Archive for August, 2014


8 Essential Back-to-School Tips for Parents

Friday, August 29th, 2014

With a well-rounded summer vacation ending, parents spend a lot of time getting their kids ready for school. New school supplies, haircuts, and special end-of-summer outings all play into the back-to-school routine. There are some other things that parents can do for themselves and their kids to ensure a smooth transition into the school year, too. Take a look below at few ways to get this year off to a great start in your house.

Set up a bedtime and wake-up routine in advance. If possible, it’s best to establish bedtimes and wake-up times two weeks in advance of the start of school. By the time the first school bell rings, kids will already be on the right sleeping schedule and it will be one less worry for your family.

Get to know new teachers. There will be open houses, orientations, and other meet-and-greet options at the beginning of the school year, but none will give you the chance to spend some quality time getting to know your kids’ teachers. Try to find a few minutes before or after school to connect one-on-one with the teachers. At the very least, send an introductory email that includes how you can help during the school year, however big or small.

Plan healthy lunches and snacks. The better you plan out the meals in your home, the healthier choices you will make for your kids. When you pack protein-rich snacks and lunches, balanced with fruits, vegetables, and other wholesome items, you ensure that your children will have the energy and brainpower to make it through their school days.

Organize clothing. Of course you will need to donate or otherwise get rid of the clothing that your kids have outgrown, but you should also take the time to carefully organize what is left. From there, decide what items you may need more of before school begins.

Set up a staging area. Find a central spot to store everything related to school, including backpacks, upcoming outfits, and a dry erase calendar with family schedules. Try to keep this area free of clutter and other non-school items so that you can find what you need, when you need it—and quickly. Have the kids help you stock it with school-related items and keep it clean and functional. Find some inspiration here.

Update medical records. Most schools will let you know if your shot records are out of date, but why not go beyond that? Make sure teachers and administrators have a complete list of any medical concerns regarding your kids, including allergies. You will also want to be sure that all emergency contacts are up to date.

Talk to your kids about bullying. Research shows that one in three kids experience bullying at some point in their school career—and in the increasingly digital world, the consequences can be extreme. Make sure your kids understand the right way to treat their peers, and when to speak up if they see someone else being bullied. Also make sure they know when to come to you if they feel they are being bullied.

Ask your kids about their concerns. The start of school is exciting, but can also bring some anxiety—especially when it comes to the unknown. Take a few minutes to ask your kids what they are most looking forward to during the school year, and what things may be worrying them. By giving them a forum to express their concerns, you can help them work through any worries in advance of school starting and clear up any issues that could lead to a bumpy start to the year.

Childhood Obesity Crisis: An Update

Tuesday, August 5th, 2014

Childhood Obesity Crisis: An Update

The Continuing High Cost of Doing Nothing

By Dr. Stan Bassin

Obesity is a modern health problem that impacts the modern world. Globally, more than 1 billion adults and 17.6 million children are estimated to be overweight (World Health Organization, 2009) and increasing. The proportional distribution of overweight around the world tends to vary with the developmental state of different countries. In developing nations, characterized by low standards of living and high population growth, underweight seems to be more prevalent than overweight. As countries modernize and begin to shift toward improved socioeconomic conditions, the wealthier portion of the population experiences an increase in the prevalence of high body mass index (BMI, the measure generally used as the indicator for obesity), while the poorer remain thin or underweight as a result of differing amounts of energy usage for tasks like transportation, and different levels of food accessibility and quality.

Further economic development results in another BMI shift, with the wealthy population receiving better nutrition and education which decreases BMI levels of the wealthy, as compared to members of the lower classes who experience an increased prevalence of high BMI (World Health Organization, 2009). The World Health Organization cites various obesity-associated health problems, many of which can be treated with an increase in physical activity. These include high blood pressure, stroke and other cardiovascular problems; insulin resistance and abnormal glucose metabolism; sleep apnea, which can lead to neurocognitive defects (Dietz, 1998); and orthopedic ailments (World Health Organization, 2004). Other consequences include menstrual irregularities, as well as mental and emotional health problems. Overweight youth may have an elevated risk of developing asthma (Strong et al, 2005), and obesity is often associated with a reduction in deep breathing, narrowing of airways, shortness of breath and increased wheezing (Lucas, 2005).

The Cost of obesity related diseases is listed below in the Major United States Cities.

cost-of-obesity-related-diseases-major-cities-in-the-united-states-spark-pe-20140807

Source: Gallup

Unfortunately according to Ladabaum, in the latest Study from Stanford School of Medicine 2014, we are not over eating but we are under exercising.

So, what can we do about this crisis?

There is not one simple way to solve the childhood obesity crisis, and many solutions are needed.  One solution is to get kids moving in school, since children spend a significant amount of time in the school setting (see Childhood Obesity: Quality Physical Education as a Solution video to learn more).  Evidence-based physical education programs like SPARK can help increase youth physical activity during the school day.  In addition, quality before/after school programs, integrated classroom physical activity breaks, and recess can provide additional opportunities for physical activity in school.

SPARK has continuously demonstrated it can elevate the rate of youth physical activity through its evidence-based and field-tested materials and training programs.  To learn more about evidence-based, quality physical education as a solution to the childhood obesity crisis, click here.  And, do your part by advocating for quality physical education and physical activity programs in your school.

Dr. Stanley Bassin

University of California, Irvine

Clinical Professor

Preventive Cardiology