Entries in President Obama (13)


Obama Budget Includes $235 Million For Mental Health Care

Andrew Harrer/Bloomberg via Getty Images(WASHINGTON) -- President Obama is asking for $235 million as part of his new budget proposal to fund mental health initiatives. Of the funds, $130 million will be used to train teachers and others to identify signs of mental illness in students and provide them with access to treatment.

Secretary of Health and Human Services Kathleen Sebelius wrote in a blog on her agency's website Tuesday that the funds include $205 million to help identify mental health problems, improve access to mental health services and support safer school environments. The plan would affect at least 8,000 schools, according to Sebelius. Another $30 million will go toward public health research on gun violence.

"We cannot ignore the fact that 60 percent of people with mental health conditions and nearly 90 percent of people with substance use disorders don't receive the care they need," Sebelius said in the post.

According to a January report, the Obama administration planned to spend $50 million to fund Project AWARE (Advancing Wellness and Resilience in Education), which would train teachers to identify signs of mental illness or provide "Mental Health First Aid" and ensure that students have access to mental health care. According to the report, Project AWARE would reach 750,000 young people.

Another $50 million would go to training 5,000 people to become mental health experts at the master's level to help alleviate the shortage of mental health professionals. The funds would also support state-based strategies aimed at helping those between the ages of 16 and 25 get access to and navigate behavioral treatment programs.

Mental health experts say it is vital to treat mental illnesses as early as possible. According to the National Institute of Mental Health, half of all lifetime cases of mental illness can be diagnosed by age 14 and approximately three-quarters of these cases are diagnosed by age 24.

Dr. Paramjit Joshi, chair of Behavioral Health at the Children's National Medical Center in Washington D.C., says that on average, eight years pass between a person showing signs of mental illness and being diagnosed with a disease. She says if children and teens are diagnosed early, they are less likely to drop out of school or turn to substance abuse.

"Like other illnesses, if you can catch this early, the benefits are monumental," said Joshi. "Children spend the majority of their day in the school setting. I think it will be wonderful for teachers to be better prepared and be aware what are signs and symptoms of these conditions early and refer them for appropriate services."

By centering the initiative in schools throughout the country, Joshi says it could also help make mental illness a less taboo topic.

"I think I also there's a lot of stigma attached to mental illness, if there is service provided in that school it puts a dent in that stigma," said Joshi. "It would be great if mental health is incorporated into overall health of the child."

Mel Riddile, associate director for the National Association of Secondary School Principals, says in order for these initiatives to work they need to be more than just short training sessions.

Riddile says it's important schools have relationships with parents and the local mental health care system so that teachers and school officials feel there is someone that can help them if they have concerns about a student.

"When people have nobody to talk to, they won't ask the question if they don't think they're going to get [help]," said Riddile. "It's a matter of creating a network, where when issues come up they can ask a question."

Copyright 2013 ABC News Radio


Obama Family Super Bowl Snacks: Nachos, Guacamole

Official White House Photo by Pete Souza(WASHINGTON) -- The first family will likely spend Super Bowl Sunday at the White House, watching the big game over a plate of nachos and a side of guacamole, Michelle Obama said in an interview with celebrity chef Rachael Ray set to air Wednesday.

“We’ll probably watch it at home. It’ll probably be a quiet Super Bowl this year,” Obama told Ray of the family’s plans.

As for the favorite Obama snacks that would be part of a game-day spread, Obama said nachos are “always good,” particularly if “it’s fresh tomato sauce and you get it on sort of a good-quality tortilla.”

President Obama prefers avocados as his “favorite snack food,” she added. “A chip dipped in some guac.”

The first lady also discussed her family’s commitment to physical fitness, which is the focus of her “Let’s Move!” campaign to fight childhood obesity.

“We’re a huge sports family,” she said. “I work out as often as I can, usually every day and when we can, we exercise with the kids. I usually exercise after the girls go to school, but they play basketball, my older daughter plays tennis, we play with her. Barack helps to coach Sasha’s basketball team, so we do make sports a part of our lifestyle and that’s the other leg of ‘Let’s Move!’

“It’s nutrition, but it’s also movement,” she added.

As for those cheesy-typically high-caloric nachos, Obama agreed with Ray that they can be made in a healthy way.

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio


Obama Defends Plan B Decision, Says He Was Not Involved

Joe Raedle/Getty Images(WASHINGTON) -- President Obama said Thursday that he did not intervene in the decision by his Secretary of Health and Human Services Kathleen Sebelius to block the Plan B morning-after pill from being sold over the counter to young teens, and offered his support for the decision, “as the father of two daughters.”

“I did not get involved in the process,” the president told reporters at the White House. “This was a decision that was made by Kathleen Sebelius, the Secretary of HHS.”

Sebelius stepped in Wednesday to prevent the Food and Drug Administration from approving a request from the manufacturer to remove the requirement that girls under the age of 17 need a prescription for the drug.

On Thursday, Obama offered his support for Sebelius’ decision. “I think it is important for us to make sure that, you know, we apply some common sense to various rules when it comes to over-the-counter medicine,” he said. “When it comes to 12-year-olds or 13-year-olds, the question is, 'Can we have confidence that they would potentially use Plan B properly?'"

The president said that Sebelius made the decision because she was not confident that 10 or 11-year-olds should be able to buy the drug, “alongside bubblegum or batteries,” especially when the drug could have adverse effects if used improperly.

“I think most parents would probably feel the same way,” Obama said.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio


Malia Obama, at 13, Almost as Tall as President

MANDEL NGAN/AFP/Getty Images(WASHINGTON) -- One of President Obama‘s little girls really isn’t so little anymore.

Recent photos of the first family show the Obamas’ elder daughter, Malia, now 13, nearly as tall as her parents, who are both about six feet tall.

The president himself joked about his daughter’s height during a speech last July in Kansas City, Mo.

“Even though she’s five-nine, she’s still my baby,” Obama told the assembled crowd.

But his baby is growing up, and experts say depending on genetics and the timing of puberty, it’s not unusual for some young girls to be noticeably tall.

Genetic factors play a major role in determining height, and since the Obamas are both fairly tall, it’s no surprise that their daughter is, too.

But Dr. Gary Berkovitz, chief of pediatric endocrinology at the University of Miami’s Miller School of Medicine, said it’s difficult to predict a child’s ultimate height.

Getting an idea of how tall a child will be, based on parents’ height, involves a complicated formula, and might not be an accurate predictor, he said.

“The number you come up with can be two inches more or two inches less than actual height,” Berkovitz said.

Another major factor involved in determining height is the timing of puberty.

“If puberty comes early, then there is a growth spurt early and growth stops early, and a child may end up on the short side,” Berkovitz said. “But if puberty comes late, then growth continues.”

Predicting height isn’t easy, because the timing and length of puberty vary widely.

“How tall a girl is at any point isn’t enough to say where she’s going to end up,” Berkovitz said. “A girl who’s very tall at 12 but who’s already had periods for two years is going to stop growing soon, but a girl who’s 14 who’s never had a period will keep growing.”

Estrogen plays an important role in regulating height. Estrogen drives female adolescent sexual development, but also causes the bones to mature and stop growing in both girls and boys.

But pre-pubescent boys shouldn’t worry about being shorter than some girls their age. They’ll catch up.

“One of the big differences between the height of guys compared to women is that puberty comes later in guys,” Berkovitz said.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio


Might Obama Grant Contraception Exemptions to Catholic Hospitals?

Official White House Photo by Pete Souza(WASHINGTON) -- In August, Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius announced that health insurance plans, as of Jan. 1, 2013, will be required to cover contraception, including FDA-approved emergency contraception.

“These historic guidelines are based on science and existing literature and will help ensure women get the preventive health benefits they need,” she said.

The Catholic Church has been pushing the White House to allow Catholic hospitals to opt out of offering birth control coverage through their health insurance, contraception that the Church considers the termination of a life.

Many in the abortion rights community are worried that the president will grant that exemption. Additionally, many Democrats invested in President Obama’s re-election are worried that if he grants that exemption, he will alienate women voters who care about this issue, ones he'll need come November.

Asked Tuesday about the concern and the president’s decision-making, White House press secretary Jay Carney said that part of the process was “seeking and receiving public input before the guidelines that were announced by the secretary of Health and Human Services would go into effect. That process did result in public input, and as well as resulted in numerous comments from various folks who have concerns...about this issue.”

Carney underlined that “this decision has not yet been made....We want to strike the right balance between expanding coverage of preventive services and respecting religious beliefs.  And that’s the balance that will be sought as this decision is made.”

But Democrats and those in the abortion rights community are worried about the decision the president might make and the possible impact on his re-election.

“There’s a high level of concern,” a prominent Democrat with ties to the White House told ABC News, “although the White House has been aggressive in reaching out to the women’s community to make it clear that no decision has been reached.”

The policy concern surrounds “what many would see as a significant expansion of the definition for the exemption,” the Democrat said. “The political concern is that it will make it more difficult to run against the Republican nominee whoever he or she may be on this issue of protecting women’s health. The real concern is that there’s even a discussion about this!”

Earlier this month, President Obama met with Archbishop Timothy Dolan, president of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, which has been lobbying hard for an exemption, having called the requirement “an unprecedented attack on religious liberty.”

There were many topics discussed in that meeting, a source says, but this issue was among them.

Abortion rights groups point out that there is an exemption in the rule for religious organizations.

But a bulletin the Bishops sent out criticizes the religious exemption in the rule as “so extremely narrow … it protects almost no one. It covers only a ‘religious employer’ that has the ‘inculcation of religious values’ as its purpose, primarily employs and serves persons who share its religious tenets, and is a church organization under two narrow provisions of the tax code.” Catholic colleges, universities, hospitals and charitable organizations will not qualify, the Bishops say.

Sister Carol Keehan, president and CEO of the Catholic Health Association of the United States, told ABC News that her organization’s biggest concern is with the narrowing of the definition of “religious employer.”

Keehan maintained that allowing the hospitals and universities an exemption would impact only a small percentage of women, given how many states and localities require health insurance to cover contraception. As for the women it would impact, “these are women who have freely applied to work at Catholic hospitals and universities,” she said. “There are certain things you know go with the package.”

An official with a women’s rights group says that ”birth control use is near universal, even among Catholic women. Ninety-nine percent of women, and 98 percent of Catholic women, who are sexually active use contraception at some point in their life....We are concerned that expanding the religious exemption would take away this benefit from millions of workers.”

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio


Obama’s Cholesterol Should Be Lower, Doctors Say

Pete Souza/White House via Getty Images(NEW YORK) -- When it comes to President Obama’s health, some cardiologists recommend that his cholesterol levels go the way of his approval ratings: low.

On Monday, “first doctor” Jeffrey C. Kuhlman released a two-page report on the results of the president’s physical exam, his second since taking office. The report said the 50-year-old president has apparently kicked his tobacco habit, gets regular exercise, eats a healthy diet and drinks alcohol in moderation.

But some cardiologists say Obama’s cholesterol numbers are a bit of a worry. His LDL, or bad cholesterol, level was 110, lower than his February 2010 score of 138. Although his new numbers are an improvement, Dr. Lori Mosca, director of preventive cardiology at Columbia University Medical Center in New York, said the president’s score could be lower.

“A U.S. president should have an optimal LDL of less than 100,” Mosca said. “It’s great that he is improving with his lifestyle, especially stopping smoking.”

But because the president is an ex-smoker, doctors say his risk of developing heart disease is higher. Many said taking a statin would help Obama get his bad cholesterol levels down.

When it comes to good cholesterol, called HDL, the president seems to be in great shape. The current report puts his HDL levels at 69, a dramatic improvement over his February 2010 score of 46. Such a major improvement is out of the ordinary, some cardiologists noted.

“The LDL is modestly better than last year, which is good, but the HDL is dramatically better, which is puzzling,” said Dr. Chip Lavie, director of cardiac rehabilitation and prevention at the Ochsner Clinic Foundation and Hospital in New Orleans. “An increase of over 40 percent is way above expected, raising the possibility that either the 2010 HDL value or the current value is not accurate.”

The report did not mention if Obama currently takes medication for his cholesterol.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio


President Obama ‘in Excellent Health’

Joe Raedle/Getty Images(WASHINGTON) -- The results of President Obama’s second periodic physical exam are in and they show that Obama is “fit for duty.”

“The president is in excellent health and ‘fit for duty.’ All clinical data indicate he will remain so for the duration of his presidency,” Dr. Jeff Kuhlman, a Navy captain and the physician to the president, concluded.

The results of the exam, which was conducted last week, found the president is taking a number of steps to remain healthy, including being “tobacco free,” physically active, and only drinking alcohol in moderation.

The president, who works out regularly and eats a healthy diet, has “ideal” cholesterol and normal blood pressure. He is 6’1″ in height and weighs in at 181.3 pounds.

“The President is current on all age-appropriate screening tests. He is ‘fit at fifty’ and ‘staying healthy at 50+,’” Kuhlman writes in the report, recommending the president’s next physical take place in December 2012.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio


Another Executive Order: Obama Taking On Prescription Drug Pricing  

Official White House Photo by Pete Souza(WASHINGTON) -- Using yet another executive order, President Obama is taking action on the health care front, bypassing Congress to address prescription drug availability.

White House officials say at a midday signing ceremony in the Oval Office, the president will address price gouging and the availability of prescription drugs. He will also endorse what he describes as bipartisan legislation awaiting action.

“The shortage of prescription drugs drives up costs, leaves consumers vulnerable to price gouging and threatens our health and safety,” an administration official says.

Obama is to sign "an Executive Order directing the FDA to take action to help further reduce and prevent drug shortages, protect consumers and prevent price gouging. The White House will also announce the President’s support for bipartisan legislation (S. 296 and H.R. 2245) that will give the FDA new tools to prevent drug shortages,” the administration official says.

Also invited to the event are a Boston pharmacist and a San Francisco cancer patient.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio


Halloween Candy at the White House?

Justin Sullivan/Getty Images(WASHINGTON) -- The president and first lady will welcome local children and military families to trick-or-treat at the White House on Saturday.

The North Lawn is already decorated for the occasion, with fake cobwebs lining the drive and pumpkins piled throughout.

As the trick-or-treaters make their way across the lawn to the North Portico, which will be lit orange for the occasion, they will be entertained by the Marine Band playing Halloween music and spooked by actors in costume from Washington-area theaters.

While the president joked earlier in the week that the White House was in danger of being “egged” if the first lady kept handing out fruit on Halloween, it appears they’ve reached a compromise.

Children will receive a box of M&M’s, a White House sweet dough butter cookie made by White House pastry chef Bill Yosses and, of course, a serving of dried fruit.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio


Michelle Obama: I'm in Better Shape than the President

ABC/Donna Svennevik(WASHINGTON) -- In a new cover story for Better Homes and Gardens, First Lady Michelle Obama opens up about her family’s struggle to lead a healthier lifestyle and even jokes that she’s now in better shape than the president.

After a trip to the pediatrician’s office encouraged her to change her family’s diet, the first lady explains how she quickly learned that she could make a big difference by paying attention to the small stuff. “I started thinking ‘I’ve done some really minor things -- not a wholesale change that my kids would even notice,’” she tells the magazine.

“Children’s habits can be changed so much easier than adults,” says the first lady, who has made fighting childhood obesity her personal cause. “They don’t have control over their diets -- we do.”

Mrs. Obama admits that life at 1600 Pennsylvania Ave. took some getting used to and that she’s upped her workouts to make up for her more sedentary lifestyle. Now, however, she says she’s in better shape than her husband.

“I always tease him I’m in better shape than he is,” she says. “I can do long workouts. He’s the president,” she says.

The first lady-- who on Wednesday announces new partnerships to bring more fruits and vegetables to “food desserts” -- stresses that the home front is crucial to changing children’s eating habits.

She admits that it wasn’t always easy to put healthy meals on the dinner table. “I had two little kids; I was busy...We had take-out at least three times a week. I didn’t realize that these habits were affecting my kids’ health. It was just what I felt I had to do to survive and keep the household going,” she explains to Better Homes and Gardens.

The first lady also reveals she didn’t always love eating her veggies. “My brother Greg [sic] and I, we have our stories about scooping the lima beans onto the floor and then coming back later and cleaning them up,” she says.

The August issue of the magazine marks the first time in more than four decades that a public figure has graced the cover. The nine-page spread on Mrs. Obama comes complete with glossy photos of the first lady hosting a White House picnic with local school kids using foods from her White House garden.

While her vegetable patch has been embraced by the public, Mrs. Obama says First Daughter Malia was not pleased with all of her mother’s plans for the garden. Malia “was not happy about the fact that we were going to have a beehive -- she’s terrified of bees,” the first lady says. It’s not clear if Malia has come around to the bees or not.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio

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