Issue No. 72
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September is the perfect month for articles about childhood. After all, this month is the interface between two essential measures of a child's yearly schedule -- the carefree pleasures of summer and the return to school in the fall. But summers are no longer what they used to be for kids. And advanced educational tools and technologies have made school an evolving experience as well. Childhood has changed.
One of the unforeseen consequences of the sweeping changes we have all witnessed is the reality of childhood obesity. That is the subject for this issue of
Insurance Update in which we will explore the unhealthy trend of weight gain in children. We will also question whether childhood obesity is partially the result of a larger problem -- our growing population of far too many overweight and obese adults.
This issue's focus is on body weight, but also on childhood, and we hope that some of the articles will allow you to reminisce about your own childhood and ponder the different experiences you had compared with children who are growing up today.
We hope these reflections will help shed some insight on a topic that has become a serious public health matter, and the underlying consequences that surround it.
What is a good childhood?
Childhood obesity and cultural change
Surely you've heard the myth about childhood -- that in the past being a child was always harder and more physically demanding than it is now. Remember the old story about walking to school every day five miles uphill both ways, in the snow? Is it true that childhood used to be more arduous? And if so what does that mean?
If you are of a certain age and grew up in the country, you may remember being outside for hours -- in the summer playing in the fields or barns or down at the creek, in the winter sledding and ice skating. If you grew up in town, you may remember being outside all the time, up and down the block, in and out of neighbors' houses and yards. You played softball or dodge ball at school recess. On weekends, you found pickup games at the park or ball field. You practiced hopscotch, jumped rope, and even played stick ball in the street.
As the decades have passed, outdoor play has become less common and more restricted, its freedom curtailed by fears about safety. Children are not as free to roam as they once were. Sometimes it is easier for parents or caregivers to supervise them if they stay inside. But those are not the only factors that have changed childhood.
There is the digital revolution and its effect on physical activity. Kids spend hours in front of screens: computer monitors, video game boxes, tablets, and smartphones. One
claims that 75 percent of children under 8 have access to a smartphone or tablet. Another
claims that 56 percent of all kids between 8 and 12 have a cellphone. And though kids had already been watching a lot of television and doing so for decades, TV now is even more appealing, with hundreds of cable channels and on-demand capability. Kids can also stream their favorite TV programs on their computer, smartphone, or tablet.
With such a strong propensity for staring at screens, children are less likely to be outdoors and less likely to be active. One of the troubling results is that many children are overweight, and childhood obesity has become a legitimate concern of everyone from parents, doctors, social workers, and teachers to the first lady, Michelle Obama, and her "Let's Move" program.
According to a
by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, in the United States, approximately 17 percent of all children age 2 to 19 (12.7 million children) are obese. If you include those who are overweight, the figure rises to 31.8 percent. Think about that -- 32 percent of all children are at least overweight and more than half of those are obese.
Obesity is also correlated with age. Only 8.4 percent of 2- to 5-year-olds are obese, while 17.7 percent of kids 6 through 11 are obese, and the figure rises to 20.5 percent for kids 12-19. So as children approach adulthood their obesity rate increases, which is not surprising given the obesity rate for adults. Childhood obesity is also correlated with ethnicity and race: 22.4 percent of Hispanic children; 20.2 percent of black; 14.1 percent of whites; and 8.6 percent of Asian children are obese. Further, obesity tends to be higher in families where the head of household has not completed high school than in families where the head of household has completed college.
But observing that obesity rates are lower or higher depending on age, race, ethnicity, or education is of relatively little value when you consider that obesity at any of these levels is too high and constitutes a serious health risk for far too many children. Further, focusing on childhood obesity can distract us from an even more serious problem: 68.6 percent of all adults are overweight and 34.9 percent are obese. In other words, more than a third of all Americans are obese! And more than two-thirds are overweight. Thus the problem is not just with children. It is not surprising that they are carrying too much weight. They are following bad examples.
According to the
, "Childhood obesity is particularly troubling because the extra pounds often start children on the path to health problems that were once confined to adults, such as diabetes, high blood pressure and high cholesterol. Childhood obesity can also lead to poor self-esteem and depression."
adds early heart disease, bone problems, and skin conditions such as heat rash and acne.
, an Institute of Medicine report "concluded that the obesity 'epidemic'... has been fueled by an extremely complex and dynamic set of circumstances, in schools and offices, in community planning, in media and technology, in food development, packaging, and marketing. And these factors can't be divorced from the individual choices they inform, consciously and otherwise."
In a letter to
The New York Times
in August 2015, Alan Meyers, co-chair of the Obesity Prevention and Treatment Committee, Massachusetts chapter of the American Academy of Pediatrics, observed. "In response to agricultural overproduction in the late 1970s, the food industry induced us all to consume more calories, through supersized portions, energy-dense fast foods, and relentless advertising to children."
Despite this complexity and these possible physiological factors, the majority of people still blame overeating, eating the wrong things, lack of exercise, and too much screen time. And most analysts and commentators agree.
And when you ask what will reduce childhood obesity, the answers are pretty simple and seem to correspond to the above obvious causes. Fewer sugary drinks, more physical activity, and less screen time can have significant effects. Actually, getting kids away from screens of any kind not only frees their time for physical activity, it reduces their exposure to ads for snack and candies, and foods high in calories and low in nutrients. School can play a big role in insisting that children have more physical activity, and research shows this to have cognitive value too. Kids think and concentrate better when they exercise regularly.
How much exercise does a child need? According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention children need 60 or more minutes of activity each day. This should be mostly aerobic, brisk walking, or running. There should also be some muscle-strengthening activities such as gymnastics, push-ups, etc., as well as some bone-strengthening activities like jumping rope, playing soccer, or again running.
And this brings us back to where we started. Those earlier childhoods really were more demanding physically, though not because of impossibly difficult obstacles to get to school, and "demanding" is probably the wrong word. They were more "appropriate" physically. Kids are meant to run and climb and ride bikes and jump rope and run through backyards and play ball and climb trees. Kids used to mow lawns and deliver papers. Today many people have lawn services and get their news online. Kids were meant to have chores - light work to help the family. They were meant to be outside where it is much harder to be sedentary than inside in a family room. Even when children do get exercise playing team games, for instance, it is much more likely that they will be hauled to the playing field in an SUV rather than run or bike there under their own power.
And, of course, these changed social realities mirror the adult world, where people get their exercise on rec center machines or by jogging or by swimming in a pool. Men used to get activity climbing in and out of trucks and up and down ladders, lifting bales, toting merchandise, wrestling with heavy machinery, digging, or hoeing. Women kept moving throughout the day by cooking and cleaning, keeping house for a large family, tending a large garden, or canning fruits and vegetables. According to the United States Department of Labor, Bureau of Labor Statistics, 80.1 percent of all workers are in service-providing jobs. Only 12.7 percent are producing things - mining, construction, and manufacturing. And only 1.2 percent are in agriculture. Is it any wonder that adults are even more obese than kids!
We are in the midst of a huge cultural shift that has removed us from the natural activity that for centuries had built up and shaped the bodies we have and kept them healthy and strong. This activity is not happening naturally anymore; our children are no longer experiencing what used to be a "natural" childhood.
So when someone launches into one of those old stories about how his or her childhood was much harder, we have to agree and remind them that maybe they are lucky it was.
Measuring obesity -- Body Mass Index
Being overweight or obese is measured by something called the Body Mass Index. This is calculated by dividing the person's weight in kilograms by their height in meters squared. For instance if a woman weighs 110 pounds and is 5'4" tall, her BMI would be 18.88 (49.89 kilograms divided by 1.6255 meters squared). The BMI for a man who is 6'2" and weighs 200 pounds would be 25.68. Overweight for a woman is a BMI of 27.3 and above and for a man is 27.8 and above. Obesity for both women and men is a BMI of 30 or more. While the BMI is a useful measurement, it is not exact. A person with large, heavy bones or who is especially muscular will have a higher BMI, but may not be overweight.
BMI of Children
Measuring the BMI of children is more complicated. The same calculation is made but then the result is compared to all other children of that age. Thus the BMI defining obesity is higher for an infant, who is expected to be somewhat "chubby." It dips down in early childhood and then rises toward the adult levels indicated above. You can see this by going to the links below:
for a growth chart for boys.
for a growth chart for girls.
For a child:
To calculate the BMI for a child,
to go to a webpage of the Center for Disease Control and Prevention.
For an adult:
If you want to calculate your own BMI,
|The great crow tragedy
By Jim Lehman
Animals watch us and worry. They even get together to discuss us. Last year there was a great gathering, a sort of Animal Annual Conference, to talk about something even bigger than their usual concerns like global warming and undersea oil gushers.
The animals had noticed that human children weren't in the parks scaring squirrels, or on the farms taking care of the cows, or in the backyards dressing up cats, or down at the creek catching fish. They weren't on the sidewalks skipping rope or on the diamonds playing ball or even running in the streets and getting into trouble.
Instead, children were staying inside, sitting at the TV, playing computer games, going on Facebook, surfing the web, or texting on their smartphones. They were eating too much, gaining weight. Their only exercise was when they played Wii.
Animals know what it takes to live and thrive. You never see an animal lazing around, doing nothing, and getting fat -- only the ones who live inside with humans. The animal kingdom feared that humans would get lazier and dumber until the species died out. Some animals liked this. They said a species that messes everything up should die out. But most animals took a longer view. They knew that for one species to thrive, all must survive and do well.
There was a long debate at the Animal Conference about how to get kids to come outside. The lions wanted to scare them. But the foxes pointed out that frightened kids would stay inside. Others wanted to create theme parks with animal acts. But the jays laughed and said that would just be one more place for kids to sit down.
They needed an animal who was quick, who could go anywhere, who was smart and funny, who was bold, who was a natural ham, who loved attention, who could talk, and who was small enough not to catch the eye of the adults. They broke into a cacophony of tweets, barks, quacks, squeals, roars, and howls. Then a deep, gravelly voice cut through the noise. It was grizzly bear.
"Crow is the one," he rumbled.
All eyes turned to crow. He was perched on the horn of the rhinoceros. He hopped onto the rhino's back, strutted along the backbone, and bowed to the animals.
"Crow! That's right," the animals murmured. Then with growing noise, "Crow's the one. Let's hear it for crow!"
Crow bowed again, "Alphonse at your service."
So Alphonse started at the elementary school. He swooped down over the school yard and landed on the play equipment, letting out a loud squawk. When the kids looked his way he did a somersault. "Hey, look at that bird!" one of them yelled. Alphonse leapt into the air, flew high, went into a steep dive, and just as he leveled off, did a double roll and dropped back onto the play equipment. The kids had never seen anything like this. For a moment they were silent. Alphonse bowed and began to sing, doing a little soft shoe,
flapping his wings. The kids shouted and burst into applause.
Alphonse hushed the children, "Let's just keep this among ourselves. Would your teachers believe you? Would your parents? I'm Alphonse the Crow. Look for me. Not just at school. I could be anywhere - in the trees, outside your window, in the park. See if you can spot me." And he flew off.
The children began to play outside in case Alphonse flew by. One day he was spotted in the park, and the kids ran to see him. Another day, they spied him floating on a log down the creek that meandered through town. They scrambled from place to place in hopes of seeing him. They stopped hanging out inside, eating junk food. They lost weight. Their pasty skin color turned to a healthy tan. No one was playing video games or computer games or gazing at their phones. They didn't have time to check Facebook.
Each day, late in the afternoon, after flying all over town, Alphonse went to the park. The children followed. He perched on the water fountain; one of the kids turned it on; and Alphonse danced in the water and did acrobatic tricks.
The crow flew back to the animals to report, and they made a plan to send animals all over the world to woo the children outside.
Alphonse went back to work in his own little neighborhood, and continued his animal show for the kids. One day a boy brought a video camera to the park and taped Alphonse's antics. The next day he brought it again. A few days later Alphonse noticed there were fewer kids, but the kid with the camera was there. Then there were even fewer. Soon there was only the kid with the camera.
Alphonse flew from house to house tapping on windows with his beak, trying to get the kids' attention. He power-dived them walking home from school. They waved and went inside. Late one afternoon, before going to the park, he came upon a window open far enough for him to creep inside.
A child was huddled over a screen with an image of Alphonse doing his tricks. The crow was shocked. When one scene ended, the child clicked and there was another image. This went on, scene after scene. All his best material, close up, bigger on screen than in real life.
Alphonse slipped back outside and flew to the next house and the next. It was the same everywhere -- the children were watching him on YouTube. He went back to the animals that night and gave them the bad news.
But Alphonse was not ready to give up. For weeks he danced on window sills, made silly faces, did triple flips while flying upside down. He taught himself to play the harmonica, put buttons on his bird feet, and tap danced. The kid with the
camera always showed up, and the next day all the children sat at their computer screens watching and laughing.
Alphonse became frantic. He picked up pebbles and dive-bombed the kid with the camera. He flew screeching and singing at the top of his voice, banging into windows until his head was bloody. He grew thin and gaunt. He was losing strength. One day at the water fountain he power-dived through the jet of water, lost his balance, hit the metal font, and broke his neck. He fell to the ground and lay still. The kid with the camera caught it all.
The children came outside long enough to bury the crow, and then went back to watch his videos over and over. The kid with the camera became famous on the Internet for his crazy crow videos. For months they got more hits than anything else on YouTube. Kids from Boston to Bangkok watched. Children Googled crows, looked them up in Wikipedia, even wrote school essays. But they never went outside to look.
Deep in the forest the animals gathered to remember Alphonse. Raccoon carved a small statue from a pine stump. The animals mourned. But most of all they grieved for the human race and for all creation, which they now believe hangs in the balance.
The staff of
is excited to bring you a new, regular monthly feature -- BRAIN PUZZLES!
Mr. and Mrs. Hershey and their son and daughter wanted to improve their family's eating habits by getting rid of all the junk food in the house and sticking to healthy snacks. But one reluctant family member hid a secret stash of chocolate for emergencies. We'll call this person the victim, because his or her secret chocolate stash was discovered and stolen by someone else in the family. The thief also had help from a family member, and unbeknownst to them, their theft was witnessed! Using the clues below, you must figure out who stole the chocolate, who helped, who witnessed the theft, and who was the victim.
Here are your clues:
- The witness and the one who helped the thief were not of the same sex.
- The oldest person and the witness were not of the same sex.
- The youngest person and victim were not of the same sex.
- The one who helped the thief was older than the victim.
- The father was the oldest member of the family.
- The thief was not the youngest member of the family.
Fruit and vegetable brainteasers
Can you name the fruit or vegetable from the following descriptions?
1. There are 2,500 types of me
I come in a variety of colors you see
Sometimes I'm sweet, sometimes I'm sour
I give you lots of super immune powers
2. I'm shaped like a pear but darker in color
My insides are creamy and have super skin powers
You can use me as dip for your favorite chip
But be careful, you should only eat a little of me
Because I have 275 calories you see
3. I'm the fruit that acts like a vegetable
I'm as small as a cherry or as big as a baseball
You can eat me with salad, pizza, or pasta
Squeeze me on burgers or have me as soup
I'm very high in Vitamin A and Vitamin C
Don't forget about all the potassium in me
4. I've got lots of Vitamin C
And my seeds are outside of me
I'm a special type of fruit you see!
I grow close to the ground
You can come pick me, or buy me by the pound
5. Every season we keep on growing
Each year our friends are replanted,
But not us, we just keep on going
We are the only two vegetables that are this special
Do you know who we are?
6. You throw away the outside and cook the inside
Then you eat the outside and throw away the inside
What did you eat?
7. I can be long and green
Or brown and round
I'll be your veggie or your meat
You can eat me cold or with some heat
I can grow on a pod or on a vine
I will provide you with fiber as you dine.
Click here for the answers.
| Long-Term Care Insurance
Brethren Insurance Services offers Long-Term Care Insurance
Eligibility for long-term care insurance benefits is determined by the inability to meet at least two of these six activities of daily living -- bathing, eating, dressing, toileting, continence, or transferring. Cognitive impairment can also trigger benefits.
It's difficult to think about the fact that a debilitating condition or a disabling injury might leave you unable to care for yourself, or that when you reach your twilight years, the time will come when you will need some extra care. Long-term care insurance makes sure that you will get the care you need. It assures that the cost of your custodial care will not eat up your savings. Finally, and this is one of the best things about LTCI, it can help protect your children and other relatives from having to use their resources to care for you.
Brethren Insurance Services offers Long-Term Care Insurance for all members and employees of the Church of the Brethren and their family and friends; and also for employees of Church of the Brethren-affiliated agencies, organizations, colleges, and retirement communities and their families and friends.
If you are interested in obtaining this coverage, contact Brethren Insurance Services at
or 800-746-1505 for a free, no-obligation proposal or
to request more information.