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Rise in Chronic Childhood Health Problems

Study Shows Conditions Such as Obesity and Asthma Are Increasing in Kids

Tracking Childhood Chronic Disease continued...

Chronic conditions increased with each group, with group three having the highest percent of children with chronic conditions both at the start and end of the study period.

''For each of those three groups, the rate of having a chronic condition during the study increased by about 10% for each subsequent group," Van Cleave says.

The chances of having a chronic condition during any part of the six-year study was greatest for the third group, with 51.5% of them affected at some time (and more than half of that 51% having obesity), Van Cleve says. Rates were higher among boys and Hispanic and black children. Older children were more likely than younger children to have a chronic health conditions, she found.

Some children did outgrow the problems, however. When Van Cleave combined all three groups, she found that 9.3% of the children who had a chronic condition at the start of the study did not have it at the end. "Chronic conditions during childhood do not appear to be as permanent as once thought," she tells WebMD.

The study was funded and supported by the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, the CDC, and the Maternal and Child Health Bureau of the U.S. Health Resources Services Administration.

Second Opinion

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 for WebMD.

''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, she says.

"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."

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