Fact Sheet: Children's Health and Nature
Current State of Children’s Health
Our children may be the first generation at risk of having a shorter lifespan than their parents . Sedentary lifestyle and physical inactivity have contributed greatly to the numerous health problems plaguing today’s children. Chronic conditions such as childhood obesity, asthma, and attention-deficit disorder have all increased over the past few decades . These chronic conditions may lead to pulmonary, cardiovascular, and mental health problems in adulthood. Outdoor activity in the natural environment has taken a back seat to television, video games, the computer, and a demanding schoolwork and extracurricular schedule. Today’s youth are losing the contact with the natural environment that is potentially beneficial for their health and well-being.
Approximately 16% of US children (~ 9 million) aged 6-19 are overweight or obese . According to the Institute of Medicine, childhood obesity has doubled over the past 30 years for preschoolers and adolescents, and more than tripled for children aged 6-11 years old .
Type-2 Diabetes Due to the drastic increase in the prevalence of pediatric diabetes over the past few decades, the definition has changed from “adult-onset” diabetes to type-2 diabetes. Approximately 176,500 children and adolescents suffer from diabetes .
Asthma Currently 9.4% of children in the US have asthma . Overweight children are at an increased risk for developing asthma and other respiratory problems and for being hospitalized for asthma [7, 8].
Hypertension 1 in 10 children with a BMI* within or above the 95th percentile have hypertension (vs. only 2.6% with a BMI <85th percentile) .
Cardiovascular Disease Overweight adolescents are at increased risk of coronary heart disease and earlier death . Most overweight children have at least one risk factor for cardiovascular disease, including higher cholesterol levels, abnormal glucose tolerance, high blood pressure, and elevated triglycerides . The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends screening overweight children for high cholesterol and prescribing cholesterol-lowering drugs if needed .
*BMI = Body- mass index; calculated using the formula: weight (lb) / [height (in)] 2 x 703. To calculate BMI for children/adolescents, visit: http://apps.nccd.cdc.gov/dnpabmi/Calculator.aspx.
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