America’s Children: Key National Indicators of Well-Being

Last Friday we released the 10th anniversary edition of America’s Children, a product of the Federal Interagency Forum on Child and Family Statistics.

The Federal Interagency Forum on Child and Family Statistics (Forum) is a collection of 22 Federal government agencies involved in research and activities related to children and families. The Forum was founded in 1994 and formally established in April 1997 under Executive Order No. 13045. The mission of the Forum is to foster coordination and collaboration and to enhance and improve consistency in the collection and reporting of Federal data on children and families. The Forum also aims to improve the reporting and dissemination of information on the status of children and families.

Quite a bit of media interest was generated (here | here) on the subject of teen sexual behavior but there was much more to the report. The full report is available here and our overview of the data on health indicators which we contributed to is below the fold.

Opening comments by Dr. Ed Sondik, director, National Center for Health Statistics at the July 12 audio press briefing.

As we publish the 10th edition of America’s Children, we have the opportunity not only to look at the current year but to look back to see where improvements have been made and where progress has lagged.

Among toddlers, immunization rates have improved over the past decade. Some 81 percent of children ages 19-35 months have had the recommended combined series of five vaccinations – an important indicator of a healthy start.

Another notable change has been the decline in the birth rate for teens 15-17 years of age, hitting another record low in 2005. Young teen mothers and their babies are at greater risk of both immediate and long-term difficulties, so this is very good news. Overall, the birth rate for teens dropped by two-fifths in the past 15 years. The rate for Black, non-Hispanic teens experienced the greatest decline, down by three-fifths during this time period. Still the birth rate for black teens is about three times that for white, non-Hispanics. The rate for Hispanics is four times the rate for white, non-Hispanic teens.

While birth rates for unmarried teens–and teens in general–have been declining, over the past decade, the rates of unmarried childbearing for women in their twenties, thirties and early forties have been increasing. Rates are highest for women 20-24, followed closely by women 25-29. Children of unmarried mothers are at a higher risk of having adverse birth outcomes and are more likely to live in poverty than children of married mothers.

We’ve seen a reduction in a quite different threat—environmental smoke, as measured by cotinine in the blood. The percent of children with detectable cotinine levels dropped significantly in the past 15 years, still more than half of children ages 4 –11 years have detectable levels. Those children have an increased risk of respiratory conditions.

One of the most important respiratory conditions affecting children is asthma. Almost 10 percent of children have asthma. For the first time, asthma is included as a regular indicator in this report. During the past 10 years, other important new indicators have been added to “America’s Children.” This ensures that the report will be as comprehensive as possible in assessing the well-being of our nation’s children.

Another new indicator in this year’s report is oral health. Regular dental visits provide an opportunity for early diagnosis, prevention, and treatment of oral diseases and conditions. In 2005, 76 percent of children ages 2–17 had a dental visit in the past year, but only one-half of children without health insurance had a dental visit. The latest data show that 25 percent of children had untreated dental cavities, an increase from the previous survey. Fewer children from poor and near poor families had a dental visit and they were more likely to have untreated cavities.

Across the board, children in low-income families suffer from greater risks. They are less likely to be covered by health insurance, to have a regular source of medical care, and to receive key preventive health services.

Although over the past decade we have made progress in reducing infant mortality overall, the substantial racial and ethnic disparities continue. And there’s been a steady increase in the number of babies born at low birthweight – a major risk for infant mortality. The rate for black-non-Hispanic infants is more than twice that for white non-Hispanic babies.

A continuing concern to children’s well-being is overweight. Although the recent data show no significant change, the percentage of children 6-17 who are overweight tripled over the past two-and-a-half decades with serious long-term health implications.

In summary, we believe this report provides the critical information that the public and the policymaker need to improve the health of America’s children.

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One Response to America’s Children: Key National Indicators of Well-Being

  1. How I wish the policymakers would read what we read and start putting their efforts where it matters most. I think its very sad that the health young ones is being neglected in this manner.

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