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Free medicals at age 12


French prime minister Jean-Pierre Raffarin is planning free school medicals for 12-year-olds in a plan to encourage teenagers to lead an active, healthy life.

Proposals were unveiled at last week's annual conference on the family, devoted to France's 5.4 million 11 to 17-year-olds.

The check-up for 740,000 pupils aged 12 would be supplemented by the opening of more "maisons de l'adolescent" - centres, sometimes attached to hospitals, where teenagers can go for advice and medical or psychological help.

Mr Raffarin announced an allocation of pound;5 million(pound;3m) a year for five years to reach President Chirac's goal of having a centre in every region. Currently there are only a handful.

However, sport plays a strong part in the lives of young people with nearly two-thirds participating at least once a week, according to the National Institute for Safety and Health Education (Inpes). Its findings come from a survey of 2,765 12-to-25-year-olds published last month.

The younger they were, the more likely they were to play sport. Nine out of 10 children aged 12 to 14 had played sport within the previous seven days of being questioned. Fewer than 3 per cent of boys and more than 7 per cent of girls said they took part because they had to.

An Observatoire Sports et Valeurs study of 500 10 to 17-year-olds released in June surveyed 16 sports and confirmed that 99 per cent of teenagers are interested in at least one of them. The most popular activities were swimming, basketball, athletics and football, the study found.

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