Report: Teen Pregnancy Rate Down, Kids' Drug Use Up

An annual report compiled by statistics collected by a set of federal agencies has revealed new information about children and teenagers in the US, tracking issues from teen pregnancy to drug use to poverty.

The report, America's Children: Key National Indicators of Well-Being 2011, is the 15th in an ongoing annual series of such reports. This year, the major findings included a series of positive indicators including, for the second year in a row, a drop in the pregnancy rate among adolescents, to 20.1 babies per 1,000 girls ages 15 to 17.

Another encouraging finding was a decline in injury deaths among teenagers, including driving deaths, from 44 per 100,000 teens in 2008 to 39 per 100,000 in 2009. Binge drinking among 12th graders also dropped from 25 percent in 2009 to 23 percent in 2010.

Other findings point in a less positive direction. The proportion of eighth-graders who had used drugs in the past 30 days rose from 8 percent in 2009 to 10 percent last year. And children were also more likely to live below the poverty line--21 percent in 2009 compared to 19 percent in 2008. Children are also more likely to live with unemployed parents, and to live in crowded or physically inadequate housing.

"This report documents some significant changes in several key areas," Edward Sondik, director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention's National Center for Health Statistics told "This annual report is an important tool to monitor the well being of our nation's children," said Sondik. "Each area we report on is critical to our youth"

Other researchers say the report has political ramifications.

Dr. Steven E. Lipshultz, chairman of pediatrics at the University of Miami Miller School of Medicine, told HealthDay that, "while not earth-shattering," the report is important because it can guide policies that affect children.

Lipshultz is particularity concerned that programs that benefit children's health and well-being are being cut during the ongoing anemic economic recovery.

"There is so much political rhetoric that gets bantered about that without a scorecard it's hard to sort out what the real facts are," Lipshultz said. "And kids don't vote, and so they are not necessarily a constituency that is a high priority among policy makers.

"If we are going to take limited resources and we are going to work to have the next generation healthier than the current one, the same old solutions may need to be modified," he added.

(image via: Rogerfields)

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