Kids More Likely to Grow Up Healthy, Study Says

July 7, 2008 - 8:03 PM

( - Children in America have a better chance at growing up healthy than in years past, says a recent study on children and families.

Kids are less likely to die during infancy than they were in previous years, according to a report released by the Federal Interagency Forum on Child and Family Statistics.

But the good news doesn't stop there. Children in this country are also more likely to be read to daily by a family member, less likely to smoke in 8th or 10th grades, less likely to give birth during adolescence, and more likely to have health insurance than in times past, says the report.

In 2000, for example, the adolescent birth rate was 27 per 1,000 young women ages 15 to 17, a record low and down from 29 per 1,000 in 1999.

That's good for teens as well as children, because children born to adolescent mothers are more likely to be born underweight and at risk of life-long disabilities, than are children born to older mothers, according to Sondik. Teen mothers are also less likely to finish their education.

While the child poverty rate did not decline from 1999 to 2000, the long-term trend of decreased poverty held steady for single black mothers.

The child poverty rate peaked at 22 percent in 1993, but subsequently declined, hitting its lowest level since 1979. In 1980, just over half of children in female-headed households lived in poverty, compared to just 40 percent in 2000. For single black women with kids, the drop was more dramatic, from 66 percent to 49 percent.

"The drop in infant mortality is very encouraging," said Duane Alexander, M.D., director of the National Institute of Child Health and Human Development. "Infant mortality is a stubborn, resistant problem, so even a slight decline is a victory."

"There's still more to be done," said Edward Sondik, Ph.D., director of the National Center for Health Statistics, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. "But we've improved the chances of our poorest children to share in the advances in health we've experienced as a nation."

The percentage of children living with single mothers who are employed increased from 33 percent in 1993 to 50 percent in 2000, according to the report.

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