Search
 Health Topics » Children's Health » How Healthy Are Our Children?   Login
  

  
 Children's Health

 
  • How Healthy Are Our Children?
    Prof Adrian Kennedy
    1/8
       
       

     

     

    During 2008-09, the Apollo Hospitals Group, through its Wellness company, undertook a series of Wellness Surveys covering over 50 schools and 40,000 children from classes 6-12.The study was largely confined to the southern states of Andhra Pradesh, Tamil Nadu, Kerala and Karnataka, but also covered a few schools in UP, and Bihar. Our school survey indicates that when compared with the adult survey conducted in ’09 (covering 100,000 adults from all states), the Indian school child is less healthy than the Indian adult in most aspects of health.

     

  • How Healthy Are Our Children?
    Medical Aspect
    2/8

     

    It is difficult to compare the medical status of adults with that of children, especially since medical parameters differ between adults and children. But by looking at the table below what we can say with some emphasis that the health of our school children should never be as bad as it is.
     

    Component

    Adults (%)

    Children (%)

     

    When we surveyed adults for a family history of cardiac ailments, cancer, high blood pressure and diabetes, we discovered that the family disposition was 45%. But when we asked children the same question, we found the family disposition to these ailments was 66.91%, meaning that in one generation, the risk for these lifestyle related chronic ailments had risen by 21.91%!

    Family history

    45

    66.91

    Medication

    31

    33.55

    Hospitalisation

    3

    11.75

    Existing ailments

    49

    16.48

    Poor eyesight          

    45

    33.00

    Dental problems

    22

    30.00

    Routine check-up

    75

    50.96

    Poor health status

    -

    33.76

    Incomplete immunisation

    -

    23.78

    Considering these findings, and that 33.76% children were defined as being in poor health, we are led to conclude that unless some changes are made, the current batch of Indian children will have poorer health when they grow to be adults, than the current batch of Indian adults.


     

  • How Healthy Are Our Children?
    Food and Nutrition
    3/8

    Besides energy requirements, food is so important in children for mental as well as physical growth. Our survey found that in spite of children scoring high on knowledge related to food, they had appallingly disbalanced diets.

    Item

    Adults (%)

    Children (%)

     

    The majority of urban children are non-vegetarian at 66.74%. Yet in spite of this, 49.37% of our children have a relatively low protein intake: meaning that the vegetarians did not have dals, gram etc on a daily basis and that the non-vegetarian mostly ate meat only once or twice a week. Protein, as we know, is important for all round development and growth, and calcium, richly contained in milk, is vital for strengthening bones and teeth etc.

    Overweight

    61

    39.37

    Knowledgeable      

    71

    80.84

    Low protein intake

    25

    49.37

    Low fruits and vegetables

    34

    42.52

    Insufficient milk intake            

    -

    31.03

    Excess fat intake

    26

    46.37

    Excess sugar intake

    23

    37.28

    Frequently eat out

    16

    35.55

    High commercial food intake

    12

    32.22

    Irregular eating       

    19

    61.78

    While 34% of adults do not eat fruits and uncooked vegetables daily, the defaulting children in this category are 42.52%. Add to this, a high fat intake of butter, cheese, ghee etc eaten almost daily by 46.37% children – and you have the classic making of a future cardiac calamity.

  • How Healthy Are Our Children?
    Fitness and Exercise
    4/8

    Item

    Adults (%)

    Children (%)

     

    The picture of the future is very bleak for our couch potato children. 62.91% became breathless when climbing stairs, 30.03% have poor muscular strength and shape, and 42.84% who already have poor joint mobility are doomed to a future of arthritis and osteoporosis, unless something is done to change things.

    Unfit

    67

    36.58

    Inactive

    66

    29.74

    No games/exercises

    54

    29.74

    Poor stamina            

    74

    62.91

    Poor strength

    69

    30.03

    Poor flexibility

    70

    42.84


    Looking at the chart above, one realises that adults fare terribly when it comes to physical fitness, but what one notices simultaneously is that our children should have fared much better.
    My best suggestion is that games and sports must be made compulsory in all schools and that physical fitness test should form a part of the school evaluation system. We owe our children nothing less than a lifetime of physical fitness and good health, and the best way to achieve anything worthwhile is for us as parents to set an example.

  • How Healthy Are Our Children?
    Stress and Tensions
    5/8

    It is a failure of colossal proportions that our children have higher levels of stress than us adults and parents, as shown in the table below.

     

    Factor

    Adults (%)

    Children (%)

    Considering academic stress alone, 54.35% children found it necessary to have tuitions after school. 35.75% found it difficult to keep pace with the class, not only in studies, but in other activities also. 34.10% fared poorly in examinations and 18.80% felt they were at breaking point and unable to cope with their studies. Of the children surveyed, 10.43% were in boarding schools – and here is the good news, 3.50% were found to have extremely high cognitive scores… geniuses in the making?

    High stress

    13.00

    33.30

    Work / studies’ stress

    1.00

    18.31

    Home stress

    14.48

    35.94

    Social stress

    -

    34.95

    Daily hassles

    6.84

    20.50

    Crises

    15.00

    64.84

    The fact that our children have higher levels of stress than us is bad enough, but a deeper analysis of the factors that contribute to their stress, has the markings of a family movie gone wrong.

  • How Healthy Are Our Children?
     
    6/8

    Home, that haven of refuge, gives no solace for 35.94% of the children surveyed (The survey covered classes 6-12, any survey covering colleges will find these figures even higher).

    • 15.54% of the children got little love and understanding from extended family members
    • 39.77% of the children felt that they could not confide in their parents
    • 7.03% of the children came from broken homes, and
    • 8.72 % of the children had suffered the demise of parent.
    • Of the remaining children, 17.16% found that the fights and disagreements at home between family members were unbearable.

    Add to this, 47.28% of children whose day is too full of things to do, (school, tuition, family obligations) and 53.71% of the children who spend over a couple of hours each day getting to school and back in crowded transport (auto rickshaws, buses and trains) and you have a peek into the home life of an urban Indian child.
    We end the chapter on stress and tensions on a note that further confirm the tragic findings of an earlier survey (the National Family Health Survey III ) which identified that over 50% of the children were victims of abuse and sexual harassment. Our survey confirms that 19.81% of children were bullied in school (referred to as ragging in colleges) and that 24.12% were victims of unwanted, unwarranted and inappropriate attention by adult members.


     
  • How Healthy Are Our Children?
     
    Sex, Alcohol and Drugs
    7/8

    Unlike adult surveys that ask a direct question, a child survey needs to be sensitive to the child’s fear of self-incrimination when it comes to confirming details of alcohol, smoking, drugs, sexual activity etc. At any rate, the objective of our survey was to identify the lifestyle of the urban Indian school child, since we were already aware of the findings of several groups who have done extensive studies on these aspects of urban life. However, we did ask a few questions, and our findings are as follows:
     

    • To the question: Do any of your immediate family members indulge in alcohol, smoking, eating paan, or gambling frequently?
    22.44% of the children confirmed that this was done in their presence.
    • To the question: Do any of your friends indulge in alcohol, cigarettes, drugs, reckless driving and sexual activity?
    33.56% of the children confirmed this with a “yes”.
    • To a more direct question framed as follows: Due to the sensitive nature of this question you are at liberty to answer this question or leave it unanswered. Do you currently, or in the past, indulged in alcohol, smoking, drugs (hashish, marijuana, cocaine etc), sexual activity or reckless driving?
    32.13% of the children responded with a yes.
     

     

  • How Healthy Are Our Children?
     
    8/8

    Our survey is not in a position to confirm the percentage of children who associate with each of these activities, but a quick reading of past surveys confirms the following.

    Activity

    Child Participants

    Smoking

    25 %

    Alcohol

    32 %

    Drugs

    5 %

    Sexual activity

    39 %

    Reckless driving

    62 %


    Except for the fact that urban Indian children are physically fitter than their parents, our survey found that, in all other aspects of health, including medical, nutritional, stress and dependencies, the urban Indian adult was healthier than the urban child.
    This is one study in which we only have losers, parents for their lack of good example and children for their lack of resolve.
     

    Dr Adrian Kennedy is Professor and Consultant, Wellness Rx, international guru on health, wellness and lifestyle medicine and guest faculty for Harvard Medical School, USA

     


  
 Also See

  
 Related Articles