Monday, June 09, 2008

Australian schools encouraging childhood obesity

Lack of exercise is a major factor in weight gain and kids are being denied their normal activities

TRADITIONAL playground games such as kick-to-kick footy, chasey, hopscotch and even marbles are being banned in schools across Victoria. Games using tennis balls and running on school property have been axed and some schools have prohibited footy, cricket, soccer and netball during lunch breaks. The increasing number of bans on games are because of a fear of injury and subsequent litigation from parents. But parents groups, education experts and some teachers have hit back, saying play is a vital part of a child's development. A Sunday Herald Sun survey of schools found:

CARLTON Gardens Primary School has banned cricket bats and removed its monkey bars and climbing equipment.

ST MICHAEL'S Primary School in North Melbourne has banned children playing football and soccer in the schoolyard.

ASCOT Vale West Primary School has banned games deemed "too rough".

ST PETER Chanel Primary School in Deer Park has outlawed tackling in football and soccer to avoid injuries.

Melbourne University researcher Dr June Factor said a primary school banned marbles because of "arguments". "But for goodness sake how do children learn to resolve arguments if they don't have any?" she said. Dr Factor said the perception parents would threaten litigation if a child was hurt wasn't based on fact. "There have been very few such cases in Victoria," she said. Victorian Principals Association president Fred Ackerman said playgrounds had become more restrictive as parents and teachers had become more anxious and over-protective.

A school not opting for the draconian approach to play is Preston West Primary School. Principal Mark Ross said play was "part of a child's normal development". "As long as there is no safety issue, we encourage kids to engage in play," he said. [Goodbye to football, then, I guess]

A spokeswoman for the Department of Education and Early Childhood said: "This is a school-by-school decision and we encourage all students to be active and healthy."


Alcohol and arthritis

We see below a rather pleasing degree of caution about the findings. It does at least seem clear that moderate alcohol drinking is not bad for your joints

A regular tipple cuts the risk of developing rheumatoid arthritis by up to half, Swedish research suggests. The Karolinska Institute assessed 2,750 people in two studies, Annals of the Rheumatic Diseases reports. The risk was up to 50% lower for those who drank the equivalent of five glasses of wine a week compared with those who drank the least, they found. However, arthritis experts warned that drinking too much alcohol increased the risk of a range of health problems.

Rheumatoid arthritis - an auto-immune disease caused by a malfunctioning immune system - is a condition which results in tender, stiff and swollen joints. It affects 400,000 people in the UK.

The two separate studies assessed environmental and genetic risk factors for rheumatoid arthritis. Participants were quizzed about their lifestyle, including how much they smoked and drank, while blood samples were taken to check for genetic risk factors.

Researcher Dr Henrik Kallberg stressed the most important finding of the study was that smoking was a very significant risk factor for rheumatoid arthritis, reinforcing findings from previous studies. However, he added: "In addition, it is important to know that moderate alcohol consumption is not deleterious and may in some contexts be beneficial concerning risk for future onset of rheumatoid arthritis."

There are known to be links between moderate alcohol consumption and a reduced risk of other inflammatory processes, such as cardiovascular disease. However, the reason for this is still unclear.

Professor Robert Moots, from the Arthritis Research Campaign, said it was possible that drinking alcohol may have a protective effect against rheumatoid arthritis. But he said the study was not conclusive and any protective effect was not properly understood. He said: "There is no doubt that drinking too much is very bad for our health in many ways and these risks by far outweigh any potential benefit for reducing the risk of rheumatoid arthritis, which this study points to, without being conclusive. "We must also remember that drinking alcohol in excess can be especially dangerous in patients taking some anti-rheumatoid drugs that may cause liver damage. "There are many modifiable lifestyle risk factors for developing rheumatoid arthritis and, as this study also points out, smoking is by far the greatest."

A spokesman for Arthritis Care said: "It's too early to say what these findings may mean, so people with rheumatoid arthritis should continue to work in partnership with their health professionals to address their specific health needs."


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