Many U.S. kids have chronic health problems: study

Tue Feb 16, 2010 5:09pm EST
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By Julie Steenhuysen

CHICAGO (Reuters) - More than a quarter of American children have a chronic health condition such as obesity or asthma, but many children overcome these problems with time, U.S. researchers said on Tuesday.

They said the findings make clear that chronic health conditions are rising among children, and access to healthcare is essential to diagnose and treat them.

"A lot of kids will have chronic conditions over the course of their childhood," said Dr. Jeanne Van Cleave of Massachusetts General Hospital for Children in Boston, who worked on the study published in the Journal of the American Medical Association.

"It is very important for children to have continuous access to high-quality healthcare, especially primary care, where a lot of these conditions are picked up and treated," she said in a telephone interview.

Van Cleave and colleagues used data from a government survey of three groups of children -- each group with about 1,000 or more children -- aged 2 through 8 between 1988 and 2006.

They found the rate of chronic health conditions -- obesity, asthma and learning problems such as attention deficit hyperactivity disorder or ADHD -- doubled to 26.6 percent in 2006 from 12.8 percent in 1994.

"The good news is, for about half of these kids, their conditions will go away over time," Van Cleave said.

They found that 16.6 percent of all the children surveyed had a chronic condition at the beginning of the study period, and 20.8 percent reported having a chronic condition at the end.   Continued...