RSS Follow Become a Fan

Recent Posts

E is for Empowerment
Health Literacy Challenge: How to Save 92,000 lives & $24 Billion in Healthcare Costs Annually
Promoting Health Literacy: Consider Access Needs
A New Improved Definition for Health Literacy: Rx to end confusion?
Interactive Health Literacy: under researched, unclear concept, measurement challenge


Beginnings Guides
Health Education
Health Literacy
Parenting Education
Prenatal Education
powered by

Beginnings Guides Blog

Parenting Education

Zika and Health Literacy. Advice ignores context

Don’t get pregnant until 2018.
That is the current public health message from El Salvador’s health minister. Colombian women are warned to postpone pregnancy for 6 to 8 months. Jamaica just released similar advice. The intent is to prevent mother-to-baby transmission of Zika.

The mosquito-borne virus known since 1947 as a rare mild disease limited to central Africa, is spreading rapidly across dozens of countries in Latin America and the Caribbean. No one knows why. The World Health Organization (WHO) warns Zika is likely to reach every country in the Americas, except Canada and Chili. There is no treatment or vaccine, largely because only about 20 percent of infected adults have any symptoms. They might have a headache, body aches, a fever and red eyes for a few days.

Here is the public health concern: in Brazil, since an outbreak of Zika started there last May, more than 3800 babies have been born with microcephaly, 30 times the expected rate, according to WHO. Microcephaly is a rare birth defect characterized by a very small head and incomplete brain development leading to death or lifelong disability. There is little scientific evidence, but the apparent association between Zika and microcephaly warrants public health warnings, and delaying pregnancy seems wise. However…

The advice to women to avoid pregnancy ignores the context in which they are expected to comply. In El Salvador and Colombia there is little access to contraception, especially for poor rural women. Abortion is illegal in all cases in El Salvador, where the teen pregnancy rate is among the highest in Latin America accounting for a third of all births.  Abortion is illegal in 99% of cases in Colombia. In Jamaica, abortion is legal in some cases with the approval of the father and two medical specialists. There is little or no sex education in the schools. Sexual violence is prevalent. So women lack the knowledge, services and power to heed the advice.
Good risk communication?
Colombia’s health minister explained that his message to women is a good way to communicate risk. The minister seems to forget that women do not become pregnant by themselves. No similar messages have been directed to men. For sure, women who hear the warning will fear pregnancy and birth defects more than they already do, but left to protect themselves, this amounts to a “Just say No” campaign. It leaves women vulnerable to blame for unplanned pregnancy and birth defects in their babies, and to charges of non-compliance that could be misinterpreted as evidence of low health literacy.

Don’t get bit
A better message, free of gender bias, understandable and actionable, is to avoid mosquito bites. CDC has issued Level 2 travel advisories  (for all, not just pregnant women) for the Caribbean, South and Central America, Puerto Rico, Cape Verde, Samoa and Mexico.  Travelers are advised to “practice enhanced precautions”. In this case,

•       see your doctor before and after travel to areas where Zika is active
•       Use insect repellant (safe and effective for pregnant women)
•       Wear clothing to cover as much of your body as possible
•       Sleep under a mosquito net
•       Keep doors and windows closed or screened
•       Avoid standing water 
Important Notes:
The offending mosquitos bite in the morning, not just late afternoon and evening like other skeeters. 
The infection lasts only a week or less. The danger is only to a current pregnancy.  There is no danger to future pregnancies.

US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention www.cdc.gov/zika. Information is being updated regularly

Time to Acknowledge our Biggest Barrier to Health & Health Literacy

Can you name it?
It doubles+ the risk of eight of the ten leading causes of death, which account for about 75% of the $3Trillion Americans spend on healthcare annually. It explains half of learning and behavior problems in children. It is prevalent in all sectors of society, at home and around the world. It meets the criteria for a public health crisis. Can you name it? 
It is ACEs — Adverse Childhood Experiences. I’ve written here before about ACEs. I’ve said that anyone working in maternal-child health, or early childhood education, K-12 education, child care, chronic disease, or health literacy needs to know about the lasting destructive power of ACEs. 
But, after participating in the 30th Zero To Three national conference held last week here in Seattle, I understand ACEs are not just another related issue we should be  tracking. It is time to acknowledge and address ACEs as the biggest barrier to personal and public health, and to improving heath literacy. As keynote speaker, pediatrician Nadine Burke Harris says, “ We — all of us — are the solution.”
Work in all the many fields that aim to build a strong foundation for healthy child development is futile where ACEs cause that foundation to crumble and leave children physically, mentally, and emotionally predisposed to impaired cognitive and emotional development, and to adulthood defined by diabetes, obesity, heart and lung diseases, cancers. In the context of health literacy, unacknowledged ACEs must be viewed as a looming barrier to health across the lifecourse, to literacy, and to effective participation in healthcare and society. It is a multigenerational problem. A mother with unaddressed ACEs cannot buffer her child from ACEs. 
Early years last a lifetime, for better or worse, by default or by design. ACEs are the worse-by-default part that Zero To Three mantra.  By definition an Adverse Childhood Experience occurs in childhood (< age 18) and the person remembers it as an adult.  Here are the nine types of ACEs:
* physical abuse
* sexual abuse
* emotional abuse
* mental illness of a household member
* problematic drinking or alcoholism of a household member
* illegal street or prescription drug use by a household member
* divorce or separation of a parent
* domestic violence towards a parent
* incarceration of a household member
Why ACEs matter so much for so long 
These are more than unhappy memories. A baby’s brain is only partially (about 25%) developed at birth so that it can be wired to enable the baby to survive in the environment into which s/he is born.  Babies absorb everything they see, hear, feel and otherwise experience. Those experiences tell the brain what to expect and how to be ready for it. By Baby’s first birthday, brain wiring is 70% complete, by age 3, it’s 85% wired. So the earlier the experience, the greater and more lasting it’s impact.

With repeated ACEs, four or more of the listed experiences, or the same experience repeated frequently, the brain and all the body systems get stuck on high alert; living in a crouch, always expecting something bad to happen. The Fight, Flee or Freeze mechanism is designed as an emergency response system. When danger is past, it is supposed to switch off so the body returns to a normal relaxed state. When it is stuck in the On position, little energy and attention are available for learning and cognitive development. Self-regulation becomes a strident challenge; behavioral problems ensue. Eventually, the wear and tear of constant stress on the body’s systems manifest as non-communicable adult disease.  The leading causes of adult deaths worldwide have their origins in early development. In ACEs.
Resources & Reference:
This from Beginnings Guides Tools for Serving Families  http://www.beginningsguides.com/Tools-for-Serving-Families.html

Find your ACE Score: See how ACEs have affected you.  Use the questions to generate a reflective conversation with a mother about her ACEs and their impacts on her life and parenting.  Testing shows the questions do not spur trauma or need for professional help.  Download the questionnaire 
Read the research: www.acestudy.org
View Dr. Burke Harris’ TED Talk “How  childhood trauma affects health across a lifetime”

Next: How we can use information about Adverse Childhood Experiences

2015 Kids Count Child Well-Being Report Released

Health disparities, low health literacy begin in poverty
Despite some encouraging news in the just-released annual state rankings for child well-being, Annie E Casey Foundation reports large numbers of children of all racial and ethnic groups are facing economic conditions that can impede long-term success.  In 2013 (latest figures) in the world's richest country, 22% of all children live below the poverty line —$24,250 annual income for a family of 4. According to the Economic Policy Institute it takes at least twice that amount to provide basic essentials. It's worse than the average suggests.  Here is where health disparities begin: 39% of African American children,  37% of Native American children, 33% of Hispanic children live in poverty. Compared to 14% of white children.

"When very young children experience poverty, particularly if that poverty is deep and persistent, they are at high risk of encountering difficulties later in life - having poorer adolescent health, becoming teen mothers, dropping out of school and facing poor employment outcomes." 

Implications for health literacy improvement                                            
These figures jumped out at me since preliminary findings from my current research suggest that basic essentials —- safe housing, adequate food, transportation, health insurance, and child care — are prerequisites for developing maternal health literacy, mothers' ability to use information and services to keep healthy and raise and healthy competent child. It makes sense that no amount of reading skill, understanding of healthcare, or knowledge of preventive practices can make those practices possible when feeding the children necessarily takes priority. National and international policy documents call for improving health literacy in parents to reduce health disparities. Progress in unlikely until we provide health insurance and economic supports to parents of very young children. 
Cheers for the Affordable Care Act
Thanks to Obamacare, the rate of insured kids improved 30% leaving 7% or 5.2 million uninsured, most in states that declined to expand Medicaid
Cheers for Alaska
Applause for Alaska governor Bill Walker. He announced last week that he will use executive authority to expand Medicaid. That means nearly 30,000 Alaskans will soon be able obtain insurance.  The annual Kids Count Datebook ranks Alaska 31 among the states for child health. The governor's action bodes well for a higher ranking in coming years.
Cheers for Minnesota
They're Number 1 overall in the Kids Count ratings, 2nd in health behind Iowa.
Oh Mississippi! Worst place for kids. Still.  
Mississippi ranked 50th overall as it has every year since the rankings were first published in 1990. The state was last in economic well-being, health, and family & community. It ranked 48th in education ahead of New Mexico and Nevada.
See your state rankings here.
Economic Policy Institute. Family budget calculator. www.epi.org/resources/budget/  

BLEEP Gag Rules Threaten Public Health, Child Health Protect right not to think

In Florida, if someone scares you to death you can legally shoot them to death with your BLEEP.  But your 
family doctor or pediatrician or health worker cannot legally ask you if a BLEEP is kept in your house or how
it is stored.
Apparently even thinking about the risk of unsecured BLEEPs to their children’s and visitors’ safety threatens  
parents’ and patients’ right to keep BLEEPs anywhere and any way they want.  This BLEEP has been Florida law 
since 2011. (The part that made asking about BLEEPs a felony with jail time and a $5 Million fine did not pass). 
Physicians groups challenged the law. It was upheld as constitutional in Florida since BLEEP ownership and safety 
is a private matter unrelated to medical care.
BLEEPs and tobacco are the only products on the market that when used correctly kill people; BLEEPS kill lots 
of people, often children, in a seconds.  So BLEEPS can’t be a private matter.

Safety Checklist for a Crawler: 
BLEEPS are unrelated to medical care until a child -or some one 
else- or the owner- is injured by the patients’ BLEEPs. Then
taxpayers fund emergency response and medical care for totally 
preventable horrific injury or death, and related court costs, 
increased insurance premiums, and lost contributions to society. 
And we live in fear…. Oh, I see, if you live in fear - get a BLEEP. 
The Texas legislature entertained a similar gag rule this month. 

Death in the United States: A Call to Action From 8 Health Professional Organizations and the American Bar Association.
Ann Intern Med. 2015 Feb 24. doi: 10.7326/M15-0337. [Epub ahead of print]
Ferrris S. Childrens Defense Fund report on ChildsBLEEP deaths, new BLEEP laws Data analysis: More preschool kids dead from BLEEPfire than 
police. May 19, 2014
Walters, E. Bill Would Prohibit Doctors From Asking About BLEEPs. The Texas Tribune March 18, 2015

Pitts, L. Republican  list of things you cannot say. Seattle Times March 19, 2015

Discipline or abuse?

Social media and the NFL are enabling us to reflect together on what level of aggression and violence in family relationships is acceptable in our society. It's a fitting although inadvertent role for the NFL, whose players are de facto role models for American males, and whose recruiters, coaches and fans place high value on aggression and violence on the field. (Here is Seattle, we love the defense in Beast Mode - on the field.) The NFL's position on aggression at home is, well, evolving. Thanks to the inventors and users of social media.

There seems to be consensus that child abuse is unacceptable, and discipline is necessary. But the line between discipline and abuse is defined by a complex and dynamic web of personal beliefs, local culture, and state laws.

What is abuse?
It depends who you ask and where you are.  State law is largely focused on protecting parents' rights, and keeping the family free of government or social interference. Social workers focus on protecting the child from parental excess. The courts aim to balance parents' rights with children's welfare. There's controversy regarding how much weight should be given to potential effects on children's social and emotional wellbeing and healthy development, on what is "normal" in the child's community, on potential future harm, on how well the punishment fits the infraction, on a pattern of parental behavior.

State laws are intentionally vague about what constitutes abuse, so that cases can be decided on an individual basis.  The laws and their approaches to defining abuse vary widely. Interpretation on the ground varies by agencies and individuals. This can result in a "I know it when I see it" understanding of child abuse.  Judging by the Twitter traffic around Adrian Peterson, people who view the same video evidence interpret it very differently.

How to decide?
Ultimately, parents must decide whether, when and how to discipline their child. To me there are two important things to bring to mind when discipline is in order. First, every young child wants to be, tries to be like his or her parents. And every parental action teaches the child some lesson, by default or by design.

A clear distinction for me is that disciple is teaching by design.  It intends to teach the child appropriate behavior and right action. Abuse is teaching by default, it aims to punish inappropriate behavior. As a parent, the question to ask when provoked by a preschooler, or any child, is what do I want to teach now?

Adrian Peterson said he wanted to teach his son to be respectful and not curse at playmates. But his preschooler did not make up those swear words. He learned them from someone he is trying to be like. And hitting a person with a stick is about as disrespectful as one can get.  Peterson left a scar on his 4-year-old's head, which he said the child could have avoided by not trying to get away.  Would you try to get away from a brawny footballer coming after you with a stick? I sure would. Would you think he was abusing you or that he was teaching you appropriate social behavior?

Consider what that boy is going to say to himself as he grows up looking in the mirror at his scar? "I want to be respectful and polite like my dad". Probably not.

This from Beginnings Parents Guide
Doriane Lambelet Coleman et al., Where and How to Draw the Line Between Reasonable Corporal Punishment and Abuse, 73 Law and Contemporary Problems 107-166 (Spring 2010)
Available at: http://scholarship.law.duke.edu/lcp/vol73/iss2/6


Maternal Health Literacy: Foundation of personal and public health

Part 1 Maternal health literacy as skills
A life skill is a collection of skills necessary for full participation in everyday life.
Maternal health literacy is a life skill that mothers use to manage personal and
child health and healthcare.  It has been defined as the cognitive & social skills
that determine a mother’s motivation and ability to act on information in ways
that improve health (Renkert and Nutbeam, 2001).
Cognitive skills are used to understand information; they include basic literacy skills,
reading and numeracy (ability to use numbers). A mother might use these basic skills
to learn about ear aches, and make an appointment to take her child to see a clinician.
So basic literacy skills are the essential foundation for health literacy.
Social skills are used to make personal meaning from information, including speaking
and listening. The mother whose child has an ear ache uses these skills when she discusses
with the clinician the information on ear aches to understand why her child has them and
how she might prevent them.
Reflective skills combine cognitive and social skills to think critically, make choices,
formulate plans, and take action.  The mother in our example uses reflective skills when
she mulls over what the doctor said, what she read, her experience of her child’s ear ache,
her actions and parenting practices, and her discussion with her mother about treatment
options and possible preventive measures. Some literacy scholars say that reflective skills
are so essential to applying information in context that it should be classified as a basic skill.
So we could say there are 4Rs: reading, ‘riting, ‘rithmatic, and reflection.
Health literacy means empowerment (WHO 2013)
A health literate mother combines all these skills to make health related choices and transform
those choice into desired action and outcomes. That is the World Bank’s definition of
empowerment.  Say the mother chooses to stop putting her baby to bed with a bottle. She takes
that step, and she enjoys her desired outcome, a happy ear-ache free baby. We say this mother
is empowered for health. 
Her health literacy skills enable her to minimize risk, maximize protective factors, and optimize
health promotion. In this way, a mother’s health literacy forms the foundation for her health and
her child’s health throughout their lives.
Many factors, in addition to skills, interact to determine a woman’s maternal health literacy.
More on that next time.

Top Reasons to Promote Maternal Health Literacy #5 (#1 if you are talking to a legislator or business leader)

Skills beget skills. Cognitive and social skills needed to successfully manage
personal and child health and healthcare are those needed for success in
life across cultures. They are skills that empower people to  be what
they want to be, to make choices and transform those choices into desired
actions and outcomes. 
These life skills develop most easily in early childhood given a stable
supportive family environment. Disparity in brain development in children
growing in disadvantaged vs enriched environments becomes apparent in
the first year.  Quality of family life matters more than the number of
parents, their income or education. But poverty and accumulated disadvantage
prevent parents from doing their best to sustain the stimulating home
environments that support optimal development, especially when they
themselves lack skills, resources and role models. Early intervention ---
early childhood education, parenting training, family support and home
visitation programs--- can produce positive and lasting effects on children
in disadvantaged families.  
Nobel Laureate and economics professor James Heckman, makes the business
case for shifting public policy to support programs that offer parents information,
choices and assistance.  Promoting health literacy means providing direct
supplemental assistance that specifically and intentionally enables parents to
develop and hone the range of life skills used to participate in healthcare and
manage personal and family health at home.
Must read: Heckman,  James J. (2013) Giving Kids a Fair Chance (A Strategy
That Works) MIT Press, Cambridge, Mass.  ISBN 978-0-262-01913-2 
In addition to Heckman’s monograph, the book includes illuminating commentary
by 10 experts from multiple disciplines.

Pregnancy Guide Update: Obesity a disease?

The American Medical Association House of Delegates declared obesity a disease
last month. Is this good for maternal and child health?  For public health? 
It’s not new
In 1995 the National Heart Lung and Blood Institute called obesity a “complex
multifactoral chronic disease”. Ten years earlier, almost 30 years ago now,
NIH called prevention and treatment of obesity a national medical priority.
With 90 million Americans now officially obese, it seems few clinicians got the
Obesity prevention not a priority in maternity care
In researching issues of weight gain in pregnancy for  the update of the
Beginnings Pregnancy Guide, I found that weighing is still the only procedure in
early prenatal care that has shown any impact on outcomes. And yet it has
become uncommon for a pregnant woman to be weighed at prenatal visits or
when being admitted to a hospital for birth. Prenatal care providers have reported
they seldom weigh pregnant women or discuss weight for fear the conversation will
interfere with their patient/provider relationship. Others said they do not know how
to calculate BMI. They also must not know about the many BMI calculators that will
do it for them. One can only hope that calling obesity a disease will change these
Healthy mothers, healthy babies. Fat mothers, fat babies
The issue in pregnancy is that a mother with an excess of fat cells produces a baby
with an excess of  fat cells. So we are building obesity and the attendant health issues
into the next generation.
ACEs -Adverse childhood experiences - witnessing or experiencing interpersonal violence
is closely related to obesity. A woman fearing abuse may hide in obesity, intentionally
making herself unattractive to protect herself. Is that a disease? With medical treatment,
many such women have lost weight, and gained it right back. That’s how the lifelong
effects of ACEs were discovered.
Other mothers have said it doesn’t matter if they gain too much in pregnancy since
they are just going to get pregnant again; the weight can come off after that.
Only it rarelydoes.
Turning people into patients
Google “obesity disease”. The first thing that pops up is ad ad for weight loss surgery.
This may be more telling than official statements.
Especially when we consider the Forbes June 28 report that the AMA’s Council on Science
and Public Health, the group appointed to address the question, advised against declaring
obesity a disease. But the delegates chose ignore their own advisors.
We have to ask, what was so compelling?
Perhaps it is the implementation of the Affordable Care Act that will bring healthcare
coverage to millions of Americans previously excluded from the healthcare system.
At least a third of them are obese. Now they can be patients.
According to CDC 35.7% of Americans are obese, 49.5% of African Americans, 40% of
Mexican Americans. Rates vary widely by state. Find your state rate at
http://www.cdc.gov/obesity/data/adult.html.  Now all those people are diseased
and in need of medical treatment.
Calling obesity a disease, again, could draw attention to related health issues, but it
hasn’t in 20 years.  It could result in better maternity care, but the declaration is
unlikely to improve clinicians communication and counseling skills.  It could spark a
Kennedy-style physical fitness craze, but that entails behavior change, and the same
communication issues.  It could increase research on obesity, but NIH already has a
Strategic Plan for Obesity Research and funds nearly a billion dollars worth of studies
annually. Grants.nih.gov lists 49 obesity-related research solicitations currently open
for submission of grant applications. 
Only one thing seems certain, making obesity a disease will increase medical treatments
and costs, and revenue to AMA constituents.

Beginnings Pregnancy Guide Update: “Entertainment Ultrasound” Warning

Choose 2D, 3D or 4D.  In-studio or at your baby shower. Announce your pregnancy
with a “viewing party”. Get a video at the mall. Post it on Facebook. Select the
premium package offered by a Miami OB-GYN’s office and get a weekend discount.
The American Institute of Ultrasound Medicine, American College of Obstetrician
s and Gynecologists, American Academy of Family Physicians, March of Dimes,
US Food and Drug Administration, England’s National Institute for Health and
Clinical Excellence, the UK’s National Collaborating Centre for Women's and
Children's Health, and other national and international experts all have published
strong recommendations against non-medical use of fetal ultrasound.  The Society
of Obstetricians and Gynaecolgists of Canada calls for a complete ban on non-
medical use of fetal ultrasound. The state of Connecticut legislated a ban in 2009. 
The FDA says that creating fetal keepsake ultrasound images is “an unapproved
use of a medical device,” and those who perform ultrasonography scans “without
a physician’s order may be in violation of state or local laws or regulations.”
“You don’t need an excuse to be happy.”
Still internet ads for non-medical ultrasounds abound, complete with slogans like
this, implying you don’t need a medical reason for the “painless, relaxing procedure”.
The growing popularity of “keepsake ultrasounds” is not due to cost or access issues.
Most insurance companies pay for one or two doctor-ordered ultrasounds as part of
routine prenatal care, and commercial ultrasound is not cheap.
Prices start at $175 for the 3D in-studio option. $500 for an “ultrasound party”
at the location of your choice. The cheapest rate I saw was $75 for a basic “gender
determination” scan; it’s discounted to  $55 on Saturdays one OB-GYN’s office. These
commercial services are not regulated or standardized.
Safety Concerns
Commercial sonographers say that ultrasound is safe. I found unclear statements like:
“All research provided has been proven to be safe for expectant mothers and baby,
as long as the procedure is done by a trained professional, and no longer that one
hour intervals.”   First, we have to ask, research provided by whom? and What about
the research that was not provided?  Second, remember that no research ever proves
anything. It can only offer statistical evidence. Then, a more accurate statement is
that repeated ultrasounds have not been proven harmful. Still  the evidence has
convinced all the advisory and regulatory agencies that entertainment ultrasounds
are worrisome.
Ultrasound uses sound waves, not xrays. So radiation is not the issue. But the procedure
targets the fetus with heat and  pressure, especially prolonged, 4-D studies. New York
state legislators proposed a ban on ultrasonography for entertainment purposes, citing
data showing that 4Dl ultrasound equipment can emit eight times more energy than the
machines commonly used in medical settings. The risk of  effects on fetal development
has been demonstrated in both human and animal models, and remains, at least theoretically,
so that  the FDA concludes exposing the fetus to ultrasound with no anticipation of medical
benefit is not justified.
Additional concerns about non-medical ultrasonography include the possibility that non-
medical ultrasonography will fail to identify a problem with the baby, falsely reassuring
the patient and her family; or that a false-positive result could create unnecessary anxiety
and follow-up testing. Machines are unregulated so may not be properly calibrated or
maintained. Technicians may not be well-trained or proficient. “gender determination”
had never been an accepted use of of ultrasound technology and raises thorny ethical issues.
Medical ultrasounds are for doctors         
Here’s the problem:  In medical settings, the sonographer is commonly prohibited from
explaining ultrasound results to the patient, who must then wait for days or weeks to get the
results from the physician who ordered the scan. Family members may be barred from attending
the ultrasound appointment to avoid congestion in the radiology department. Parents may not
receive still pictures or video to take home. If they do, they still cannot send it to a friend or post
it online.  Until these disempowering practices change, parents and  sonographers  will continue
to seek a more informative,  convenient, family friendly experience. 

Check  Technician’s Credentials                      
Qualified sonographers are trained and certified. Find one, or check a technician’s credentials,

Beginnings Pregnancy Guides says, “Ultrasound is safe for you and Baby.”  [p8] That remains true.
The 2014 edition will add this statement: Many healthy pregnancies do not need ultrasound.
Extra  “keepsake" ultrasounds may be harmful.  The Registry of credentialed sonographers
will be posted on the new Mothers’  Resources page at www.BeginningsGuides.com  More on that later.

Don't Order Fetal Ultrasound Videos As Souvenirs: FDA

References:  http://www.aafp.org/afp/2005/1201/p2362.html#afp20051201p2362-b6

The Power of Choosing

Preverbal infants show preference for others in distress
At 10 months of age, babies differentiate attackers from victims and neutral parties.
They literally reach out to victims. Their second choice is a neutral party. They avoid attackers.
In scientific experiments by Japanese researchers, the players were shapes on a screen, something
like the early Pac-man games. The researchers suggest the infants’ preference for the victim is the
foundation for sympathy.
The findings seem to confirm other research that says witnessing violence  has nearly the same
negative impact as experiencing it directly. This seems to be so even on an infant. The study
certainly confirms that babies observe and are shaped by what is happening around them.
The power of choosing
This experiment further suggests a very early start for what David Emerald (The Empowerment
Dynamic) describes as humans’ default way of looking at the world. It’s a survival mechanism. In
order to keep us alive, our brains are pre-set to keep us focused on problems and threats. Anything
unfamiliar or unexpected (including an aggressive square) is considered a threat, even as early as
10 months. Brain imaging shows that upon detecting a threat, real or imagined, the brain floods the
body with chemicals to produce anxiety. It gives us just three choices of how to react: fight, flee
or freeze. No thinking is involved. Anxiety is the prime motivator,  and our default state.
Emerald writes that It takes intention and attention to notice when we are reacting automatically
to anxiety, and to instead choose a purposeful response to the source of the anxiety.  A habit of
observing and choosing is the key.  The process of choosing takes us out of survival mode and
activates critical thinking.
Give Baby choices
Taken together, these works make clear the importance of allowing  very young children to make
choices.  Even before they begin to talk or to understand.  Hold up two shirts. Ask, red shirt or
green? Let Baby point. When out for a walk, ask Baby which way he wants to go. He can point.
Maybe not the first time. But probably sooner than you think.
“Making choices and translating those choices into desired actions and outcomes” - that is the
definition of empowerment.
Kanakogi Y, Okumura Y, Inoue Y, Kitazaki M et al. (2013) Rudimentary Sympathy in Preverbal Infants: Preference for Others
in Distress.PLoSONE 8(6): e65292, doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0065292
Emerald, D. (2006). The power of TED: The Empowerment Dynamic. Bainbridge Island, WA: Polaris Press.

World Bank. (2005). "What is empowerment?"  http://go.worldbank.org/V45HD4P100.
Website Builder provided by  Vistaprint