News roundup


No place to play=obese black girls With few options for outside activity kids sit in front of TV :::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::

Too much television and too few recreational opportunities mean a higher risk of obesity for young black girls, a new study says. "Traffic dangers and lack of affordable and accessible neighborhood recreation opportunities kept girls in this study inside," says Penny Gordon-Larsen of the University of North Carolina Schools of Public Health and Medicine.

Once inside, the girls spent much of their time watching TV, according to the research published in the American Journal of Preventive Medicine.

Gordon-Larsen and her colleagues conducted 51 in-depth interviews with girls ages 6 to 9 and their mothers or grandmothers as part of an obesity prevention study in North Carolina. The adults cared more about what the girls watched than the time they logged in front of the screen.

The sedentary behavior can have long-term health effects, Gordon-Larsen says. "Inactive children are likely to remain inactive throughout childhood, adolescence and young adulthood, and are at high risk for obesity," she says.

Neither the girls nor the adults showed much interest in going outdoors to play. Either television was too attractive, or they believed their neighborhoods lacked recreational activities or were unsafe for play. The mothers complained about traffic, unrestrained dogs, poor facilities, a lack of sidewalks and an unwillingness to let children play outside unsupervised.

To reduce inactivity and risk for obesity among such girls, Gordon-Larsen suggests increasing affordable and accessible opportunities for physical activity (including improving traffic safety), motivating caregivers and children to exercise more and countering positive perceptions of the role of television.

Special playground coming Chicago's first public Boundless Playground-designed to allow all children to play, including those with special needs-is scheduled for construction in spring 2005.

All the Chicago Park District needs is $675,000. Its philanthropic arm, Parkways Foundation, has raised just $339,000 to date. "We have a little under a year to go [before we plan to break ground], so we're pretty confident we'll finish," says Noren Ungaretti, foundation president.

The Boundless Playground will be built at Columbus Park, 500 S. Central Ave. Features will include soft surfacing, wider slides to accommodate children accompanied by a parent or aide, swings with back support and signs in both written form as well as braille.

Park officials say the modifications should benefit parents with special needs as well.

Update your batteries Approximately 1,000 children under the age of 20 die annually in house fires-an average of nearly three per day. The International Association of Fire Chiefs says changing the battery in your smoke detectors is one simple way to dramatically reduce that number. Along with the Energizer battery company, the organization is urging consumers to "Change Your Clock, Change Your Battery" on Oct. 31, when we change our clocks back for daylight savings time.

Although 95 percent of American homes have smoke detectors, the group says 20 percent do not work because of worn or missing batteries. A working smoke alarm cuts in half the chance of dying in a home fire, the group says.

Chicago Parent staff and Medill News Service


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