Health Update

May 05, 2004 4 min read
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Organ-Donation Education Effort Targets Schools

The federal government has launched a campaign aimed at educating teenagers about the nation’s need for organ and tissue donation.

Read more about the Decision Donation program, from the U.S Department of Health and Human Services.

U.S. Secretary of Health and Human Services Tommy G. Thompson announced the program on April 20 while talking with 11th and 12th graders at Benjamin Banneker Academic High School in Washington.

Called “Decision: Donation—A School Program That Gives the Gift of Life,” the campaign offers print, video, CD-ROM, and Web-based education materials that teachers can integrate into existing classroom curriculum for courses such as driver education, health, and biology.

The program was inspired by a law the secretary signed when he was the governor of Wisconsin that requires driver education classes to include information on organ donation. It’s also part of a push by the Bush administration to encourage organ and tissue donation.

Federal statistics show that nearly 6,000 Americans died last year while waiting for organ transplants. More than 84,000 are on waiting lists for organs now, and a single donor can save or improve as many as 50 lives, according to federal health officials.

President Bush’s fiscal 2005 budget proposal includes $25 million for organ-procurement and -transplant efforts, a slight increase from the $24.6 million appropriation for fiscal 2004.

A guide to the new educational program details the process of organ and tissue donation, examines the science of transplantation and the problems of matching organ donors with recipients, and explores some of the religious views on organ donation.

National Children’s Study

Read more about the National Children’s Study.

The largest-ever study of U.S. children’s health is in the works, with scientists, environmentalists, and doctors hoping the endeavor will improve the nation’s knowledge of how a range of environmental factors affects youngsters’ health and development.

Requested by Congress in 2000, the National Children’s Study is in its late planning stages, with enrollment of pregnant women slated for 2006.

Consumption of:

% Decline

Low-fat vegetables 42
Milk 35
Fruit 33
SOURCE: Baylor College of Medicine

<--------Table Ends Here-------> Researchers plan to follow some 100,000 children from before birth until age 21, analyzing how natural and man-made environmental factors, physical surroundings, social and behavioral influences, genetics, culture, family, and geography affect their well-being.

Paying for the groundbreaking study remains a problem.

The planning has been underwritten at about $12 million a year out of various accounts within the four federal agencies leading the study: the Department of Health and Human Services, the National Institutes of Health, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, and the Environmental Protection Agency.

But the agencies estimate that the effort will need $27 million in fiscal 2005.

If that sounds like a lot, “just wait,” warned Sarah A. Keim, the study coordinator at the National Institute of Child Health and Human Development. For 2006, when researchers are enrolling participants, the agencies estimate they will need $142 million, she said.

The total cost of the 25-year study is expected to reach $2.7 billion, Ms. Keim said.

Nutritional Slide

Fruit, vegetable, and milk intake drops and consumption of fatty foods and sweetened drinks increases as children move from elementary to middle school, according to a study of Texas students.

The decline in nutrition may be due to the introduction in middle school of unhealthy food sources that compete with the National School Lunch Program, suggest Karen Weber Cullen and Issa Zakeri, the researchers from the Baylor College of Medicine in Houston who wrote the study.

right View “Fruits, Vegetables, Milk, and Sweetened Beverages Consumption and Access to à la Carte/Snack Bar Meals at School,” from the American Journal of Public Health.

The federal lunch program offers students two servings of fruits and vegetables and eight ounces of milk daily during the academic year. Students who take part in the program are almost twice as likely as nonparticipants to report eating vegetables at lunch, and participants also tend to consume more fruit.

However, “when students transition to middle schools, they often gain access to snack bar [and] a la carte meals and school stores not available in elementary schools,” notes the study, which was published in the March issue of the American Journal of Public Health. “Descriptive studies have noted that the top-selling snack bar foods are high in fat and calories.”

The researchers tracked the eating habits of two groups of students in a southeast Texas district—322 children in 4th grade and 286 in 5th grade—over the course of the 1998-99 and 1999-2000 school years. Students in the study began middle school in the 5th grade.

The children kept food records, and meal sources included the federal lunch program, snack bar, home, or a combination.

After the 4th graders moved up to middle school, the number of servings of fruit they reported eating declined by 33 percent. Servings of low-fat vegetables and milk declined by 42 percent and 35 percent, respectively.

Among the students who were in the 5th grade at the beginning of the study, the intake of high-fat vegetables such as french fries increased in the 6th grade by 30 percent, while consumption of regular vegetables dropped by 10 percent.

—Darcia Harris Bowman

Healthy Food Consumption
A Texas study shows that as 4th grade students move up to 5th grade, the number of servings of healthy foods and drinks they consume declines.


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