Children’s Hospital stresses
importance of early health education
A new KidsHealth® KidsPoll has found that 80% of the kids they surveyed said there is “a lot” or “some” they can do to grow up to be healthy adults. The majority of 1,178 kids ages 9 to 13 polled (78%) said that most of what they hear about health is “very” or “sort of” easy to understand but older kids said they were less likely to follow what they’re taught about health.
The KidsPoll found that: 64% of 9-year-olds surveyed said they are “very interested” in learning about health versus 19% of 13-year-olds. 77% of 9-year-olds surveyed said they follow what they’re taught “all the time” or “most of the time” versus 43% of 13-year-olds.
Surprisingly, children’s declining interest in learning about health comes at a time when most kids are going through puberty and experiencing major changes in their bodies – changes that one might think would result in an increased interest in health. Additionally, this is an age when school-based health education typically receives more emphasis as a separate topic area.
“It is important for children and young adolescents to be aware of health issues that are beginning to affect them, and that’s why Children’s Hospital has several resources targeting different age groups. Both our Healthy Kids classes and Web site feature health information specifically for kids, teens or parents,” said Jarrett Ellis, Community Education Specialist at Children’s Hospital.
Health literacy can be defined as the ability to obtain, understand, and use basic health information. Literacy skills are a stronger predictor of an individual’s health status than age, income, employment status, education level, or racial/ethnic group, according to Partnership for Clear Health Communication. The Institute of Medicine estimates that low health literacy is costing the U.S. health care system more than $58 billion annually and that nearly 1 in 2 adults do not understand basic health information. Adult health literacy is beginning to receive considerable attention, but until this poll, very little has been done to understand the topic among children.
What do these findings suggest for health professionals, teachers, and parents? Children should be engaged in learning about age-appropriate health issues throughout their school years. Educational programs also need to include ways to motivate kids to adopt healthy behaviors.
Children’s Hospital offers a variety of age-appropriate programs to help children develop healthy behaviors. For example, Children’s Hospital’s Making Healthy Choices class is targeted to both parents and children. This class separates the adults and kids into groups; then children are encouraged to choose their foods wisely, while parents are taught how to grocery shop appropriately, read food labels and understand nutritional content and serving sizes, and receive suggestions for incorporating exercise in a family’s daily routine.
Where are children getting most of their information about health? Forty percent of children surveyed said “school.” “A doctor or nurse” was the second-most common answer given (29%), and “parents” was a distant third (12%). However, when asked where they would go first if they had an important health question, most children said “a parent” (31%). This suggests that parents may not be assuming as important a role as they could. And where do kids say they’re most likely to get the wrong information about health? The runaway winners were “TV” and “friends,” each cited by 36% of kids polled.
For more information about Children’s Hospital and its programs to address health issues in children, contact the Community Relations Department at (865) 541-8165 or visit www.etch.com. For complete survey findings and methodology, visit nahec.org/KidsPoll.