Text Alternative: Federal Report Shows Slight Declines in Preterm Birth & Low Birth Weight Transcript

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America's Children: Key National Indicators of Well-Being 2009


A picture of a graph  with a baby, a toddler and a teen

Forum on Child and Family Statistics



Duane M. Alexander, M.D.

Eunice Kennedy Shriver National Institute of Child Health and Human Development


Report Overview


Dr. Duane M. Alexander on camera Dr. Duane M. Alexander: The America's Children report is a report that's put together annually by a combination of the federal statistics and research agencies that deal with children. The idea of it is to put together a compilation of the most important statistical indicators that we have on children so that we can keep track of their progress or lack of progress, identifying areas where we've succeeded in improving things for them or areas where there are problems that we need to work on.
Dr. Alexander on camera Dr. Alexander: The good news this year is an area that's been a concern to us for a long time, and that's the problem of low birthweight and preterm birth. For over a decade, these figures have been going up every year, in spite of our efforts to contain them and make them go down. This year, we've finally made some progress. We've lowered the preterm birth rate from about 12.8 percent to about 12.7 percent and we've lowered the low birthweight rate from about 8.3 percent to 8.2 percent. These are small changes, but they come in the face of a consistent pattern of increase. We hope they're not just a temporary blip, but a beginning of a major reversal, where we can start this trend downward instead of upward.
Dr. Alexander on camera Dr. Alexander: The risk is more than just preterm birth; the risk is what happens to these babies. These babies are more likely to die, to have cerebral palsy, to be blind, to be deaf, or have learning problems or mental retardation. For this reason, we urge women to get into prenatal care early, to be as healthy as possible at the time they get pregnant and stay as healthy as they can during pregnancy, avoiding smoking, avoiding alcohol abuse, and in other ways, taking the best care of themselves possible while they're pregnant.
Dr. Alexander on camera Dr. Alexander: There were some other good things that happened during the year, in terms of the statistics for children, particularly, in health behaviors. We saw, for example, a decline in the percentage of 10th-graders who are smoking cigarettes daily: from 7 percent to 6 percent. This continues a trend in that direction over the last several years, so we think this is real and our messages about the harmful effects of smoking are getting through and making a difference in children's behavior.
Dr. Alexander on camera Dr. Alexander: We also saw a decline in the percentage of 10th-graders who engage in heavy alcohol consumption - "binge drinking," we might say - consumption of more than 5 drinks in a row during one short period of time. This is a change from about 20 percent of 10th-graders engaging in this behavior during the last 2 weeks to 16 percent - this is a significant drop.

Dr. Alexander on camera

Dr. Alexander: Like any year, the picture is not always bright; there are problem areas as well, and the years reported in this report are no different. We had some setbacks, largely in an area reflective of the U.S. economy. But the data we're reporting are from 2007, before the serious downturn we saw in 2008. The biggest indicator was percentage of children living in poverty, which increased from 17 percent to 18 percent in 2007.


Susan Lukacs, D.O., M.S.P.H

National Center for Health Statistics

Specific Findings


Dr. Susan Lukacs on camera Dr. Susan Lukacs: More good news: fewer children are exposed to secondhand smoke. Our report shows that the percentage of children who were exposed to a regular smoker dropped from 27 percent in 1994 to only 8 percent in 2005. The effects of secondhand smoke are well-documented, so this drop is really good news and tells us that children are living in healthier conditions.
Dr. Lukacs on camera Dr. Lukacs: The accidental injury death rate for children ages 1 to 14 has declined over the past two decades, and they are the leading cause of death in this age group. Among teens ages 15 to 19, accidental injury deaths are also the leading cause of death.
Dr. Lukacs on camera Dr. Lukacs: Homicides are a considerable threat to our youth, and, in 2006, the homicide rate for teens ages 15 to 19 increased.

Dr. Lukacs on camera

Dr. Lukacs: I think the statistics in this report have some clear messages: we need to focus time and energy on our kids and pay attention to prevention measures to keep our children safe, and we also need to check in on our teens to protect them from risky behaviors.


A picture of a graph with a baby, a toddler and a teen.

Forum on Child and Family Statistics



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