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Release: Sept. 30, 2002

UI children's health specialists focus on early brain development

Faculty and staff members of the Children's Hospital of Iowa will place increased emphasis upon the importance of early brain development for children during the month of October.

Iowa Gov. Tom Vilsack has declared October as Iowa Child Health Month. Pediatricians and other child health specialists are encouraging everyone to become more aware of how they can enhance early brain development among children.

"Protecting early brain development begins before and during pregnancy. A healthy lifestyle, with avoidance of alcohol, drugs and smoking, and use of prenatal vitamins with folic acid helps to insure normal brain development," said Royann Mraz, M.D., University of Iowa assistant professor (clinical) of pediatrics in the Center for Disabilities and Development at UI Hospitals and Clinics.

Gretchen Vigil, M.D., UI assistant professor (clinical) of pediatrics added, "It continues from there with reading to your children beginning in infancy, limiting television viewing and protecting children and adolescents from head injuries by ensuring that they wear helmets and seat belts."

Child development specialists report that children who watch more then 10 hours of television each week are less successful in school and have lower reading abilities. The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) recommends that children less than two years old not watch any television. Children two years and older should not view more than two hours of television per day.

Most of the disability and deaths that occur during childhood accidents involve a brain injury. For example, three-quarters of deaths among children injured while riding bicycles are due to brain injuries. Wearing a helmet decreases the risk of a head injury by up to 80 percent. Similarly, car seats and booster seats reduce a child's risk dying in a motor vehicle collision by the same amount.

The Iowa AAP chapter again sponsored a poster contest for children from kindergarten through eighth grade. For more information about early brain development, visit online at

University of Iowa Health Care describes the partnership between the University of Iowa Roy J. and Lucille A. Carver College of Medicine and UI Hospitals and Clinics and the patient care, medical education and research programs and services they provide. Visit UI Health Care online at