Battling obesity (and maybe Hot Cheetos) in Michigan schools

May 8, 2015
USAG-Humphreys / flickr

The number of obese preschool kids in Michigan is going down, that's the good news.

The health of older kids and adults, however, is not improving that way. Michigan is the 11th most overweight state in the country.

There's an idea that's taken hold in the past few years about why it is that poor people, on average, eat less healthy food and have higher rates of obesity. The idea is simply that people in neighborhoods marked by poverty lack access to healthy food choices. Somewhere along the way (most likely starting in the U.K.) a person with an ear for good marketing decided to label these kinds of neighborhoods "food deserts."

Now, there's even a public service announcement dedicated to ending food deserts in the U.S.

The 2014 Farm Bill called for spending $125 million to attack food deserts by funding new stores or markets to sell fresh fruits and vegetables in low income areas. But this year, Congress decided to strip funding for the program

A new economic study argues this may have been the right decision. 


Last week, a child showed up at the MidMichigan Health Medical Center in Clare with a suspicious set of symptoms. The child’s visit led to a phone call. That phone call led to an arrest.

Police told a local TV news station the child’s dad had been cooking methamphetamine inside the home. Yesterday, I reported that a record number of children were exposed to meth production last year in Michigan. The Clare case shows the problem hasn’t stopped this year, either.

When I was reporting the story, I called a doctor at the health center where the child showed up last week. Dr. Abid Khan isn’t the one who saw the child. But he is an expert on addiction. He runs a clinic at the center, and meets with addicts regularly.

He told me the way addiction is treated today is all wrong.

Sharyn Morrow / Flickr

Dr. Vincent Felitti, father of the seminal Adverse Childhood Experience (ACE) study that has informed so much of State of Opportunity’s reporting and recently this NPR series, was recently in Michigan for a conference on how adverse childhood experiences affect health.

Gabi Menashe / Flickr

The Michigan League for Public Policy released its latest Kids Count report this morning. The report tries to quantify how our state's children are doing, by breaking down dozens of indicators. My colleague Lindsey Smith has the scoop on the overall trends: some education indicators are improving, while poverty rates and neglect cases are on the rise.

Kent County working to encourage more parents to vaccinate

Jan 23, 2015
Steve and Sara Emry / Flickr

Unvaccinated kids could be responsible for recent trouble at the "happiest place on earth". Disneyland has a measles outbreak, which has infected 59 people so far, and spread to four other states in addition to Mexico.

Andrew Mason / Flickr

To educate our readers and avoid being redundant, we're creating a series of "explainer" posts on the topics we refer to a lot. This is one of them.

The teenage brain is full of opportunity. It's malleable,  almost like plastic, and can be changed. This makes adolescence a chance to really reshape the brain. 

The teenage brain is constantly changing

5 things to know about childhood trauma

Dec 5, 2014
leeroy09481 / flickr

To educate our readers and avoid being redundant, we're creating a series of "explainer" posts on the topics we refer to a lot. This is one of them.

Eva Petoskey

Suicide is a major public health problem for American Indians. The suicide rate for American Indian teenagers in particular is 2.5 times higher than the national average. I took a trip over the summer to the Grand Traverse Band of Ottawa and Chippewa Indians Reservation in Suttons Bay to talk with folks in the community about the issue.

When I visited the reservation, it was rainy, no sun in sight, but that didn't stop a couple thousand people from making the trek to the reservation for the annual powwow. The Anishinaabe word is "Jiingtamok." 

Turns out you can tell a lot about an infant's socioeconomic background based on what he eats. "The tentacles of income inequality find their way into many different aspects of life, and food is a particularly apt example," writes Washington Post reporter Roberto Ferdman. New research shows that babies who eat lots of foods high in sugar and fat come from poorer, less educated households compared to babies whose parents follow suggested infant feeding guidelines. Not only can these high fat/sugar foods impact a child's growth, but research indicates it can also "negatively impact a child's long-term health, eating habits, and food preferences."