The Connection between Psychosocial Health, Health Behaviors and the Environment In Rural Children
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- Bilinski, H., Henry, C., Humbert, L. et al. Child Ind Res (2013) 6: 659. doi:10.1007/s12187-013-9204-8
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Overweight and obesity is a concern for child populations in many countries. Due to a high prevalence of sedentary activity, low physical activity, and unhealthy diet, many children are at serious risk for health complications. Overweight and obesity seem to be of particular concern for Canadian children living in rural environments. A recent pilot study examined the physical and emotional health status of children in grades 4, 5, and 6 from four rural schools in Saskatchewan. Quantitative data was collected using four validated instruments: the Piers Harris 2, the Faces Scale, the Youth/Adolescent Questionnaire (Food Frequency), and the Physical Activity Questionnaire, as well as measured heights and weights. Qualitative data was collected using Photovoice, a research methodology that encourages expression through photography. This was used to explore the children’s perception of the rural environment, and whether they felt it helped or hindered their abilities to maintain health. Results revealed a high proportion of overweight and obesity. There were no significant differences in weight status between girls and boys. However, most children indicated that they were happy living in the rural environment. Three themes emerged from the Photovoice component: satisfaction, wide-open spaces, and a sense of safety. The rural environment appears to contribute to children’s health and happiness and thus should be fully utilized in interventions and health promotion activities that promote health and healthy behaviours in children.