Recent data based on a review of CDC statistics as reported by Virginia Commonwealth University reveals that child mortality in the United States increased by an alarming 20 percent between 2019 and 2021. Deaths resulting from suicide, homicide, car accidents, and drug overdoses eclipsed gains made in treating other types of diseases and disorders, such as pediatric cancers, birth defects, and premature births.
Educating ourselves is the starting point for taking steps to keep children safe and healthy. Learn about the top five threats to children’s health in the US and how to protect our kids.
The US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reports that nearly one in five children in the US are obese. Childhood obesity can lead to diabetes, high blood pressure, and heart disease.
To combat obesity, we can:
- Encourage regular physical activity.
- Provide healthy, balanced meals, and limit sugary snacks.
- Improve access to fresh fruits and vegetables and reduce the availability of fast food.
Stress, Depression, and Anxiety
Stress, depression, and anxiety are becoming increasingly prevalent among children. According to the Journal of the American Medical Association, about one in six children suffer from a mental health disorder.
Stress in children can manifest itself in a variety of ways, from disordered sleep to withdrawal or increased complaints of illness. There are a variety of ways to help small children cope with stress, many of which also apply when helping teens.
To support mental health, parents can:
- Encourage open communication and listen to their children’s concerns.
- Ensure their child has a consistent routine and a balanced lifestyle.
- Seek professional help if necessary, such as counseling or therapy.
Drug and Alcohol Abuse
Drug and alcohol abuse poses significant risks to children and adolescents. According to the Children’s Hospital of Orange County, over 8 percent of children ages 12–17 reported using drugs as of March 2022.
To prevent substance abuse:
- Discuss the dangers of drugs and alcohol openly with your children.
- Establish clear expectations and consequences for drug and alcohol use.
- Monitor your child’s activities and friends, and provide a supportive environment.
Tobacco Related Health Concerns
Despite declining rates, smoking remains a significant threat, with nearly 90 percent of adult smokers beginning to smoke before the age of 18. Smoking can lead to lung cancer, respiratory problems, and addiction.
To discourage smoking:
- Start conversations with your children about the dangers of smoking.
- Create a smoke-free environment at home and in the car.
- Offer support if your child is trying to quit smoking or avoid peer pressure.
According to the Kaiser Family Foundation, guns became the leading cause of death for people under 19 years old in 2022. Gun-related injuries, including suicide and homicide, contributed significantly to the increase in child mortality.
To reduce gun-related injuries:
- Store guns securely and unloaded, and store ammunition separately.
- Teach your children about gun safety and the potential dangers.
- Lobby for stricter gun control measures and community programs.
By understanding these top threats to children’s health in the US and taking steps to mitigate them, we can help safeguard the health and well-being of our children. Together, we can create a safer and healthier future for the next generation.