Kristen Bell on Why Parents Need to Step Up for Kids' Health

You may know her from Hollywood, but growing up in a family of nurses made Kristen Bell understand the importance of a child's access to health care. Parents sat down with the actress and singer to talk about her latest joint initiative to raise awareness about kids' global health and safety and the reasons why she stands with vaccinations.
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If you had to choose just one thing that would be true for every child, everywhere—the thing that would make a better life for kids from Sacramento to South Africa to Syria, what would it be? It's a hard question to answer (Clean water? Good nutrition? Equal access to education?), but Kristen Bell can do it. The mom of two kids may be an actress and singer by profession, but she thinks like a public-health researcher: "Access to health and safety," Bell says in her new video in support of this year's Global Moms Relay, a joint awareness and fundraising effort of Johnson & Johnson and the United Nations Foundation. "If a child is exposed to infectious diseases or war or violence or displacement, they are caught, they're stunted," Bell says. "But a child with access to health and safety can thrive."

Bell approached her answer with the specificity of a scientist. "My mom is a nurse, my aunt is a nurse, there's medicine in my family," she says. "I understand the importance of good and thorough health care. And I'm pretty slackjawed at the amount of displaced refugees: 60 million. Without safety and health you can't get an education, there are no possibilities. The numbers would tell us safety is definitely more of an issue for kids outside the U.S. But it's also an issue here." (Case in point, during a single week in April this year, four toddlers shot and killed themselves after coming across unsecured guns.)

It's not the first time Bell has focused on kids' health. A year ago she wrote this fantastic piece on Huffington Post about making the choice to vaccinate her children. "My goal was to write something that was not divisive in any way, that spoke about the issue in a way that everyone was able to hear. When you become argumentative your brain turns off from new information," she says. (Research backs her up on that.) "Before I spoke out I did a thorough amount of research on my stance and got the evidence together and decided I needed to speak. Humans fear what they can see. We don't see polio anymore. We don't see tuberculosis anymore. We don't see measles and mumps and rubella and anything we vaccinate against because we vaccinate." Bell continues, "I guarantee you that if a vaccination came out tomorrow that stopped people from getting cancer, I would put money on the fact that people who don't vaccinate would get it. We see cancer. It's in our friends and family members. It's hard to remember that vaccinations are still important even though polio is not on our doorstep."

Bell stuck her neck out to talk about vaccines. "It was my social and ethical responsibility," she says. Vaccinating her children also protects "the child on the playground who has an autoimmune disease" and who can't be vaccinated, she points out. "It is my responsibility as a mom to keep up the herd immunity. Small changes can have a ripple effect," she says.

Small changes and sharing are exactly what the Global Moms Relay is all about...and that's where you come in. From now until June 17, share Bell's video (or other messages debuting in the coming days from Jennifer Lopez, Zoe Saldana, and Bryan Cranston) and Johnson & Johnson will make a $1 donation to one of five charitable initiatives—including UNICEF, Shot@Life, and Girl Up—up to $350,000. "When I get disgruntled about the state of affairs in the world or America my husband is quick to remind me that the plague is nowhere near, the infant mortality rate has been declining," Bell says. "Things are getting better because we are talking to each other on social media and because small changes can matter."

Dana Points is the Editor in Chief of Parents and a mom of two.

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