Increasing Rates of Childhood Neurological Illness

The prevalence of chronic physical and neurological conditions in children continues to rise. In the following video, Pediatrician Elizabeth Mumper, MD, describes how Functional Medicine shifted her approach for children with chronic conditions, as well as the types of outcomes she sees.

Pediatrician and IFM Educator Elizabeth Mumper, MD, describes how Functional Medicine shifted her approach, resulting in greater personal satisfaction and improved outcomes.

Increasing numbers of young patients with chronic physical and/or neurologic conditions is expected to continue. More than one in ten children have received an attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) diagnosis, and from 2003 to 2011, ADHD diagnoses in children increased 42%.1 This enormous increase is likely partly driven by increased understanding of and recognition of the condition, although one study estimates that less than half of children with ADHD have been diagnosed or treated.2

However, ADHD is not the only condition on the rise. Another neurological/mental condition is bipolar, where childhood diagnoses have increased 56% from 1996 to 2004.3 Skin allergies in children rose from 7.4% to 12.5% in just a few years.4

For children who are poor or living in poverty, significant increases in comorbid chronic conditions are also present, particularly for asthma, ADHD, and autism.5,6 This is significant because nearly half of US children (43%) live in low-income families,7 and this dramatically increases their health risks. For instance, children living in poverty with asthma and ADHD were approximately twice as likely to have another chronic condition like autism, depression, or epilepsy.8

These are not new trends; in 2007, a JAMA article chronicled the rise in childhood chronic conditions over four decades.9 These trends in pediatric illness highlight the growing need for targeted strategies to assess, treat, and prevent chronic illness in children. IFM’s Pediatrics Advanced Clinical Training provides the framework and tools to identify common underlying etiologies, personalize interventions, and reverse these trends.

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  1. Visser SN, Danielson ML, Bitsko RH, et al. Trends in the parent-report of health care provider diagnosed and medicated ADHD: United States, 2003-2011. J Am Acad Child Adolesc Psychiatry. 2014;53(1):34-46.e2. doi:10.1016/j.jaac.2013.09.001.
  2. Froehlich TE, Lanphear BP, Epstein JN, Barbaresi WJ, Katusic SK, Kahn RS. Prevalence, recognition, and treatment of attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder in a national sample of US children. Arch Pediatr Adolesc Med. 2007;161(9):857-864. doi:10.1001/archpedi.161.9.857.
  3. Blader JC, Carlson GA. Increased rates of bipolar disorder diagnoses among U.S. child, adolescent, and adult inpatients, 1996-2004. Biol Psychiatry. 2007;62(2):107-114. doi:10.1016/j.biopsych.2006.11.006.
  4. Jackson KD, Howie LD, Akinbami LJ. Trends in allergic conditions among children: United States, 1997–2011. NCHS Data Brief, 2013 May;(121):1-8.
  5. Perrin JM, Houtrow A, Kelleher K, Hoagwood K, Stein REK, Zima B. Supplemental security income benefits for mental disorders. Pediatrics. 2016;138(1):e20160354. doi:10.1542/peds.2016-0354.
  6. Pulcini CD, Zima BT, Kelleher KJ, Houtrow AJ. Poverty and trends in three common chronic disorders. Pediatrics. 2017;139(3):e20162539. doi:10.1542/peds.2016-2539.
  7. Jiang Y, Granja MR, Koball H. Basic facts about low-income children: children under 18 years, 2015. National Center for Children in Poverty. Published January 2017. Accessed September 7, 2017.
  8. Houtrow A, Zima B, Kelleher K. National trends in prevalence and co-morbid chronic conditions among children with asthma, autism spectrum disorder, and attention deficit hyperactivity disorder. Poster presented at: Pediatric Academic Societies 2016 Annual Research Meeting; June 27, 2016; Boston, MA.
  9. Perrin JM, Bloom SR, Gortmaker SL. The increase of childhood chronic conditions in the United States. JAMA. 2007;297(24):2755-2759. doi:10.1001/jama.297.24.2755.

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