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Health-Conscious NH Ready to Embrace “Hug Your Kids” Movement?

Hugs may be a form of affordable health care
Hugs may be a form of affordable health care
July 16, 2012

NASHUA, N.H. - Michelle Nichols started Global Hug Your Kids Day (July 16) on the tenth anniversary of the death of her 8-year-old son, Mark, who died a mere 11 days after he was diagnosed with brain cancer. She does not want anyone faced with a similar loss to regret not hugging their child.

With the promotional savvy earned as a former columnist for Businessweek, she is pointing out this year - the movement's fifth - that hugs can be just what the doctor ordered, in terms of "affordable health care."

"Yes, we have big health care issues, and we need to use other kinds of medicine, too, but hugs can be a part of a health routine that can help our economy and help families individually, as well."

She says research suggests hugging can reduce blood pressure, heart rate, tension, loneliness, depression, obesity, insomnia and even the body's levels of cortisol, a stress hormone.

Stacey Scarpone with the Women's Fund of Long Island says hugs are great, but how about some more love for kids from policy makers?

"Hugging a child is a wonderful way to allow a child to feel secure and loved, but as a community, we need to provide policies and programs that ensure that young people are protected, educated and economically stable."

Claire Lerner with Zero To Three, a national advocacy group for infants, toddlers and families, says a hug really should be part of an overall warm, nurturing relationship between parent and child - and it can have an effect.

"There is research that does show that warm, supportive, nurturing physical touch affects a child's growing brain, which is obviously very significant, because the brain controls so much of a person's functioning."

Nichols stresses that hugging should be part of the current debate over affordable health care.

"There's so much talk these days about the cost of health care and the delivery of health care. We wanted to look at a whole different, other aspect of health care, which is hugs, because there are many health aspects and ways hugs can improve the good things and decrease the bad things."

Since there is no health care billing code for a hug and no one is getting paid, she says "Global Hug Your Kids Day" is a grassroots movement. It's one that Nichols predicts will be "an overnight about 10 years."

Mark Scheerer, Public News Service - NH