Posts tagged with "Education"

Biden signs law that makes sesame the ninth major food allergen

April 29, 2021

President Joe Biden has signed into law a new measure that designates sesame as the ninth major food allergy and ramps up allergy research—enacting a bipartisan attempt to address marked growth in certain deadly allergies, The Washington Post reports.

The Food Allergy Safety, Treatment, Education and Research (Faster) Act (H.R. 2117) passed the Senate in March and the House of Representatives this month.

According to the Post, the need is clear: In the past two decades, life-threatening childhood food allergies have risen steadily, growing by about 4% per year to afflict 32 million Americans, according to research by Northwestern University, McKinsey & Company, and Food Allergy Research and Education (FARE), a nonprofit.

Studies estimate that the costs borne by American families—for medical bills, buying special foods, or forgoing full-time employment to care for a child with a food allergy — total $24.8 billion annually.

There are several strong theories to explain the uptick, Jonathan Spergel, chief of the Allergies Department at Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia, tells the post—but one stands out: In 2000, a small study suggested that if parents delayed the introduction of potentially allergenic foods, kids were less likely to develop those allergies.

That guidance was wrong, with subsequent studies revealing the exact opposite: Early, careful introduction of these foods lessens the risk of serious allergy. But the damage was done, as the American Academy of Pediatrics, parenting magazines; and parents, themselves, advocated for postponing the introduction of these potentially dangerous foods.

Even in the face of strong new evidence, a 2020 survey of pediatricians found that only 29% were implementing early introduction of allergens.

The new law attempts to change that. According to Lisa Gable, chief executive of FARE, 1.6 million Americans have sesame allergies. This law will require foods containing sesame to be clearly labeled by January 2023.

But perhaps more significant, the Globe reports, the legislation says the Department of Health and Human Services must prioritize regular reviews of promising food allergy treatments and research.

And this research will, for the first time, have an outlet for wide dissemination via the Dietary Guidelines for Americans. The Department of Health and Human Services and the Agriculture Department have issued the dietary guidelines every five years since 1980, but about babies and toddlers they’ve been mum until 2020. The guidelines are the road map for how the government administers school lunches and food assistance programs, and they often influence how food manufacturers formulate their products so they can participate in those programs, which buy $100 billion worth of food a year.

The 2020 guidelines contained three paragraphs about introducing infants to potentially allergenic foods — babies at high risk of peanut allergy should be introduced at 4 to 6 months; cow’s milk as a beverage by one year—and stated that “there is no evidence that delaying introduction of allergenic foods, beyond when other complementary foods are introduced, helps to prevent food allergy.”

Previous dietary guidelines did not contain suggestions for the introduction of allergenic foods.

Research contact: @washingtonpost

American women, single and married, are having more children later in life

January 23, 2018

Women—both married and single—are having children later in life than their mothers or grandmothers did. What’s more, today they are having more offspring than was the case just a dozen years ago, a report by Pew Research Center released on January 18 reveals.

Some 86% of women ages 40 to 44 are mothers now, a six-percentage-point increase over 2006, according to the Pew analysis of U.S. Census Bureau data.

And overall, women are having 2.07 children during their lives on average— up from 1.86 in 2006, the lowest number on record.

The recent rise in motherhood and fertility might seem to run counter to the notion that the U.S. is experiencing a post-recession “Baby Bust.” However, each trend is based on a different type of measurement. The analysis here is based on a cumulative measure of lifetime fertility (the number of births a woman has ever had); while reports of declining U.S. fertility are based on annual rates, which capture fertility at one point in time.

One factor driving down annual fertility rates is that women are becoming mothers later in life: The median age at which women become mothers in America is 26, compared with 23 in 1994. This change has been driven in part by declines in births to teens.

In the mid-1990s, about one-in-five women in their early 40s (22%) had given birth to a child prior to age 20; in 2014, that share had dropped to 13%.

That trend has carried over to women in their 20s: While slightly more than half (53%) of women in their early 40s in 1994 had become mothers by age 24, this share was 39% among those who were in this age group in 2014.

Pew points out, “The Great Recession intensified this shift toward later motherhood, which has been driven in the longer term by increases in educational attainment and women’s labor force participation, as well as delays in marriage.”

However, married or not, women are having babies. Indeed, as the share of women at the end of their childbearing years who have never wed has risen – from 9% in 1994 to 15% in 2014— a majority (55%) of those single women have had at least one child. This marks a dramatic change from two decades earlier, when roughly one-third (31%) of never-married women in their early 40s had given birth.

The share of never-married women in their early 40s who are mothers has risen across all educational levels, as well. As of 2014, 82% of women at the end of their childbearing years with a bachelor’s degree were mothers, compared with 76% of their counterparts in 1994.

And while 79% of women in their early 40s who have a master’s degree also have at least one child, this share was 71% 20 years earlier.

Interestingly enough, by far the most dramatic increase in motherhood has occurred among the relatively small group of women in their early 40s with a Ph.D. or professional degree—80% of whom are mothers. Among their predecessors, just 65% were.

Finally, among women who recently reached the end of their childbearing years, Hispanics are the most likely to have ever given birth: 90% have done so, compared with 85% of black women, 86% of Asian women and 83% of white women. This pattern is similar to that of women at the end of their childbearing years in the mid-1990s.

Research contact: info@pewresearch.org