Most students enter high school with such low fitness levels that their health is already at considerable risk, reveals a Peel Public Health report released Thursday on the health of youth in Brampton, Caledon and Mississauga.
The report titled Student Health 2011: Measuring the health of Peel’s youth shows that three in every four (76 per cent) Grade 9 students’ musculoskeletal fitness scores fall within a range that is associated with health risks.
“We know unhealthy behaviours often increase with each grade level,” said Dr. David Mowat, medical officer of health for the Region of Peel. “Without a strong foundation, good health is hard to both achieve and maintain.”
The early health risks don’t end with poor musculoskeletal fitness scores. Peel youth try smoking early and have easy access to cigarettes.
The report said some 41 per cent of Peel students who ever smoked a cigarette reported having done so before entering high school. Of those currently smoking, 50 per cent reported buying them directly from a retailer.
Peel students also think they eat far better than they actually do, while 67 per cent of females and 76 per cent of males described their eating habits as good to excellent, the report said.
Only 7 per cent of students reported eating raw or cooked vegetables and 6 per cent reported eating fresh or canned fruit three or more times per day.
In addition, one in 10 (10 per cent) males and one in 12 females (8 per cent) ate deep-fried foods at least once or twice a day. And close to one in five of all students said they ate salty snacks, like cheesies and chips, at least once or twice a day.
“Our children’s good health, now and in the future, is clearly at stake,” says Elaine Moore, Regional Councillor and Co-chair of the Health Services Committee. “This report will not only inform Peel Public Health’s programs, but also act as a benchmark for action for everyone and anyone concerned about the health of Peel’s school-age children.”
Student Health 2011 summarizes the results of Peel Public Health’s Student Health Survey.
More than 8,500 youth in grades 7 to 12 across the Dufferin-Peel Catholic District School Board and the Peel District School Board completed the survey.
It examined 10 major issues, including: relationships and sexual health; healthy eating; fitness; and tobacco, alcohol, marijuana and other drugs.
The survey was the largest regional survey of health behaviours of youth aged 12 to 19 years ever conducted in Canada.
The survey also provides the first comprehensive assessment of the fitness of Peel’s Grade 9 students and the oral health of students in grades 10 and 12.
It is Peel’s second major study of youth behaviour; a similar survey was conducted in 2005.
For more information, call Peel Public Health at 905-799-7700.