPeds is a small, deceptively named hate group, with only a few hundred members, meant to be confused with the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) -- a 60,000-member group comprising “leaders in the professional field.” According to the Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC), ACPeds hides “under the veneer of its professional-sounding name and claims” in order to “defame and discredit LGBT people, often by distorting legitimate research.” ACPeds began when a “small group of anti-LGBT physicians and other healthcare professionals broke away” from AAP after it began supporting the right of same-sex couples to adopt and foster-parent children. ACPeds has been relentless in its claim that it’s dangerous for children to identify as LGBTQ; its blog has suggested that “P for pedophile” should be a part of the LGBT acronym, and the ACPeds president sent a letter to more than 14,000 school district superintendents advocating for conversion therapy and outlining the so-called “health risks” of “claim[ing] a ‘gay’ identity.” Conversion therapy is a dangerous practice that has been “rejected by every mainstream medical and mental health organization for decades.”

    On the July 25 edition of Tucker Carlson Tonight, Cretella spread a series of anti-transgender myths and junk science, including the claim that “transgender ideology is not” “rooted in reality.” Major medical organizations, including the AAP, the American Psychological Association, and the American Medical Association, have affirmed transgender identities. Cretella also made misleading and false claims about hormone treatment for transgender kids, calling it “child abuse” and falsely claiming that “as many as 95 percent” of transgender children will “embrace” their “biological sex” if they are forced to reject their transgender identity. ThinkProgress’ Zack Ford noted that this claim is a debunked myth based on faulty research that “conflated kids who just exhibited gender nonconforming behaviors with those who actually insisted they were a different gender.”

    Cretella went on to spread the myth that puberty-blocking treatment for transgender youth is dangerous and akin to “sterilizing children.” But, as Ford wrote, there is no risk of sterilization stemming from taking puberty-suppressing treatments. This treatment delays the onset of puberty, giving transgender people the option of “the lifelong advantage of a body that matches their gender identities without the irreversible body changes of a low voice or beard growth or breasts.” Rob Garofalo, director of the Lurie Children’s Hospital’s Gender and Sex Development Program in Chicago, described the treatment as giving families “the opportunity to hit a pause button, to prevent natal puberty … until we know that that’s either the right or the wrong direction for their particular child” and puberty blockers as “generally a very safe medication.” In 2013, the Endocrine Society, the largest global organization of professionals who research and treat “conditions and diseases related to the human body’s complex system of glands and hormones,” declared that “medical intervention in transgender adolescents appears to be safe and effective.”

    According to Ford, it is “technically true that if a young person goes directly from taking puberty-suppressants to cross-sex hormones, they could risk never being able to produce children of their own, but infertility is not guaranteed.” Ford added that ACPeds fails to note that “the only way trans kids could develop fertility is to go through the puberty that they’re specifically trying to avoid” when it pushes this myth. A 2014 study showed that treatment delaying puberty for transgender adolescents “seems to boost psychological well-being for those who ultimately pursue sex reassignment” and gives them the “opportunity to develop into well-functioning young adults.” Though suppressing puberty is a “fully reversible medical intervention,” one study of adolescents being treated with puberty blockers found that all of its participants went on to begin gender reassignment.

    Carlson’s segment gave a small anti-LGBTQ hate group masquerading as a legitimate medical association a platform to spread dangerous junk science. And it wasn’t the first time Carlson has legitimized ACPeds’ extremism. On the July 14 edition of his show, Carlson used ACPeds’ hate group designation to attempt to discredit the hate group label, saying that the group was “hardly the Klan.” By failing to differentiate ACPeds from AAP, Carlson manipulated his viewers into believing that these fringe beliefs are part of mainstream medical thought.

    From the July 24 edition of Fox News’ Tucker Carlson Tonight:

    TUCKER CARLSON (HOST): Michelle Cretella is the president of the American College of Pediatricians. She just wrote a piece in which she says, we're quoting now, "Transgender ideology has infiltrated my field and produced large scale child abuse." Cretella says doctors are encouraging parents to have their kids change genders when there is no evidence these changes are safe or even helpful. Dr. Cretella joins us now. Doctor, thanks a lot for weighing in on this. One of the reasons I wanted to talk to you is this is a field -- I'm not sure what it is -- of social science or medicine that is changing so fast that it's hard to sort of know where we are exactly. And you're in the practice of providing medicine to kids, so I wanted to get your perspective on it. What are you seeing?

    MICHELLE CRETELLA: Thank you very much, Tucker. I'm glad to be here. I think it's important to say that everyone on both sides of this issue is concerned about finding loving and helpful solutions for all children.

    CARLSON: Yes. I think that's right.

    CRETELLA: It -- honestly. We at the American College of Pediatricians, and also I have many colleagues on the left, also insist that those solutions be rooted in reality, and transgender ideology is not. Sex is hard-wired from before birth, and it cannot change. And that's why we had actually called this child abuse, because by feeding children and families these lies, children are having their normal psychological development interrupted. They're even -- they're being put on the puberty blockers, which essentially castrates them chemically, followed by surgical mutilation later on. This is -- this is child abuse. It's not health care.

    CARLSON: So, as you know, you will be, if you haven't already, be accused of committing child abuse yourself and of being cruel and unloving and not caring for these kids, of imposing a medieval theology on modern children. How do you respond?

    CRETELLA: Right, but as you said at the beginning, this is about science. We -- what is going on now with the puberty blockers, followed by cross-sex hormones, followed by surgeries, has absolutely no track record whatsoever. The loving solution for children who are -- children who are ages 3 to 10, they engage in magical thinking. They don't know the difference so easily between fantasy and reality. We need to nurture them through adolescence, through natural puberty. Our job as parents and physicians is to help children embrace their healthy bodies. And when this is done, once they get past puberty into late adolescence, as many as 95 percent will come to embrace their bodies and identify with their biological sex.

    CARLSON: So what happens -- I mean, since this is not just something we're debating as college students, but there are physicians involved who are prescribing drugs -- what do we know about the effects of heavy-duty hormones, synthetic hormones given to little kids, like long-term?

    CRETELLA: Right. Well, we don't have long-term studies, which is a major problem. Which is why physicians should not be telling parents that this is settled science and that it is safe. We do know that when puberty blockers are used appropriately in other settings, that we have observed in adults -- for example, they can be used to treat prostate cancer and some gynecologic issues in women -- that there's evidence that you can impact memory and cognitive ability in a negative way. And as far as the cross-sex hormones, if you have a young child on puberty blockers who goes directly to cross-sex or sex change hormones, they become sterile. You are sterilizing children. They can't possibly -- little children cannot possibly understand the risks of having a medication and then never being able to have children in the future.

    CARLSON: So what's the young -- I didn't know that, and there's a lot I don't know about this. Again, this is all happening so fast I don't think most people really know what's going on. But what's the youngest age at which kids are getting these kind of drugs?

    CRETELLA: The guidelines suggest that puberty blockers be given at ages 11 to 12, but I've had reports from colleagues across the country, and you can also find them in various news reports, that children as young as 9 have been put on these puberty blockers. And what it does, it arrests normal development. Puberty is not a disease. You're stopping them. It's not just a matter of sex characteristics. You're arresting brain development.

    CARLSON: No, it's not. There's a lot there.

  • News reports on Trump's budget highlight human cost of his broken promises

    Budget proposal will include deep cuts to Medicaid and Social Security, programs Trump promised to protect during campaign

    Blog ››› ››› ALEX MORASH

    Multiple news outlets have reported on the harsh human toll of President Donald Trump’s budget proposal, which is expected to gut programs that guarantee basic living standards, including parts of Medicaid and Social Security. These cuts directly contradict Trump’s promise to save the programs “without cuts.”

    The White House first hinted at slashing programs that help working- and middle-class Americans on February 26 when, according to Bloomberg, Trump floated proposals to increase defense spending by 10 percent while cutting programs including assistance for low-income Americans while still promising not to touch Medicare, Medicaid, and Social Security. The White House claimed these drastic cuts would help spur economic growth, an absurd claim that was resoundingly ridiculed by economists as “deep voodoo” and “wholly unrealistic.” The administration’s initial budgetary proposals were so drastic and poorly thought out that they stunned many observers and experts. The White House even advocated cutting assistance to the Corporation for Public Broadcasting, which would be particularly harmful to “small-town America,” and Meals on Wheels, which “doesn’t make economic sense” and would cruelly deny millions of elderly Americans basic companionship and a hot meal.

    On May 21, The Washington Post reported that the White House will unveil a formal federal budget proposal that goes even further than the administration’s earlier indications by proposing “massive cuts to Medicaid” and other anti-poverty public assistance programs. On May 22, Axios reported that the president plans to cut $1.7 trillion over 10 years from federal assistance programs including the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), the Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP), and Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI), which collectively serve tens of millions of people. (Axios incorrectly stated that Trump’s budget plan “won’t reform Social Security or Medicare,” before outlining Trump’s plan to cut SSDI and incorporate massive Medicaid restrictions that would become law if his Obamacare repeal plan is ever enacted.)

    As details of Trump’s budget plan continued to leak, some media outlets explained the devastating consequences for millions of Americans if the White House gets its way and these drastic cuts take effect. They also explained that Trump’s embrace of deep cuts to components of Medicaid and Social Security represent a betrayal of his promises from the campaign.

    CNN chief business correspondent Christine Romans explained on the May 22 edition of CNN Newsroom that much of the money being cut from mandatory spending would come from Medicaid, which could see up to a 25 percent reduction in federal funding, pushing the financial burden onto the states and kicking 14 million people off their health insurance programs. Romans mentioned that protecting Medicaid is one of many campaign promises from Trump “that are turning out not to be true.”

    On the May 22 edition of MSNBC Live, host Chris Jansing went even further in breaking down the human toll of Trump’s budget cuts with NBC News senior editor Beth Fouhy and New York Times national reporter Yamiche Alcindor. The show aired part of an interview with a mother of two young children, who told Fouhy that if these cuts are enacted, the costs of care for her child with cerebral palsy will bankrupt her. Then they showed a clip of Trump on the campaign trail proclaiming that he would “save Medicare, Medicaid, and Social Security without cuts.” Alcindor discussed a report she wrote for the Times earlier this month about the human costs of budget cuts that would lead eliminate programs that help provide small communities with access to clean drinking water, drug rehabilitation centers, and jobs programs:

  • Jimmy Kimmel Attacked After Saying Everyone Should Have Access To Healthcare Like His Newborn Son Did

    Blog ››› ››› ZACHARY PLEAT

    Several conservative media figures attacked late night TV host Jimmy Kimmel after he shared the story of his newborn son’s successful recovery from surgery to correct a heart defect. Kimmel used his personal experience to explain why insurance coverage of pre-existing medical conditions, which is lacking in Republican lawmakers’ latest attempt to replace Obamacare, must be included in any new health legislation.

    On May 1, Kimmel launched a tearful monologue about his son’s birth the previous week, when two heart defects were discovered and one was fixed with surgery. Kimmel then used his son’s condition to criticize President Donald Trump’s proposal to cut $6 billion in funding from the National Institutes of Health and pleaded with Americans to support health insurance laws that cover pre-existing conditions.

    Conservatives soon began their attacks on Kimmel for daring to speak about politics. Washington Times columnist Charles Hurt wrote an especially vile piece titled, “Shut up, Jimmy Kimmel, you elitist creep,” stating that Kimmel’s monologue “went horribly awry” for talking about “grubby, dirty politics.” Hurt described Kimmel’s plea to provide healthcare to children as a “slobbering wet kiss to federal bureaucracy,” and called him a “dirty, self-absorbed, narcissistic exhibitionist.” He also demanded Kimmel, “shut your fat trap about partisan politics and go care for your kid, who just nearly died, you elitist creep.”
     

    Washington Times news writer Cheryl Chumley likewise criticized Kimmel for continuing “the left[’s] … uncomfortable habit of slinging around tears to get what it wants,” writing that Kimmel “loses the support” of people like herself who feel for a newborn child with a health problem, but believe that the “emergency care before Obamacare” was sufficient:

    Where in America did newborn children not receive the health care they needed?

    What hospitals in the country cruelly tossed a child into the street — a newborn child born with a heart defect — and called out, as the door slammed shut, “No health care for you!”

    Fact is, Americans received emergency care before Obamacare. Fact is, too, Americans also received treatment from insurers for pre-existing conditions after a certain amount of time had passed.

    Maybe they received bills in the mail for the emergency care, and for co-pays and deductibles for other medical services received — but not as large as the bills taxpayers and insurance holders alike are receiving now, post-Obamacare. Pre-Obamacare, the system was more free market; post-Obamacare, it’s a spread-the-wealth, subsidize the poor system.

    The Daily Caller’s Jim Treacher also apparently had a problem with what Kimmel said, posting a reader poll on his blog about whether it was appropriate for him to use “emotional coercion for political purposes on a national comedy/variety program.” On CNN, political commentator Margaret Hoover criticized Kimmel's approach, saying it "massively confused the politics at hand and the policies at hand" before falsely claiming that high-risk pools would be successful in covering patients with pre-existing conditions under the GOP health care bill.

  • Fox Falls For Trump Lie: Clinton’s Child Care Plan Has Been Available For More Than A Year​

    Journalists Called Trump Out In Real-Time, While Fox Repeated His False Claim On Air As If It Was News

    Blog ››› ››› CRAIG HARRINGTON

    Fox News correspondent Carl Cameron repeated a false claim pushed by Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump during a policy speech in Aston, PA, intended to outline the candidate’s newly-proposed reforms to child care and maternity leave. Trump attacked Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton for producing no such policy proposals -- a lie which Cameron then repeated on air.

    During Trump’s September 13 speech, in which he attempted to flesh out the details of his convoluted reform agenda for child care and maternity leave, Trump falsely claimed that Clinton “has no child care plan.”

    Journalists immediately slammed Trump’s claim. Political reporters Ben Jacobs of The Guardian, and Dan Merica of CNN called the statement “patently untrue” and “patently false.” And both noted that Clinton’s comprehensive child care reform agenda, which is far more detailed and expansive than Trump’s, has been online since June 2015.

    Despite Trump’s false claim, Fox News correspondent Carl Cameron repeated the lie during a speech recap with Fox News host Bill O’Reilly. Cameron claimed that Trump’s speech was aimed at the “moderate voters” he needs to win swing states like Pennsylvania. He then added that Trump “has laid out his child care policies before Hillary Clinton has done anything in serious detail”:

    CARL CAMERON: He’s both trying to get ahead of Hillary Clinton while she’s taken ill, but he’s also checking off boxes one of which Hillary Clinton has claimed to be a leader on. He has laid out his child care policies before Hillary Clinton has done anything in serious detail. As of earlier this morning, there wasn’t the types of policy statements on the Hillary Clinton web page that will soon be on the Trump web page. So, he’s going to places that Republicans don’t often go: he’s talking about policies that Republicans don’t often talk about, in order to expand his electorate, expand his support.

    As of the end of his speech, Trump’s campaign website does contain a link to his child care policy fact sheet as well as a transcript of tonight’s speech. By comparison, the Clinton campaign published specific proposals to expand early childhood education and child care opportunities to American families on June 15, 2015 (one day before Trump announced his candidacy). The campaign expanded on those proposals with a renewed K-12 education reform agenda on March 10, and proposed an expansion of paid family and medical leave on May 23.

    According to an August 29 review by the Associated Press (AP), Clinton’s campaign website contains pages filled with policy proposals on 38 different “issues,” totaling more than 100,000 words -- Trump’s site at the time covered just 7 issues in “just over 9,000 words.” AP reported on September 13 that “by any measure, Clinton has released far more specific plans on far more topics than her GOP rival.”

    Perhaps Cameron, who claimed to have checked Clinton’s website “earlier this morning,” just got confused.

  • New Report Presents Opportunity For Networks To Address How Climate Change Affects Public Health

    Blog ››› ››› ANDREW SEIFTER

    Extreme Heat Danger

    The Obama administration has released a comprehensive new scientific report detailing how climate change affects human health, presenting the broadcast networks' nightly news programs with a good opportunity to cover a critical topic that they rarely addressed last year.  

    The Climate and Health Assessment, which is the result of three years of research by approximately 100 health and science experts in eight federal agencies, builds on the findings of the U.S. Global Change Research Program's National Climate Assessment and signifies increased "scientific confidence in the link between climate change and a broad range of threats to public health."

    These threats include some of the most severe effects of global warming, such as increased incidence of death from extreme heat waves and worsened air quality, as well as some less discussed impacts, including the potential for carbon pollution to make our food crops less nutritious and the toll that weather-related disasters can take on our mental health. The report also details how climate change will increase or otherwise alter the risks of suffering from various diseases and illnesses, including Lyme disease from ticks, West Nile virus from mosquitos, water-borne illnesses, and Salmonella poisoning from food.

    Any of these topics could provide fodder for an important and informative nightly news segment that would help viewers better understand the threats and challenges posed by climate change.

    NBC Nightly News and CBS Evening News did each provide a substantial report last year on the ways climate change is impacting allergies and asthma, respectively. But here, too, the Obama administration report provides opportunities for additional coverage.

    For instance, the networks could examine these issues from an environmental justice perspective; the report finds that minority adults and children "bear a disproportionate burden associated with asthma as measured by emergency department visits, lost work and school days, and overall poorer health status." And when considering all of the various health impacts, the report identifies many specific populations that are "disproportionately vulnerable" to climate change:

    [C]limate change exacerbates some existing health threats and creates new public health challenges. While all Americans are at risk, some populations are disproportionately vulnerable, including those with low income, some communities of color, immigrant groups (including those with limited English proficiency), Indigenous peoples, children and pregnant women, older adults, vulnerable occupational groups, persons with disabilities, and persons with preexisting or chronic medical conditions.

    The networks could also cover some of these public health findings alongside a distressing new study on sea level rise, which projects severe impacts on coastal cities that will undoubtedly have profound implications on the health and well-being of millions of Americans. Or they could address the public health benefits of the most significant U.S. climate policy in U.S. history, the Clean Power Plan, which the networks infrequently covered in 2015 -- and which polluting fossil fuel industry groups and allied attorneys general are now fighting in court.

    Major news outlets including The Washington Post, The New York Times, USA Today, The Guardian, Time magazine, The Associated Press, and McClatchyDC have already covered the new White House report. Now is the time for the broadcast networks' nightly news programs to improve on last year's coverage and educate their viewers about the myriad ways that a changing climate is affecting our health.

    Image at top via Flickr user Graeme Maclean using a Creative Commons license.

    public health

  • Tampa TV Report On Low Income Medical Funding Fails To Mention Republican Refusal To Expand Medicaid

    Blog ››› ››› DANIEL ANGSTER

    Tampa Bay Fox television station WTVT left out the fact that Florida Republican Gov. Rick Scott and the Republican-led legislature refused to expand Medicaid under the Affordable Care Act (ACA) in its story about an ailing young boy whose family might have to struggle to pay for health care as a result of reductions in federal Low-Income Pool (LIP) funding, even though experts say that expanded Medicaid would cover many such people at risk.

    In a July 13 report, WTVT - which is owned and operated by parent company 21st Century Fox -- profiled a seriously ill young boy whose medical care could be jeopardized by reductions in federal LIP funding - money provided by state and federal resources "to support health care providers that provide uncompensated care to Florida residents who are uninsured or underinsured." While the report noted that federal matching funds for LIP would be phased out in the near future, it made no mention of the fact that expanding Medicaid in Florida -- which the state legislature and Gov. Scott has rejected -- would protect many families and individuals affected by LIP funding reductions:

    Experts agree that expanding Medicaid could solve many of the problems created by reduced LIP funding. As the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities explained, reductions in LIP funding are a result of the ACA's "creation of an explicit pathway for Medicaid coverage for adults with incomes below 138 percent of the poverty line, which changed CMS's (Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services) criteria for approving state plans to fund uncompensated care." As Politifact Florida reported, the two programs are not directly connected, but Gov. Scott's acceptance of the Medicaid expansion funds could mean continued health care coverage for many who currently benefit from LIP funding (emphasis added):

    The LIP started in 2005 and was renewed until 2013. But when it came time to negotiate another extension for 2014 and beyond, Florida upped the funding request to a whopping $4.5 billion to expand the program. This was after the state refused some $51 billion in Medicaid expansion money over 10 years under the Affordable Care Act, to expand that program to anyone making up to about 133 percent of the poverty level, as the Obama administration wanted. The U.S. Supreme Court in 2012 ruled states had a choice whether to take the money or not.

    [...]

    In many ways, LIP isn't associated with Medicaid expansion, [Joan] Alker said, given that LIP started while Jeb Bush was governor and George W. Bush was president. But an expanded Medicaid would cover many of those patients, or use preventive care to keep them out of the hospital to begin with, she said.

    Washington and Lee University professor Timothy Jost added that money for the Medicaid expansion was guaranteed by law in the Affordable Care Act, something not true about the program that created LIP, which is doled out as discretionary spending. (Jost supports the health care law.)

    Of course, it's technically possible the federal government could change the law to do away with whatever program they like, including Medicaid. But that would require both houses of Congress and the president to agree on the terms, something "that isn't likely to happen anytime soon," Jost said.

    Now Florida faces a tough set of choices: Find a new source of LIP funding, end the program altogether or negotiate with CMS to either revamp the program or get another extension, possibly for as short as one month. Florida also could decide to cover those patients by expanding Medicaid.