Public health - KaBOOM! News

Both synonymous with warm-weather outdoor fun, ice cream and playgrounds seem like a perfect fit. Maybe that’s why a proposed ban on ice cream vendors at a Brooklyn playground has caused such a stir.

Why the ban? Well, on the one hand, ice cream isn’t very good for you. But on the other hand, it’s delicious. Health-conscious parents are sick of dealing with the temper tantrums that their children will inevitably throw when they behold a cart full of heavenly frozen treats… that they can’t have.

But is a ban on ice cream vendors from the playground an absurd or practical solution? Are well-intentioned parents looking out for their children’s health or are they being ridiculous control freaks? 

When it comes to the health and safety of our children, the challenge is this: How do we protect them without extracting every opportunity for the joy from their lives? Even today’s playgrounds routinely fail on that front. Just as the thrill of climbing is universal (even though a child could fall off and break an arm), so is the thrill of ice cream (even though it’s full of fat and sugar).

We’re big proponents of children’s health, but we’re also big proponents of joy. Being the first nonprofit to have its own Ben & Jerry’s ice cream flavor, we’re also big proponents of ice cream.

Of course, the main difference between ice cream and playgrounds is this: There is definitely such a thing as too much ice cream, but there is not really such a thing as too much outdoor play. As long as parents and children stay mindful of this fact, we say: Let the ice cream trucks stay!

Should we ban ice-cream-shaped slides while we're at it?

Photo credits:

In honor of National School Lunch Week, MAT@USC has created "The Childhood Obesity Epidemic" Infographic, which offers a look at the disheartening state of affairs when it comes to our children's health. Although good nutrition is vital, it is only part of the solution. For each healthy school lunch a child eats, she also needs an opportunity to run around and play.

Consider the following stats on physical activity. Visit MAT@USC to view the full infographic.

"It seems like such a natural, obvious thing that children should be playing," says Dr. Ken Ginsburg, pediatrician at the Children's Hospital of Philadelphia and author of Building Resilience in Children and Teens: Giving Kids Roots and Wings.

So begins this eye-opening video that addresses critical issues facing children and families today -- namely, rising levels of stress and anxiety, obesity-related health problems, dramatically reduced time for free play and play outdoors, and hectic and overscheduled family life.

Featuring Dr. Ginsburg and Dr. Marilyn Benoit, Chief Clinical Officer at Devereux Behavioral Health and former president of the American Academy of Child & Adolescent Psychiatry, "Prescription for Play" was produced in collaboration with the Alliance for Childhood. Doctor's orders: Watch this video! 

I am sitting on a patch of grass under a massive weeping willow. My friends and I are intricately braiding fallen branches, creating what will soon become a crown. We begin sectioning off the hanging branches, creating rooms in our castle. No sooner does the game begin than we emerge from under the tree hand in hand, laughing and running toward our next adventure.

Danielle Marshall, our Senior Manager of Research and Traning, fondly remembers playing outdoors as a child in her first post of a new series on the Altarum Institute's Health Policy Forum. Danielle goes on to say:

Does this type of play still exist for children? Can you imagine childhood without opportunities to play? Many of the adults I encounter speak fondly of their childhoods and recall play as a key component of their lives. So why is it that we adults quickly sacrifice children’s opportunities to play in the name of achievement, safety, or changing times?

The health of a society should be measured by the health of its play. The play of a healthy society should be rich and varied: imaginative, dramatic, physical, cooperative, solitary. Children—in urban, suburban, and rural areas—should have ample and easy access to safe and stimulating outdoor play spaces: creeks, woods, adventure playgrounds, pocket parks. Caregivers and parents should feel comfortable allowing children the time, independence, and freedom to play in their neighborhoods. Kids should be safe playing outside. Play should be afforded the same importance as math and reading, valued as truly integral to curriculum, as the foundation of learning. Cities, neighborhoods, and housing should be designed to support and sustain play throughout the life span.

In coming months, Danielle will be exploring issues related to the Play Deficit and its impact on health and public policy. Read the full post here.