Early education crucial to prevent bone neglect

Early education crucial to prevent bone neglect

Australian parents report that children are falling short of the mark when it comes to bone health according to new research set for release today to mark Healthy Bones Action Week (Aug 20-26).

Accordingly to the report, 92% of parents believe that their children are getting enough calcium, vitamin D and exercise – actions renowned as the building blocks for healthy bones.

Dairy foods are one of the richest sources of calcium in the diet. They also contain other essential nutrients, such as phosphorus, magnesium and zinc to support healthy bone development and maintenance.

However, whilst nine out of 10 parents acknowledge that dairy is an important source of calcium, the report suggests that in reality only one-third of children consume the recommended daily serves of dairy foods.

This follows Australian Health Survey findings released earlier this year that only two in 10 children get enough calcium from the dairy food group.

According to Dr Rachel Duckham, childhood bone growth expert from the Institute for Physical Activity and Nutrition (IPAN), Deakin University, Melbourne, strong bone development throughout childhood is critical to build bones for the future.

“It’s alarming that so many Australian children aren’t getting the calcium and recommended physical activity they need to develop their bones. Building strong bones starts when you’re young, but sets you up for life,” Dr Duckham said.

The report suggested that schools are set to play a major role in building the nation’s bone health. The vast majority of parents (88%) agree children should be educated about bone health at school.

Furthermore, four in five parents were positive about the role schools can play in nutritional education, and the same number have taken to home-schooling to educate children about the benefits of dairy for building strong bones.

“The good news is that parents and schools are increasingly recognising the importance of education for bone health, however, it is now Australia’s responsibility to ensure that bone health education is embedded into a child’s learning,” Dr Duckham said.

“Parents are overwhelmingly in favour of schools playing their role in bone health education. Healthy Bones Action Week is a great opportunity for schools, parents and children to get involved and take action for their bone health.”

To mark Healthy Bones Action Week, Dairy Australia are providing parents, teachers and communities with free resources to help with bone health education. These include games, posters and worksheets to encourage strong, healthy bones for children now and into the future.

Dairy Australia dietitian, Emma Glassenbury, says the importance of nutrition education for bone health is fundamental for children.

“Understanding what their bones need is the first important step for all school children. By educating children early, we can set them up for the long run,” Glassenbury said.

“The three most important things for kids to remember are weight bearing exercise, vitamin D from safe sun exposure, and calcium-rich foods are key to support strong, healthy bones.”