Monthly Archives: July 2005

MUM2MAXTOM’s Gambia Appeal

Some of you know that I am a madmum of two little rascals living in the tropics.  My country of residency is The Gambia in West Africa.  Joking apart I have a serious appeal to make.

The Gambia is amongst the most poorest countries in the world.  It is dependent upon aid, and unfortunately has an extremely high infant mortality rate.

I’m not asking for money, but if you are about to throw out any baby/toddler clothes or blankets please consider sending them to me.  It doesn’t matter if they’re stained, stretched, faded, torned or handed down the generations, the item you send will go to a very good home and could possibly save a life!

Since my 2 and a half years here, I have donated a car seat,a fisher price stride to ride walker, bags and bags of clothes, blankets and a swing seat!  Everything gets recycled here, nothing gets thrown away.

All you have to do is package up the item and send it to this address in London and it will get to me:

Mrs Zoe Bulling

FCO (Banjul)

PF 53368

King Charles Street

London

SW1A 2AH

I appreciate you all taking the time to read this message.

Zo x  

Wealthy kids not always healthy

 
Image of a boy eating crisps
The researchers believe junk food may be to blame
Children from poorer families do not necessarily have worse health than those with more affluent and better educated parents, research shows.

A British Medical Journal study looked at insulin resistance – which ups the risk of diabetes and heart disease – in relation to socioeconomic status.

Among Danish schoolchildren, those with highly educated and big earning parents were the least insulin resistant.

However, the opposite was true for children from Estonia and Portugal.

More research is needed before we can come to any firm conclusions”
Diabetes UK

The findings by the international team, from the UK, Estonia, Denmark and Norway, challenge the widely held view that adverse social circumstances in childhood lead to unhealthy lifestyles and poor health.

The study involved 3,189 randomly selected schoolchildren from Denmark – one of the richest countries in Europe – and two poorer countries, Estonia and Portugal.

The researchers decided to look at insulin resistance as a marker of disease.

Insulin is a hormone that the body uses to unlock the energy from the sugar that we eat.

If someone is insulin resistant, their body continues to produce insulin but the insulin does not work effectively. This means that the body cells cannot take up enough glucose.

This results in rising blood sugar levels. If these levels rise too high the patient may develop Type 2 diabetes.

Insulin resistance is also linked to other conditions, such as high blood pressure and cholesterol problems, which can lead to heart and circulation problems.

Affluent disease?

Among the Danish children studied, insulin resistance was 24% lower in those whose fathers had the most education compared with those with the least education.

Yet insulin resistance was 15% higher for children in more educated families in Estonia, and 19% higher for Portugal.

The researchers said the higher levels seen in Estonia and Portugal might be because down to the children adopting unhealthier Western lifestyles – eating lots of junk food and doing less exercise.

These children were more overweight than their less affluent school mates.

However, their parents were more likely to be healthier than less affluent parents, which suggests they themselves might not be following the same unhealthy lifestyle as their children.

The children of better educated parents in Denmark, presumably, might also be leading healthier lifestyles.

Over-simplistic

However, Swedish experts on health patterns across populations warned in an accompanying editorial that the findings could be down to other factors not scrutinised.

Genes, environment while in the womb and early childhood factors other than socioeconomic status all play a role in insulin resistance, they said.

“Anomalies such as those reported for Estonia and Portugal may be of special significance, as they point towards gaps in our understanding and warn against too simplistic a view of health inequalities,” they added.

Amanda Vezey, care advisor at Diabetes UK, said: “Insulin resistance, which is often a precursor to Type 2 diabetes, is linked to genetic and lifestyle factors such as being overweight, eating a poor diet and leading a sedentary lifestyle.

“This research is interesting and may help us to target people at higher risk. However, more research is needed before we can come to any firm conclusions.”

Steve Shaffelberg of the British Heart Foundation said: “We have to put this study into perspective for kids in the UK. Robust research has clearly demonstrated a solid link between poverty and heart disease in this country.

“It would be misleading to suggest that findings from this study override existing evidence that shows social and economic factors are critical factors for heart health in this country.

“We know that kids from the poorer families have a worse diet and are doing less exercise, which is something we’re working hard to combat.”

Multivitamin warning for pregnant

 
Image of vitamins
Too much vitamin A can damage babies growing in the womb
Expectant mothers have been warned that they could be harming their unborn child by taking multivitamins.

Trading Standards watchdogs and charity Birth Defects Foundation Newlife found a third of products do not carry clear labels showing they contain vitamin A.

Too much of this vitamin can interfere with organ formation in the growing foetus and therefore supplements should be avoided during pregnancy.

Mothers-to-be were told to heed the advice from day one of pregnancy.

Advice

Professor Michael Patton, medical director of BDF Newlife and consultant clinical geneticist at St George’s Medical Hospital School in London, said: “Women who are pregnant or likely to become pregnant should avoid supplements of Vitamin A or multivitamin tablets containing Vitamin A, as this may cause damage to the developing baby in the womb.”

The warnings do not apply to multivitamin tablets specifically designed for pregnant women.

“Anybody who is pregnant or planning a pregnancy should always discuss any medication and use of food supplements with their doctor or midwife”
A spokesperson for the Proprietary Association of Great Britain

The charity and Oxfordshire County Council’s Trading Standards, who carried out the research, are calling for a vitamin A warning to be made compulsory on all multi-vitamin products.

Sheila Brown of BDF Newlife said: “Ensuring good labelling with specific warnings about Vitamin A on all vitamin products, whether these are general vitamins or those specifically marketed at pregnant women, is essential.

“Most women with a good balanced diet do not need to take a supplement containing Vitamin A and should only do so if advised by a doctor or antenatal clinic.”

Likewise they should avoid Vitamin A rich foods, such as liver, she said.

“This message needs understanding before conception so they can avoid using certain products from day one of becoming pregnant.

Action

“Ensuring the public and particularly women of child-bearing age know this, is a key message in the prevention of inborn conditions,” she said.

The researchers looked at 60 multivitamin products on sale between November 2004 and March 2005.

Twenty of the 60 did not carry vitamin A warnings. These included big brands like Sanatogen, Centrum and Quest. Boots and Tesco products did carry warnings. Bayer Healthcare, which owns the Sanatogen brand, said that a number of their multivitamin products – those not specifically targeted at pregnant women – currently did not contain a specific warning about vitamin A.

In a statement, the firm said: “Bayer Consumer Care agrees with the report that good labelling for all vitamin products is essential, whether these are general vitamins or those specifically marketed at pregnant women.”

A spokesperson for the Proprietary Association of Great Britain, which represents manufacturers of medicines and food supplements sold over-the-counter in the UK, said: “With regards to vitamin A, our member companies are waiting for Europe to announce recommendations for labelling and usage of vitamin A in food supplements.

“To ensure the safety of the newborn child, anybody who is pregnant or planning a pregnancy should always discuss any medication and use of food supplements with their doctor or midwife.”

Boy, 15, wins curfew legal battle

 
Youths - generic
Richmond council say the curfews do help cut anti-social behaviour
A 15-year-old boy has won a landmark High Court challenge to the legality of child curfew zones used to tackle anti-social behaviour.

The teenager said the use of dispersal zones in Richmond, south-west London, breached his rights under the European Convention on Human Rights.

Unaccompanied under-16s found in zones after 9pm can be held and escorted home, whether badly behaved or not.

The police and Richmond Council argued that it reduced anti-social behaviour.

The High Court ruled that the law did not give the police a power of arrest, and officers could not force someone to come with them.

 … They shouldn’t be allowed to treat me like a criminal just because I’m under 16″
Teenager known as “W”

Lord Justice Brooke said: “… All of us have the right to walk the streets without interference from police constables or CSOs unless they possess common law or statutory powers to stop us.

“If Parliament considered that such a power was needed, it should have said so, and identified the circumstances in which it intended the power to be exercised.”

In a statement after the ruling the boy, known in the case as “W” and described as a “model student”, said: “Of course I have no problem with being stopped by the police if I’ve done something wrong.

“But they shouldn’t be allowed to treat me like a criminal just because I’m under 16.”

Major implications

BBC Home Affairs correspondent Rory McLean said the ruling had major implications for the government’s anti-social behaviour policy and may require legislation in order to deal with the issue.

During the case heard in May, Javan Herberg, appearing for the teenager, said the curfew zones violated the human rights of “wholly innocent” young people.

He told the court that more than 400 zones had been introduced under the 2003 Anti-Social Behaviour Act. While this case involved Richmond, its implications could be much wider, he said.

 “This is a victory for the presumption of innocence, and the right of everyone, no matter what their age, not to be subjected to coercive powers without good cause”
 
Alex Gask
Liberty
Richmond Council, along with the Metropolitan Police, has used the zones in Ham, Twickenham and Richmond town centre.

The Home Office, backed by lawyers for the police and council, argued the application for judicial review should be dismissed and said the zones did not breach human rights or common law.

They said the 15-year-old could not bring the claim because he had never been stopped by police inside a dispersal area.

The boy was backed by civil rights group Liberty.

Alex Gask, Liberty’s legal Officer acting for “W”, said: “This is a victory for the presumption of innocence, and the right of everyone, no matter what their age, not to be subjected to coercive powers without good cause”.

Teaching group to consider banning word fail

LONDON (Reuters) – The word “fail” should be banned from use in classrooms and replaced with the phrase “deferred success” to avoid demoralising pupils, a group of teachers has proposed.

Members of the Professional Association of Teachers (PAT) argue that telling pupils they have failed can put them off learning for life.

A spokesman for the group said it wanted to avoid labelling children. “We recognise that children do not necessarily achieve success first time,” he said.

“But I recognise that we can’t just strike a word from the dictionary,” he said.

The PAT said it would debate the proposal at a conference next week.

Very small newborns face hurdles, study says

CHICAGO (Reuters) – Babies who weigh only 2.2 pounds (1 kg) or less at birth are much more likely than those with normal weight to develop chronic physical and mental problems by age eight, researchers said Tuesday.

A look at 219 such children born between 1992 and 1995 found 14 percent had developed cerebral palsy, 21 percent had asthma, 38 percent had an IQ under the threshold denoting retardation, 47 percent had poor motor skills, 10 percent had very poor eyesight, and roughly two-thirds were characterized as having “poor adaptive functioning” and “functional limitations,” the study said.

By comparison, 176 children born during the same years with normal weights were two or three times less likely to suffer from the same problems. The complications developed by the low birth weight group affect a child’s ability to perform basic tasks, learn and connect with others.

“Our findings underscore the extraordinary costs of care that will be needed to manage the medical, educational and other service needs of the large portion of these extremely low-birth-weight children who develop chronic conditions,” wrote study author Maureen Hack of Case Western Reserve University.

Medical advances since the 1990s have dramatically increased survival rates for such infants, according to the report published in this week’s Journal of the American Medical Association.

Of the 23,000 babies born in the United States in 2002 weighing between 1.1 to 2.2 pounds (500 and 999 grams), 70 percent survived, according to the report.

Thorough follow-up studies of these children are needed to “help in addressing ethical dilemmas in the care of marginally viable infants,” wrote Jon Tyson of the University of Texas in Houston and Saroj Saigal of McMaster University in Hamilton, Ontario, Canada, in a editorial accompanying the study.

“The mortality and long-term morbidity of these infants should be related to treatment decisions to forgo or withdraw intensive care,” they wrote.

Fans await Harry Potter release

 
Harry Potter
The first fans will get their hands on Harry Potter just after midnight
Harry Potter fans around the world are eagerly awaiting the release of the sixth book about the boy wizard.

Bookshops in 15 countries including the UK, US, Brazil and the Philippines will open at 0001 BST on Saturday.

Author JK Rowling is to read from the book, Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince, at Edinburgh Castle at midnight, in front of 70 children.

Book chain Waterstone’s is expecting 300,000 people to queue at its UK stores to be the first to buy the book.

Among the attractions put on by book stores hoping for business will be face-painting, magic shows and reduced Potter performances – condensing the first five volumes into five minutes.

Sylum Mastropaolo
US boy Sylum Mastropaolo was sold the book by mistake

In New York, the world’s biggest toy shop – Toys R Us in Times Square – will be transformed into the Hogwarts Academy for the midnight event.

Other countries, including India, will also hold special events to mark the occasion.

In Australia and New Zealand, the choreographed release will take place mid-morning local time.

Some shops will relay taped broadcasts of JK Rowling’s reading in Edinburgh, while young people from around the world who have won competitions will attend the reading itself.

Many retailers will be offering discounts, and hoping to make regular book-buyers out of those clamouring to buy the new Harry Potter offering.

Harry Potter and the Half Blood Prince

Saturday is expected to become one the biggest book-buying days of the year due to the Potter launch, with 10 million copies set aside for the US market alone.

Online retailer Amazon has said that it has already taken more than one million pre-orders for the book on its sites around the world.

The fifth Potter book, The Order of The Phoenix, sold 1.67 million copies in the UK alone.

But the run-up to the book’s release – the penultimate in the series – has not been problem-free.

One boy in the US, Sylum Mastropaolo, was sold a copy of the book by mistake on Monday, but he and his parents returned it to the shop.

Gordon Brown
Gordon Brown had high praise for JK Rowling

A court order was issued in Canada prohibiting the disclosure of the story’s contents after a number of the books were sold by mistake.

With excitement mounting for the book’s publication, Chancellor Gordon Brown has said he thinks Rowling has “done more for literacy around the world than any single human being”.

Mr Brown and Works and Pensions Secretary David Blunkett contributed to an ITV1 programme being broadcast on Friday evening to mark the publication of The Half-Blood Prince.

Frog charge drives parents crazy

 
By Hannah Bayman
BBC News

The Crazy Frog in its original incarnation on Eric Wernquist's site
Crazy Frog’s Axel F remake has spawned a ringtone phenomenon
Kirstie’s mother was furious when her 12-year-old daughter came home from a school trip to Austria with her biggest ever mobile bill.

Jo Peacock, an IT manager from Welwyn Garden City, Hertfordshire, confiscated the phone and rang Vodafone to find out why the bill was so high.

She discovered it was not Kirstie who was to blame, but Crazy Frog.

Mrs Peacock had let her daughter order Crazy Frog’s Axel F ringtone on the Jamster website, without realising she would then receive reverse-charge texts until further notice.

Ms Peacock told the BBC News website: “I was disgusted to find each text had cost

Neonatal units ‘are overwhelmed’

 
Premature baby
The charity has launched a charter of healthcare rights for babies
More than 70% of neonatal units in the UK have had to shut their doors to new admissions at some point in the last six months, a survey suggests.

Most said they had not been able to take any more sick and premature babies because they had had too few nurses.

Charity Bliss, which surveyed 153 units, found this led to many babies having to travel hundreds of miles for a cot, and called for more investment.

The Department of Health said it was considering the evidence from Bliss.

Bliss said putting in 2,700 additional nurses could save the lives of up to 500 babies a year.

“This report highlights some critical shortfalls that still need to be addressed”
Professor Neil Marlow, British Association of Perinatal Medicine

The UK has some of the worst perinatal (up to seven days after birth) and infant mortality rates for Western Europe.

Death rates for babies and infants increased in 2003 for the first time in many years, from 5.2 deaths per 1,000 to 5.3 per 1,000.

Perinatal mortality figures for that year were the worst since 1996, at 8.5 per 1,000.

There are also wide variations in infant mortality rates across the country. In parts of Scotland, a baby is three times as likely to die before its first birthday than in the south of England.

Bliss says