A round-up of children's issues in the news and on the blogs
This month marked the third anniversary of a reauthorized health law that gives low-income kids health care. CHIP, the Children's Health Insurance Program, makes it possible for hundreds of thousands of Texas kids to see a doctor. Children's Medicaid serves millions more. And still more help is on the way: Save the date for the second anniversary of the Affordable Care Act on March 23. We'll continue to share word of celebrations, action opportunities, and more on our Texas Well and Healthy campaign blog: The Texas Treatment.
Seeing Life for Juveniles in the Justice System
Photographer Richard Ross has spent years documenting the experiences of children in the juvenile justice system. His website features photos and quotes from young inmates, and Texas facilities were among those he visited. Take a moment to peek inside a juvenile justice facility by perusing the Texas sites.
When children grow up in families without a financial cushion, they might miss out on the basics essential to their health. The Associated Press looked at new data from the Corporation for Enterprise Development, and asked what role Texas policies might play in reversing poverty and financial stability for Texas families.
Key State Programs See Budget Holes
In recent weeks, state agency leaders have begun to speak openly about the impact of Texas budget cuts on health services and education in Texas. It's important for every Texan to understand what the legislature did could have been avoided--and that we all have a role in preventing still worse outcomes for children.
How Child Abuse Increases Risks for Mental Illness
New studies using brain scans show the effects of child abuse: the brain is physically changed by abuse in ways that prime it for later challenges with mental health and substance abuse. As reported in TIME, early trauma can leave lasting harm on the brain and make it more difficult to adapt to later trauma or stress.
Resource Spotlight: Prevention vs. Cure
Here is what a prevention-centered approach to childhood obesity looks like: In low-income communities and schools, children savor flavors of fresh fruits and vegetables, straight from Texas farms or from gardens the kids themselves tended. Parks and playgrounds flourish near where children live and play. Kids can walk or bike to school safely. Schools and child care centers incorporate movement, dance, active games, and healthy snacks into their day. Busy working families learn to cook meals together. Companies rein in their nearly limitless marketing of junk food to children.
This is what a cure-centered approach to childhood obesity looks like: In pockets of Texas, pediatric surgeons experiment with giving 16-year-olds gastric bypass surgery that forever changes the stomach's structure. In Austin, a doctor offers extensive help to severely overweight children, while mourning the loss of a 19-year-old patient who died of complications of child obesity. In Houston, a professor of pediatrics worries there won't be enough organ donors for all the liver transplants young adults will need after suffering childhood cirrhosis brought on by obesity. A disease once called "adult-onset diabetes" loses that name, because it now is prevalent in so many children.
Too often, the Texas approach is only ounces of prevention, and many pounds of cure. Today, Texas has one of the nation's highest rates of childhood obesity. Although it may seem like a contradiction, we also have one of the highest rates of food insecurity, which means families struggle to put food on the table. To learn about the solutions to these twin challenges:
- Watch tonight, as Texas PBS stations air "Feeding Minds: Texas Takes on Hunger and Obesity." The hour-long special looks at how the two challenges for children overlap, and what Texas communities are doing to bring healthy foods and active play opportunities to more kids.
- Read our new report, "Ounces of Prevention, Pounds of Cure," all about what Texas as a state has done--to advance, stall, and even retreat--when it comes to tipping the scales toward a healthier future.
Campaign Spotlight: DrinkWell Texas
Sweet treats can be tied up with favorite childhood memories. Even few doctors would recommend keeping favorite goodies away from all children all the time.
The problem today is one of proportion. Too many of today's children get more sugar than their bodies can handle, and it is leading to serious health consequences, like type 2 diabetes.
Particularly troubling is that the makers of the biggest contributor of sugar in children's diets—soda and similar sweet drinks—have become especially brazen about targeting kids. Nearly $400 million per year now is spent on marketing sugary drinks directly to children. The result? About one-third of Texas teens now have a sugar-loaded drink three times per day. That's 2 pounds of sugar per week, from drinks alone!
No wonder experts say that curbing kids' consumption of just this one source of sugar may be the most important thing we can do to address child obesity.
Texans Care for Children leads an ongoing campaign to raise awareness about the role of what we drink in preventing childhood obesity. DrinkWell Texas may be best known for calling for a penny-per-ounce tax on sugary drinks in Texas to help curb consumption among children. However, there is more to our campaign, which is about returning to the days of making sugary drinks occasional treats for children, not staple sides for every meal served at a school, child care center, or family dinner table. Visit our campaign page online to learn more about how you can be involved in helping us put big soda back in its place.
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