Recent reports indicate that Europe may be following America in its trend toward the prevalence of overweight adults, reflecting a globalization of eating patterns. This cross-national study examined the body mass index, calculated as weight in kilograms divided by height in meters squared, in 29 242 children aged 13 and 15 years in the United States and 14 other industrialized countries. The highest prevalence of overweight was found in the United States. The prevalence of overweight in other countries was highest in Greece, Ireland, and Portugal and lowest in Lithuania. These findings have important implications for expected morbidity and mortality rates due to obesity in the coming decades.
Pediatric health care has been changed dramatically in the last few decades by the increase in the proportion of children in our hospitals with chronic health conditions. The effect of these conditions on schools and teachers in those schools has rarely been explored. Olson and colleagues surveyed teachers and school professionals in 23 elementary schools about the potential effect of having a child in the classroom with AIDS, asthma, epilepsy, congenital heart disease, or leukemia. Educators overall had positive attitudes but believed that children with AIDS or epilepsy would have the greatest effect on the classroom and that children with asthma would have the smallest. Teachers were most concerned about emergencies and legal liability. Providing information to educators may be useful to improve the integration of chronically ill children into the classroom.
Violence may affect many different facets of children's lives, some of which may be difficult to accurately measure. Qualitative research is often a useful tool for understanding difficult-to-measure issues. Sheehan and colleagues conducted 12 focus groups with children aged 8 to 12 years to better understand how children conceptualize the effect of violence in their lives. Although boys and girls shared similar views about most types of violence, there were important differences in their understanding of intimate-partner violence. Girls were almost universally concerned about this issue, whereas boys were unaware that it was a form of violence. Most children felt safe at home, but almost no one felt safe at school.
Because of the public health importance of obesity and the longitudinal tracking of weight and eating patterns from childhood into adulthood, interventions to change children's eating habits are critical. In this Finnish study, families were randomized when children were aged 7 months to receive regular nutritional counseling about fat intake. At up to 10 years of follow-up, intervention children had less saturated fat and more polyunsaturated fat in their diet than control children. However, further interventions are needed to achieve a target ratio of 2:1 for unsaturated to saturated fats.
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