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Overall Health of U.S. Children a Mixed Bag

by The Kid's Doctor Staff

More of America’s children get recommended vaccinations and have health insurance than in years past, but a new U.S. government report paints a mixed picture of the overall health of the nation’s youngsters. And because of the recession, that picture could soon become bleak, experts say.

The report examines child well-being in the areas of family and social environment, economic circumstances, health care, physical environment and safety, behavior, education, health and special health needs.

On the economic side, the findings are not encouraging, said Dr. Duane Alexander, director of the Eunice Kennedy Shriver National Institute of Child Health and Human Development at the U.S. National Institutes of Health. “Although the indicators predate the current economic downturn, they do show children losing ground,” he said.

In 2007, 18 percent of children lived in poverty compared with 17 percent in 2006, he noted. Also the number of children with at least one working parent dropped in 2007, and some experts expect the recession will erode gains to children’s well-being. In 2007, of the 73.9 million children in the United States, 89 percent had health insurance, up from 88 percent in 2006. But in 2007, that still left 8.1 million — or 11 percent — of all children uninsured.

About 9 percent of children suffered from asthma in 2007, and about 5 percent had one or more asthma attacks in the previous year. Asthma affected 15 percent of black children and Puerto Rican children, the report noted.

In 2007, more than three quarters of children (77 percent) aged 2 to 17 saw a dentist the previous year. Yet in 2003 to 2004, 25 percent of these children had untreated cavities, up from 21 percent in 1999 to 2002.

About 14 percent of all U.S. children had special health-care problems in 2005 and 2006. These required prescription medication, more services than most children, special therapies, or limited their ability to do things most other children can do.

The most common of these were allergies, asthma, attention-deficit disorder, depression, anxiety or other emotional problems, and migraine or frequent headaches.

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