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:
The bad news includes:
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.
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.
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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