A series of blog posts on driving safety for teens grabbed the attention of editors at the Philadelphia Inquirer’s online news source Philly.com and gave researchers at CHOP’s Center for Injury Research and Prevention (CIRP) a new opportunity to highlight their work and provide valuable information to Philadelphia families. Flaura Koplin Winston, MD, PhD (@safetyMD on Twitter), CIRP scientific director and a frequent contributor to the Center’s Research in Action blog, was invited in November 2013 to become a monthly guest contributor for the Healthy Kids blog, produced by Philly.com.
Launched a year ago, the Research in Action blog celebrated its 100th blog post on Jan. 14. More than 20 authors from CIRP and guest bloggers have penned posts for it, presenting diverse perspectives on injury and violence prevention and treatment. The Research in Action blog following base has grown to more than 250 blog subscribers and has had a combined 21,000+ page views.
For the Healthy Kids blog, Dr. Winston covers topics of her choosing and draws from recent research findings or other important evidence-based information appropriate for parents. As a practicing pediatrician at the CHOP Karabots Primary Care Center, Dr. Winston has extensive experience talking with children and teens, parents, and grandparents about sensitive and complicated medical issues. She brings this experience to her blog posts, translating scientific findings, psychological concepts, and engineering principles into practical tips to help parents prevent child and adolescent injury and violence, as well as what to do when a child is injured.
“It is intellectually interesting to find new research results, but the satisfaction comes when we translate our research into usable information to help parents keep their children safe,” said Dr. Winston, who is also a professor of Pediatrics at the University of Pennsylvania Perelman School of Medicine. “The Healthy Kids Blog is a perfect vehicle for our Center’s ‘research-action-impact’ model.”
The feedback from readers so far has been positive. They have been visiting the CIRP family of websites to download tools and to learn more about the topics covered in the blog posts.
Recognizing that motor vehicle crashes are the leading cause of teen death, Dr. Winston’s latest Healthy Kids blog post gave tips to “pave the way for a smooth road” for teens with attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) who are learning to drive.
“The symptoms of ADHD — difficulty with attention, challenges with emotion regulation, disorganization and impulsivity — heighten a teen’s risk for unsafe driving behaviors and crashes,” Dr. Winston wrote in the Jan. 2 blog post, which also appeared in the print version of the Sunday Philadelphia Inquirer.
“It’s important for families to recognize that teens with ADHD can exhibit a wide range of symptoms — varying both in severity and in type — that can negatively impact driving behaviors. Each teen driver is unique, and those with ADHD may require even more individualized plans and attention. For example, if a teen with ADHD receives medication to treat symptoms, care should be taken to ensure that that medication coverage includes times later in the day when teens might be driving,” Dr. Winston added.
“At CHOP we often say — right advice and treatment for the right patient and family in the right context. This is true of driving assessment and management. It is less important whether a teen has ADHD (or any other condition) than it is to understand how they function with this condition,” Dr. Winston explained. “Our role, in research and in practice, is to create solutions and situations that recognize and value the unique needs of teens and their families. ‘Can they drive?’ is not the right question. We should instead be asking, ‘Under what conditions can they drive, and how do we allow them to achieve safe, independent mobility and self-reliance?’”
While researchers have much to learn about ADHD and driving performance, there is a growing recognition of its importance and the need for more research regarding assessments and interventions.
“We hope that our research will add to the evidence base so that we can ensure that teens can achieve their goals for life and do so safely,” Dr. Winston said. “We are currently looking for funding to support this work.”
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