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Parent's Back-to-School List: Include Health Check-Up for Kids

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Every parent's back-to-school list should include more than pencils, paper and the latest fashions.

Parents also need to think about well-child exams, immunizations, exercise, and an emphasis on eating right. The anticipation and preparation for another school year is exciting but also stressful for parents and children. Take steps to ensure that your children get a healthy start.

SET THE TONE: Talk with your children about their feelings for the upcoming school year. Do they feel safe, anxious, fearful? Are they excited about seeing old classmates and meeting new ones? Have your children set goals to improve grades, attendance and overall performance.

Discuss study habits, schedules and expectations so they feel less anxiety and stress over possible workloads.

PHYSICAL EXAM: Find out if your child needs a fitness exam. Older children should have a physical exam every other year, unless they have a medical condition or will be participating in organized sports.

Schedule physicals well in advance to avoid the Labor Day crunch. Check with the school about special forms or requirements for participating in sports and bring these to the attention of your doctor. If your child has a chronic condition like diabetes or asthma, and needs to take medication during school hours, meet with the school nurse and discuss his/her needs and medical history.

If your child is obese, ask your doctor about weight loss and nutritional counseling. If money is a problem, ask your health care provider about state/county sponsored low cost health plans for kids such as "Healthy Families."

IMMUNIZATIONS: Review immunization records; keep track of visits and shots. In California, children must have required immunizations before entering school or childcare. This is to prevent the spread of vaccine preventable diseases. Some diseases like tetanus, measles and hepatitis B require booster shots in later years between the ages of 11 and 18.

DENTAL CHECK-UP: Schedule an appointment with the dentist. A healthy mouth promotes smiling, better eating habits and can boost a child’s self-esteem.

EXERCISE: Stress the importance of routine physical activity. Supplement the school’s often less than physical PE classes with organized sports or after school activities such as karate, dance, skating and gymnastics.

EAT A BALANCED DIET: With obesity in children near a national epidemic, make sure your child starts the year off eating a balanced diet. Plan a visit to the school cafeteria. Does the menu consist of breads, cereals and low-fat baked goods; fruits and vegetables; dairy; lean meats, poultry, fish and low-fat snacks such as pretzels and graham crackers instead of candy and potato chips; juices instead of high sugar, empty calorie sodas?

If not go to plan ŒB‚. Check out the growing list of fresh pre-packaged lunches and breakfasts available at your supermarket . Most of them are nutritionally balanced and tasty. Reminder: The new law prohibiting the sale of soft drinks on elementary school campuses and limiting them on secondary campuses takes effective this fall.

Set a good example; Practice what you Preach!

Dr. Levister welcomes reader mail concerning their body but regrets that he is not able to answer individual letters. Your letters will be incorporated into the column as space permits. You may direct your letters to Dr. Levister in care of Black Voice News, P.O. Box 1581, Riverside, CA 92502. For more information about your Black health visit African American Health Network at www.aahn.com.

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