Bits and bytes of local and national health, wellness and scientific news:

•    The New Orleans CARE Clinic opened on Aug. 31, providing health care to more than 530 uninsured Gulf Coast patients on its first day alone. The National Association of Free Clinics opened the clinic at the Ernest N. Morial Convention Center for two days, aiding more than 1,000 people by the clinic’s close. Of the patients treated on the first day, 64 percent or more are employed at one or more jobs, 24 percent had been prescribed a medication and 58 percent either don’t have a physician or use the emergency room as a primary physician.  The free clinic also offered HIV/AIDS tests, a particularly significant event considering the AIDS rate in New Orleans –– 24 cases out of 100,000 people –– is nearly twice the national rate. Other tests provided included EKGs, cholesterol blood tests, glucose tests for diabetes, pregnancy tests and more.

•    With kids finally brushing off the cobwebs of summer and beginning a new year of school, there are several health concerns to be noted: flu season, food allergies, etc. But surprisingly, one of the leading childhood health complaints, according to doctors, is frequent headaches and migraines. Parents often assume that a child is exaggerating headache symptoms to avoid school or homework, but the real issue could stem from a change in sleep schedule, skipping breakfast, weather changes or not drinking enough water.

•    Another major September concern for parents with school-age children is maintaining good study habits. Parents are often concerned that their children’s learning styles aren’t conducive to teachers’ respective teaching styles. A recent study published in the Journal of Psychological Science attempts to debunk the common theory that children’s academic success is solely contingent upon isolated, specific learning styles, such as “left-brain” or “right-brain,” “visual learner” or “auditory learner” and the like. New research suggests that the problem may lie in study styles, not learning styles, and suggests varying not only what the child studies in any given study session but also where. Several studies show that alternating subject matter is more effective than focusing on one skill for a prolonged period and also that simply changing rooms mid-study session drastically improves long-term retention.

•    The Picard Center for Child Development and Lifelong Learning at the University of Louisiana at Lafayette released a report confirming that a Louisiana student’s fitness level has a direct impact on his or her academic performance, specifically on the LEAP tests.  The report also shows that more than half of Louisiana students are considered unhealthy and nearly one in three are considered obese. In addition to affecting academic performance, childhood obesity –– which began its upward swing in the early 1980s –– exponentially increases the risk for diabetes, hypertension and asthma. Due to findings such as these, Sept. 1 was declared Student Health Day in Louisiana, and students across the state signed pledges to live healthier lifestyles.

•    Along with the start of school season is the start of another important one: football season. Oschner pediatrician Patricia Granier suggests the following tips for keeping toddlers safe during tailgating and football games: Limit exposure to the sun and keep sunscreen handy (at least SPF 15 to 30), bring plenty of water for young children, keep alcoholic drinks out of reach (and make sure there’s a designated driver among the adults!), and decide upon a common meeting place in advance should someone get separated or lost.