Pandemic Expected Deterioration in Children’s Physical Mental Health / Public News Service

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RALEIGH, NC – Only 20% of children nationwide are physically active for 60 minutes or more, according to a new United Health Foundation report that examined the health of women and children.

The report is largely based on 2019 federal data that led to the pandemic and looked at more than 100 health interventions.

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 like diabetes.

“It’s worrying because weight gain that we know earlier in life can have ramifications later in life,” said Johar. “It’s just something that needs to be looked at carefully.”

The report ranked North Carolina’s 44th place in the nation for physical activity in children. Johar added that children’s mental health was also a cause for concern, noting that fear is widespread and growing among children.

Nationwide, teen suicide has increased 26% since 2014. The report found that more than 7,000 children aged 15 to 19 died in the two years leading up to the pandemic.

North Carolina ranks 13th nationwide in terms of family access to busy children.

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

“We know that access to pediatricians and women’s health professionals is limited,” noted Johar. “Perhaps telemedicine can help with some of these things.”

Jason Resendez, board member of Consumers for Quality Care, said that North Carolina children still fall short when it comes to health insurance. He encouraged parents and carers to research plans to ensure their children can receive preventative care.

“As childhood vaccines become more readily available, understand what COVID coverage plans are included in your insurance plan,” said Resendez.

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

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

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