Category Archives: Motherhood

World Polio Day 2017…and Why It Matters

World Polio Day 2017…and Why It Matters
My Mother

Childhood Photo of My Mother

She had one leg shorter than the other.  Not in such a glaringly obvious way that one would immediately notice, but you could tell if you studied her walk or she pointed it out to you, like she did to me when I was little.

I couldn’t fully understand the story as a child, but my mother had contracted Polio when she was around three years old, and almost died.  I remember that part because she had two names.   Mildred was the name she was given at birth, and Goldie was the name she was re-named after she had recovered, as is customary in the case of near death experiences in the Jewish religion.

By the time I was born, the Polio vaccine had been developed and was administered widely to children in the United States.  Polio was nearly eradicated in this country by then, and so the story of my mother’s near death from Polio became to me a long-ago folk tale from her childhood.

Sadly, that has not been the case for the rest of the world.  Sure the numbers have dropped 99.9% since 1988 when there were 350,000 known cases around the world, to the 37 reported cases in 2016.   Still, the fact is, that as long as Polio remains in even one child, children the world over are at risk of contracting the disease.  The victims of the highly infectious Poliomyelitis virus that attacks the nervous system are usually children younger than five years old.

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The Importance of Physical Education For Kids

The Importance of Physical Education For Kids

IMG_6837This post reflects a compensated editorial partnership with Voices for Healthy Kids, a joint initiative of the American Heart Association and Robert Wood Johnson Foundation.

Parenting is somewhat of a social experiment, especially when you have multiple kids with different personalities. But as a mother to four kids there are a few certainties that have worked across the board for all of mine. If my kids don’t get enough sleep, they are a mess the next day. If they are hungry, they get cranky, and if they don’t get the opportunity to get out and do something active each day, they get rambunctious. My kids are much more likely to settle down and concentrate when they have had the chance to get some exercise at some point in their day. I feel like those are all pretty common findings among parents. My husband is a physician specializing in cardiac imaging, so he comes at the importance of physical activity from not only a behavioral perspective as a parent, but with knowledge on what a healthy heart looks like. And he comes home from work emphasizing how important physical fitness is to our overall health. I am thrilled to partner with Voices for Healthy Kids, a joint initiative of the American Heart Association and Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, in advocating for expanded physical education in schools.

Active kids simply learn better.

Our elementary physical education teacher, Ms. Carr taught all four of our kids. Her energy and enthusiasm helped early on to nurture their enjoyment in being active. It became clear to me watching my children thrive, and become more confident under her guidance, how important establishing healthy habits is during primary school for kids. My youngest is now in middle school, but PE is still one of his favorite subjects, and Ms. Carr will always be one of their all time favorite teachers. More recently our state of Rhode Island passed a bond supporting improved parks, bike paths, and recreational areas. As parents, having safe, natural spaces will help to give us more opportunities to augment the 100 minutes per week of physical education required of schools in our state.

Regular physical activity has been scientifically proven to have positive benefits to both body and mind, yet it is too often one of the first programs to be cut from school budgets. It is associated with longer life, lower risk of heart disease, high blood pressure, obesity, and even some cancers, physical fitness lowers the risk of mental health problems, and it has been shown to improve academic performance. These benefits are true for all children, no matter where they live, in a rural or urban setting, regardless of race, ethnic, or socio-economic factors. Where a child lives should not dictate their health. Unfortunately, racial and socio-economic inequalities leave many schools without the resources necessary to provide physical education to their kids.

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Research shows that kids need 60 minutes of physical activity each day yet only 4% of elementary schools, 8% of middle schools, and 2% of high schools provide daily PE or its equivalent for the entire school year. Parent polls show that 95% understand the importance of incorporating PE into the school curriculum. That means that we, as parents, need to raise our voices and make sure that we are looking out for all children in our country by advocating for the inclusion of Physical Education in every state under the federal education law Every Student Succeeds Act, or ESSA. If health and physical education are not core components of the plan, programs will not have access to the funding needed to keep them running.

Our children are the future, and it is up to us as parents to make sure that we are laying the groundwork for their ability to best succeed. Expanded physical education positively impacts the physical, emotional, and mental health of our children, while improving their academic performance. Learn how you can help to give all children the best groundwork for success with increased PE in your community by visiting the Voices For Healthy Kids website.

When Moms + Social Good Come Together

When Moms + Social Good Come Together

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The first week of May I was in New York City for the 4th annual Moms + Social Good conference at the New York Times Center.  When Moms + Social Good come together, great things are bound to happen.  I gathered there with some of my “tribe”, like-minded friends from World Moms Blog, the United Nations Shot@Life campaign, and the Social Good world.  The one day event was hosted by The United Nations Foundation and Johnson & Johnson, with support from BabyCenter, Global Citizen, Fatherly, and Charity Miles. The goal of the Moms + Social event, in honor of Mother’s Day, was to highlight some of the greatest challenges women and children across the globe are facing today.

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The buzz word that came up in almost every panel and topic of conversation, whether the discussion was on the refugee crisis or the importance of global vaccines, was EDUCATION. The importance of education to rise above any circumstance was underlined again and again.

“For refugees we need to focus on quality #education for girls and women.”- Mari Malek

Mari Malek, Model/DJ/Advocate/Founder Stand4Education and former refugee

Mari Malek, Model/DJ/Advocate/Founder Stand4Education and former refugee

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 Save The Children usually conducts a State of the World’s Mother’s Report released around U.S. Mother’s Day, but the surprising statistics on maternal and child health in the USA in last year’s global report (The US ranked number 33 worldwide) inspired the compilation this year of The Shriver Report Snapshot: Insight Into The Resilient American Mother instead. The Save The Children special report was especially impactful to us as moms in the USA. The study polled 1000 mothers in the United States of various backgrounds. The findings were surprising.

  • Overall 85% of American mothers polled think that the US is becoming a worse place to raise a child.
  • Despite this alarming finding, almost all moms, also said they are optimistic about their future and their children’s future.
  • 6 in 10 said that the US business culture makes it “nearly impossible” to balance work and family.
  • The top stressors for American moms were bills and expenses.
  • American moms are conflicted whether technology and social media do more good than harm for their children.
  • When it comes to helping kids, American mothers overwhelmingly want the next president to focus on education.

World Moms Blog Founder, Jennifer Burden had the opportunity to interview Save The Children CEO Carolyn Miles about the report. (go to World Moms Blog to find the interview soon!)

World Moms Blog Founder, Jennifer Burden, interviews Carolyn Miles, CEO of Save the Children at the Moms + SocialGood event in NYC on May 5th, 2016.

World Moms Blog Founder, Jennifer Burden, interviews Carolyn Miles, CEO of Save the Children at the Moms + SocialGood event in NYC on May 5th, 2016.

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Gene Gurkoff and Elizabeth Atalay

Gene Gurkoff and Elizabeth Atalay

I first met Gene Gurkoff,, Founder and CEO of Charity Miles, three years ago at Moms + Social Good. Charity Miles is an app that lets you donate to the charity of your choice when you work out, and I’ve been logging in my Charity Miles ever since.  In the mean time it had been exciting to watch his company grow and do more and more good in the world each year.

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US Ambassador to the UN, Samantha Power led a panel where she spoke about working hard to take out Boko Haram, and the importance of education.  Just last month, Ambassador Powers was in Abuja, Nigeria visiting with the mothers of the Chibok Girls. There, she met fellow World Moms Blog contributor, Aisha Yesufu, at the sit in, and World Moms Blog Founder was excited to get the opportunity to tell her about the connection to Aisha, and our support for the moms in Chibok! 

US Ambassador to the UN, Samantha Power with Jennifer Burden, Founder and CEO of World Moms Blog, at Moms + SocialGood in NYC May 5th, 2016.

US Ambassador to the UN, Samantha Power with Jennifer Burden, Founder and CEO of World Moms Blog, at Moms + SocialGood in NYC May 5th, 2016.

 

Ambassador Power a few weeks earlier in Abuja Nigeria side by side with World Mom, Aisha Yesufu! 

2016 Aisha Yesufu and Ambassador Power 600

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As good friend and fellow Shot@Life Champion Leader Ilina Ewen said on her panel, From local to global challenges: Focus on the whole child, “The sisterhood of motherhood is universal”. This is what keeps me coming back to Moms + Social each year. I believe in the power of mothers when we come together for a better future for not jus our own children, but for all the children of the world.

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Photo credit of Aisha and Ambassador Power to Aisha Yesufu.

Shaping The Narrative Of Global Health

Shaping The Narrative Of Global Health

I was thrilled to be asked to speak at this years United Nations Foundation Shot@Life Summit to a room of almost 200 champions from all over the country. I’ll confess that having never spoken to a group that large I was a nervous wreck, but I love a challenge, and it helps to speak from the heart on an issue you are emotionally invested in, and so this is what I said:

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“Every story begins and ends with a woman, a mother, a grandmother, a girl, a child, . Every story is a birth”….- Ishmael Beah Author of Long Way Gone & Radiance of Tomorrow & UNICEF Advocate

As a storyteller, and a mother to my four children that quote by Ishmael Beah really touches me. Because before I was a mother, I was of course a daughter. And the story of why I am here speaking to you today begins with her. my mother was born in 1922 , she was 45 when I was born, and a polio survivor. She stood all of 5’2” at a tilt, since Polio had left her with one leg slightly shorter than the other.

Eventually I would come to tower over her at 5’9″, and now that I am a mother myself I muse at how odd it must have been to have ended up with a daughter so much taller. While I was still a daughter, and before I became a mother, I was a traveler. I still think about the mothers who approached me as a westerner in my early twenties and held out their babies to me asking for medicine or a cure. If those babies survived they would be in their mid-twenties now, and surely not all did survive. Knowing what I know now I wish I could go back in time with a bag of medical supplies and give them whatever they needed, because the pleading looks in those mother’s eyes haunt me to this day.

I never was a mother and a daughter at the same time. My mother passed away four months before my own first child was born. Though she had told me stories about having Polio as a child it never really resonated with me in the way it did once I became a mother myself. How terrified my grandmother must have been of losing her. And to be honest I hadn’t really reflected on those mothers I met as backpacker in my 20’s until I became a mother myself, and then I remembered that helpless feeling I was left with when I did not know what to do to help them. I was so grateful to join shot@life as a champion and finally have the opportunity to DO SOMETHING. To honor my mother’s legacy as a Polio Survivor, and to help the mothers that I know are out there in developing countries desperate for proper healthcare, for lifesaving vaccines for their children that every mother should have access to.

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As excited as I was to join Shot@Life I have to confess that had I known that I was going to be visiting my government representatives on capitol hill that first year I attended the summit, I may never have joined. I would have been too afraid. Yet, the next thing I knew I was hoofing it around capitol hill (in the wrong shoes…I might add…( definitely take the comfortable shoe recommendation seriously ) advocating for Shot@life with my congressmen and Senators. I brought the messaging back to my community and realized how much work is still to be done just in terms of  awareness alone. There is so much misinformation and lack of awareness out there on vaccines. In this country we take it for granted that our babies will not die from a simple case of diarrhea, but mothers in countries where they lack access to vaccines have lost, or know someone who has lost a baby to a vaccine preventable disease. Every 20 seconds a baby dies from a vaccine preventable disease, mothers will walk for days to get vaccines when they can for their children. I realized there is a huge need to get the message out to the public.

vaccinesSo what can YOU do to make sure every child gets a fair Shot@life no matter where they are born?

  1. Become a United Nations Foundation Shot@Life Champion, as a Champion here are a few ways to reach out to make an impact in your community that can ripple around the globe:
  2. Contact or visit your local representatives and tell them that you care about their support of global health and global vaccines, and ask them to support these programs as well.
  3.  Hold a party to get the word out, if you don’t want to do it in your home there are so many companies that offer fun alternatives. In my community stores like Alex & Ani,  Pinkberry, and Flatbread Pizza will help you have a party on site to fundraise for your event.
  4. Speak to local clubs, a local new neighbors club, Rotary or General Federation of Women’s Clubs
  5. Hold an event at your child’s school or set up a booth during an international fair, take the opportunity to work the importance of vaccines into the broader issue of global awareness.
  6. Use social media as a messaging tool for good with this social toolkit.Write op-eds, letters to the editor, blog posts, or articles for your local paper or magazine. I had a profile run in my local town Magazine for example.

For World Pneumonia Day last November I was paired up with Dr Mkope from Tanzania and at the National Press Club in Washington, DC we did over 20 radio and TV interviews! It was a great feeling knowing that the message of the importance of vaccines, with real life proof of efficacy from Dr. Mkope, was being broadcast so far and wide. At shot@life we say “a virus is just a plane ride away”, and in a perfect example of this ever shrinking world, it turned out that Dr. Mkope is the pediatrician of the one friend I know in Tanzania.

This year might be the last year that Polio is a threat to any child in the world, with only 9 cases on record, and still known to exist in only two countries in the world, the World Health Organization predicts that, with vaccines, it will be eradicated soon.

Every story is a birth, for my mother who survived Polio, for the mothers I met in central Africa with the pleading eyes, for my children and my children’s children, what I have learned as a Shot@Life Champion is that we have the opportunity to shape this narrative on global health, together lets write this story to end with no child dying unnecessarily from a vaccine preventable disease.

#Advocate2Vaccinate #VaccinesWork

 

$5.00 Can Save 2 Lives With CleanBirth.org

$5.00 Can Save 2 Lives With CleanBirth.org
$5.00 Can Save 2 Lives With CleanBirth.org

Yes, for roughly the price of your daily Latte Macchiato two lives can be saved.

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I’ve decided to give up 10 of mine, as a grateful mother to four children when I hear the statistics I think “but for chance and place” in which I live that could have been me.  The country of Laos has an extremely high rate of maternal mortality at 470 deaths per 100,000 live births. Often this is simply due to infection from birthing alone in unsanitary conditions. Cultural factors that have rural mothers going into the forest to birth alone play a big role in the problem. CleanBirth.org was founded three years ago to provide Clean Birth Kits and train nurses and midwives in remote villages in Laos to use them. This year alone CleanBirth.org provided nearly 1,200 women with Clean Birth Kits  to safely deliver infection free.

The founder of CleanBirth.org, Kristyn Zalota, is a fellow World Moms Blog contributor. I can not tell you how impressed I have been at the impact she has on so many women’s lives with her mission to provide safe birth in Laos. CleanBirth.org, helps train nurses in Laos and provide Clean Birth Kits for moms. It is in the tail end of a crowd funding campaign to raise $10,000 to help to train and to reach more women.

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The campaign closes on February 12th, so please help us reach as many moms and babies as we can. Really if you think about it, it’s just 1 day without that Latte. Please join us. Us moms have got to stick together!