News Views

Sunday, February 1st, 2009

Media Silence About the MMR

Back in June 2008 (Issue 102) we published an article in which Charles Pragnell complained about media silence on the dangers of the MMR jab. Now there are complaints that research which indicates that the MMR is beneficial in relation to childhood asthma has not received the coverage it should have had.

The media may feel that they cannot get it right if they get complaints from both sides of the argument, but it is not one of those cases where one has achieved the right balance if both extremes are annoyed. We all need better coverage for this subject, and no doubt both the camps would agree in their criticism that it should be aired more.

The death of a toddler who had received an MMR jab was reported but, two days later when the coroner delivered his verdict that the vaccine had nothing to do with the child’s death, only the Daily Telegraph covering the outcome.

A massive study of 871,234 children published in the American Journal of Epidemiology found that those vaccinated with the MMR jab were significantly less often hospitalised with an asthma diagnosis and used less anti-asthma medication. Ben Goldacre said in the Guardian that parents had been “systematically and vigorously misled by the media”. Professor Stephen Bustin of Barts Hospital, London, supported him, saying that “not only is there no evidence for any association between the measles vaccine, autism and intestinal disease, but the most recent evidence provides strong evidence against such a link”.

At some point a conclusion will presumably be reached in this debate. For the present, we await the counter-arguments. Whatever research shows, it should be made public. There is plenty of tripe which the papers could omit to ensure this subject has space.

UK Youth Health & Well-Being Challenges National Events

We’ve been emailed about advance notice of a series of regional events to celebrate the launch of the new Health and Well-Being Challenges Resource aimed at practitioners working with young people aged 11-19 years. Delegates attending will receive free copies of the new Health & Wellbeing Challenges Toolkit and Youth Active Toolkit. For more information, please go to http://www.ukyouth.org/whatwedo/conferences.htm

25 February - London

2 March - Taunton

11 March - Durham

24 March- Birmingham

26 March - Liverpool

Eating for Two, or Eating for You?

Another myth has been exploded. Research has shown that over half of pregnant women (51%) may be consuming more than the recommended amount of calories whilst new mothers are restricting their calorie intake, despite recommendations that they require additional calories when breast feeding, according to SMA Nutrition.

Although two fifths (41%) pf new mothers believe they should be “eating for two”, pregnant women actually only require on average an additional 200 calories per day and only during the final three months of pregnancy.

  • Over half (51%) admitted to increasing their calorie intake every day, throughout their pregnancy.
  • More than three quarters (81%) were not aware of the recommended additional calories they actually needed, with more than one in ten (13%) incorrectly thinking it was over 400 calories a day.
  • Over half (60%) were confused about what the recommended additional 200 calories actually equates to, with nearly one in five (18%) incorrectly thinking it was as much as another meal.

Nearly half (45%) of mums admit they put on more weight than the guideline weight gain of 10-12.5 kg (22-28 lbs) during their pregnancy, and one third (33%) said that they found it ‘impossible’ to return to their pre-baby weight post birth.

Conversely, post pregnancy calorie intake for breast feeding mums should be significantly higher than pregnancy intake. In fact, guidelines recommend around 500 extra calories a day depending on the age of the baby and how much milk they are taking. The misconceptions surrounding diet only seem to heighten once baby has arrived. The research showed nearly one quarter (24%) of women started trying to lose their baby weight within a month of having their baby, with more than one in ten (12%) admitting they were eating less calories than before they were pregnant.

So, what will be the next myth to go? - that storks bring babies?

Coughs and Sneezes

Kleenex report that new research has shown that three quarters (77%) of parents in Great Britain admit that their children imitate their bad habits, from picking their nose to wiping it with their sleeve. The research shows that top of the league of hygiene vices is not washing hands after coughing (52%) followed closely by sneezing into hands (46%) and picking noses (35%).

One reason for these bad habits may be because almost half (49%) of parents cannot remember being taught the correct etiquette such as coughing and sneezing into a tissue, whereas other life lessons can still be recalled such as brushing teeth (78%) and tying shoelaces (59%).

So Kleenex have launched a Sneezesafe campaign (www.sneezesafe.co.uk) as a free, online educational tool to help parents and teachers to teach young children good tissue habits. It is aimed at 4-6 years-olds, designed to teach youngsters to use a tissue when sneezing and other ways of avoiding the spread of germs. A spokesperson from Kleenex who ran the survey commented, “Unfortunately colds are a fact of life: previous Kleenex research has shown that families are five times more likely to catch colds over winter than those without children.”

Sneezesafe is packed with information about colds and good hygiene tips to prevent the spread of germs and can be used at home or in the classroom. They have a three-step message - using a tissue, throwing the tissue away and then washing hands.

It may seem pretty obvious advice, but we’ve heard of doctors in hospitals who don’t follow it, going on to examine patients and handle their files, so that colleagues can share their viruses. We used to be told that an unfettered cough went 8 feet, and a sneeze 22 feet. This may now have been debunked as a myth, but the general idea must be right. Generally we are all for sharing, but we back Kleenex in suggesting that people should keep their coughs and sneezes to themselves.

Emergency Care in Bradford

Since 2005, Bradford Childminding Support Team have been working in partnership with Bradford Social Services to develop an emergency care scheme in the area. The scheme allocates placements for children and young people who are experiencing a crisis situation with trained, quality-assured childminders. For example, the scheme may try to provide stable day care with a childminder for a young person who had run away from home. This would give their social worker time to look into the issues that led to the crisis situation in the first place, and investigate a return home for them.

When the need arises, a social worker will contact an emergency scheme childminder and discuss the placement opportunity. The childminder will then decide if they can offer a care placement, taking into account the other children in the setting. If the childminder decides that they are able to take the child, the child will be taken to the childminder’s setting for care during the day. Sometimes that may be all that is needed to resolve the crisis, but if this is not possible, the child would go to overnight care and return to the same childminder’s setting the following day.

The scheme has been a real success. The children on emergency placements benefit from being in a home environment with an experienced childminder, and the childminders also find it a valuable experience.

Nanny Sharing Triples in Six Months

The number of nanny shares in the UK has increased 3-fold according to figures from Tinies, the UK’s largest network of nanny and nursery staff agencies, and one in four nannies on Tinies books now works for more than one family, up from one in eight a year ago.

Registrations on nannyshare.co.uk have risen from 100 families a month in June this year to close to three hundred at the end of the year. “In the current economic climate families are reviewing their childcare arrangements and looking at how they can reduce costs,” said Oliver Black, Director of Tinies. “Nanny shares are increasingly one of the most affordable childcare options for families, particularly where there is more than one child to look after.”

Traditionally London and the South East has been the biggest employer of nannies and nanny shares with more than 50% of all nannies working for families in this area. However, interest in nanny shares is growing in other cities around the UK.

The average cost of employing a nanny as part of a nanny share including tax and national insurance contributions is around £350-£420 a week which is then split between two families.

Working tax credits and childcare vouchers can both be used to pay for the cost of hiring an Ofsted registered nanny, even a shared nanny. Families with a joint income of less than £66,000 per year can receive up to 90% towards the cost of hiring an Ofsted registered nanny via tax credits.

For more information please visit www.tinies.com , www.nannyshare.co.uk and www.nannytax.co.uk.

Expeditions

One of the articles we are carrying this month is about a party of students from Ackworth School in Yorkshire, England, who are planning to travel to Namibia in five months’ time, to give a variety of help to children there. They are facing a double challenge - not only the work expected of them in Namibia but having to rack their brains for ways to raise the funds to get there in the first place.

No doubt there are similar groups in other schools and in other countries. (We carried an article about Open Arms in Malawi a few years ago, and have just learnt that parties from Kingswood School in Bath have been visiting the project annually.) It is one of the encouraging aspects of the increased opportunities for travel and communication in today’s world that such links are possible.

We are sure that there will be a lot of learning for everyone involved - both the children in Namibia and the Ackworth students, and probably the Geography Teacher accompanying the party too. If the world is going to be a fit place to live in during the 21st century, it will be because people understand each others’ needs, respect each other and build relationships across the continents and cultures.

Expeditions of this sort may play only a small part in the global scheme of things, but they can affect lives significantly. (Remember what President Obama learnt as a Community Worker in Chicago, and its impact on his motivation to enter politics.)

We hope that they manage to raise the money for the trip, that they work hard while they are there - and that they thoroughly enjoy themselves, making new friends, learning a lot from their hosts, and bringing back life-long memories.

Voice Calls for Safeguards for Children and Whistle-blowers

In the light of the tragic case of Baby P, Voice, the union for education professionals, is calling for an overhaul of training and procedures for all those working with children to ensure that concerns raised about children are followed through and to give protection for whistle-blowers concerned about the handling of cases.

In a letter to Lord Laming, Philip Parkin said, “The practices of those involved in the Baby P case need to be examined, but there is a wider picture. There is still a long way to go before we have a fully integrated children’s workforce. Many professionals are not communicating with each other in a way that gives them confidence to be critical of others’ practice, especially when that practice is at a senior level.

“Questions have been raised about how this case was followed up. The whole children’s workforce - including teachers, support staff, childcarers and social workers - must be trained not only in safeguarding children, but in communicating with other professionals and questioning practice where necessary. Whistle-blowing should be everyone’s duty rather than something undertaken by the brave or, as it’s seen by many, the foolhardy.”

We certainly agree that people should not be afraid of whistle-blowing, but in our experience that is a relatively rare problem in child protection. The need for professionals to communicate better is much more important, as different professions have different values and assumptions and ways of working. Often the evidence is not at all clear, and it is a question of varying interpretations, rather than one professional needing to blow the whistle on another who is incompetent, refusing to take action or concealing evidence.

Another problem is that the whole system is now so bureaucratic that there is the danger that success is measured by the completion of the forms, rather than focusing on the direct work with the families and the children themselves.

From the Case Files

Mrs Smith complained that she had been virtually abused.

As this file dated back to 1988, were they ahead of the game in internet abuse?

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