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Originally published February 24 2010

Rates of chronic health problems in children soar

by S. L. Baker, features writer

(NaturalNews) Researchers from Mass General Hospital for Children in Boston gathered data about US children with health problems. They looked at conditions that limited activities and/or schooling, required medication and/or specialized equipment and health services, and that lasted for at least a year. The results of this study, just published in the February issue of JAMA (the Journal of the American Medical Association), show an alarming trend. Chronic health conditions in American kids have increased dramatically in recent years -- rising from 12.8 percent in 1994 to 26.6 percent in 2006.

Over the six year study period, Jeanne Van Cleave, M.D., and her research team estimated changes in prevalence, incidence, and rates of remission in four categories: obesity (defined as a body mass index at or above the 95th percentile for age), asthma, learning or behavior problems, and other physical conditions such as diabetes and heart conditions. They compiled data from the National Longitudinal Survey of Youth-Child Cohort, specifically looking at three groups of children who were between the ages of two through eight at the beginning of each study period. These groups were followed for three periods of six years each -- from 1988 to 1994, 1994 to 2000 and 2000 to 2006.

The results showed that the prevalence of chronic conditions, including obesity, increased with each subsequent group. Male, Hispanic, and black youth were found to be at the highest risk. Bottom line: as the years pass, more and more American kids appear to have chronic health problems when compared to similar youngsters in previous years.

There seems little doubt that the increasing rate of obesity among children and teens, most likely fueled by junk food and lack of exercise, is one important explanation for the increase in children's health problems. But in an editorial accompanying the JAMA study, Neal Halfon, M.D., M.P.H., of the University of California at Los Angeles, and Paul W. Newacheck, Dr.P.H., of the University of California at San Francisco, pointed out that other factors must be at work, too.

"The obesity epidemic seemed to develop at a time when many indicators suggested that children's health was generally improving. The data presented by Van Cleave et al suggest that the prevalence of other chronic health conditions is also increasing among U.S. children and that obesity is not the only clinical time bomb ticking away in children. There is an urgent need to better understand why this is the case and what can be done about it," they stated. "Addressing the increasing incidence and prevalence of chronic conditions in children will ultimately require major reforms in the child health system. The child health system needs to do a better job preventing childhood chronic illness. The possibilities for such changes are substantial, as are the implications of not acting."

NaturalNews has previously covered a host of environmental contaminants and toxins that could well be contributing to an increase in children's health problems. For example the chemical bisphenol A (BPA) is used in many hard plastics and can leach from toys and baby bottles. Widely found in the environment, BPA has been linked to health problems in fetuses, babies and children, including attention deficit disorder and neurological symptoms. (

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