Kids Count

July 31, 2009
Jill taylor

The 2009 Kids Count Data Book from the Annie E. Casey Foundation became available this week, with statistics that reflect data collected up to 2006 and 2007.

The 2009 Kids Count Data Book from the Annie E. Casey Foundation became available this week, with statistics that reflect data collected up to 2006 and 2007. This was about the time that the economy started overtly showing stress (by Wall Street standards, anyway), and the report already showed overall an increase in the number of children living in poverty, living in single-parent homes, having unemployed parents, or becoming pregnant during teenage years. If you don’t want to look through the entire report, you can read a quick summary here.

For professionals in the trenches trying to care for children, this likely isn’t news. With the economic downturn, one can easily assume that many of these trends have become more pronounced.

The Casey Foundation is calling for improvements in data gathering and management at the federal, state, and local levels of government for the purpose of improving accuracy and implementing programs to effectively ease the plight of children in low-income families.

This comes at the heels of news from a conference addressing the obesity epidemic, during which Kathleen Sebelius announced that a portion of stimulus funds aimed at disease prevention would be used for strategies aimed at reducing obesity among children, such as offering healthy foods, more recess, and reintroducing physical education in schools.

These are all strategies that need to be implemented, but I still say that we’re talking about treating symptoms instead of the proverbial disease. There’s more to the obesity epidemic than lack of exercise and poor nutrition. Eating is just as complex behavior as any other, and research has shown that our choices with respect to what we eat and how much are neurologically tied to the very areas of the brain that also regulate emotion, reward anticipation, decision making, and pleasure. Clearly, there is an abundance of potential factors with regard to obesity that not taken into account in the solutions we discuss.

My guess is that many of our health issues—including obesity and sleep deprivation–have a common thread within our society, and very possibly related to quality of life. Again, I’m all for strategies that will make exercise more convenient, but the concept of “walkable” and “bikable” cities only works for a society that has time to walk and bike. In many families, free time has gone the way of disposable income.