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

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

  1. thanks for sharing. I am old enough to be my daughters grandmother, being a late life mom. So, I know what life was like before the processed foods and gmo’s. But the other story that I must share is with vaccinations. In 1993, my youngest daughter at 18 months old, got her MMR, DPT, Hib and polio vaccines. Two days later, her blue eyes were brown and it was like living with a deaf child. It took another year for a diagnosis of auditory processing disorder (which has been linked to the pertussis part of the DPT vaccine and because of the severity led to her severe language disorder. Not autistic, but just as severe. When I was a kid – 5 vaccines by the time we were in school and now it is something like 35 vaccines. That makes me doubly aware of what goes into my daughters.

    • thanks for writing this. My daughter was diagnosed with auditory processing difficiency and my son had a severe delay in his speech development. If I had it to do over again, I would have NEVER given them vaccinations at such a young age. I didn’t know that the DPT vaccine had been linked to these problems we had experienced. I have often wondered if my son’s problems weren’t related to vaccines, but never thought about it affecting my daughter. Very interesting.

  2. Can someone please help me, my 4 year old daughter is a special needs child who requires g-tube feeds for 99% of her daily nutritional needs and I want her insurance (Medi-cal and CCS) (Ca Childrens Services) to approve the Organic and GMO-free alternative to Pediasure, called Natures One Pediasmart Organic, but her insurance (provided by SSI) only covers supplemental formulas that are not organic and contain GMOs !! (Boost Kids Essentials,Pediasure..) After learning the atrocious effects GMOs have on health I felt unbelievably horrible that I have been unknowingly feeding her GMOS since day one of her life, so we switched EVERYTHING to Organic and GMO-free!!! If there is someone who could help me and other parents with children requiring g-tube feeds get insurance to cover organic and GMO-free nutrition supplement milk it would be more than greatly appreciated.
    Thank you.
    Danielle Robinson

    • There has to be something we can do to make the insurance companies approve organic supplements for your child and all the other children going through the same thing as her. We have recently switched to an all organic diet for our family of 7 and it is crazy expensive, I cant imagine what you have to pay for the organic supplement milk for your daughter. Please contact me Danielle if there is anything I can do to help you get the word out and make insurance companies aware of this issue. I would love to help start a movement for your daughter! is my email. Let’s put our heads together and get something going!

      • Thank you Ashley for the help and concern ! I believe that in light of the recent GMO published study and all the gmo awareness for prop 37 the issue of insurance not covering anything organic and gmo-free is of dire importance !! I have thought about starting a non-profit organization to raise awareness of this issue and to bring to light the fact that todays children are being fed GMOs in their baby formula and is the only choice for children with chronic illnesses who are g-tube fed but dont have the slightest clue how. I am open to help of any degree and all suggestions !!

    • Find out about insurance appeals. Write a letter stating the benefits and drawbacks and have your pediatricians sign it. Not sure they would cover but it’s worth a try.

    • I was looking for something like this as well! My son is G-tube fed, I recently started reading about GMOs and was horrified. Especially that I am giving it to my son daily. There is no substitute for them. I too would love to see something that the insurance would cover for G-tube fed children and adults!

  3. Danielle…have you thought about a blenderized diet for your child? My child was g-tube fed for over 2 years and I blended up whole foods and put it down the tube. A BD allows you to completely control what your child “eats”. There’s a whole group dedicated to a BD diet. As soon as we started giving him “real” food, his skin cleared up, his seizures went away and he stopped vomiting. Feel free to email me if you want more info…

  4. Pingback: Interesting Links…

  5. Our grandparents prepared and ate fresh food – FREE of genetically manipulated food experiments – free of toxic chemicals in ALL our food and drinks – now we call it “organic” ! food – then it was the norm !!

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