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Rural Remote Health. 2011;11(4):1699. Epub 2011 Oct 24.

Weight status and health characteristics of rural Saskatchewan children.

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  • 1College of Nursing, University of Saskatchewan, Saskatoon, Saskatchewan, Canada.



The present and future health of children is significantly threatened by physical inactivity, poor diet, and the obesity epidemic. Limited studies on the health of children living in rural settings suggest that rural children have a higher prevalence of overweight and may not be as active as their urban counterparts. The purpose of this study was to examine the health behaviors and weight status of children aged 8 to 13 years living in rural Saskatchewan, Canada.


A cross-sectional health questionnaire assessed the health behaviors (eg physical activity, sedentary behaviors, dietary patterns) and perception of health status (eg very healthy, quite healthy, not very healthy) of 99 children attending a rural school. Heights and weights were measured and used to calculate BMI's (kg/m2). The BMIs were used to categorize children as healthy weight, overweight, or obese.


Thirty-four percent of children were overweight (23.7%) or obese (10.3%) with a significantly higher prevalence of overweight/obesity in boys aged 6 to 8 years (<em>p </em><0.05). A significantly higher proportion of children living in town (vs living on a farm) watched two or more hours of television a day (<em>p </em><0.05). Many children (65%) used active transport (bus or car) to school or after-school activities. The majority of children reported they were very healthy. Most children reported eating fruit and vegetables more frequently, and sugared drinks and French fries less frequently.


Prevalence of overweight/obesity in these rural children was high with gender differences evident at a very young age. Most children reported eating healthy diets but many participated in several hours of daily 'screen time' (eg watching television or using a computer). Despite their weight status or patterns of physical inactivity, children perceived themselves as being very healthy. Understanding the health behaviors and weight status of rural children may assist in the development of effective health promotion programs for rural children.

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