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Utah Parents Can Hug for Health

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

SALT LAKE CITY, Utah - July 16 is Global Hug Your Kids Day, an observance started in 2008 by Michelle Nichols on the 10th anniversary of the death of her 8-year-old son. Mark died just 11 days after being diagnosed with brain cancer. Nichols doesn't want anyone faced with a similar loss to regret not hugging their child enough. With the promotional savvy earned as a former columnist for Businessweek, she points 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 as well, but hugs can be a part of a health routine that can help our economy and help families individually, as well."

Nichols says research suggests hugging can reduce a person's blood pressure, heart rate and tension level, as well as the body's level of cortisol, a stress hormone. It can also affect conditions from loneliness and depression to obesity and insomnia.

Claire Lerner, director of parenting resources at Zero To Three, a national group advocating for infants, toddlers and families, sees hugs as a natural part of the relationship between parent and child. She says it does have an effect on health.

"There is research that does show 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 believes hugging should even be part of the current health care debate.

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

She says there's no medical billing code for a hug, so Global Hug Your Kids Day is a grassroots movement - one she predicts will be "an overnight sensation...in about 10 years."

More information is available at www.hugyourkidstoday.com.

Chris Thomas, Public News Service - UT