Good News About US Children

Infant mortality rate and preemie rates improved

/ Author:  / Reviewed by: Robert Carlson, M.D

(RxWiki News) Ready for some good news about kids today? An annual federal report on children's well-being in the US has a lot of it, from birth outcomes to school performance to deaths.

Among the improvements made in child and adolescent health are lower teen birth rates, fewer preemies, better math scores and lower rates of crime victims among children.

"Be sure your child sees a pediatrician at least once a year."

The report, called the America's Children in Brief: Key National Indicators of Well-Being, pulls data from 22 different federal agencies and is compiled annually by the Federal Interagency Forum on Child and Family Statistics.

The report catalogs the statistics on 41 different indicators of health for children, which fall into one of seven categories: family and social environment, economic circumstances, health care, physical environment and safety, behavior, education and health. Because of the delay in compiling data, the information for each indicator is usually a couple of years old.

The drop in the rate of 15- to 17-year-old girls giving birth went from 20 per 1,000 girls in 2009 to 17 per 1,000 girls a year later.

Teenagers (age 12 to 17) are also victims of violent crimes less often: the 2010 rate was 7 victims per 1,000 teens compared to 11 victims per 1,000 teens in 2009.

Among older teenagers, age 16 to 19, one percent more of them are staying in school or else working: the figure of those not enrolled in high school or not working dropped from 9 percent in 2010 to 8 percent in 2011.

The report also found a tiny drop in the rate of preterm births, defined as a baby born before the 37th week of pregnancy. The figure in 2009 was 12.2 percent, but it dropped to 12 percent in 2010.

Similarly, more of the babies being born are making it to their first birthday. Only 6.1 children out of 1,000 births died before age 1 in 2010, compared to the slightly higher rate of 6.4 children out of 1,000 in 2009, though the US still ranks 34th out of all nations for its infant mortality rate according to the United Nations.

Those making it past their first birthday continue to do better. The US Department of Agriculture reported that children under 18 living in homes that are "food insecure" dropped from 23 percent in 2009 to 22 percent in 2010. Being "food insecure" means that one is not certain food will be on the table for these kids from one day to the next.

One of the biggest positive jumps was the rate of children being vaccinated against meningitis, probably  because of new recommendations regarding this vaccine. The rate of teens aged 13 to 17 being immunized with one or more doses of the meningococcal conjugate vaccine increased from 12 percent in 2006 to 63 percent in 2010.

"The findings in this report allow us to track key progress in the fight against many major public health threats, such as meningitis," said Edward Sondik, PhD, director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention's National Center for Health Statistics.

"The report shows that in the last five years there has been more than a five-fold increase in the percent of adolescents who have received the vaccination that helps prevent meningococcal disease — a serious bacterial illness and leading cause for the most dangerous form of meningitis," Dr. Sondik said.

Another area of preventive health that improved related to secondhand smoke: among children under 7 years old, 6.1 percent were living in a home where a person regularly smokes in 2010, a two percent drop from the 8.4 percent living in homes with a smoker in 2005.

Additionally, the average math scores of 4th and 8th graders increased one point from 2009 to 2011.

The picture is not completely rosy, however. There was also a one percentage point drop in the number of children under 18 who live with at least one parent who has been employed full-time year-round, from 72 percent in 2009 to 71 percent in 2010.

There was also an increase of one percentage point of children under 18 living in poverty, from 21 percent in 2009 to 22 percent in 2010.

Across the world, the data also reveals that more children are living in highly polluted areas: 67 percent of kids under 18 are living in countries with air pollutant levels above allowable levels compared to 59 percent in 2009.

The report was published online July 13 and was sponsored by the Eunice Kennedy Shriver National Institute of Child Health and Human Development in the National Institutes of Health.

Reviewed by: 
Review Date: 
July 12, 2012
Last Updated:
January 7, 2013