HEALTH

HHS expands flu PSAs with spots featuring Elmo, local governors

BY Michael Johnsen

WASHINGTON The Department of Health and Human Services on Monday announced the availability of 13 new 30-second flu radio public service announcements, featuring 13 of America’s governors and Elmo from “Sesame Street.”

The messages, which will be promoted to radio stations across the country, promote key flu prevention messages to parents and children.

Children and young adults continue to be disproportionately affected by H1N1, HHS reported. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, more than half of the hospitalizations from 2009 H1N1 flu reported recently were people age 24 and younger.  That’s why HHS has teamed up with Sesame Workshop and other partners to promote flu prevention PSAs aimed at educating children and their parents about the importance of staying healthy during flu season.

“Elmo has emerged as one of our best partners in fighting the flu this year,” stated HHS secretary Kathleen Sebelius. “That’s why we are excited for Elmo to join some of the nation’s governors in promoting important flu prevention tips. We know that kids are especially vulnerable against H1N1, and we hope that hearing flu prevention tips from Elmo will help them stay healthy and flu free.”

These new 30-second radio ads are designed for broadcast in states around the country. All of the new ads are available for download at http://www.flu.gov/psa/psacongress.html.

The new radio PSAs include recordings from Govs. Jodi Rell, Conn.; Chet Culver, Iowa; Mark Parkinson, Kansas; Jennifer Granholm, Mich.; Jay Nixon, Mo.; Bev Perdue, N.C.; John Hoeven, N.D.; Ted Strickland, Ohio; Brad Henry, Okla.; Ted Kulongoski, Ore.; Jim Douglas, Vt.; Chris Gregoire, Wash.; and Dave Freudenthal, Wyo.

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Ganeden Biotech announces partnership with National Farmers Organization

BY Allison Cerra

CLEVELAND The maker of a patented probiotic strain announced a new partnership agreement with the National Farmers Organization to create awareness of the health benefits of probiotics, and increase the availability of probiotic-enhanced milk.

Ganeden Biotech said the partnership gives the NFO access to the premier probiotic GanedenBC30, offering processors the opportunity to provide probiotic-enhanced milk products to consumers. Ganeden Biotech will serve as the organization’s sole probiotic provider.

“We are thrilled to be able to provide the health benefits of probiotic-enhanced milk to consumers, while also providing another stream of revenue for our nation’s family dairy farmers,” said Bradley Rach, NFO national dairy director. “The quality of Ganeden Biotech’s probiotic strain, GanedenBC30, coupled with the caliber of the company’s scientific operations made it the ideal partner for our organization.”

“Partnering with the National Farmers Organization will allow us to provide more consumers with access to probiotic-enhanced milk products, while simultaneously supporting family farmers,” said Ganeden Biotech CEO Andrew Lefkowitz. “We are proud to partner with the NFO in this endeavor and help support our country’s farms.”

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New findings conclude U.S. children may lack healthy level of vitamin D

BY Michael Johnsen

BOSTON As many as 20% of children in the United States between the ages of 1 and 11 years may suffer from suboptimal levels of vitamin D, according to a large nationally representative study published in the November issue of Pediatrics, Children’s Hospital Boston announced Monday.

The study, led by Jonathan Mansbach of Children’s Hospital Boston, is the most up-to-date analysis of vitamin D levels in U.S. children. It builds on the growing evidence that levels have fallen below what’s considered healthy, and that black and Hispanic children are at particularly high risk.

Both the optimal amount of vitamin D supplementation and the healthy blood level of vitamin D are under heated debate in the medical community, the hospital suggested. Mansbach and collaborators from the University of Colorado Denver and Massachusetts General Hospital used data from the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey to look at vitamin D levels in a nationally representative sample of roughly 5,000 children from 2001-2006. Extrapolating to the entire U.S. population, their analysis suggests that roughly 20% of all children fell below the recommended 50 nmol/L. Moreover, more than two-thirds of all children had vitamin D levels below 75 nmol/L, including 80% of Hispanic children and 92% of non-Hispanic black children.

“If 75 nmol/L or higher is eventually demonstrated to be the healthy normal level of vitamin D, then there is much more vitamin D deficiency in the U.S. than people realize,” Mansbach said.

In the study, children taking multi-vitamins that included vitamin D had higher levels overall, but this accounted for less than half of all children. Mansbach recommended that all children take vitamin D supplements, especially those living in high latitudes, where the sun is scarce in the wintertime.

“We need to perform randomized controlled trials to understand if vitamin D actually improves these wide-ranging health outcomes,” Mansbach said. “At present, however, there are a lot of studies demonstrating associations between low levels of vitamin D and poor health. Therefore, we believe many U.S. children would likely benefit from more vitamin D.”

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