Guest Commentary: Drug abuse, obesity prevention begins with children

In this guest commentary from the Liver Health Initiative, Thelma King Thiel, RN, BA, former CEO of both the American Liver Foundation and the Hepatitis Foundation International, gives insight into speaking with pediatric patients and parents about liver health. After losing her son to biliary atresia, Thiel focused on training health care providers about liver health. She recently founded the Liver Health Initiative to continue to fill the knowledge gap that exists about liver health.

When did you learn to brush your teeth? Are you still brushing your teeth? Who taught you to look both ways before crossing the street? Your Mom? Dad?

Research shows children retain behaviors learned early in life for years to come. However, a child’s main educators – Moms and Dads – unfortunately are unaware of the complex life-sustaining processes the liver conducts every day by converting the food they ingest into hundreds of essential body parts and functions. Physicians can assist in teaching parents and children about why and how to protect this vital organ and avoiding unknowingly participating in liver damaging activities.

Tragically, liver information has been absent in schools and pediatric practice for decades, creating an enormous worldwide pool of uninformed individuals who are victims of preventable diseases. Had these individuals been made aware of their learned behaviors that precipitated the development of obesity, fatty liver, diabetes, hepatitis, atherosclerosis, heart attacks and strokes, many of these liver-related diseases could have been prevented.

We, as health care providers and public health officials, are scrambling to control the drug abuse and obesity epidemics. However, most outreach programs barely mention how learned behaviors are damaging and killing liver cells that serve as the employees in the body’s internal life support system.

Ignorance is the silent liver’s worst enemy. Yet, prevention initiatives and liver information are glaringly absent in schools, pediatric practices and programs to control the drug abuse and obesity epidemics.

Teaching children when they are infants about why and how to protect this vital organ is essential and possible. How do we reach parents – critically important educators – to arm them with information to share with their children?

We can begin by providing liver information in schools and waiting rooms in formats that children of various ages can relate to such as coloring books like Olivia and Oliver - Meet Your Miraculous Liver created by the Liver Health Initiative and an Emmy award-winning DVD for teenagers called Give Your Liver a Break.

Children are great teachers. Providing them with liver information to which they can relate builds their self-esteem and empowers them to make informed decisions and to share information learned with family members and peers.

Preventing drug abuse and obesity depends on the individual making informed and healthier lifestyle decisions. It begins on Day One with what parents feed and teach their children.

Thousands of liver specialists, nurses and nutritionists join the Liver Health Initiative in recommending that liver information be required in schools, government and military agencies to empower individuals to make healthier food and lifestyle choices. Effective teaching tools, lesson plans, award winning DVDs targeting various age groups are available on LHI’s website: liver-health.org. Quick and easy-to-relate-to memorable “story telling techniques” individuals of all ages can relate to in their daily lives enhances retention of information and encourages individuals to act on what they have learned.

Check to see if your local schools are teaching your children about their miraculous, life-sustaining liver to help them develop healthier food and lifestyle behaviors that protect their liver. Make these education outreach efforts part of your discussions with children and parents when addressing preventable diseases like obesity. By doing so, we can prevent a future impacted by the development of various liver related diseases.

Prevention begins at home. Teach parents about their own livers and arm your pediatric patients with information that will empower them to make healthier choices that protect their life-sustaining liver.

Reference:

Thelma King Thiel, RN, BA, can be reached via email at livrlady@gmail.com or on Twitter @the_liver_lady. For more information on the Liver Health Initiative, please visit liver-health.org.

Disclosures: Thiel reports no relevant financial relationships.

In this guest commentary from the Liver Health Initiative, Thelma King Thiel, RN, BA, former CEO of both the American Liver Foundation and the Hepatitis Foundation International, gives insight into speaking with pediatric patients and parents about liver health. After losing her son to biliary atresia, Thiel focused on training health care providers about liver health. She recently founded the Liver Health Initiative to continue to fill the knowledge gap that exists about liver health.

When did you learn to brush your teeth? Are you still brushing your teeth? Who taught you to look both ways before crossing the street? Your Mom? Dad?

Research shows children retain behaviors learned early in life for years to come. However, a child’s main educators – Moms and Dads – unfortunately are unaware of the complex life-sustaining processes the liver conducts every day by converting the food they ingest into hundreds of essential body parts and functions. Physicians can assist in teaching parents and children about why and how to protect this vital organ and avoiding unknowingly participating in liver damaging activities.

Tragically, liver information has been absent in schools and pediatric practice for decades, creating an enormous worldwide pool of uninformed individuals who are victims of preventable diseases. Had these individuals been made aware of their learned behaviors that precipitated the development of obesity, fatty liver, diabetes, hepatitis, atherosclerosis, heart attacks and strokes, many of these liver-related diseases could have been prevented.

We, as health care providers and public health officials, are scrambling to control the drug abuse and obesity epidemics. However, most outreach programs barely mention how learned behaviors are damaging and killing liver cells that serve as the employees in the body’s internal life support system.

Ignorance is the silent liver’s worst enemy. Yet, prevention initiatives and liver information are glaringly absent in schools, pediatric practices and programs to control the drug abuse and obesity epidemics.

Teaching children when they are infants about why and how to protect this vital organ is essential and possible. How do we reach parents – critically important educators – to arm them with information to share with their children?

We can begin by providing liver information in schools and waiting rooms in formats that children of various ages can relate to such as coloring books like Olivia and Oliver - Meet Your Miraculous Liver created by the Liver Health Initiative and an Emmy award-winning DVD for teenagers called Give Your Liver a Break.

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Children are great teachers. Providing them with liver information to which they can relate builds their self-esteem and empowers them to make informed decisions and to share information learned with family members and peers.

Preventing drug abuse and obesity depends on the individual making informed and healthier lifestyle decisions. It begins on Day One with what parents feed and teach their children.

Thousands of liver specialists, nurses and nutritionists join the Liver Health Initiative in recommending that liver information be required in schools, government and military agencies to empower individuals to make healthier food and lifestyle choices. Effective teaching tools, lesson plans, award winning DVDs targeting various age groups are available on LHI’s website: liver-health.org. Quick and easy-to-relate-to memorable “story telling techniques” individuals of all ages can relate to in their daily lives enhances retention of information and encourages individuals to act on what they have learned.

Check to see if your local schools are teaching your children about their miraculous, life-sustaining liver to help them develop healthier food and lifestyle behaviors that protect their liver. Make these education outreach efforts part of your discussions with children and parents when addressing preventable diseases like obesity. By doing so, we can prevent a future impacted by the development of various liver related diseases.

Prevention begins at home. Teach parents about their own livers and arm your pediatric patients with information that will empower them to make healthier choices that protect their life-sustaining liver.

Reference:

Thelma King Thiel, RN, BA, can be reached via email at livrlady@gmail.com or on Twitter @the_liver_lady. For more information on the Liver Health Initiative, please visit liver-health.org.

Disclosures: Thiel reports no relevant financial relationships.