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BACK-A-THON: Pushing back illiteracy

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By Srishti Jaswal

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People across 23 cities in India walked backwards to spread awareness, and to empower, aid and protect the vulnerable children living in shelter homes in an event called ‘Back- A- Thon’ on Sunday, September 13. The event, which was more of a social gathering than a sporting affair, was hosted nationally by a non-profit organization, Make a Difference (MAD).

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People participated in this atypical marathon by walking backwards in a uniform fashion. The event was held with the agenda of connecting the society to its children by sensitizing the community about the harsh conditions they faced in shelter homes.

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Shelter homes across the country face multiple challenges ranging from financial crunches and staff quality to lack of emotional support for children. Along with these, the stigmatization of the vulnerability of children and shelter homes causes additional stress to this already precarious situation. Even the budget for child related schemes in the union budget 2015-2016 has dropped by a massive 29 per cent. It is with the aim of raising awareness about these issues, that MAD held ‘Back-A-Thon’ across 23 cities in India.

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MAD tries to promote the importance of literacy for individuals, community and society. Literacy is a term that is understood by all without realizing that it is a complex, dynamic and lifelong intellectual process of gaining knowledge and interpreting it. Children living in shelter homes need support and care to help them in this world.

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All over India, nearly 11,892 people across the nation turned up for the event and walked backwards. Coimbatore had maximum participation of 1,500 people, Delhi and Vizag both had 800 and above participants, Chandigarh had 700 and Mumbai had 489 participants walking backwards for the cause.

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“Seven hundred is a huge number. It was so over whelming to see such a splendid response of the people in the wee hours of the morning. This is just self-explanatory to say that the society is all out to bring in the change. It wants to push the evils backwards. We just need to aware the community about it. Events like these help us do better. People are ready to Make a Difference”, says Rimjhim Bathla, PR fellow at Make a Difference, Chandigarh.

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On being asked why people were walking backwards, Shaurya, a student of St Jones Chandigarh, replied, “We are pushing illiteracy backwards.”

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‘Back-A-Thon’ attracted active participation from all sections of society; one could see students, working class, elderly people and even people from slums and shelter homes.

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‘Back-A-Thon’ was able to create an impact in the minds of thousands of people throughout the nation.

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The number of people who turned up for ‘Back-a Thon’ in each city:

  • COIMBATORE : 1500
  • TRIVANDRUM : 647
  • KOLKATA : 423
  • MYSORE : 500
  • VIJAYAWADA : 650
  • BHOPAL : 452
  • LUCKNOW 330
  • AHEMDABAD : 300
  • VELLORE : 350+
  • PUNE : 370+
  • DEHRADUN: 576
  • DELHI: 800+
  • COCHIN: 200+
  • VIZAG: 800+
  • MUMBAI: 489
  • BANGALORE: 780+
  • GUNTUR: 500+
  • KOLKATA : 370
  • GWALIOR : 900+
  • CHENNAI : 250+
  • COCHIN : 200+
  • HYDRABAD : 500+
  • CHANDIGARH : 700

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Exposure To High Levels of Air Pollution May Lead To Changes in Children’s Brain Structure

Previous studies of traffic-related air pollution suggest that it contributes to neurodegenerative diseases and neurodevelopmental disorders

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Air Pollution
The researchers found that children with higher levels of air pollution exposure at birth had reductions at age 12 in gray matter volume and cortical thickness as compared to children with lower levels of exposure. Pixabay

Exposure to high levels of traffic-related air pollution at age 1 may lead to structural changes in the brain at the age of 12 which can influence the development of various physical and mental processes, warns a study.

The researchers found that children with higher levels of air pollution exposure at birth had reductions at age 12 in gray matter volume and cortical thickness as compared to children with lower levels of exposure. Gray matter includes regions of the brain involved in motor control as well as sensory perception, such as seeing and hearing. Cortical thickness reflects the outer gray matter depth.

The study, published online in the journal PLOS One, found that specific regions in the frontal and parietal lobes and the cerebellum were affected with decreases on the order of three to four per cent. “The results of this study, though exploratory, suggest that where you live and the air you breathe can affect how your brain develops,” said lead author of the study Travis Beckwith, PhD, a research fellow at Cincinnati Children’s Hospital Medical Center in the US.

“While the percentage of loss is far less than what might be seen in a degenerative disease state, this loss may be enough to influence the development of various physical and mental processes,” Beckwith said. For the study, the researchers used magnetic resonance imaging to obtain anatomical brain images from 147 kids.

These children are a subset of the Cincinnati Childhood Allergy and Air Pollution Study (CCAAPS), which recruited volunteers prior to the age of six months to examine early childhood exposure to traffic-related air pollution and health outcomes.

Pollution
Exposure to high levels of traffic-related air pollution at age 1 may lead to structural changes in the brain at the age of 12 which can influence the development of various physical and mental processes, warns a study. Pixabay

The volunteers in the CCAAPS had either high or low levels of pollution exposure during their first year of life. The researchers estimated exposure using an air sampling network of 27 sites in the Cincinnati area, and 24/7 sampling was conducted simultaneously at four or five sites over different seasons.

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Participating children and their caregivers completed clinic visits at ages 1, 2, 3, 4, 7 and 12. Previous studies of traffic-related air pollution suggest that it contributes to neurodegenerative diseases and neurodevelopmental disorders. (IANS)