A snapshot of children’s health in America would reveal what all snapshots do: positive and negative spaces.
On the positive side of the kids’ health ledger, the percent of children covered by health insurance increased from 87% in 2007 to 89% in 2008. Furthermore, the number of kids receiving recommended vaccines increased since 2002. And, heavy drinking among kids is down.
On the downside, environmental hazards are increasingly compromising kids’ health. First, the proportion of children living in counties in which one or more air pollutants were above allowable levels has grown. Second, housing problems have dramatically grown: in 2007, 43% of households with children had one or more of three housing problems: physical inadequacy, crowding, or a cost burden of more than 30% percent of income.
These data come from America’s Children: Key National Indicators of Well-Being, 2009, an annual report on kids’ health in the nation from the Federal Interagency Forum on Child and Family Statistics. The report includes 40 indicators that together paint a mixed picture on the state of children’s health in America.
14% of American kids face health issues that require prescription drugs and greater intensity of health services. The most common health issues facing American kids include allergies, asthma, attention-deficit disorder, depression, anxiety or other emotional problems, and migraine or frequent headaches. Over one-half of these children have two or more of these conditions, and almost 11% have four or more conditions.
One demographic statistic stands out that’s a striking snapshot of the new American household: 67% of children lived with two married parents in 2008, falling from 77% in 1980. Bolstering this fact is that in 2007, 40% percent of all births were to unmarried women, the highest percentage ever reported and a jump from 34 percent in 2002.
Health Populi’s Hot Points: The Interagency report reveals the fact that children’s health status has at least as much to do with health inputs (insurance coverage, for example) as environmental and lifestyle factors. In the current recessionary economic climate, access to quality and nutritious food, safe housing in uncrowded conditions, and low-stress households will exacerbate health problems. That 14% of kids who already manage (or need to manage) health issues with prescription drugs and services may be the floor-percentage of American children whose health status could be compromised by lagging economic recovery.