Transcript: America's Children Telebriefing - July 11, 2012


July 11, 2012
9:30 AM ET

Operator: Good morning, ladies and gentlemen, and thank you for waiting.Welcome to the America's Children Media Briefing conference call.All lines have been placed in a listen only mode, and the floor will be open for your questions and comments following the presentation.Without further ado, it is my pleasure to turn the floor over to your host, Mr. Bob Bock.Mr. Bock, the floor is yours.

Bob Bock: Welcome to the National Institutes of Health.I am Bob Bock, the press officer for the Eunice Kennedy Shriver National Institute of Child Health and Human Development.This briefing will be on the forthcoming report, America's Children in Brief: Key National Indicators of Wellbeing 2012, by the Federal Interagency Forum on Child and Family Statistics.The briefing is being held under the terms of the forum's embargo, which lifts on Friday, July 13th, 2012, at 12:01 a.m. Eastern Daylight Time.I would now like to introduce the Director of the Eunice Kennedy Shriver National Institute of Child Health and Human Development, Alan E. Guttmacher, M.D., who will begin our briefing.

Dr. Alan Guttmacher: Well, I'd also like to add my welcome to Bob's to the National Institutes of Health for this year's audio briefing on America's Children in Brief: Key National Indicators of Wellbeing 2012.As you just heard from Bob, I'm Alan Guttmacher, Director of the Eunice Kennedy Shriver National Institute of Child Health and Human Development at NIH.

This year's America's Children report contains many important developments.Before we tell you about them, I'd like to provide some background on the report, however.Since 1997, the Federal Interagency Forum on Child and Family Statistics has published an annual report on the wellbeing of our nation's children and families.The report compiles federal statistics on children and families in a non-technical format, for use by data providers, policy makers and the public.

Indicators in the report are based on substantial research connecting them to child wellbeing, span important areas of children's lives, are updated regularly, show trends over time, and represent large segments of the population, rather than one particular group.These child wellbeing indicators span seven domains:family and social environment, economic circumstances, healthcare, physical environment and safety, behavior, education and health.

The indicators are provided by the forum members, 22 federal agencies that produce or use statistical information on children and families.Depending on data availability, the forum updates all 41 indicators every year.The forum alternates each year between the full report, America's Children Key National Indicators of Wellbeing, and the summary version, America's Children in Brief, which highlights selected indicators.This year's is an in brief version.All of the figures and data tables that ordinarily appear in the full report are available on the forum's website at

I would like to highlight one area of this year's brief before I turn it over to other speakers, and that is pre-term births, here defined as births that occur before the 37th week of gestation.Infants born pre-term are at high risk for early death or long-term health and developmental problems.The Eunice Kennedy Shriver National Institute of Child Health and Human Development is particularly concerned with getting each child off to the healthiest start possible, so we are particularly encouraged by the fourth consecutive annual drop in the pre-term birth rate, from 12.2% in 2009, to 12.0% in 2010.

The decline in the pre-term rate for 2010 was primarily among infants delivered late pre-term, that is between 34 and 36 weeks, which is down from 8.7% to 8.5%.This 2010 late pre-term rate of 8.5% compares with a 2006 high of 9.1%.The rate for early pre-term births, that is at less than 34 weeks, of 3.5% was essentially stable from 2009 to 2010, but remains below the 2006 rate of 3.7%.

Other representatives of the forum are here today to answer your questions.Joining us on the call are Tom Snyder, who is Program Director of the Annual Reports Program, within the Early Childhood International and Crosscutting Studies Division of the National Center for Education Statistics.Grace Kena, who is a research scientist in the International Crosscutting Studies Division at the National Center of Education and Statistics.David Johnson, who is Chief of the Social Economic and Housing Statistics Division at the U.S. Census Bureau.And Robert Kominski from the Social Economic and Housing Statistics Division at the U.S. Census Bureau.

I would now like to introduce Dr. Edward Sondick, who is Director of the National Center for Health Statistics of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.Dr. Sondick will provide an overview of this year's briefs.

Dr. Sondick: Thank you, Alan.I'm very happy to represent my colleagues in the federal statistical system.Let me begin with preventable diseases and vaccination.There have been a number of increases in the percentage of children who receive vaccination.In toddlers 19 to 35 months old, the percentage of children who had the most recently recommended series of early childhood immunizations increased from 70% to 75% overall, and that included the children of families below the poverty level.

For adolescents, aged 13 to 17, a nearly six-fold increase in four years in the use of a vaccine called TVAP to prevent tetanus, diphtheria and pertussis.A similarly large increase in the use of a vaccine recommended for adolescents to prevent a serious bacterial illness that is a leading cause of meningitis.And for teen girls, an increase in the use of the human papilloma virus, or HPV, vaccine which protects against the significant cause of cervical cancer.The percentage of teen girls who initiated the HPV series with one dose or more has nearly doubled in three years to 49%.

With respect to measures related to births, Dr. Guttmacher reported that we've seen the fourth year in a row of a decline in pre-term births.I think it's important to add that we've seen that decline across the board for non-Hispanic white, black and Hispanic women.Also, the third consecutive annual decline this year in the adolescent birth rate.In fact, this rate also marks record lows for all race and ethnicity groups.This rate was twice as high in the mid-90s.This still amounts to over 109,000 births, to 15 to 17-year-olds in 2010.

And this year marks an all-time U.S. low in infant mortality.And infant mortality is a rate that has been falling for many, many years, but this is the all-time low.Infant mortality represents an infant death in the first year of life.In 2010, the rate of infant deaths fell to 6.1% infant deaths for every 1,000 of live births.

The trend in births to single women has been changing over the last 30 years.In fact, it's more than doubled since 1980, but over last year, it seems to have declined just very slightly.For 2010, 41% of all births were to unmarried women.While these 41% of births were to unmarried women, overall about one-quarter of children live in single-mother households, and nearly half of children in single-mother households are living below the poverty level.

Let me turn to some other areas of the report, children as victims of crime.In 2010, youths 12 to 17 were victims of serious violent crimes, at a rate of seven crimes per 1,000 juveniles.That's down from 11 per 1,000 in 2009.For boys, the decrease was even greater, from 15 per 1,000 males, to 9 per 1,000.

And other factors, secondhand smoke, an environmental factor.Since 2005 the percentage of children six and younger, who live in a home where someone reported smoking regularly, is down to about 6%, that's down from 9% in 2005, and a figure of nearly 30% in 1994.For those children living in poverty, the figures were higher.The most recent figures show 10% live in a home where someone smoked regularly

But if we widen our field of view related to secondhand smoke exposure, and consider it and outside the home, a very sensitive clinical test for secondhand exposure, shows the percentage of children exposed fell by half, from 88% in 1988 to 1994, to 42% in tests conducted between 2009 and 2010.That decline parallels the reduction in the number of public places allowing smoking.

Environmental risks can include other factors as well, and we report on that, safety factors.The unintentional injury rate fell for children ages 5 to 14.It fell by three-quarters from 1980 to four deaths per 100,000.The rate was nearly four times as high in 1980, at 15 per 100,000 children.About half of these deaths were due to motor vehicle accidents.In 2009, the injury death rates for children 1 to 4 and 5 to 14, related to motor vehicle accidents, were about two per 100,000.Between 1980 and 2009, the motor vehicle death rate declined by, as I said, almost, more than three-quarters really, for children 14 years of age and younger.

Let me turn to some education-related measures.The picture is promising.Mathematic scores -- and by the way this is in the report in Figure 12, and then I'm also going to refer to Figure 13 -- mathematic scores continue the general trend of increase for fourth and eighth graders, with increases of one point at both grade levels, between 2009 and 2011.These scores are also higher than in any of the previous assessment years.As shown in Figure 13, high school graduates are completing more math and science courses.

In mathematics, for example, the percentage of graduates who took Algebra II in high school rose from 70% to 76% between 2005 and 2009.By way of contrast, the figure was 40% in 1982.The percentage of graduates who took analysis and pre-calculus rose from 6% in 1982 to 29% in 2005, and then again, an increased 35% in 2009.In science, the percentage of graduates, who took both biology and chemistry in high school, increased from 29% to 68% over this long period of time.And the percentage who took courses in each of biology, chemistry and physics increased from 11% in 1982 to 30% during this period.

While there are lots of positive trends in the report, there are many challenges.The level of children, for example, living in or near poverty, as some of these numbers illustrate, is a major concern.Very little change there.Certain behaviors remain a concern, such as the lack of progress we've made in reducing alcohol and illicit drug use among eighth and twelfth graders.

There are several problems that haven't changed much, but they're just large.I'm not sure of another way to put that, but they are large.For example, nearly one in ten children, 9.4% to be precise, have asthma.And nearly one in five children, ages 6 to 17, are obese, according to 2009, 2010 data.And there hasn't been any major improvement in that trend over time.

While 90% of insured children saw a dentist in 2010, the figure was only 56% for uninsured children.While there are many other measures in the report, there's a section in the back, called At a Glance, which reviews the measures and, as Dr. Guttmacher said, there's more complete data, and last year's report as well, available on the web.Thank you very much.

Mr. Bock: Operator, we will now open the briefing for questions.

Operator: Certainly.The floor is now open for questions.If you do have a question, please press the number 7 on your telephone keypad.Questions will be taken in the order they were received.If at any point your question has been answered, you may press 7 again to disable your request.If you're using a speaker phone, we ask that while posing your question you pick up your handset to provide favorable sound quality.Our first question comes from Denise Mann.Denise, your line is open.You may state your question.

Denise Mann: Thanks, I am with WedMD.And it seems like there are a lot of statistics here.You know, an actual (ph) level, the big picture, is this a good news story and what are the biggest areas that we need improve?

Dr. Guttmacher: Well this Alan Guttmacher.I'll take the first cut at that, and I think others may want to chime in.I think, you know, it's some of both.There's good and bad here.I think many of the health indicators continue a good trend.Certainly pre-term birth, deaths within the first year of life, are going down, and that's wonderful news.They are still higher than we'd like them to be, of course, so there's room for improvement for sure.

At the same time, as you heard from Dr. Sondick, issues such as childhood obesity, childhood asthma, continue to be major problems.And we'd like to, you know, it would be nice to have their important future years show more gains there for sure. Clearly there are issues involving children's health that refer to our present economic situation.And like the rest of country, for many other reasons, we look forward to improvements in that as well.So I think it's a mixed picture, but overall I think it's a good one.

Ms. Mann: Got it.(Inaudible) thank you.

Dr. Guttmacher: Sure.

Operator: There are no questions in the queue at this time.Again, if you do have a question, please press the number 7 on your telephone keypad.Our next question comes from Michelle Healy.Michelle, your line is open.You may state your question.

Michelle Healy: Yes.I recognize many of these statistics from previous reports throughout the past year or so.Are any of the numbers here brand new, or are almost all of them previously reported, and this is compiling, bringing them all together in this one document?

Dr. Sondick: Hi, this is Ed Sondick.Yes, I would say almost all, if not all, are previously reported.I think one of the areas though, that has not been reported, was what I had mentioned regarding education, in particular I think Figure 13 on the percentage of high school graduates with completed selected courses, which shows a very impressive trend.

Ms. Healy: Thanks very much.

Operator: There are no questions in the queue at this time.Again, if you do have a question, please press the number 7 on your telephone keypad.

Mr. Sondick: Maybe I could add -- this is Ed Sondick -- could add to what Dr. Guttmacher said in answer to the first question.I don't (inaudible) figure on the number of trends that are positive versus negative, but certainly, in the comments we've made, you can hear about positive trends.But there continue to be, as I started to talk about, the challenges.Ten percent of children don't have health insurance.That figure has not changed for some time.And that continues, and that has considerable implications.

The figure of children who don't have a usual source of care is about 5%, but that figure is much higher for children who don't have insurance, as you might expect.And this has serious implications, not only for the health of children at this point in time, but also for the future as well, when we're dealing with preventive regimens.

Operator: There are no questions in the queue at this time.Again, if you do have a question, please press the number 7 on your telephone keypad.Mr. Bock, there appear to be no further questions at this time.

Mr. Bock: All right.If there are no further questions with our briefing, we will feature an audio recording and a transcript of the briefing on our Embargoed Press sites.If those who called in do need additional materials, please contact the NICHD press office at 301-496-5133.Thank you very much.

Operator: Thank you.This does conclude today's teleconference.You may now disconnect.


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