Weeks into staying home from preschool, Betty, 4, threw herself on the floor and had a screaming meltdown. She had had a Zoom meeting with her class earlier that day, and every little thing was setting her off. “We don’t accept screaming in our house,” said Betty’s mother, Laura Bower-Phipps, professor and coordinator of elementary education at Southern Connecticut State University in New Haven. “So, we counted the screams, and when she hit three, my wife and I told her she needed to take a break for four minutes.” Betty took the break, came back and screamed three more times, and again went to her quiet spot for another four minutes. And so, it went on.
Connecticut doctors and health care workers are battling childhood obesity by helping low-income families make healthier food choices, and coaching busy parents on fast but healthy ways to feed their children. Children are more likely to be obese if they grow up in low-income families, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) reports. And when parents work long hours at low-wage jobs, that can contribute to childhood obesity as well, according to health experts, because time-squeezed parents struggle to provide home-cooked meals and family activities. Colleen Shaddox explores how teens in New Britain learn how to make healthy food choices. The CDC defines obesity as “having excess body fat,” and says it is affected by genetic, behavioral and environmental factors.
When it comes to vaccinating adolescent females against human papillomavirus (HPV), the most common sexually transmitted disease known to be the main cause of cervical cancer, Connecticut boasts a slightly higher participation rate than the national average. About 58 percent of females in the state received the initial HPV vaccine dose compared with roughly 54 percent nationally, according to the National Immunization Survey, based on data from 2012 for girls aged 13-17. HPV vaccine is given in three shots and Connecticut has a completion rate of 44 percent, better than the national average of 33 percent, according to the survey. The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recently reported that the number of girls receiving the HPV vaccine nationally lags behind other vaccination rates and has “not moved forward.’’
The state’s rate is “probably due to a combination of factors,” said Linda Niccolai, an associate professor of epidemiology at the Yale School of Public Health and director of the HPV-Impact Project at the Yale Emerging Infections Program. “Health insurance coverage and rates are pretty good in Connecticut, but it’s also possible that providers in Connecticut are more proactive in making sure their patients are vaccinated and parents are more aware of the need for the vaccination.”
The national data show that Hispanic females have the highest participation rate at 63 percent, followed by whites at 51 percent, and blacks at 50 percent.