BulliesTarget Kids with Health Concerns

Bullies often pick on kids with health issues such as allergies and weight problems. Bullies make cruel comments, threaten and tease them about their conditions.

Two studies looking at kids with food allergies and kids going through weight-loss programs reported:

  • Eyal Shemesh, MD, of Mount Sinai Medical Center in New York City, and colleagues found that almost 32% of kids with food allergies reported bullies harassing them  about their allergy, which often involved threats with food.

  • Rebecca Puhl, PhD, of Yale University, and colleagues reported on a study where 64% of teens at weight-loss camps reported weight-related victimization by bullies who were not not just schoolmates but often friends, coaches, teachers, and parents too.

Shemesh’s group analyzed surveys of 251 established food allergy patients, ages 8 to 17, and their parents at a single allergy clinic in the Enhancing, Managing, and Promoting Well-Being and Resiliency program.

Any bullying or harassment of these kids was reported by 45% of them and 36% of their parents, although with poor agreement when related to reasons other than the food allergy.

Being victimized due specifically to food allergies accounted for most of these cases, with 32% of the food allergic kids and about 25% of their parents reporting such bullying.

Almost all the bullies were classmates (80%), and most bullying happened at school (60%).

The most common form was teasing (42%), followed by waving the allergen in front of the child (30%).

Notably, 12% had been forced to touch the food they are allergic to and 10% had food thrown at them by the bullies.

Bullying was significantly associated with poorer quality of life scores and greater anxiety, which the researchers noted was independent of allergy severity. While most of the kids taunted by bullies said they had told someone about what happened, parents knew in only about half of the cases.

To increase disclosure of bullying, “Clinicians might consider asking a screening question about bullying during encounters with children with a food allergy,” Shemesh’s group suggested.

While it’s hard to compare the results with those of other studies, general population rates appear to be 17% to 35%, suggesting that food-allergic kids may be bullied or harassed more than their peers, they pointed out.

picture of bullies making fun of overweight boyPuhl’s study included 361 kids, ages 14 to 18, surveyed online while at two national weight-loss camps.

34% of the respondents were in the normal weight range, while 24% were overweight and 40% were obese.

The large proportion of healthy-weight kids was unexpected, but “program administrators confirmed that a portion of enrollees had experienced significant weight loss and returned to camp for support with weight-loss maintenance.”

The likelihood of weight-based victimization rose with weight, with odds ratios of 8.7 for overweight and 11.7 for obese kids, although those of a normal weight after weight-loss treatment still were at some risk.

The most common form was verbal teasing (75% to 88%), followed by relational victimization (74% to 82%), cyberbullying (59% to 61%), and physical aggression (33% to 61%).

While bullies can be found most anywhere, these studies found that bullying behavior came most frequently from:

  • Peers: 92%

  • Friends: 70%

  • Physical education teachers or sport coaches: 42%

  • Parents: 37%

  • Teachers: 27%

“For those youth who are targets of weight-based victimization at school and at home, healthcare providers may be among their only remaining allies,” researchers reported. “Thus, it can be especially helpful for providers to promote adaptive coping strategies (e.g., positive self-talk, social support, problem-focused coping) during patient visits with youth who are targets of weight-based victimization.”

Both groups of researchers acknowledged the limitation of self-reported data about bullies without independent verification or a control group and that their sample populations may not have been representative of the general population.

Source: Pediatrics (online)

 

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Results of Bullying During P.E.Classes

 Brigham Young University issued a press release on January 16, 2014  bullyingsharing findings of a new study documenting that children who were the object of bullying during P.E. class or other physical activities were less likely to participate in physical activity one year later.

Study findings indicated that overweight or obese children who experienced teasing during physical activity had a lower perceived health-related quality of life (referring to physical, social, academic and emotional functioning) one year later. Even children with a healthy weight who were subjected to bullying during physical activity tended to exercise less often one year later. Many previous studies have already correlated bullying with decreased physical activity among kids who are obese or overweight, but it was surprising to find that the correlation didn’t end there.

“Our finding that this applies to normal-weight kids also was novel,” said Chad Jensen, a psychology professor at BYU and lead author on the study published in the Journal of Pediatric Psychology.

This study looked at associations between bullying, physical activity and quality of life over time, following up with the same participants after a full year.

The participants in this study were 4th and 5th grade students from six different elementary schools in the Midwest. Participants completed three surveys at the beginning of the study and then completed the same three surveys again one year later.

The first survey asked questions about problems with health and activities, emotional well-being, getting along with classmates and academic abilities. The second survey assessed teasing experiences during physical activity. The third survey asked specific situational questions to determine whether the student had been bullied during physical activity and the emotional effect it had. The questions explored experiences such as:

  • Being made fun of when playing sports or exercising.
  • Not being chosen to be on a sports team or other children looking or acting upset when the child was placed on the team.
  • Being called insulting names when playing sports or exercising.

Study results showed a decrease in physical activity of healthy-weight students who are bullied, and a decrease in health-related quality of life for students who were overweight or obese who reported teasing in the first survey.

“Overweight kids who were teased reported poorer functional ability across domains (physical, social, academic and physical),” said Jensen. “If we can help them to have a better perception of their physical and social skills, then physical activity may increase and health-related quality is likely to improve.”

While most schools participate in comprehensive anti-bullying programs, Jensen recommends implementing policies that discourage peer victimization based on physical abilities.

“We hope our study will raise awareness that educators should consider bullying prevention during physical education and free play (recess) when kids may be discouraged from being physically active because of teasing experiences,” Jensen said.

 

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From Those in the Know about Childhood Obesity

obesityThis post is about the long-lasting effects of childhood obesity.

The first of two reports is from MedlinePlus,  a service of the U.S. Library of Medicine NIH National Institutes of Health. The second report is from HealthDay News, which recently was posted on Womenshealth.gov., Dept of Health and Human Services.

MedlinePlus Report: As reported by Dr. Cindy Haines of HealthDay TV on Childhood Obesity and Adult Hypertension

Being a heavy child may have long lasting impact. In fact, new research suggests it may quadruple your risk for high blood pressure as an adult.

Starting back in 1986, researchers in Indiana began tracking the growth and blood pressure of over 1,100 healthy adolescents. Over the 27 years, they were able to accumulate a vast amount of data. 6% of normal weight children had high blood pressure as adults. While 14% of overweight children developed high blood pressure. But the big news was the 26% of obese children ending up with high blood pressure as adults.

The researchers believe these findings add more evidence that being overweight or obese in childhood is a true public health threat.

Highlights of HealthDay News Report on Childhood Obesity and Adolescent Eating Disorders:

Obese children and teens who lose weight are in danger of developing eating disorders — including anorexia and bulimia.

These problems may not be diagnosed quickly, because parents and doctors “think it’s a good thing that these teens have lost so much weight,” said lead researcher Leslie Sim, an assistant professor of psychology and an eating disorders expert at the Mayo Clinic Children’s Center in Rochester, Minn.

“We started to see kids coming into our clinic with severe eating disorders such as anorexia nervosa, where you lose a lot of weight and restrict your eating, and these kids actually started out as obese,” she said.

“They lost way too much weight and became preoccupied with their eating,” Sim said. “Every thought and behavior really surrounded eating.”

“We think obese kids are at risk for eating disorders because they are getting a lot of media messages that they are not healthy and that there is something wrong with them and they need to change their ways,” Sim said. “And because they are teens, they do extreme things. Weight loss is not that typical for adolescents,” Sim said. “I think parents should be concerned with any weight loss,” she added.

“When parents see their children losing weight, they should ask about their eating habits and whether they are skipping meals or avoiding friends, as these may be signs of an eating disorder,”  Sim said. “At least 6 percent of teens suffer from eating disorders.”

“The study highlighted many important messages, ” said Dr. David Katz, director of Yale University’s Prevention Research Center. “Obesity itself is a risk factor for eating disorders. This link is well established for binge-eating disorder, where obesity is potentially both cause and effect.”

“Effective treatment of obesity cannot simply be about weight loss — it must be about the pursuit of health,” Katz said. “An emphasis on healthful behaviors is a tonic against both obesity and eating disorders. By placing an emphasis on diet and activity patterns for health and by focusing on strategies that are family based, we can address risk factors for both eating disorders and obesity.”

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Children, Big Plates and More Food

Here is a study that gives us all something to think about, especially as we are trying to help our young children develop healthy eating habits.

childrenMONDAY, April 8 (HealthDay News) — Small children who are given large plates and then allowed to serve themselves take more food and consume more calories, new research finds.

The study used 41 first-graders in a Philadelphia elementary school to test whether adult research on dishware size and food intake also holds true for children.

“We found that children served themselves about 90 more calories when they used the large plate at lunch [compared to a small plate],” said Katherine DiSantis, assistant professor of community and global public health at Arcadia University in Glenside, Penn.

It turns out, however, that the children had a case of eyes-bigger-than-stomach. “They ate approximately half of every additional calorie they served themselves,” DiSantis said.

The study, funded by the U.S. Department of Agriculture, was published online April 8 in the journal Pediatrics and will be in the May print issue of the journal.

Obesity in children is a growing problem in the United States. About 17 percent of children aged 2 to 19 are obese, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

“In adults, the size of the dinner plate is known to affect how much they put on it and how much they eat,” DiSantis said. Other research has found that kids eat more food when they are served larger portions. But it was not known, DiSantis said, “Whether the use of larger, adult-sized plates would make kids take and eat more food if they served themselves.”

The researchers invited the 41 first graders from two different classrooms at a private elementary school to eat lunch, using a small child’s plate first and then an adult-sized one. The children had their choice of an entree and side dishes (pasta with meat sauce, chicken nuggets, mixed vegetables and applesauce). They all got fixed portions of milk and bread with each meal.

The researchers weighed the portions before and after the children ate and calculated their caloric intake.

“The two factors — plate size and being allowed to take their own food — seemed to work together, DiSantis said. “Overall, the adult-sized dishware by itself did not promote eating more.”

The child’s body-mass index (a measure of body fat based on height and weight) didn’t seem to predict who would take more food, the researchers found.

It was the child’s liking for the food that predicted what they would serve themselves. Those who liked the entree helped themselves to about 104 calories more at the meal.

DiSantis said, “Children look to their environment for some direction when put in the position of making decisions about how much food to serve themselves.”

“In the study, the differences in calories were not large,” she acknowledged. “But if this went on on a daily basis, it could contribute to the child’s overall energy intake and their weight status,” she said. “Using smaller plates might give children guidance on portion sizes, she added.

A nutrition expert who reviewed the study downplayed the role of plate size, while not dismissing it entirely.

“In the end, it’s the portion that’s served rather than the plate size — and whether or not the child likes the food — that influences how much they eat and how much they serve themselves,” said Marjorie Freeman, associate professor of nutrition, food science and packaging at San Jose State University in California. In her own research, she has found that as portion size increases, so does the amount you eat.

Freeman suggested that parents follow the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s recommendations, which suggest filling half the plate with fruits and vegetables.

Parents also can choose plate sizes for serving their children based on what will be on the plate. “For foods you want them to eat a lot of, such as fruits and vegetables, I’d put it on larger plates,” she said.

The fried chicken nuggets, she added, could be served on a small plate.

The study authors noted that the kids in the experiment served themselves more fruit on their large plates, but not more vegetables.

More information

To learn more about how to eat healthy foods, visit ChooseMyPlate.gov.

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Childhood Obesity Awareness Month

The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, HHS, wants all Americans to know about programs and resources to help children and parents curb obesity  including the President’s Council on Fitness, Sports and Nutrition, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, and the National Institutes of Health’s We Can!! (Ways to Enhance Children’s Activity & Nutrition)® program.

Through public-private partnerships, safe places to play and nutritious food options are being made available in neighborhoods and schools across America. Exciting new programs include the Partnership for a Healthier America and Olympic Team USA’s commitment to provide 1.7 million kids the opportunity to participate in free and low cost physical activity programs offered by the United States Olympic Committee (USOC), USOC National Governing Bodies for sport, and others over the next year.

The U.S. Department of Agriculture recently released a new farm to school grant program designed to educate children about food sources, and increase the availability of locally sourced foods in schools.

obesityOver the past 30 years, the childhood obesity rate in America has almost tripled. According to the Centers for Disease Control,CDC, in 2010, approximately 17 percent of children and adolescents aged 2-19 years were already obese. Children and teenagers who are obese are more likely to become obese adults. Overweight and obese youth are at greater risk of developing serious adult health problems such as heart disease, type 2 diabetes, stroke, certain types of cancer, and osteoarthritis.

That is why HHS, with the President’s Council, supports First Lady Michelle Obama’s goal to end childhood obesity within a generation through her Let’s Move! program. Everyone has a role to play – parents and caregivers, school teachers and administrators, community leaders, local elected officials, after school programmers, and health care providers.

According to the 2008 Physical Activity Guidelines for Americans, children and adolescents aged 6–17 years should spend 60 minutes or more being physical active each day.

The Dietary Guidelines for Americans, 2010, released by HHS and USDA, provide nutritional guidance for Americans to promote good health, reduce the risk of chronic diseases, and reduce the prevalence of overweight and obesity. The guidelines recommend balancing calories with physical activity, and encourage Americans to consume more healthy foods like vegetables, fruits, whole grains, fat-free and low-fat dairy products, and seafood, and to consume less sodium, saturated and trans fats, added sugars, and refined grains.

To learn more about National Childhood Obesity Awareness Month or for tips on how to help your kids lead healthy lifestyle visit http://www.fitness.gov

 

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