The importance of a healthy childhood


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The importance of a healthy childhood

Latest national figures show that one in 12 Australian children and one in four adults are obesei. These disturbing figures from the nation's annual health report, Australia's Health 2012, illustrate the growing problem that is obesity and being overweight. Even more disturbing is the young age at which people are developing issues related to weight and lifestyle.

Being overweight can put a person at risk of health complications such as diabetes, heart disease, and some cancers. And anyone who's been on a diet knows how difficult it is to shift the kilos once they've been put on. That's why it's important to establish healthy habits in children early on, and the best way to do this is to teach by example. Aside from reducing the risk of developing lifestyle diseasesii, a healthy and active lifestyle nurtures the physical and emotional wellbeing of a child.

Children should do a minimum of 60 minutes of physical activity every day.

There's no doubt that on the whole Australia is a healthy country: we have one of the highest life expectancies in the world, at 79.5 years for men and 84.0 years for womeniii. But non-communicable lifestyle diseases have become increasingly prevalent in this countryiii.

Lifestyle diseases include diabetes, cardiovascular disease and some cancersii. The rates of diabetes have more than doubled in 20 years and nearly one million people are now living with the diseaseiv. Coronary heart disease remains the number one cause of death in men and womenv. Lifestyle diseases are called such because there is evidence to suggest that they are linked to physical inactivity, poor diet, high blood pressure and lifestyle choices such as smokingvi. A healthy lifestyle lends itself to a balanced diet, regular physical activity, and good hygiene habits.

A healthy lifestyle according to the experts

According to the experts from the Department of Health and Ageing (DoHA) and the National Health and Medical Research Council (NHMRC), there are four aspects to a healthy childhoodvii. The first is vaccinating your child according to the recommended schedules. Communicable diseases such as Whooping Cough, Hepatitis B and Meningococcal disease can cause illness, disability or deathviii. Getting immunised is a simple and effective way of protecting your child and others against harmful diseases. For more information on current available vaccines the National Immunisation Program Schedule, head to the Immunise Australia Program Web site.

The second is to do with diet. The DoHA and NHMRC recommend that children eat at least 2 serves of fruit and 3 serves of vegetables every dayvii. Fruit and vegetables are sources of essential vitamins and minerals for mental and physical development in kidsix. Unhealthy eating habits are a major cause of childhood obesity, and food/drinks with high sugar and high fat contents are obvious contributorsix. Children and adults alike are encouraged to maintain a balanced diet.

An active lifestyle and healthy habits begin at home.

The third recommendation is physical activity. Inadequate physical activity and a poor diet can lead to obesity and anxiety in childrenx. According to Australia's Physical Activity Recommendations for 5-12 Year Olds, kids need to do a minimum of 60 minutes of physical activity everyday and should spend no more than two hours a day using electronic media for entertainment. That includes watching TV, playing computer games and surfing the netxi. But the figures show that our kids are falling well short of these recommendations. A 2009 report on Children's Participation in Cultural and Leisure Activities revealed that only 63% of children aged 5-14 participate in organised sportsxii yet over 97% engage in sedentary activities such as watching TV and DVDsxiii. In 2007-08, less than 50% of Australians aged 15-24 met the National Physical Activity Guidelinesxiv.

Experts' final recommendation is for your child to maintain a healthy weight. It is up to the parents to teach their child good habits when it comes to food and exercise, and what better way than to lead by example and get the whole family involved. As part of healthy living, you should educate your children about hygiene and how illnesses can be spread. Habits such as washing their hands after using the toilet and before eating, using tissues when they have a cold, and good oral health routines are all learnt in the home. Second hand tobacco smoke has been attributed to health complications in later life, so it is important to ensure that children are not exposed to smoke in the homexv.

Setting a good example

Good health may seem natural at a young age, but maintaining physical and emotional wellbeing often requires us to develop healthy lifestyle habits while our bodies are still in their prime. Thinking a step ahead and preparing for the future can prolong the quality of life for you and your family. By taking out life insurance, you can also provide financial security for your family in the event of an accident, illness and death. Start planning ahead and get a life quote from Allianz today.


i Australian Institute of Health and Welfare (AIWH), 2012, Australia's health 2012, http://www.aihw.gov.au/publication-detail/?id=10737422172&tab=3

ii Department of health Victoria Australia, Prevention and Population Health, http://www.health.vic.gov.au/prevention/children_health.htm

iii Australian Institute of Health and Welfare (AIWH), 2012, Australia's health 2012, http://www.aihw.gov.au/publication-detail/?id=10737422172&tab=3, p.x

iv Australian Institute of Health and Welfare (AIWH), 2012, Australia's health 2012, http://www.aihw.gov.au/publication-detail/?id=10737422172&tab=3, p.xi

v Australian Institute of Health and Welfare (AIWH), 2012, Australia's health 2012, http://www.aihw.gov.au/publication-detail/?id=10737422172&tab=3, p.93

vi Australian Institute of Health and Welfare (AIWH), 2012, Australia's health 2012, http://www.aihw.gov.au/publication-detail/?id=10737422172&tab=3, p.118

vii Australian Institute of Health and Welfare (AIWH), 2012, Australia's health 2012, http://www.aihw.gov.au/publication-detail/?id=10737422172&tab=3, p.155

viii Australian Government Australian Institute of health and welfare, 2011, Young Australians Their health and wellbeing 2011, http://www.aihw.gov.au/publication-detail/?id=10737419261&libID=10737419260&tab=2, p.47

ix Australian Institute of Health and Welfare (AIWH), 2012, Australia's health 2012, http://www.aihw.gov.au/publication-detail/?id=10737422172&tab=3, p.198

x State Government of Victoria, Better Health Channels, Children - getting them active, http://www.betterhealth.vic.gov.au/bhcv2/bhcarticles.nsf/pages/children_getting_them_active?open

xi Australian Government Department of health and ageing, Active kids are healthy kids, AUSTRALIA'S PHYSICAL Activity Recommendations For 5-12 Year Olds, http://www.health.gov.au/internet/main/publishing.nsf/content/9D7D393564FA0C42CA256F970014A5D4/$File/kids_phys.pdf, p.1

xii ABS, 2009, Children's Participation in Cultural and Leisure Activities, Australia: Organised Sport, http://www.abs.gov.au/AUSSTATS/abs@.nsf/Latestproducts/4901.0Main%20Features7Apr%202009?opendocument&tabname=Summary&prodno=4901.0&issue=Apr%202009&num=&view=

xiii Australian Bureau of Statistics, 2009, 4901.0 - Children's Participation in Cultural and Leisure Activities, http://www.abs.gov.au/AUSSTATS/abs@.nsf/Latestproducts/4901.0Main%20Features7Apr%202009?opendocument&tabname=Summary&prodno=4901.0&issue=Apr%202009&num=&view=

xiv Australian Government Australian Institute of health and welfare, 2011, Young Australians Their health and wellbeing 2011, http://www.aihw.gov.au/publication-detail/?id=10737419261&libID=10737419260&tab=2, p.66

xv Australian Government Australian Institute of health and welfare, 2011, Young Australians Their health and wellbeing 2011, http://www.aihw.gov.au/publication-detail/?id=10737419261&libID=10737419260&tab=2, p.115