09 February 2011

SA kids are not healthy or active

The second Healthy Active Kids Report Card highlights concerning trends in healthy eating, physical activity, tobacco and alcohol use in children and adolescents in South Africa.

In 2007 the first Healthy Active Kids Report Card published by a panel of health scientists gave South African children an overall health grade of C- with lower marks for unhealthy eating, tobacco use and physical education. Promising initiatives included the school feeding scheme, anti-tobacco legislation and curriculum-based strategies.

Sadly these initiatives were not enough to change behaviours as the latest report, the 2010 Healthy Active Kids Report Card again scores the health of South African kids with an overall C-.

"The Healthy Active Kids South Africa Report Card 2010 had a much broader scope, and was able to draw on more than 95 published, peer-reviewed studies or reports, the National Youth Risk Behaviour Survey 2008, published last year, and key studies, such as the Birth-to-Twenty cohort, to assess the current state of healthy eating, physical activity, tobacco and alcohol use in kids from primary school up to high school.

  • Decline in physical activity levels with only 42% of youth participated in sufficient vigorous physical activity to be considered health-enhancing (2007: 45%)
  • Less than one-third of youth surveyed participated in moderate activity and nearly 42% did little or no physical activity.

  •  Increase in overweight and obese children to 20% and  5% respectively

  • Nearly 30% of teens consumed fast food 2 –3 time a week
  • Healthy foods, for example, in rural settings cost almost twice as much as the unhealthy equivalent

  • Nearly 30% of adolescents say they have ever smoked
  • 21% admit to being current smokers (this is double that of global prevalence estimates)
  • Majority of smokers start before the age of 19, with 6.8% starting under the age of 10

  1. There are increasing examples of private-public sector partnerships to address the need of teachers for support in implementing physical education and nutrition education.
  2. The policy environment is changing from the school-feeding scheme to the curriculum, to the re-inclusion of regular physical education.
  3. Global sports events, and programmes in sports for development and sports for all may provide opportunities for children from disadvantaged backgrounds to participate in physical activity at a community level.




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