4 Steps to Good Health for Kids and Moms

August 9, 2018
Health and Mental Care

By: Bob LaMendola, Community Affairs, Florida Department of Health in Broward

1. Teens volunteer to prevent drowning 
Small children look up to teenagers with awe. So, who better than teens to teach kids about water safety? 
That’s the premise of SPUD (Students Preventing Unintentional Drowning), a new after-school project created by the Drowning Prevention Program at the Florida Department of Health in Broward County. More than 200 teens at ve high schools volunteered to act as “water safety ambassadors” during the 2017-18 school year. The teens spent months creating new safety messages that resonate with kids. In the process, the teens learned a lot about water safety and shared with their families, friends and schoolmates. Next school year, SPUD plans to have teens make presentations to younger students.   

“Every drowning is a tragedy that could be prevented,” says Dr. Paula Thaqi, Director of DOH-Broward. “SPUD is an innovative way to educate our children – and their parents.” 

DOH-Broward’s drowning prevention program focuses on children age 4 and under, a time when kids are fascinated by water and most at risk. In 2017, eight children under age 5 lost their lives to water. The risk is high in Broward, with about 125,000 backyard pools and miles of waterways. 

Main messages to kids: Don’t go near the water without an adult. Learn to swim. Get help immediately if someone is in trouble around water. 
Main messages to adults: Assign an adult “water watcher” with a cell phone (ideally a swimmer) to watch kids every second they are in or near water. Learn cardiopulmonary resuscitation. Set up barriers to block children from water. (DOH- Broward offers free door alarms.) 

SPUD is active at Piper, Blanche Ely, Miramar, Stranahan and Coconut Creek high schools. The program hopes to expand to 10 schools next year. 
Information: 954-467-4700, Ext. 5695 or cassie.mcgovern@flhealth.gov. 

2. Got WIC? 
You may not know it, but eligible families can enroll in the Women Infants and Children (WIC) nutrition program as soon as a woman becomes pregnant. No waiting for a pregnancy confirmation. No waiting for the birth. Only 80 percent of 58,750 Broward residents who are eligible for WIC participate in the program. For the rest, it’s a missed opportunity.   

“Some women do not enroll early,” Dr. Thaqi says. “We want women to sign up when they learn they are pregnant so they can receive WIC benefits right away. WIC helps mothers, babies and young children be healthier.” 

WIC, operated by DOH-Broward, serves pregnant women, mothers for six months after delivery, breastfeeding women and children under age 5. You are eligible if household income is below 185 percent of the federal poverty level. That means monthly income under $1,860 for one person, $2,504 for two, $3,793 for a family of four, etc. Florida Medicaid recipients qualify automatically.

Services include nutrition counseling, breastfeeding counseling, referrals to other programs and an electronic benefits card to buy nutritious food and artificial baby milk, if necessary.  What foods are covered? Cereal, whole grains (bread, rice, tortillas, pasta), canned tuna and salmon, fruits and vegetables, baby foods, eggs, milk, yogurt, cheese, peanut butter, beans, fruit juice and more. 

DOH-Broward offers free dental fluoride varnish to prevent cavities for children up to age 20 at most of the seven WIC offices. 
Information: 954-767-5111 or http://broward.floridahealth.gov. Appointments are available. 

3. Free protection for your child’s teeth 
Dental sealant protects like paint and is applied to teeth like paint, but in the mouths of children, it is colorless, tasteless, odorless and painless. 

Sealant is a thin coating of plastic that DOH-Broward hygienists brush onto the molars of children – for free – during visits to Broward elementary and middle schools. The coating prevents bacteria from collecting in tooth crevices, helping to ward off cavities for years. For a child to receive free dental sealant, a parent or guardian must complete a permission slip sent home by schools. 

DOH-Broward hygienists saw about 35,000 children during the 2017-18 school year, at all 138 Title 1 elementary and middle schools. The program plans to expand next year. Children receive a dental exam, cleaning, fluoride rinse, toothbrush and lesson in brushing and flossing. Kids needing further dental care are referred to their dentists or DOH-Broward’s free and low-cost dental practices. 

4. Vaccines for ‘tweens and teens 
If there were a shot to protect your children against cancer, or against potentially fatal infections, wouldn’t you get it for them? Well, they do exist and are usually free. Vaccines against human papillomavirus (HPV) and meningitis are underused but are rising.   

“Parents may be unfamiliar with them,” Dr. Thaqi says. “We tell them the vaccines can prevent serious diseases.”   

HPV vaccine protects against viruses that can cause cervical cancer. Among males and females alike, HPV can cause genital and oral cancers, genital warts and related diseases. DOH-Broward recommends the two-dose HPV vaccine for boys and girls starting at age 11. Likewise, meningococcal vaccine is recommended starting at 11. It protects against potentially fatal meningitis infections. 

Most health insurance covers both vaccines for free. Those without coverage can be immunized free by DOH-Broward. 
Information: http://broward.floridahealth.gov or 954-467-4705. 

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