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Building a Playground in Just One Day; Getting Families Healthy By Getting Them Off the Couch; Ways to Protect Your Skin From the Sun

Aired July 5, 2008 - 08:30   ET


SANJAY GUPTA, CNN HOST: Good morning and welcome to a very special edition of HOUSE CALL from Louisiana. We're here to help families get healthy by building a playground from scratch in just one day.
Getting active, meaning getting away from the couch and the computer, it's critical to slash the grim rates of overweight and obesity. We talk about this all the time. In fact, recent research highlights the problem.

Get this, one study reveals obese or overweight teens are two to three times more likely than their peers to die of heart disease, colon cancer, and asthma as adults. Another study shows America's obesity rates have stalled at a high mark of more than 30 percent of American children weighing more than they should.

We're here at the Pontiff playground in Metairie, Louisiana. Where I'm standing was at one time under five feet of water. Just imagine that. All the work going on behind me now to try and rebuild this playground. It is remarkable.

You know, 18 days following Hurricane Katrina, this place was a disaster area. Rebuilding was tough. Add to that the economic struggles of this particular region, lack of access to health care and rising rates of obesity. Could be a perfect storm for future health problems.


GUPTA: And that's what we and all these volunteers behind me are trying to stop, by giving this community a place to be active. And I'm joined by Sarah Pinsky, who is from the nonprofit KaBOOM!. And you are director of Operation Playground, is that right?

SARAH PINKSY: Yes, Operation Playground is our initiative to build playgrounds in the areas affected by Hurricanes Katrina and Rita.

GUPTA: So tell me a little bit about how this all comes together? What's going on first of all behind us here?

PINKSY: Well, in one day, we're going to build a great new kid- designed playground for the folks in Metairie. We're also putting in a walking path and other amenities to make it more of a neighborhood gathering place to get not just kids active but the entire community. GUPTA: And we talk about how devastated this particular area was after the hurricane. But how does KaBOOM!, other organizations decide where they're going to do this sort of work?

PINKSY: Well, any time you have a lot of kids with no place to be active, you want to look at ways you can incorporate something fun, something to get the kids moving, to get their parents active. And we found that playgrounds are a great way to get all generations of a community up and active.

GUPTA: You know, the old adage, if you build it, they will come. Does that happen?

PINKSY: Absolutely.

GUPTA: What can we expect? How will this place look a few months from now, do you think?

PINKSY: Covered with kids. We hope to have seniors and parents walking around. You know, active kids are healthy kids. So the more that we can get them to the playgrounds, they're going to bring their parents, they're going to bring their grandparents. And we have studies that show if you put in a playground in a neighborhood, you can increase the overall activity level, the entire community, not just the children, but everyone.

GUPTA: Now a lot of -- as I talked about what I was I doing today, a lot of people said well, I want to get this done in my neighborhood. And we need something like this here as well. How do they make that happen?

PINKSY: Well, KaBOOM!'s a national nonprofit organization. And we work with communities across the country to accomplish this. You go to You can find all the resources to get a playground project started in your community.

GUPTA: Are you going to get to work?

PINKSY: I'm going to get to work. Are you going to join me?

GUPTA: I'm going to get to work as well.

PINKSY: Great.

GUPTA: Sarah Pinsky, thanks so much.

PINKSY: Thank you.

GUPTA: Congratulations on the good work you've been doing.

PINKSY: Thank you so much.


GUPTA: My favorite segment of the show. You probably know that by know. And like me, being outside in steamy Louisiana seemed to have heat and health on your mind. In fact, Bernie in Colorado has this question. "What are the symptoms of heat stroke? Should one follow up with a doctor after a bad spell of heat?"

Great question, timely question, Bernie. Let me start with the distinction people may not know about. There are three heat-related syndromes. Heat cramps, heat exhaustion, and finally, the most serious, heat stroke.

Cramps are caused by not drinking enough fluids while exercising in the heat. Heat exhaustion is more serious with symptoms like heavy sweating, nausea, headache and a quickened pulse. You can treat yourself by getting out of the heat, drinking cold water, and resting your legs above the level of the heart. Remember that.

Now, if you don't do those things, you may end up with what Bernie asked about, heat stroke. The symptoms can be similar to exhaustion, but the main difference is elevated body temperature usually greater than 104 degrees. A person may actually stop sweating. And their skin looks hot and dry, but their breathing may become shallow and rapid.

Now, if you suspect heat stroke, immediately get that person out of the sun and into a cooler space. Call 911 and try to cool them off if possible. Have them drink cool water, for example.

Now I, along with all these volunteers you see behind me, are going to be in the sun most of the day. Probably many of you are going to be doing this same thing sort of this weekend. So just remember, keep drinking as many fluids as you can. Of course, I'm not talking about alcohol or even sugary drinks. That's not going to keep you hydrated. I'm talking about water, good old H2O.

Also, don't forget your eyes. Overexposure's been linked to glaucoma later on in life. So make sure when buying your shades, get one with 100 percent UV protection. Also, let's not forget about the largest organ of our bodies. All this fun in the sun can spell trouble for your skin.

And Judy Fortin is here with ways to protect yourself.


JUDY FORTIN, CNN MEDICAL CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Our obsession with having a year-round healthy glow is anything but healthy, especially for young women. But don't blame it all on the sun. Dermatologists are targeting indoor agents of tanning, namely, tanning beds.

RUDLEDGE FORNEY, DR., DERMATOLOGIST: The problem with tanning beds is that your entire body gets tanned. It gets tanned very quickly. It's much more intense than outside. It's cool. So you don't have the disincentive of getting hot. And it's easy and it's quick.

FORTIN: And despite industry claims that these beds are safe, doctors disagree. FORNEY: We are seeing epidemic of melanoma in people in their 20s. They are showing up in places that could only be affected by a tanning bed, buttocks, areas that just typically wouldn't see sun on a regular basis. But there's no question that young people, especially young women in their late teens and 20s are having many more melanomas.

FORTIN: Melanoma is the most deadly of skin cancers, according to the American Cancer Society, which says over 60,000 new cases will be diagnosed this year. It's numbers like these that have prompted the American Academy of Dermatology to come out with a new campaign against indoor tanning called "Indoor Tanning is Out."

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: One in five Americans develops skin cancer.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: One person dies from melanoma about every hour.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I don't want to be one of them.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I don't want to be one of them.

FORNEY: One of the things tanning beds does is that they -- people never have a rest from UV radiation. It's just like not having a rest from X-rays or cigarette smoke or any other known carcinogen. Your body doesn't have time to recover from it.

FORTIN: Many doctors advise patients to avoid the dangers of tanning beds by spraying on or rubbing on products that produce that healthy glow. Whatever you can do to avoid roasting it on.

Judy Fortin, CNN, Atlanta.


GUPTA: All right, Judy, thanks. Coming up, some major stories you won't want to miss. We got the check of this week's medical headlines. That's only in 60 seconds.

And later in the show, you can't take the kids to the gym. Why not bring the gym to the kids? The creative way one hospital is fighting childhood obesity. Stay tuned. We're making a HOUSE CALL.


GUPTA: Just behind me over here, volunteers working away, trying to build a playground for the residents of a Metairie, Louisiana, an area that was so devastated after Hurricane Katrina. You're watching HOUSE CALL.

And Elizabeth Cohen is here with a look at medical news making headlines. Elizabeth?


First up, is your sunscreen safe? An investigation of a thousand brand name sunscreens finds most may not provide adequate protection against UVA and UVB rays. That's according to the Environmental Working Group, a consumer advocacy organization.

The group also claims that some sunscreens even contain potentially dangerous chemicals. The FDA continues evaluating new standards for some (INAUDIBLE), but says the products are safe and effective in reducing the risk of sun damage. For more details on this story, visit

Also in the news, efforts to reduce HIV deaths in industrialized nations appears to be working. A new study finds the death rate for HIV patients in the first five years following infection is now similar to that of the death rate in the general uninfected population. Study authors cite effective anti-retro viral therapies for the success.

Finally, it's tough being a tiny patient, especially without pain medication. A recent study looking at thousands of documented procedures on newborns found only 20 percent of babies undergoing procedures like fluid removal, heel sticks, and adhesive removal were given a pain reliever. Some babies underwent as many as 60 procedures a day without any pain medication.

Studies have shown newborns are more sensitive to pain than older children. Doctors say exposing them to this kind of stress may lead to developmental and behavioral problems later in life. Those are this weeks medical headlines. Sanjay, back to you.

GUPTA: All right, Elizabeth, thanks.

Just ahead, a fitness mobile that comes to you. If you're a kid, that is. We're checking out the P.E. class on wheels when HOUSE CALL continues.


GUPTA: Welcome back to a very special edition of HOUSE CALL. We're here in Metairie, Louisiana. As you know, probably know by now, we've been building a playground all day from scratch, trying to get kids in place to actually get moving.

The state of Louisiana has about 65 percent of the population either overweight or obese. And one of the keys to solving that problem is to get people moving and to get people moving early.

I'm standing in front of this RV that is called On the Move. It's actually an RV that's from the Ochsner Medical Clinic. And what it is really in de facto is this place where it's a substitute physical education class, one that actually goes to the schools and provides a service that a lot of schools are now lacking.

So let's go take a look inside. Here are. And we find Michael Heim, program director as well. Nice to meet you.

MICHAEL HEIM, OCHSNER MEDICAL CENTER: Hey, how are you doing? It's nice to meet you. GUPTA: Yeah, so this is your mobile phys. ed class.

HEIM: This is the mobile fitness unit. Yes, sir, it's called On the Move, driving to fight childhood obesity.

GUPTA: How did this come about?

HEIM: Childhood obesity has become such a large epidemic in the country. So in the state of Louisiana, we found it was necessary that Ochsner Network take a fight toward childhood obesity.

GUPTA: Does, I mean, you have these relatively young kids actually working out on some of this equipment. Do they know how to use the equipment or...

HEIM: Absolutely. We got certified fitness instructors that show them how to use everything properly. And what's unique about the equipment is that the equipment moves. So it feels like they're on a ride, which is always good, because we want to keep them moving.

GUPTA: You know, it's amazing that we've gotten to this place. Where, you know, when I was in school, probably when you were in school as well, you had gym class.

HEIM: Oh, yes.

GUPTA: And that's what you did to stay fit. A lot of school programs don't have gym class any more?

HEIM: Well, education -- there's a lot of pressure on education for the core classes, especially Louisiana. And they're taking away classes of physical education. So what we would like to do is we like to go into the local school area and supplement their P.E. physical education classes and bring in nutrition and cooking demonstrations, and teach kids that nutrition is going to fun and exercise is exciting and inspire everybody's confidence.

GUPTA: Is it popular?

HEIM: Oh, absolutely. I mean, the kids, they're having a great time. They're smiling. They've never been on something like this before. So they're just having a great time. It's a great overall experience.

GUPTA: So the sit-ups here. You have leg press.

HEIM: Leg press.

GUPTA: Abdominal crunches over here.

HEIM: Abdominal crunches. We got chest, we got back, we got triceps, we got some squats going on over here, and some shoulders. And of course, with kids working out inside the truck, we have kids perhaps working out outside the truck with a certified truck.

GUPTA: You know, it's one of those things where I hope one day we get to the point where we no longer need a thing like this...

HEIM: Right.

GUPTA: ...because you actually have gym classes again.

HEIM: Absolutely.

GUPTA: I really appreciate your time.

HEIM: Thank you very much for your time. Appreciate you coming back.

GUPTA: Yes. Michael Heim. I should add as well that currently for fourth and fifth graders but they're expanding the program as well. So hopefully, kids of all age groups will be able to use places like this.

Take a look at some of these images here. These images that you're looking at. These are waters under home, people actually fleeing their homes. The question is this, do these images -- are these images potentially bad for kids who have suffered and escaped from Katrina? We're going to talk to someone about that.

Coming up, we're making a HOUSE CALL. Stay with us.


GUPTA: And we're back with a special edition of HOUSE CALL. We're here on the Pontiff playground. Lots of work going on all around us, but I want to show you something else, something I think is really interesting here.

Take a look at this big tree behind me. And if you look, you can see the water mark here. You get a sense of just how high the water got. Five feet of water. This entire playground was actually covered by water at one point. There was nothing here but mud and sticks.

The question was, you know, these sorts of scars, these sorts of remembrances, what do they do to the psyche of somebody, especially children? Helping us try to answer that question is Dr. Milton Anderson. You're a psychiatrist, pediatric psychiatrist with Ochsner Medical Clinic.

Thanks so much for joining us, first of all.


GUPTA: You know, I'm so curious because we saw this, one of the first things we saw when we came here. Just a reminder like this, what does it do for the mind of a child?

ANDERSON: Well, this is primarily a reminder. There's no water here any more. There's recovery going on. And this is the kind of positive reminder. Very different from seeing water that's deep in an image of some other kind.

GUPTA: So the fact that there's no water here anymore can actually be a good thing because they see...

ANDERSON: Had been covered.

GUPTA: But it's come back.

ANDERSON: And we need to remember.

GUPTA: We look at these images all the time. We saw them for so long. Still see them Katrina. Now we're seeing them in Iowa after the floods there. What is the right thing for a child? Are the images harmful in some way or is it good for them to know what's happened?

ANDERSON: For young children, certainly preschoolers and primary grades, the best thing to do would be to turn off the television or to have the children not watch those images in some way. They're going to have a great deal of difficulty distinguishing the time. It may seem like yesterday to them. And also knowing that the distances are far.

GUPTA: Right.

ANDERSON: It's a long way to grandma's house, five minutes around the corner to them. So something -- an answer from a parent that says well, that's far, far away from here could still be quite scary.

GUPTA: Let me ask you something I always think about as a dad as well. Is it better to talk about these things or not to talk about them? I mean, like let's say there's been a natural disaster in your area to the young child. Talk about it or not?

ANDERSON: You generally want to answer the questions that children ask you. And trust the fact that what they want to know they will ask and stop. If another question comes, then answer that one. But they will stop when they get finished knowing what they want to know. And often that may be before the whole story is done, but still stop when they're comfortable.

GUPTA: Katrina bring, a term you use -- what does that mean, Katrina bring?

ANDERSON: Well, a lot of people use that to describe the experience that they had about six months after the storm, after a period of chronic stress, after adrenal corticol hormones were elevated for a long time, where they had difficulty with short-term memory, trouble maintaining concentration on what they were doing. And people had lots and lots of things to do. And a draggy kind of fatigue. So putting those things together was a real...

GUPTA: It was sort of a overwhelming sight. Well, I'll tell you what, I've been down here about a dozen times, as you know. And I can see the progress that's being made both physically and emotionally. Dr. Milton Anderson, thank you so much.

ANDERSON: Thank you. GUPTA: And we are here at the Pontiff playground, like I mentioned. So much work still going on here. We have some 200 volunteers actually trying to put up this playground, doing the very things that Dr. Anderson was talking about, moving on both physically and emotionally.

You're watching HOUSE CALL. Stay with us.


GUPTA: Well, five hours into filming this playground here, you can see how much progress they have made. It was nothing but sticks and mud just a few hours ago. Welcome back to HOUSE CALL. You know, every week, we try and give you ways to empower yourself as a health consumer.

So, we invited Elizabeth Cohen now to give us her "Empowered Patient" segment.


COHEN: Hi, Sanjay.

In honor of this holiday weekend, we're honoring the heroes of patient empowerment. These are ordinary people who overcame difficult circumstances to help others get better medical care.

People like Victoria and Armando Nahum. They lost their son when he was in the hospital. He got an infection while he was there. And the Nahums overcame their grief to start the Safe Care Campaign to get hospitals to do a better job of preventing infections.

Now, we have several other heroes on our site. You can see all of them on patient. And all of them kind of point to several tips, several things that you can do to be a more savvy patient.

First of all, partner with your doctor. Don't expect your doctor to do everything. It needs to be a team. Also, ask questions. Keep asking questions. If you don't understand something, you need to understand it.

Also, use the Internet to find other patients like you. For example, when someone's diagnosed with cancer, there's a great site that's on our article, where people go and they can find other people who have been where they have been before, other people who were diagnosed with the same disease. You can find all of it at patient.

So, Sanjay, back to you. And great work on that playground.


GUPTA: All right, Elizabeth, thanks. Thanks, good stuff. We have much more from New Orleans when HOUSE CALL continues. Stay where you are. (COMMERCIAL BREAK)

GUPTA: Welcome back to a very special edition of HOUSE CALL. What a day it has been in Metairie, Louisiana. Take a look behind me. That area where that playground is was just mud and sticks a few hours ago. And they have a foot at this playground, over 200 volunteers. It is a remarkable thing. We partnered with all these volunteers and the nonprofit KaBOOM! as well.

Take a look at how we got here.



GUPTA: Good morning. And welcome to this very special edition of HOUSE CALL.


GUPTA: Well, many thanks to everyone who came out and helped build this playground today. More than 200 people, as I said. And let this be an example to you at home as well. Get out there today. Be active. And if you missed any part of today's show, go to, where you can find the show there as well.

Unfortunately, we're out of time. I'm Dr. Sanjay Gupta. Thanks for watching. And stay tuned now for more news on CNN.