Who is Modeling Preventive Health Behaviors for Children?
Millions of children are missing important preventive health care opportunities in the US. Boyle and colleagues report wide divides in use of clinical preventive services by race/ethnicity, geography and health care coverage.
For example, 50% of infants who failed their hearing screening did not receive a follow-up evaluation. Twenty-two percent of children had not had their vision checked professionally by 5y of age. The US has one of the highest per capita incomes but nearly half of American children grow up in families that are poor or near poor (below 199% of the federal poverty level).
Access to preventive health services and nutrition are key to good health and longevity. The health of children and adults is challenged daily. Young children are especially vulnerable to malnutrition and poor sanitation. When children attend daycare, their risk of respiratory infections increases 3-fold. Supplementing children attending preschool with probiotics (1.25 x 1010 colony forming units of Lactobacillus acidophilus, Bifidobacterium bifidum and Bifidobacterium animalis daily) and vitamin C (50 mg/d) for 6 months significantly reduced the incidence of sneezing, cough, and runny noses. The duration (mean # days) of upper respiratory tract infections and sore throats was significantly reduced.
Children are adults in training. Given choices, they will select less healthy snacks. It is incumbent upon adults in their lives to teach them. Children from low-income families are more likely to have low or less frequent fruit and vegetable intake. Regardless of socioeconomic status, adults are important role models. Adults introduce children to their culture and affect a child’s food choices, especially the food preferences of the mother and their schoolmates.
The proverb “It takes a village to raise a child” characterizes the impact individuals and groups have on a child. Without access to preventive health care, children are missing an important learning experience.
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Halfon N. Socioeconomic influences on child health: Building new ladders of social opportunity. 2014 JAMA doi: 10.1001/jama.2014.608
Dales RE, Cakmak S, Brand K, Judek S. Respiratory illness in children attending daycare. 2004 Pediatr Pulmonol doi: 10.1002/ppul.20034
Garaiova K, Muchova J, Nagyova Z, Wang D, Li JV, Orszaghova Z, Michael DR, Plummer SF, Durackova Z. Probiotics and vitamin C for the prevention of respiratory tract infections in children attending preschool: a randomized controlled pilot study. 2014 Eur J Clin Nutr doi: 10.1038/ejcn.2104.174
Beets MW, Tilley F, Kyryliuk R, Weaver RG, Moore JB, Turner-McGrievy G. Children select unhealthy choices when given a choice among snack offerings. 2014 J Acad Nutr Diet doi: 10.1016/j.jand.2014.04.022
Di Noia J, Byrd-Bredbenner C. Determinants of fruit and vegetable intake in low-income children and adolescents. 2014 Nutr Rev doi: 10.1111/nure.12126