Posts Tagged ‘child health’

Teen Pregnancy Prevention Program Defunded in Baltimore…and Beyond

August 20, 2017

The teen pregnancy rate in Baltimore is 2-3 times the national average, with rates reaching upwards of 64 pregnant teens for every 1,000 female adolescents in 2009. According to the Center for Disease Control, teen pregnancy costs taxpayers $10 billion annually in health care and foster care costs. On the personal level, unplanned pregnancies significantly reduce life opportunities for teen moms, with the CDC finding that only 50% of teen moms graduating from high school by age 22. This lack of education causes a ripple effect, and teen moms have more chronic health problems and higher rates of incarceration.

Courtesy of the Baltimore Sun

Courtesy of Baltimore Sun

Teen pregnancy in Baltimore has seen a steady decline over the last decade, joining a national downward trend. This comes in no small part to programs such as the Health and Human Services’s Teen Pregnancy Prevention Program (TPPP). With funding from the TPPP, 80 city health departments have been empowered to create science-based prevention programs for teens to understand contraception and sexuality.

Unfortunately, the TPPP was abruptly defunded last week. The Trump administration offered little explanation, leaving pro-abstinence groups such as The Abstinence and Marriage Education Partnership to justify such cuts with claims that abstinence is correlated to lower rates of teen drug abuse.

Here in Maryland, the Baltimore City Health Department expressed frustration at losing $3.5 million out of the $214 milling being cut. Health Commissioner Leana Wen called the cuts “shocking.” The Health Department has joined the Big Cities Health Coalition, comprised of the 80 beneficiary cities of TPPP funds, in decrying the budget cuts. Even the American Academy of Pediatrics has joined the plea, adding a link to its website for pediatricians to contact their congressmen in protest.

There’s good news. The National Campaign to Prevent Teen and Unplanned Pregnancy found that 83% of adults support teen pregnancy prevention programs. Now is the time to tell Congress that the constituency wants the TPPP funded. Call your congressman today!


Toxic Stress in Children of Immigrant Detainees

August 6, 2017

kids of deported parentsPediatricians are sounding the alarm on the health effects of children traumatically separated from detained immigrant parents. Responding to the Executive Order expanding deportation, American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) President Fernando Stein stated

The executive orders signed today are harmful to immigrant children and families throughout our country.they deserve to be healthy and safe.”

Nonetheless, on June 15 the Secretary of Homeland Security rescinded the  Deferred Action for Parents of Americans and Lawful Permanent Residents (DAPA) which protected undocumented parents of US citizen children from deportation.

5 million children who are US citizens have at least one undocumented parent. 660,000 children were separated from parents due to deportation between 1998 and 2012. By May, non-criminal immigration arrests increased by 150%.

Pediatricians warn that constant fear of parental deportation results in feeding, sleep and learning problems, depression, and illness and toxic stress, which can hinder brain development. Adverse experiences in childhood predispose individuals to heart disease, diabetes, and cancer.

Even before Trump’s actions, immigrant and American-born Hispanic mothers in Iowa were 24 percent more likely to have low-birthweight babies after a federal immigration raid. Delays in preventive care and medical treatment followed Arizona immigration legislation. Parents, even those with children with disabilities, hear of a single parent of a child with cerebral palsy being deported to Colombia, and stay home foregoing medical care due to fear of detainment.

Pediatricians are raising their voices, lobbying for protection of community sanctuary status, designing emergency care documents for immigrant families, and writing letters supporting parental care for special health needs.

Homeland Security must immediately limit arrests to immigrants with a documented criminal record, and provide agency assistance in creating family care plans before detention. Until federal raids are halted, states must defend the sovereignty of sanctuary communities for immigrants. Children must be put first.

foster care deported image

Why California voters should uphold Senate Bill 277

August 14, 2015
Girl getting immunization: Getty Images

Getty Images

On June 30th, 2015, Governor Jerry Brown signed Senate Bill 277 into law. SB277 amended the vaccine requirements for California school children by banning religious and personal belief exemptions of childhood vaccinations. Starting January 1, 2016, students attending California schools must receive all childhood vaccinations as recommended by the AAP and CDC unless they have a medical exemption signed by a physician. The California State PTA and the California Department of Public Health supported this legislature in light of a recent measles outbreak that began in California’s Disneyland. The outbreak was perpetuated by low inoculation rates that decreased herd immunity and led to cases across 24 states and the District of Columbia.

While side effects exist for all medications, the risk of vaccination is highly outweighed by the benefit of eliminating suffering and death from vaccine preventable diseases. Serious allergic reaction to the Measles Mumps and Rubella vaccine has been reported in less than 1 out of a million doses given. In contrast, 1 to 2 out of every 1,000 children who get measles will die. In addition, research has thoroughly discredited any connection between childhood vaccinations and neurodevelopmental disorders such as autism.

Despite the fact that research has clearly proven childhood vaccines are both safe and effective, former assemblyman Tim Donnelly filed a referendum to oppose SB277. Opponents of the bill, such as anti-vaccine group the California Coalition for Vaccine Choice, need to collect 365,880 valid referendum signatures in order to delay the implementation of SB277 by bringing the bill to a vote in November of 2016, after the start of the school year.

Young children and persons who are chronically ill or immunocompromised are at increased risk for contracting diseases such as measles and suffering more severe sequelae of such diseases. The California government has the responsibility to protect these individuals, and to do so vaccination rates must be increased to levels sufficient for herd immunity. SB277 is an evidence-based policy that supports the public health of all Californians. California voters need to unite in favor of protecting their neighbors and fellow citizens and uphold SB277.

Call for a nationwide ban on female genital mutilation in Liberia

August 14, 2015

Female genital mutilation (FGM) is a form of violence against women that must be stopped. According to Liberia’s demographic health survey, FGM is estimated at 49.8% for women and girls aged 15-49. Initiation into a secret society called Sande is synonymous with FGM and Sande members have shown stronger support for its continuation than had been shown before.

The United Nations General Assembly adopted the resolution ‘intensifying global efforts for the elimination of FGM on December 20, 2012. This marked a ground-breaking milestone in global efforts to end this harmful practice. The political interest is there. Affected women and girls have gained momentum. The global community now sees this as a human rights violation and a manifestation of gender inequality.

It’s also a public health issue. FGM has no medical benefits and can cause medical harm. FGM has immediate health complications which could include severe pain, shock, and sepsis. Long-term consequences can include recurrent bladder and urinary tract infections, cysts, infertility and an increased risk of childbirth complications and newborn deaths.

Despite this, there is no law criminalizing the practice of FGM in Liberia. The Ministry of Justice and Ministry of Gender and Development have avoided speaking on the issue for fear of losing votes or retaliation from Sande members.

It is time for women and girls to reclaim control of their bodies, for the Government of Liberia to recognize FGM as a crime, and for NGOs to adopt culturally relevant programs that support the human rights of the women and girls of Liberia.

Urgent Need to Move on Alms Redistribution Plans to Get Begging ‘Taalibe’ Children out of Senegal’s Streets

August 12, 2015
Taalibe begging

‘Taalibe’ Qur’anic school students flood the streets with begging cans to collect their daily sums of money to turn over to their instructors. Children who fail to reach the daily quota may face beatings and incur debts (Credit S. Thiam 2007).

Up to 50,000 taalibe Qur’anic students, mostly children aged 5-15, are begging for hours on end in Senegal’s streets everyday. In 2010, Human Rights Watch shamed the national government for its inaction on the issue with a scathing report about the stomach-churning abuses that the taalibe (also talibé) children suffer at the hands of their Qur’anic masters who live off of their begging revenues. In addition to infringing upon on their human rights, the taalibes’ extensive begging and their crammed, unsanitary living conditions have been associated with numerous health and developmental risks, including malnutrition, high rates of infectious diseases, risks of street life including traffic accidents and exposure to violence and drugs, psychological suffering due to their separation from families and communities, and a lack of adequate education (see Thiam 2013).

This transnational attention to the issue in 2010 pushed the administration of then President Abdoulaye Wade to ban begging in public spaces in Dakar. On the day it was enacted, police lined the streets, begging children were rounded up in shelters, and eight Qur’anic masters were jailed. Opposition media and a national collective representing over 700 Qur’anic master associations effectively pressured the president to reverse the ban, claiming that without the population’s generous alms, the long-standing religious educational institution would not survive. A short six weeks later, the ban was repealed and the accused were released with token fines. Instead of outright banning begging, President Wade announced plans to implement an alms “mutualization” scheme to keep children out of the streets by redirecting donations to recipient institutions. The proposal calmed the raging national debates on the issue, but unsurprising to most, no further action was taken before the president left office. In 2013, current president Maky Sall, in a public response to a devastating fire that killed nine taalibes in their makeshift Dakar shack, indignantly pledged to prosecute exploiters and pursue a similar public policy to redirect alms. Again, three years later, there has been no change. Drawing valuable lessons from these political events and their fruitless outcomes, concerned local and transnational actors must join together to pressure Senegal’s political leaders and Qur’anic masters to find a workable giving redistribution scheme they can agree on, sooner rather than later, to get the thousands of begging taalibe children out of the streets and into schools.

Health through Vaccination via CA Senate Bill 277

August 5, 2015

(Image Courtesy of Vaccine Conspiracy Theorist BlogSpot)

Vaccination (or “Immunization”) remains one of the most currently contentious topics in the United States. Despite it’s proven disease prevention statistics, a vast number of residents across the United States oppose mandated vaccination, supporting ‘parental choice’ of their child’s vaccination status.

Understandably, this widespread opposition stems from parents’ natural concerns for their children’s health and wellbeing. A slightly increased association between paralytic Guillain-Barre syndrome in the 1970s and the prominent influenza vaccination that year heightened the public’s awareness of the slim, potential adverse effects of certain vaccinations. However, many parents fail to recognize the significant public health accomplishments achieved by mandated vaccination programs.  The Centers for Disease Control recommends proper vaccination as a key prevention strategy of infectious diseases.   Diseases such as tetanus, pertussis, hepatitis B, several influenza strains, polio, and many others are not commonly seen today (or even eradicated) due to implementation and adherence to successful vaccination programs.

California Senate Bill 277 (SB 277) helps to enforce and maintain these successful vaccination programs by requiring school-age children to have complete immunization records prior to school enrollment, regardless of personal preference. The 2015 multi-state measles outbreak (originating from a California theme park) could have likely been prevented granted gaps in proper vaccination did not exist. Senate Bill 277 helps to protect not only our own children, but the children of those around us—we must uphold the implementation of Senate Bill 277 and inform our fellow parents of the wealth of benefits given through complete childhood immunization.

Breaking the Intergenerational Cycle of Under-nutrition: Community Based Interventional Approach in Bangladesh

March 7, 2015


Malnutrition has always been one of the major Public Health issues in Bangladesh. Malnutrition includes both under-nutrition and over-nutrition. However, Bangladesh is a highly under-nutrition (wasting, stunting and underweight) prevalent country which include macro and micro-nutrient deficiency. In Bangladesh, commonly children aged under 5 years and women suffer most from under-nutrition . Among the children under 5 years, the prevalence of chronic under-nutrition (stunting) is around 44% (7.8 million) and acute under-nutrition (wasting) is 14% (2 million) which is nearly the WHO “critical threshold” of 15%. More than one in five newborns (22%) have a low birth weight in Bangladesh due to maternal under-nutrition and early pregnancy. Early pregnancy contributes to the inter-generational cycle of under-nutrition. Although the prevalence of under-nutrition has reduced over the past few years, but progress has been slow due to poverty, lack of health education, natural disaster, food insecurity and caring practices.

Source: WFP Bangladesh Nutrition Strategy

Intergenerational cycle of under-nutrtion; Source- WFP Bangladesh Nutrition Strategy

Improvement of maternal and child nutritional status has been a priority of the government of Bangladesh for several decades. In 2012, to reduce maternal and child under-nutrition, along with World Food Programme (WFP) Bangladesh govt. introduced National Nutrition Service (NNS) strategy 2012-2016 which is multi-sectoral collaborative approach aiming on strengthening national and local capacities to adequately deliver nutrition services, and improving access to nutrition services through integrated community based interventionsThe policy specifically focused on the first 1000 days of a child from conception to two years when nutrition needs are the highest and nutrition intervention have the most long-term effect and contribute to breaking the inter-generational cycle of under-nutrition.

We believe, this short-term comprehensive approach will be very effective to reduce nutritional problem in Bangladesh. However, active coordination of all sectors, adequate training of health worker, uninterrupted supply of nutritional services and active involvement of community need to be ensured.

Child Trafficking in Nepal

March 6, 2015

About the only thing the Government of Nepal has gotten right since passing the Human Trafficking and Transportation (control) Act of 2007 is that they’ve started prosecuting public officials accused of complicity in fraudulent recruitment of underage labor and sex trafficking even if the numbers of prosecutions is a drop in the bucket to how much corruption really exists in Nepal around child trafficking. However, at least this new law brought them in line with International Trafficking laws (which make them look good, right?) But, The GoN has no national anti-trafficking plan in place, nor is it a party to the 2000 UN Trafficking in Persons (TIP) Protocol.

Child trafficking in Nepal is unfortunately on the rise, with between 7,000 and 12,000 children being trafficked from Nepal each year to countries such as Bangladesh, India and the United Arab Emirates where they will face exploitation, predominantly in the commercial sex industry but also being sold into forced labor. There are many factors that help perpetuate this complex problem of human trafficking especially in children including; political instability, transition into peacetime (post-conflict), high poverty levels, high illiteracy, unemployment and the patriarchal social norm. Nepal has all of this in abundance.

According to the US Department of State 2014 Trafficking in Persons report, “Nepal is a source, transit, and destination country for men, women, and children who are subjected to forced labor and sex trafficking.”[i] Let’s take a closer look at what the government hasn’t done yet:

  • The GoN has been developing and anti-trafficking plan, but not yet completed or voted on.
  • No publicity surrounding the policy change of Human Trafficking in 2007 to raise awareness of the stand the GoN has finally taken.
  • There still exists a ban on women under 30 from travelling to foreign countries to work as domestic labor, which forces migration through illegal and dangerous channels.
  • There has been no sign of increased law enforcement against all forms of trafficking including girls and women.
  • Punishment of those trafficked without proper ID continues as usual (typically stolen by their captors), or those forced into prostitution.
  • Very little, if any police training on trafficking as well as prosecutors and judiciary (for the handling of human  trafficking prosecution)
  • No formal procedures put into place to recognize victims and protect them once taken away from trafficked environment (especially by police conducting raids).
  • There is very little provision of and/or a referral to protection services, immediate healthcare, legal services etc.
  • Finally, among the most heinous of these insults to trafficked victims is returning them to their captors after raids. (because the captors paid bribes to the police).

When you have societal norms of bribery among the local police, prosecutors, judiciary etc. much of what the government may try to do is undone by this corruption. According to the US State Dept., there are reports of all this and since some of those in authority own dance bars, or businesses that force child labor and slavery from trafficked children (i.e. brick kilns) it is entrenched in their society. Additionally, the huge, thriving networks of manpower agencies which lure children from their homes with promises of real jobs are powerful, have been around for centuries and bribery has always been a part of it – it’s called organized crime.

In 2013, according to the Government of Nepal’s (GoN) Report on Anti-Human Trafficking Initiatives[ii] they allocated a budget of 3 times as much to Nepal Embassies in other countries for trafficked Nepali citizens than they did for awareness programs, protection, rescue missions etc. within 75 districts in Nepal. (NRs 8 million vs. 3.7 million). Is this because the GoN will get more international coverage for what it is doing to ‘protect its citizens’ in other countries? They were the recipients of an international award for this.

The most important work is being done by local, national and international nongovernmental agencies and the communities they serve. The NGOs working in rural and urban areas develop awareness, create protection and shelters, provide legal aid and education include: Change Nepal and The Himalayan Foundation (). Since 1980, Bachpan Bachao Andolan (BBA) which has been at the forefront in the fight against slavery, has conducted rescues of over 82,800 children and the withdrawal of over 200,000 bonded and child laborers. The organization Global March is a collaboration among child rights’ organizations, trade unions and teachers’ organizations. It is the largest and most established active global coalition that specifically targets child labour elimination. Their belief is ”child labour can never be eliminated as long as hard-to-reach children continue to remain out of school”[IChild_labour_Nepalii].

The work these organizations are doing by saving children’s lives, putting them into schools and providing life after slavery ultimately creates the slow process of social change.

Trouble in the Tobacco Fields: Protecting America’s Children From the Dangers of Tobacco Farming

March 5, 2015
Trying to Stand Tall in Tobacco: A teenage tobacco farm worker (Photo Credit: Marcus Beasdale/VII for Human Rights Watch;

Trying to Stand Tall amongst Tobacco: A teenage tobacco farm worker
(Photo Credit: Marcus Beasdale/VII for Human Rights Watch;

Every day in the United States, children are falling ill while working on tobacco farms, relying only on plastic trash bags and promises of self-regulation from the unreliable tobacco industry for protection. This is because federal regulations allow children as young as 12 to legally engage in “non-hazardous” farm work. And tobacco farming is technically considered “non-hazardous.”

Children like Ana Flores, 16, would beg to differ.

When interviewed for a New York Times feature , Ana reported dizziness and nausea while working in direct contact with tobacco, symptoms concerning for acute nicotine poisoning.

She is not alone: in 2014, the Human Rights Watch’s (HRW) comprehensive report on child labor on U.S. tobacco farms revealed that over 60% of the 141 children interviewed had similar symptoms while working in tobacco fields, suggestive of significant exposure to tobacco. More than one-half of the children also reported exposure to dangerous pesticides and others suffered serious injuries from farm equipment.

Though it regulates children’s exposure to tobacco products, the U.S. government had shown an inconsistent commitment to change its contradictory policy allowing child labor on tobacco farms.

Until now, that is.

Inspired by the HRW report, Rep. David Cicilline (D-RI) introduced the “Child Free Tobacco Bill” in late 2014.

The bill seeks to redefine tobacco farming as “hazardous oppressive child labor,” thus prohibiting anyone under the age of 18 from engaging in it.

The bill died at the end of the last congressional session, but Rep. Cicilline has vowed to reintroduce it this year.

The legislation will introduce an absolutely crucial measure to protect children from harmful and unnecessary exposure to tobacco and the numerous other hazards involved in its cultivation.

After hearing the voices of children like Ana, we can no longer stay silent. Please contact your local Congressional representatives to request their support for this bill.

Pediatric Healthcare in the South: Decreasing the Childhood Obesity Epidemic in Mississippi

August 14, 2014


Despite national campaigns such as the First Lady’s Let’s Move initiative, the epidemic of childhood obesity still remains high, with the state of Mississippi affected the most out of all 50 states.   Stakeholders, such as the American Sugar Alliance, are less than committed to reversing obesity trends. Therefore, more emphasis needs to be placed on the importance of implementing state policies such as the Mississippi Healthy Students Act.

Some of the barriers to reversing childhood obesity have been well documented in the movie “Fed Up” (narrated by Katie Couric), noting that food labels still do not report the percent contribution of sugars to one’s daily recommended intake of sugars.  Major associations including the National Restaurant Association, whose vision includes promoting business of restaurant owners, do not always carry a commitment to halting the trend in childhood obesity either.


Some evidence of positive movement and other initiatives that could be promoted at the state level are detailed below:

  • The Robert Wood Johnson Foundation (RWJF) awarded the Center for Mississippi Health Policy a $2 million grant to study the impact of the Mississippi Healthy Students Act on childhood obesity.image
  • The National Alliance for Nutrition and Activity promotes healthy eating and physical activity, with a goal of reducing chronic illnesses that may be caused by obesity.
  • The First Lady Michelle Obama’s Let’s Move Campaign emphasizes educating parents about healthy choices, creating healthy food and exercise environments, and improving access to healthy and affordable food.

Changes such as affordable high-quality food stores, recreational parks within walking distances of homes, mandatory physical education curriculum in schools and other strategies to create a healthier environment in Mississippi, will lead to modifications in individual behaviors that will hopefully bring about positive change for these children and give them the opportunity to live a healthy life full of potential.