Parents, Encourage Physical Activity!

8 03 2012

Spring and summer approach, and we begin to see the winter coats and boots come off and a new appreciation for summer activities blossom.

I am thankful to reside in the lovely “Aloha” state of Hawaii, where beautiful weather conditions grace us daily, although in any locality, it is difficult at times to keep our kids excited about their fitness and encouraged to stay healthy and active.

According to Duane Alexander, M.D., Director of NIH’s Eunice Kennedy Shriver National Institute of Child Health and Human Development (NICHD), “Lack of physical activity in childhood raises the risk for obesity and its attendant health problems later in life.”

As parents, we cringe at the thought of our children dealing with the long-term life health issues related to obesity, so what can we do to offer a healthy lifestyle? Lead by example.

The Weight Control Information Networks asserts, “Parents have an effect on children’s physical activity habits as well. You can set a good example by going for a walk or bike ride after dinner instead of watching TV. Playing ball or jumping rope with your children shows them that being active is fun.”

These activities can start at nearly any age. My daughter recently turned one year old. After work each day our favorite moments together are playing in the park. We practice “running” (as well as a toddler can), crawling up a steep hill, jumping, climbing, etc. Everything I do, she copies. It is a fun game for both of us!

The same can be done with elementary-age kids. I remember my dad teaching my sister and I how to play baseball. It was the biggest excitement of my day! He would play with us as a reward after we patiently waited for his personal workout to be complete. He encouraged us to play in the same general area as he was exercising to show that he felt physical fitness was important. Years later we competed in 5k races together laughing along the way. He showed me that exercise can be fun, and I enjoy it to this day.

Take the time to enjoy physical activity with your children; it will benefit their lives into adulthood and beyond!

Alexander, D. (2008, July 15). Children’s physical activity drops from age 9 to 15, NIH study indicates.
U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. (2010, April 07). How can I help my child be more active?  

By Melissa Parnell – Melissa will appear as an occasional guest blogger on this site. She is working on a graduate degree in Human Services with a concentration in health and wellness. She minored in health and wellness in college and is an AFAA (Aerobics and Fitness Association of America) certified personal trainer.

Image courtesy of Melissa Parnell

Teaching 911 Basics

30 10 2009

Teaching our kids to call 911 can be as important to their health and the health of others as teaching them the importance of good nutrition and how to stop-drop-and-roll. And just like stop-drop-and-roll, we must teach them not just the ‘when’, but the ‘how’ of it, until it becomes second nature.

Consider teaching a 911 mini-class to your kids at least once a day for three days, then quizzing every other day, then quizzing about once a week.  By that time, the routine should be stuck in their heads.

Here’s some suggested text for your lesson plan:

If there is an emergency, dial 9-1-1 from a telephone. An emergency is when a person is badly hurt or in danger ‘right now.’ An emergency is if you see a crime happening, like a person hurting another person or someone breaking into someone’s house, or a fire somewhere a fire shouldn’t be. An emergency is if someone is suddenly very sick, having a hard time speaking or breathing.

An emergency isn’t something like forgetting your homework or arguing with a brother or sister.

Go to a safe place to call. If there’s a fire, leave the building first. Get away from the person hurting you or someone else, then call 911.

It’s normal to feel afraid or nervous about it, grownups often feel the same way. Call anyway. The people answering the phone will understand.

It’s OK to make a mistake. If you call 911, stay on the line and tell them why you called. It’s OK to tell them you think it might not be an emergency after all. If you start the call, but hang up before someone has a chance to answer, the 911 operators might think you are still in danger.


Help them prepare. Teach them their address and phone number and explain what to expect when the operator picks up the phone, and that they should stay on the phone until the operator tells them it’s time to hang up.

Role-play the scenario with them so that the first time they call 911 won’t necessarily feel like the first time. The 911 dispatcher will ask these questions:

  • What is the emergency?
  • What happened?
  • Where are you?
  • Who needs help?
  • Are you safe where you are?

When you role-play, give your children a turn both as the caller and the 911 operator. Practicing these skills with your children will help them be more confident, feel safer and be safer.


To Veg Or Not To Veg

22 09 2009

If my teenager told me, her pork-lovin’ mama, that she was a vegan, I’d slam my sausage down and tell her to glue her fanny to a chair until I got a dictionary.

Turns out vegans don’t consume animal food – not even dairy products.  They don’t even wear leather shoes.

OK, first thing any involved parent will think about is: How is this going to affect my life?  Will I have to cook two meals, one vegan and one for regular people?  Just how much of a pain is this going to be and when is she moving out?

Oh, and how healthy is this lifestyle choice anyway?  (Yes, I eventually got there.)

If your teen is exploring vegetarianism or even veganism, here’s some animal-free food for thought.

The American Dietetic Association says that vegetarian and vegan diets can be healthy for people of any age, even for children. These diets are generally low in saturated fats, lower in cholesterol, and higher in fiber. These factors put vegetarians and vegans at much lower risk of obesity, heart disease, and type II diabetes than most meat lovers.

Vegetarians usually omit meat, poultry, and seafood from their diets, while vegans eliminate all animal products, including eggs and dairy, although there are vegetarians who eat fish and poultry and vegans who love their egg whites.  Apparently there’s room for personal choice.

Teens, whether meat-eating or not, are infamous for poor eating habits. Vegetarian and vegan teens, like all teens, need parental support in making healthy food choices. The key to a healthy vegetarian diet, like any diet, is variety. Parents should be aware of the vitamins and minerals that may be lacking in a vegetarian diet, particularly if variety is sparse.

Vitamin B12 is important in the formation of red blood cells and maintaining a healthy nervous system, and it’s essential for proper growth. A B12 deficiency can cause irreversible nervous system damage. Naturally, this vitamin is only found in meat, eggs, and dairy products, so look for fortified soymilk, cereals, or nutritional yeast if your child is vegan. Many meat-substitute products also contain B12.

Calcium is an essential mineral for many body functions. Blood clotting, muscle function, and the nervous system require calcium. When the body lacks calcium for these functions, it draws on calcium stored in the bones, leading to decreased bone density and possible fractures. Besides dairy sources, calcium is found in soymilk, calcium-fortified juice, soybeans, tofu, broccoli, and many other vegetables.

Vitamin D plays a vital role in regulating many organ systems and endocrine functions, as well as maintaining bone structure. Fish, eggs, and milk are great sources of vitamin D. As little as fifteen minutes of sun a day on the skin can provide some vitamin D. Fortified soymilk, juices, and cereals provide vitamin D, but a supplement for vegans is probably a good idea, especially in the winter months.

Iron is essential for oxygen transport in the body, as well as for the production and survival of all cells in the body. Green leafy vegetables, tofu, beans, fortified cereals, and meat-substitutes contain iron. The problem is that the body does not absorb iron from these sources as readily as it does from animal sources. Menstruating females and other teens may benefit from an iron supplement.

Zinc has numerous functions in the body and plays a role in nervous system function and reproductive organ growth. Red meats contain a lot of zinc, but it’s also found in wheat, beans and many seeds. Too much zinc can be harmful, so use care when considering a zinc supplement.

Proteins are made of amino acids that are essential for almost every body function. Surprisingly, nearly all vegetarians get enough protein. A vegetarian or vegan teen should eat a balance of legumes, nuts and seeds, vegetables, and whole grains every day. Eggs and dairy provide plenty of protein, if that’s part of their food plan.

If your teen announces he’s become a vegan, then yes, it’s going to mean more work for you.  But, with a little help from you, his doting parent, he’ll be eating foods that are good for him and, bonus, you don’t have to fork out the bucks for leather anything anymore!


Hepatitis A. Are you (and yours) protected?

21 09 2009

Some parents feel the hepatitis A vaccine is one their child can skip.  Children infected with the hepatitis A virus (HAV) often have symptoms so mild they aren’t even noticeable.  Do they really need the shot?

We think so, and here’s why.

Let’s say Macey is a second-grader who’s not immunized against HAV.  Consequently, she gets infected from tainted salad at a local restaurant.

Having no symptoms, Macey goes to school and exposes classmates to HAV through lack of proper handwashing in the restroom.  (Those who do experience symptoms may get a fever, nausea, diarrhea, and severe stomach pains for up to a month.)

If anyone in her life has chronic hepatitis B or C, and is not immunized against HAV, they’re at risk of fatal consequences.  People with compromised immune systems and other liver diseases are also at risk.

If Macey doesn’t get the hepatitis A vaccine and does not get the disease as a child, she’s at risk of contracting the disease later.  Adults infected with HAV generally experience more severe symptoms.  One in five people infected with hepatitis A require hospitalization, and some are sick for up to six months.

In 2003, an outbreak at a restaurant in Pennsylvania sickened 660 people and killed four. The disease may be mild, but it’s no party.

Parents should check with their providers to see if vaccination is right for their family.


Finding Health Info on YouTube

29 06 2009

YouTube is a vast library of online videos.  There truly is something there for everyone.

This amount of content makes narrowing a search challenging, but doable.  It is possible to find quality health-related videos on YouTube.


Creating An Account
Go to and create an account by clicking the Sign Up link on the top right.

As you’re filling in the blanks on the sign-up page, notice the little box that says, “Let others find my channel on YouTube if they have my email address.”

Channels are people’s accounts. Think of YouTube as a giant TV and everyone signed up, including you, is hosting his/her own channel. Yikes! Very crowded, but there are gems in the crowd.

Once done with the sign-up page, you’ll go to another page where you’ll type in your email and password.  At the end of this process, YouTube sends you an email asking you to confirm your account.  Follow the email instructions and you’ll soon be on your very own YouTube account page.  When you get there, look in the upper right corner of that page.  If your user name is there, you’re signed in and ready to go.

Your Page
Take a look at your personalized home page. The first option you have is Add/Remove Modules.  Click on that to go to Account Settings, where you pick and choose what you want to see on your home page (e.g. add/remove subscriptions, recommendations, friend activity, ect.).

Subscriptions is next (videos from channels to which you’re subscribed), then Recommendations (videos recommended by YouTube that you may like), followed by Friend Activity (videos your friends have uploaded), Featured Videos (videos that are featured on YouTube), and Videos Being Watched Now (which is self-explanatory).

Searching YouTube
Finding health channels to subscribe to is easy―just type a keyword (e.g HIV/AIDS, pertussis, H1N1, etc.) into the search box.

The search brings you results from Channels (other users’ accounts) and Playlists (a user-maintained list of videos).

Browse the channels and playlists and when you find something you like, click the gold Subscribe button on that page.


Subscribing allows you to get up-to-date videos from the channels or playlists you select and feeds those videos to your home page.

When looking for a range of information providers to subscribe to, sorting by Playlist can be beneficial, as playlists may be made up of videos created by that particular user, or videos the user likes that are created by others, or a combination.

YouTube - health search

You can also click on the Community tab (see above) and browse videos by categories, shows, movies, channels, contests and events.

Once you’ve identified a health information source and determined its credibility, click subscribe.

The new videos from that user’s channel or playlist will then show up on your YouTube home page under subscription.

It is that easy, so jump in and don’t forget to find some funny vids to get you through the day.

Visit PKIDs and GETVAXED on YouTube, subscribe to our channels and check out our favorites.


Pertussis – A Family Story

8 05 2008

A mom shares the story of her family’s fight against pertussis.

Listen now!

Right-click here to download podcast (10MB,19min)