The Czech Health Ministry has set itself a new target – getting Czechs to adopt a healthier lifestyle and start at an early age. According to Health Minister Leoš Heger a sedentary lifestyle, smoking and poor eating habits are largely to blame for the nation’s deteriorating health and he wants to address the root of the problem.
The state spends 8 billion crowns annually treating smoking related diseases and billions more on obesity related problems. According to the health minister the health sector could save some 30 billion crowns annually if people took a more responsible attitude to their own health. A health study on the habits of the young generation produced dismal results. 75 percent of Czech teenagers spend two hours a day of their free time at their computers and have less than one hour of physical activity a day. One in five boys and one in ten girls are overweight or obese. Almost 50 percent of 13 year olds have tried smoking. Health minister Leoš Heger says these problems need to be addressed.
“The health of the Czech nation has been deteriorating. Many illnesses are to a large degree self-imposed and could be prevented. I feel that the Health Ministry should be doing more in the field of prevention and helping to establish healthier lifestyle standards.”
Together with the Czech Olympic Committee the Health Ministry is preparing to launch a long-term prevention and awareness program in schools which is just being finalized. The aim is to improve the quality of food that young people eat and the hours spent in sporting activities, some of them within the compulsory physical education children receive in schools. Other targets are to reduce smoking and the use of soft drugs. The project should be co-sponsored by some 280 million crowns from EU funds in the coming year. Besides these changes, the health ministry has also prepared legislation that would ban smoking in public places and increase the price of tobacco products and alcohol.
According to a study recently published by the World Health Organization, the Czech Republic is among the countries with the worst record in health awareness and lifestyle. Michal Kalman from the Active Lifestyle Institute at Palacký University in Olomouc explains.
“The study was initiated already in 1983. Nowadays, it covers 33 member countries with a fresh survey conducted every 4 years. The Czech Republic is a leading country in alcohol drinking, and also the prevalence of smoking is very high. From my point of view, the most serious issue is the decreasing level of physical activity that is essential for physical health and also for mental health.”
One of the ways to make children more active and get them to take up more sporting activities is to financially support sporting clubs across the country many of whom are suffering from a lack of money. František Nepožitek is a football coach in SK Sigma Olomouc who says that given the necessary resources the sporting tradition in this country can be revived and would soon bring positive results in terms of better physical and mental health.
“I would say that kids are generally less interested in taking up sporting activities. However thanks to a baby boom in recent years there are now enough kids joining our club. Regular training under the guidance of a professional not only improves their prowess and stamina but prevents many physical problems they might otherwise have developed.”
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