US Kids Healthy Overall
Every year the federal government asks for an update on the well being of America’s children. This year, with a few exceptions, the news was good.
Eighty-three percent of parents reported that their children were in “excellent” or “very good” health, and 81 percent of toddlers have been given all of the recommended vaccinations, up from 78 percent in 2002.
Even better news came with the report that adolescent births had reached a record low. There were 22 live births per 1,000 girls aged 15-17 in 2003, a dramatic drop from 39 per 1,000 in 1991.
The most significant drop in teen birth rates was among black, non-Hispanic girls who reported 86 live births per 1,000 back in 1991. The same group in 2003 reported only 39 live births per 1,000 girls.
The death rate among children aged 1-4 and 5-14 has been on a continual decline, registering the lowest ever since the first America’s Children: Key National Indicators of Well-Being was compiled by the Federal Interagency Forum on Child and Family Statistics nine years earlier.
From 1976-1980, 88 percent of US kids had high levels of lead in their blood. Today that number has been cut to only 2%.
And to add a little sugar to the top, fourth graders are scoring better in math.
It wasn’t all rainbows and butterflies, though. While the overall statistics were positive, the good news was heavily on the side of those in higher income, two-parent families.
“The picture certainly has improved, but the disparities persist,” said Edward Sondik, director of the National Center for Health Statistics at the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. “The U.S. population is, by no means, homogenous in these measures, and we need to try to identify what is causing the differences and understand them and use that knowledge to close the gaps.”
It was found that children had a higher chance of living in poverty than before and infants were more likely to be born under weight. Among the children living in poverty, only 76% had been given all of their vaccinations compared to 83% of those not in poverty.
While younger kids were doing better in math, older children were doing worse in reading.
The incidences of asthma also seem to be on the rise as 13 percent are expected to be diagnosed at some point in their lives, up from nine percent in 2003.
Five percent of children were reported to have “definite or severe” emotional or cognitive problems. Poor children were twice as likely to have these problems, as were children from single-parent homes.
In fact children living in two parent homes outperformed on five indicators of well being. The five indicators are underweight births, infant mortality rates, 15-to17-year-olds enrolled in school, percentage reported to be in excellent or very good health, and percentage of out-of-wedlock births to girls aged 17-19.
A heartening find was that overall usage of illicit drugs and violence was down among adolescents.
“We have been fortunate to experience a long-term drop in violence affecting all ages and all races and ethnic groups and particularly affecting those under the age of 18,” said Larry Greenfeld, director of the bureau of justice statistics at the Department of Justice. ”