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American Kids: Fatter and Dumber


By Paul Wheeler

November 1, 1995

American kids are getting fatter, lazier, and dopier, this according to an Annual Report Card on children's health offered by the American Health Foundation.

The low marks stem not only from substance abuse, but also from increases in several preventable diseases, like measles. Almost 1 in 5 high school seniors smoke tobacco now, and nearly a third smoke marijuana on a daily basis, both of which represent increases from the last report card. If that's not worrisome enough, consider this: crack cocaine went up 30% between 1993 and 94.

You want more bad news? How about this: in the last decade, the percentage of obese children has ballooned from 15% to 21%. Why? One reason is they're getting less exercise: only a third of high school students get daily exercise at school.

Scientists are warning that all these fat, unhealthy kids are going to turn into fat, unhealthy adults with all their heart disease and other chronic illnesses. That is, if the crack doesn't kill them first.

So there's the cloud; here's the silver lining: fewer children got whooping cough and tetanus, two diseases preventable by vaccines. And fewer teen-agers contracted syphillis and hepatitis B. Still the U.S. infant mortality rate lags behind 22 other industrialized nations. With this in mind a panel of experts this week recommended increased peri-natal care and mandatory health education programs in schools.

So what's the bottom line on this Report Card? How bad did America's youth do? America's youth scored a D.

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