Chronic Illness and the State of Our Children’s Health

A nation is only as healthy as its children.

Harry Truman (1946)

Approximately 27% of U.S. children live with chronic health conditions that can affect their daily lives and normal activities. These maladies often contribute greatly to school absenteeism and require continual medical attention.

Many studies suggest chronic health problems, along with learning and developmental disorders, appear to be on the rise. These rising childhood illnesses include, but are not limited to:
  • Attention-Deficit Disorder (ADHD)
  • Arthritis
  • Asthma
  • Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD)
  • Auto-immune disorders
  • Developmental/Learning Disorders
  • Cancer
  • Cardiovascular problems
  • Cerebral Palsy
  • Cystic fibrosis
  • Diabetes
  • Epilepsy
  • Food allergies
  • Obesity
  • Respiratory allergies
  • Sickle cell anemia
  • Spina bifida
Child Chronic Illness Infographic On a larger public health scale, chronic illnesses are also responsible for 7 in 10 American deaths – twice as many deaths as all infectious/communicable diseases, including HIV/AIDS, tuberculosis and malaria, combined – and they account for 78 cents of every health care dollar spent. 1

Why are today’s children sicker than ever before?

“While genes may play a role in obesity, asthma and ADHD, environmental and social changes are behind the surge, researchers said”5
In 2006, the World Health Organization (WHO) released a comprehensive study that suggests more than 33% of diseases affecting children under the age of five are caused by environmental exposures, and that by preventing these exposures, as many as four million children’s lives a year worldwide could be saved.2

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC),

“Chronic diseases and conditions – such as heart disease, stroke, cancer, diabetes, obesity and arthritis – are among the most common, costly and preventable of all health problems.”3
2015_10_14 iStock Chronic Illness square

The Price We Pay for Chronic Illness

Unfortunately, the state of health among U.S. children does not reflect the standard of health expected for a child living in one of the wealthiest countries in the world. According to a 2010 study published in The Journal of the American Medical Association, chronic illnesses in children doubled from 12.8 percent in 1994 to 26.6 percent in 2006, with low-income, racial and ethnic minority children being disproportionately affected. 4 This disturbing and costly trend would appear to confirm another earlier Harvard study that found U.S. children were sicker today than their parent’s generation. 5
“The number of children with chronic illnesses has quadrupled since the time when some of their parents were kids, portending more disability and higher health costs for a new generation of adults.”
“Doctors and public health officials should be bracing for a wave of chronically ill young adults with weight-related ailments that include diabetes and heart disease.”
As a nation of enormous wealth and prosperity, we have made great strides in controlling infectious diseases. However, the U.S. now must direct resources toward preventing and controlling chronic illnesses in our children.

Prevention is better than cure

Prevention, education, and investing in the health of all children would help prevent the exacerbation of many illnesses, and alleviate the epidemic of chronic disease that currently exists.

Change is possible. Change is necessary!

Steps to a Healthier Child

Health experts agree there is an urgent need to implement targeted interventions aimed at preventing chronic childhood illnesses. Learn More
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Sources
  1. National Center for Biotechnology Information, Racial/Ethnic Disparities in Chronic Diseases of Youths and Access to Health Care in the United States, 2013 link
  2. World Health Organization, Preventing disease through healthy environments – towards an estimate of the environmental burden of disease, 2006 link
  3. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Chronic Diseases: The Leading Causes of Death and Disability in the United States link
  4. Journal of the American Medical Association, Dynamics of Obesity and Chronic Health Conditions Among Children and Youth, 2010 link
  5. Children Sicker Now Than in Past, Harvard Report Says, 2007 link

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2 Comments

Gordon S Hale

Schools should function primarily on the health of children teaching appropriate diet and nutrition with all else woven integrally into the curriculum.

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DebbieAston5

What can we do? I’m surrounded by sheeple who say “shame” on ME and minds are so closed a starfish couldn’t pry them open in a year!
I am told that “they” (people in charge of laws) know more than we do and wouldn’t steer us wrong. “They” the pharmacy industry has no reason to keep us sick. And “somebody” would have said something by now. Grr! I’m so angry and so terrified for my 1 grandbaby. Educate speak out thank you for any and everything you do! I especially like your cookie cutter analogy.

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