How to protect your children in today’s health landscape — a plea to parents

by Robyn O’Brien, founder, Allergy Kids Foundation.

The landscape of children’s health has changed. If you have any doubt whatsoever, ask your grandmother. Did she have friends juggling breast cancer and play dates? What about autism and allergies? ADHD and diabetes?

And while there were other things that they worried about, as parents today, we sit beside each other on the sidelines of soccer fields, in concert recitals or in the pews at church, and with few words spoken, we understand that things have changed.

Today, 46 kids are diagnosed with cancer every day. It is the leading cause of death by disease in children under the age of fifteen. Diabetes, obesity, asthma and food allergies are a tsunami of conditions raining down on the health of our children. And autism now impacts 1 in 88 American children.

Our grandmothers weren’t navigating these statistics. We know that it hasn’t always been this way. And we see firsthand how hard it can be, as we share the heartache of a friend, witness the grief of a sister or help a neighbor struggling with the cost of care. We say our prayers at night, grateful for the blessings we have received and mindful of how quickly things can change.

Our children have earned the title of Generation Rx because of how pervasive these conditions have become. The number of US kids with autism is up 78% reports the CDC, impacting 1 in 54 little boys, while 1 in 3 is overweight or obese, triple the rate of 1963, reports the American Heart Association, and 46 kids are diagnosed with cancer and 1,500 Americans – moms, dad, sisters, brothers, children – die from cancer every single day.

It didn’t used to be this way. And as this landscape of health has changed so quickly in such a short time, it begs the question: Why? Why have our families become so allergic? Autistic? Diabetic? Cancer stricken?

Since when did the landscape of childhood feel like a landmine of disease?

A lot of theories are out there, enough to cause doubt and confusion, but mounting scientific evidence, from the President’s Cancer Panel to the American Academy of Pediatrics, urges us to protect the health of our children by reducing our exposure to environmental toxins, especially those now found in and on our food.

With the President’s Cancer Panel and Stanford University urging pregnant moms and those with children to reduce their exposure to artificial ingredients now found in our food supply (things like artificial growth hormones in dairy, weed and pest killers used so frequently on our fresh produce as well as other artificial ingredients), we find ourselves reading labels in grocery store aisles – no longer just for fat and sugar content, but also for the list of allergens, artificial colors or genetically modified ingredients or any indication of the manufactured chemicals that they may contain.

And while the task can be overwhelming, we do it anyway for the love of our families. We find the strength, tenacity and courage to continue to move forward, asking questions, researching and reading, trying to do everything we can to reverse this tidal wave of disease.

And we are not alone. Thankfully, more corporations in the traditional food sector and those in the organic industry are doing what they can to help us. Some have been doing it for a long time, others are just beginning to make change. But the important thing is this: we are all doing what we can, where we are, with what we have, recognizing that the health of our country depends on the health of our children. Because while our children may only represent 30% of the population, they are 100% of our future.

So we have a choice: to let their health conditions bring us to our knees or bring us to our feet.

And when we decide to stand, we do so out of love, knowing that we do not stand alone. Millions of citizens in countries around the world stood for their right to know what is in their food, and now, millions of Americans who share this deep concern are doing the same.

A corporation will always have the right to make a profit, but Americans should also have the right to know what we are eating, so that together, leveraging this collective information and insight, we can protect the health of our country.

See Robyn O’Brien’s excellent talk at TEDx in 2011:

About the Author

Robyn O’Brien: Founder, Executive Director, Allergy Kids Foundation.

As a former food industry analyst, Fulbright grant recipient, author and mother of four, Robyn O’Brien brings compassion, insight and detailed analysis to her role as the founder of the organization and her research into the impact that the global food system is having on the health of children.

Click here to view the Allergy Kids website.

Photo: Sean Dreilinger

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14 thoughts on “How to protect your children in today’s health landscape — a plea to parents

  1. It must be pointed out also, that a lot of our Grandmothers-and mothers too, for my generation-smoked throughout their pregnancies. And many of my generation grew up in homes where the air being blue from cigarette smoke was the norm…and now, I am seeing the children of my generation living with asthma, skin conditions, and allergies. Coincidence? Not so much, I think. Not that I am discounting the effects of processed foods on children’s health! But if we are going to acknowledge environmental toxins, we must be willing to recognize that breathing in cigarette smoke-first, second, or third hand-is pretty high on the list of culprits for changing the landscape of children’s health.

  2. great article! And so true…the effects of what’s been done to our food and environment is truly scary and our children are the guinea pigs as we are just starting to see the effects. Reading something like this just makes me even more proud to represent Wildtree as you will never find any GMOs, additives, preservatives or food dyes in any of our products. We truly do offer a choice for those who care to have one. If anyone wants info, please feel free to check out http://www.kate.mywildtree.com or email me at keroller@hotmail.com. And if anyone would like to see a list of what Wildtree does NOT allow in our products, just let me know and I’d be more than happy to email it. To your health!

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