Friday, November 30, 2007

InfoNet: An e-newsletter from Action for Children NC


Below are summaries of articles related to child well-being in North Carolina. Also provided are links to each article's full text.



U.S. Department of Health and Human Services
"HHS Launches Childhood Overweight and Obesity Prevention Initiative"

First Lady Laura Bush today saluted the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services' new Childhood Overweight and Obesity Prevention Initiative, announced today at the National Prevention Summit, which targets obesity prevention and the promotion of healthy weight for children.

Mrs. Bush delivered the keynote address at the summit, an annual HHS-hosted, cross-sector event that highlights new approaches to prevention and health promotion.

"Good health starts with good habits. By educating ourselves about our bodies -- and by taking simple steps to protect them -- we can prevent or delay some of today's most common and devastating health conditions," said Mrs. Bush.

"Our government is working to address one of the greatest dangers to America's young people: childhood overweight and obesity. Nearly one in five school-age children in the United States is overweight and the problem seems to be getting worse. Today, the Department of Health and Human Services is launching a new effort -- led by the acting surgeon general -- to coordinate and expand our government's existing childhood-overweight and -obesity prevention programs."

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, data from two National Health and Nutrition Examination Surveys (NHANES) (1976-1980 and 2003-2004) show that prevalence of childhood overweight is increasing. For children aged 2-5 years, the prevalence increased from 5.0 percent to 13.9 percent; for those aged 6-11 years, prevalence increased from 6.5 percent to 18.8 percent; and for those aged 12-19 years, prevalence increased from 5.0 percent to 17.4 percent.

"Overweight children have a higher risk of being overweight or obese as adults, and facing the health problems that can result," HHS Secretary Mike Leavitt said. "Parents, government officials, community and education leaders must work together to help the children. I'm pleased that Rear Admiral Steven Galson, the acting surgeon general, is leading this important initiative."
The East Carolinian
"ECU concludes childhood obesity study: Many participants see vast improvement"
By William Hall

Researchers from ECU's Brody School of Medicine recently concluded a three-year statewide evaluation of childhood obesity projects funded by the NC Health and Wellness Trust Fund.

Participants came from the local health departments, after-school programs, school systems and community-based organizations that were conducting the projects.

The 1,346 participating children ranged from ages 4 through 18, and researchers followed them to see what choices they made concerning food and drink.

Before the projects began, the participants had to fill out a survey documenting their average fruit and vegetable servings, snack choices and sweet beverage consumption.

44 percent of the participants were overweight when the projects began, but by the end of it, 90 percent of the children either stayed in their weight class or improved.

The percentage of children who preferred fruits rather than sweet or salty snacks went from 13.3 percent in the beginning to 17.5 percent in the end.
Raleigh News & Observer
"Indoor lifestyle, food choices put children's bones at risk"
By Lauran Neergaard, The Associated Press

WASHINGTON - Too little milk, sunshine and exercise: It's an anti-bone trifecta.
And for some kids, it is leading to rickets, the soft-bone scourge of the 19th century.

But cases of full-blown rickets are just the red flag: Bone specialists say possibly millions of seemingly healthy children aren't building as much strong bone as they should -- a gap that may leave them more vulnerable to bone-cracking osteoporosis later in life than their grandparents are.

"This potentially is a time-bomb," said Dr. Laura Tosi, bone health chief at Children's National Medical Center in Washington.

Now scientists are taking the first steps to track kids' bone quality and learn just how big a problem the anti-bone trio is causing, thanks to new research that shows just what "normal" bone density is for children of different ages.

Dr. Heidi Kalkwarf of the Cincinnati Children's Hospital led a national study that gave bone scans to 1,500 healthy children ages 6 to 17 to see how bone mass is accumulated. The result, published last summer, is the first bone-growth guide, just like height-and-weight charts, for pediatricians treating children at high risk of bone problems.

Next, the government-funded study is tracking those 1,500 children for seven more years to see how their bones turn out. Say a 7-year-old is in the 50th percentile for bone growth. Does she tend to stay at that level by age 14, or catch up to kids with denser bones? If not, is she more prone to fractures?

Ultimately, the question is what level is cause for concern.

"I don't know if we're raising a population that's going to be at risk" for osteoporosis, Kalkwarf said. "It's really hard to know what the cutoff is, how low is too low."

But almost half of peak bone mass develops during adolescence, and the concern is that missing out on the strongest possible bones in childhood could haunt people decades later. By the 30s, bone is broken down faster than it's rebuilt. Then it's a race to maintain bone and avoid the thin bones of osteoporosis in old age.

The Washington Post
"ATV Injuries on the Rise"
By Serena Gordon, HealthDay Reporter

(HealthDay News) -- While riding an all-terrain vehicle (ATV) may seem like a fun activity for your child, too often it can end in a serious injury and a trip to the emergency room.

In fact, deaths and hospital visits related to ATV use have more than doubled in the past decade, and a new study reports that the most common injuries that youngsters sustain include serious injuries such as broken legs and arms, skull fractures, brain injuries and hemorrhages.

"Parents need to understand that ATVs are not toys. We tend to think short-term and believe that we're giving children a toy or some kind of entertainment with an ATV," said study lead author Dr. Chetan Shah, a radiology fellow at the University of Arkansas for Medical Sciences and Arkansas Children's Hospital in Little Rock. "But, remember, a trip to the ER is in no way recreational."

According to statistics from the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission, 467 people died from ATV-related injuries in 2005. In 1995, that number was 200 people. In 2005, 136,700 Americans were treated in U.S. emergency rooms for ATV-related injuries, up from just 52,200 in 1995.

Because injuries and deaths from ATV use are rising so dramatically, Shah and his colleagues wanted to learn exactly who is getting injured and what types of injuries are occurring from ATV use.
Raleigh News & Observer
"Parents have good reason to worry about Internet use"
BY Gregory Ramey, Cox News Service

DAYTON, Ohio - Many parents are scared of their children's Internet usage, and the latest research indicates that they have good reasons for concern. With 87 percent of 12- to 17-year-olds now online, children are increasingly being exposed to dangers that they and their parents are ill-equipped to manage. Kids on the Internet need to deal with cyber porn, predators, bullies and social isolation.

A recent study published in Pediatrics found that 42 percent of youngsters 10 to 17 years of age had been exposed to pornography in the past year. Some of this is intentional, with boys seeking out sexually explicit material much more frequently than girls. However, the rates of incidental or unwarranted exposure are high and increasing, with about one-third of teens ending up on a pornography site when they were seeking other information.

This pornography is not the "mild" Playboy nudity of previous generations. I recently evaluated a 14-year-old who was referred to me for Internet addiction. He described visiting various pornographic sites that I could not even begin to imagine, nor write about in this column. Research is under way to try to understand what effects this is having on a generation of kids exposed and sometimes addicted to some of the most degrading images of human behavior.

The Pew Research Center indicated that about 32 percent of teens reported being the victim of cyber bullying. This involves spreading gossip online, sending threatening e-mail or posting embarrassing information or pictures.

Perhaps a parent's greatest fear is that a child will be contacted online and manipulated by a stranger. Parents should be concerned, as 32 percent of teens report being contacted online by someone who had no connection with them or their friends. This happens more often with girls than with boys (39 percent vs. 24 percent). Teens who post online photos or have profiles with a social network service are more likely to receive such contacts.

While the Internet can be a great way for many teens to connect with friends, it can also be an opportunity for teens to retreat from reality. A 2005 Professional Psychology: Research and Practice survey found that professionals expressed concerns about 15 percent of their clients having such problems.

Steps to take

Here's how parents can protect their children without isolating them...
Raleigh News & Observer
"Safety first, even at Christmas"
By Solja Nygard Frango

Until I had my son Stefan, I had hardly thought about our home’s potential safety hazards. But with an 11-month-old child crawling — and trying to walk — around the house, I quickly became aware of the electrical outlets, cords and little knickknacks.

While we have covered the outlets, hidden the cords and taken down the little decorative items, Christmas is likely to present new dangers. Holiday lights and the Christmas tree might be pretty, but for curious kids, they can be hazardous.
Angie’s List, where consumers share their ratings and reviews on local contractors and companies in more than 280 categories, gives the following safety tips for parents. The list can be found at

Wake County EITC Coalition Formed-Carolina Newswire
Please contact Lorraine McCurdy or 834-9300 for information on how you can get involved in Wake County’s EITC Coalition.

RALEIGH, N.C. -- Are you thinking about your 2007 taxes yet? It may seem a bit early, but not for the newly formed Wake County Earned Income Tax Credit (EITC) Coalition. Members of several nonprofit agencies, including the Family Resource Center of Raleigh, Fiscal Progress, Passage Home, AARP, and Triangle United Way, have partnered with Wake County Human Services and the Internal Revenue Service to form the Wake County EITC Coalition.

The purpose of the Coalition is to:
--Increase the awareness of EITC to Wake County Families
--Increase the number of tax clients taking advantage of free tax preparation sites
--Increase the number of volunteers who can provide free tax assistance to eligible tax payers

The Earned Income Tax Credit is a federal aid program targeting low and moderate-income workers. It reduces the tax burden on lower income workers, supplements their wages, and encourages greater participation in the workforce. It has the possibility of increasing the income of a working family by 10-15 percent.

According to Lorraine McCurdy with the Family Resource Center in Raleigh, “Consumers can take this opportunity to find out now if they are eligible for the Earned Income Tax Credit. They can also locate a Volunteer Income Tax Assistance (VITA) site in their community to prepare their income tax return for free to avoid the high cost of commercial preparers and Refund Anticipation Loans.”

In Wake County, IRS data indicate that for tax year 2005 over $80 million came back into the Wake County economy through the EITC. This makes the average tax refund available to low income and working families who qualify for the EITC equal to $1,837.

Right now is the time to train to be a volunteer to help in this county-wide effort to generate support for low-income working families. McCurdy says, "There is a great need for volunteer tax preparers in Wake County. Training takes place throughout the community during November and December."

Volunteers receive a great deal of training and those who come to the VITA sites are appreciative of the work volunteers do. Steve Fear from Chapel Hill has used VITA sites sponsored by Fiscal Progress and says, "I appreciate the knowledge and skill of the volunteers. Art has helped me with my tax return the past two years. I’ll see him next year!"

Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report – Reports and Recommendations
"Effects on Violence of Laws and Policies Facilitating the Transfer of Youth from the Juvenile to the Adult Justice System"
A Report on Recommendations of the Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) Task Force on Community Preventive Services

The independent, nonfederal Task Force on Community Preventive Services (Task Force), which directs the development of the Guide to Community Preventive Services (Community Guide), conducted a systematic review of published scientific evidence concerning the effectiveness of laws and policies that facilitate the transfer of juveniles to the adult criminal justice system to determine whether these transfers prevent or reduce violence among youth who have been transferred and among the juvenile population as a whole. For this review, transfer is defined as placing juveniles aged
<18 years under the jurisdiction of the adult criminal justice system. The review followed Community Guide methods for conducting a systematic review of literature and for providing recommendations to public health decision makers. Available evidence indicates that transfer to the adult criminal justice system typically increases rather than decreases rates of violence among transferred youth. Available evidence was insufficient to determine the effect of transfer laws and policies on levels of violent crime in the overall juvenile population. On the basis of these findings, the Task Force recommends against laws or policies facilitating the transfer of juveniles to the adult criminal justice system for the purpose of reducing violence.>--------------
New York Times
"Throwing Away Young People: Prison Suicide"

The United States made a horrific mistake when it embraced the practice of holding young teenagers in adult jails, often in connection with minor crimes that never lead to conviction.

Jail often turns these vulnerable young people into real criminals. It also puts them at risk of being battered, raped and pushed to suicide. The country needs to back away from these brutal, inhumane policies.

A new report by the Washington-based advocacy group, Campaign for Youth Justice, brings the suicide risks for young people in prison into frightening focus.

According to the report, people under 18 who are housed in adult jails are 19 times more likely to commit suicide while behind bars than young people on the outside. And they are 36 times more likely to kill themselves in an adult jail than young people held in juvenile facilities.

Law enforcement officials seem to think that no harm can come of holding young people in adult jails for short periods of time. But, according to the study, statistics show that suicides in jails were "heavily concentrated in the first week spent in custody (48%), with almost a quarter of suicides taking place on the day of admission to jail (14%) or on the following day (9%)."

The highest suicide rates are found in the smallest facilities, perhaps because those facilities have small staffs and are unable to keep watch over troubled inmates.

Why do so many young people kill themselves in jail? Probably because the majority of them suffer from mental illnesses that go untreated behind bars. Indeed, according to the study, as many as two-thirds of the young male detainees and three-quarters of young women detainees meet the criteria for one or more psychiatric disorders.
"Studies: Hispanic youth look for acceptance, often turn to gangs"
By The Associated Press

Hispanic youths in North Carolina, struggling to find acceptance in U.S. culture, are increasingly turning to gangs and other self-destructive behavior, according to studies and those who follow the trends.

Nearly 9 percent of Hispanic high school students dropped out of high school in the 2005-06 school year — a rate higher than any other group in the state and double the rate of white students, according to state figures. More than half of Hispanic girls in North Carolina are expected to be pregnant before their 20th birthdays, according to the National Campaign to Prevent Teen Pregnancy.

And the problems are getting worse, according to a national survey by New York University professor Marcelo Suarez-Orozco, which found that immigrant teens were doing worse in school five years after the study began.

Meanwhile, more than 40 percent of Hispanic immigrant teenagers in North Carolina say they have faced ethnic discrimination, often from their classmates, according to a study of 300 people conducted by the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill's School of Social Work.

That study found a population with emotional scars, uneducated parents and the pervasive feeling that they are not accepted by Americans...

...And if the students join gangs, Lassiter said, educators often write them off.

"The big misconception is that these kids are not savable, that once they're in, they're in for life," he said. "That's just not true. We need to ask ourselves: How do we serve these kids better?"

Thank you,

Action for Children North Carolina

Action for Children North Carolina | 919-834-6623 x229

InfoNet is a free e-news service offered by Action for Children. Tax-deductible contributions to Action for Children are needed and would be greatly appreciated. Donate online at, or send a check to:
Action for Children North Carolina, 1300 St. Mary's St., Suite 500, Raleigh, NC 27605-1276.

Thank you for helping make North Carolina the best place to be and raise a child!


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