When it comes to the overall health and wellness of America’s precious youth, we’ve all seen and heard news that tips either end of the scale. While medical advances like vaccinations and better medicinal and surgical options have decreased childhood death rates, we’ve also seen an increase in childhood obesity and heart health issues.
So then, what’s the consensus? Are today’s children healthier than last century’s, or not?
The answer to that question isn’t so simple, but we can look at several of the factors affecting children’s health, and thus, get a roundabout outlook on the ups and downs, pros and cons, and the successes and failures we’ve seen so far.
First off, recent medical advances have saved the lives of countless children in many ways, making death rates decrease and quality of life increase across the board. Immunizations top the list of lifesavers, followed closely by advances in breathing equipment for premature babies and tools to reduce the instances of SIDS (sudden infant death syndrome.)
Recent medical research has also led to advances that have drastically reduced the death rates from diseases like Acute lymphocytic leukemia, AIDS, and sickle cell anemia, to name just a few. Lastly, we can’t forget how advanced carseat technology, updated rules and regulations regarding safety seats, and increased awareness have reduced car accident deaths by 71 percent in children under one, and by 45 percent in children 4 to 8 years old (which means use those booster seats, folks!)
However, we have seen a decline in other areas of children’s health. While the instances of overweight and obese children have increased over recent decades, so have initiatives to stop childhood obesity rates from increasing. It’s only been seven years since the implementation of the “Let’s Move” campaign, but we’ve actually seen it have more than one positive effect. For instance, food manufacturers and grocery chains are making an effort to cut down sugar and fat in their products, and to make fresh produce more affordable and accessible to all of our nation’s youth.
Some more good news: more children are up and active than ever before. The last 43 years have seen a 97.1 increase in youth sports participation. This means that almost eight million American high schoolers are involved in some sort of sporting activity, which encourages a healthy and active lifestyle for all of them. Recent years have seen parents concerned about sports injuries, especially concussions obtained in sports like football. However, as concussion rates rise, so do innovations that help decrease their instances, as well as policies and procedures for concussion management that help school safety officials prevent, recognize, and treat sports injuries obtained by youth athletes.
Another major concern in recent years is rising autism rates and the mystery surrounding their cause. We’ve seen an alarming increase in the diagnosis of autism-related disorders over the last half a century, from one in 2000 children diagnosed, to one in 150. There are still many questions surrounding the reason for such a drastic increase that have yet to be answered. But, along with those questions, there is hope. Professionals of all kinds are working on better ways to treat and to encourage the growth and development of those on the spectrum, and the fact of the matter is, most individuals with an autism spectrum disorder do lead happy, healthy lives.
There are many factors involved in the health and wellness of our nation's children; some are good, some are not so good. However, if you take a look and the recent advances, and pair them with all of the recent developments in treating and preventing the health issues that have risen over the years, I think it’s safe to say that today, American children are healthier than ever before.
What are some of the ways you encourage your children to be more active, healthy individuals?