Report - Fewer babies die, fewer teens having babies

Friday, July 12, 2002

WASHINGTON -- Fewer babies are dying. Fewer teenage girls are having babies. Smoking is dropping among 8th and 10th graders.

There's encouraging news in a report, being released today, that brings together recent figures on the health, economics and education of some 70 million children in the United States. The report was compiled by the Federal Interagency Forum on Child and Family Statistics.

Officials celebrated the successes but noted there was no improvement on many measures of well-being.

The best news might be a substantial drop in infant mortality. In 1999, the report said, 7 of every 1,000 babies under age 1 died. That was down from 7.2 in 1998 after declining throughout the 1990s.

The rate fell again in 2000, said a separate report also being released Friday, to 6.9 deaths per 1,000 babies.

"It's a triumph of science and health performance," said Dr. Duane Alexander, director of the National Institute of Child Health and Human Development.

No changes

Numerous measures did not change: In 2000, 16 percent of children lived in poverty, 76 percent of toddlers got the recommended immunizations and 87 percent of young adults finished high school. Drug and alcohol use among junior high and high school students held steady.

Health and Human Services Secretary Tommy Thompson urged Americans "to rededicate our efforts as a nation, and as individuals, to protect children."

In a special feature this year, the report found that in 2001, 19 percent of children had at least one parent born outside the United States, up from 14 percent in 1994.

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