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New data on VT youth shows prevention is critical

Hours spent on screen time and little fruit and vegetable consumption.

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The recently released Youth Risk Behavior Survey (YRBS) shows policy efforts that make the healthy choice the easy choice are needed to help change the behavior in Vermont kids that has led to nearly 30% of them being at an unhealthy weight.

The survey of Vermont high school and middle school youth, notes that nutritious eating and physical activity are two cornerstones of healthy adolescent development yet, YRBS Behavior Survey data also show cause for concern in Vermont kids.

Only a quarter of Vermont students meet the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services guidelines for physical activity of 60 minutes of physical activity every day. And 13% of Vermont students didn't participate in at least 60 minutes of physical activity on any day.

The survey also shows that the amount of time kids are spending in front of screens is alarming. On the average school day more than half of Vermont students (53%) spend three or more hours watching TV, playing video games, or using a computer for something not related to school. This includes 19% who spent more than five hours a day!

But, physical activity is only half of the equation. More needs to be done to improve the nutrition of Vermont kids. Only a third of students ate fruit or drank 100% fruit juice at least two times per day. And only 18% of Vermont students ate 3 or more vegetables a day. The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services Guidelines recommend 5 servings of fruit and vegetables a day.

12% of students drank at least one can, bottle or glass of sugary beverages a day including sports drinks, energy drinks, lemonade, or sweetened tea or coffee drinks. While just over half of kids are drinking three or more servings of water a day, one in five still aren't drinking even one.

Only 40% of kids had breakfast every day and one in ten said they never had breakfast in the past week. Many kids still aren't getting the nutrition they need. A quarter of students reported that they went hungry because there wasn't enough food at home.

The American Heart Association and the Healthy Choices Vermont Coalition will be working to get legislators to address these issues in an omnibus nutrition and physical activity bill this coming session that will provide greater opportunities for the healthy choice for all Vermonters. Please let us know if you'd like to be involved. Contact Tina.Zuk@heart.org.

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