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Health of U.S. Children Is Ranked Low in World

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Washington--The health and economic status of children in the United States frequently is lower than that of children in other industrialized countries, a new report asserts.

The study, which was prepared by the U.S. Bureau of the Census for the House Select Committee on Children, Youth, and Families, found that children in this country are more likely to live in poverty, live with one parent, or be killed than are children in other industrialized nations.

The report compared U.S. children with children in Australia, Canada, France, West Germany, Hungary, Italy, Japan, Norway, Sweden, the Soviet Union, and the United Kingdom. It offered no explanations for the differences among nations.

For some statistical measures, children from the developed countries were compared with children in four developing nations: China, India, Israel, and Mexico.

Among the report's major findings are:

Among six industrialized countries studied, the United States and Australia had the highest percentage of children living in poverty: 17 percent. In other developed countries, at least 99 percent of poor families with children receive government assistance; in the United States, only 73 percent receive aid.

Children in this country experience divorce at much higher rates than do children in other developed countries. U.S. children experience divorce at a rate of 19 per 1,000 children under age 18. Japan had the lowest rate, 5 per 1,000 children under age 18.

Only the Soviet Union, which4has 25 deaths per 1,000 live births, has an infant-mortality rate that exceeds the U.S. rate of 10 deaths per 1,000 live births.

Young males in the United States are five times more likely to be murdered than are those in other developed countries. In Mexico, however, young males are killed at nearly double the U.S. rate.

One in 10 U.S. teenagers between the ages of 15 and 19 becomes pregnant, the highest teenage-pregnancy rate recorded in the study.

Republican committee members questioned the study's major findings. In an appendix to the report, they disputed the statistical validity of comparing children in the United States with children in more ethnically homogeneous countries.

The report's release last week coincided with an American Academy of Pediatrics' international conference here on how other developed countries provide health care for children and pregnant women.

C. Arden Miller, a professor of child and maternal health at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill who attended the conference, said there was consensus among participants that the federal government must play a larger role in providing health services for young children.

He said participants also agreed that there should be a universal health-insurance system for pregnant women and children.

Dr. Miller said most participants at the conference believed there should be comprehensive, community-based services for hard-to-reach populations, and that the government must make a greater effort toward lowering the poverty rate among children.--ef

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