JHU National Children's Study Center Hosts Children’s Health Day Event
by Aliyah DeVille
On Monday, March 26, 2012, the JHU National Children’s Study Center celebrated Montgomery County’s second annual Children’s Health Day with an evening of opportunities to learn more about children’s health issues. One of the evening’s highlights was the debut of the Center’s Video Voices project, “It’s About Health: Voices from Montgomery County.”
The video was produced by the Center’s eight Neighborhood Ambassadors who were tasked with dual assignments of recruiting participants for the 21-year study and asking Montgomery County residents what they thought growing up healthy meant. Resident’s responses ranged from the conventional answers like nutrition and physical activity to the more unusual, like the number of sidewalks and parks in a neighborhood.
All in all, the general consensus seemed to be that Montgomery County is a great place for children to grow up.
“Hearing what everyone else had to say made me appreciate living in this county even more,” said Neighborhood Ambassador Sonja Roberts.
In addition to the premiere of the video, the program featured a panel discussion comprised of seven panelists including three Neighborhood Ambassadors; Laura Caulfield, Director of the JHU National Children’s Study Center; Kristin Trible, President, Montgomery County Council of Parent Teacher Associations and Nsedu Witherspoon, Executive Director, Children’s Environmental Health Network. The discussion focused on education, nutrition, and the environment. Trible stressed the need for change in education as the demographics of the county shift. Montgomery County schools have seen an increase in enrollment that has led to a spike in the County’s FARMs (Free & Reduced-Price Meals) and ESOL populations. According to Trible, the need for involved parents in schools is more evident than ever.
Witherspoon’s call to action was for all parents to become more informed about the chemicals to which their children may be exposed. With 85,000 known chemicals in our environment, she said it’s impossible for us to know everything about each one but, as a general rule of thumb, she encourages staying away from foods or products with long names in their ingredients list.
Advice about what to feed children came from nutrition panelist Dr. Laura Caulfield, a professor at JHU’s Bloomberg School of Public Health. Dr. Caulfield suggested making healthy eating a lifestyle change instead of just a diet.
“We have to shift the conversation from weight to nutrition and healthy living,” she advised.
The third part of the evening provided additional information for parents through a number of resource tables hosted by county organizations including the Department of Recreation and the County’s Department of Health and Human Services. Attendees had the opportunity to learn about numerous opportunities offered by the county to better their health and the health of their children.
According to Caulfied, this event was an effort to carry on the vision of County Executive Isiah Leggett. A year ago, he declared March 26 as Children’s Health Day in Montgomery County in an attempt to raise awareness about the well-being of children in the County.
“We needed to provide an open forum to discuss such important issues as children’s health and well-being,” Caulfield said. “We really wanted this night to be a participatory experience for everyone who attended.”
The National Children’s Study is the largest study of its kind and will continue for 21 years. The study will include 100,000 expecting mothers nationwide.