COLLEGE STATION — Results of the National Child Health Survey indicate children are knowledgeable about health issues but don’t always practice healthful behavior, a Texas Agricultural Extension Service specialist says.
The survey offers some positive news along with negative findings, said Dr. Mary Kinney Bielamowicz, professor and nutrition specialist with the Extension Service.
“The good news is that young Americans are aware of what they need to do to lead a full, healthy and safe lifestyle,” she said.
“Children know some things about healthy diets, home safety and the dangers associated with tobacco, drugs and alcohol. The bad news is that they are not practicing what they know, whether it’s eating enough vegetables or wearing a safety helmet.”
More than 3,100 students in second through sixth grades were chosen from 175 public, private and parochial schools across the United States for the survey, conducted in January and February. To measure children’s awareness, attitudes and behavior, questions were broken down into such topics as nutrition, cigarette and tobacco use, alcohol consumption, AIDS awareness and safety issues.
More than 90 percent of children agreed that it is important to exercise regularly. More than 85 percent said they knew they should eat fruits and vegetables three or more times a day to stay healthy.
Yet, nearly 50 percent said they had eaten only one fruit, one vegetable or none of either on the day before the survey.
These findings are similar to those for adults, Bielamowicz said. For years Americans have been told to eat more fruits and vegetables, but U.S. Department of Agriculture surveys indicate people are only eating half of the recommended three fruits and five vegetables each day.
“Extension education programs are geared to helping children and adults of all ages improve the quality of their diet by eating recommended servings based on the USDA’s Food Guide Pyramid,” Bielamowicz said. “Fruits and vegetables, along with breakfast cereals, are good sources of fiber, which is believed to help fight certain types of cancer.”
Other child health survey findings also were not favorable.
Almost one-quarter of respondents indicated they did not brush their teeth the previous night. Almost 45 percent said there is a gun present in their home, and one-third of sixth graders admitted that they had drunk beer, wine, or liquor in the past.
More than 20 percent of sixth-grade respondents said that they plan to smoke or cannot say whether they intend to smoke, and more than one-third replied that they plan to or cannot say whether they intend to consume alcoholic beverages in the future.