Children’s physical mental health expected to worsen due to pandemic / Public Information Service

RALEIGH, North Carolina — Only 20 percent of children nationwide are physically active for at least 60 minutes a day, according to a new report from the United Health Foundation, which examined the health of women and children.

The report is based largely on 2019 federal data leading up to the pandemic and looked at more than 100 health metrics.

Dr. Ravi Johar, chief medical officer at UnitedHealthcare, said the percentage has likely worsened over the past year, putting more children at risk for chronic conditions such as diabetes.

“It’s concerning because the weight gain we experience earlier in life can have consequences later in life,” Johar pointed out. “It’s just something that needs to be looked at closely.”

The report ranked North Carolina 44th in the nation for children’s physical activity. Johar added that children’s mental health is also a cause for concern, noting that anxiety in children is widespread and on the rise.

Nationally, teen suicide has jumped 26% since 2014. The report found that more than 7,000 children between the ages of 15 and 19 took their own lives in the two years before the start of the pandemic.

North Carolina ranks 13th in the nation for family access to healthy child visits.

Johar noted that a nationwide shortage of doctors is contributing to the current drop in the number of children in waiting rooms.

“We know that access to pediatricians and women’s health professionals is reduced,” Johar observed. “So maybe telehealth can help with some of these things.”

Consumers for Quality Care board member Jason Resendez explained that children in North Carolina continue to lack health coverage. He encouraged parents and caregivers to seek plans to ensure their children can receive preventative care.

“As vaccines start to become more readily available for children, understand what those COVID coverage plans are in your insurance plan,” Resendez urged.

The United Health Foundation report ranked North Carolina 40th in the nation for children’s access to preventive dental care.

Disclosure: United Healthcare contributes to our health issue reporting fund. If you would like to help support news in the public interest, click here.

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