Dr. David Hartley’s Nov. 14 article introducing a Maine Rural Health Network initiative addresses the urgent need for our participation in combating a serious crisis: that of the discouraging estimate of adults and children in Maine who are overweight or obese.

Eating habits established in childhood follow us into adulthood. As a staff member in an elementary school and a volunteer in youth organizations, I care deeply about the emotional and physical health of the children I encounter on a daily basis. I have been one of several adults vocally opposed to videos being offered as a recess choice during inclement weather, and equally opposed to the high volume of food some families are packing for their children’s snack time.

It has been affirming that the message was heard on the recess choices — children at our school now play active games in the gym. Hopefully, the issue of snack volume can be addressed as successfully. A number of children who eat an overabundance of snacks may also be consuming the government-mandated full lunch just a short time later, purely out of the habit of frequent eating or overeating in general. (On the flip side is the insidious waste of healthy food at lunch — a likely consequence of recent large snack consumption by the children doing the tossing).

School staff members and youth leaders have regular contact with children’s families. It would behoove us to support the Maine Rural Health Network that Dr. Hartley and his team are developing.

Encourage the families of the children you work with to pack moderate, healthy snacks. Continue to push for and offer active leisure-time activities at home, in schools, in child care facilities and youth organizations. Our children’s health depends on it.

Lucy Hardy

Wells

Continue research spending

I agree with Annalee Newitz’s Nov. 9 commentary saying that we need to keep government-sponsored medical research fully funded.

The National Institutes of Health and the Energy Department’s Joint Genome Institute share responsibility for some of the most exciting medical breakthroughs of our times. Research facilitated by these entities helps lay crucial groundwork, without which the private sector would not explore, produce or market many landmark medical treatments. This includes some of the treatments and medications under analysis for diseases like diabetes, cancer, Alzheimer’s and heart disease.

In rare diseases like cystic fibrosis, government-supplemented research often has an even more direct impact. Private industry, including pharmaceutical companies, simply does not have the market incentive to take on research without foreseeable bottom line results. So, for a disease like cystic fibrosis, which affects 30,000 people in the United States, better treatments and the possibility of a cure arise from research funded through nonprofit, disease-specific organizations (chiefly Cystic Fibrosis Foundation) and through government research grants, mainly through the NIH.

Like Ms. Newitz, I hope that Washington’s congressional supercommittee values facts over rhetoric before recommending any cuts to the NIH or other government bodies involved in medical research. The government-funded research helps pave the way to better, healthier lives for Americans with rare diseases like cystic fibrosis as well as for those with more widespread medical conditions like diabetes.

The debt-focused supercommittee may be even more interested to know that the same research leads ultimately to profits and jobs for those in the private sector fortunate enough to develop the publicly funded research seedlings into fully marketable drugs and profitable medical treatments. In that sense, the supercommittee and droves of stockholders can thank the government for facilitating profits — and jobs — in the pharmaceutical and medical industries.

Patty Morris

Cape Elizabeth

ON NOV. 8, U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton outlined an approach to the HIV epidemic that failed to live up to this pivotal moment in the effort to end AIDS.

Recent research advances, such as the U.S.-funded HIV Prevention Trial Network 052 study, show that early treatment of HIV reduces the risk of transmission from an infected to a non-infected partner by 96 percent. Health officials report that investing in treatment now to cover an additional 6 million people by 2013 could avert more than 12 million new HIV infections by 2020. This decrease in new infections would cause costs to fall by 2015. In a time of economic constraints and rising health care costs, it’s clear that now is the time to alter the trajectory of one of the most expensive pandemics the world has endured.

The science is clear and the end is in sight, but only if we invest now. According to Clinton, accelerating access to high-impact interventions such as AIDS treatment could usher in an AIDS-free generation, yet she neglected to commit the funding and treatment targets necessary to realize this goal. When President Obama speaks on Dec. 1 for World AIDS Day will he be ready to commit support for a future free of HIV?

Marce Abare

Harpswell

Drug test plan raises concerns

I have been reading that Gov. Paul LePage is proposing to drug test all welfare recipients. What a great idea! However, I’m wondering how he decided to test just welfare recipients.

Is it because they are receiving public money? Well then, maybe we should test everyone who receives Medicare. Is it because, by definition, they are poor? Then we should test everyone whose income is below the poverty line. Is it because they have children? Maybe we should drug test every parent who enrolls his or her children in public school.

Is it because they are unable to find gainful employment? Maybe we should drug test everyone who walks into the unemployment office. Is it because they don’t have a powerful lobby to stand up for their rights? Let’s test all infants, developmentally disabled and mentally ill. Is it because they may put someone else at risk if they use illicit drugs? If so, we should test hunters, ATV operators, police officers, motorcyclists, and … well, I guess everyone!

Linda Mawhorter

Gorham

I SEE THAT our governor, in all of his wisdom, has found another helpless group and branded them with the same brush. He wants to randomly drug test people on welfare. I am all for it when there is probable cause.

While we’re at it, why don’t we have all politicians take a lie detector test? There must be at least as many liars and crooks in politics as there are druggies on welfare. I wonder how quickly Gov. LePage will get behind this.

Brian Edwards

Chelsea