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Children's Physical, Mental Health Expected to Worsen from Pandemic

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Thursday, October 28, 2021   

RALEIGH, N.C. -- Only 20% of kids nationwide are physically active for at least 60 minutes a day, according to a new United Health Foundation report, which examined the health of women and children.

The report is based largely on federal data from 2019 leading into the pandemic, and looked at more than 100 measures of health.

Dr. Ravi Johar, chief medical officer with UnitedHealthcare, explained the percentage has likely worsened in the past year, putting more kids at risk for chronic conditions such as diabetes.

"It is worrisome because weight gain we know 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 kids' physical activity. Johar added children's mental health is also a cause for concern, noting that anxiety among kids is widespread and on the rise.

Nationwide, teen suicide has jumped 26% since 2014. The report found more than 7,000 kids ages 15-19 ended their lives in the two years before the pandemic began.

North Carolina ranks 13th in the nation for families' access to well-child visits.

Johar noted a nationwide shortage of doctors is contributing to the current dip in the number of kids in waiting rooms.

"We know there's decreased access to pediatricians and to women's health-care professionals," Johar observed. "So, maybe telehealth will be able to help with some of those things."

Jason Resendez, board member of Consumers for Quality Care, explained North Carolina kids continue to fall short when it comes to health coverage. He encouraged parents and caregivers to research plans to ensure their children can get preventive care.

"As vaccines are starting to become more readily available to children, understanding 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 kids' access to preventive dental care.

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


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