Blog Post

New Data Released on Child Well-Being in U.S.

by Susan Brinkmann, OCDS Staff Writer New data on the well-being of the nation’s children presents a mixed bag of good and bad news ranging from decreased smoking and drug use to increased rates of involvement in  violent crime and teen pregnancies among our nation’s youth. The report entitled, “America’s Children in Brief: Key National Indicators of Well-Being 2008,” was released on July 11 by the National Institutes of Health. Its key findings include another decrease in the number of daily smokers among eighth graders in the U.S. Today, only three percent of youngsters in this age group report smoking daily, down from 10 percent in 1996. The report also found that nine percent of the nation’s children have asthma, with the number being significantly higher among specific groups. For instance, asthma affects 13 percent of Black children and 26 percent of Puerto Rican children. Injury and mortality rates among adolescents ages 15 to 19 declined from 2004 to 2005 while the numbers of youth ages 12 to 17 who were involved in serious violent crimes during the same time period increased. Rates of illicit drug use remained stable during this period. One of the more noteworthy findings was an increase of 3 percent in the number of births to teens ages 15-17 from 2005 to 2006. “In 2005, we were at the lowest teen birth rate since 1991,” said Jennifer A. Shuford, M.D., M.P.H. a Board Certified Infectious Disease and Internal Medicine Physician with the Medical Institute for Sexual Health, a non-profit sexual health education organization based in Austin, Texas. “Among 15-17 year olds, the birth rate went from 21 to 22 births per 1,000. It wasn’t an overall increase, just in that age group.” While this is the first increase in more than a decade, it’s too soon to draw any conclusions, Dr. Buford said. “We expect to see variations in rates. You really have to look at multiple years before you see a trend. It would be impossible to say this is a true trend upward rather than just a normal variation in rates.” It’s definitely something to watch, however. Teen pregnancy is “one of the key indicators for the health of the teen population because it not only reflects their health at this point, but it reflects their health and well-being for the next 20 to 40 years,” said Edward J. Sondik, Director of the National Center for Health Statistics in the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.  The good news is that teen pregnancy rates are preventable, Dr. Shuford said. “Behavior change is the best way to reduce their prevalence. A consistent message is needed from parents, teachers and the community. “Parents need to teach their children not to engage in risky sexual activities, and need to understand that any sort of sexual activity outside of a mutually monogamous relationship, even those deemed ‘safe’ are both risky and unhealthy.” For more information, visit   © All Rights Reserved, Living His Life Abundantly/Women of Grace.