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The Sickest Generation: The Facts Behind the Children's Health Crisis

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Children are the key to a prosperous nation and successful future, yet American children have never been sicker. Their life expectancy is falling, and infant mortality is rising. U.S. children today are 76% more likely to die before their first birthday than infants in other wealthy countries. Our children are experiencing an unprecedented increase in chronic health ailments, developmental disabilities and mental health challenges. A widely cited survey published in 2011 provided a revealing snapshot of American children’s suboptimal health status. The study found that over two-fifths (43%) of children had at least one of 20 chronic health conditions, and this proportion rose to over half (54%) of children when the investigators added obesity and developmental and behavioral risks to their analyses.

For several decades, American children have displayed poorer health outcomes than children in other wealthy nations, notwithstanding substantially higher per capita health care spending. This chronic illness burden is serious and historically unprecedented. Our Federal health agencies should be asking the essential question, “What is happening to America’s children?” Everyone has a stake in finding the answers and joining the fight to restore our children’s health.

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