A health examination of children aged three to six conducted by the Taoyuan County Government Public Health Bureau showed that more than half were unhealthy, with tooth decay and vision problems being the greatest threats.
In 2011, the bureau allocated NT$30 million (US$996,000) a year to pediatrics, dentists and other physicians, as well as preschools, villages and communities, to provide free health examinations for about 60,000 children aged three to six.
The examinations include 12 items and starting from this year young children with heart problems could also receive a free echocardiogram test.
According to the bureau’s statistics, 168,147 children have received examinations so far, a screening rate of 91 percent.
The results showed that more than 85,000 of the children have health problems, indicating that one out of every two young children is unhealthy, and that the health problems were mostly not innate problems.
More than 45 percent of the children had tooth decay — the most common health problem in the survey, followed by vision problems, with the two problems accounting for nearly 60 percent of the health issues discovered.
Chiang Yu-chin (江玉琴), an official with the county government’s health promotion department, said Ministry of Health and Welfare statistics show that tooth decay is mostly caused by children not being taught how to brush their teeth.
In order to improve the problem, last year preschool children were provided with a free fluoride varnish application every half a year, after prior parental consent, she said, adding that parents should cooperate to help reduce tooth decay.
Chiang said vision problems are mostly associated with the overuse of television, tablet computers, smartphones and other electronic devices.
She encouraged parents to stop their children from using the devices for too long, because their eyes are still developing and prolonged use of the products causes macular degeneration, damaging the optic nerves and causing permanent damage to the eyes.
Hsueh Chang-wei (薛常威), a physician at Landseed Hospital’s (壢新醫院) children development conjoint assessment center, said parents’ incorrect concepts may lead to children becoming unhealthy at an early age, so they should see a doctor as soon as they find any health problems.
Hsueh said tooth decay often occurs because parents hold the misconception that “baby teeth will be replaced by permanent teeth, so it’s OK to have tooth decay” and they do not pay enough attention to their child’s oral hygiene.
However, tooth decay can cause children to feel uncomfortable or pain, affecting their appetite, and serious decay of the root canal can even affect the growth of permanent teeth, causing them to grow misaligned, Hsueh said.
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