Helping Kids Pursue Healthy Lifestyles

Recognizing National Child Health Day, October 4, 2010


National Child Health Day was initially established by President Calvin Coolidge in 1928 to focus attention on the special needs of American children of all ages. While the world and American lifestyles have changed dramatically during the past eight decades, the need remains to help kids succeed and develop healthy habits.

Kids today face many challenges. While there are a variety of ways parents, teachers and family members can support and encourage kids, consider five key health issues that may dramatically affect children’s ability to learn and achieve success:

  • Weight—Approximately one in six American kids, aged two to nineteen, are overweight, reports the Human Resources Services Agency. Kids who are obese can face serious health consequences, including asthma, diabetes, hypertension, or heart disease. To keep weight under control, encourage kids to eat nutritious foods and healthy fats, and to avoid high-fat foods with no nutritional value.
  • Fitness—Kids who engage in regular physical activities are less likely to deal with weight gain and the associated health risks. Younger kids are more likely to engage in daily physical exercise, but as kids grow older they may participate in fewer physical activities. Since many older kids do not participate in physical education classes, parents need to regularly engage their children in fitness activities for 30 to 60 minutes daily.
  • Oral health—Tooth decay is the single most common chronic disease that kids face today – five times more common than hay fever and seven times more common than bronchitis. Kids miss approximately 51 million school hours each year due to dental-related illnesses. It’s not just a matter of missing classes. These kids may experience extreme discomfort, sleeplessness, embarrassment, and even lifelong tooth and gum issues. Kids need regular checkups and oral examinations.
  • Vision—One in four school-age kids has vision problems, with the most common related to refractive errors, such as nearsightedness, farsightedness or astigmatism. If vision issues are left untreated, they can hinder the ability for kids to learn and negatively affect their personality and performance in school. Kids should see an eye doctor for a comprehensive exam on a regular basis.
  • Hearing –More than 1.8 million kids have hearing problems, but parents and teachers are often unaware that difficulties exist. School-age kids who cannot hear properly may be reticent to participate in classroom discussions or activities. Hearing issues can also contribute to kids experiencing low self-esteem and attention deficit, and may also lead to behavioral problems. Kids need to have regular hearing checkups to identify potential problems.

Parents and teachers are encouraged to take steps to help kids succeed by helping them adopt healthy habits and participate in regular examinations with appropriate health care professionals.

How would you evaluate your children’s health? Do they participate in routine health examinations? Have any potential health problems been identified in the early stages? I’ll post responses in a later blog.