April 21, 2006

First Healthy Kids 2025 survey outlines areas for improvement

Featured Image

First Healthy Kids 2025 survey outlines areas for improvement

Results are in for the first Healthy Kids 2025 survey of parents working for three of the largest employers in the state.

The electronic survey was distributed last fall to more than 28,000 employees at the State of Tennessee government, Metro Nashville government and Vanderbilt University.

“We were pleased that 30 percent of employees completed the survey, a total of more than 8,500,” said Mary Kate Mouser, survey co-designer. “We think this pilot project represents a snapshot of the working parent population in Middle Tennessee and beyond. Now we're excited to be gearing up to offer the survey to 25 more employers this summer.”

Mouser is director of the Vanderbilt Children's Health and Injury Prevention (VCHIP) program at the Monroe Carell Jr. Children's Hospital at Vanderbilt.

The information and survey are provided by Children's Hospital and are designed to create a baseline of child health-related information that will help guide efforts to improve the health standing of Tennessee's children.

Among the questions that generated surprising results was one that asked if parents placed their infants to sleep on their backs, a practice strongly endorsed by the American Academy of Pediatrics and other health groups to prevent sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS).

“Only about 63 percent of parents said they always put their babies to sleep on their backs,” Mouser said. “That was alarming to our pediatric health care professionals. Ten percent of parents reported “never” putting their infant to sleep on his or her back. That is one clear area where more education is needed.”

A significant percentage of parents reported they did not have their child wear a helmet consistently when using a four-wheeler, rollerblades, a bicycle or scooter.

Most families reported eating at fast food restaurants at least once a week, and more commonly, twice a week; and nearly half of children reportedly were active for at least 60 minutes just four days or less a week, far below the recommended five to seven days a week.

“We were pleasantly surprised to see that more than 90 percent of parents self-reported that they had children properly restrained in safety seats in their cars,” Mouser said.

“But our research experts tell us that may be misleading. We understand that while most people do believe their children are properly restrained, when safety technicians check the installation of the seats, more than 85 percent are found to be improperly restrained.”

The next round of questionnaires will be tweaked based on lessons learned in this pilot project. The computer questionnaire is called the “Children's Survey” and was distributed to employers via e-mail. The survey was designed to find out whether employees feel they are making good choices and are well informed on topics of safety and health in parenting.

“The three employers who took part in this pilot are also taking the information from the Children's Survey and designing interventions,” Mouser said. “We might, for example, start with the safety seat checks we currently hold for the public through VCHIP and we may expand it to all Vanderbilt employees.”

The surveys were first sent out last September and were scored at Children's Hospital by a computer program. Those taking it could see their results right away and were also sent an e-mail with the assessment.

A variety of opportunities to learn about safety and health in parenting were offered at the employers' places of business. Education materials and lunch and learn events were developed as part of Healthy Kids 2025, to go along with the survey topics.

The Mayor's Office of Children and Youth will take the lead on distributing the next round of surveys. A letter inviting dozens of businesses to participate will be sent out this month.