A Different Perspective on the Health Care Summit

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As a parent and advocate, I'm disappointed in the lack of attention given to the state of our children's health during the year-long debate on health care.

Despite billions of dollars invested in disease related research and the "best" medical system in the world, the growing epidemics of childhood illnesses are a major factor in the cost of health care and in many cases, represent those "pre-existing conditions" that often aren't covered by insurance.

The state of children's health in the United States is shocking and - as the wealthiest developed nation - shameful.

-- Asthma - affects 1 in 11 children. -- Food-related allergies have increased by 18 percent among children under the age of 18. -- Autism spectrum disorder has increased from 1 in 10,000 in the 1970s to 1 in 110 children. -- Approximately 1 in 6 children have a developmental and/or behavioral disorder. -- Bipolar disorder has increased by 40-fold since 1994. -- 1 in 100 Americans has some form of Tourette's syndrome. -- Cancer remains the leading cause of death by disease. -- Childhood obesity affects 1 in 6 children today. -- Childhood arthritis is the fourth most common chronic disease in children, affecting 1 in 1,000. -- Type 1 diabetes affects approximately 1 in 400 to 500 children and adolescents. -- Multiple sclerosis affects between 8,000 and 10,000 children. -- Crohn's disease and ulcerative colitis is estimated to affect 100,000 U.S. children under the age of 18. -- Sickle cell anemia occurs in approximately 1 in every 500 African-American children. -- 1 in 8 infants are born premature - an increase of 36 percent between 1981 abd 2003. -- Birth defects are now the leading cause of infant death. -- Sudden Infant Death Syndrome (SIDS) claims the lives of nearly seven babies every day - 2,500 a year. -- Sudden and unexpected death of a child (SUDC) over the age of 12 months, results in approximately 1.3 deaths per 100,000 infants.

The World Health Organization estimates that our environment can significantly affect more than 80 percent of major diseases and more than a third of these diseases in children under the age of five are cause by environmental exposures. And therefore, the majority of these illnesses are preventable.

The annual health care costs associated with all these preventable illnesses are enormous. It is estimated that treatments for childhood cancer, asthma, developmental disorders and lead poisoning alone cost taxpayers $55 billion each year.

Regardless of where you come down on health care reform one thing seems clear, "reform" will not change the state of children's health unless there is a substantial investment in identifying the root cause of disease and implementation of very aggressive prevention strategies. And this will require much more than expanded health insurance coverage and making children's health a national health care priority.

Let me know what you think. If you have a question or if there is an issue you are interested in, tell me about it.

Deirdre Imus is the Founder and President of The Deirdre Imus Environmental Center for Pediatric Oncology (r) at Hackensack University Medical Center and Co-Founder and Co-Director of the Imus Cattle Ranch for Kids with Cancer. Deirdre is the author of four books, including three national bestsellers. She is a frequent speaker on green living and children's health issues, and is a contributor to foxnewshealth.com. For more information, go to www.dienviro.com