U.S. Child Health: Better Than Before?
Vaccines, Teen Births, Child Deaths Improve; Asthma, Weight Are Issues
July 20, 2005 -- When it comes to child health, how are America's kids doing?
"Overall, the health of America's children is certainly good to excellent," says Edward Sondik, PhD, director of the National Center for Health Statistics.
"But the disparities that we've seen in the past continue to persist, and there's a considerable challenge there," he says.
Sondik and colleagues summed up the government's new report, "America's Children: Key National Indicators of Well-Being 2005," in a media teleconference.
Report's Health Highlights
Among the report's findings:
- 83% of parents said their kids were in "excellent" or "very good" health.
- Teen births are at an all-time low: 22 live births per 1,000 girls aged 15-17.
- Childhood immunization (for children aged 19 months to 35 months) is at a record high: 81% of kids get recommended shots.
- The death rate continues to drop for kids aged 1-4 and 5-14.
- Only 2% of U.S. kids aged 1-5 have high blood lead levels -- down from 89% 20 to 25 years ago.
Infant Deaths, Low-Birth Weight Babies Rose Slightly
Infant mortality, while still near a record low, rose from 6.8 per 1,000 live births in 2001 to 7.0 per 1,000 live births in 2002. That was mainly due to an increase in babies weighing less than 2 pounds at birth, states a news release.
The number of low-birth-weight babies also rose slightly from 2002 to 2003 (from 7.8% to 7.9%).
How Many Kids Are There?
There were 73 million kids aged 17 and younger in the U.S. in 2003. They have made up a smaller slice of America's population since the mid-1960s.
Those numbers are stabilizing. By 2020, kids should account for 24% of the U.S. population, according to the report.
Asthma a 'Real Concern'
About one in eight (13%) of U.S. kids have ever been diagnosed with asthma. About 9% have asthma today, the report states.
About two-thirds of those with asthma have had one or more attacks in the previous year. Asthma is being diagnosed more often, says Sondik.
"This is a real concern because this is one of the areas where hospitalization rates have increased, and actually, mortality rates have increased for asthma in the past," says Duane Alexander, MD.
Alexander also took part in the teleconference. He directs the National Institute of Child Health and Human Development.
"This is something we're just starting to get under control with better medication, better follow-up, [and] better treatment for kids with this condition," says Alexander.
Asthma statistics have been "pretty steady" for the last decade, says Alexander.
Sixteen percent of U.S. kids were overweight in 1999-2002, states the report. That's up from around 11% in 1988-1994.
Those numbers aren't new, but they're "very important," Alexander says.