Every year, the President of the United States issues a proclamation in honor of Child Health Day (the first Monday of October), which in turn launches Children’s Health Month. President Calvin Coolidge was the first president to dedicate a special day to children’s health, in 1928, recognizing that “the conservation and promotion of child health places upon us a grave responsibility.” The U.S. is not living up to that vital responsibility and, in fact, is failing children miserably. American children’s ability to develop and thrive is being sabotaged by an avalanche of chronic ailments, with pediatric rates of some chronic conditions among the highest in the world.
Announcing the Campaign to Restore Child Health:
An abysmal children’s health report card
Nationally representative studies show that the chronic disease burden shouldered by children in the U.S. is not only heavy but has increased steadily over the past three decades. One of these studies, published in 2010 in JAMA, used national longitudinal survey data to examine the prevalence of four types of chronic conditions (obesity, asthma, behavior/learning problems and “other” physical conditions) in American children and youth from 1988 to 2006. The researchers found that prevalence of these conditions doubled—from 12.8% to 26.6%—over the 18-year-period.
The results of a second national study were even worse. Over two-fifths (43%) of children participating in the 2007 National Survey of Children’s Health had at least one of 20 chronic health conditions (see list of conditions in Table 1), and when the researchers added overweight/obesity and moderate or high risk for developmental/behavioral problems to their analysis, over half of all children (54%) suffered from at least one chronic condition.