Each day in clinic, I walk into the exam room and greet parents and new patients, nearly all children are engaged on the parent’s phone or their own electronic device. When I see a toddler who can’t even speak a fluent sentence but nevertheless can demand and reach for a device, swipe effortlessly, or protest when one is taken away, I am saddened by the reality of my own child’s generation.
Yes, perhaps the mother needed the child to be “quiet” while waiting for the doctor, but even when I have arrived the children never voluntarily gives up the device, even amidst the physical exam! We have an entire population, adults and children who no longer get daily exercise, go outside and engage in physical activity of any kind on a consistent basis. For our preteens and teenagers, I continue to find that the reason for their chronic “illness” and being “sick” to commonly result from poor eating and sleeping habits coupled with electronic addiction and hours spent on You Tube and Facebook.
I spent countless hours not explaining which surgery or medications can help their anxiety, depression, poor self -esteem, poor school performance, and lack of motivation to experience their daily actively. Instead, I spend my visit time asking questions about their eating, sleeping, and physical activity habits. So many youth are living their lives aimlessly and passively, stuck in a pattern of screen addiction coupled with poor eating and sleeping habits, but to them and their parents, they suffer from some “medical condition” that has now led to need for home-schooling in cases where the social withdrawl and “life-withdrawl” requires it.
Moving to the Lake Nona was a very conscious decision for our family. When we experienced and saw the amount of green space in our community, I remember so clearly the inner voice that told me this would be good for me, this would “save” me from my constant overambitious work-a-holic tendencies. From walking the dog, riding our bikes, walking with a friend, or simply enjoying my daily drives while seeing pastures and cattle, the “green” space centers me.
There are more behavioral and psychiatric diagnoses in our children’s generation than ever before, and now scientific research is proving that being in nature improves our minds and mental health. What wouldn’t you do to save your child’s life? Who knew that it may be as easy as taking a walk with your child and going to the park more often? Maybe this won’t “cure” every medical illness, but it’s an achievable, affordable, and necessary start.
Dr. Julie Wei is a pediatric ear, nose, and throat specialist and the author of A Healthier Wei. As a mother herself, Dr. Wei is a passionate advocate for improving children's health through better diet and dietary habits. She has been committed to helping parents learn how to eliminate their child's ear, nose, and throat problems simply by reducing excessive sugar and dairy intake, as well as minimizing habitual late night snacking. She hopes to raise awareness for the need for accountability by both medical professionals and parents to ensure that children are not prescribed or take unnecessary medications long term.
When she is not in the clinic, operating room, or conducting research, you will find her in the kitchen preparing food with love along with her daughter Claire. If you sit next to her on the plane, she will likely share with you information about how to minimize choking hazards in young children, and many other tips for improving your child's health.