Future well kids: Helping kids stay healthy

By inspiring kids to start healthy habits today, we’re working to create a healthier tomorrow for us all.

You probably have a benign habit that you can’t explain — and you may not even remember when it started.

Maybe you wet your toothbrush before applying toothpaste, or wash your face first thing in the morning, or put your left shoe on first. You just started doing it one day, and now you’ve been doing it for years.

Habits are hard to break. Developing good ones at a young age is critical in helping to improve young people’s health — and for the prevention of chronic diseases, also called noncommunicable diseases (NCDs) such as type 2 diabetes and heart disease. Kids with good health habits can grow into healthy adults, but health education has to go further than teaching kids how to stop the spread of germs – students need practical tips on how to live healthy.

If you could give your middle school self a few pieces of advice, you might have done some things differently. And while we can’t go back in time, we can make sure we’re setting today’s kids up for healthy futures.



Understanding noncommunicable diseases

Noncommunicable diseases (NCDs) are chronic conditions that aren’t contagious — you can’t get diabetes from a person who has it, for example. But just because they can’t be passed between people doesn’t mean that their prevalence can’t spread. NCDs are a growing and complex health problem; according to the World Health Organization (WHO), they accounted for 71% of global deaths and 88% of deaths in the U.S. in 2016.

The causes of chronic disease are complex, and everyone has a role to play in fighting chronic disease and building a better, healthier future. Many NCDs that affect adults — such as heart disease, type 2 diabetes and some cancers — develop over time as a result of unhealthy lifestyles. According to the WHO, the four most common risk factors associated with NCDs are tobacco use, alcohol abuse, physical inactivity and an unhealthy diet.

Taking advantage of the classroom environment to educate kids and empower them to advocate for themselves from an early age might be the difference between developing an NCD and preventing one.