Thursday, May 12, 2011
'Below average' isn't bad news

By Dr. Anthony Policastro

There are some terms that can be taken in more than one way. One of those terms is used frequently in medicine - "below average." Many things that we do in medicine such as measurements and tests provide comparisons. Strictly speaking there is an average for any of these things that we do which means that 50% of the population will be above that point. They are therefore above average. It also means that 50% of the population will be below that point so they are considered below average. It is hard to be upset about being in 50% of the population. However, I often see individuals who get very upset. For example, when I look at weight for height curves, the goal is to be about average. Some of the patients are just about there but a little below that average line which makes them just below average. This is a good thing. However, it is interesting as to how many parents get upset that their child is so "skinny." That is not even close to being the case. But that is the way they interpret the term. We know that there are not many people that can fall exactly on the middle line and be average. For that reason, we create what is called an average range. This means that we take some of the people above the average line and some of the people below the average line. We lump them together as all being in the average range. This usually includes 32% of the people above the average line and 32% of the people below the average line. Thus 68% of the population falls into this average range. Of the remaining 32% of the population half of them or 16% will be above the average range. The other 16% will be below the average range. In this case below average has more meaning. Instead of being in the bottom 50% of the population, the individual is in the bottom 16% of the population. For example, when we look at intelligence, the average score on an IQ test is 100. The average range is 90 - 110. Thus 16% of the school population will fall into the below average range. Since the typical classroom teaches to the average student, some of these children will see things move too quickly for them. However, at what number does that happen? Does someone with an IQ of 89 learn any different than someone with an IQ of 90? That is clearly not the case. For this reason, using the term below average for those individuals very close to the average range has very little meaning. The result of this is to realize that terminology cannot be taken too seriously. Someone can be below average and still be better at that skill than almost half the population. Someone can be below average and still be one point away from the average range. The term that is used is not important. What really counts is what the actual impact of being in that category means. In order to evaluate that, patients need to have a conversation with their physician. So if someone is told that they have a result that is below average, it is only the beginning of the conversation.

Harris is Employee of the Month Visiting Angels of Sussex County has named Toccarro Harris of Seaford, "Employee of the Month" for April. The home care company provides services to help seniors and disabled adults remain independent and in their own homes for a better quality of life. David Forman, president of Visiting Angels said, "Toccaro has shown exemplary ability and compassion in difficult circumstancea, and her service has generated kind praise for the Agency from care recipients and their families." Toccaro's first case was a hospice patient whose family wanted her to be comfortable for the final few days of her life.Taccaro accepted 12-hour shifts, attending to her needs and reading to her from her favorite books. To find out how Visiting Angels can help you or a loved one, call 329-9475 or visit

Forum for seniors, disabled to meet If you are 55 or older, if you are an adult with a physical disability, or if you know someone who is, Sussex County offers a forum in which you can voice your concerns to people who care - and who might be able to offer some guidance along the way. The Sussex County Advisory Committee for the Aging & Adults with Physical Disabilities meets six times each year to discuss relevant topics affecting senior citizens and those with physical disabilities. The next meeting will be held at 10 a.m. Monday, May 16, at the Delaware Hospice Center, 100 Patriots Way, in Milford. William Love, director of the Delaware Division of Services for the Aging and Adults with Physical Disabilities, will be the featured guest speaker at the meeting. He will discuss various services available in Delaware, with an emphasis on issues facing senior citizens, adults with disabilities and the state. The Advisory Committee invites the public to attend the session. An open discussion, as well as a tour of the Delaware Hospice facility, will follow the featured presentation. For more information, visit the Advisory Committee's page at

Resistant flu cases identified Continued laboratory testing of flu cases at the request of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) confirms four additional Delaware cases of antiviral-resistant influenza for the2010-2011 flu season.

This brings the total number of resistant flu cases to 10. The additional cases include:
  • a 2-month-old boy from Sussex County, briefly hospitalized.
  • a 7-year-old girl from Sussex County, did not require hospitalization.
  • a 45-year-old woman from Sussex County, who died Feb. 24. This was the second flu death of the 2010-2011 flu season, and was announced Feb. 25.
  • a 28-year-old man from New Castle County, briefly hospitalized. Since this year's flu activity is winding down, these findings will help CDC develop revised recommendations if needed, for next year. Four influenza antiviral medications are approved for use in the United States: oseltamivir (brand name Tamiflu), zanamivir (brand name Relenza), amantadine (Symmetrel, generic) and rimantadine (Flumadine, generic).
Stay informed about the latest developments on the flu by visiting

Stroke Support Group Nanticoke Memorial Hospital's next Stroke Support Group meeting is Tuesday, May 17, 1:30 p.m., at the Seaford Library.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 629-6611, ext. 8626.

NAR-ANON support group Take Heart, Be Strong is a support group available to family members and friends who are concerned about the drug/alcohol addiction of a loved one. People in NAR-ANON understand what we are going through and are ready to share their experience, strength and hope to help. This group meets every Thursday at 7 p.m. in the Youth Room at Crossroad Community Church, 20684 State Forest Rd., Georgetown. If you are interested or know someone who might be, call Beth at 745-0466. This is an anonymous program and there are no obligations. Attendance is welcome with no prior arrangements. For more information, visit

Breast Cancer 5K Run/Walk The Delaware Breast Cancer Coalition (DBCC) will hold its Second Annual DE-feet Breast Cancer 5K Run/Walk at the Tanger Outlet Center in Rehoboth on Sunday, May 22. The Run/Walk will begin at 9 a.m. (rain or shine) at the Tanger Outlet Center's Seaside location, with registration from 7:30 to 8:50 a.m., outside Applebee's Restaurant, Rehoboth. Registration is $20 per person before May 13 and $25 thereafter and on the day of the event. The registration fee includes participation in the 5K Run, 5K Walk or 1-Mile Fun Walk, an event t-shirt and post-race reception. At the end of the event, awards will be presented to the top race finishers. Those who cannot attend but wish to support the event can register as Sleepwalkers, who can register normally, fundraise and receive event t-shirts. This Run/Walk is a family event open to participants of all ages. For more information, visit Online registration, as well as printable registration forms, can be found on the site. For more information about the Delaware Breast Cancer Coalition, call 866-312-DBCC (3222) or visit

Bereavement luncheons Delaware Hospice's "New Beginnings" bereavement luncheons are an informal way to meet and talk with others, who have had similar loss experiences. Lunch begins at noon and is followed by a brief program. The location rotates each week of the month according to this schedule:
  • 1st Thursday: Grottos Pizza, Rt. 26, Bethany Beach;
  • 2nd Thursday: Georgia House, 300 Delaware Ave., Laurel;
  • 3rd Thursday: Millsboro Pizza Palace, Rt. 113-southbound lane, Millsboro;
  • 4th Thursday: Blue Ocean Grill (formerly Milton House), 200 Broadkill Rd., Milton;
  • 5th Thursday (when applicable): Texas Grill (formerly Ocean Point Grill), 26089 Long Neck Rd., Millsboro. "New Beginnings" luncheons are open to the public. Registration is not required. There is no fee except the cost of your lunch.
For more information, call Carol Dobson or Paul Ganster at 856-7717.