Avraham ben Yaakov
Parents' Guide to Teaching Children Healthcare

1 Contemporary Health Hazards
Why preventive healthcare is more vital today than ever before

We live in a world of technological sophistication and material prosperity unknown in any previous era. The benefits are very many, yet prosperity and sophistication have brought many problems of their own. Our way of life and environment pose serious threats to our health and wellbeing. Today it's more vital than ever to help our children protect their health by teaching them to make healthy choices as they find their way in this confusing world.

Food & Diet

Revolutionary methods of agriculture, food production, preservation, refrigeration, transport and marketing have made an abundance of food products of every kind readily available to large sections of the population. Supermarket shelves are stacked with a bewildering array of choices. Many people's diet includes a high proportion of snacks and fast foods.

Too much fat and sugar
The average diet in many "advanced" countries is too high in fats and sugars, causing obesity and increasing the risk of heart disease, the leading killer in the "advanced" countries.

Malnutrition without hunger?
Many people rely on foods that do not provide them with the right balance of vital nutrients. A diet rich in the wrong ingredients can be a poor diet for the body and may cause impaired physical and mental functioning and increase the risk of serious illnesses, including osteoporosis, diabetes and cancer.

What's in it and what will it do to me?
Contemporary agriculture relies heavily on fertilizers, growth aids, pesticides and genetic engineering. Food manufacture often involves removal of many natural food components while artificial preservatives, flavorings, coloring, vitamins, minerals and other substances are added. In many cases, the effects on health of contemporary processes and additives are unknown.

Mental, emotional and behavioral problems
Experts point to poor nutrition as a significant factor in many mental, emotional and behavioral problems among youth today, including hyperactivity, attention deficit, mood swing, aggression and violence.

In a world of multiple food options, it's vital to teach our children to make good choices.


At home and at work, technology has made our lives physically much easier. Cars and elevators save us the need to walk and climb stairs. Tasks that used to involve considerable physical effort are today performed at the push of a button by phones, computers and countless other inventions.

Recipe for obesity
When people are physically inactive but eat too rich a diet, they get fat! Inadequate physical activity can lead to loss of muscle strength, joint flexibility and bone strength as well as many other problems.

When normal everyday activities are physically undemanding, some form of exercise is necessary to maintain health and fitness.

Hazards all around us
With all its benefits, technology has also brought many potential hazards into our lives at home and outside, from electrical outlets and appliances, flammable materials, dangerous chemicals and poisonous medicines to dangers on the roads and many more.

Teaching our children proper caution in the home and outside is a matter of survival!

Technology is supposed to save us time and effort yet it often seems to make our lives more complicated. Today's high-speed, high-pressure lifestyle with its barrage of noise, beeps, rings, flashing lights, blinking screens, vibrations, electromagnetic fields and much more puts people under tremendous stress. Stress may cause anxiety, fatigue and depression as well as many other mental, emotional, nervous and physical problems.

Good health helps protect against the adverse effects of stress. To help our children stand up to the challenges of a high-pressure world, we must teach them healthy habits.

Quality of the environment

Our sophisticated, extravagant, industry and technology-based society takes a heavy toll on the environment in which we live. Throughout the world countless tons of industrial waste, chemicals, heavy metals, radioactive substances, garbage, unsanitary waste and much more are daily dumped on land or poured into rivers and seas, causing untold damage to natural systems and resources, affecting the foods we eat and water we drink. Heavy emissions of poisonous and other gases by automobiles, industry and even home spray-cans not only pollute the air we breathe but are causing serious long-term damage to the earth's atmosphere, which is even upsetting weather patterns.

Known and unknown effects of pollution
Research indicates that various kinds of environmental pollution are directly associated with higher incidence of certain serious illnesses and other health problems in the population as a whole and especially in those sectors that are more exposed. Many other phenomena -- from allergies of various kinds to fatigue, loss of mental acuity and nervous problems -- are also thought by many to be bound up with environmental pollution.

What can we do about it?

In most cases we can't help being exposed to pollution. The surest way to protect ourselves is by leading the healthiest possible lifestyle. When people eat a poor diet, fail to take proper exercise and abuse their health in other ways, they make it harder for their bodies to cope with the assault from the outside environment.

Teaching our children healthy habits is the best way to ensure a healthy future for them and for the generations to come.

Chapter 2: The Mitzva of Caring for Body and Soul




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