Health for your child means a lot of different things to experts and the general population alike. It is one of those loose terms where there seems to be no widely accepted general definition of (unfortunately). There is much heated debate on the subject! However, the World Health Organisation has defined it as:
Health = "a state of complete physical, mental, and social well-being and not merely the absence of disease or infirmity".
The benefits of your child being healthy and fit is that they are likely to maintain a healthy weight, have a stronger heart and lungs and have less chances of becoming ill or developing future health issues (such as type II diabetes). Healthy fit children tend to have more inner confidence and self esteem than unhealthy ones and will tend to do better on average academically and at sports.
It is accepted that to be healthy, there are many factors in addition to the individual's and carer's attitude. The social and economic environment your child is brought up in plays a big role too. Children growing up in poorer areas tend to be less healthy, for example, for a variety of reasons. Education plays a role too.
So for your children to be healthy, as they get older, they should tend towards :
- Being physically fit (e.g. aerobic fitness, muscular strength, physical agility, muscular endurance, good metabolism, high bone strength, healthy BMI etc.).
- Being mentally fit (e.g. emotionally strong, self confident and a healthy self esteem, ability to cope with stress, positive mental attitude, empathy to others, socially confident, honesty and integrity etc.)
- Having good and supportive social connections
- Having a body free from serious illness, injury or pain
To be physically and mentally fit your child should get good:
- Love and Support (see our article here on 'LOVE AND SUPPORT' )
- Exercise (see our article here 'FITNESS OVERVIEW' )
- Sleep (see our article here on 'SLEEP')
- Nutrition (see our article here 'NUTRITION')
- Hydration (see our article here on 'HYDRATION')
There are various scenarios out of your immediate control that can really harm your child's health such as illness, disease or an unforeseen serious accident (but some Safety Accidents are preventable so see our 'SAFETY OVERVIEW' article here).
It goes without saying that certain things that are within your own and child's control can destroy health such as:
- Smoking tobacco
- Excess alcohol
- Lack of sleep
- Poor Hydration
- Poor Nutrition (Fast food, processed food, sugary foods and drinks)
- Food Poisoning (see our article here on 'FOOD SAFETY')
The Roles of Parents / Guardians, Schools and the State
Primary responsibility for a Child's Health lies with you and your child! This means that you must show plenty of love and support to your child as they grow and work with them to encourage and educate (not preach). If you find resistance then don't blame the child, just try a different approach. All children 'push back' and it is a matter of persisting and finding a way to get through without bludgeoning them. Nobody is perfect and your child will make mistakes, just as you did when you were a child and still do now. Work with them, show love and resilience and you'll get there in the end. It will be worth the effort. Life without good health is a tough one.
Schools do their best within limited budgets and often conflicting demands and time pressures. Food at schools in most countries is a good healthy standard in the vast majority of cases and we would encourage you to choose this option where possible rather than packed lunches or children buying their own. See our article here on 'SCHOOL LUNCHES' and 'PACKED LUNCHES'. Time for physical activity has come under increasing pressures at schools in many countries due to other government demands but again, try to get your child involved as much as possible.
Many Governments do a good job of talking about health but their actions (which speak louder than words in our opinion) often falls way short of their rhetoric. Many countries have various pieces of legislation and Health Care Programs to promote children's health but inevitably these work for a while but when budget cuts are announced these are often chopped or seriously scaled back. You should get all the help you can from Government Health and Activity Schemes while they are 'in vogue' but don't look on them as a right, rather a bonus. If they are there, great, use them! If not, that's life, you'll have to find something yourself.
An example of Support in the UK is the "Children's public health services (from pregnancy to age 5)". This currently offers child health surveillance, health promotion and parenting support for young children and their parents/carers. It encompasses screening, vaccinations/immunisations, regular health visits and identification of vulnerable families. The aim of the programme is to increase rates of breastfeeding and vaccinations, improve child development, reduce infant mortality rates, reduce tooth decay, minimise child accidents due to accidental or intentional harm, increase the percentage of children with healthy BMIs and help with 'school readiness' of infants.
In the United State 'Medicaid' is the free insurance-based, joint government and state funded health program for low income (means tested) individuals and families. For families with slightly higher incomes but still struggle to pay for their own Private Health Insurance, the states "Children's Health Insurance Program" (SCHIP or CHIP) is another taxpayer funded health insurance system.
All countries have their own specific child health systems , some obviously more comprehensive than others.
Health is a hugely important aspect of children's lives. We like the phrase "a state of complete physical, mental, and social well being"! It takes time and effort to raise fit, healthy kids and sometimes children don't immediately want to play ball. But sticking with it is extremely important for their long-term happiness and future.
Some examples of magazines available are 'Adolescent Health, 2014', 'Home Safety, Fall 2013', 'Back to School, Summer 2013' and 'Back to School, Summer 2012'.
In this online health magazine, you can read and turn the pages online. There are currently two issues available KHW1 and KHW2.
This is a physical activity generator for kids including both indoor and outdoor exercises. Choose the number of kids, click indoors or outdoors then hit the button! You'll get loads of suggestions for fun activities with demo videos of each. A great way to get kids active indoors or outdoors.
This resource gives information on the UK Children's public health services (from pregnancy to age 5) Policy Document. Includes 'Background and Content', 'Purpose of the service specification', 'Public health for children under 5 service scope', 'Aims and objectives', 'Health Outcomes', 'Population needs', 'Principles', 'Service description for the universal elements of the HCP', 'The care pathway for the universal elements of the HCP', 'Service description and care pathway for the targeted element of the HCP - the Family Nurse Partnership programme', 'Service Integration', 'Workforce', 'Locations of Service delivery', 'Materials, tools, equipment and other technical requirements', 'Record keeping, data collection systems and information sharing', 'Resources and efficiencies', 'Contribution of NHS CB in commissioning public health services for children under 5', 'National service standards and guidance' and 'References'.
United States Medicaid and 'CHIP' (Children's Health Insurance Program) Information. The information for Medicaid is split up into information by population type (e.g. children, adults, pregnant women, people with disabilities, seniors and dual eligibles), information by topic (e.g. eligibility, benefits, waivers, prescription drugs etc.) and further Medicaid Program Information (e.g. CHIP information).