“More and more children are suffering from physical and mental illness” – health insurance companies claim health as a school subject


Saarbrücken. The diseases of civilization are also increasing among the young. From the point of view of the IKK Südwest, it is crucial to create an active awareness of one’s body and mind at an early stage.

According to surveys conducted by the Federal Statistical Office, cardiovascular diseases and mental and behavioral disorders account for about a quarter of the total costs of the disease in Germany. According to investigations by the Saarbrücken-based health insurance company IKK Südwest, lack of exercise, poor nutrition and problems at school and family are increasingly affecting the health of children, youth and adults in Hesse, Rhineland-Palatinate and Saarland. That is why IKK Südwest advocates regular and regular health education in schools in the region. The goal should be early, age-appropriate communication of health topics in order to develop awareness of one’s body and mind — and how to keep them healthy, according to board member Jörg Luth.

A healthy lifestyle is normal for fewer and fewer children and young adults. Photo: Bruno Nascimento/Unsplash.com (bottom left)

The health insurance company warns that lifestyle diseases (so-called lifestyle diseases) are the number one cause of death in Germany and are on the rise. In order to effectively counter this alarming development, it is fundamentally important to create an active awareness of the health of the individual as a whole. In addition to individual responsibility, the living, environmental and working conditions of all must also be taken into account. However, the foundations of healthy living are laid decisively in childhood.

Therefore, health education must be more systematic and comprehensive in schools than has been the case until now. Nearly 80 per cent of the disease burden in Europe is due to largely preventable diseases. The increase in lifestyle-related illnesses is becoming increasingly unchecked, particularly in the realities of children and young adults’ lives, but those affected often know little about it. This reality should be more strongly reflected in the school curriculum with specifically applied control and countermeasures. Nowadays, health problems across all grade levels tend to occur in isolated projects, which are very important, but are often limited to biology or sports topics. As a result, they do not adequately contribute to the long-term health of young people.”

Boys suffer more physically, girls suffer more mentally
This applies above all to the increasingly preventable diseases of civilization, such as obesity and back problems. IKK Südwest notes that in Saarland, Rhineland-Palatinate and Hesse in 2020 compared to 2013, up to 5% of adolescents could have received a diagnosis of pathological overweight (obesity). The increase in obese boys during this period was remarkably strong: according to an analysis, it was about 7% in the Rhineland-Palatinate and up to about 14% in the Saarland. According to the IKK study, medical diagnoses of back problems in all three federal states have remained at a steady level since 2013. In children, these diagnoses often begin at school entry.

In addition to the body, the soul also suffers. More and more teens in the region are experiencing mental and behavioral problems accompanied by symptoms such as ADHD. From 2013 to 2020, about 7% more similar diagnoses were made in the Rhineland-Palatinate, and up to about 10% in Hesse and Saarland. Girls were most affected here, with an increase of up to 18%.

Avoiding the spread of diseases and financially exempting the health system
Jörg Luth: “The coronavirus pandemic has intensified this impact and demonstrated, especially in the case of mental illness, how important health competence and prevention are in a school context. What we need is child-friendly information and, above all, consistent information on important topics such as exercise, nutrition and illness, which includes Parents and educators too. It is fundamentally important to create awareness of health and therefore of body and mind at an early stage. Therefore health should also be discussed as a separate school subject that includes topical and daily content.”

Specifically, in addition to physical activity, better consumer skills, for example in the subject of eating habits and breakfast culture, should be in the curriculum. According to Luth, this also includes teaching skills in the physician-patient relationship and dealing with current and avoidable clinical images.

Professor Luth adds: “After all, in addition to the main objective of avoiding or at least reducing lifestyle-related diseases, it must be in the best interest of the state to find solutions that also provide long-term financial relief to the economy and the health system and thus to the shareholders.”

After all, there are 20 more primary schools that receive health professionals

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