Archive for December, 2009
The landscape of children’s health has changed. No longer are our children guaranteed a healthy childhood – not in the face of the current rates of autism, food allergies, diabetes, childhood cancers and obesity. The mission of the AllergyKids Foundation is to inspire change in the health of children by protecting them from chemicals recently added to the US food supply – chemicals not found in children’s foods around the world.
Our goal is simple and straightforward: we want to protect the American children from the chemicals now found in our food supply and to have the same value placed on the lives of the American children that has already been placed on the lives of children in other developed countries.
In our efforts to achieve this, the AllergyKids Foundation works to:
- Educate parents and caregivers about food grown without chemical additives, growth hormones and toxins.
- Address the increasing prevalence of chemical additives, growth hormones and toxins now found in the U.S. food supply and its impact on the health of our children.
- Provide instruction and resources to help individuals and families reduce their exposure to hidden chemicals in their diets.
- Cultivate team building and grassroots movements that drive change in our schools, communities, organizations, and federal food policy.
- Inspire choices that enhance overall quality of life, improve nutrition and create change in the health of our communities.
Our mission is a mighty one, but we believe that our children deserve nothing less. We can accomplish so much together. Since AllergyKids launched on Mother’s Day 2006, we have shared stories on CNN, the Today Show, the 700 Club and in People Magazine and in the New York Times and have provided a valuable resource and tool, The Unhealthy Truth: How Our Food Is Making Us Sick and What We Can Do About it, published by Random House in May 2009. As we work to do more, we are so thankful for the heroic work that all of you are doing and continually inspired by your stories of courage, hope, tenacity and faith.
Together, we can achieve the healthy childhoods that are children so deserve. And at the AllergyKids Foundation, we believe that hope is the knowledge that change is possible. The challenge is in the moment. The time is now.
When we look at the world
Do we like what we see?
Do we think about others
Or think about “me”?
Do we take without giving
And consume what we must,
Ever heeding the motto:
“In consumption we trust”?
If we stopped for a moment
And thought about ‘how’
We could make our world better
Beginning with ‘now’.
We might realize we share
So much more than divides us:
Letting hope, faith and love
Be the gifts that inspire us.
Today’s headlines scream for a health makeover. As the poor are being turned away from free cancer screenings, the US buckles under the weight of obesity. According to the Centers for Disease Control, during the past 20 years there has been a dramatic increase in obesity in the United States. In 2008, only one state (Colorado) had a prevalence of obesity less than 20%.
According to Bloomberg, US companies spent $400 billion on health care costs in 2007, a fivefold increase over two decades. That jaw dropping statistic represents the equivalent of almost one third of the federal budget for 2010. The cost for employers to insure a family of four jumping 131% over the last decade.
From the boardroom to the bedroom, health care costs are rising…four time faster than the rate of inflation. So what can we do about it?
- Fund the FDA so that food corporations aren’t responsible for “self-regulation”. New studies reveal that reports out the Department of Health and Human Services highlight flaws in food safety systems. The study from the HHS found that almost half of 130 food facilities surveyed had failed to provide accurate information to a Food and Drugs Administration. Given the vital role that healthy food plays in the health of our families, this is one agency that can’t afford to be underfunded. And asking the food industry to self-regulate is like asking a child not to stick his hand in the cookie jar.
- Focus on Cost Control. According to Bloomberg News, “cost control ought to be at the base of any health-care reform”. But it’s not in a for-profit pharmaceutical industry whose success is contingent on our ongoing dependency on medicines. Therefore, we’ll have to do it ourselves. According to the Wall Street Journal, when fat bottoms started affecting their bottom line, Safeway didn’t wait for the federal government to mandate healthy living, they took steps themselves in an effort to cut health care costs by 40%. The cost of obesity is expected to hit $344 billion a year, or 21% of all health care spending. Imagine the cash flow we’d get back if we rewarded healthy living instead of profiting off of illness?
- Impose Fast Food Standards on the USDA’s National School Lunch Program. According to USA Today, in the past three years, the government has provided the nation’s schools with millions of pounds of beef and chicken that wouldn’t meet the quality or safety standards of many fast-food restaurants, from Jack in the Box, Burger King and other burger places to chicken chains such as KFC. Given that the fast food industry is more rigorous in checking for bacteria and dangerous pathogens than the USDA, testing the ground beef they buy five to 10 times more often than the USDA tests beef made for schools and the program that feeds 30 million American children, perhaps its time to nominate a Children’s Health Advisor for the USDA who can implement a ‘fast-food’ standard at the National School Lunch Program.
We can make a difference in the health of our families. The challenge is in the moment, the time is now.
Remember that Shel Silverstein poem?
Listen to the “mustn’ts”, child, listen to the “don’ts”.
Listen to the “shouldn’ts”, the “impossibles”, the “wont’s”....
Today’s headlines are starting to remind me of that poem. It feels like the world has been thrown into a cuisinart.
We’ve got eye-popping mortgage delinquencies, and we’ve got record bonuses on Wall Street. We lead the world in healthcare spending, and we lead the world in infant mortality. We consume more pharmaceutical drugs than any other country, and we consume more chemicals in our food supply than the cows in France. Our lives have been devalued as quickly as our homes.
And in this headspinning mess, something remarkable is happening. We are suddenly realizing that there is more that unites us than divides us. And that is our health.
Today, 1 in 2 minority children born in the year 2000 are expected to be insulin dependent by the time they reach adulthood, with diabetes costing us $336 billion a year (or more than $1 billion per American). Obesity is snuffing out the health benefits we saw as we quit smoking. And it’s now been revealed that all of the ‘technofood’ that we introduced into our food supply 15 years ago on a wing and a prayer and some lofty promises, have added an additional 383 million pounds of pesticide use since their introduction – or over 1 million pounds of pesticides per American.
As science increasingly shows the impact that these chemicals and environmental insults are having on our health, is it any wonder that our health is suffering?
And while developed countries like Norway prohibit the use of certain chemicals and synthetic additives in children’s foods because they have not yet been proven safe, we flood them into our food supply in order to enhance profitability and marketability claiming that they have never been proven dangerous.
And as our families lead the world in rates of cancer, allergies, diabetes and Alzheimers, we are learning that we have more in common than we thought. There is more that unites us than divides us. And that we are all at this table together. And that together, we can affect remarkable change.
Kraft formulates their Lunchable products differently for families overseas: with reduced sodium content, reduced fat content and free of certain chemicals that have been linked to hyperactivity in kids. Kraft didn’t wait for foreign governments to mandate these changes, they implemented them voluntarily ahead of legislation in order to meet consumer demand. They can do it here, too, but they need to hear from us.
National pediatricians serve in governments around the world as Children’s Youth and Health Advisors, giving voice to the medical, nutritional and health concerns of millions of children worldwide. We can create that position here, too.
In other developed countries, farmers growing crops free of chemicals are not charged fees to prove that their crops are safe or fees to label them as “organic food”. These crops are simply called “food” and the farmers growing the crops laden with chemicals are the ones required to label their products as “genetically engineered”.
And while PepsiCo opens a nutrition-driven research lab and Coca Cola seeks to sponsor family physicians, we have remarkable researchers at Harvard University who highlight the impact that this industry funding has on our health who deserve our recognition and support.
We have the solutions in front of us. We can inspire the changes that we want to see. And hope is the knowledge that change is possible.
So, perhaps once again, we should reflect on that verse from Where the Sidewalk Ends:
Listen to the “mustn’ts”, child, listen to the “don’ts”.
Listen to the “shouldn’ts”, the “impossibles”, the “wont’s”…
Listen to the “never-haves”, then listen close to me…
Anything can happen, child, anything can be.