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Rise in Chronic Childhood Health Problems

Study Shows Conditions Such as Obesity and Asthma Are Increasing in Kids
WebMD Health News
Reviewed by Louise Chang, MD

Feb. 16, 2010 -- Chronic childhood health problems such as obesity, asthma, and learning and behavioral problems are on the rise, more than doubling over a 12-year period, according to a new study.

Chronic health conditions were found in 12.8% of children studied in 1994, compared with 26.6% of another group of same-aged children studied in 2006, the researchers found.

''We knew before we started this study that childhood chronic diseases were generally on the rise," says study researcher Jeanne Van Cleave, MD, a pediatrician at Mass General Hospital for Children and an instructor of pediatrics at Harvard Medical School in Boston.

"But this study really gives a better picture," she tells WebMD. That's partly because the researchers were able to study three groups of children over time to better figure out what was happening.

As bleak as the findings may sound, Van Cleave tells WebMD she sees a bright spot: ''The most important finding is that a lot of children will have chronic conditions during childhood, but a lot of these conditions will go away, will resolve over time."

The study findings are published in TheJournal of the American Medical Association.

Tracking Childhood Chronic Disease

Van Cleave's team looked at four types of health conditions, as reported by parents:

To be considered chronic, the condition had to limit activities or schooling or require medicine, special equipment, or special health services, and had to last at least 12 months.

The data was retrieved from the National Longitudinal Survey of Youth-Child Cohort. Children were ages 2 through 8 at the beginning of each study period. Each group was followed up for six years -- from 1988 to 1994, 1994 to 2000, and 2000 to 2006.

Group one had 2,337 participants, group two had 1,759, and group three included 905.

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