In-school nutrition programmes help prevent obesity

Schools with enhanced nutrition policies and programmes help reduce body mass index (BMI — a measure of obesity) and nurture healthier eating habits within children, says a study jointly conducted by Yale University’s School of Public Health and Connecticut University and published in the American Journal of Preventive Medicine (December). The study, based on a five-year trial which analysed behavioural and biological indicators of 600 students from 12 schools in New Haven, USA, reveals that children enroled in schools with nutritional programmes reported an increase in BMI of less than 1 percent, compared with students in schools without nutrition policies who showed increases of 3-4 percent.

The nutritional interventions evaluated included ensuring all school meals met US federal nutritional criteria; providing health and nutrition awareness newsletters to students and their families; and school-wide campaigns to limit sugary drinks.

“Childhood obesity is a serious health threat, and schools are a vital way to reach children and their families to reduce risks and promote health,” says Jeannette Ickovics, professor at Yale University.

Raising girl children makes men ‘less sexist’

Being the father of a school-aged daughter makes men less sexist, says a study conducted by the London School of Economics. The study, based on information from two separate surveys of UK adults spanning the decades between 1991 and 2012, found that men with daughters are significantly less likely to believe in traditional gender roles. The phenomenon, dubbed ‘The Mighty Girl Effect,’ was found to grow over time. While fathers of daughters in primary school are 8 percent less likely to believe that men should be the breadwinner, by the time they reached secondary school this belief had grown to 11 percent.

According to LSE researchers, the findings tie in with the idea that fathers’ increased understanding of females’ lives is important. “They experience first-hand all the issues that (exist) in a female world and that basically moderates their attitudes towards gender norms and they become closer to seeing the full picture from the female perspective,” says Dr. Joan Costa-i-Font, associate professor at LSE and co-author of the study.

Parental drinking can endanger children

A quarter of parents of young children who drink alcohol on special occasions don’t think about limiting their intake or whether they’ll be able to take care of their children the next day, reveals a National Poll on Children’s Health conducted by the C.S. Mott Children’s Hospital of the University of Michigan. The nationally-representative report is based on responses from 1,170 parents with at least one child aged 0-9 years.

According to poll director Sarah Clark, 29 percent of parents reported that they knew of an adult who may have caused an unsafe situation for their child due to drinking alcohol at a special celebration. These parents were most concerned that the adult was too hung over to supervise their child (61 percent) or to handle a possible emergency (48 percent); and less commonly that the adult drove with a child while impaired (37 percent), got violent or out of control in front of the child (28 percent), or injured the child (7 percent).

Pollution increases miscarriage risk

Exposure to air pollution even for a short term significantly increases the risk of miscarriage, indicates a study conducted by the University of Utah, USA. The study, published in the journal Fertility and Sterility (December), found that women living in the most populous region in the state of Utah had a higher risk (16 percent) of miscarriage following short-term exposure to elevated air pollution.

The team, which evaluated 1,300 women who sought help at a hospital emergency department following miscarriages between 2007-2015, examined the risk of miscarriage during a three to seven-day window following a spike in the concentration of three common air pollutants — small particulate matter (PM 2.5), nitrogen dioxide and ozone. “The results of this study are upsetting, and we need to work together as a society to find constructive solutions,” says Matthew Fuller, assistant professor of surgery at Utah University and senior author of the study.

Fuller recommends that pregnant women minimise the risk by using a N95 particulate respirator face mask to filter out pollutants and/or avoid outdoor activity on poor air quality days. They can also use filters to lower indoor pollution and, if possible, time conception to avoid seasonal episodes of poor air quality.

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