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No Country in the World Is Doing Enough for Children’s Health, Study Finds

April 7, 2020 • Our Blog • General Health
A new report shows that no country in the world is taking sufficient steps to safeguard children’s futures. According to a new report from a diverse group of global health experts, not a single country in the world is adequately protecting children’s health, environments, and futures. The report, A Future for the World’s Children?, surveyed 180 countries and was jointly commissioned by the World Health Organization, UNICEF, and The Lancet. The report found that the short-term health and long-term future of every child and adolescent in the world is under immediate threat from ecological degradation, climate change, and exploitative marketing practices that push heavily-processed food, sugary drinks, alcohol, and tobacco. This represents an alarming reversal of 20 years of positive trends, and it’s estimated that 250 million children under the age of five are now at risk of not reaching their full developmental potential. The report urges countries to overhaul their approaches to adolescent development, but parents shouldn’t wait for their governments to make the requisite changes before taking steps to protect their children’s health.

Breaking Down the Report’s Findings

The report is based on two indices: flourishing and sustainability. The former index measures factors like the availability of food, education, and other indicators of comfort and wealth. The latter index measures carbon emissions, pollution, and energy consumption — indicators that a country is taking steps to safeguard its children’s futures. Perhaps surprisingly, wealthy countries including Australia, Canada, Luxembourg, Saudi Arabia, and the United States rank in the bottom 10 countries for providing children and adolescents with a healthy future. Conversely, the only countries on track to beat per capita CO2 emissions targets by 2030 while also performing fairly well on child flourishing measures are Albania, Armenia, Costa Rica, Grenada, Jordan, Moldova, Palestine, Sri Lanka, Tunisia, Uruguay, and Vietnam. The report also highlights the distinct threat posed by harmful marketing that targets or appeals to young children and adolescents. For example, young people’s exposure to vaping advertisements increased by more than 250 percent in the United States between 2011 and 2013 alone. In addition to nicotine products, children are exposed to excessive junk food marketing, which the report suggests is linked to the 11-fold increase in obese children worldwide between 1975 and 2016.

How Parents Can Act Now

The report calls for countries around the world to decrease CO2 emissions and increase commercial marketing regulations, but parents don’t have to wait for sweeping changes to take their children’s health into their own hands. Parents can start by encouraging healthy eating habits and taking steps to reduce screen time, which is not only a good unto itself, but will also reduce their children’s exposure to potentially harmful advertising. In addition to mitigating their exposure to such ads, consider talking to your children about alcohol and tobacco products. Further, to address the risks posed by carbon emissions and pollution, consider checking air pollution regularly and scheduling outdoor playtime for times when pollution levels are low For more information on keeping your child safe, reach out to Kids’ Health. A leading pediatric practice in the Beverly, Massachusetts, area, we take a holistic approach to your child’s health. It’s our goal to help your child reach their full developmental potential, academically, physically, and emotionally. Make an appointment today to learn more....