Research Scientist

The State of Children's Health


Below is the current state of children’s health in 20 fast facts. The Deirdre Imus Environmental Health Center® strives to turn these facts around through education, research and advocacy. Children are our greatest resource. Their environment shouldn’t harm them; they cannot protect themselves. We must!



Diverse_Group_KidsAs of 2016, 6.1 million children aged 2-17 years had been diagnosed with attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) in America. Less than half of these children received behavioral treatment for their ADHD in 2016, while 62% of these children were taking ADHD medication. ADHD is more common in boys, and also among children with fair or poor health status. (CDC



shutterstock_106241129An estimated 1 in every 13 children (roughly 2 in every classroom) have food allergies. 40% of affected children have experienced anaphylaxis or other severe allergic reactions. Between 1997 and 2011, food allergies in children increased by 50%. (Food Allergy Research and Education).

In 2012, 7.8 million children (10.6%) reported respiratory allergies in the past year. Internationally, sensitization rates to one or more common allergens is approaching 40%-50% in school children. (American Academy of Allergy, Asthma, and Immunology).

Food and respiratory allergy prevalence increased with income level. Children with family income equal to or greater than 200% of the poverty level had the highest prevalence rates. The prevalence of skin allergies decreased with age. In contrast, the prevalence of respiratory allergies increased with age. The prevalence of food and skin allergies increased in children under age 18 years from 1997–2011 (CDC).


Arthritis- A 2007 CDC study estimates that 294,000 U.S. children under 18 (or 1 in 250 children) have been diagnosed with arthritis or another rheumatologic condition (CDC). In 2017, nearly 300,000 babies and children had a rheumatic condition or arthritis (Arthritis Foundation).


Asthma - One in every 10 children in the U.S. has asthma. Asthma is the most common long-term disease of children, and is one of the leading causes of school absenteeism, resulting in 13.8 million reported missed school days in 2013 alone (CDC). It costs approximately $27B per year   

autism_develpmental_learning_centerIn 2014, 1 in 59 U.S. children presented with Autism Spectrum Disorder, which demonstrates an increase in prevalence relative to the rate of 1 in 150 children in the year 2000. Based on a 2018 study, almost half (44%) of children identified with Autism Spectrum Disorder demonstrate above average intellectual ability (CDC).



Mental Health Disorders - Mental health disorders afflict one in every five children. These include mood disorders, learning disorders, anxiety disorders, and eating disorders (Child Mind Institute). Suicide was the second leading cause of death among children aged 10-18 years in 2016 (CDC). Mental health disorders are among the most costly conditions to treat in children, costing approximately $250B annually (AAP).

Bipolar disorder can run in families. Bipolar Disorder usually starts in late adolescence or early adulthood, but children can have bipolar disorder too. Community studies estimate lifetime prevalence of bipolar spectrum disorders to be 0% to 3% among adolescents. Prevalence of child-onset bipolar is not well established due to debate about the appropriate boundaries of diagnosis among preadolescents. Children with Bipolar Disorder often have other psychiatric disorders such as ADHD and anxiety disorders. (NIH)

Drug prescriptions for pediatric emotional, behavioral and mental health conditions have risen dramatically.  Nearly 83,000 prescriptions for the antidepressant fluoxetine were written in 2014 for children ages two and under, reflecting a 23 percent increase from the year before.  In this same age group, almost 20,000 prescriptions for antipsychotic medications were written in 2014, a 50 percent jump from 2013 (NY Times). 

shutterstock_76478602Childhood cancer is the leading cause of disease-related death among children and adolescents (ages 1-19 years) in the United States, although cancer among children is rare. An estimated 15,780 children and adolescents ages 1-19 years were diagnosed with cancer and 1,960 died of the disease in the United States in 2017. (CDC)

Child Welfare In a 2013 UNICEF survey, the United States ranked 26 out of the top 29 developed countries assessed on the welfare of children. The criteria included a range of indicators, from infant mortality to whether children ate dinner with their parents or were bullied at school. (UNICEF)

Children in Poverty – As of 2017, 15 million children live in families below the federal poverty threshold in the United States, this comprises 21% of all children. However, this threshold underestimates the needs of families, including basic expenses. Taking into account that a family needs double this threshold income to cover such expenses, 43% of children live in low-income families. (National Center for Children in Poverty, Columbia University)

Chronic Diseases- Chronic diseases: As of 2012, about half of all adults—117 million people—have one or more chronic health conditions. One of four adults has two or more chronic health conditions. Chronic diseases including heart disease, stroke, cancer, chronic respiratory diseases and diabetes, are the leading cause of mortality in the world, representing 60% of all deaths. Out of the 35 million people who died from chronic disease in 2005, half were under 70 and half were women. This invisible epidemic is an under-appreciated cause of poverty and hinders the economic development of many countries. Contrary to common perception, 80% of chronic disease deaths occur in low and middle income countries. Chronic diseases kill twice the number of people than all infectious diseases (including HIV/AIDS, tuberculosis and malaria), maternal and perinatal conditions, and nutritional deficiencies combined.  There are three well-established and well-known causes for most chronic diseases: unhealthy diet, physical inactivity and tobacco use. Conditions before birth and during childhood affect health during adult life. (CDC

shutterstock_85020949In 2015, 193,000 children under 20 years of age had diabetes, comprising 0.24% of that population. Most of them have type 1 diabetes. Approximately 30.3 million people (9.4% of the U.S. population) have diabetes as of 2017. An estimated 23.1 million Americans have undiagnosed diabetes (CDC). Out of that number, nearly 95% have type 2 diabetes (National Diabetes Education Program, NIH).




Infant Mortality -The infant mortality rate in the United States in 2017 was 5.8 deaths per 1,000 live births. There are 55 countries that have a lower infant mortality rate compared to the United States. (CIA)

In the past 30 years childhood obesity has doubled in children and quadrupled in adolescents. (CDC)
Childhood obesity is now the number one health concern among parents in the United States. (American Heart Association)


1 in 200 Kids and Teens have OCD.  Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder, or OCD, affects approximately 2.2 million adults; one-third developed symptoms as children.  OCD is an anxiety disorder characterized by persistent, unwelcome thoughts and/or repetitive behaviors, and can also be accompanied by eating disorders, other anxiety disorders, or depression. (National Institute of Mental Health, NIH)

Premature Birth
premature_AIn 2016, 1 out of every 10 infants born in the United States was premature. (CDC)
The preterm rate has declined by 11 percent between 2007 and 2014. However, the U.S. preterm birth rate is higher than that of most developed nations. Premature birth is the number one killer of newborns. (March of Dimes)

Sickle Cell Anemia- Sickle cell anemia occurs in approximately 1 in every 500 African American births and 1 out of every 36,000 Hispanic American births. It is a condition in which red blood cells can become sickle-shaped and block blood flow.  (NIH

SIDS - In 2015, 1,600 infants passed away from SIDS. (CDC)
Babies of mothers who smoke during pregnancy have a 3 times greater chance of SIDS. Babies who sleep on their tummies on top of soft bedding have 21 times greater risk of SIDS. (CJ Foundation for SIDS)
Most SIDS death occurs when babies are between two months and four months old. (NIH)

Baby_in_BlanketAs of 2015 SUDC occurs in children under 1 year old 69.7 times per 100,000 live births and 1.5 times per 100,000 in ages 1-4 years. (SUDC Foundation



Tourette Syndrome - About 1 in 360 children have Tourette’s, based on a 2012 CDC study. (CDC)
Since Tourette syndrome is a disorder of the nervous system, it often occurs with other problems such as ADHA, OCD, anxiety, and depression. Average onset occurs between the ages of 3 and 9 years. (NIH)

WHO Stats - The World Health Organization estimates that the environment significantly affects more than 80 percent of major diseases. That includes childhood cancer, diabetes and asthma. In addition, more than a third of diseases in children under the age of five are caused by environmental exposures.  (World Health Organization)

Link to: The State of Women's Health


Last updated 7-9-18

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