Education Vital Signs: Health & Wellness

Students must be safe and healthy to learn their best. While that statement may be self-evident to school board members, getting a handle where student health stands at any given moment is more complicated than ever. The kind of health, safety, and wellness issues confronting children are constantly in flux. Who, for example, would have anticipated decades ago that something called “texting while driving” would be a significant safety concern regarding teen-age motorists? Or, to use another online example, that “sexting” could become a new challenge to healthy teen relationships? By contrast, we don’t worry much about polio, as we did in the 1950s, or put our school children through the kind of “duck and cover” drills that were ubiquitous when Soviet Union was existent and seen as serious threat. The studies below cover the gamut of health- and wellness-related issues, from drug use and obesity, to teen pregnancy and poverty.

Outgrowing autism
Data in a study from the National Institutes of Health, “Optimal Outcome in Individuals with a History of Autism,” while inconclusive, indicate that 34 children in the study who had been diagnosed with autism early in childhood were later found to be indistinguishable from classroom peers on observation and on cognitive tests, as well as in reports from their schools and parents. They demonstrated no difficulties with facial recognition, communication, language, or social interaction. In early childhood, these students had had only mild social deficits, but had exhibited classic autism symptoms such as repetitive behaviors and problems with communication. It is not clear whether these individuals outgrew their autism, or somehow learned to compensate for its effects.
January 2013

Teen mental health
A Child Trends Adolescent Health Highlight issue brief, “Mental Health Disorder,” says that 50 percent of mental disorders, including binge drinking and illegal drug use, appear in victims by age 14, and 75 percent of all mental disorders surface by age 24. Depression is the most common mental disorder, and one in four teenagers experiences it. The most serious consequence of a mental disorder is suicide; 90 percent of teenagers who have attempted or completed suicide experienced mental disorder. Risk for youth mental disorder increases with bullying, with sexual abuse, and among those with divorced or less-educated parents.
January 2013

Shaping up American kids
"Shape of the Nation," a report from the National Association for Sport and Physical Education and the American Heart Association, says that most American kids under 18 spend most of their days sitting in classrooms, watching television, surfing the Internet, and playing video games, and do not come close to participating in regular physical exercise -- an hour or more of exercise per day, every day. The report says that a required daily physical education period at school would ensure that kids would get at least a portion of the physical activity recommended for them, as would unstructured play at recess.
October 2012

Girls on relationships
Four out of five high school senior girls surveyed for “Girl Talk,” a new study from the National Campaign to Prevent Teen and Unplanned Pregnancy and Seventeen magazine, say there is pressure in high school to be sexually experienced. Sixty-five percent of the 1,200 girls surveyed had already had sex; 19 percent of these reported having four or more partners. Only half of the sexually active survey responders had used a condom at last intercourse. Forty-three percent had experienced at least one pregnancy scare. The teen girls defined happiness in a sexual relationship as being with someone they love and not going farther than they want to go.
July 2012

Tobacco use decline slows
Four thousand American kids try their first cigarette every day, according to a study from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, "Current Tobacco Use Among Middle and High School Students -- United States, 2011." The report says that, while tobacco usage among youth is still declining overall, the decline has slowed dramatically, and that cigar usage among high school males is rising. Cigars can be manufactured in a size similar to cigarettes and packaged and smoked the same way, but because they are taxed at a lower rate than cigarettes, their price is lower.
August 2012

Children’s oral health
Tooth decay is the most common chronic disease among children 6-18 years old. Forty percent of American children have caries in their baby teeth, and 25 percent of children ages 6-18 live with untreated cavities. A new policy brief from the Kaiser Family Foundation, "Children and Oral Health," says that children with untreated dental problems miss more than 51 million hours of school each year, and that research indicates there is an association between poor oral health and poor performance at school.
June 2012

Teens safer on the road
Results of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s "Youth Risk Behavior Surveillance -- United States, 2011" show that the number of teens who never or rarely wear a seatbelt has declined from 26 percent (1991) to 8 percent (2011), but one in every three teens has texted or sent an e-mail while driving. Teen drunk driving has dropped almost 50 percent over the past 20 years -- from 40 percent in 1991 to 24 percent in 2011 -- but teens are now more likely to smoke marijuana (23 percent) than cigarettes (18 percent).
June 2012

Social rank and health
A study of 10 social groups of female monkeys suggests that social status drives immune health. In a paper published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, “Social Environment Is Associated with Gene Regulatory Variation in the Rhesus Macaque Immune System,” study results found that low social status led to changes to the immune system at the molecular level that negatively affect health. While the study results clearly show the potential health costs of low social status, it also appears that these effects are plastic: Positive changes in the monkeys’ social status reversed physiological damage.
April 2012

Teen birth rate low
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention report that the U.S. teen birth rate reached an historic low in 2010, dropping 9 percent from 2009 to 2010 to 34.3 births per 1000 women aged 15-19 -- the lowest rate in 70 years. The teen birth rate peaked in 1957 at 96.3. Data in the National Center for Health Statistics brief, "Birth Rates for U.S. Teenagers Reach Historic Lows for All Age and Ethnic Groups," indicate that current U.S. teen birth rates are highest in the South and the Southwest, and lowest in the Upper Midwest and the Northeast.
April 2012

Teen tobacco use
Ninety-nine percent of smokers report their first tobacco use occurred by age 26; 80 percent of them began smoking at 18 or younger. Twenty-five percent of high school seniors smoke regularly, and 80 percent will continue to smoke into adulthood. One-half will die 13 years earlier than their nonsmoking cohorts. The evidence revealed in the Surgeon General’s report, "Preventing Tobacco Use Among Youth and Young Adults," is suggestive that regular tobacco usage may be hereditary, but finds no link between smoking and weight loss.
March 2012

Where’s the Sodium?

A Centers for Disease Control and Prevention publication, Where’s the Sodium?, reports that 90 percent of Americans eat 1,000 mg of sodium more than we need each day. Most of the 3,300 mg we eat comes from processed foods (65 percent), and many of these foods highest in sodium are school lunch program standbys. A single slice of pizza can have as many as 760 mg of sodium. A turkey breast sandwich has at least 610 mg, and perhaps as many as 1,150 mg of sodium, without condiments.

February 2012

Media Use, Face-to-Face Communication, Media Multitasking, and Social Well-Being Among 8- to 12-year-old Girls

Eight- to 12-year-old (tween) participants in a study who multitasked for several hours with various digital devices reported experiencing difficulties with their social and emotional development. The analysis showed an association not only with media that are about interpersonal interaction (social media and phone), but also drew the association with video, music, and reading. The study found an especially strong link between video usage and a negative effect on social well-being. The study, Media Use, Face-to-Face Communication, Media Multitasking, and Social Well-Being Among 8- to 12-year-old Girls, was published by the American Psychological Association.

January 2012

The Lifelong Effects of Childhood Adversity and Toxic Stress;129/1/e232.pdf

A report published in Pediatrics, “The Lifelong Effects of Childhood Adversity and Toxic Stress,” suggests that persistent, negative early experiences and excessive, prolonged stress produce biological memories that are built into the body and can actually disrupt the physical architecture of children’s developing brains. The report says that many adult diseases can actually be viewed as developmental disorders that begin early in life, and recommends investing in interventions that reduce childhood adversity as the key to strengthening the foundations of physical and mental health.

January 2011


Heightened Neural Reactivity to Threat in Child Victims of Family Violence 
Children exposed to family violence demonstrate the same changes in neurological activity as those experienced by combat veterans, according to a new study appearing in Current Biology, “Heightened Neural Reactivity to Threat in Child Victims of Family Violence.” Children who have been abused show increased activity in the areas of their brains associated with detecting threat and anticipating pain when shown pictures of angry faces. The study says this response is positive and adaptive in the short term, but the children’s enhanced reactivity could later lead to increased anxiety or other mental health problems.
December 2011

Brain injuries and sports
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) report that emergency room diagnosis of traumatic brain injuries among U.S. children ages 19 and younger increased 62 percent between 2001 and 2009. The diagnosis was most frequent among males ages 10 to 19. The CDC attributes the rise in diagnosis of brain injuries to both an increase in sports participation and a growing public awareness of the need for prompt medical attention. The report says that, whenever a head injury occurs while playing a game or sports, the victim should be removed from play, should never be returned to play the same day, and should only be returned to play after being evaluated and cleared for play by a healthcare provider familiar with brain injuries.
October 2011

F as in Fat

A new report by the Trust For America’s Health, F as in Fat, finds that more than 33 percent of U.S. children ages 10 to 17 are obese or overweight. Oregon has the lowest rate of childhood obesity/overweight (9.6 percent), and Mississippi has the highest rate (21.9 percent), followed closely by Arkansas, the District of Columbia, Georgia, Illinois, Kentucky, Louisiana, Tennessee, Texas, and West Virginia, all of which have rates in excess of 20 percent. Nine out of the 10 states with the highest incidence of childhood obesity and overweight are in the South.

July 2011

Changes in Diet and Lifestyle and Long-Term Weight Gain in Women and Men

A study published in the New England Journal of Medicine finds a strong link between the consumption of potatoes—especially potato chips—and weight gain. Changes in Diet and Lifestyle and Long-Term Weight Gain in Women and Men found that, over a four-year period, daily consumption of potato chips led participants to gain an average of 1.69 lbs, daily consumption of potatoes led to an extra 1.28 lbs, and drinking sugar-sweetened beverages every day added 1 lb. Participants who ate yogurt every day lost 0.82 lbs.

June 2011

Aligning Health & Education in the School Setting
A new report, Aligning Health & Education in the School Setting, says that schools that work to enhance the mental, social, emotional, and physical health of their students and staff experience higher student achievement, greater staff satisfaction, decreased staff turnover, greater efficiency, and a more positive school climate. The report outlines “nine levers of change” that can transform school health programs, focusing on schools’ administration, staff, students, and communities.
May 2011

Sexual Behavior, Sexual Attraction, and Sexual Identity in the United States
New data from the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) show that young people are waiting longer to engage in sex. Twenty-seven percent of males and 29 percent of females 15 to 24 who were surveyed in 2006-2008 for Sexual Behavior, Sexual Attraction, and Sexual Identity in the United States had never had any sexual contact with another person. Only 22 percent of young men and women in this age group were still virgins at 24 in the CDC’s 2002 survey.  The data also show that older age at first intercourse is associated with higher percentages of oral sex as a first sexual experience.
March 2011

Women in America
Women in America, a new report from the White House Council on Women and Girls, finds that women are marrying later and having fewer children, and increasingly they are remaining childless. Women who do have children are more frequently raising them without a spouse. Women continue to outnumber men at older ages, and are more likely to live in poverty than men. Women who head single-parent households are particularly likely to live in poverty, due to the fact that women only earn 75 percent of what their male counterparts earn, at all levels of education. Women are less likely now than in the past to be victims of violent crimes, but are still more likely than men to be victims of intimate partner violence and stalking. One out of every seven adult women in America goes without routine health care.
March 2011

Maternal Employment, Work Schedules, and Children’s Body Mass Index
A new study shows a link between the amount of time mothers worked in their child’s lifetime and an increase in the child’s body mass index (BMI). The study found that for every 5.3 months a mother was employed, there was an increase in her child’s BMI of 10 percent of a standard deviation, or nearly 1 pound every 5 months beyond what is typically gained by a child of average height as he or she ages.
February 2011


Holding Steady, Looking Ahead
An annual survey of state Medicaid and Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP) eligibility rules, cost-sharing practices, and enrollment and renewal procedures found that 49 states, including the District of Columbia, did not lose ground in service improvements despite the recession. “Holding Steady, Looking Ahead” says that 14 states made additional improvements in enrollment and renewal procedures, and 13 states expanded eligibility for pregnant women and children -- but coverage for parents continues to lag behind.
January 2011

Cyber and Traditional Bullying: Differential Association with Depression
Rates of depression are higher among the victims of cyberbullying than among victims of more traditional forms, according to a new study, Cyber and Traditional Bullying: Differential Association with Depression. The study hypothesizes that it is the lack of a face-to-face confrontation, and perhaps not being able to identify their attacker, that lead victims of cyberbullying to feel more isolated, helpless, and dehumanized than if they had suffered a more conventional attack.
September 2010


Measuring Inappropriate Medical Diagnosis and Treatment in Survey Data: The Case of ADHD among School-Age Children
Being born just before a state’s kindergarten eligibility date significantly increases the chances of receiving a diagnosis of ADHD, according to a new study, Measuring Inappropriate Medical Diagnosis and Treatment in Survey Data: The Case of ADHD among School-Age Children. There can be as much as one year’s difference in children’s ages in any kindergarten class, and the study claims the younger children’s lower maturity and higher impulsiveness have lead to a misdiagnosis of ADHD in 1.1 million cases.
September 2010

Childhood Obesity Consequences
Results of a new study, Midlife Health and Socioeconomic Consequences of Persistent Overweight Across Early Adulthood, show that, compared with others in the study who had moderately increasing body mass index to age 35, those who were in the persistently overweight class from age 19 to 35 were more likely, at 40, to have a chronic health problem, to have no more than a high school diploma, and to be receiving welfare or unemployment compensation.
July 2010

Sleep and Achievement
Changing adolescents’ school start time from 8 to 8:30 a.m. leads to greater sleep satisfaction, improved motivation, and better class attendance, according to a new study published in the Archives of Pediatrics & Adolescent Medicine, “Impact of Delaying School Start Time on Adolescent Sleep, Mood, and Behavior.” In addition, the Archives offers a synopsis of recent research and links for further information on adolescent sleep in their Advice for Parents website feature.
July 2010

A School-based Intervention for Diabetes Risk Reduction
Obese and overweight students enrolled in schools where longer gym classes, more nutritious food choices, and classes incorporating health and nutrition awareness were available were 21 percent less likely to be obese after three years when compared to similar students in schools without such programs. A School-based Intervention for Diabetes Risk Reduction noted that overweight and obesity decreased 4 percent at all of the schools.
June 2010

Teenagers in the United States
Most teenagers’ first sexual partners are usually somebody with whom they are “going steady.” Seventy-two percent of girls and 56 percent of boys surveyed for a new report said this was true for them. But the second most common first sexual partner was someone they had just met, with 25 percent of boys and 14 percent of girls reporting this relationship for their first experience. Read the CDC’s report, Teenagers in the United States, for more information.
June 2010

Youth Risk Behavior Survey
Only 30.9 percent of students sleep eight or more hours on school nights, and while 15.6 percent of them use tanning devices, only 9.3 percent usually wear sunscreen, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s latest Youth Risk Behavior survey. The biannual survey monitors six categories of health-risk behaviors among youth and young adults, including those that lead to unintentional injury and violence, tobacco use, alcohol and drug use, sexual behaviors, physical activity, and dietary behaviors.
June 2010

Solving the Problem of Childhood Obesity Within a Generation
The White House Task Force on Childhood Obesity Report to the President recommends improving school food in four major areas: quality of school meals; changes in foods available so that all food sold at school supports healthful diets; modifications to curriculum, school program operations, community policies and infrastructures to match changes in school foods; and revisions to policies and practices in juvenile justice and other institutional settings so that all childhood and youth environments support healthy eating.
May 2010 

Births: Preliminary Data for 2008
While preliminary data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention show the overall rate of childbearing by unmarried women increased to historic levels in 2008, the teen birth rate in the U.S. fell 2 percent -- to 41.5 per 1,000 -- between 2007 and 2008, reversing the trend of the last two years. The data also show that the birthrate for Hispanic teenagers has declined to 77.4 births per 1,000, an historic low.
April 2010

State Estimates of Underage Alcohol Use and Self-Purchase of Alcohol
A state-by-state analysis of underage alcohol use finds that 27.6 percent of youths 12 to 20 surveyed drank alcohol in the last month. A new survey by the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration finds that Utah has the lowest rate of underage drinking (13.7 percent), and Vermont and North Dakota have the highest (40 percent). Twenty percent of the youths in Louisiana and the District of Columbia bought alcohol themselves, compared to 9 percent nationally.
April 2010

The State of Play
Principals say that the best opportunity to raise student achievement does not happen in the classroom: It happens on the playground at recess. A survey of 2,000 principals by the National Association of Elementary School Principals and Playworks, The State of Play, finds that virtually all principals believe recess has a positive impact on children’s social development and well-being. Four of five principals believe recess has a positive impact on academic achievement; two-thirds say children are more focused and listen better after recess. But recess is a precious commodity at most schools. Fifty percent of the principals surveyed said students receive only 16 to 30 minutes of recess a day, with one in five principals admitting to cutting recess time to meet testing requirements, and 77 percent of principals reporting taking recess away from students as a punishment for bad behavior. At the top of principals’ wish-list is more staff to monitor recess; the majority of discipline-related problems occur during recess or lunch (89 percent).
February 2010

Children’s Health Insurance Program Reauthorization Act (CHIPRA) One Year Later: Connecting Kids to Coverage
Nearly 40 million children were enrolled in Medicaid and CHIP from 2008-09 -- including 2.6 million new children who were not enrolled in the previous year. A new report from, Children’s Health Insurance Program Reauthorization Act (CHIPRA) One Year Later: Connecting Kids to Coverage, says the greatest enrollment gains (2.2 million children) were among lower income children eligible for Medicaid. More than half of states have tried to improve coverage since CHIPRA’s inception, including efforts to simplify the enrollment and renewal processes. Despite these efforts, 5 million eligible children remain uninsured.
February 2010

Efficacy of a Theory-Based Abstinence-Only Intervention over 24 Months
Yes, Virginia, there is a successful abstinence-only program. Americans have long believed that abstinence for youth is an ideal that should be encouraged -- but they have not much believed that abstinence-only programs can succeed, and any existing research reassured them that their doubts were founded in fact. But a new study, Efficacy of a Theory-Based Abstinence-Only Intervention over 24 Months, published in the Archives of Pediatrics & Adolescent Medicine, clearly shows that an abstinence-only program attended by 662 students in grades six and seven did succeed in delaying first sex and reducing sexual activity among the sexually active students, without reducing their condom usage.
February 2010

The Child Who Stutters at School: Notes to the Teacher
A new downloadable brochure from The Stuttering Foundation, The Child Who Stutters at School: Notes to the Teacher, helps teachers correctly identify and support students who stutter. The brochure offers advice on how best to assist stuttering students with tasks such as reading aloud and answering in class and contacts for concerned parents, as well as advice on how to limit and assist with teasing in the classroom. The brochure includes the tip sheet, 8 Tips for Teachers.

That’s What He Said: What Guys Think About Sex, Love, Contraception, and Relationships
More than half of the 1,200 boys and men ages 15-22 recently surveyed by Seventeen and the National Campaign to Prevent Teen and Unplanned Pregnancy say they would rather give up sex for a month than give up their Internet connection. One-third of the respondents do not know that wearing two condoms increases the chances of condom-failure, instead of increasing effectiveness. In fact, 85 percent believe condoms to be foolproof. But the most surprising finding in That’s What He Said: What Guys Think About Sex, Love, Contraception, and Relationships surfaces when sex intersects with love and commitment: Three-quarters of the guys say they would prefer to wait for the opportunity to lose their virginity with someone they love. Additional reports about youth’s perceptions and misconceptions about sex are also available on the National Campaign’s website, including The Fog Zone and Magical Thinking.

Child and youth Well-Being Index
By 2010, the recession will have wiped out much of the progress made for children since 1975 in regards to the number of families living beneath the poverty line, median family income, health insurance coverage, and secure parental employment. The Foundation for Child Development’s Child Well-Being Index indicates that almost 22 percent of American youth will be living below the poverty line, the highest rate of poverty in 20 years; 500,000 children may be homeless.

Teens and Sexting
Four percent of teens ages 12-17 report that have sent nude or nearly nude images or videos of themselves to someone else via text messaging on their cell phone (sexting). Fifteen percent of the same group says they have received such messages, as well. These are some of the findings of a new report from the Pew Research Center, Teens and Sexting. The report also finds that these images are shared as part of sexual activity, or even as an alternative to it. Teens use the images as a way of starting or maintaining a relationship with someone else. And, sometimes, the images are used for their entertainment value among friends. “Sexually suggestive images have become a form of relationship currency,” says Amanda Lenhart, author of the report. “Teenagers have always grappled with issues around sex and relationships, but their coming-of-age mistakes and transgressions have never been so easily transmitted and archived for others to see.”
December 2009

Beauty Redefined
American teenage girls have a love-hate relationship with the fashion industry and struggle with their body image. Nearly one in three of the 1,000 girls ages 13 to 17 surveyed for Beauty Redefined, a new report from Girl Scouts of America, said they have starved themselves or refused to eat in an effort to lose weight. American girls seem to be aware of the dangers of poor body image: Forty-two percent know someone who has forced themselves to vomit after eating, and more than a third know someone with an eating disorder. Nonetheless, 75 percent said that fashion is “really important” to them, and 41 percent said they prefer to see the latest fashions on “skinny models,” not on fuller-sized women. Seventeen percent of black girls are “completely satisfied” with the way their body looks, only 14 percent of Latino girls are, and a mere 10 percent of white girls are “completely satisfied” with their body. Peers (82 percent), friends (81 percent), and parents (65 percent) most influence the way teenage girls feel about their bodies.
December 2009

Parents Matter: The Role of Parents in Teens’ Decisions about Sex
Positive parent-teen relationships can help delay teen sex. A new brief from Child Trends, Parents Matter: The Role of Parents in Teens’ Decisions about Sex, finds that teen girls who reported they have a strong relationship with both parents were less likely to have sex before age 16 (22 percent) than are girls who reported poor relationships with their parents (37 percent). Teenagers with nosy parents also delayed sex. Forty-three percent of girls who said their parents knew “little or nothing” of their whereabouts when not at home had sex before age 16, but only 22 percent of those girls whose parents knew “everything” about where they were and whom they were with had sex before 16. Adhering to traditional dinner routines also seems to help teens delay their first sexual experience. Thirty-seven percent of teen boys who eat dinner with their family four days a week or less had sex before age 16, but only 31 percent of boys whose families had dinner together every night did.
November 2009 

Teens and Distracted Driving: Texting, Talking and Other Uses of the Cell Phone Behind the Wheel
One in four American teenagers reports having texted while driving, and boys are just as likely as girls to text while driving. A new study by The Pew Research Center’s Internet & American Life Project, Teens and Distracted Driving: Texting, Talking and Other Uses of the Cell Phone Behind the Wheel, also reports that virtually half (48 percent) of all teenagers say they have been the passenger of a texting driver. “Cell phones are ... devices that can make our lives more efficient,” says Mary Madden, co-author of the report, “and whether you’re a teenager or an adult, it’s tempting to think you can manage several different activities at once.”
November 2009

Telling It Like It Is: Teen Perspectives on Romantic Relationships
Teens know what a good relationship looks like. They know to look for respect, trust, honesty, and good communication when seeking a partner, and realize that teen relationships will not be adult-like in every way. But the teens surveyed for a recent Child Trends research brief, Telling It Like It Is: Teen Perspectives on Romantic Relationships, have low expectations of ever being in such a relationship. Teen girls are especially pessimistic about their chances of finding a worthy partner. Many of the teens surveyed felt they had no examples of adults in healthy relationships to emulate.
October 2009

Income, Poverty and Health Insurance Coverage in the United States: 2008
The U.S Census Bureau has announced that the U.S. real median household income fell 3.6 percent between 2007 and 2008, and now stands at $50,303. The official poverty rate rose 1 percent in 2008, and is now at 13.2 percent. The good news is that the number of uninsured children declined to 9.9 percent in 2008, the lowest number of uninsured children since 1987. But children living in poverty remain more likely to be uninsured than other children. To learn more about these statistics, read the Bureau’s report, Income, Poverty and Health Insurance Coverage in the United States: 2008.
September 2009

Facts at a Glance: A Fact Sheet Reporting National, State, and City Trends in Teen Childbearing
Child Trends’ Facts at a Glance: A Fact Sheet Reporting National, State, and City Trends in Teen Childbearing, an analysis of data from the National Center for Health Statistics, shows that the U.S. teen birth rate increased in 2007, for the second year in a row. The rate for 2007 of 42.5 births per 1,000 females aged 15-19 was 1 percent higher than the rate reported in 2006, and 5 percent higher than the rate reported in 2005. The U.S. has the highest teen birth rate of any developed nation.
September 2009

CHIP Tips  -- New Federal Funding Available to Cover Immigrant Children and Pregnant Women
The July issue of the Kaiser Family Foundation’s CHIP Tips brief examines the recently enacted Children’s Health Insurance Program Reauthorization Act (CHIPRA), including details for complying with CHIPRA’s new “ICHIA” provision. This provision allows states to receive federal funds for providing Medicaid and CHIP coverage to lawfully residing immigrant children and pregnant women, regardless of their length of residency.
July 2009 

Positive Association Between Attention-Deficit/ Hyperactivity Disorder Medication Use and Academic Achievement During Elementary School
A new study indicates a possible link between medication for attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) and higher test scores. The nationally representative study followed nearly 600 kids with ADHD from kindergarten through fifth grade, and the data show that children on medicine for attention deficit hyperactivity disorder scored higher on several standardized tests than their peers who were not medicated.
May 2009

Major Depressive Episode and Treatment among Adolescents
Two million American teenagers experienced a major depressive episode (MDE) last year, but only 38.9 percent of them ever received treatment. The Substance Abuse and Mental Health Service Administration report also shows that health insurance is an important factor in whether or not MDE sufferers receive care. Only 17.2 percent of those who did not have coverage received treatment.
May 2009

Changing Patterns of Nonmarital Childbearing in the United States
A new report from the National Center for Health Statistics indicates that the recent increase in unwed mothers among older teens is only a reflection of a larger trend towards single parenthood among all young women in their 20s and 30s in the U.S., where nearly four out of every 10 births is to a single woman.
May 2009

2009 Child Well-Being Index
Virtually all the progress made in children’s economic well-being since 1975 will be wiped out by the current recession, according to a report by the Foundation for Child Development. The impact will be especially severe for low-income children of color, according to the 2009 Child Well-Being Index.
May 2009

Patient Teenagers? A Comparison of the Sexual Behavior of Virginity Pledgers and Matched Nonpledgers
Teenagers who pledge to remain virgins until marriage are just as likely to have premarital sex as those who do not promise abstinence, according to a study by the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health. The study, published in the journal Pediatrics, says teens who sign the pledge are significantly less likely to use condoms and other forms of birth control when they have sex.
January 2009

Stress in America
The American Psychological Association has included children, tweens, and teens in its annual Stress in America survey for the first time this year. The results suggest that stress, worry, and financial difficulties have a much greater impact on children than their parents believe. Almost half (45 percent) of 13- to17-year-olds surveyed said they worried more this year than last year, but only 28 percent of their parents recognized that their teens’ stress had increased. Similarly, 14 percent of 8- to 12-year-olds and 28 percent of teens reported that they worried a great deal, but only 2 percent to 5 percent of parents rated their child’s stress as extreme.

Weight Bias at Home and School
Weight bias frequently causes overweight or obese children to be victimized, especially at school. A new website from Yale’s Rudd Center offers help for addressing weight bias in the classroom.

Go Out and Play: Youth Sports in America
There is a nationwide gender gap in physical activity and sports involvement between girls and boys, according to a report by the Women’s Sports Foundation. The size of the gender gap, however, does not stretch uniformly across the country and all age brackets. In some communities, access to sport and physical activity for girls appears to be thwarted by economic disadvantages and inadequate school resources. Young urban girls, especially, have a narrower window of opportunity for becoming involved with sports than their male counterparts and girls from suburban and rural communities.
October 2008

Duke Researchers Show Reading Can Help Obese Kids Lose Weight
In the first study to look at the impact of literature on obese adolescents, researchers at Duke Children's Hospital discovered that reading the right type of novel may make a difference. Researchers asked obese females ages 9 to 13 who were already in a comprehensive weight loss program to read an age-appropriate novel called Lake Rescue, which included specific healthy lifestyle and weight management guidance. Six months later, those girls experienced a significant decrease in their BMI scores when compared to a control group.
October 2008

No Change in Weight-Based Teasing When School-Based Obesity Policies Are Implemented
A study says overweight children in Arkansas have not faced more teasing since the state became the first in the nation to require students to undergo body mass index tests The study by researchers at the University of Arkansas for Medical Sciences was published in the October Archives of Pediatric and Adolescent Medicine. It also found that parents’ awareness of their children’s weight problems has increased and that children are using school vending machines less.
October 2008

America’s Health Starts With Healthy Children: How Do States Compare?
America’s Health Starts With Healthy Children: How Do States Compare? highlights the role that income and education play in the health of America’s children. The Robert Woods Johnson Foundation’s report shows the unrealized health potential possible if all children had the same health care as those in affluent families. In almost every state and the District of Columbia, children in the poorest and least-educated households suffer the worst health outcomes. Children in middle-income families also experience shortfalls in health compared with those in higher income families.
October 2008

Effect of Prior Stimulant Treatment for Attention-Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder on Subsequent Risk for Cigarette Smoking and Alcohol and Drug Use Disorders in Adolescents
Girls who take medication to treat ADHD are less likely to be substance-abusers, according to a study by Massachusettes General Hospital researchers. The study followed 114 girls between the ages of 6 and 18. Those taking medicated for the condition were about half as likely to smoke cigarettes, drink alcohol or take illicit drugs as those who had the condition but were not medicated. The study was published in the Archives of Pediatric and Adolescent Medicine.
October 2008 

Medicaid: Extent of Dental Disease in Children Has Not Decreased
Dental disease remains a significant problem for children ages 2 through 18 in the Medicaid program, according to a report by the Government Accountability Office, Medicaid: Extent of Dental Disease in Children Has Not Decreased. About one in three children in Medicaid had untreated tooth decay, and one in nine had untreated decay in three or more teeth. Children in Medicaid remain at higher risk of dental disease compared to children with private health insurance, and they were almost twice as likely to have untreated tooth decay.
September 2008 

Reducing Behavior Problems in the Elementary School Classroom
The What Works Clearinghouse released its latest practice guide, focused on reducing behavior problems that are common in elementary schools. The guide, Reducing Behavior Problems in the Elementary School Classroom, is intended to help elementary school and district educators and administrators develop and implement effective prevention and intervention strategies that promote positive student behavior.
September 2008

State of Our Nation’s Youth
Teens are feeling the weight of the world now more than ever, according to the 10th State of Our Nation’s Youth report issued by the Horatio Alger Association of Distinguished Americans. Here has been a steep drop-off in the number of students feeling hopeful and optimistic about the future of the country, falling from 75 percent in 2003 to just 53 percent now, a 22 percent decline in optimism over the past five years. Despite these declining views, a majority of teens (66 percent) say they are optimistic about their own futures.
August 2008

2008 Child Well-being Index
The quality of life for American children has stalled since 2002, according to the Foundation for Child Development’s 2008 Child Well-being Index, an annual comprehensive measure of how children are faring in the United States. The CWI calculates the overall status of American children for every year since 1975, and found less than a 3 percent improvement for kids over the past generation.
July 2008 

Family, Peer, and Media Predictors of Becoming Eating Disordered
Risk factors for the development of binge eating and purging differ by sex and by age group in females., according to a study published in the Archives of Pediatrics & Adolescent Medicine. Frequent dieting and trying to look like persons in the media were independent predictors of binge eating in girls of all ages. In boys, their fathers’ negative comments about weight predicted the start of weekly binge eating. Maternal history of an eating disorder is a risk factor only in younger adolescent females.
June 2008 

Physical Education and Academic Achievement in Elementary School: Data From the Early Childhood Longitudinal Study
Elementary school girls who spend time in physical education may improve their academic performance, a study from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention says. The first-of-its-kind national study, which tracked the reading and math skills of more than 5,000 students in grades K-5, says girls who received 70 to 300 minutes a week of P.E. scored consistently higher on standardized tests than those who spent less than 35 minutes a week. No significant change in achievement was found for boys.
April 2008

A Policy-Based School Intervention to Prevent Overweight and Obesity
A two-year experiment to improve nutrition choices at five Philadelphia schools helped improve obesity rates among elementary-age children, according to a study published in the April issue of Pediatrics. The schools replaced sodas with fruit juice, banished candy, held raffles for smart food choices, and provided learning opportunities for students, parents, and teachers about good nutrition. The result was a 50 percent improvement over schools that did not take part in the initiative.
April 2008

Contraceptive Use Patterns Across Teens' Sexual Relationships
More than 50 percent of teens involved in sexual relationships are using contraceptives all of the time, a new report by the Washington, D.C.-based Child Trends organization says. The report, which examined data from the National Longitudinal Study of Adolescent Health, found that nearly two-thirds of teens who had been in only one sexual relationship used contraceptives during every encounter.
February 2008

Content Analysis of Tobacco, Alcohol, and Other Drugs in Popular Music
What are your kids listening to? Songs associated with partying and sex, according to a new study by researchers at the University of Pittsburgh’s School of Medicine. The study, published in the Archives of Pediatric and Adolescent Medicine, says the average teen hears 84 references to explicit substance abuse each day. Researchers, however, made no cause-and-effect conclusions between the music and substance abuse.
February 2008 

Impact of Conjoined Exposure to the World Trade Center Attacks and to Other Traumatic Events on the Behavioral Problems of Preschool Children
Preschoolers who witnessed the Sept. 11 attack on the World Trade Center or saw its victims were at high risk of developing lingering emotional and behavior problems if – but only if – they had had a previous frightening experience, according to a study published in the Archives of Pediatrics and Adolescent Medicine. More than 40 percent of preschoolers who had such sequential traumas suffered from depression, emotional outbursts, poor sleep, or some combination three years later. Children who saw the attack or its victims but had no earlier trauma showed few, if any, psychological scars, suggesting that very young children respond to trauma in the same ways that adults do.
February 2008

Racial-Ethnic Inequality in Child Well-Being from 1985-2004
Even though racial and ethnic differences among African-American, Hispanic, and white children have narrowed over the past two decades, the overall well-being of the three groups is substantially below the U.S. high watermark as well as their international peers, according to a report from the Foundation for Child Development. The report’s solution: Promote and diligently pursue policies that favor the well-being of all children.
January 2008

America’s Children in Brief: Key National Indicators of Well-Being 2008
Teen pregnancies in the United States rose in 2006, for the first time since 1991, according to America’s Children in Brief: Key National Indicators of Well-Being 2008, released by the National Institutes of Health. Pregnant teens are more likely to smoke and less likely to get prenatal care than mothers over the age of 20.

2007 National Youth Risk Behavior Survey
Today's high school students are less likely to engage in many health risk behaviors than high school students in the early 1990s, according to the 2007 National Youth Risk Behavior Survey, released by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). Although the study shows substantial improvements in many health risk behaviors among all high school students, Hispanic students remain at greater risk for certain health related behaviors and have not matched the progress made over time by black and white students in reducing some sexual risk behaviors.

The Legacy of Katrina's Children: Estimating the Numbers of Hurricane-Related At-Risk Children in the Gulf Coast States of Louisiana & Mississippi
At least 46,600 children along the Gulf Coast are still struggling with mental health problems and other serious after effects of 2005 hurricanes, according to a new study by the Mailman School of Public Health at Columbia University and the Children’s Health Fund. Many of these children are performing poorly in school and have limited access to medical care. The children most at risk are those who have returned to their home states of Louisiana and Mississippi but lack stable living situations.
December 2007 

Brain Matures a Few Years Late in ADHD, But Follows Normal Pattern
The brains of children with attention deficit hyperactivity disorder develop more slowly than those of other children but eventually catch up, according to a government study published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences by the National Institute of Mental Health. The study results might help explain why many children with ADHD appear to grow out of the disorder and become less impulsive and fidgety as they mature. Brain development was slower among those with ADHD, but it followed a normal pattern, which scientists said should reassure parents. The study did not explain why some people continue to experience ADHD symptoms as adults.
November 2007

Food additives and hyperactive behaviour in 3-year-old and 8/9-year-old children in the community: a randomised, double-blinded, placebo-controlled trial
Some artificial food additives increase hyperactivity and decrease attention span in a wide range of children, not just those who have been diagnosed with attention or hyperactivity problems, according to research by Britain's Food Standards Agency and published in the British medical journal The Lancet. The Food Standards Agency recommends that parents monitor their children and eliminate the additives if they see changes in behavior. The researchers said a discussion on a ban of the additives in school cafeterias would be premature, and the issue requires more study. (Subscription or payment required for access.)
November 2007

Reframing School Dropout as a Public Health Issue
Even though disparities in health and educational achievement are closely linked, public health professionals rarely pay serious attention to the dropout crisis affecting many of the nation’s schools, according to an article published by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. The article, “Reframing School Dropout as a Public Health Issue,” notes that nearly one-third of all students in the United States and half of black, Latino, and American Indian students do not graduate from high school on time.
October 2007

From Cupcakes to Carrots: Local Wellness Policies One Year Later
A report on the one-year anniversary of school wellness policies shows that finding affordable products that met standards as well as acceptance by students were challenges for schools trying to put these policies in place. The report, From Cupcakes to Carrots: Local Wellness Policies One Year Later, but the School Nutrition Association also showed that the policy is having a positive influence, with 83 percent of schools saying that they had increased healthy food options in the cafeteria as the result of the policy. Some of the new healthy items being offered included: whole-wheat, reduced-fat cheese pizza; a variety of fruits and vegetables including jicama salad and kiwi; humus and pita bread; fat-free flavored milk; and low-fat yogurt.
September 2007

Strengthening Policies to Support Children, Youth, and Families Who Experience Trauma by the National Center for Children in Poverty
Policy responses to children, youth, and families who experience trauma remain deficient, according to a report by the National Center for Children in Poverty. According to Strengthening Policies to Support Children, Youth, and Families Who Experience Trauma by the National Center for Children in Poverty, responses to trauma are often reactive and lack intentionality and long-range strategic planning. Also, they rarely reflect realities of trauma in communities in the United States.
July 2007

Social and Communication Development in Toddlers With Early and Later Diagnosis of Autism Spectrum Disorders
Some children with autism can be identified as early as 14 months old, allowing earlier treatment to reduce the effect, according to “Social and Communication Development in Toddlers With Early and Later Diagnosis of Autism Spectrum Disorders,” published in the Archives of General Psychiatry.
July 2007

Cost-effectiveness of Alternative Strategies for Tuberculosis Screening Before Kindergarten Entry
Eliminating universal tuberculosis testing in favor of a more targeted approach would save about $1.3 million a year and result in about two more cases identified over 20 years, says a study in the July issue of the Journal Pediatrics called “Cost-effectiveness of Alternative Strategies for Tuberculosis Screening Before Kindergarten Entry.”
July 2007 

SHPPS: School Health Policies and Programs Study
The nation’s schools have made considerable improvements in their policies and programs to promote the health and safety of students, particularly in the areas of nutrition, physical activity, and tobacco use, says a study by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. However, more needs to be done to strengthen school health and wellness policies and programs, according to the study published in the October 2007 issue of the Journal of School Health.

Prevention Education in America’s Schools
Schools should not have the primary responsibility for teaching students about the dangers of drugs and alcohol, according to Prevention Education in America’s Schools, a new report by the Boston-based group Join Together. The report, based on a national survey of educators by the drug- and alcohol-abuse prevention group, found that schools often don’t have the time or resources to teach prevention programs. Thirty-seven states now require schools to teach students about the dangers of drugs and alcohol.

A Lion in the House
An estimated 40,000 children return to school after battling a pediatric cancer. Now there’s a new website to help students and teachers to welcome these young survivors back to the classroom. The website provides instant access to service-learning projects where classmates can help a peer undergoing cancer treatment. Each project is correlated with national curriculum standards and has a 10-minute clip from A Lion in the House, a critically acclaimed documentary.

Quick & Easy Guide to School Wellness
The Quick & Easy Guide to School Wellness is a multimedia how-to guide with comprehensive information, practical advice, tools, and resources. The guide, by Healthy Schools Campaign and School Health Corp., is available free of charge to schools and nonprofits. It was developed in response to a need for nurses, teachers, parents, administrators, and students to implement the school wellness policies that became mandatory in fall 2006. (Online registration required.)

Gender, Obesity, and Education
Obese female high school students are about half as likely to attend college than their normal-weight peers, according to a study published in the July issue of Sociology of Education by University of Texas-Austin sociologist Robert Crosnoe. Obese girls were even less likely to enroll in college if they attended a high school where most of the population was of normal weight. Obese boys, however, were just as likely as their peers to attend college.

Efficacy of Maintenance Treatment Approaches for Childhood Overweight
Children who lose weight likely will keep it off by participating in a weight-maintenance treatment program, but the effects of the program decline over a two-year period, according to a report published in the Journal of the American Medical Association. The study looked at 150 7- to 12-year-olds who took part in a weight-loss program in San Diego from 1999 to 2004 for five months. Children who did not participate in a treatment program after their original loss regained the weight they had lost, as well as an additional 2.6 percent of their original weight.