More Children Insured, Teen Smoking and Birthrates Down, New Study Finds
More children had health insurance in 2000 than at any point within the past 15 years, and teen smoking and birthrates also declined, according to a new report on children's health, the Washington Post reports. The report, titled "America's Children: Key National Indicators of Well-being 2002," was produced by the Federal Interagency Forum on Child and Family Statistics (Rumbelow, Washington Post, 7/12). The report compiles data from 20 federal agencies and tracks trends in children's health, well-being and education (Wetzstein, Washington Times, 7/12). Among the report's findings:
- In 2000, 88% of children were covered by health insurance, the highest level over the past 15 years. Hispanic children, however, were most likely to be uninsured (Washington Post, 7/12).
- The teen birthrate was 27 births per 1,000 girls ages 15 to 17 in 2000, a drop from 29 births per 1,000 girls ages 15 to 17 in 1999.
- Tobacco use among teens declined, with only 5.5% of eighth-graders reporting daily cigarette smoking in 2001, compared with 7.4% in 2000. Twelve percent of tenth-graders reported smoking daily in 2001, compared with 14% in 2000 (Washington Times, 7/12).
- Drug and alcohol abuse among junior high and high school students has "held steady" (Lusk, Chattanooga Times Free Press, 7/12).
The improvements in the areas of teen birthrates, tobacco use and health coverage indicate that the United States is "moving in a positive direction," HHS Secretary Tommy Thompson said (Washington Times, 7/12). Dr. Edward Sondik, director of the National Center for Health Statistics, said that the improvements in health coverage, teen birthrates and tobacco use are "extremely good news," but he noted that there is "more to be done" (Chattanooga Times Free Press, 7/12). The report states that nearly 20% of children in the United States live with at least one parent who was born outside of the country, and these children are much more likely to live in poverty, which increases their risk factors for poor health. The large number of children who fall into this group could have "serious implications for health and education policy," the Post reports (Washington Post, 7/12). The report is available online.
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