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Health, Nutrition & Fitness        < Previous        Next >



What's Making So Many Kids FAT and SICK?!?


Q. I thought we had better health care and less poverty today than ever before. Seems like today we know more about nutrition and exercise than ever before. Then why does it seem as though we have an epidemic of medical problems in children?


The number of American children with chronic
illnesses has quadrupled since the time when some of their parents were
kids, portending more disability and higher health costs for a new
generation of adults, a study estimates.

An almost fourfold increase in childhood obesity in the past three decades,
twice the asthma rates since the 1980s, and a jump in the number of
attention-deficit disorder cases are driving the growth of chronic
illnesses, according to researchers at Harvard University in Boston. The
report is published in a the med issue of the Journal of the American
Medical Association focusing on children's health.

Doctors and public health officials should be bracing for a wave of
chronically ill young adults with weight-related ailments that include
diabetes and heart disease. In 1960, just 1.8 percent of U.S. children and
adolescents were reported to have a chronic health condition that limited
their activities. In 2004, the rate rose to 7 percent, researchers said.

``We will see much greater expenditures for people in their 20s than we
ever saw before, and no one is thinking how we should prepare for that,''
said James Perrin, professor of pediatrics at Harvard Medical School and
the report's lead author, in an interview. ``We call it an epidemic. It's
certainly worrisome and we look at it as a call to action.''

The journal's reports also included findings that family- based
weight-management programs work best, that white children have the highest
rate of diabetes, that childhood cancer survivors face risks for serious
health problems when they become adults, and that children with serious
illness are more likely to die at home than in 1989.


About 18 percent of children in the U.S. are obese, up from 5 percent in
1974, the study said. Obesity accounts for about 10 percent of U.S. health
costs. Doubling the rate of obesity could add more than $100 billion a year
in costs, researchers said.

``An estimated 60 percent of 5- to 10-year-old obese children already have
one associated cardiovascular disease risk factor, and more than 20 percent
have two or more risk factors,' researchers said in the report.

An estimated 9 percent of children have asthma, twice the rate it was in
the 1980s. The breathing disorder persists to adulthood in about a quarter
of children.

Attention deficit hyperactivity disorder, not recognized as a medical
condition in 1968, is now diagnosed in about 6 percent of school-age
youngsters. Research suggests that half of children with ADHD continue to
have it as adults.

Environmental, Social Changes

While genes may play a role in obesity, asthma and ADHD, environmental and
social changes are behind the surge, researchers said. Modern life has
brought increased fast-food diets, more time spent indoors watching
television or playing on the computer, as well as dwindling community and
family support.

An association between asthma and obesity supports the theory that
sedentary behavior diminishes lung function, researchers said. With more
time indoors, children have increased exposure to indoor allergens.

Too much television has also been associated with increased risk for ADHD,
as well as parent absenteeism, researchers said.

Also in this week's JAMA, a study found that inner-city black and Hispanic
children who participated in a weight-loss program involving their parents
were able to control their weight better than those who received
traditional weight-loss counseling in a clinic. While the children in the
family-based program had maintained their weight and cut their diabetes
risk after a year, those who got just counseling gained weight and some
developed signs of increased diabetes risk.

`No One Culprit'

``In childhood obesity, there is no one culprit,'' said Mary
Savoye-Desanti, a Yale University dietician and the study's lead author.
``Children are alone after school. They're not supervised, so they're
overeating and not doing activities. Food is more accessible than it ever

Researchers are seeing increasing disparities between race, ethnic and
socioeconomic groups among the three main drivers of childhood chronic
disease. Black children have asthma rates that are 60 percent higher than
white children. ADHD is higher among children from low-income households.

``These three conditions -- obesity, asthma, ADHD -- overwhelm all other
chronic conditions,'' Perrin said. ``The life of the family practitioner is
very different than it was. Far more children come in with the type of
chronic health problems we hardly thought about 35 years ago.''

Researchers at the University of Colorado in Denver reported in the journal
that non-Hispanic white youth have the highest rate diabetes among U.S.
children. Most of the cases are type-1 diabetes, a form in which people
must take insulin every day because their bodies don't produce the hormone,
which is needed to convert sugar, starches and other food into energy.

Type-1 also reflects higher genetic susceptibility in this group, said the
study's lead researcher, Dana Dabelea, associate professor of preventive
medicine at the University of Colorado Health Sciences Center in Denver,
during a press briefing today.

Diabetes Rates

The rate for the disease among children under 19 years of age was 24.3 per
100,000 person-years, a designation derived by multiplying the number of
individuals in the study by the number of years of follow-up per person.
The rate was highest among children 10 to 14 years old, and slightly higher
among females, the study found.

White children had a 26.1 rate, blacks were at 25.4, and American Indian
youths scored 25, the study said. American Indian youth also had the
highest rate of type-2 diabetes, in which the body can't produce enough
insulin or use the insulin it makes.

The journal report also included research that said the percentage of
children with complex chronic conditions who die at home, rather than in a
hospital, has increased to 18.2 percent in 2003 from 10.1 percent in 1989.
The study was done by researchers at Children's Hospital of Philadelphia.

The odds of death occurring at home increased by 3.8 percent annually, a
change the researchers said may be occurring because of advances in medical
technology in the home setting and broad shifts in attitudes and
decision-making processes regarding end-of-life care.

To contact the reporter on this story: Angela Zimm in Boston
azimm@... .
Last Updated: June 26, 2007 12:35 EDT


School faces testing for autism link
Tuesday, June 19, 2007

Officials are probing whether environmental factors contributed to a high prevalence of autism and learning disabilities among the children of teachers in a Northvale school.

Testing options for St. Anthony's on Walnut Street will be discussed tonight by officials and environmental advisers at a 7:30 meeting in Borough Hall. The school for 30 years has housed a program for children diagnosed with varying degrees of autism.


In Autism's Grip

Complete coverage: In Autism's Grip

Forum: A place for parents, teachers and others to discuss the broad spectrum of autism's effects.

* * *

By the numbers

One of every 94 children in New Jersey has autism.

Boys: 1 in 60

Girls: 1 in 250

National rate: 1 in 150

* * *

Fast Facts

Autism bills heading to the state Assembly would:

Add $4 million annually to the research and clinical funding grants distributed in-state by the Governor's Council on Autism. The council has already awarded about $10 million.

Establish a panel on autistic adults, including those who have the disorder and representatives from state government.

Require pediatricians to screen for autism and compel health officials to maintain a statewide registry of cases.

Make autism awareness a requirement for teacher certification and train emergency workers to recognize the disorder.

The concerns originated in Room 5, where two instructors had worked before giving birth to children with learning disabilities. Later, school officials found that others throughout the school had similar experiences.

An informal poll conducted by school officials that relied in part upon teachers' recollections indicated that 14 of 39 children born since 1997 had a learning disability. Three of those were diagnosed as autistic and 11 were challenged by speech and language delays.

About 100 students attend the special education school, which is administered by Northern Valley Regional High School District.

"In the meantime, because of anxiety, we made arrangements to move summer programs out of that building," said Superintendent Jan Furman, adding that she will know today where the students will report.

Pinpointing a cause for the disabilities will not be easy, Furman said.

Dr. Walter Zahorodny, director of the New Jersey Autism Study and assistant professor at the University of Medicine and Dentistry of New Jersey, agrees.

Zahorodny pointed to a study released in 2000 from Brick Township, where the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention confirmed residents' concerns over a high number of autism cases. But the study and Zahorodny's own studies in other counties could not find a cause.

A federal study made public in February found New Jersey had the highest rate of autism ever recorded in the United States: one in 94 children, and one in 60 boys.

Researchers based their findings on 2002 data from 14 states. The overall rate in those states was one in 150 children -- surpassing the earlier baseline of one in 166.

"All the lead people involved in the study said they understand the rates are higher, but they're not sure what's making the difference," Zahorodny said.

The Newark Archdiocese owns the property and leases it to the Northern Valley.

The archdiocese has conducted twice-a-year asbestos tests, as required by the government, said spokesman Jim Goodness. The school district also conducted an air test, he said, which raised no concerns.

The borough's health officer said the school will be examined for lead and for volatile organic compounds.

"We want to be proactive," Mayor John Hogan said. "Ultimately, it is our responsibility to protect the children within our town."

Environmental issues have plagued two sites in Northvale's downtown, although neither is close to St. Anthony's.

One is a 2-acre site at 254 Livingston St., where hundreds of drums containing toxic chemicals were buried underground in the 1960s. The property was owned by TECT Inc., a chemical company that operated there until it went bankrupt in 1968. The borough began a cleanup project in 1998 that included the removal of more than 500 drums and storage tanks that contained volatile organic compounds that leaked into the ground. The site is being monitored and cleaned by environmental experts.

The other is Deluxe Cleaners at 151 Livingston St., where several oil and solvent tanks were removed from the property that was a dry cleaner. The soil remains contaminated. The town took over the site in 1998 and has brought in environmental experts to clean up and monitor it.

Assemblyman John Rooney, a former borough mayor, did not see a connection between the Livingston Street sites and the concerns at the school.

"It's so far away, it could not affect anything," Rooney said. "They weren't drinking the water. There's no well water in Northvale."

Meanwhile, officials can only say they need more information.

"What I've been told is it's learning disabilities encompassing physical handicaps, neurological, autism and a broad spectrum," Health Officer Angela Musella said. "The bottom line is you can't draw any conclusion. We are still gathering information."


Homework: xxx


By Susan Darst Williams Health 01 2008


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