Mixed Report Card for Children's Health
U.S. Study Gives High Marks for Immunization but Poor Grades for Birth Weights
Smoking and Alcohol
Levels of cotinine, a chemical released when the body breaks down nicotine,
dropped significantly over the past 15 years, but more than one-half of
children aged 4 to 11 still have detectable levels of cotinine.
In 1980, 21.6% of high school seniors smoked, but this number decreased to
12% in 2006. "That’s a significant change," Sondik says.
"There was a smaller, but significant decline in alcohol use by
12th-graders over this period of time."
One in four 12th graders engaged in binge drinking in the last week, and 22%
of 12th graders engaged in drug use in the last 30 days, the report shows.
"These are really important figures, and while we have made progress, we
have a considerable and continuing problem," he says.
Illicit drug use in the past 30 days remained stable from 2005 to 2006,
according to the report. Eight percent of eighth graders, 17% of 10th graders,
and 22% of 12th graders reported use in the past 30 days in 2006.
The report looked at 38 measures of children's overall health and
well-being. Some other highlights include:
The rate of overweight children tripled over the past 25 years. From
1976 to 1980, 6% of children aged 6 to 17 were overweight. By contrast, this
number rose to 18% in 2003-2004.
In 2005, 89% of 73.7 million kids had health insurance. This figure is down
from 90% in 2004.
In 2005, 76% of children aged 2 to 17 visited a dentist, but just half of
uninsured children saw their dentist.
Sixty percent of children lived in counties where concentrations of one or
more air pollutants were above allowable levels in 2005.
More children are being read to by a family member today than a decade ago,
but children who live below the poverty level are less likely to be read to
than children in other households.
Math scores have improved consistently in grades four through eight since
In 2005, 69% of children completed high school. By contrast, 49% of kids
completed high school in 1980.
"Overall, many of the indicators showed no change in the past year, but
the real story is in the 10-year time trends," Sondik says.
This is the 10th annual report.