Thursday, June 18, 2009
E-mails and text messages are poor samples of proper writing
By Dr. Anthony Policastro

One of the routine questions that we ask at well child exams is about reading. We expect parents to start reading to their children during the first year. We expect older children to read books on their own. There are limited hours in the day for reading. Therefore, reading material should be chosen carefully. That means that there should be some time devoted to reading books every day. That is not too hard to do with very young children. They are a captive audience. It is a little harder to do with older children. They might want to use their reading time for reading things other than books. They might want to look up information on the computer. Reading stories on the computer is about the same level as reading books. They might want to use their reading time for reading e-mails. The caution here is that any reading of e-mails should be over and above other reading time. There should not be a plan to read e-mail and nothing else. While it is valuable to communicate with others, it is not necessarily educational. Many e-mails do not contain very good grammar, spelling, punctuation or capitalization. Parents need to ensure that their children construct grammatically correct e-mail messages to their friends. That will help them when they need to construct reports for school. School reports need to look like school reports. They should not look like e-mails to the teacher. Another type of reading is related to text messages. Again, while there is not an issue in communication, there might be an issue in terms of how communication prepares you for writing other things. The alphabet soup that text messages contain are nothing like real writing. They do not prepare the individual for anything other than text messages. Therefore, reading time needs to be separate from time spent texting. It is up to parents to make sure that happens. Of interest is the fact that texting has spilled over to e-mail. Thus the grammatically correct sentence structure and language is non-existent in these communications. Encouraging reading is just one of the many tasks that fall to parents. Just like any of those tasks there are some ways of doing it correctly. There are also some ways of doing it incorrectly. The challenge is to find the correct balance. Children need the opportunity to be part of the culture that their friends are part of. However, they also need to know that it is necessary to prepare for the culture of the adult world that they will grow into. That is not likely to happen all of a sudden when they enter college. They need to grow into that culture with their parents' assistance.

Bill will allow a review of health insurance rates by commissioner
Regulation of health insurance rates would be on a par with other forms of insurance under a bill approved recently in the Senate. Senate Majority Whip Patricia Blevins, D-Elsmere, said the bill is a good balance for the insurance industry and consumers. It was approved by the Senate on a 21-0 vote. "Up until now, health insurance rates have not been reviewable by any regulatory body in the same way that they review life insurance or auto insurance," said Blevins. "Having health insurance rates come under review could be a really consumer-friendly piece of legislation." If approved by the House and signed by Gov. Jack Markell, the Insurance Commissioner's office would have 30 days to review a health insurance company's request to change rates. It would have the same authority to adjust an increase as it does for other types of insurance. If the review could not be completed in time, the commissioner's office could file for an extension. If the commissioners office does not request changes or seek an extension, the new rates would go into effect at the end of the initial 30-day review period. Blevins has worked with the industry and consumers on the measure for four years. In the past, the bill had cleared the Senate but was stalled in the Republican-controlled House. However, Rep. Bryon Short, D-Highland Woods, has said the bill will get a hearing in his House Economic Development, Insurance and Banking Committee. "I think we've finally reached agreement on something that will protect consumers and is still business-friendly," Blevins said.

Blood drive program sets records Students on Delmarva reached a new milestone this school year. Seventy-five high schools and colleges across the Peninsula held more blood drives this past school year than ever before, resulting in a record number of blood donations. A total of 6,909 blood donations were collected at 119 school blood drives from September 2008 to May 2009 - up nearly 3.5% from the last school year. School blood drives consistently contribute 8% of all the blood donated on Delmarva. The program started in 1984 with just 140 donations at two schools. Today the program is critical for attracting students to become lifelong blood donors. Currently less than 7% of all Blood Bank members are under the age of 35. By giving first-time donors a good experience, the Blood Bank hopes to reverse this trend. Students, their families and friends can continue to give blood and get credit for their schools in the blood drive competition this summer by giving blood at any Blood Bank location through Aug. 31. For more information about the Blood Bank or to request an appointment to give blood, visit or call 1-888-8-BLOOD-8.

Cancer Care Center hosts program Women undergoing chemotherapy or radiation treatment for cancer can receive free professional help to cosmetically disguise the appearance-related side effects of their treatments. Look Good...Feel Better trains volunteer cosmetologists to help women with cancer, conceal loss of hair, skin problems, and other side effects that can result from cancer therapy. The next program will be hosted by the Cancer Care Center at Nanticoke Memorial Hospital on Monday, July 20, from 5 to 7 p.m. at the Cancer Care Center's 2nd floor conference room. The program is free to all patients in active cancer treatment. Registration is required, and space is limited. To register, contact Nanticoke Memorial Hospital's Cancer Care Center at 302-629-6611, ext. 2588.

Family Caregiver Training planned The Alzheimer's Association Delaware Valley Chapter sponsors The Family Caregiver Education Series four times a year in each of Delaware's three counties. This program includes a medical overview, legal and financial issues, challenging symptoms, daily care issues and information on getting the help you need. Renaissance HealthCare Center at 26002 John J. Williams Highway in Millsboro will host the training on Wednesday, July 22 from 8 a.m. to 4 p.m. Training for family caregivers is free and lunch will be provided by Renaissance HealthCare Center. Pre-registration is required by Friday, July 17. For more information or to register, call Jamie Magee, branch office coordinator, at 302-854-9788.

National MS Society added to list On June 4, the 145th General Assembly of the State of Delaware introduced House Bill 191 to create a check-off for Delaware taxpayers who want to designate contributions to the Delaware Chapter of the National Multiple Sclerosis Society. Entitled "An Act to Amend Title 30 of the Delaware Code Relating to Personal Income Tax," HB 191 needs to pass both the state house and senate before being presented for the governor's signature. The chapter urges MS advocates across the state to tell their legislators to vote "Yes." All the contributions raised by the state tax form will help pay for the programs and services needed by more than 1,500 Delawareans with MS and their families. For more information, call 302-655-5610 or visit

NMH holds diabetes classes Nanticoke Memorial Hospital will hold a four-session diabetes educational program beginning July 22 and continuing July 29, Aug. 5 and 12 from 5 to 7 p.m. at the hospital. Registration is required. The cost of the program may be reimbursable by insurance. This four-session program includes weekly education sessions and individualized meal planning for diabetes self-management. Family members and significant others are welcome to attend the weekly sessions. To register and to obtain more information, contact Nanticoke Memorial Hospital's Diabetes Education department at 302-629-6611, ext. 2446.

Cancer Support Group The Wellness Community-Delaware offers a General Cancer Support Group for people affected by cancer and their loved ones. The free monthly support group meets in the Second Floor Conference Room of the Cancer Care Center at Nanticoke Memorial Hospital in Seaford on the third Monday of each month from 4:30 to 6 p.m. The Wellness Community-Delaware is dedicated to helping people affected by cancer enhance their health and well-being through participation in a professional program of emotional support and hope. All facilitators of these groups are trained mental health professionals. For more information and to register, call 645-9150.

Depression Support Group There will be a free bimonthly Depression Support Group meeting in Laurel on the second and fourth Wednesday evenings from 7 to 8:30 p.m. Any person who has signs and symptoms of depression and is under the care of a professional counselor/MD is welcome to attend. To register, call Life Matters Counseling and Consulting at 302-465-6612.

NMH offers Stroke Support Group Nanticoke Memorial Hospital's next Stroke Support Group meeting is Thursday, July 16 at 1:30 p.m. at Nanticoke Memorial's 2nd Floor Cancer Care Center Conference Room. The support group is designed for individuals who have survived a stroke as well as their families and caregivers. The two-hour support group meetings will consist of guest speakers and breakaway sessions, in which caregivers and stroke survivors will meet in two groups to discuss concerns, provide support, and allow for networking. Refreshments will be provided. Pre-registration is not required for this free support group. For more information, contact Nanticoke Memorial Hospital at 302-629-6611, ext. 8626.