Sharp increase in chronic health problems in children
The rates of childhood chronic health problems, including obesity, asthma and learning disabilities, have doubled in just 12 years, a new study reports — to 1 in 4 children in 2006, up from 1 in 8 in 1994.
But the findings, which appeared in the Feb. 17 issue of The Journal of the American Medical Association, held a welcome surprise, the researchers said: many chronic conditions resolve themselves during childhood.
While half of the children followed from 2000 through 2006 had a chronic condition at some point during the period, only one-quarter did at the study’s end.
“There is much to be hopeful about,” said the paper’s lead author, Dr. Jeanne Van Cleave, a pediatrician at the Massachusetts General Hospital for Children in Boston. “We’re now wondering what’s going on with those kids, and why a chronic condition resolves in one child while another child may not experience the same thing.”
The study analyzed data from the government’s National Longitudinal Surveys that included three nationally representative groups of children ages 2 through 8. Besides obesity and asthma, the scientists looked at allergies, heart trouble, impaired vision and hearing, and behavior and learning problems like attention deficit hyperactivity disorder.
Though the researchers did not study the reasons for the increases, they suggested several possible factors: improvements in screening and diagnosis that led to more reporting of the chronic conditions; the rise in childhood obesity, which can lead to other problems; and the increasing survival of premature babies and children with cancer and other diseases, who are more likely to have chronic health problems.
Via New York Times