Neglecting teen healthKorean children and teenagers are in poor health.
According to a report on the physical strength of elementary, middle and high school students, the percentage of students in the top two fitness categories out of five fell by 8 percent between 2000 and 2008, while those belonging to the lowest two groups rose by 11 percent.
Meanwhile, the number of obese students has grown from 9.4 percent in 2002 to 11.2 percent in 2008. Our students have become bigger and weaker. The number of children with hyperlipidemia, high blood pressure and diabetes, all normally adult diseases, has increased drastically over the last few years.
Since children of today have been fed very well, especially compared to the old days, it is hard to believe they are weak and sick.
But feeding them too much is the cause. Many parents encourage their children to eat any type of food, and the children often eat high-calorie snacks. Many children travel from home to school to private lessons by car, thanks to their parents, depriving them of the chance to walk. Such an upbringing conditions them to become obese and develop diseases.
School curriculums are another cause. They focus only on improving students’ scores on tests. In fact, physical education classes are long gone. Many schools reduced the time for physical education and replaced it with English or mathematics classes. Even if some still have physical education programs, few are of any quality.
When students get older, the time allotted for physical education is also spent studying instead. This is a stark contrast to schools in other countries where people are keenly aware of the importance of the health of teenagers and students have physical education classes almost every day.
First of all, we need to take a lesson from Japan. It has a similar education system to ours, in which students go through harsh competition to get into good schools. Changes in diet patterns have also been similar.
But for the past decade, the health of teenage students in Japan has improved. That is because schools have maintained good physical education classes for about 10 years. For example, each school bought in more equipment for training and hired experts to make its students stronger.
Teenagers’ health is directly connected to the future of our society. As the birthrate is low, the numbers in our next generation are insufficient to support society. On top of this, they are growing weak.
Study is important. However, families, schools and the government must work together to make our children healthy.