By Aaron Zaretsky
World Population Day focuses on the importance of population issues such as improving the health of mothers, newborns, and children. These are priorities for the Canadian International Development Agency (CIDA), along with reducing the number of preventable deaths. For example, more than 7.6 million children pass away before their fifth birthday.
However, many of these deaths can be prevented with proven, cost-effective, evidence-based interventions. Below are FIVE cost-efficient ways that can improve children’s health.
1. Bask in the Sunshine
Sunlight contains Vitamin D, which is important for everyone, especially a child’s healthy bone and immune system development. Only 10 to 15 minutes of direct sunlight per day is all that is needed to provide a child with all the vitamin D they need. The best time for sun exposure is from 7am to 10am, as it is less likely to receive a sun burn.
Wellness Mama advises children to not wear sunscreen during this time because, “wearing any sunscreen blocks the body’s ability to produce Vitamin D, which is vital for hundreds of reactions in the body.” When basking in the sunshine for 10 to 15 minutes, a child can multitask and participate in a second cost-efficient way to improve their health, by feeling the dirt.
2. Feel the Dirt
Along with sunshine, dirt and soil help in developing a healthy immune system as there are natural compounds in dirt that increase serotonin levels and also contribute to healthy sleep. Also, regular engagement in dirt helps prevent children from obtaining allergies and asthma. Furthermore, interacting with dirt can help babies’ natural iron and zinc production, even before they start solid foods. After playing in all that dirt, why not enjoy an Epsom salt bath to clean up?
3. Soak it all in
With depleted soil and water levels, many people, including children, are magnesium deficient, which is linked to anxiety and insomnia. Adding a dash of Epsom salt and a tablespoon of sea salt to a bath is a gentle way to increase a child’s magnesium levels. It will also help them relax and provide a better sleep. Especially for children with allergies, eczema, and or asthma, this salty step makes a significant difference. Additional Health Benefits of Magnesium Salt Baths are stress and headache relief, muscle aches, better nutrient absorption, and joint pain relief.
4. Consume Homemade Soup
Homemade soup with real broth is simple and inexpensive to make, providing great benefits for your child. Broth contains tons of minerals in an easy to digest form, and contains high amounts of gelatin, which is terrific for immune health, as well as skin, bone, and muscle growth! Broth is also great on its own, especially during illness. Most children naturally enjoy homemade soup, and when cooked soft enough, it is great baby food. Babies are born with a leaky gut, and the gelatin in homemade broth helps close the gut and prevent food sensitivities.
5. No Nightlight Needed
A natural fear most children have is being afraid of the dark, especially when sleeping. One solution to that is a nightlight, but it does not help a child’s health. Sleeping is important for tissue repair and cell growth, and interrupting the delicate hormone cycle during sleep has long-term effects. One of the long-term effects, is it can be a factor if one were to get cancer. Removing all artificial light improves a child’s growth, without halting the natural hormone cycle. If a child is still afraid of the dark, reassure them that there is nothing to be afraid of, and give them healthy snacks before bed to put their mind at ease.
Maternal, newborn, and child health are essential in creating a just and equitable world, because they are the future. Basking in the sunshine, interacting with dirt, Epsom salt baths, homemade soup, and no artificial light are five cost-friendly ways to improve a child’s health, which also improves the future.
Furthermore, Canada is leading a global effort—the Muskoka Initiative—to mobilize global action in reducing maternal and infant mortality, while improving the health of mothers and children in the world's poorest countries.