Till date, millions of children across the globe do not have access to basic sanitation, education and healthcare facilities. Millions of adults are forced to choose between providing quality education and healthcare to their children and meeting the daily expenses for food, clothing and shelter. Since 1950, the World Health Day is observed around the world on April 7, and the theme this year is “Universal Coverage: Everyone, Everywhere”. According to the World Health Organisation (WHO), globally, 30 percent of children under five are estimated to be stunted and 18 percent have low weight-for-height ratio while 43 million children are overweight. According to UNICEF India, over two million children die every year from preventable diseases. Hence, all nations must prioritise children’s health since they are the future of the world. Healthy children means healthy future and a healthy world.
Also, another important aspect of health that requires immediate attention is the nutrition of children in urban areas. Most school-going children these days do not eat healthy food, and prefer junk food over healthy meals. The reason why they end up falling sick, develop lack of stamina, and in turn no concentration in studies. Also, obesity is steadily rising among the urban adolescents. Nutrition is directly related to good health and well-being and hence parents and teachers should take care to see that children eat healthy.
Preety Tyagi, lead health coach and founder of My22BMI – a Delhi-NCR based digital healthcare startup, says, “Children must be taught the ill effects of junk food from the very beginning of their lives. This can be done by showing them studies and experiments at a very early age. Parents must take care to see that children eat more of clean and natural foods than processed food with artificial sweeteners, chemicals and colours. Children should avoid eating junk food too often and rely more on home cooked food. Parents should also take care to see that a variety of grains, green leafy vegetables and a rainbow of veggies are incorporated in their kids’ diet. Kids should start participating in the kitchen and understand the implications of different kind of foods on one’s body.
Merely eating good food is not enough. Children also require a good amount of physical activity everyday. It’s of utmost importance that kids move, run, play, dance and enjoy. It helps them grow stronger and happier altogether. However, the importance of free play is manifold. A child must not only be confined to designated classes and courses to be able to exercise well. He should be able to find his own ways to run around, jump around, climb trees, take a swing, make friends and have a joyful growing stage. This seems to be losing its importance with the passing years and hence, I would like assert more on this for our children.”
A key connected area of health is also the mental health of children. In today’s extremely competitive world, it’s important to understand that physical and mental health are inextricably linked. WHO estimates that the burden of mental health problems is of the tune of 2,443 DALYs per 100,000 population. “During childhood, all round development must be a priority rather than only academic achievements. At the same time, expecting children to excel in everything they do is unrealistic and could be a source of stress. Children should enjoy learning without the pressure to perform. Parents and teachers should encourage children not to compete against peers but rather focus on self-improvement. Excessive use of technology must be actively discouraged, and children must be encouraged to play outdoors since this can enhance their creativity,” says Dr. Anupama.V, assistant professor of Psychology, Acharya Institute of Graduate Studies, Bangalore.
Dr. Anupama also cautions to look out for the early signs in mental health issues be it in children or adults. Signs to watch out for include changes in sleep/appetite patterns, lack of interest in previously enjoyed activities, irritability, restlessness, constant worry, feeling hopeless, helpless, talking to self, sudden changes in behavior. “All of us can have these difficulties at some point, when these difficulties persist for a significant period of time and is affecting the functioning of the person, this would indicate the need to get help from a qualified mental health professional,” adds Dr. Anupama.
Children watch their parents’ eating and fitness habits. Hence it becomes important for the parents to stay fit physically and mentally. “Maintaining a healthy diet, indulging in physical activities, sleeping for 7-8 hours of sleep per night, limiting the digital technology use and focus on human interactions and relationships and also maintaining a healthy work – life balance. Employers can facilitate this by taking steps to reduce the stigma around mental health issues by organising awareness programmes in their workplace,” adds Dr. Anupama.
Further, statistics of women in urban areas indicate increase in the diagnosis of PCOS and Thyroid. Other concerns in urban lifestyle today include lack of sleep, added stress, excessive caffeine intake, easy accessibility to unhealthy junk food and alcohol abuse. Preety suggests, “Stop eating packaged food and consider it as non-edible. Anything that can be eaten directly from a bottle, can, packet, and bag is something to stay away from. Eat well balanced healthy foods, cut down on added sugar intake and sugary drinks. Give your body a good restful sleep of at least 8 hours every day, eat plenty of vegetables, drink plenty of water, monitor caffeine intake and walk, jog, run, swim, dance, and work out. Say no to a sedentary, lazy lifestyle.”