I am angry….and scared.

Many of you read the new poverty statistics released last week both nationally and for each state.
“A report from the Annie E. Casey Foundation, the organization that studies the state of children throughout the world, found that the child poverty rate has jumped 18 percent from 2000 to 2009. Other reports now show that 49 percent of the nation’s children are growing up in families who qualify for help from the Women, Infants and Children program.”

In Oklahoma alone, 60% of the babies born in 2010 were born on Medicaid! Almost 20% of the state population has NO insurance. 1 in 3 children grow up in homes of parents under age 30 who are below the federal level of poverty.

And we worry about education, obesity, taxes (68% of Oklahomans want taxes lowered by the Legislature in 2012 even if it means FEWER government services)! If you have read my prior blogs, you know I have been focusing on some of these issues as well.

Clearly, I, too, have missed the boat!  How can we worry about obesity when all families can afford is mac-and-cheese. Even those of us supporting church and community food pantries are personally limited to high carb and high calorie donations.  I’ve worried about the quality of education offered our children or families that don’t get their kids to school and help with homework. What about the child who simply can’t learn because hunger and worry about his/her family’s hunger keeps him occupied mentally and emotionally elsewhere!

The national “talk” is about how the next generation could be strapped with huge national debt, and unable to sustain this country as they take on a growing aged population with their own smaller census of workers.

Talk about off-the-mark! How dare we skip the reality of today to focus so exclusively (even with justification) about tomorrow. These youth may not LIVE to inherit the earth: debt-laden or debt-free. These children cannot develop their bodies for the future when robbed of nutrients and health care today. These future workers will not become the engineers or the highway workers who maintain our infrastructure, so necessary to a vibrant economy, if their minds have not been nurtured with the opportunity and ability to achieve at least a basic education.

Yes, I’m scared…..and angry. Now is the time to refocus attention, discussion, and action. Please join me.

People: Our most valuable resource?

AARP released a new survey yesterday: 2011 State Scorecard on Long-Term Services and Supports for Older Adults, People with Physical Disabilities, and Family Caregivers. Sadly, Oklahoma ranks 48th overall. Most alarming is that Oklahoma ranks 49th in Quality of Life and Quality of Care and 51st (DC is included) in Support to Family Caregivers.

As those reading my blog know, my life’s focus has been on children and families. I am not an expert on aging and disabilities….other than the daily knowledge I am gaining through passing my 60th birthday!

Minnesota, Oregon, Washington, Wisconsin, and Hawaii all rank highest. What have those states done that Oklahoma hasn’t? Why, once again, are 7 of the lowest ranking states located in the southeast of the US?

The report accompanying the scorecard is nicely detailed about possible answers to the above and is offered as a benchmark and set of recommendations for states.

As Oklahoma tackles our design of health care reform and the creation of  a state health care exchange, this report is timely. All citizens, young and old, need a government that weaves individual choice and control (obviously with age-appropriate limitations for the young) with a framework of community well-being in which public structures support access and affordability to needed services for quality living.  That certainly sounds like populist Oklahoma to me.

Let’s hope our legislators working on these issues read the AARP report. Let’s hope our citizens notice the needs of their neighbors just a bit more. Let’s act in some way – big or small – to make a difference.

http://www.aarp.org/relationships/caregiving/info-09-2011/ltss-scorecard.html

Sad irony…..

One in three Oklahoma youth ages 0-18 is overweight or obese! Other states have similar issues, although not this high! (Except Colorado which seems to be quite healthy…at least in comparison.)

Consider what this statistic says about the limited effect of playing and enjoying life for these youth now. (Doing anything physical is more difficult and therefore a deterrent to those activities that could actually reverse this trend!)  Consider the future impact to these youth of health complications as adults  —- YOUNG adults!  Consider the consequence to tax payers whether through increased medical and insurance costs or lack of healthy workforce to move our economy and country forward.

Clearly this is one epidemic that cannot bear our willingness to ‘not notice’.

Why are we in this condition?  Yes, too much TV and computer games. Yes, too many parents drive kids to school when they could (should) safely walk. Yes, good nutrition, fruits, and vegetables are expensive for a citizenry in which 65% participated to some degree last year in the food stamp program. Yes, laziness, poverty, ignorance, denial.

Regardless of how we arrived here, what are we going to do? As a community, in our schools, as families, as individuals?

We know that ‘addicts’ will not be able to begin recovery until the addict him/herself makes that commitment. How much more difficult this work is around obesity when society accepts and too often laughs with/at this addiction of inactivity or poor choices or the vicious cycle of poverty.

I do not know the answer. I do know that I will no longer join self-kidding from others who remark about their overweight as though age or work requirements are allowable excuses. I know I continue to invite my family into playful, physical activities….even if rebuffed repeatedly. I know I will seek suggestions from others who face this same worry on behalf of our common good.

Comments welcomed!