Archive for the ‘Health’ Category

More U.S. schools have temporarily closed their doors in response to signs of a possible swine flu pandemic, or to be politically correct, H1N1 Flu. But are school districts overreacting? By Friday, more than 24 additional cases of the virus had been reported. Seventeen states have issued a total of 433 school closings, displacing (at least for the moment) 245,000 students, according to the U.S. Department of Education.


Although this particular strain of flu has not proved deadlier than other strains, it has caused quite a stir because it is a new strain and people fear contracting it would leave them more vulnerable because they don’t have an immunity. The NYC school that caused such a scare last week after 45 students fell ill from the flu has reopened, but other New York schools have remained closed. (New York has the most reported cases in the U.S.) As new cases crop up parents are bound to experience some anxiety about sending their children to school and any other place that puts them in close contact with others that may be infected. It’s hard to say what the proper response should be. Should schools shut down under the “better safe than sorry” motto, or are the many closings a knee-jerk reaction?

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While the nation may not yet be gripped in alarm, there certainly is reason for concern in regard to outbreaks of swine flu, which started in Mexico but has begun trickling across the border. In response to 20 cases of swine flu reported in the United States, the government issued a public health emergency on Sunday. Among the 20 people known to be infected are eight New York City students. Their school was closed and will remain so until it has been thoroughly cleaned and officials deem it safe for return. However, school officials believe more than 100 people at the school may have already been infected.


Schools in Texas and California have also closed temporarily after news of outbreaks. Fourteen Texas schools will remain closed until next week. Although swine flu has not proved deadly in the States, it has killed at least 86 people in Mexico.

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A recent study conducted in Texas signifies a correlation between physical fitness and academic success. Physically fit students displayed better scores on the state’s standardized test. The study also found that physically fit students were more likely to have higher attendance, while the likelihood of disciplinary problems decreased with this group.


The Cooper Institute of Dallas, which analyzed the study’s results, found that cardiovascular health, rather than body mass index, was a better indicator of the link between fitness and academic achievement. Texas students will continue to undergo periodic physical fitness assessments, which will include curl-ups, pull-ups, flexibility testing, and a variety of other activities. Parents will be given access to their children’s fitness scores, and anonymous copies of the scores will be sent to the Texas Education Agency.

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Children Need Recess

Many schools, under pressure to beef up their education standards and meet testing requirements under the No Child Left Behind law, have resorted to reducing students’ wondrous years of childhood to a series of bland memories of test preparation for federally mandated exams, all while sitting erect for hours on end without even the saving grace of recess. Is recess fading into obscurity? Depends on whom you ask. The Center for Public Education reported that more than 95 percent of elementary schools still practice recess. But according to the Alliance for a Healthier Generation—a partnership with the American Heart Association, 33 percent of American schools do not allow students a recess break. Whatever the figure, recess needs to be maintained in schools. Let children look forward to that 15- or 30-minute break from lessons, when imagination and limbs are exercised.


Many schools have cut recess, citing security and health concerns (specifically in the inner city). Other schools lack the space and do not even have playgrounds. Recess, or just plain physical activity, is vital to a child’s development and encourages good performance in school. At a time when childhood obesity is still a national concern— “Nearly 1 in 3 youth, age 2 to 19, are already obese or overweight,” according to statistics from the Alliance for a Healthier Generation—recess is even more important in promoting good lifestyle habits.

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Louisa May Alcott, a Chicago elementary school, lets students get in on the action by helping to tend a large vegetable garden outside the school’s cafeteria.  The goal is to introduce students to healthy foods and give them the opportunity to appreciate good nutrition by handing them the reigns to give them a prominent role in the process. 


The students help to grow vegetables in the garden and spend time outside of the classroom, giving them useful experiences in nature.  The food they grow could very well end up in the school cafeteria to be prepared for their lunches.  Schools in New York and California have similar programs.  More than 2,000 schools in California have vegetable gardens.  Schools in Idaho secured federal grants to help them start gardening programs next year.  The idea is that students will become more acquainted with healthier foods by growing them and will begin to implement some of those foods into their regular diets.

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Undetected vision problems in school age students could significantly impact their grades, according to the Vision Council’s Making the Grade? report. While many states require vision screening before admission to school, they do not typically take the measure any further to require professional eye exams for students who fail the screening. Children with vision problems are affected academically because the risk increases that they may be plagued with reading difficulties, which could lead to short attention span and behavior problems and overall decreased academic performance.


Thirty-six states require students to have a vision screening, but 26 of them do not require additional measures, such as a follow-up exam or medical intervention, if the child fails the screening. While many states enforce vision screening laws for students, their failure to require follow-ups for students who fail the screening undermines the laws.

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In the past 2 months, the cost of gas has whittled down, averaging $3.88 a gallon nationally, as opposed to a more than $4.00 a gallon national high in June. Despite a (temporary?) relief from record high prices, some high schools are taking a tip from colleges around the country to encourage environmental friendliness by cutting back on fuel consumption.


Hanover Park High School in East Hanover, NJ has moved to increase bike ridership with a proposal to implement more bike racks and speed limit signs, as a safety measure, around the campus. A carpooling system is also in development, not only to decrease car traffic but reduce fuel consumption.


Howards Grove High School in Howards Grove, WI is undergoing a $100,000 project to create a walking and biking path to the school. The plan’s expected fall 2009 implementation will likely boost environmental awareness and possibly encourage health consciousness in the process as students get an early workout during the morning’s trek to first period. Three California high schools are considering replacing buses with bikes as transportation for fieldtrips to save on gas and promote physical activity.


To read the USA Today article in full, click http://www.usatoday.com/news/education/2008-08-06-Outofcars_N.htm.


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