Rate of Chronic Diseases Doubling in Children

Filed under: In The News, Research Reveals: Toddlers & Preschoolers, Research Reveals: Big Kids



Chronic health conditions among U.S. children took a significant leap, more than doubling from 12.8 percent in 1994 to 26.6 percent in 2006.

Researchers from MassGeneral Hospital for Children in Boston followed three separate groups of children ages 2-8 for six years from 1988 to 1994, 1994 to 2000, and 2000 to 2006, respectively. They found that the number of kids suffering from diseases like asthma, heart problems and obesity -- as well as from behavior and learning problems -- virtually doubled during that time period. The results will be published in the Feb. 17 issue of the Journal of the American Medical Association.

The study defines behavioral and learning problems as: learning disabilities, hyperactivity, attention-deficit disorder and serious emotional disturbance, among others. The data also indicates that African-American and Hispanic children are more likely to suffer from a chronic disease, specifically asthma and obesity. Minorities are less likely, however, to have behavior or learning problems.

An editorial accompanying the study notes that the findings may partially be the result of better and more accessible medial treatment for chronic conditions -- and that may mean that children who once would have died from their diseases are surviving longer.

In addition, the editorial notes, the federal Maternal Child Health Bureau broadened its definitions of chronic childhood conditions and the increase may partially reflect those more encompassing definitions. However, JAMA points out that there is an "urgent need" to better understand the reasons behind the new statistics and that addressing this issue "will ultimately require major reforms in the child health system."

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