Rise in Chronic Childhood Health Problems
Study Shows Conditions Such as Obesity and Asthma Are Increasing in Kids
The study findings, while not surprising, are of concern, says Geetha
Raghuveer, MD, associate professor of cardiology at the University of
Missouri-Kansas City School of Medicine and pediatric cardiologist at
Children's Mercy Hospital in Kansas City, Mo., who reviewed the study findings
''I was taken away by one comment in the paper that at least one in two
children in the recent [group] had some sort of chronic condition," she says.
"And that's a lot."
"Many of these problems are lifestyle-related," she says, citing the high
percent of obesity found in the children.
The study findings point to the need for parents to pay more attention to
nutrition for their children and to be sure they get enough physical activity,
"Parents can make small changes in their child's diet and see a big
improvement in overall health," she says. "It can be as simple as taking liquid
calories out of your child's diet. That may be all that's necessary to prevent
excess weight gain and all the problems."
The study findings are of concern, agrees Neal Halfon, MD, MPH, University
of California, Los Angeles professor of pediatrics, health sciences, and policy
studies, who also directs the UCLA Center for Healthier Children, Families and
Communities. "It shows that over that time period that the rates are going up
quite significantly," says Halfon, who co-wrote an editorial that accompanies
the study. He reports receiving support from the Maternal and Child Health
''I was surprised at the magnitude of the increase, but I wasn't surprised
at the overall trend," he says, ''because that trend has been emerging for the
past 30 or 40 years."
Part of the increase, he tells WebMD, can be attributed to the generally
broader definition of childhood health problems. But not all, he says, blaming
''the social environment and social ecology of childhood" for some of the
increase in chronic health conditions such as obesity. For instance, he says,
higher-calorie foods and an increase in ''screen time" with excess television
and computer use contribute to the obesity epidemic.
Halfon suspects there may be common pathways for some of the conditions, as
some children have multiple conditions. "The good news here is, it's really
shining a light on a problem that we have that in a sense we have been
ignoring," he says.