December 6, 2013

OUR OPINION: Thumbs up, thumbs down

Quick takes on the issues making news this week in central Maine.

THUMBS UP to the organizations and individual residents of Franklin County who helped raise nearly $60,000 for relief efforts in the neighboring town of Lac-Megantic, Quebec.

The final installment of the money — $38,851 from a Farmington-based fundraising effort, plus $17,000 from the Rangeley Lakes Region Chamber of Commerce and $3,000 from the Farmington library, according to state Sen. Tom Saviello, R-Wilton — was delivered Tuesday to the mayor of Lac-Megantic, which continues to recover from the July 4 train derailment. The resulting explosion killed 47 people, displaced around 2,000 and destroyed 40 buildings.

The contributions are in addition to the 30 or so Franklin County firefighters who responded to the scene the day of the explosion.

The Lac-Megantic explosion was a devastating tragedy. It is good to know Mainers are so willing to help where they can.

THUMBS DOWN to a report by the American Heart Association confirming what most people expect — that kids in the United States today are in general less fit than their parents.

The research showed that children today take 90 seconds longer to run a mile than children 30 years ago, the effect of a more sedentary culture.

The study was released a week before this newspaper reported on changes to physical education classes at Cony High School. The changes mirror a move away from competitive team sports to more collaborative activities that is occurring in classes across the country. Previously, the idea was to get kids sweating. Now, educators are trying to appeal to students who have less of an inclination toward athletics by using activities, such as the ropes course, that are more dependent on team-building and less on athletic ability.

The hope is that the students who hate classes built around running or basketball will build the confidence necessary to seek out opportunities outside of school.

Let’s hope they are right, as the change takes away what for many students is the only significant physical activity they get.

THUMBS UP to the nine Maine hospitals that were ranked among in The Leapfrog Group’s 2013 Top Rural Hospitals list.

The Leapfrog Group, which focuses on hospital safety, surveyed more than 200 rural hospitals to decide on the list of 22, which includes Inland Hospital in Waterville and Sebasticook Valley Health in Pittsfield.

Rural hospitals are critical pieces of Maine communities. In addition to providing access to much-needed health-care services, the hospitals are also top employers and purchasers. But rural hospitals, in Maine and elsewhere, face significant financial and workforce challenges that are only exacerbated by an aging population and slagging economy. It seems Maine is well-poised to address those challenges and keep its rural hospitals vibrant.

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