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Chronic health conditions in children are on the rise

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The prevalence of chronic health conditions among children in the U.S. doubled between 1994 and 2006, according to a study published in the February 17 issue of JAMA The Journal of the American Medical Association.

Harvard scientists Jeanne Van Cleave, Steven Gortmaker and James Perrin, analyzed data from the Child Cohort of the National Longitudinal Survey of Youth. Three cohorts (ranging in size from 905 to 2,337) of children ages two to eight (with an average age of four) were followed for six years each—between 1988 and 1994, 1994 and 2000, and 2000 and 2006. The prevalence of chronic conditions including obesity, asthma, behavioral and learning problems (such as attention deficit disorder and mental retardation) and physical conditions (such as heart trouble or orthopedic handicap) increased progressively over time, with end-of-study prevalence rates rising from 11.2 percent in 1994, to 25.1 percent in 2000 to 26.6 percent in 2006.

But only a small proportion of children who entered the study with a chronic condition (7.4 percent) still had it when the study finished. "Chronic conditions in childhood are common and dynamic, underscoring the benefits of continuous, comprehensive health services for all children to adjust treatment of chronic conditions, promote remission, and prevent onset of new conditions," the researchers report.

The team cites environmental changes, better survival for premature babies and the "late effects" of certain cancer treatments in mothers as possible factors contributing to the rising incidence. The prevalence was highest among male, Hispanic and black children. Maternal obesity was associated with having any chronic condition, with the strongest link to childhood obesity.

Although the results suggest that certain conditions might respond well to treatment or even resolve naturally over the course of development, having a chronic condition in childhood is a risk factor for having the same condition later, the authors report. Chronic diseases are among the "most common, costly, and preventable of all health problems in the U.S.," according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control.

Photo: ISTOCKPHOTO/MychkoAlezander

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  1. 1. wambly 7:36 pm 02/16/2010

    Concerning childhood diseases or for that matter diseases that seem to come out of nowhere and debilitate our whole society may be directly related to a drug introduced to our food in the late 60′s known as ASPERTAME. I was working in a research lab a year before it came on the market. There was a collection of lab reports on the results of whether ASPERTAME was a viable food substance. Results- – An emphatic NO. It was deemed by these three unrelated labs as a serious cancer causing substance! RE: google: Donald Rumsfeld, aspertame
    Thank You for this opportunity to pass this along

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  2. 2. sunnystrobe 10:01 pm 02/16/2010

    Suffer the little children…..

    Human babes are the unluckiest little primates on earth!

    Their mothers feed them synthetic food , because they do not know any better.

    Chronic disease, both in childhood and in adulthood, is clearly a new industrial disease, caused by the ‘Food’ industry conglomerates which are getting away with murder, bye & bye, & slow-release.

    Democratic governments are turning a blind eye to this , because they are in bed with Big Business, their vision blurred by " the GROWTH National Product of ‘DEMOCRACZY’,
    to quote from an Evolutionary Fable.
    Re a species-specific nutrition, visit

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  3. 3. JamesDavis 6:09 am 02/17/2010

    sunnystrobe: You forget that republicans are big business; remember Bush and free enterprise without regulation or responsibility.

    West Virginia leads the nation in chronic childhood disease…the reason…coal fired power plants that pollute the air, land, and water. West Virginia also leads the nation in all the expensive diseases like, diabetes, cancer, lung disease, and the slow killer of families…mental retardation. The republicans gave coal and natural gas full reign over the land, air, and water to do as they wish, and the end result is disease and devistation. I am not saying that the republicans are totally responsible for all this devistation; the democrats allowed them to do it, covered it up and didn’t say anything about it. And now to apease the republicans, Obama is starting to build nuclear power plants that will add more nuclear waste to the stock piles that will not only create more chronic disease, but anilation when these things go nuclear when they melt down. Why didn’t he put that money into building geothermal power plants that is virtually pollution free and has no killer nuclear fallout or devistation?

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  4. 4. drafter 11:15 am 02/17/2010

    Response to those shove commented.
    Wambly-As far as I know Aspetame is used so few products that I don’t think it could cause all these problems.
    sunnystobe- If corporations are so evil how come people are living longer better lives
    JamesDavis- that right republicans are to blame for all including the fall of man get over it and back to science.
    My opinion- there is an increase in all of these due to over reading of symptoms, don’t you find it strange that blacks and hispanics have higher rates of ADD actually the teachers aren’t allowed to discipline and the kids aren’t allowed to run free outdoors, thus using up energy, so they require the kids to be medicated to. I have relatives who had to send there kids to private school because the public school required him to be medicated, the kid was fine.

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  5. 5. DangerousMommy 12:15 pm 02/18/2010

    drafter- you’re not reading food labels, aspartame is everywhere, it’s nearly as prevalent as HFCS… you generally have one or the other. If it’s "sugar free" and doesn’t specifically state what the sweetener is, 99.9% of the time it’s aspartame. It’s in virtually all chewing gum now.
    I think that environmental things are also in play here, but the fake foods & fast foods are a far bigger problem in my opinion.

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  6. 6. EmbraceHealthyU 3:13 pm 02/18/2010

    DangerousMommy is right! Aspartame is in almost all sugar free products and chewing gum! I can’t won’t even buy Wrigley’s gum for my children anymore because it’s in there too. The problem with Aspartame is that it’s a toxic (poisonous) chemical that bonds to your cells and never leaves your body. We already know that it causes cancer. I’ve also know several people who drank diet soda for years and now have MS and Parkinson’s. You’re better off having regular sugar in "moderation" than a synthetic, chemically-based sugar. At least your body can break down regular sugar. Or opt for Stevia, Xylitol, or Agave…natural sugars. I will not buy anything containing Aspartame or any other fake sugar.

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  7. 7. Anto 4:01 am 03/6/2010

    thank you sir for your valuble response

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  8. 8. julu88 4:52 am 04/21/2010

    Couldn’t the hormones in modern foods also contribute to chronic health conditions in our youth?

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  9. 9. Jacky22 6:43 am 02/18/2015

    Chronic health problems in kids is a big issue for parents. Thank Got the are there to deal some medical health innovations chronic health problems like Asthma.
    Any ways, I liked this post – and generally enjoy your blog as well!

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