Category Archives: Wellness

Effect of Ritalin on Preschoolers Examined

National Institute of Mental Health:

The first long-term, large-scale study designed to determine the safety and effectiveness of treating preschoolers who have attention deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) with methylphenidate (Ritalin) has found that overall, low doses of this medication are effective and safe. However, the study found that children this age are more sensitive than older children to the medication’s side effects and therefore should be closely monitored. The 70-week, six-site study was funded by the National Institutes of Health’s National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH) and was described in several articles in the November 2006 issue of the Journal of the American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry.
“The Preschool ADHD Treatment Study, or PATS, provides us with the best information to date about treating very young children diagnosed with ADHD,” said NIMH Director Thomas R. Insel, MD. “The results show that preschoolers may benefit from low doses of medication when it is closely monitored, but the positive effects are less evident and side-effects are somewhat greater than previous reports in older children.”

Oregon School Cafeteria Makes It from Scratch

Jane Greenalgh:

Thanksgiving is a time to savor good food, something you don’t expect to find in a school cafeteria. In fact, most schools across the country serve reheated, premade food that is trucked in from central kitchens. Daily offerings are often uninspiring: chicken sticks, macaroni and cheese, and pizza.
But there is a move in some parts of the country to bring real cooking back to school kitchens. Last year, Abernathy Elementary School in Portland, Ore., bought a second-hand stove and a big mixer and started cooking all its food from scratch.

One in Four Pass California’s Student Physical Fitness Test

Dana Hull:

Despite growing alarm about childhood obesity and stepped-up efforts to get California’s 6.3 million public school children exercising and eating well, only one in four could stretch, lift, curl and run enough to pass the state’s annual physical fitness test.
Every spring, fifth-, seventh-, and ninth-graders take the test, which includes a mile-long run and push-ups. Results from the spring 2006 tests, made public Friday, highlight a troubling trend. Today’s children are much like the nation’s adults: increasingly inactive and sedentary.
“Three out of four students are not in good physical shape,” state Superintendent of Public Instruction Jack O’Connell said in announcing the results. “Students need to turn off the video games, turn off the television and the computer and get out and walk and play games.”
The 2006 test scores show a slight gain — 1 percent — in overall performance compared to last year’s results.

2 West High Students Face Charges In Connection With Bomb Threat


Two Madison West High School students have been suspended and are facing criminal charges after allegedly creating a bomb scare twice — once on Monday and on Halloween.
A 17-year-old boy and a 16-year-old girl allegedly just wanted to play a practical joke, but the school’s officials said they don’t think it’s a laughing matter and are sending a strong message.
“We can’t have students making those kinds of threats. We will have to take those kinds of threats very seriously. There will be consequences both from the school district and from the criminal justice system,” said Ed Holmes, principal at West High School. “One student not wanting to go to class shouldn’t impact on over 2,000 people in a school community.”

Does Television Cause Autism?

Michael Waldman, Sean Nicholson and Nodir Adilov [Full 728K PDF Report]:

One of the major health care crises currently facing the United States is the exploding incidence of autism diagnoses. Thirty years ago it was estimated that roughly one in 2500 children had autism while today it is estimated that approximately one in 166 is diagnosed with the condition – more than a ten-fold increase.1 In turn, due to the high costs of treating and caring for a typical autistic individual over his or her lifetime, it is estimated that the annual cost to society of autism is thirty-five billion dollars (Ganz 2006). Clearly, the highest priority needs to be given to better understanding what is causing the dramatic increase in diagnoses and, if possible, using that improved knowledge to reverse the trend.
Despite the recent rapid increase in diagnoses and the resulting increased attention the condition has received both in the media and in the medical community, very little is known about what causes the condition. Starting with the work of Rimland (1964), it is well understood that genetics or biology plays an important role, but many in the medical community argue that the increased incidence must be due to an environmental trigger that is becoming more common over time (a few argue that the cause is a widening of the criteria used to diagnose the condition and that the increased incidence is thus illusory). However, there seems to be little consensus and little evidence concerning what the trigger or triggers might be. In this paper we empirically investigate a possibility that has received almost no attention in the medical literature, i.e., that early childhood television watching is an important trigger for the onset of autism.

Via Slate.

Researchers might also turn new attention to study of the Amish. Autism is rare in Amish society, and the standing assumption has been that this is because most Amish refuse to vaccinate children. The Amish also do not watch television.

One in Ten

Richard Edelman:

“Did you know that one in ten teenage girls in Washington, D.C. are HIV-positive? Did you know that one in twenty adults in the District of Columbia have AIDS? It is an outrage. Those are Third World types of incidence rates and it is happening in our nation’s capital. All of the attention being given to the AIDS epidemic overseas is long overdue but what about the crisis we have at home?”
I probed her [Sheila Johnson] for an explanation. She suggested three main factors:

  1. A Macho Male Culture and Lack of Female Ego — Young girls feel obliged to have sexual relations with their partners. Girls lack the confidence to say no or to insist on the use of a condom.
  2. A Cycle of Despair — The poor economic prospects, the large number of single parent families, the prevalence of drugs and tottering school system give little hope even to an ambitious child. Some young girls want to bear a child as a sign of being “grown-up.”
  3. Lack of Information –The basics of sex education do not seem to be getting through to the target audience.

I asked Ms. Johnson what could be done to ameliorate the situation. Here were a few of her thoughts:

Kudos To Harris For Taking School Back

Jenni Gile:

As a former East High School student who lived through four years of closed campus for lunch, and a parent of current East High students — one a freshman, the other a junior — I applaud East High Principal Alan Harris.
I think next year he should be brazen and close campus for lunch for all students, unless they are involved in an off-site program. Ease the hectic lunch schedule of the upperclassmen and set an example for the rest of the city.
Talk about taking back the school! This principal is the best one we have seen since Milt McPike. We are cheering for him in our home.

Markets in everything: unhealthy school dinners

New Economist:

he parents claim they are taking action because pupils are turning up their noses at what they describe as “overpriced, low-fat rubbish”.
Four of them are using a supermarket trolley to make daily runs with fish and chips, pies, burgers, sandwiches and fizzy drinks from local takeaways.
Staff at Rawmarsh Comprehensive School, near Rotherham, South Yorkshire, have called in environmental health and education officials. They are looking into whether the women are allowed to sell food without an operating licence and whether they are covered by food hygiene regulations.

The End of Cupcake Days

Eric Zorn:

There were some two dozen of us in the 4th grade classroom at parent orientation night this week, and not one of us looked the least bit disappointed when the teacher, Mrs. Rand, announced “absolutely no cupcakes this year!”
She’d done the math. Naturally. And she figured that if every child had a little birthday party — where a parent brings in treats, drinks, maybe goodie bags — she’d lose roughly 10 hours of total classroom instruction time over the course of the year.
Parents have done the math too. The one responsible for buying the treats (usually the mother and usually cupcakes) and making sure they get to school at the right time and that kids with dietary restrictions are provided with edible options also loses an hour or so.

Mississippi Free School Fruit Pilot Program


Results of a pilot program in Mississippi hints that distributing apples, oranges and other fresh fruit free of charge at school may be an effective part of a comprehensive program aimed at improving students’ eating habits.
During the 2004-2005 school year as part of the Mississippi Fresh Fruit and Vegetable Pilot Program, 25 secondary schools gave out free fresh fruit and vegetables during the school day and provided nutrition education to promote and support the program.
Initial results based on 851 participating students in grades 5, 8, and 10 from 5 schools suggest that the program significantly increased the variety of fruit and vegetables tried by the students in all three grades.
The program appeared to be most effective among students in grades 8 and 10, report Doris J. Schneider from the Child Nutrition Program, Mississippi Department of Education and colleagues in the current issue of the Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report, a publication of the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

“Candy isn’t Dandy in Madison Schools”

Susan Lampert Smith:

Expect details of the Madison School District plan in the coming week. Here’s what my sticky fingers were able to pry out of Mary Gulbrandsen, student services director:
Soda pop has already vanished from Madison school vending machines. Candy is no longer sold in school, and in two years, no school group will be allowed to sell candy for fundraising.
(Horde your hockey team candy bars – soon you can sell them on eBay as collectors’ items!)

Schools Find Free Veggies a Hard Sell

Mike Stobbe:

Bad news – but probably no surprise to parents – when it comes to young children and vegetables: A government study showed fifth-graders became less willing to try vegetables and fruits when more were offered as free school snacks.
Older kids in the same study upped the amount of fruit they ate, but there was no change in their vegetable consumption.
The study results are somewhat disappointing for champions of getting more fresh produce into school lunchrooms.


Chocolate & Zucchini:

Cantine is French for school cafeteria*, and it is hard to find a grown-up that doesn’t have a story or two to recount about his cantine days. These memories are often a mix of the bitter (the food was less than stellar, and the atmosphere was one of constant struggle for social survival) and the sweet (petit-suisse fights were fun, and if you knew what strings to pull, you could lay your hands on an extra serving of fries — du rab de frites), but in both cases, they are an integral part of how personalities and palates were formed.
A book called Cantines came out yesterday in France, based on these very premises. Food writers Sébastien Demorand and Emmanuel Rubin have selected sixty dishes that used to be were served, with varying degrees of gastronomic success, at school cafeterias when we were kids — from friand au fromage (a puff pastry envelope with a creamy cheese filling) to petit salé aux lentilles (salted pork and lentils), by way of macédoine de légumes (a mayo-laden salad of peas, potatoes, and carrots) and hachis parmentier (a sort of shepherd’s pie).

Millions on The Breakfast Table

Roger Thurow:

Twenty-nine million children, most from low-income families, eat federally funded lunch in school. But only nine million eat school breakfast. To federal and state officials, that gap is a big reason for the persistence of childhood hunger in America.
To entrepreneur Gary Davis, it’s also a business opportunity. Those 20 million unserved breakfasts translate into nearly $2 billion in federal money that could be claimed from school-feeding programs, but has been left on the table each year. In the summer of 2004 Mr. Davis wondered: What if he could get all the children who eat lunch in school to eat breakfast, too?
His answer: a grab-and-go meal of cereal, crackers and fruit juice, in small boxes that could be distributed on buses, in the cafeteria or in the first-period classroom. He launched his product at the beginning of last school year, and by the end, he says he was selling three million of them a month.
Long-neglected, school breakfast is becoming a sought-after market for business. At the same time, that business is driving participation in an underused government social program. Earlier this month, Kellogg Co. began selling its own breakfast-in-a-box to schools, which includes cereal, a Pop-Tart or graham crackers, and juice. Tyson Foods Inc. is adapting its popular lunchtime chicken nuggets and patties into smaller sizes for breakfast. Scores of other companies also are pitching breakfast items to schools.

No More Mystery Meat

Stacy Finz:

Schools weren’t always citadels of health. For years, they were more like junk food coliseums. Now, as this school year begins, cafeteria menus are being scrutinized as closely as the curriculum in preparation for compliance with recently passed legislation to better students’ diets. School officials from Santa Clara to Sonoma counties are planning inventive programs to rid their halls of high-calorie and fatty foods.
Profile of Ann Cooper, Berkeley school nutrition director.
But for four people in the Bay Area, changing the way kids eat has become their life’s mission.

PCRM: A Veggie Laden Lunch Line

Maria Glod:

This week, the Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine, a District-based group that promotes a vegan diet (one that excludes all animal products) and healthful, low-fat food options for children, awarded the Fairfax County school system an A in its School Lunch Report Card. None of the other 17 large U.S. school systems the group surveyed scored as high.
“Everybody is responsive to the childhood obesity epidemic, but Fairfax really pulled out all the stops,” said Jeanne Stuart McVey, a spokeswoman for the group.
The Montgomery County schools, the only other local system in the report card, received a B.

Details here.

More time in PE doesn’t add up

Nanci Hellmich:

Just increasing the amount of time students are supposed to spend in physical education class is no guarantee they’ll move more, a new study shows.
Obesity experts have been calling for children to go to gym class more often to help stop obesity in young people. About one-third of children and teens in the USA are either overweight or on the brink of becoming so.
Government research shows that the percentage of high school students enrolled in daily physical education decreased from about 42% in 1991 to 33% in 2005.
Most states introduced legislation this year and in 2005 to toughen up PE requirements.

Dodging Land Mines at the School Lunch Table

Karen Batka:

I puttered around the kitchen as Grace munched on her calcium-added Goldfish and worked on long division. “Mom, what does high fat content mean?” she asked.
“Why?” I asked, choosing to answer a question with a question.
“Paige said that Lunchables aren’t healthy because they have a high fat content.” Once again, reality refused to cooperate with my script. I’d now lived in California long enough to witness the witch hunt mentality of the nutrition evangelists. But I had failed to consider that this school of thought had already penetrated the minds of young children.
“Well what does Paige bring for lunch?” I asked. It was time to wave the white flag of surrender.
“She brings Sushi or veggie wraps, yogurt or fruit and vitamin water.”

See also Kidchow – some fabulous items on their menu [].

Improving School Food

Lisa Belkin:

By any health measure, today’s children are in crisis. Seventeen percent of American children are overweight, and increasing numbers of children are developing high blood pressure, high cholesterol and Type 2 diabetes, which, until a few years ago, was a condition seen almost only in adults. The obesity rate of adolescents has tripled since 1980 and shows no sign of slowing down. Today’s children have the dubious honor of belonging to the first cohort in history that may have a lower life expectancy than their parents. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has predicted that 30 to 40 percent of today’s children will have diabetes in their lifetimes if current trends continue.
The only good news is that as these stark statistics have piled up, so have the resources being spent to improve school food. Throw a dart at a map and you will find a school district scrambling to fill its students with things that are low fat and high fiber.
But there is one big shadow over all this healthy enthusiasm: no one can prove that it works. For all the menus being defatted, salad bars made organic and vending machines being banned, no one can prove that changes in school lunches will make our children lose weight. True, studies show that students who exercise more and have healthier diets learn better and fidget less, and that alone would be a worthwhile goal. But if the main reason for overhauling the cafeteria is to reverse the epidemic of obesity and the lifelong health problems that result, then shouldn’t we be able to prove we are doing what we set out to do?

“Arkansas Aggressive on Childhood Obesity”

Jill Zeman:

Rhonda Sanders received an eye-opening letter from her daughter’s school three years ago: At age 10, her 5-foot, 137-pound child was heavier than 98 percent of her peers.
After a regimen that included the family jumping rope in the backyard, swapping bottled water for soda and eating more fruit, Sanders’ daughter last year was 5-6 and weighed 120 pounds.
“There was something about getting that letter that changed us,” Sanders said Wednesday as Arkansas unveiled new body-mass index numbers used to assess childhood obesity.
The percentage of Arkansas schoolchildren overweight or at risk of becoming overweight was 37.5 percent this year, down from 38.1 percent three years ago. The most recent canvass covered 371,082 of Arkansas’ 450,000 public school children.

“Study Urges Cutback in Soda”

John Fauber:

That action might include removing soda and other vending machines from schools, reducing soft drink consumption at home and limiting marketing and advertising of soft drinks to children, he said.
What about fruit juice?
Shailesh Patel, professor and chief of endocrinology at the Medical College of Wisconsin, would take it even one step further, telling people to avoid not just soda, but fruit drinks and juices as well.
“Eat fruit; never drink it,” said Patel, who practices at Froedtert Memorial Lutheran Hospital in Wauwatosa. “There is no such thing as a healthy fruit juice, even orange juice. If you want vitamin C, eat the fruit.”

The full study,Intake of sugar-sweetened beverages and weight gain a systematic review, by Vasanti S Malik, Matthias B Schulze and Frank B Hu can be found here.

Education Makes You Healthier

David Cutler & Adriana Lleras-Muney:

There is a large and persistent association between education and health. In this paper, we review what is known about this link. We first document the facts about the relationship between education and health. The education ‘gradient’ is found for both health behaviors and health status, though the former does not fully explain the latter. The effect of education increases with increasing years of education, with no evidence of a sheepskin effect. Nor are there differences between blacks and whites, or men and women. Gradients in behavior are biggest at young ages, and decline after age 50 or 60. We then consider differing reasons why education might be related to health. The obvious economic explanations – education is related to income or occupational choice – explain only a part of the education effect. We suggest that increasing levels of education lead to different thinking and decision-making patterns. The monetary value of the return to education in terms of health is perhaps half of the return to education on earnings, so policies that impact educational attainment could have a large effect on population health.

Tyler Cowen has more.

On Food Policy

Reader Rosanne Lindsay emails:

On Food Policy: I would encourage MMSD to investigate the recent studies that attribute a poor diet, high in sugars and trans fats to hyperactive behavior. The more we learn about food additives, the more we realize its negative affect on behavior and health in general. Please go to or alternatively look at a clear example of what a healthy food program can accomplish in improved focus and behavior in schools, as seen in our own backyard, Appleton, WI.
Name Rosanne Lindsay E-mail:

Food Policy and Physical Education

To those concerned about the success of the Madison Schools,
I am writing to express my support for the positive changes proposed by the district with respect to food policy. It is exciting that the district has been proactive in including students, parents, health providers, educators, and policy makers. As a pediatrician working with childhood obesity and childhood diabetes, I believe our schools do- and can have an even more positive influence- on the health of our children. 
We are all struggling with the epidemic of childhood obesity, its costs, ramifications, and its effect on children and their families. We need to address this problem though our families, through our communities, and definitely through our schools. We continue to “leave many children behind” when it comes to healthy nutrition and physical activity. The State of California has shown that children with greater fitness levels, also have greater academic levels. Supporting an environment for achieving this is imperative for our children.
Healthy food choices should always be offered even if it means different fund raising methods in our schools including removing soda, and other unhealthy food practices.  It is time for the Board to look carefully at how they can help be part of the solution regarding this problem and the long-term health of our students. 

Continue reading Food Policy and Physical Education

Schools Struggle with Requiring PE

Lucas Johnson II:

At Moore Elementary School, fourth-grader Michael Turri looks forward to 30 minutes of jump-rope at the start of the day.
“It really gets my brain going,” said the 10-year-old. “You need to do this stuff to get through life.”
That’s one of the approaches this suburban Nashville school takes to thwart a growing childhood obesity problem. Students at Moore are required to take PE every day.
Now, some state lawmakers are pointing to Moore as a model for the state in a plan to set tougher phys ed standards for all schools

Lawmakers Try to Expel Junk Food From Schools


Trying to shrink the growing waistlines of children, lawmakers want to expel soda, candy bars, chips and other junk food from the nation’s schools.
Dangerous weight is on the rise in kids. This week, the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said the rate of obese and overweight kids has climbed to 18 percent of boys and 16 percent of girls. Four years ago, the number was 14 percent.
Lawmakers blame high-fat, high-sugar snacks that compete with nutritious meals in schools.
“Junk food sales in schools are out of control,” Senator Tom Harkin, D-Iowa, senior Democrat on the Senate Agriculture, Nutrition and Forestry Committee, said Thursday. “It undercuts our investment in school meal programs and steers kids toward a future of obesity and diet-related disease.”

Schools Need Our Help in Preventing Medication Errors

Valerie Ulene:

Schools are under an incredible strain to simply educate children — let alone medicate them — so it’s hardly surprising that dispensing drugs at school leads to an alarming number of errors. The surprise is that parents and doctors don’t work harder to prevent them.
The laws requiring schools to dispense drugs were designed to protect children with medical problems, such as asthma and diabetes. Such kids wouldn’t be safe at school if their medications weren’t available.
ut a large, and growing, number of children are taking a wide variety of medications, including psychoactive drugs, that frequently have little to do with safety. Instead, the drugs are often prescribed — at least in part — to improve attentiveness and concentration and to enhance academic performance.
The resulting burden for schools is enormous. About 5% of children receive medication during a typical school day. Each year, the Los Angeles Unified School District dispenses about 450,000 doses of medications.