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Kids May Be Safer and Smarter But Still Overweight

Kids today are generally safer and do better in school than they have at any time in the last 20 years according to a new study from Duke University.  At every level, more children are enrolled in classes.  Graduation rates are up in high school and more kids are getting their college degrees.  Overall, test scores are on the rise, although the gains are much more evident in elementary and middle school.

And while this information is certainly good news and nothing to look down upon, the study also shows that two of the biggest problems plaguing children still remain with little evidence that either will soon to be on the decline. Those of course are the increasing numbers of children living in poverty and the raging epidemic of childhood obesity.

The study was based on the Duke Child Well-Being Index, a fairly complex measure of quality-of-life trends from an abundance of sources from the Department of Justice, Bureau of Labor Statistics, and Census Bureau to the Department of Education, National Center for Education Statistics and the National Center for Health Statistics.

Nearly 20 percent of the children in the U.S. live below the poverty line. Unfortunately, the recent recession and slow recovery has not helped matters either. The family median income has risen slightly over the past 20 years but has failed to match its peak from 2000. The result being that millions of children continue to live in poverty at the same rate they did in 1995.

If there is a silver lining in all this it’s that fewer young people are victims of violent crimes today. Suicide and infant mortality rates have dropped and fewer kids are smoking and binge drinking, although marijuana use is up.  Today, more kids have health insurance than ever before.  Still, because of the high rates of obesity, grades in the study’s health category remain poor, if not failing.

Many believe that part of the reason can be contributed to technology. Too many kids spend too many hours inside watching TV, playing video games or interacting on cell phones and other devices instead of exercising outside or participating in sports with other kids.  And, while being inside for so many hours   can in some measure protect children from different physical dangers, sedentary behavior and activities have certainly contributed to childhood obesity.  The numbers bear that out.

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