Parents empowered by 'Wait Until 8th' keeping kids smartphone-free longer 

iStock/Thinkstock(NEW YORK) -- Erica and Constantine Chigounis' daughter, Sophia, is in ninth grade and just turned 14. For her birthday, she was given a phone.

And while it might seem that 14 is a perfectly reasonable age for children to get their first cellphone, it's no longer the norm. In fact, until Sophia received her birthday gift, she was the only one of her friends who didn't have a phone.

Her parents in Long Beach, New York, said holding out was tough.

"It would have been easier for Sophia if she hadn't been the last person in her grade to get a phone," Constantine Chigounis told ABC News. "I think she would have felt less excluded. For me, as a father, it would have reduced the conflict in my mind between her feeling socially isolated and protecting her from all of the negative effects smartphones have on young kids."

It's the threat of social isolation, it seems, that motivates parents to give their kids a smartphone even if they feel the child is not quite ready. That pressure led one mom to create a now-national movement, "Wait Until 8th," in which parents sign a pledge to not get their child a smartphone before eighth grade.

Brooke Shannon, founder of Wait Until 8th, told ABC News that in Austin, Texas, where she lives, there is "mounting pressure" to give children their own smartphone at a young age.

"We started seeing children as young as first and second grade coming to school, play dates and birthday parties with the latest iPhone. As we started to ask around, many parents said they eventually caved on the smartphone because 'everyone had them' and they did not want their child to feel left out," Shannon said.

Still, there were many parents who preferred to wait. So, the idea came for these parents to rally together and start a pledge.

"Our hope is to create a support network for those parents who would like to wait on giving their child a phone," Shannon said.

Here's how it works: A pledge becomes active when 10 or more families sign it from the same grade at a school.

It's designed this way, Shannon said, so there's no fear of being the only parent to sign.

The pledge is for smartphones only. Parents who want to wait on a smartphone but will allow their child to have a basic phone that just calls and texts can sign the pledge. The organization sees basic phones as free of many of the distractions and dangers of the smartphone.

Wait Until 8th wants to "let kids be kids a little longer." This, along with a desire to keep Sophia safe, was certainly the motivation of the Chigounis family.

"The main motivations for holding out were the addictive nature of the phones and the inappropriate texting, pictures and situations that occur with phones today," Erica Chigounis said. "We didn't want her exposed to those things until she was older." Cyberbullying was also a concern.

Holding out was not without its bumps. When Sophia's friends wanted to reach her, they had to go through her mom. And, Erica Chigounis admits, there were a "handful of times" she wished Sophia had a phone to tell her mom she had missed the bus or was staying late at school.

But the family feels the positive far outweighs any inconvenience. "She reads more, still plays with Legos, and is more active and imaginative than I think she would be if she were immersed in a virtual relationship with a screen," her father said.

About 1,300 families with children in more than 400 schools in 43 states have already signed the pledge in the few months since the movement began, according to Wait Until 8th.

Even with the support offered by the new group, some parents don't think they can wait until eighth grade to give their child a smartphone.

Simma Levine of New York City has a 9-year-old daughter and doesn't think she'll wait. "I wish I could make a movement with the parents at her school to hold out, but many of them have older siblings, which makes it even trickier," she told ABC News. Her daughter currently uses an old iPhone of her husband's for things such as and Roblox.

As for Sophia Chigounis, she is enjoying her new phone, even though her parents had to search far and wide for a phone that makes calls, emails and texts but has no internet plan. She's also not allowed to have it in her room or overnight.

The family hasn't signed any formal pledge, but they plan to have the same rules with their other two children.

"I would hold out longer, if possible," Constantine Chigounis said. "In fact, if there were a large contingent of people waiting until eighth grade, I might have held out until 10th."

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New study links C-sections with hysterectomy complications later in life

iStock/Thinkstock(NEW YORK) -- A new study found that women who undergo a cesarean section may have an increased risk of complications when undergoing a hysterectomy later in life.

Women who have undergone one cesarean delivery had a 31.1 percent increased risk of re-operation after a hysterectomy later in life, when compared with women having only vaginal deliveries, according to the study published Wednesday in the Journal of the American Medical Association Surgery journal.

Meanwhile, women who have had two or more cesarean deliveries may have an even higher risk of a re-operation following a hysterectomy, researchers found.

The study comes at a time when approximately one-third of all births in the United States are deliveries by C-section, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

It can be easy to forget that a C-section is a major abdominal operation, ABC News' Chief Women's Health Correspondent Dr. Jennifer Ashton said. In the future, after delivering a baby, many women may need other surgeries, and these future operations can become more complicated because of the internal scar tissue left behind from a C-section.

Ashton added that there are still things that can be done for women who have had a C-section to lower their future risks of post-surgery complications, including not smoking and keeping their weight in a healthy, non-obese range.

Ashton said it is also important to remember that C-sections are often necessary procedures, but the new study is important to keep in mind for the cases when they may not be necessary.

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Cincinnati Zoo uses dating site-like program to 'hook up' animals, director says

ZooBorns / Barcroft Images / Barcroft Media via Getty Images(CINCINNATI) -- The Cincinnati Zoo & Botanical Garden is taking a modern approach to finding the perfect mate for the animals under its care.

The zookeepers have gotten matchmaking down to a science using a system that zoo director Thane Maynard described as an animal version of a popular dating site.

"It's carefully decided -- a little like -- who's going to hook up with whom," Maynard told ABC Cincinnati affiliate WCPO.

The breeding program -- the Species Survival Program -- is an international effort managing more than 450 different species, Maynard said.

As a result, the Cincinnati Zoo has experienced a recent baby boom, including rare animals such three baby ring-tailed lemurs, three critically endangered Malayan tiger cubs, a baby red panda and a baby black rhino, which is also critically endangered, Maynard said.

One newborn has already stolen hearts at the zoo: Baby Fiona, a Nile hippopotamus who was born prematurely on Jan. 24.

"I think she's the most famous animal in the world," Maynard said.

Zookeepers must work hard to ensure compatibility between the animals chosen to mate, which can be an intricate process, said Cincinnati Zoo curator for primates Ron Evans. Some factors that are considered when matching animals include genetics, social needs, zoo interest, and the zoo's capacity to house additional animals, Evans said.

“We consider social dynamics of groups ... you don’t want to send any animal anywhere and not know how that animal might get along with the other animal,” Evans told WCPO.

In addition, the program pays special attention to animals' family tree when choosing mates in an effort to promote genetic diversity, WCPO said.

Although some animals are on birth control to control the population, Maynard said the the "importance" of the complicated program "can't be overstated for zoos."

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Cincinnati Zoo uses dating site-like program to 'hook up' animals, director says


Health insurers weigh double-digit premium increases amid Trump 'uncertainty': study

designer491/iStock/Thinkstock(NEW YORK) -- Because of policy "uncertainty" from the Trump administration that is "far outside the norm," some health insurers are considering double-digit increases to premiums in 2018, according to a new study from the Kaiser Family Foundation.

The study found that the vast majority of providers cited "uncertainty" over the individual mandate and cost sharing reductions, CSRs, as a factor in proposing increased premiums, according to preliminary rate filings in 20 states and Washington D.C.

Some insurers have requested double-digit premium increases, citing "mixed signals" from the Trump administration about whether the mandate that individuals must be insured will be enforced and whether the government subsidies will be paid, according to the study.

The study looks at how much and where the most popular plan, the second-lowest silver plan, would rise in costs. Out of all the major cities in the 20 states and D.C. the study looked at, the steepest cost increases to that plan were in Wilmington, Delaware; Albuquerque, New Mexico; and Richmond, Virginia.

Insurers have until next Wednesday, August 16, to finalize their rates for 2018.

Some providers have said if CSRs payments end or if they don't receive clarity by August 16, they'll consider further increases in premium costs or pulling out of the marketplace altogether.

"If a new HealthCare Bill is not approved quickly, BAILOUTS for Insurance Companies and BAILOUTS for Members of Congress will end very soon!" Trump tweeted on July 29.

Part of the "uncertainty" is that President Trump has not announced whether he will follow through on those threats to pull government subsidies.

Nearly two weeks ago, White House counselor Kellyanne Conway said the president was going to decide that week about whether to continue the CSRs.

"He's going to make that decision this week and that's the decision that only he can make," Conway in an interview with Fox News on Sunday, July 30.

Insurers may revise their rates for individuals who want to purchase insurance on the marketplace, depending on what actions Trump or Congress take, the study said.

The deadline for health insurers to sign contracts to participate in the 2018 marketplace is September 27.

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Meet the 10-year-old who donated 1,000 backpacks to Flint students

(Credit: Loui Brezzell) Amariyanna 'Mari' Copeny known as Little Miss Flint raised 1,000 backpacks and $10,000 with the help of non-profit Pack Your Bag for students in Flint, Mich.(FLINT, Mich.) -- Amariyanna "Mari" Copeny may only be 10 years old, but she's already earned the nickname "Little Miss Flint" for the charity work she's done around the city.

Copeny's latest project involves making sure her fellow students in Flint, Michigan, can be prepared as they return to school.

Thanks to a partnership with non-profit organization Pack Your Back, which was started in May 2016 by students at Central Michigan University, Copeny launched her own challenge on July 28.

She raised enough money to fill 1,000 backpacks along with another $10,000 in donations.

It was the second time Copeny had raised funds to purchase backpacks for Flint students. Last year, she only had enough money to give away 100 backpacks.

Copeny's mother Loui Brezzell told ABC News her daughter was sad that not every student could be helped, so "she was determined to get more backpacks this year."

The goodies were handed out to excited students last Sunday inside Mott Community College.

The backpacks included "everything you need to go back to school," Brezzell said. "Backpacks, pencils, pens, markers, crayons, notebooks, highlighters and books."

Brezzell, 28, said it's no surprise that her daughter has a reputation for her charity work, as she was raised "around giving."

"She knows that it's best to give to other people who are unfortunate," she continued. "It's become second nature to her."

Galen Miller, founder of Pack Your Back, said the partnership was effortless.

"Mari's been great," he added. "They do an amazing job."

Copeny's mother said her daughter "loves Flint and loves the kids." She thought it was important to help, especially since some children will be going back to school while the city continues to deal with the effects of the water crisis.

"Education is important, especially when dealing with the Flint water crisis and the effects from that. You want to make sure these kids have the best possible start that they can have," Brezzell added.

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Fitness expert shows how moms can flatten the stomach post-pregnancy

iStock/Thinkstock(NEW YORK) -- New mothers are turning to an exercise method to help beat the so-called "mummy tummy," the stubborn post-pregnancy stomach bulge that is often the result of a medical condition.

"What's causing the bulge is the pressure from your internal abdominal cavity, so whenever you strain or do certain positions, you would see bulging through," Dr. Fahimeh Sasan, an obstetrician-gynecologist at Mount Sinai Hospital in New York, told ABC News of the common postpartum phenomenon.

During pregnancy, the growing uterus stretches out the abdomen, which can cause the vertical bands of muscle that meet in the middle to separate from each other. For many women, this stretching in their post-pregnancy belly is actually a medical condition called diastasis recti, commonly referred to as abdominal separation.

Sasan said one possible way to prevent abdominal separation is "being active prior to becoming pregnant," which "we recommend for pregnancy anyway."

"Doing some sort of exercise, particularly core-strengthening exercises, before getting pregnant could be a good way to prevent this," Sasan added.

Fitness expert Leah Keller has developed her own technique, called the Dia Method, specifically to help new mothers affected by abdominal separation after giving birth.

Keller described diastasis recti as when "your six-pack muscles physically stretch sideways."

Keller told ABC News that a simple way to tell if you have diastasis recti is to lie flat on your back with your knees bent, then put your fingers right above your belly button and press down gently. Next, lift your head up about an inch while keeping your shoulders on the ground. If you have diastasis recti, you will be able to feel a gap between the muscles in your abs that is wider than an inch.

To develop the Dia Method, Keller teamed up with a doctor at Weill Cornell Medical College and observed 63 women with abdominal separation doing her workout routine for 10 minutes a day over the course of 12 weeks. Keller said all of the women showed significant improvement in combating the post-pregnancy belly bulge. Despite her results, many experts say more research needs to be done, but agree that these exercises can give women a head start on losing stubborn belly fat.

Here are Keller's top exercises to help flatten the post-pregnancy "mummy tummy":

1. Waist cinchers
This move works the transverse abdominis, or your natural "corset," and the entire length of the rectus abdominis, or your six-pack muscles, according to Keller. Lie on your back with your knees bent and put one hand behind your head and the other rested right on top of your belly button. Slowly nod your head, neck and upper body up -- using your abdominal muscles -- and then return to resting. Repeat.

2. Alternating leg lifts
This exercise works the lower abdominal muscles as well as the inner thigh muscles when performed with a turnout move. Keller describe it as "the alternative to the double leg lift," saying the "double leg lift is just too much of a workload" to "manage with safe activation."  To do this exercise, lie on your back and bend one knee while having the other leg extended straight out in front of you. Slowly raise the straight leg off the ground.

3. Modified cobra
This move gently lengthens the rectus abdominis muscles without separating the abs, according to Keller. Roll onto your stomach and come up onto your elbows. Let your hips anchor you into the floor and dig your elbows into the floor, then pull yourself forward and up slightly without opening your upper abs.

"It is a much smaller move than a full cobra, and it's a very conscious, very targeted, gentle lengthening of the abdominal muscles," Keller said.

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New ALS drug Radicava comes with new questions 

iStock/Thinkstock(NEW YORK) -- It is the first new drug for amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS) in 22 years to become available in the United States. Called edaravone -- brand name Radicava -- its FDA approval this week was met with a wave of excitement from the media and the ALS community.

But some physicians are raising concerns over the cost of the drug and whether patients will be able to get it, as well as noting misconceptions about how effective at fighting this degenerative condition this drug will actually be.

Each year, doctors diagnose anywhere between 5,000 to 6,000 Americans with this rapidly progressive neurodegenerative disease, and the Centers for Disease Control estimates that 12,000 to 15,000 people at any given time in the U.S. live with the disease. The majority of these patients die within two to five years of diagnosis.

The FDA approval is based on a study of 137 people with ALS published earlier this year. Patients received either a placebo pill or edaravone over a six-month period. Researchers found that those getting edaravone had a 33 percent reduction in their rate of decline in physical function.

It’s a finding that inspires hope of slowing -- but not yet stopping or reversing -- the progression of this disease.

Dr. Leo McCluskey, who leads the University of Pennsylvania’s ALS Center and was neither involved in the study nor in the approval of this drug, said the findings are promising, but he added that he fears they could be misinterpreted.

“Thirty percent is pretty robust,” McCluskey said. But he nonetheless added, “We have patients calling our center asking for the cure to ALS, and this is not a cure.”

And then there is the price tag. According to MT Pharma America, the company behind Radicava, the cost is around $1,000 per infusion. Treatment, which involves multiple infusions, may total about $146,000 per year.

“This is just for the drug; you also need a nurse and infusion equipment,” McCluskey said. “We don’t know who is going to cover it or what criteria will be used to decide who gets it.”

McCluskey also expressed concerns about the feasibility of ALS patients with reduced mobility going to receive daily infusions. “Imagine you’re a patient with difficulty moving around, and you now have to come in every day to receive infusions.”

And the number of infusions needed means many such trips. Edaravone is administered by an intravenous infusion over 60 minutes in 28-day cycles. The initial cycle involves a daily infusion for two weeks, followed by a two-week period without infusions. Additional cycles consist of infusions for 10 days over two weeks followed by two-week drug-free periods.

In an interview with ABC News, Tom Larson, the chief commercial officer for MT Pharma America, said the company is already taking steps to streamline the process for obtaining Radicava. The company has set up a system called Searchlight, through which patients and physicians can apply for the drug, obtain benefits information, identify an infusion center and schedule an infusion. Larson said the company has partnered with more than 1,100 infusion centers across the country in an effort to “make this as easy and accessible to patients as possible.”

As for the costs and coverage of the drug, Larson said insurance companies are still deciding whether they will pay for Radicava. “We are in the process every new pharmaceutical goes through as payers make a decision.”

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Strokes on the decline in men but not in women, study finds

sudok1/iStock/Thinkstock(NEW YORK) -- The good news is that we are seeing fewer strokes affecting the United States population in the past two decades. But a new report suggests that the stroke rate in men, not women, is declining faster.

Stroke has dropped to the fifth leading cause of death among men but remains the fourth leading cause among women, according to a new study by a group of investigators from Brown University, University of Cincinnati, Indiana University and Baylor College of Medicine.

Researchers looked at data on a total of 1.3 million participants living in a five-county area that captured southwest Ohio and northern Kentucky. They found that while the stroke rate for men declined significantly during the 15-year study period, for women there was no significant difference.

Click here for more information about the study.

Meanwhile, common stroke risk factors, such as high blood pressure, high cholesterol and diabetes, are all on the rise – a finding that likely reflects an aging population overall. They also found significant increases in the number of people taking medications against stroke risk factors, in particular cholesterol and blood pressure lowering medications and aspirin.

Women had an average age at first stroke of 72. Men had an average age of 68 at first stroke. After standardizing their findings with U.S. Census data, the researchers found that overall stroke rates for men went from 263 strokes per 100,000 men at the start of the study to 192 per 100,000 at the end of the study. For women, the rate went from 217 strokes per 100,000 women to 198 per 100,000, but this difference was not statistically significant.

"More providers need to recognize that more and more women are at increased risk of stroke," said Dr. Tracy Madsen, the study's lead author. "We need to consider being especially aggressive about risk factor control in women," she added, noting that physicians may not counsel women about their risk factors as frequently as they do for men.

Prior studies have shown that women are less likely to have their blood pressure at goal as compared to men. Madsen said that "there may be biologic differences in how risk factors lead to stroke between men and women."

Another possible reason for the more pronounced rate decrease in men may be changes of an aging population.

The main limitation of this study is that all of the data pertaining to risk factors and incidence of stroke were self-reported.

Furthermore, the researchers did not report information on other important stroke risk factors, such as prevalence of atrial fibrillation, or those unique to or more prevalent in women, namely the use of hormone replacement therapy and migraines. Further research is needed to confirm the findings and to examine why the declining rate was more pronounced in men.

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Distant relative offers life-saving kidney through social media

megaflopp/iStock/Thinkstock(LOS ANGELES) -- A California man has been waiting months for a life-saving kidney transplant, until a relative of his wife who lives across the country contacted him online to offer help.

Michael Hermogeno, from Glendale, suffers from severe heart disease and has been on dialysis, waiting for a transplant for nearly a year.

After hearing he needed a transplant, the relative from Florida reached out to him on social media.

"My wife's cousin's daughter, who came forward out of nowhere, sent me an email that says, 'Hey uncle Mike, can I be your donor? Can I try?'" Hermogeno told ABC station KABC in Los Angeles.

Jackie Tunaya was a bridesmaid at Hermogeno's wedding 17 years ago and her mother is the cousin of Hermogeno's wife. Tunaya said she was inspired by both her uncle and her mother to help.

"Turning to my husband, I said, 'I want to help this person and he's family so I want to help,'" she told KABC.

Tunaya’s mother had donated a kidney 17 years ago, helping to save someone else. Her mother, Susan Romero, said she is impressed with her daughter's decision.

"Who knew that 17 years later she would do the same thing? I'm so proud of her," Romero told KABC.

Hermogeno’s surgery is scheduled for Wednesday at UCLA.

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Lose up to 14 pounds a year by cutting back on soda, new report says

rez-art/iStock/Thinkstock(NEW YORK) -- Eliminating just one soda a day can have a dramatic impact on your weight and health, according to study published Wednesday by Consumer Reports.

Good Morning America got a first look at the report, titled "Can 'Sin Taxes' Solve America's Obesity Problem?".

Dr. Jennifer Ashton, ABC News' chief women's health correspondent, said that by eliminating one 20 ounce soda per day, which is approximately 119 cups of sugar in a year, an average sized person can potentially eliminate up to 52 pounds of added sugar in their diet a year.

Too much sugar, Ashton said, can lead to "inflammation, oxidative stress, and it affects the blood vessels in our body, literally every organ system from the brain to the heart to the kidneys," Ashton said.

But the new report proposes alternatives to soda to help people lose weight and reduce their sugar consumption.

Replace the soda with a sports drinks to lose approximately 6 lbs. in a year

Replace the soda with ice coffee to lose approximately 9 lbs. in a year

Replace the soda with water to lose approximately 14 lbs. in a year

"Don't drink your calories," she encouraged. "In general, you want to eat your calories."

Benefits of Water

- Boosts mood
- Fights headache

In a statement, the American Beverage Association said, "Reducing the same amount of calories from any food or beverage would lead to a similar weight loss. It's well known that we need to look at everything we eat and drink to maintain balance –- not single out sugar-sweetened beverages, which account for less than seven percent of the calories we get. The Dietary Guidelines for Americans put out by the federal government affirm that these beverages can be part of a balanced diet. America's beverage companies have been greatly expanding their low and no-calorie options and smaller portion sizes to the point where 48% of all beverages sold today are zero-calorie. Additionally, we have made a commitment to reduce the calories consumed from our beverages nationally by 20 percent by 2025. We are for good health, and we want to help people reduce the sugar they get from beverages."

For its part, the Sugar Association said in a statement, "Sugar plays many roles in a healthy, balanced diet by making nutritious foods (like dairy products and whole grains) more palatable, serving important functional and safety purposes, and being part of the enjoyment of life through foods and beverages that are considered treats. Depending on calorie needs, weight goals and physical activity level, people's treat allowances can vary greatly. The Sugar Association supports dietary advice recommending treats that contain few nutrients be consumed in moderation and in the context of personal nutrition needs."

"The Sugar Association is the scientific voice of the U.S. sugar industry, making a difference by continuously supporting scientific research and sharing our knowledge of sugar to increase consumer understanding and confidence in the role that sugar plays in a nutritious, balanced and enjoyable diet," the statement added.

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