Stories about: Bryn Austin

Season of pride

By S. Bryn Austin, ScD, director of Fellowship Research Training in the Division of Adolescent and Young Adult Medicine at Boston Children’s Hospital

This past Saturday was Boston’s 42nd annual lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) Pride parade. As I stood among the jubilant throngs, cheering on the joyfully endless stream of colorful marchers, cyclists, roller skaters and floats, I was struck by how much we have to be proud of here in Massachusetts. And I mean all of us, not just the LGBT community.

Boston Children's Hospital's presence at this year's LGBT Pride parade

In 2004, Massachusetts was the first state to legally recognize the right of same-sex couples to marry. Twenty years ago, we were the first state to establish—by executive order from then-Governor William Weld—Gay-Straight Alliances (GSA), which are vital school-based support groups for teens. Across the state, we have many outstanding community-based organizations providing valuable resources for LGBT youth. And right here at Boston Children’s Hospital, we’re a national leader in health care and research for LGBT youth.

Every milestone achieved on the path toward equality and inclusion is a direct result of the compassion and dedication of our whole community working together, gay and straight, transgender and nontransgender. We can all share in the season of pride.

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Studies explore gender identity and children

The journal Pediatrics released two studies this week that focused on the mental and physical wellbeing of children who don’t conform to typical gender roles.

The first study, led by Children’s Hospital Boston researcher S. Bryn Austin, ScD, indicates that kids who fail to adapt traditional gender stereotypes as children are at a significantly greater risk for physical, sexual and psychological abuse during childhood. These children are also more likely to develop post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) in young adulthood.

The study was funded by the National Institute of Health and compiled data from almost 9,000 young adults. Participants were asked to recall their childhood experiences, including their favorite toys and games growing up. The types of charters they related to as children, which roles they adopted during pretend play and their earliest understanding of masculinity and femininity where all reported on as well. Researchers also asked participants to disclose information about any physical, sexual or emotional abuse they experienced at the hands of parents, other adults or older children. Finally, participants were screened for PSTD.

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Planet Health: How adding preventative care can subtract from healthcare costs

When a child suffers from nutrition related health problems, it can cause a good deal of emotional and financial strain on her family. Obesity-related medical conditions like diabetes, sleep apnea, high blood pressure and cholesterol often lead to pricey medications and doctor visits, and are sometimes tied to emotional issues that can be costly to treat.

On the flip side, eating disorders can have a devastating affect on a person’s health and usually take years of regular therapy to treat successfully.

Treating these conditions in a single child is expensive; when you add together the cumulative costs of treating them on national level, the numbers are astronomical. But researchers from Children’s Hospital Boston and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), have found that a fairly inexpensive health promotion initiative could reduce both obesity and bulimia nervosa in adolescents, potentially saving millions in would-be healthcare costs.

Their study, recently published in the Archives of Pediatrics & Adolescent Medicine, shows that by adopting an educational initiative called Planet Health, five Boston area schools successfully reduced the prevalence of obesity and behaviors linked to bulimia. If these Boston schools are any indication, a nationwide adoption of the program could lead to less obesity and eating disorders on a national level, thereby saving millions in healthcare dollars usually allotted to treating these conditions.

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