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The North Wind

The North Wind

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Harry Stine
Harry Stine
Opinion Editor

In 2021, after one year of college and a semester of studying as a Public Relations major, I realized I wanted to be a journalist and not much else. After eagerly applying to be a Copy Editor, without...

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The North Wind is an independent student publication serving the Northern Michigan University community. It is partially funded by the Student Activity Fee. The North Wind digital paper is published daily during the fall and winter semesters except on university holidays and during exam weeks. The North Wind Board of Directors is composed of representatives of the student body, faculty, administration and area media.

Campus Cinema hosts Barbenheimer double feature
Campus Cinema hosts 'Barbenheimer' double feature
Abigail FaixDecember 3, 2023

Michigan childrens’ health addressed in forum

Pre-term births, childhood obesity, child abuse and neglect are all areas Michigan needs to focus to meet the national health improvement goals, according to the Kids Count in Michigan report.

A panel of four local experts met in front of a group of media and community members Tuesday, Nov. 4, to discuss the recently released report in relation to Michigan. The event was held by the Upper Peninsula Children’s Coalition (UPCC), an association of people from 27 organizations that identify the needs and priorities of children and families in the U.P.

The report shows that teen pregnancy, binge drinking and smoking are down among youth, but pre-term births, childhood obesity and child abuse and neglect cases are up.

Part of the increase in obesity is due to children’s busy afterschool schedules and an increase in graduation requirements, said Steve Peffers, Gwinn Community Schools superintendant.

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“While we realize (obesity) is also something we need to work on in helping our students, you need to look back a few years and see how graduation requirements have changed,” Peffers said at Tuesday’s conference. He also said that while there are vast numbers of afterschool programs, many of them don’t require vigorous physical activity.

While physical education does not get the same emphasis that it once did in schools, the state has no plans to increase the funding for those types of programs, said, Peffers. He added that while vending machines are part of the problem and are being taken out of many schools nationwide, they are a major part of the funding for the afterschool programs and thus cannot be removed completely.

The percentage of low birth weight babies is also on the rise, according to the report. In Michigan, the percent rose from 7.9 in 2000 to 8.3 in 2005. In Marquette County, it rose from 4.2 in 2000 to 6.3 in 2005.

Low birth weight is something that is on the rise nationally, not just in Michigan, with one in eight babies being born early, and the causes for it are hard to define, said Connie Koutouzos, Marquette General Hospital Director of Women’s and Children’s Center.

“Unfortunately, a lot of the causes of preterm birth are unknown,” she said. However, she added that smoking and other bad habits are certainly a factor.

These numbers are a call for better education on the issue, a healthier lifestyle, early prenatal care and good care, Koutouzos said.

“This highlights the importance of having care in the U.P.,” she said, adding that some mothers have to drive up to 100 miles from their home to give birth.

“Sometimes a woman does everything right and still has a preterm birth,” she said, but she encouraged women not to feel guilty about it.

Another area in which Michigan and Marquette County worsened according to the Kids Count Report is in the number of child abuse and neglect cases. The report shows 11.4 confirmed cases of child abuse or neglect per 1,000 children in 2006, up from 10.3 cases in 2000 and above the national goal of 10 cases per 1,000 children.

Rich Miketinac, director of the Marquette County Department of Human Services, suggested the reason for this increase is greater training and awareness.

“I think there’s a lot more community awareness,” he said, adding that his staff has also received more training in the area of recognizing abuse and neglect. Marquette County has also gained an investigator specifically for this purpose, he said.

“I guess I wouldn’t necessarily assume that the number of cases is up; I would say we’re getting better,” Miketinac said. Children in Marquette are less likely to live in poverty and less likely to have to rely on Medicaid, he added.

The UPCC meets the second Tuesday of every month in the MARESA building on East Ohio Street in Marquette.

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