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Research Review

Prevalence of Childhood Chronic Health Conditions Has Increased

The rate of chronic health conditions among children in the United States increased from 12.8% in 1994 to 26.6% in 2006, for conditions such as obesity, asthma, and behavior/learning problems, according to a study in The Journal of the American Medical Association.

Understanding prevalence and dynamics of chronic conditions on a national scale is important when designing health policy, making accurate clinical predictions, and targeting interventions to prevent chronic conditions, according to the article. Patterns of how childhood chronic conditions have changed over time have not been widely examined.

Jeanne Van Cleave, MD, of MassGeneral Hospital for Children in Boston, and colleagues estimated changes in prevalence, incidence, and rates of remission of broad categories of conditions using three consecutive cohorts of children and examined the prevalence of having a condition during any part of the six-year study period. The researchers used data from the National Longitudinal Survey of Youth-Child Cohort (1988-2006), which consisted of three nationally representative cohorts of children. Children were aged 2 to 8 at the beginning of each study period, and the groups were followed up for 6 years, from 1988 to 1994 (cohort 1, n = 2,337), 1994 to 2000 (cohort 2, n = 1,759), and 2000 to 2006 (n = 905).

The researchers found that prevalence of any chronic condition, including obesity, increased with subsequent groups. The prevalence at the beginning of the study for group 2 (16.6%) and group 3 (25.2%) was higher compared with group 1 (11.2%). The end-study prevalence of any chronic health condition was 12.8% for group 1 in 1994, 25.1% for group 2 in 2000, and 26.6% for group 3 in 2006.

“Chronic conditions in childhood are common and dynamic, underscoring the benefits of continuous, comprehensive health services for all children to adjust treatment of chronic conditions, promote remission, and prevent onset of new conditions. Future research should examine etiological differences between persistent and remitted cases,” the authors concluded.

— Source: American Medical Association