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Why Ashoka is Investing in Children's Wellbeing

May 25, 2016, 2:04 PM, Posted by Tim Scheu

Why is the organization that coined the term “social entrepreneur” putting an emphasis on children's wellbeing? Because it's a critical step in fostering changemakers in our communities.

What does children's well being mean to you?

Did you know that a playground for elephants needs water, plants, and rhino playmates? Or that ‘Frogtown,’ the Kermit-friendly analog, needs a rainforest canopy to enable sound sleep and protection for eggs? At least, that was the case during an empathy exercise at Ashoka’s “Bring Your Child to Work Day”.

Even at a young age, children understand the multiple facets of wellbeing: safety and physical fitness, but also emotional attachment. As caregivers for the imaginary animals that populated their cardboard playgrounds, our children wanted a culture of health. As a father to three little girls, I want that same thing.

But in the United States, we don’t often operate from a mindset of wellbeing—or rather, we’re preoccupied with a very limited definition of wellbeing. The individuals, communities, and societies that surround us tend to view wellbeing as only material or physical wellness. Is that playground really safe? How many children are visiting the hospital every year? How many are living outside of homes? This approach to wellbeing creates structures which are reactionary, deficit-oriented, and focused on reducing the negative effects of physical harm. We can do better.

Fortunately, leading social entrepreneurs like Dr. Terrie Rose are on the case. Using her venture, Baby’s Space, to transform the norms of childcare in low income neighborhoods, Terrie is ensuring that young children are not only safe, but are also offered emotional stability and opportunities for attachment with their caregivers. Tomas Alvarez is another example. Through Beats Rhymes and Life, Tomas works with mental health workers to offer a hip-hop-based therapy alternative to kids that have felt marginalized by traditional services.

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5 Reasons to Be Excited for the Changes Coming to Menus and Food Labels

May 20, 2016, 11:07 AM, Posted by Jasmine Hall Ratliff

Menu labeling in food retail establishments can help foster a Culture of Health in communities nationwide—here’s why this is great news for American consumers.

A cook at a fast food restaurant prepares a meal.

Today, First Lady Michelle Obama unveiled big news from the Food and Drug Administration: Consumers will soon begin to see an updated and increasingly useful Nutrition Facts Panel on packaged foods and beverages. This is the first comprehensive overhaul of the label since 1994.

Soon, those little black-and-white charts will inform you of the amount of added sugars in a product, and include a “daily value” to help you understand the maximum amount of added daily sugars recommended by experts. Serving sizes will also be revised to reflect the amounts of products that people typically consume in the real world. And, calorie counts will be listed in a much larger and bolder font to make them easier to spot.

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It's Time to Reframe How We Think About Education and Health

May 17, 2016, 10:03 AM, Posted by Kristin Schubert

Kids spend more time at school than anywhere outside their homes, making schools where we have the greatest chance of improving kids' health trajectory through physical, social and emotional development.

A student and her teacher walk down the hallway of the Cleveland Academy of Leadership elementary school.

My sister, Katy, and I grew up in a family of teachers. My mother, my father and my aunt all dedicated themselves to educating, inspiring, encouraging and supporting each student who came through their classrooms. While I chose to go into public health, Katy followed in their footsteps and is a fifth-grade teacher. Many of her students experience challenges at home that no child should have to face. So in order for her students to be engaged in learning, not only does she need to know her lesson plans, she also needs to know whether a student has eaten breakfast that day or is suffering from trauma that’s gone untreated. When a student acts out, she needs to understand what underlying issues are causing them to behave that way. She’s seen first-hand how difficult it is for her students to learn when many of their needs go unaddressed. And every day, I can see how the work we’re each doing in our respective fields intersects.

As the research shows, your education has far-reaching implications for your health. The more educated you are, the more likely you are to live a longer, healthier life. Now, more than ever, having a high school diploma can predict your likelihood of having diabetes, heart conditions or other diseases. And across racial and ethnic groups, life expectancy improves with increasing years of education.

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Everyone Has a Role in Building the Future of Nursing

May 13, 2016, 11:30 AM, Posted by Beth Toner

Two nurses practice taking a fake patient's vitals.

Six years ago, I graduated from nursing school at the age of 40-something—a feat accomplished while working full time, attending class and doing clinical rotations nights and weekends—with no small amount of support from my husband, my teenage children and my almost-3-year-old.

Frankly, when I graduated, I should have given each of them a gift for their support.

Instead, my then 15-year-old daughter gave me a copy of the book Critical Care by Theresa Brown, who, like me, was a second-career nurse. She’d heard her interviewed on National Public Radio and thought I might enjoy it. What I read in that book got me through some very rough overnight shifts when I was working per diem at my first job in long-term care. Her book reminded me that every new nurse is scared, tentative and not quite sure of her or himself. Yet somehow we muddle through, and we do the very best for our patients.

Fast forward to 2013, and I’d come to work at the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation.

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Why School Nurses Are the Ticket to Healthier Communities

May 11, 2016, 9:37 AM, Posted by Susan Hassmiller

A visit to Mt. Pleasant High School in Wilmington, Delaware, highlights the critical role that school nurses play in fostering healthier kids and communities.

A young girl has her blood pressure tested during health screenings at the ReGenesis Back to School Fair in Spartanburg, SC.

Robin Wallin, DNP, RN, first became concerned about the unmet dental needs of children attending the Alexandria City Public Schools in 2000 when one of the school nurses she supervised participated in a multidisciplinary evaluation for a kindergarten boy named José who could not sit still in class.

Upon examining his mouth, the nurse discovered gaping black holes where teeth should have been. She helped find an oral surgeon willing to treat José—who came from a low-income family without health insurance—free of charge. As it turned out, once José’s teeth were treated he no longer struggled with sitting still in class.

This experience led Wallin—who was then the Health Services Coordinator for the Alexandria City Public Schools in Alexandria, Virginia, and now serves as the director of health services at Parkway Schools in the Greater St. Louis area—to wonder if other kids like José struggled with school due to underlying oral health problems.

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How to Build a More Diverse and Inclusive Nursing Workforce

May 9, 2016, 9:32 AM, Posted by Lucia Alfano

A nurse leader shares how she overcame significant barriers to pursue a successful career and what we can do to help minorities in nursing succeed.

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I became a nurse by accident at a time in my life when I had no direction. My family had moved from Ecuador to Queens, New York when I was a child.

As a teen, there were times when I lived in group homes or even the streets and I felt completely lost. I dropped out of junior high.

When an acquaintance suggested in passing that I enroll in the nursing program at Queensborough Community College, I followed her advice without realizing that nursing would become my calling. I had to overcome obstacles that included lack of family support, finances and even basic academic skills.

I wanted so badly to be educated, that I persevered through these struggles. I found that I loved everything that had to do with nursing—from what we learned in class, to what we learned in the clinic, to volunteer work in the community.

I believe there are many young people who, like me, would thrive in nursing. But because of their background or existing challenges, they may believe that a career in nursing is not an option. In particular, young students may think that they cannot afford nursing school.  

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Supporting Healthy Latino Youth from Within The Community

May 4, 2016, 11:00 AM, Posted by John Govea

Latino youth continue to have higher obesity rates than their African-American and white peers, making leadership within Latino communities essential to building a Culture of Health.

A girl smiles in the lunchroom.

Praxina Guerra, a fifth grader at Five Palms Elementary School in San Antonio, is proving that even a kid can change the health and well-being of other children for the better.

Praxina is truly a passionate champion for creating a healthier school environment. She became a student ambassador for the San Antonio Mayor’s Fitness Council, and started a group called Praxina’s Pals to come up with a plan to encourage her fellow students to make healthier choices.

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Is the Nation Ready for an Emergency?

Apr 25, 2016, 10:00 PM, Posted by Lori Grubstein, Paul Kuehnert

New findings aim to help local governments, public health departments and others find ways to better protect communities across the nation from the health impacts of disasters.

Paramedics load a gurney into an ambulance.

Over the last year, public health crises near and far have captured our attention. From contaminated drinking water in Michigan, Colorado and West Virginia, to concerns about the potential Zika exposure throughout much of the Southeastern states, there doesn’t seem to be a day that these public health problems aren’t in the news.

We know that where we live often determines how vulnerable we are to public health disasters. If we want everyone—regardless of what neighborhood, city, or state they live in—to have access to health and well-being, we must work together to combat threats. And we must focus our resources on those that need them most. When we work together, our communities can be resilient and ready for inevitable challenges. Safeguarding and building our health security ensures the collective health and well-being of communities across the nation.

That’s where the National Health Security Preparedness Index comes into play.

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Our Challenge: Measuring Mood for Apple’s ResearchKit

Apr 18, 2016, 9:45 AM, Posted by Paul Tarini

This $500K competition seeks proposals for studies that will further our understanding of mood and how it relates to daily life.

The Mood Challenge for ResearchKit

We know that mood is one of the keys to health. Whether you are happy, depressed, stressed out, anxious—all can impact your physical well-being. However, our knowledge of the relationship between mood and many social and economic factors—such as weather, pollution, access to food, sleep, and social connectedness—remains limited, despite decades of study.

Furthering scientific understanding of mood is critical to building a Culture of Health, and ResearchKit provides a novel way to build that understanding. Mobile-based clinical studies mounted with ResearchKit present exciting opportunities to increase participation in studies and to change the relationship between researchers and the people enrolled in those studies, which is why the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation is sponsoring the Mood Challenge for ResearchKit.

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