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Swimming at Scotstoun Pool

Health report card for kids shows Scotland "could do better"

Scotland’s children sit staring at screens too often – and obesity levels among youngsters are at record levels, a report has highlighted.

The first Active Healthy Kids Scotland Report Card - produced by a University of Strathclyde-led expert group – offers a comprehensive insight into the physical activity of the nation's children. Funded by the Scottish Universities Insight Institute, the Report Card was produced by the Universities of Strathclyde and Aberdeen, and the Children's Hospital of Eastern Ontario Healthy Active Living and Obesity Research Institute.

Professor of Physical Activity and Public Health Science, John Reilly, of Strathclyde's School of Psychological Sciences and Health, said: "The grades in the Report Card provide a robust assessment of the 'state of the nation' – how we are doing as a country in promoting physical activity and health among children and adolescents in Scotland.

"These grades are judged against an evidence-based benchmark and determined by the percentage of Scottish children and adolescents meeting the benchmark."

The Report Card assesses 10 indicators – sedentary behaviour; physical activity levels; active transportation; active and outdoor play; organised sport participation; diet; obesity; family and peer influence; community and the built environment; and national policy, strategy and investment. Each of these indicators is assigned a grade in the Report Card – from the top "A" mark, down to "F" – along with information about trends over time and inequalities.

An "F" grade was awarded to sedentary behaviour, with 76 per cent of 11-to-15 year olds watching more than two hours of television per day – and 77 per cent of boys, and 37 per cent of girls, reporting two hours of gaming every day on top of their two hours of TV viewing.

The Report Card assigned an "F-minus" to obesity – and pointed out that levels of obesity among young people are at a record high. At least 16 per cent of two-to-15 year olds were obese in 2011, according to the Scottish Health Survey, with higher rates among more deprived children.

Overall physical activity levels were also given an "F" rating, as only 19 per cent of adolescent boys – and 11 per cent of girls – aged 11-to-15 years of age met the Scottish, UK and international recommendation of a least 60 minutes per day of at least moderate-intensity physical activity.

A "D-minus" was awarded to diet, with sugar and saturated fat intake both far exceeding recommended levels, and just 14 per cent of children ate the recommended five portions of fruit and vegetables per day.

A "D-minus" rating was also given to family and peer influence, as Scottish Health Survey statistics showed just 48 per cent of adult men and a third of adult women took the recommended 30 minutes of moderate-to-vigorous exercise per week. Conservative estimates also showed 64 per cent of adults were overweight or obese – and just 22 per cent ate five portions of fruit and vegetables per day – in 2011.

At the other end of the spectrum, the Report Card awarded "Bs" to both community and the built environment, and to national policy, strategy and investment. A "C" was given to active transportation, while both organised sports participation – and active and active and outdoor play – were marked "incomplete", due to a lack of data.

Professor Reilly said the intention was for an international report card to be published in May 2014, so that the 'state of the nation' in Scotland can be compared against other countries, and for the next Scottish Report Card to be published in May 2015.

He added: "This Report Card – Scotland's first of its kind – provides a critical, current and comprehensive assessment of the physical activity and health of Scotland's children and adolescents. The Report Card should be used as an advocacy tool, and as the basis of public debate, policy discussion and change."

Professor Geraldine McNeill, of the University of Aberdeen – a project partner – added: "The card is designed to be a 'one-stop-shop' for information on the major determinants of children's weight and provides benchmarks which will allow us to monitor progress in improving children's activity and diet in the future."

Charlie Woods, Director of the Scottish Universities Insight Institute, said: "We're delighted to support this initiative which draws on learning from other parts of the world to address key issues for Scotland. The Active Healthy Kids Scotland Report Card programme is an excellent example of the cross-institutional collaboration we promote and offers a real contribution to policy and practice."

22 October 2013