Friday, April 29, 2011

CDC Report Highlights Children’s Food Environment in Maine

A report out from the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention this week shows that Maine is doing better than the nation at improving access to healthy foods for its children — one piece of the puzzle in fighting childhood obesity — but that there is still more work to be done. The 2011 Children’s Food Environment State Indicator Report notes that Maine is above the national averages when it comes to providing access to healthy foods in Maine communities.

“States and communities are uniquely positioned to help improve the food environment for children where they live, play, and learn,” said William Dietz, M.D., Ph.D., director of CDC's Division of Nutrition, Physical Activity, and Obesity. “If we hope to reverse the trend of childhood obesity, we need to work together at the local, state, and national level to create environments that support healthy eating for children.”

The report looked closely at each state to examine community food environments in order to understand the types of foods most accessible to children and their families on a daily basis. The report looked at the variety of food retailers in each state and categorized them into two different groups: food retailers that typically sell healthier foods such as supermarkets, supercenters and produce stores and those retailers that are less likely to sell healthy food such as fast-food restaurants and convenience stores. Maine and Montana were among the higher scoring states with a score of 15 and 16 respectively, compared to the national average of 10; lower scoring states were Rhode Island at 5 followed by the District of Columbia at a score of 4. A score of 100 would mean all food retailers in a community provide access to healthy foods. It is clear all states need to improve accessibility to healthier foods, but the ideal target score for a state was not given in the report.

The CDC report also shows that as of December 2008, Maine had enacted one of the state child care licensure regulations of three listed in the report as important indicators: limiting screen time (television and video) for all child care facilities. Only one state had enacted all of the regulations, while 13 states and the District of Columbia had enacted none.

Additionally, for the school foods indicator Maine outperformed the national average with respect to the number of middle and high schools that do not allow students to purchase less healthy foods outside the usual school lunch (such as in vending machines and school stores). About 66% of Maine schools do not allow the purchase of less healthy foods; above the national average of 49%. Maine also has more middle and high schools that do not offer sugar drinks — 44% don’t offer sugar drinks compared to the national average of only 36% that don’t.

“It is wonderful to see that our state is performing better than most of the nation to improve access to healthy foods for our children,” said Stephen Sears, M.D., MPH, Acting Director, Maine CDC. “Our progress in this area is due to the commitment, hard work and collaboration of Maine people, local efforts such as Communities Putting Prevention to Work and Healthy Maine Partnerships, and others who partner with the Maine CDC such as the Maine Nutrition Network and the Maine-Harvard Prevention Research Center. However, there is still much to be done if we are to reduce childhood obesity rates in Maine — one out of every three of our children is currently overweight or obese.”

Maine is currently working in many ways to improve access to healthier foods for all residents, particularly children. These efforts include creating positive food and physical activity environments in child care settings, growing already thriving farm-to-school programs in schools and making strides to meet the USDA definition of a healthier school environment in all of Maine’s schools.

The Children’s Food Environment State Indicator Report compiles data from a variety of sources, including Preventing Obesity in the Child Care Setting: Evaluating State Regulations and CDC’s School Health Profiles. To view the full CDC report visit

Thursday, April 28, 2011

Browntail Moths

Browntail moths make their webs in the fall in oak, apple, serviceberry and other trees and shrubs. Hairs from the larvae can cause a rash similar to poison ivy and can also cause respiratory distress in sensitive individuals. The larvae begin to emerge from their webs in late April and feed on the foliage as soon as it appears. Larvae hairs persist for a number of years and can continue to cause problems when mowing or other activities stir them up.

The browntail moth population has intensified in the southern Merrymeeting Bay area, which may mean more people are at risk of exposure to the larvae hairs. The area primarily affected by this insect includes parts of Bath, West Bath, Brunswick, Topsham and Bowdoinham; other affected towns include Augusta, Falmouth, Freeport, Kennebunkport, Lewiston, Lisbon Falls, Turner, and Wiscassett.

Most people developing the rash will do so within hours of outdoor activity. The duration of the rash varies, from hours to days.

For more information from the Maine Forest Service:

Thursday, April 14, 2011

Salmonella risk

Now is the time to remind people about the risk of Salmonella infection from handling live baby chicks, often purchased as Easter presents. There has already been one case of salmonellosis in a Maine child in 2011 after contact with baby chicks that were kept inside.

Salmonella causes diarrhea, fever and stomach cramps and can be life-threatening in infants, children under five years of age, and in people with weakened immune systems. The stress of hatching and shipping many chicks at one time increases the chance that the chicks will become infected and shed bacteria. Baby chicks do not usually seem sick even when they are infected.

What can parents do to keep children safe?

It is best if infants and children under five do not touch chicks. If they do, take the following steps to lower the spread of bacteria:

· Supervise children while playing with baby chicks.

· Do not allow children to kiss or put hands or other objects (pacifiers, toys, bottles) in their mouths after handling chicks.

· Pacifiers, toys, bottles, or other objects should not touch the baby chicks or their living environment.

· Wash children’s hands well with plenty of running water and soap after contact with chicks.

· Keep chicks away from food handling areas.

· Do not eat or drink while interacting with baby chicks or their environment.

· If baby chicks are kept inside due to cold weather, keep them away from living spaces.

If your child has had contact with baby chicks and gets diarrhea, fever, and stomach cramps, contact your healthcare provider.

For more information: or call 1-800-821-5821.