Back in May, The PediaBlog asked readers to consider a series of questions comparing today’s world with a time not so long ago:
Are you better off today than you were yesterday? Are you doing better this year than you were at this time last year? Would you rate your quality of life, income, and health as better than your parents when they were your age?
How about your kids? Think back to when you were their ages. Think about your family back then — your own parents, and your siblings. Remember your life in school, your friends, your time involved in activities and sports (and your time doing things that maybe you shouldn’t have been doing). Consider expectations parents and teachers had of you, and the opportunities they saw for the future before you. Do you think your kids are better off now than you were when you were their ages, or do you think things are worse for them now?
A new government report, “America’s Children: Key National Indicators of Well-Being,” indicates that children are healthier and safer today than they were 20 years ago. Karina Shedrofsky counts the ways:
- Teen pregnancy rates have fallen 68% in the past two decades. The adolescent birth rate fell from 35 births per 1,000 girls in 1995 to 11 births per 1,000 girls in 2014, according to a report from the Federal Interagency Forum on Child and Family Statistics, which includes data from 23 federal agencies.
- Kids are less likely today to binge drink. The percentage of 10th and 12th graders who binge — consuming five or more alcoholic drinks on a single occasion — dropped from 41% in 1980 to 17% in 2015, the lowest rate since the report’s researchers began to track this statistic in 1980.
- Fewer children smoke. The percentage of high school seniors who smoked decreased from 21% in 1980 to 6% in 2015. That’s the lowest smoking rate among kids this age since researchers began compiling the report.
- Teens today are less likely to be victims of violent crime. In 1993, 40 out of every 1,000 kids ages 12 to 17 were victims of a violent crime. That rate fell to 8 out of 1,000 kids in 2014.
- More kids have health insurance, which boosts their chances of staying healthy and receiving routine vaccinations and screenings. The percentage of children covered by insurance rose from 86% in 1980 to 95% in 2014, according to the report.
The report goes on to name two challenges that American kids face that are getting worse: poverty and obesity. Both are linked:
- Healthy foods (ie. “real” foods) are more expensive than high-calorie, sugar- and salt-laden processed foods. Families with limited financial resources will do what they can to feed the most mouths at the lowest cost.
- Many poor neighborhoods are in “food deserts,” with little or no access for many families to healthy foods.
- Poor neighborhoods — including those in crowded inner cities — have limited access to outdoor areas for children to play in, resulting in fewer opportunities for exercise.
Tomorrow, we are going to look at what its like to be a child living in poverty in America — and what the American Academy of Pediatrics intends to do about it.