This month's postings, May 2009

Poor babies

More bad news about the recession: Another 40,000 kids in our state could fall into poverty by next year. That’s according to a report from Washington Kids Count (WKC) at the University of Washington. WKC says kids of color and those from rural areas will be hit the hardest. Right now, about 226,000 children — 16 percent! — live below the poverty line ($21,200 for a family of four). The report says child poverty costs our state $8.7 billion a year, due to lack of productivity, health costs and increased crime.

No, stank you

Stinky air could lead to smaller babies, according to researchers, who say air pollution might slow the normal growth of a developing fetus. Scientists compared pollution levels to birth weights in hundreds of thousands of babies in New Jersey; they found that the risk of low birth weight increased significantly with rising particulate levels. Researchers aren’t sure why; could be the pollution alters cell activity, or blocks oxygen and nutrients from getting to the scale

Just drugly

A huge hike in the number of little kids taking meds for high blood pressure and diabetes is probably because of — you guessed it! — increased child obesity. More and more kids are now struggling with chronic health issues usually seen only in adults. A huge study of 6 million kids found a 15 percent spike in blood pressure med­icines prescribed to kids between ages 6 and 18. The youngest kids — those 6–10 years old — showed the biggest hike. There was a 23 percent rise in pediatric prescriptions for diabetes meds. Maybe docs are just getting proactive about prescriptions, but this study stresses me out.

Water worksdrinking girl

From the “So simple, it must be true” files: Turns out, installing water fountains in school hallways cuts down on obesity rates among students. That’s the upshot of a cool study from Germany, where kids were weighed, then given personal water bottles to fill every morning. Teachers told the kids about the health benefits of drinking water, and new fountains went in. At the end of the school year, kids in schools where water drinking was encouraged were 31 percent (!) less likely to be overweight than those in other schools. I’ll drink to that!

Dora the whora?Dora the Explorer

Lots of parents are worked up about Dora the Explorer’s middle-school makeover. Nickelodeon rolled out the map-tastic tween last month just for online games for older kids (not to replace little Dora). Still, some parents say the new image is “too sexy”; some object to Dora’s fashion-conscious new look. Tell us what you think! Visit our blog.

Pants on fire

Been lied to lately? Chances are good that you have been. Our poll asked local parents about their lying habits (or lack thereof). Thirty-seven percent of readers say that once in a while, they tell a real whopper. Another 31 percent tell only white lies — just to spare someone’s feelings. If you can believe them, 15 percent say they only fib when it’s totally unavoidable. And only 4 percent said they would walk a mile to return a dollar. Honestly!

Hot tickets

I’m going out on a limb here: If you’re a parent, you probably need to attend one of these two lectures. On the one hand, there’s a talk by Wendy Mogel, whose bestselling book helps thousands of parents raise moral, resilient kids. On the other hand, Dr. Laura Kastner, the teen whisperer, is speaking. No one understands tween ’tude and teen chaos like Dr. K. Both Mogel and Kastner are lively, fascinating speakers and highly recommended by your pals at PM. Mogel, May 6; Kastner, May 19. Details here.

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