International News Round Up
A study published in the journal Climate examines the link between historical housing policies to exposure to current deadly heatwaves. The study finds that deadly urban heatwaves disproportionately affect underserved neighborhoods because of the legacy of racist housing policies that have denied African Americans homeownership and basic public services. Each year, more than 600 Americans die and 65,000 seek emergency medical care for excessive heat exposure. As heatwaves become increasingly frequent and severe, scientists expect an increase in deaths and illnesses, particularly among vulnerable groups such as children, the elderly, economically disadvantaged communities, and those with pre-existing conditions like heart disease, asthma and diabetes.
A new report on the impact of road traffic accidents involving children reports that such accidents are a grave public health issue facing developing countries. The report from the London School of Economics and Political Science (LSE) highlights the impact that traffic incidents with victims aged 0 to 17 have on a country’s economy and wider society. Traffic accidents are the leading cause of deaths of children over 10 years old throughout the world and a major public health problem in developing countries. In the poorest countries, children with serious injuries and disabilities caused by traffic accidents often push their families into poverty as they are forced to spend their savings, sell their property or quit their jobs in order to look after them.
For its first round of No Child Left Inside grants, the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources received an overwhelming response to its call for grant proposals. Program administrators received 200 applications in just six minutes from schools, nonprofits and community organizations. The majority of projects were focused on developing outdoor classes at schools. Lawmakers allocated $1.2 million to the program last year, for outdoor recreation and education projects, and to fund school-based outdoor sports like trapshooting and fishing teams.
As the number of people with myopia, or near-sightedness, has increased dramatically in recent years in various regions of the world, the risk of blindness with worsening severity of myopia has made the condition a major public health concern. While many studies have looked at possible risk factors, only a few factors have come out consistently around the world, one of which is lack of time spent outdoors in daylight.
In a study published in the Journal of Urban Landscape and Planning, Australian researchers found that having a playground nearby can add value to property. The presence of a playground added about 4.6 percent to the average property price. Researchers used ten years of property price history in a specific region of Australia to try to measure the value people place on playgrounds.
Researchers from the University of Jyväskylä in Finland found that children living in metropolitan areas have weaker motor skills compared with children living in the countryside. Study results also showed that children from the countryside spent more time outdoors, while children from the metropolitan area most frequently engaged in organized sports.
An international health research centre which looked at city children’s habits found that watching television is the lifestyle habit ‘most strongly associated’ with obesity in children. Researchers from the Barcelona Institute for Global Health (ISGlobal) studied 1,480 children, looking at five lifestyle habits: physical activity, sleep time, television time, plant-based food consumption and ultra-processed food consumption. Of these, television watching was found to have the strongest association with overweight and obesity, as youngsters who were less active and spent more time in front of the TV were at greater risk of being affected by weight issues, obesity and metabolic syndrome.
The Scotts Miracle-Gro Foundation and the national nonprofit KidsGardening opened its Gro More Good Grassroots Grants, an annual grant program designed to get more kids outside through the development of youth-based garden and greenspace programs. The Gro More Good Grassroots Grants will support all types of community-driven garden and greenspace projects that directly engage youth. Grant funding will support the creation of new gardens and also the expansion of existing ones. Schools and nonprofit organizations across the country are encouraged to apply.
Exposure to Household Pet Cats and Dogs in Childhood and Risk of Subsequent Diagnosis of Schizophrenia or Bipolar Disorder
A study examining the relationship between exposure to a household pet cat or dog during the first 12 years of life and having a subsequent diagnosis of schizophrenia or bipolar disorder found that exposure to a household pet dog was associated with a significantly decreased hazard of having a subsequent diagnosis of schizophrenia. The researchers looked at 396 individuals with schizophrenia and 381 with bipolar disorder.
The National Park Service announced five fee-free days for the year ahead, applying to the 111 park sites that normally charge visitors. The number of free days is the same as last year, but down from the 10 that were offered in 2017 as part of the National Park Service’s centennial celebration.
Playgrounds across Colorado have been redesigned with an emphasis on natural materials such as stumps and boulders instead of slides and swings as part of the ECHO program. ECHO or the Early Childhood Health Outdoors initiative is a joint venture of the National Wildlife Federation and the Natural Learning Initiative at North Carolina State University that brings the outdoors closer to children, making playing in nature easier for time-crunched families. The new play areas have given some kids their first experiences with the natural world.
Adidas Outdoor has launched the Urban Climbing Project, a pilot project introducing the sport of climbing to young people in inner-city Manchester, UK. The project has launched with 83 local schoolchildren from six different primary and secondary schools in the city. Adidas Outdoor hopes to expand the Urban Climbing Project in 2020, offering learn to climb sessions to over 365 kids – one per day – from inner-city schools across the UK.
Researchers at Guangzhou’s South China Institute of Environmental Sciences found that children at schools with more trees and green space are less likely to have ADHD. After assessing the surrounding environments of the schools of almost 60,000 youngsters in China, the study showed that children were less likely to have attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder if their school offered green space.
The Boulder, Colorado-based organization, Growing Up Boulder, has created the nation’s first printed kid-friendly city map, designed to help parents and children find such child-friendly spaces such as parks and nature trails in the city. Growing Up Boulder collaborated with more than 30 organizations and 700 children, caregivers, and teachers to complete the map. The text is in both English and Spanish, but small icons also allow children who don’t read yet—or don’t yet read well—to navigate the city. The creators of the map say that part of its goal is to get the idea of a child-friendly city out there.
In an effort to encourage more physical activity among children, a Bulgarian city is proposing to cut the taxes of families whose children take part in organized sport. Todor Popov, Mayor of Pazardijk, and Reneta Kamberova, a member of the Bulgarian Rhythm Gymnastics ensemble, have drafted a proposal which will be submitted to the Pazardijk City Council early next year in which the local taxes and fees of families with youngsters playing sport could be reduced by up to 30 per cent.