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HEALTH

Norwegian kids are fourth fittest in the world

In a study comparing the fitness levels of children in 50 different nations, Norway was topped by only three countries.

Norwegian kids are fourth fittest in the world
Norwegian children warm up for a kids' marathon in Oslo. Photo: Berit Roald / Scanpix
Norwegian kids ranked fourth in a study conducted by the University of North Dakota (UND) and the Children’s Hospital of Eastern Ontario that examined the aerobic fitness levels of children and youth. The study centred around the so-called beep test, a 20-metre shuttle run that is among the most commonly used fitness indicators in the world. 
 
Some 1.1 million kids between the ages of nine and 17 had their beep test results analyzed to draw conclusions about children’s fitness levels in the 50 countries examined. 
 
“If all the kids in the world were to line up for a race, the average Norwegian child would finish at the front of the pack, placed fourth out of 50,” Grant Tomkinson, the senior author of the study, told The Local. 
 
Tomkinson, an associate professor of kinesiology at the UND College of Education & Human Development and senior author of the study, said that the children’s aerobic fitness results are “very insightful to overall population health” but acknowledged that the results don’t necessarily paint a complete picture. 
 
“We didn’t have good international data on diet,” he said. “Because we examined between-country differences in fitness we were interested in broad socio-economic correlates. Obesity was a weak negative correlate with fitness in developed countries (fatter countries fared worse), climate was a strong positive correlate in developed countries (hotter countries fared better), and income inequality was a strong negative correlate in developed countries (more equal countries fared better).”
 
Norway was topped only by Tanzania, Iceland and Estonia. Norway’s southern neighbour Denmark ranked sixth while Sweden was in the middle of the pack at 26th. 
 
The United States placed near the very bottom at number 47 out of 50 and Tomkinson said that the strong overall performance of Nordic countries was interesting from an American point of view “because we can always learn from countries with fit kids”. 
 
“We know that Scandinavian countries have very good physical activity infrastructure and government strategies and investments, as does the US, but poor overall physical activity levels, also like the US, despite having better participation rates in organized sport and active transportation like cycling or walking to and from school than the US,” he told The Local. 
 
“They are also leaner that US kids which means it is easier for them to move their body through space and run over long distances,” he added. 
 
The results of the study, which Tomkinson said is the largest of its kind, were recently published in the British Journal of Sports Medicine.

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HEALTH

Why are more people waiting to be given a GP in Norway?

As many as 116,000 people are waiting to be given a "fastlege", or GP, in Norway. So, why are residents having to wait to be assigned a doctor?

More than 116,000 people are waiting to be given a GP in Norway. Pictured is a picture of a stethoscope and some paperwork.
More than 116,000 people are waiting to be given a GP in Norway. Pictured is a picture of a stethoscope and some paperwork. Photo by Pixabay on Pexels.

A recent quarterly report from the Norwegian Directorate of Health has revealed that 116,000 people in Norway are on the waiting list to be given a GP

Furthermore, the number of those without a doctor has grown in recent years, with those in rural and northern parts of the country more likely to be left waiting for a GP. 

The current GP scheme in Norway allows everyone to choose their own doctor, who acts as the patients’ main point of contact with the health service. Your GP is also responsible for your primary medical needs, and you are allowed to change your doctor twice a year. 

READ ALSO: How Norway’s health insurance scheme works and the common problems foreigners face

Doctors in Norway have warned that a lack of funding and staff is threatening the GP system. 

“The GP scheme is on the verge of collapsing because there are too few doctors,” Bernand Holthe, a GP on the board of the Nordland Medical Association and a member of GP’s association for the area, told public broadcaster NRK

He says that reform in 2012 to the GP system has left doctors with too much work with not enough resources at their disposal. 

“After the collaboration reform in 2012, the GP scheme has been given too many tasks without receiving a corresponding amount of resources,” Holthe said. 

The government has pledged around 450 million in funding for GPs in its state budget for 2022, which Holthe argues isn’t enough to recruit the number of GPs necessary. 

Nils Kristian Klev and Marte Kvittum Tangen who represent the country’s 5,000 or so GPs also said they were disappointed with the level of funding allocated for doctors in the national budget. 

“The Labor Party was clear before the election that they would increase the basic funding in the GP scheme. This is by far the most important measure to ensure stability and recruitment and it is urgent,” the pair told Norwegian newswire NTB.

Patients have been left frustrated, and in a recent survey on healthcare in the country, one reader of The Local expressed their frustration at not having a GP. 

“I moved from Olso to Tromso, and I’m currently without a GP. Helsenorge didn’t think this was an issue and told me to visit a hospital if I needed to see a doctor. How can a municipality have no places for a doctor? Everyone has a right to a local doctor, and I’ve been left with nothing. All I can do is join a waiting list in the hopes a place turns up before I get ill,” Sinead from Tromsø said in the survey. 

Another reader described the fastlege system as “horrible”. 

Key vocabulary

Fastlege– GP 

Legevakt– Emergency room

Sykehus– Hospital 

Helseforsikring– Health insurance

Legekontor- Doctors office

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