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Fewer U.S. Teens Having Babies, Binge Drinking: Report

By Steven Reinberg
HealthDay Reporter

WEDNESDAY, July 6 (HealthDay News) -- A new government report on the health and well-being of America's children brings forth some good news: Fewer teens are having babies or engaging in binge drinking, preterm birth rates are dropping and deaths from injury are declining.

But, the same report also points to several negative trends. More eighth-graders are using drugs, more children are living in poverty and many kids are in homes where a parent hasn't worked full time in a year.

"This annual report is an important tool for monitoring the well-being of our nation's children," Edward Sondik, director of the National Center for Health Statistics at the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, said during a Tuesday news conference. "Wellness has many dimensions, and each is critical to a child's well-being."

The report, America's Children: Key National Indicators of Well-Being, 2011, is the product of the Federal Interagency Forum on Child and Family Statistics, which is a working group of 22 federal agencies that collects data on children and families.

Dr. Alan E. Guttmacher, director of the Eunice Kennedy Shriver National Institute of Child Health and Human Development, said during the news conference that "childhood is a dynamic phenomenon."

Many concerns have changed over time, Guttmacher said. At one time, infectious diseases were major concerns. "Now if you look at the lives of children, the role of injury has become more important. It's not that injury is more common, it's just that the other scourges of childhood have become less common," he explained.

Good news in the report included:

  • Teen birth rates dropped, from 21.7 per 1,000 girls in 2008 to 20.1 per 1,000 girls in 2009.
  • Premature births dropped from 12.3 percent in 2008 to 12.2 percent in 2009.
  • Injuries among teens dropped from 44 per 100,000 in 2008 to 39 per 100,000 in 2009.
  • Binge drinking among 12th graders dropped from 25 percent in 2009 to 23 percent in 2010.
  • Infant deaths dropped from 6.6 per 1,000 in 2008 to 6.4 per 1,000 in 2009.
  • Fewer children are living in areas of air pollution (69 percent in 2008, 59 percent in 2009).
  • Math scores among eighth-graders rose two points from 2007 to 2009.
  • Math scores for 12th graders rose three points from 2005 to 2009.

The bad news includes:

  • More eighth-graders are using illegal drugs, from 8 percent in 2009 to 10 percent in 2010.
  • Fewer children are living with a parent who is employed full time, down from 75 percent in 2008 to 72 percent in 2009.
  • More children are living in poverty, up from 19 percent in 2008 to 21 percent in 2009.
  • More children are living in crowded housing, physically inadequate housing or housing that costs more than 30 percent of household income -- up from 43 percent in 2007 to 45 percent in 2009.
  • The percentage of children with asthma remained the same from 2008 to 2009, but steadily increased from 8.8 percent of all children in 2001 to 9.6 percent in 2009.

A new section of the report features data on adoption. Adoption is preferred over long-term foster care or care in group homes, emergency shelters and orphanages.

Most adopted children thrive, but children adopted after the first few months of life have disruptions in parenting that can have long-term effects on their development and well-being, according to the report.

  • About 2.5 percent of children in the United States are adopted.
  • 21.5 percent of adopted children are of a different race than their adoptive parent. This varies by state, from 8.4 percent in West Virginia to 42.5 percent in Alaska.
  • 29 percent of adopted children have health problems, compared with 12 percent of all children.

In addition, 41 percent of all births in the United States are to unmarried women. "That's more than double the percent in 1980, which was 18.4 percent," Sondik said. These infants are more likely to be of low birth-weight and live in poverty, he added.

Dr. Steven E. Lipshultz, chairman of pediatrics at the University of Miami Miller School of Medicine, said that, "while not earth-shattering," the report is important because it can guide policies that affect children.

Lipshultz is particularly concerned that programs that benefit children's health and well-being are being cut during the ongoing economic recovery.

"There is so much political rhetoric that gets bantered about that, without a scorecard, it's hard to sort out what the real facts are," Lipshultz said. "And kids don't vote, and so they are not necessarily a constituency that is a high priority among policy makers.

"If we are going to take limited resources and we are going to work to have the next generation healthier than the current one, the same old solutions may need to be modified," he added.

More information

To see the full report, visit the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

SOURCES: Steven E. Lipshultz, M.D., professor and chairman, pediatrics, University of Miami Miller School of Medicine; July 6, 2011, teleconference with Edward Sondik, Ph.D., director, National Center for Health Statistics, U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and Alan E. Guttmacher, M.D., director, Eunice Kennedy Shriver U.S. National Institute of Child Health and Human Development; July 7, 2011, America's Children: Key National Indicators of Well-Being, 2011

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