Prevalence of chronic conditions among US children increasing.

The Los Angeles Times (2/17, Roan) reported, “More than a quarter of all US children have a chronic health condition, new research ” in the Journal of the American Medical Association “suggests, a significant increase from the rate seen in earlier decades.” Children are not “less healthy,” however. In fact, “fewer children today are affected by congenital defects, infectious diseases, and accidents than they were 50 years ago.”

In other words, “doctors can now save many children who might once have died very young,” USA Today (2/17, Szabo) reports. But, while “such children survive, they often face serious health problems.” And, “in the last three decades, chronic health problems including obesity, asthma and behavioral and learning problems have been steadily increasing among children,” Time (2/16, O’Callaghan) reported in its “Wellness” blog.

Before reaching those conclusions, researchers at the MassGeneral Hospital for Children Harvard “analyzed data collected during six-year periods from three consecutive groups of children who participated in a US Bureau of Labor Statistics survey that began in 1979,” Bloomberg News (2/16, Peterson) reported. Specifically, investigators “began tracking the first group in 1988, the second in 1994, and the third in 2000.”

When “all cohorts were pooled together, all categories of chronic conditions increased from baseline to the end of the study: obesity: 11.9 to 13.3%; asthma: 2 to 3.6%; other physical conditions (such as allergies and chronic ear infections): 3.9 to 5.7%; behavior/learning problems (such as AD/HD and mental retardation): 1 to 4.7%,” according to MedPage Today (2/16, Neale). “For obesity, the baseline rate increased significantly with each progressive cohort, from 7% in 1988 to 12.3% in 1994 to 19% in 2000.”

HealthDay (2/16, Gordon) noted that the “risk of having a chronic condition was higher for males, and for children who were black or Hispanic.” In addition, those “who had overweight mothers were far more likely to be overweight themselves.” But “some children did outgrow the problems,” WebMD (2/16, Doheny) reported. Medscape (2/16, Lowry), AFP (2/16), and Reuters (2/17, Steenhuysen) also covered the story.

Report compares counties’ health across the US. USA Today (2/17, Marcus) reports on a study by the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation and the University of Wisconsin’s Population Health Institute, which offers “a health report card for almost every one of the nation’s more than 3,000 counties.” In the study, “researchers cobbled together federal and state health-related data on 3,016 counties,” ranking “each county in two ways: ‘Health Outcomes’ and ‘Health Factors.’ Health outcomes are derived from a county’s disease and death rates.” The AP (2/17, Neergaard) notes, “Looking at each state’s best and worst further illuminates a well-known trend: The least healthy counties tend to be poor and rural, and the healthiest ones tend to be urban or suburban and upper-income.”

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