I’m Heading To Washington D.C. Tomorrow!

Posted March 18th, 2010

As I posted a couple weeks ago, First Lady Michelle Obama has announced an ambitious national goal to reduce the rate of childhood obesity within a generation.  Her initiative, Let’s Move, is a National Campaign designed to specifically to address this issue.  I am personally very excited because “yours truly” has been invited to share my experience and expertise towards this endeavor.  Stay tuned!! I’ll be providing updates within the next few days!

The Federal Trade Commission publishes an online guide called, Chatting With Kids About Being Online

Posted January 26th, 2010

Chatting With Kids About Being Online has some great information and gives adults practical tips on how to talk to pre-teens, tweens, and teenagers about navigating the internet in a safe and responsible manner.   Kids and parents have many ways of socializing and communicating online, but they come with certain risks (like “sexting & cyberbullying”).  This guide encourages parents to reduce the risks by talking to kids about how they communicate – online and off – and helping kids engage in conduct they can be proud of. This guide covers what parents need to know, where to go for more information, and issues to raise with kids about living their lives online.

If you go to the FTC website at, http://bulkorder.ftc.gov/, you can order one or multiple copies of this guide (in English or Spanish) and have it shipped to you all free of charge.  This document is public information and can also be downloaded and distributed anywhere.  I would encourage parents to utilize this guide and share it with their friends. 


**This information has been shared with you by Barb Flis, mother of two and creator of Parent Action for Healthy Kids.

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Something worth tuning into: “The Pregnancy Pact” on Lifetime, which is inspired by a true story. This program airs on January 23rd at 9pm ET.

Sidney Bloom, an online-magazine journalist, returns to her hometown to investigate the sudden spike in teenage pregnancies at her old high school. Almost immediately, she comes up against Lorraine Dougan (Nancy Travis), the head of the local conservative values group and mother of Sara, a newly pregnant 15-year-old. Meanwhile, the school nurse tries to convince the school to provide contraception to students to address the pregnancy epidemic but is met with great opposition from the school and community. As the number of pregnant girls climbs to 18, a media firestorm erupts when Time magazine reports that the rise in the number of pregnancies at the school is the result of a “pregnancy pact.” As the mystery unfolds about whether or not “the pact” is real, Sidney soon realizes that all of the attention is disguising the much larger issues that are at the core of the story.


**This information has been shared with you by Barb Flis, mother of two and creator of Parent Action for Healthy Kids.

Good News – Fewer US Teens Report Being Sexually Active

Posted January 18th, 2010

According to a Reuters report from May 2009, a new analysis of data from the 2002 National Survey of Family Growth for 1992, 1997, and 2002 finds a “dramatic” drop in the percentage of US teens having sex between 1992 and 2002, concurrent with a noticeable rise in contraceptive use by those who were sexually active. But very recent increases in teen pregnancy, after more than a decade-long decline, indicate that improving teens’ reproductive health remains a challenge.

“We need to continue to focus on this issue into the future to help reduce high rates of teen childbirth in the US, especially since things are trending in the opposite direction right now,” said study author Dr. Jennifer Manlove of Washington, D.C.-based Child Trends.

The aim of the study was to investigate the role of family environment, individual characteristics, and relationship types in teen sexual behavior.

According to the researchers, the positive trends – the proportion of sexually experienced 15- to 19-year-olds dropped from 56 percent of girls and 61 percent of boys in 1992, to 47 percent of girls and 46 percent of boys in 2002 – were directly linked to increasing levels of education among parents and a decline in the percentage of teens who had been born to teen mothers.

Other positive trends the analysis showed were an increase in reported contraceptive use at first sex, up from 62 percent of girls and 65 percent of boys in 1992 to 72 percent of girls and 78 percent of boys in 2002. In addition, the data indicated an increasing age at first sex.

The study found no evidence to validate media stories of teens “hooking up” more. “Based on these data we did not see any increases in casual sex,” said Manlove.

The analysis points to what parents can do to help delay teen sex and stop teen pregnancy, the researchers said. While “the sex talk” is important, overall good parent-teen communication is essential, said Manlove. Parents should be clear about their expectations for their teens and encourage them to have goals and aspirations for the future, she said. “I think there’s a lot parents can do,” she said.

The study, “Trends in Sexual Experience, Contraceptive Use, and Teenage Childbearing: 1992-2002,” was published in the Journal of Adolescent Health (2009;44(5):413-423).


**This information has been shared with you by Barb Flis, mother of two and creator of Parent Action for Healthy Kids.

Removing unhealthy snacks from schools is a step in the right direction

An article in the December 2009 issue of the Health Education and Behavior, indicates that removing low nutrition items from schools decreased students’ consumption with no compensatory increase at home and no differences in students’ reported weight concerns.  Removing low nutrition snacks from schools is controversial. Although the objective is to decrease the consumption of these foods at school, some critics argue that children will compensate by eating more of these foods at home. Others worry that school-based obesity prevention programs will increase student preoccupation with weight. The present study examines these concerns. Three middle schools replaced snacks and beverages that did not meet nutrition guidelines, whereas three comparison schools made no systematic changes. Students were surveyed about dietary intake and weight concerns before and after implementation of the intervention. Findings indicate that removing low nutrition items from schools decreased students’ consumption with no compensatory increase at home. Furthermore, there were no differences in students’ reported weight concerns. These results support the value of strengthening school nutrition standards to improve student nutrition and provide evidence dispelling concerns that such efforts will have unintended negative consequences.


**This information has been shared with you by Barb Flis, mother of two and creator of Parent Action for Healthy Kids.

The best way to reduce underage drinking and keep our youth safe is to examine our own relationship with alcohol

Posted January 12th, 2010

The website http://www.checkyourdrinking.net is a great online tool to evaluate your relationship with alcohol in a realistic and straightforward manner.  The website collects self-reported data on drinking habits and provides users with a report comparing their drinking to national averages, information on drinking risks, an estimation of their annual spending on alcohol, a calculation of how much time the user spends intoxicated each year, and safe-drinking guidelines.  By evaluating our own behaviors as parents, it may open our eyes to the example we are setting for our children. 

**This information has been shared with you by Barb Flis, mother of two and creator of Parent Action for Healthy Kids.


MTV launches a new campaign to empower teens to stop cyberbullying, textual harrasment & sexting

Posted January 6th, 2010

Last month, MTV launched a new campaign called, A Thin Line (www.athinline.org) to address the emerging issues teens face now that the web and cell phones have forever changed how we interact with each other. 

If you watch MTV you may have seen the commercials promoting A Thin Line Campaign and website.  The website is a great resource for teens (and parents) to gain information on how to deal with issues they may be facing on a daily basis.  Topics such as sexting, constant messaging, spying, digital disrespect and cruelty are discussed, and solutions of how to “draw your line” are given.  There is also a Facebook fan page for A Thin Line, where they post updates and host discussions on the topic.  A recent post on the Facebook Fan Page is about John Mayer doing a “Digital Cleanse” where he abstains from reading or posting Tweets, or using Facebook, email and other social networking mediums until January 8th. If you have pre-teens, teenagers or young adults, I would encourage you to check out www.athinline.org and share it with your loved ones!


**This information has been shared with you by Barb Flis, mother of two and creator of Parent Action for Healthy Kids.



When the Cell Phone Teaches Sex Education

In a story reported by the New York Times (5.3.2009), teens can anonymously text a sexual health question and have it answered within 24 hours.  The Durham, North Carolina-based Adolescent Pregnancy Prevention Campaign of North Carolina (http://www.appcnc.org/BirdsNBees.html) recently launched the Birds and Bees Text Line, a cell phone line where youths ages 14-19 can anonymously text sexual health questions to 36263. Within 24 hours, one of nine APPNC staff members anonymously responds with text message answers, information, and referrals. The staffers have graduate degrees in public health, social work, or years of experience working with teens.

The service reflects a trend in reaching out to teens by using technologies with which they are most familiar. Based partly on a similar service in Alexandria, Va., the Birds and Bees Text Line is supported with a $5,000 state Department of Health and Human Services grant. In programs in Washington, D.C., Chicago, Toronto, and San Francisco, teens can text a number and scroll through a menu of frequently asked questions and receive automated replies and referrals. Last month, California began “HookUp 365247,” a statewide service that refers people to local clinics and offers weekly health tips.
“The technology can be used to connect young people to trusted, competent adults who have competent information,” said Sheana Bull, a professor at the University of Colorado School of Public Health and an expert on STDs and technology.
APPNC staff follow a few ground rules: No medical advice – urge clients to visit a doctor; Do not advocate abortion; When necessary, refer questioners to local clinics, Web sites or hot lines; Give reasoned, kind advice; Read answers twice before sending; and No sarcasm.
Sally Swanson, an APPNC staffer who answers text messages, never divulges her age or gender: “I’m a texter. I want them to find someone real to talk to.” Were parents to read some of the teens’ messages, she said, “it would highlight how much disconnected information kids are already getting at younger ages than we did.”

Research Proves That Sugar Sweetened Beverages Have a Negative Impact on Children’s Health

Over nearly the past 30 years, U.S. children and adolescents have dramatically increased their consumption of sugar-sweetened beverages (SSBs), including soda, fruit drinks and punches, and sports drinks. Such consumption has been linked to less healthy diets and a number of other negative health consequences, including decreased bone density, dental decay, headaches, anxiety and loss of sleep. A new research synthesis from Healthy Eating Research, a national program of the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, examines the evidence regarding the various health impacts of SSB consumption, presents initial conclusions based on these studies and identifies areas for further research.

Key findings from the research synthesis include:

  • In 2004, adolescents consumed an average of 300 calories per day from SSBs, accounting for 13 percent of their daily caloric intake.
  • SSB consumption leads to excess caloric intake and weight gain, as well as increased obesity rates among children and adolescents.
  • Substituting other beverages, such as water, for SSBs could reduce over-consumption of calories and improve nutrition.

The synthesis is part of a growing body of research that examines the health impacts of sugar-sweetened beverages and the possible public health and economic benefits of taxes on sugar-sweetened beverages. Additional journal articles, research syntheses and policy briefs that explore the health impacts of SSB consumption, as well as the possible health and economic benefits of taxes on SSBs, are available on the Foundation’s Web site.

Teens, Cell Phones & Sexting – Oh My!

Posted December 17th, 2009

Sexting is the new term that has been coined over the past year and its definition is the act of sending, receiving and/or forwarding of naked pictures of oneself and/or friends or classmates via cell phone.  This is happening all over the country, putting adolescents at risk for criminal charges, humiliation and isolation from their peers. 

 Last January, three girls (ages 14 or 15) in Greensburg, Pa., were charged with disseminating child pornography for sexting their boyfriends. The boys who received the images were charged with possession. A teenager in Indiana faces felony obscenity charges for sending a picture of his genitals to female classmates. A 15-year-old girl in Ohio and a 14-year-old girl in Michigan were charged with felonies for sending along nude images of themselves to classmates. Some of these teens have pleaded guilty to lesser charges; others have not. If convicted, these young people may have to register as sex offenders, in some cases for a decade or two. Similar charges have been filed in cases in Alabama, Connecticut, Florida, New Jersey, New York, Texas, Utah, and Wisconsin.

The website, http://www.Thatsnotcool.com is an excellent resource for parents to share with their teens regarding sexting, “textual harassment”, bullying, peer pressure, and abusive relationships and how to deal with these issues.  It has videos, “Call-Out Cards”, and a chat section where teens can share their experiences and advice on related issues.

Coordinated School Health Conference in Lake Ozark, Missouri

Posted December 14th, 2009

The conference participants, mostly school nurses and Physical Education Teachers, embraced the message of my keynote address about the importance of working with parents on school health initiatives.  One of my biggest supporters (pictured with me below) is Patti Van Tuinen who is the Adolescent Health Coordinator for the Missouri Department of Health and Human Services.  Patti and her colleagues work tirelessly on behalf of children.


STD rates are still growing in the United States and continue to spread at the highest rates among 15-24 year olds – What’s the answer to this problem?

Education!  According to a recent Reuters report in the New York Times, the United States has among the highest rates of STDs of any developed country in the world.  The highly treatable infections, such as Chlamydia, gonorrhea and syphilis, continue to spread. 

Parents can be a huge factor in stopping the spread of STDs among their adolescents by talking to them about healthy sexual relationships and safe sex.  The first step is being educated themselves and also being engaged with the health and sex education their adolescent is receiving in school.

How Can We Help Our Children to be Mentally Fit? Mr. Rogers Tells Us How…

Posted December 1st, 2009

Every day in his television show, Mister Rogers’ Neighborhood, Fred Rogers talked to children about everyday life.  Much of his efforts centered on helping children to be mentally fit. 

Good mental health for children means being able to develop secure, trusting relationships, expressing emotions appropriately, and interacting with others. 

Through this song, What do you do with the mad that you feel? Mr. Rogers lets children know it is okay to have feelings and helps them learn the self-control necessary to manage their anger and channel it into a productive activity.

Parents Matter: The Role of Parents in Teens’ Decisions about Sex

Positive parent-teen relationships, high parental awareness and monitoring of whom their children are with, and family dinner routines are all linked to delayed sex among teens, according to a new Child Trends research brief.  The brief, Parents Matter: The Role of Parents in Teens’ Decisions about Sex, explores how parenting practices that occur before adolescents have had sexual intercourse are associated with the probability of first sex by age 16.  

The entire research brief is attached in a PDF, but below are some interesting findings and highlights:

  • Better parent-adolescent relationships are associated with reduced risk of early sexual experience among teen girls.
  • Teen girls who reported high relationship quality with both parents were less likely to have sex at an early age (22%), compared with teen girls who reported low relationship quality with both parents (37 percent).
  • This finding holds true for teen girls’ relationships with their mothers and fathers separately, but no significant association was found for teen boys
  • Teen boys who eat dinner with their family every day have a lower probability of having sex before age 16 (31%), compared with those who eat dinner with their family four days a week or less (37%).  No significant association was found for teen girls on this measure.

Adolescents whose parents are more aware of whom they are with when not at home are less likely to have sex by age 16.  For example, only 22% of girls who reported that their parents knew “everything” about whom they were with when they were not home had first sex before age 16, compared with 43% who reported their parents knew little or nothing.

“These findings highlight the importance of parents in adolescents’ lives,” said study co-author Jennifer Manlove, Ph.D.  “Parents can be involved beyond having the ‘sex talk’ with their adolescents – by fostering strong relationships, developing family routines such as eating dinner together regularly, and being aware of where their children are when they are not at home.”

This study is based on data from the National Longitudinal Survey of Youth, sponsored and directed by the Bureau of Labor Statistics, U.S. Department of Labor.

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Keynote Address at the 17th Annual Parenting Awareness Conference

Posted November 11th, 2009

On November 9, 2009, I gave the opening keynote address at the 17th Annual Parenting Awareness Michigan Conference in East Lansing, Michigan to over 250 professionals and volunteers who work with Michigan families.  Their job is an important one —  to help parents with the most important job ever – parenting.  The keynote address was entitled:  Love Your Path:  You were Made for This.  The conference participants were well aware of what a powerful influence parents are on their child’s life.  They know, however, to help parents realize that power and put it into action is not always easy.  Still there was unquestionable passion among this group.  I shared with them my personal story of how, as a parent, experts just like them helped me realize my power as a parent, guide and motivate me to take action, and advocate for my own children and eventually for children across the state. My goal was to inspire the audience to be fully present in their lives, value the journey as much as the destination, and champion the power of partnerships with parents.

Consumer Reports Puts 20 Condoms to the Test — and they passed!

Posted November 17th, 2009

UNITED STATES:”Consumer Reports Puts 20 Condoms to the Test”

ABC News  (11.03.09)::Joseph Brownstein

     In recent testing of 20 condom brands sold on the US market, all met minimum national and international performance standards, according to Consumer Union, the independent nonprofit publisher of Consumer Reports.

     Condoms are usually inflated with 17-18 liters of air in tests for breaking. “All of them test at the standard” despite the variety of styles and brands, said Jamie Hirsh, an associate editor for Consumer Reports Health. Consumer Reports tested the condoms at a higher volume of 25 liters, and even then seven condom types – including products from Durex, Lifestyles, and Trojan – never broke in 500-600 tries. All the condoms were also submerged in water to check for leaks.

     While all the condoms met regulators’ minimum standards, “some of them are even better than fine,” in that they met Consumer Report’s even “more stringent” tests, Hirsh said. “If you’re looking for the strongest, toughest condom, that’s what that extra test gives you.”

     More importantly, Consumer Reports notes that “the most protection comes with using the condom properly,” said Eli Coleman, director of the human sexuality program at the University of Minnesota Medical School. Common errors in using condoms include tearing them when opening the packaging; not allowing enough air in at the tip to prevent the condom from slipping off; putting them on backwards; not putting them on soon enough; using expired condoms; and not using adequate lubricant, said Coleman.

     “These tests show the reliability and integrity of the condoms, but they don’t take into account what happens when humans are using them,” Coleman said. “Many of these condoms have been improved to enhance pleasure and sensitivity while maintaining the integrity and the reliability of the condom.”   

Talking to Teenagers About… Sex. What else? A new program for parents.

Posted September 25th, 2009

By Vanessa Juarez

Alayne-We’ll leave her last name out of this-is the 40-year-old mother of a middle-schooler in Richmond, Mich., and her daughter, Carol, has come to her with a problem. “My best friend’s boyfriend tells her she’s ugly and that if she won’t have sex with him, hell dump her, Carol says. “What should I tell her?”

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Talk Early & Talk Often℠ Program: Unveiling of the Blueprint for Preventing Unintended Pregnancies

Posted September 25th, 2009

Talk Early & Talk Often℠: Unveiling of the Blueprint for
Preventing Unintended Pregnancies
July 6, 2005

Governor Jennifer M. Granholm unveiled the Blueprint for Preventing Unintended Pregnancies on July 6, 2005. Governor Granholm was joined by Surgeon General Dr. Kimberlydawn Wisdom and Barbara Flis in announcing the program.

This new initiative includes the pilot program, “Talk Early & Talk Often℠,” a program focused on giving parents resources with which to address abstinence and sexuality issues with middle school-age children.

The initiative focuses on parents as the primary sex educators and suggests that parents armed with information and the communication tools they need may help prevent early and unintended pregnancy, HIV, and sexually transmitted diseases by providing messages that help children abstain from sexual intercourse.

Working with the Michigan Parent Teacher Student Association (MPTSA), who assisted in the creation of the program, the Michigan Department of Community Health (MDCH) will share the pilot with parents at school district-sponsored meetings in the fall.

In order to curb Medicaid spending on pregnancy-related and medical care for newborns, and an estimated $11,528 for delivery and first year of life, the MDCH has submitted a request to obtain federal approval for a waiver which will make family planning services for low-income families more accessible.

For more information, visit: www.michigan.gov/miparentresources

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