Our Children’s Health Is Our Nation’s Future

As many of you know, children’s health and childhood obesity prevention are subjects I have been talking and writing about for decades.  The genesis of my interest in the health of children comes from my own early life, when I needed to overcome my own childhood obesity.

What I have come to realize over the years is that we need a complete re-education for our families and children, with the support of our local, state, and federal governments and school systems in order to instill in children awareness and incentives for better habits and choices in their foods. This is a continual challenge in the shadows of the multi-billion-dollar processed and fast food industries, the giant sugar soda conglomerates, and mega agriculture. In order to make this change in our children’s health outcomes, it will require a consistent and tireless effort. It matters what we do, and how and what we consume. But our bodies and health are worth it!

Earlier this year, First Lady Michelle Obama stated:

“While budgets are tight right now, there are schools across the country that are showing that it doesn’t take a whole lot of money or resources to give our kids the nutrition they deserve. What it does take, however, is effort. What it does take is imagination. What it does take is a commitment to our children’s futures.”

This is great clarity from our woman leader who clearly cares about children and health. And it appears that science is now supporting Ms. Obama’s campaign.

State laws that curb the sale of junk food in schools may be helping combat childhood obesity, according to the findings of a new study published on August 13, 2012 in the medical journal Pediatrics. The study was conducted over three years and involved more than 6,000 children in 40 states.

In the first U.S. study to measure the impact of state laws that effect the sale of sugary snacks and drinks, researchers found that children in grades five through eight who live in states with stronger laws gained less weight than kids in states without such laws.

“It really shows that there can be an effect — a positive effect — by curbing the sale of junk food and sweetened drinks,” said Dr. Keith Ayoob, associate clinical professor of pediatrics at the Albert Einstein College of Medicine in New York City (Dr. Ayoob was not involved in the study).

These findings are adding further “weight” to increasing optimism among public health experts.

And while lessening junk food in school is a good start, it’s critical that healthy habits extend beyond the classroom, “That’s where maybe parents can have a bigger impact,” said Dr. Ayoob.

Furthermore, when we begin to use these principles at home and with the entire family, less junk and less sugary foods, more fresh and wholesome choices—we will make a bigger difference in health, both immediate and long term.

So as you prepare your kids for heading back to school, make packing a healthy school lunch a priority, even if your kids occasionally trade in those carrots for a cookie. Here are a few ingredients that make a healthy lunch.

  • Sandwiches made with good-quality, nutritious whole grain bread. Try tuna salad, turkey (oven-roasted or other nitrite-free packaged or deli turkey). Add almond or other nut butter with a natural fruit jam or sliced banana and honey.
  • An apple or apple slices in a small sealed container
  • Other sliced fruit or a whole orange or banana
  • Raisins (organic and sulfite-free if possible)
  • Almonds or other nuts or seeds in a small baggie or container
  • Sliced carrots or celery, possibly with a dip
  • Healthy leftovers from last night’s dinner
  • Juice and water mixture, or just water, in a small thermos (or send it cold to keep the rest of the lunch cool)

Read more tips and guidelines on how to nourish your children and live healthfully NOW!

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Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act is a Small Step Forward in Fixing Our “Disease Care System”

Preventitive care with ObamacareAllow me to share few thoughts here about our country’s new Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (PPACA).

PPACA is primarily an insurance reform bill that promises benefits such as lower prices, some preventive health care support, and guarantees insurance for people with pre-existing conditions. It also mandates that young adults under 26 years old can stay on their parent’s health care plan and that restaurant chains post calorie content on their menus (see more benefits here).

However, it does require that each of us purchase insurance (or pay a tax) and offers little in actually reforming the health care system we currently have, which is more literally a “disease care system.”

No matter how well received PPACA is (or isn’t), we still need massive health care reform based more on a preventive health care model rather than totally focused on “disease repair.” With a preventive model, we can support and even incentivize:

  • More personal responsibility and healthy living
  • Educating our youngsters at home and in school to make healthy choices — learning good habits early on in childhood is key to preventing many of the chronic diseases our health care system is ill-equipped to handle
  • Helping to provide our families with better access to healthier food

What’s being called Obamacare is a good start in the long overhaul necessary for major reform. No real change in our health care system has been made since Medicare and Medicaid was initiated in 1965. It’s about time we tackled one of our country’s biggest economic and social challenges.

What do you think is the first change that needs to be added to PPACA legislation?

Image courtesy of Thanks, Obamacare.org