More Than Half of American Children Have at least one Diagnosed Chronic Health Condition
One of the greatest paradoxes of our times is that the most affluent, resourced and medically advanced societies in the world also have the highest rates of chronic childhood illness. Obesity and diabetes, autism and neurodevelopmental delays, digestive and allergic diseases were rarely found just a generation ago. Today these illnesses are impacting our children in epidemic numbers. Some startling statistics:
- Rates of autism have risen over the last few decades from 1 in 10,000 to 1 in 45 children. Autism costs the U.S. $268 billion per year with the potential to reach $1 trillion by 2025.
- Asthma affects 1 in 8 children, and as many as 1 in 6 African American children. Asthma costs the U.S. $56 billion per year.
- One in 3 American children is either overweight or obese; Obesity-related medical costs account for $190 billion or 21% of medical spending in the United States; childhood obesity carries a price tag of $14 billion a year in direct medical costs.
- One in 14 children has a life-threatening food allergy.
- One in 30 children is diagnosed with pediatric depression. The U.S. spends $83 billion a year on depression.
- It is estimated that approximately at least 10% of American children have ADD/ADHD and 17% are labeled as “learning disabled.” ADHD is estimated to cost the US upwards of $100 billion per year.
What’s more, this epidemic of childhood illness is taking place in the context of an unprecedented crisis of planetary health. Our relationship to the environment has a direct and immediate impact on our health, yet modern healthcare seems to all but ignore this inconvenient truth. Our children, our ‘canaries in the coalmine,’ are telling us that something must be done, today.
The current health care model, while technologically sophisticated and scientifically rich, is not equipped to deal with the tsunami of complex chronic illnesses that will afflict the next generation of children even more profoundly unless we change course. Reversing and preventing chronic illness in our children is a human, societal and economic and planetary imperative.