Tag Archives: Pregnancy complications

We Owe This to Our Youth

Her name was Lucy.  She was a petite, fragile looking, seven-year-old with large, questioning eyes.  When she spoke, which was rare, it was in a tiny high-pitched voice that seemed better suited to a cartoon mouse.   She didn’t really socialize with the others, but she was always kind, willing to share, and would occasionally grace us with a dazzling smile.   She spent the majority of our time together doodling and singing quietly to herself, oblivious to the world around her.  One afternoon, at the end of a long week, I put on music and announced to the class that we would be having a dance-off.   After a few contestants, Lucy shyly raised her hand to take a turn.  I could never have predicted what was about to happen.  As she took the floor, she suddenly broke into “the robot” followed by a sequence of break dance moves that hadn’t been popular for close to 20 years.  The class erupted into cheers and delighted laughter.  As she concluded her performance, by executing a seated spin on the floor, I thought, “This child is special.”

And she was special.  She is special … wherever she may be.  ALL of the students in my first grade class were special.   Teaching solidified the belief on which my current work in public health is rooted:  ALL children are special and ALL children deserve to be nurtured in a safe, supportive home with parents who can properly care for them and make them a genuine priority in their lives.

So how do we ensure that this happens?  First, we must give people the resources they need to plan when they have children.  The most basic of these resources is accurate information about reproductive anatomy, conception, contraception (including abstinence), and how to access health services.  Generally speaking, a child born of a planned pregnancy has the odds stacked in their favor from the very beginning.

The decision of when to have a child is, of course, very personal.  Most everyone can agree, however, that parenting is best delayed until adulthood.  Although I have met some outstanding teen parents in Gaston County, most are quick to explain why delaying pregnancy is important.  They know firsthand how becoming a parent changed their schedules, their sleep, their priorities, their friends, their family, and even their life goals.  I see the obstacles that teen parents face, and I also know the challenges their children face: they are much more likely to experience poverty, abuse, neglect, school failure, chronic health problems, and incarceration than children born to older parents.  Sadly, statistics also show that teen pregnancy is cyclical – daughters of teen mothers are three times more likely to become teen parents themselves.

Gaston County has seen great declines in teen pregnancy over the past several years thanks, in large part, to those involved in the Gaston Youth Connected initiative.  Young people in our community are getting the information they need to make smart decisions about their relationships, their bodies, and ultimately, their lives.  We must ensure that this continues.  We owe this to our youth.  We also owe the future children of Gaston County the opportunity to be born into circumstances that provide them with the best possible chance of success … unlike Lucy.

See, what the rest of my class didn’t know about Lucy was that she was found, at approximately 3 days of age, abandoned under a bridge.  I don’t know much about Lucy’s mother –if she was a teen or not – but I do know two things about her:  1) for some reason, she was not ready to be a parent and 2) she had an incredible daughter, against whom the odds were stacked.

By Carrie Meier

Teen Pregnancy Prevention Supervisor

Gaston County Department of Health & Human Services

May is Teen Pregnancy Prevention Month


Pushi Patel- Take a Stand to Reduce Obesity

Over past decades, obesity rates in the United States have increased rapidly. Obesity is a very complex health issue that results from eating too many calories and not getting enough physical activity; as a result, causing an energy imbalance. Obesity is associated with genetic, behavioral, and social factors; however, physical activity and eating habits contribute the most.

Being overweight or obese also increases the risk for many chronic health conditions, such as coronary heart disease, Type II diabetes, high blood pressure, high cholesterol, stroke, and respiratory problems. Additionally, women who are overweight or obese are at higher risk for miscarriage, still birth, and other complications during pregnancy. Babies born to women whot are overweight or obese are at higher risk for birth defects, preterm birth, and being obese later in life.

Three out of four Gaston County residents are either overweight or obese*. In 2013, the Gaston County Board of Health announced obesity to be our county’s top health priority. The Gaston County Department of Health & Human Services (DHHS) aims to reduce the incidence of obesity by increasing programming to promote physical activity and improving nutritional practices. To do this, everyone has a role to play- including parents, schools, healthcare professionals, community-based organizations, and faith-based organizations.

Leaders in faith communities play a vital role in reducing obesity rates, as they are most trusted by their community and can encourage members to take action. Leaders of congregations know their members well; they represent their congregation, and can communicate key health and nutrition information in the most effective ways. Additionally, faith based organizations provide opportunities to share information, link members with resources in the community, and to organize initiatives.

DHHS is excited about new programs that are specifically tailored to tap into our local faith community’s expertise in moving people towards positive and healthy changes. The programs include educational sessions that target individual and family oriented behavioral changes; walking groups to increase physical activity; and assisting organizations in making policy level changes that will result in environmental and behavioral changes. These research-based programs are free and if you are interested, please call 704-853-5083 for more information.

Again, programs are just one piece of the puzzle and success does not happen overnight. It truly takes an entire community to plant the seeds that will lead to a healthier and happier generation.

By: Pushti Patel, Health Education Coordinator
Gaston County Department Health & Human Services

*Overweight and obese adults are those that weigh greater than what is generally considered healthy for a given height. The terms overweight and obesity identify ranges of weight that have been shown to increase the likelihood of certain diseases and other health problems.