The Vending Machine Deduction

I felt terrible about my thoughts, I truly did because it was an awful thought to have, but I just couldn’t help it. “Should she really be buying anything from the vending machine?” I thought as I walked past the overweight female child purchasing a snack from the vending machine. Let’s be realistic here, sure she could’ve been choosing the healthiest snack available Chex Mix over the Hot Cheetos or Snickers, but come on, what kid does that? And judging from the looks of what I guess is her younger brother, she didn’t strike me as a health conscious child, but who really is when they’re kids? I see how this could be troubling some because I understand that it makes me seem like an asshole, but let me be clear that my perceivably monstrous thought was followed by, “I don’t blame the child though, I blame her parents. ”

Childhood obesity has more than doubled in children and quadrupled in adolescents in the past 30 years. The percentage of children aged 6–11 years in the United States who were obese increased from 7% in 1980 to nearly 18% in 2012. Similarly, the percentage of adolescents aged 12–19 years who were obese increased from 5% to nearly 21% over the same period. In 2012, more than one third of children and adolescents were overweight or obese. Overweight is defined as having excess body weight for a particular height from fat, muscle, bone, water, or a combination of these factors.3 Obesity is defined as having excess body fat. Overweight and obesity are the result of “caloric imbalance”—too few calories expended for the amount of calories consumed—and are affected by various genetic, behavioral, and environmental factors(Center for Disease Control and Prevention website).

I see this all the time, overweight children, we all do and every single time I become a little angry and sad on the inside. A child does not posses the power to single-handedly decide what food is provided for them, the parents are responsible for what their child(ren) consume, outside of the cafeteria lady. What kid does anyone know that does the grocery shopping and purchases vegetables and fruits? (Because if that’s possible well, then I need mines to be one of those, if I’m ever so blessed.) Healthy eating habits need to be established at a young age so that when the child reaches adulthood they are inclined to endure the hassle of preparing a healthy home-cooked meal, vs copping out for McDonald’s. Most children view healthy eating as an enemy, which is why establishing healthy eating habits such as vegetables, fruits and water into a childs’ diet is so important. If parents give children unhealthy foods and allow them to frequently consume unhealthy items such as chips, cookies, candy, ice cream etc. then those parents are putting their child in risk of being overweight and  serious illnesses. Some children are just chubbier than others because of genetics and those children especially require a structured, healthy diet.

Obese youth are more likely to have risk factors for cardiovascular disease, such as high cholesterol or high blood pressure. In a population-based sample of 5- to 17-year-olds, 70% of obese youth had at least one risk factor for cardiovascular disease. Children and adolescents who are obese are at greater risk for bone and joint problems, sleep apnea, and social and psychological problems such as stigmatization and poor self-esteem. Overweight and obesity are associated with increased risk for many types of cancer, including cancer of the breast, colon, endometrium, esophagus, kidney, pancreas, gall bladder, thyroid, ovary, cervix, and prostate, as well as multiple myeloma and Hodgkin’s lymphoma (CDC website).

It is puzzling to me how parents of children at an unhealthy weight can allow them to eat foods that are unhealthy. In this day and age, information about what’s healthy and how to be that way is easily and widely accessible over this thing called the Internet. (And free of charge at this magical location, public libraries.) I’ve personally been around overweight children and parents that permit them to have unhealthy foods, don’t encourage exercise and allow them to continue on the road to obesity and diabetes. I find it extremely troubling given that I was raised with the foundation that a parent loves their child and only wishes them to be happy, healthy and successful. Eating healthy is sometimes difficult to afford because wildly, healthy organic food is higher costing than unhealthy items. Nonetheless, it’s not impossible. Buying vegetables and fruits instead of snacks and water rather than sugary sodas and juices is a start. Encouraging and if so necessary, ensuring exercise would be helpful. By ensuring I mean, the parent and child excercise together, take the dog for a run, go to a park and play a sport or have running races. Maintaining a healthy body is not the easiest thing, but the work is worth it.

Healthy lifestyle habits, including healthy eating and physical activity, can lower the risk of becoming obese and developing related diseases (CDC webpage).

Children can be difficult when it comes to being healthy, I know I’m not the biggest fan of vegetables or the gym, but parents need to figure out a way that works for their child to protect their health. A healthy childhood is the foundation to a healthy life. That’s not to say that those who are overweight during childhood or at any point in their life cannot become healthier, it just requires effort. So now that the holidays are approaching, I encourage parents of all children, not just overweight children, to closely monitor what their child eats. As we all know, there’s a pattern of people gaining weight during winter due to the approaching holidays that include feasts, Thanksgiving and Christmas. Halloween is days away so watch how much candy your child has, how much they eat and if it’s too much then hide their candy and set a limit for how much they can have, just don’t be cruel and forbid them from eating their trick-or-treating sweets. Kids are precious, beautiful little human beings that deserve the best and should have it to live long, happy, healthy lives, give them a jump start by providing a healthy childhood.

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Ebola Concerns on the Rise

    Noting that the night before I read countless Ebola related articles to maintain up to speed with the epidemic, I wasn’t surprised that I awoke the following morning slightly startled that I had experienced, in my dreams, an Ebola outbreak. All I remember from that dream is being frightened and frantic for the health of my loved ones and myself. Swarms of people were rushing to hospitals for medical care resembling the stampede of wildebeest fleeing from the hyenas in Lion King. Despite Obama’s statement that the event of an Ebola outbreak similar to the one in Africa is unlikely in the US, my mind remains uneasy (The Washington Post).

    Since the outbreak on December 2013 in West Africa, there have been 8,400 cases, of those 4,656 are laboratory-confirmed and 4,033 deaths (Center for Disease Control and Prevention). It’s probable that the outbreak began in a Guinea village with patient zero being a two year old and spreading to the child’s relatives and eventually outside of the village after the grandmother’s funeral (CNN). Ten months later and now there not only over four thousand deaths, but the disease has spread outside of Africa with patients in the US, Germany and Spain. The spread of the disease outside of Africa is of particular concern to me and I would only believe the entire human population, given that the mortality rate for this deadly virus is not 50% as the numbers show, but 70%, “when patients can be monitored throughout the course of their disease” (World Health Organization).

    Ebola is classified as a RNA virus, meaning that it mutates each time it copies itself which has caused speculation that it could become airborne, but it is highly unlikely that it would make the dramatic change necessary to alter mode of transmission (CNN). Fortunately, it is not airborne and is contracted through bodily fluids such as saliva, blood, urine and other secretions of infected patients. The US has adopted screening procedures (checking for fevers and inquiries about travel) at airports receiving 94% of travelers arriving from affected regions, to help distinguish those possibly ill with the disease, but this is not enough given that symptoms take 2-21 days to show. The CDC said last week that banning travel to Africa would not help slow the spread of the epidemic because it would bar medical aid, however, what about restricted travel? I wonder if restricting travel to West Africa by only authorizing travel to those helping with the epidemic would be stall the spread meanwhile it is terminated.

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    The first individual diagnosed with Ebola in the US passed on October 8. He arrived in Dallas, already sick with Ebola, from Liberia on September 20 . Four days later, Duncan went to the Texas Health Presbyterian emergency room with a fever, abdominal pain and headache (symptoms of Ebola) where he was discharged, prescribed antibiotics and told to take Tylenol. Three days later, on September 27 he returned to the hospital and was admitted after testing positive for Ebola. During his first visit he was not screened for the disease despite displaying symptoms of the virus. Whether Duncan communicated that he had been in Liberia or not is debatable, since some say that the hospital didn’t have knowledge of his travel history, but others say they did. Nonetheless, when asked if he had contact with infected people he answered no, when in actuality he had cared for a pregnant woman infected with the virus. Duncan’s denial of contact with Ebola, delineates a huge problem in the success of screening for the virus at airport.  It leaves it up to the will of the traveler whether or not to answer questions truthfully and given the range of days it takes to show symptoms, it does not seem improbable that infected travelers not showing symptoms can like Duncan, withhold such information that could potentially endanger others and raise the probability of spreading. Another concern is drugs. Duncan wasn’t given the same experimental medication that other patients treated in the US received due to depletion, I really hope that now there is sufficient supply because I fear that there will be an increase in demand.

    Something else that worries me about measures taken to contain the epidemic is medical protocols. After Duncan’s death, a nurse, Nina Pham, caring for him contracted Ebola. Pham claims she is doing well and there are 76 individuals that had contact with Duncan being monitored (New York Times). Exactly how Pham became infected is unknown as of now, since she was wearing the required protective gear while caring for Duncan, but it is said that it was caused by a breach in protocols. Alarming does not come close to describing the feeling I got in the pit of my stomach when I first read about Pham’s condition. If she, a nurse with the proper protective gear contracted the virus, it is possible that others who had contact with him may have as well; of course those who were in contact with him were placed in an incubation period corresponding with the days it takes for symptoms to arise. But what about fellow staff that had contact with Pham, but were not in direct contact with Duncan, will they be placed in incubation? There was also a homeless man being monitored for symptoms whom health officials briefly lost track of (The Guardian). The general public depends on nurses, doctors and healthcare officials to maintain a healthy population through action and preventative measures; belated diagnosis and breaches in protocol only put civilians at higher risk.

    It is estimated that by January the number of cases will increase to between 550,000 and 1.4 million (CNN).  This number is grim and awfully high, but there is hope to be had. According to WHO, if 70% of patients with Ebola are cared for properly, then the epidemic could dwindle and eventually be eliminated. What’s more is that 461 Cuban physicians and nurses have taken charge in terminating the epidemic. Already 165 physicians and nurses are in Sierra Leone and 15,000 have volunteered (CNN). The UK is also conducting screening at airports receiving travelers from Africa, and Russia is working on an Ebola vaccine. The US continues their aid by sending another 700 troops by late October, in addition to the 300 already in Liberia, creating a total estimate of 4,000 soldiers fighting the battle to terminate the horror that is Ebola (CBS News). This may be the first time I applaud Obama for deploying, in a short timespan, such a large amount of soldiers. Mark Zuckergerg and his wife donated $25 million to the CDC to help fight the epidemic (Huffington Post). Worldwide collaboration is necessary to end this epidemic. Imagine if Ebola is not controlled and the numbers of patients we’re experiencing in Africa occur in say, the US or the UK? Picture millions of civilians wearing face masks and gloves, homes being evacuated, hospitals flooded and overwhelmed with possible patients, daily life and routine threatened and interrupted by this virus, that’s frightening. The effort everyone is giving to end this epidemic is admirable and honorable. However, there are others that could be reaching out as Obama said, “We have not seen other countries step up as aggressively as they need to” (USA Today). Everyone that can help should; the countries with sophisticated healthcare could send support to medical centers in Africa or help with research, individuals and companies with the ability to donate funds should and the general public should maintain up-to-date on the epidemic and pray for progress and health. This Ebola epidemic isn’t problematic solely for Africa, it’s a worldwide issue. I don’t want to one day tell my grandchildren of the Ebola epidemic that began in Africa and shook the whole world. I want to say, “we prevented it.”