I have also been fascinated by the beauty of the traditional Samoan garb. It is very common to find men wearing Lava Lavas which is a cloth like wrap skirt, and the women to be clad in beautifully printed dresses complimented by a flower in their hair.
As I witness the beauty of this island, I have also taken note of the obesity problem. It baffles me to see people of an island that has a plethora of nutritious food to have one of the world’s highest obesity rates.
June 8, 2011
In Case You Missed It...
More than one-fifth of preschool children are overweight or obese. That’s 20 percent of kids 5 years old and younger who are already on track for chronic health problems such as cancer, type 2 diabetes and heart disease before their first day of kindergarten.
That’s more than 4 million toddlers already queued up for health issues that will last them a lifetime. And of the heaviest youngsters — those who are obese — more than 160,000 live in Tennessee.
Our state’s and our nation’s obesity epidemic is well-documented, and childhood obesity continues to be an appropriate focus. We are learning more and more how nutrition and exercise at the very earliest stages of life can have a dramatic impact on our bodies as we age.
If the body mass index (or BMI, the ratio of height to weight that is typically used to determine a healthy weight) increases too soon or too rapidly for a young child — as young as 3 years old — research shows that child has a much higher risk of obesity later in life.
In short, too much fat produced too early sets the stage for a battle against obesity that will last a lifetime. Before most kids can add 1 plus 1 and get 2, their bodies are learning that being overweight is a way of life.
To start our children in life along this path is simply unacceptable.
There are plenty of statistics to cite, from economic — nearly $150 billion per year is being spent nationally to treat obesity-related medical conditions — to national security — more than 25 percent of all Americans ages 17-24 are unqualified for military service because they are too heavy. But those statistics shouldn’t be necessary.
Being overweight doesn’t necessarily equate to low self-esteem or an inability to achieve, but we cannot intentionally start toddlers out with a predisposition to type 2 diabetes and cancer and heart disease and expect things to be easier for them.
The next 15 years are going to be hard enough; we don’t need to make things any more difficult.
Solving the problem, however, is more complex; there is no silver bullet. Private- and public-sector leaders all have a critical role to play.
Several mayors from across the country recently pledged to do more for those in early child-care education settings in their cities. Many private-sector companies are helping to curb this epidemic, too. Specifically, a recent commitment from the planet’s largest retailers and food and beverage manufacturers to reduce calories in their products by 1.5 trillion by 2015 is laudable.
Parents, get kids moving
Parents also play a role. That’s why we’re calling on everyone to get our youngest kids more physically active. Whether that’s taking a walk or playing a game, it’s just as important for the 3-year-old in your life as it is for the 33-year-old in your life (or, in my case, older still). Cut out the sugar-sweetened beverages for kids under 5 and look to low-fat or nonfat milk for kids over 2 years old.
Equally, the private sector needs to continue to step up. Parents don’t need more complexity and more costs; they need more answers and easier ways to provide a healthy lifestyle for their kids. We need the private sector to make healthy choices as easy and as economical as possible.
We’re asking private industry to better serve their customers and communities by helping them access healthier products. This allows kids to have healthy childhoods. We can do better.
For a nation that prides itself on opportunity, we owe our youngest and most vulnerable at least that: the pledge to ensure their future is as healthy as possible.
And that means starting right from the beginning.
The Honorable William H. Frist, M.D., is vice chairman of the Partnership for a Healthier America, an organization working with the private sector to solve the nation’s childhood obesity crisis.
FGHL Blog: Shannon Langston - Taking for Granted Access to Health Care: A Retrospective on Time in Guyana
May 30 2011
Today, I’ll share a bit about my hospital. Georgetown Public Hospital Corporation (GPHC) is the primary referral center for the country of Guyana. The “Accident and Emergency” Department treats roughly 75,000 patients a year. In a country with a total of only about 750,000 people, that’s roughly 10% of the nation’s population. To get an idea of what that’s like, imagine if one emergency room in the United States saw 30 million patients a year!
FGHL Blog: Shannon Langston - Little Girl Falls on Head: General Surgeon Helps as Neurosurgeon in Guyana Hospital
May 10 2011
My residents and I performed a physical exam on the girl based on the “ABCDE” pneumonic I had been reinforcing: Airway, Breathing, Circulation, Disability, and Exposure. It is designed to simplify the assessment of trauma victims and to ensure that examinations are performed that same, every time, by every person. The theory is that if you do something the same way every time, there is less of a chance that you will miss something important.
May 08 2011
Mother-and-child health challenges persist globally
This Mother's Day, moms in Tennessee and around the world have more to celebrate than ever before. Infant mortality rates are declining in many communities and many countries. Yet even today, where a woman gives birth determines dramatically different odds of survival for her child. We can, and must, change that.
A baby in Shelby County has a 1 in 77 chance of dying before her first birthday. In some of our rural counties, 1 in 45 babies die. Those frightening rates are on par with Sri Lanka and Mongolia, respectively.
Overall, the U.S. child mortality rate is worse than in 40 other countries. It's one of the main reasons Save the Children ranks our nation 31 out of 43 developed countries on the Mothers' Index of its new State of the World's Mothers report.
Within the United States, Tennessee has long had one of the worst infant mortality rates. But our state's effort to change that is paying off. We've moved up from 46th to 41st in the latest national comparison on child health. That's good news, but I'm sure you'll agree, it isn't nearly good enough.
Even in tough times, state programs making a difference — including Healthy Start, which makes home visits possible for new moms in rural areas — must be protected if we are to improve the health of moms and kids across the state. Healthy kids lead more fulfilling and productive lives. They create jobs and grow economies.
Children's programs face possible federal cuts
Together,we must speak up for mothers everywhere. Federal programs that have helped reduce global child mortality by a third in the last 20 years are in danger of major cuts.
Worldwide, 8 million children still die each year, mostly from preventable causes. Imagine if diarrhea or pneumonia became a death sentence for your child. This is a daily risk for millions of mothers with no access to trained health workers or the most basic, inexpensive medicines. In Afghanistan, one in seven infants dies.
Why should Tennesseans worry about this when we have our own challenges right here at home? First, it's not an either-or proposition. We should save every child's life when we know how to do it inexpensively and so well. It doesn't take much more than political will to give a child a real shot as a long, fulfilling life,
And it's more than that. When we save children's lives abroad, we help countries develop and give them hope. And when we do that, we help create the conditions for growth and prosperity.
That relates directly to Tennessee, where 44 of our 46 export industries are growing and our state benefits from nearly $26 billion in exports every year. U.S. economic growth increasingly depends on growing markets in developing countries. We are living in a world that is increasingly interconnected. Simply put, by helping mothers and their children everywhere, we help ourselves.
So, as we celebrate this day for mothers, let's make a bold commitment to improve the lives of mothers and children in communities across the globe.
Bill Frist, a heart surgeon, served Tennessee in the U.S. Senate from 1995 to 2007. He is co-chairman of Save the Children's newborn and child survival campaign.
May 04 2011
Bipartisan agreement on mothers
Political gridlock aside, this is a time of year when Democrats
and Republicans can remember one important thing we all have in common:
none of us would be here without our mothers. But the truth is, many of
us might not be here today if our moms hadn’t had access to basic care
during pregnancy, delivery and afterward.
As we honor our moms on Sunday, let’s honor motherhood itself by giving all moms the gift they want most — the chance to deliver and raise healthy children. Worldwide we lose about 1,000 mothers and more than 22,000 children under the age of 5 every day, a daily death toll on par with the recent Japanese disaster repeated day after day. But we can act now to save tomorrow’s mothers and children.
The United States has a long, proud and bipartisan history of
leadership in the fight to save children’s lives. We must stay the
American researchers pioneered simple solutions that led to a remarkable decline in child mortality worldwide: life-saving vaccines, oral rehydration solutions to treat diarrhea, vitamin A supplements and zinc to fight malnutrition and disease. Much of this was accomplished with generous funding from the U.S. government.
Between 1990 and 2009, the United States worked with developed and developing country partners to reduce the global number of under-5 deaths by more than one-third, from 12.4 million per year to 8.1 million. For years it was unthinkable that our country would abdicate its leadership in this realm.
Polls have consistently shown that more than 90 percent of Americans believe saving children should be a national priority. Congress and administrations since the early 1980s have responded, funding the U.S. Agency for International Development and others to advance the reach of medical breakthroughs and reduce child mortality rates in the world’s poorest countries.
Today, some of our former colleagues in Congress suggest that development assistance is irrelevant to national security, and as a result, foreign aid is ripe for cuts. But they should listen to those who know firsthand the threats we face.
Drawing on his recent experience leading the U.S. Counterinsurgency Training Center in Afghanistan, retired Army Col. John Agoglia says: “It’s difficult to build a stable democracy when health, education and opportunity indicators for women and children are at such low levels. Our policymakers must remember: an investment in people that improves their chances to survive and progress is an investment in our national security.”
Former Xerox CEO Anne Mulcahy is also speaking out. “Let’s make no mistake,” she says, “investing in women and children abroad is an investment in our own economic future.” She notes that U.S. corporations increasingly rely on developing countries for new-income growth, and points out that many of the world’s largest importers of U.S. goods and services were once recipients of U.S. assistance.
Mulcahy and Agoglia are among the prominent individuals and everyday citizens pressing for continued U.S. investment in women and children in Save the Children’s latest “State of the World’s Mothers” report. The report also discusses particularly effective solutions that may surprise you. For instance, a cadre of community-based health workers, given just six weeks of training and a few basic tools, can reduce child mortality by 24 percent or more.
As countries like Malawi and Nepal have shown, U.S. assistance can help empower some of the world’s poorest nations to deliver a child survival success story through strategic choices that deliver the greatest returns with limited resources.
It’s difficult to find much that politicians can agree on these days, but saving the life of a child is surely a goal we can all support. Mother’s Day is no time to deny moms the most meaningful gift of all: the survival of their children.
Bill Frist, M.D., is a former Senate majority leader. Jon Corzine is a former senator and governor of New Jersey. They are co-chairmen of the Save the Children’s Newborn and Child Survival Campaign.
Apr 21 2011
by Raynard Jackson
Whenever the U.S. government enters into a state of fiscal austerity, politicians always look for budget cuts from programs they deem to be less important or have little or no constituency. Foreign policy budgets, especially those directed towards Africa seem to always show up near the top of that list.
The left will blame it on the "mean" Republicans who don't care about Africa. The truth is that Africa seems to benefit more from Republican control of Congress/White House than from Democratic control. Isn't it amazing that former President George W. Bush did more for Africa than any president in the history of the U.S.? But, yet, he gets little or no credit for his policies towards Africa.
It was the Bush administration that first labeled what was going on in the Sudan as genocide (made by then Secretary of State, Colin Powell before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee). Bush played a critical role in helping to end the civil war in the Sudan.
Under the Bush administration, development aid to Africa quadrupled from $ 1.3 billion in 2001 to more than $ 5 billion in 2008. The Millennium Challenge Corporation (MCC) was created by Bush. Africa has received in excess of $ 3.5 billion from the fund so far. The MCC was established to reward poor countries that encouraged economic growth, good governance, and social services for its citizens.
The Africa Growth and Opportunity Act (AGOA) was created in 2000 and expanded under Bush in 2004. The bill provides trade benefits with the U.S. for 40 African countries that have implemented reforms in their countries to encourage economic growth.
The President's Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief (PEPFAR) was created by Bush and had $ 15 billion appropriated over five years (2003-2008). I find it amazing that the program has been cut by the Obama administration (though Obama pledged to increase it by $ 1 billion annually during his presidential campaign).
Along with PEPFAR, Bush established the U.S. Leadership Against HIV/AIDS, Tuberculosis, and Malaria Act of 2003 (or the Global AIDS Act) established the State Department Office of the Global AIDS Coordinator to oversee all international AIDS funding and programming
Bush's policies are credited with saving the lives of millions of Africans.
The political right would argue that America just can't afford to continue some of these programs. They don't question the merits of the programs, just the financial ability of the U.S. to continue to fund them.
I put the blame for this type of myopic thinking on two groups. The first is U.S. supporters of these programs (this includes, politicians, faith based groups, American citizens, etc.). America must do a better job in explaining why and how these programs impact the U.S. If we don't spend the money on the front end (for prevention), we will spend the money on the back end (for treatment, humanitarian intervention, nation building, etc.).
I would put most of the responsibility on the second group
How many African diplomats can pick up the phone right now and get Congressman Chris Smith (at home, on his cell, or in his office)? Smith represents New Jersey's 4th congressional district and is one of the biggest supporters of Africa that most people have never heard of. He also happens to be a member of the House's Committee on Foreign Affairs and chairs the Subcommittee on Africa, Global Health, and Human Rights.
African diplomats constantly complain about what the U.S. is not doing for them or their country's interests. They hire high powered lobbyist who have little ability to translate their needs into a language that is understood in the political arena. They rarely engage the American people as to why their country is important to the U.S and why they should care. They have no media strategy, no advocate within the halls of the U.S. Congress, and they lack the "friends in high places."
Africans must understand that it is important to engage the American people whether there is a crisis going on in their country or not; whether there is an adverse policy percolating through Congress or not.
The new Congress convened in January and there are many new members in both the House and the Senate who are new to their respective African committees. African diplomats have made little, if any, effort to establish relations with these new members beyond any perfunctory meet and greet.
There will most definitely be across the board budget cuts for the foreseeable future. How deep they are relative to Africa will depend on how well the African diplomatic community communicates their country's importance to the American people and relevant members of both the House and the Senate.
Based on my private conversations with members of Congress, the White House, members of civil society, and NGOs, Africa doesn't make the cut in terms of understanding how to make things happen in the U.S.
Raynard Jackson is president & CEO of Raynard Jackson & Associates, LLC., a D.C.-public relations/government affairs firm. He is also a contributing editor for ExcellStyle Magazine (www.excellstyle.com <http://www.excellstyle.com> ) & U.S. Africa Magazine (www.usafricaonline.com). —African heads of state and their designated U.S. ambassadors! African leaders and their ambassadors show very little understanding of how to get things done through our political process here in Washington, DC. Most African ambassadors have no relations with relevant members of Congress on the African committees of the U.S. Senate and House of Representatives.