The early years of a child’s life are important for their health and development.
Although the human brain continues to develop and change into adulthood, a child's first eight years can build a foundation for future learning, health, and overall life success. Healthy development means that children of all abilities are able to grow up where their social, emotional, and educational needs are met. Having a safe and loving home and spending time with family are important factors in the development of healthy children in our community. Proper nutrition, exercise, and sleep also can make a big difference. Understanding and preventing Adverse Childhood Experiences (ACES) can impact children and families across communities and is a component critical to having healthy kids. Decreasing substance use, promoting mental health, improving physical wellness, increasing safety, and improving access to care are all components of optimizing childhood health in our community.
Healthy Kids Data Overview
Check out the points below for the main takeaways from this page.
• The majority of students that use substances in 2019, first started using substances at age 15 and 16 (Alcohol 41.4%, Marijuana 30.4%, Cigarettes 5%).
• The most popular illicit drugs with students in 2019 was synthetic marijuana (9% of students have tried synthetic marijuana at least once) and ecstasy (2% of students have tried ecstasy at least once).
• In 2019, 32% of students reported feeling sad or hopeless for more than two weeks at a time.
• In 2019, 16.6% of students seriously considered attempting suicide in the past 12 months, 13.3% made a suicide plan, and 5.5% actually attempted suicide.
• Female students are significantly more likely to experience sexual assault compared to male students. In 2019, 16% of female students experienced at least one instance of being forced to do something sexual that they did not want to do. This is compared to 2.2% of male students. Approximately half of these instances occur with someone the student is dating.
• Female students are significantly more likely to experience an eating disorder or disordered eating compared to male students. In 2019, 18.8% of female students had gone without eating for 24 hours, 7.7% had vomited or taken laxatives, and 3.4% had taken pills, powders, or liquids without a doctor’s advice to lose weight or keep from gaining weight. This is compared to 6.3%, 2.1%, and 2.3% of males, respectively.
• In 2018, approximately 180,000 babies were born to teenage girls 15 to 19 years of age. This number has decreased since 2016 due to more teens abstaining from sexual activity and an increase in teens who are sexually active using birth control.
Adverse Childhood Experiences
Traumatic childhood events such as abuse, neglect, and witnessing experiences like crime, parental conflict, mental illness, and substance use can result in long-term negative effects on physical, social, emotional, and cognitive development. Often referred to as adverse childhood experiences (ACEs), these types of events create dangerous levels of stress that can derail healthy brain development, and increase risk for smoking, alcoholism, depression, heart disease, and dozens of other illnesses and unhealthy behaviors throughout life. The three categories of ACEs include: abuse, neglect, and household dysfunction. ACEs affect children and families across all communities. They even have consequences that affect entire families, communities, and our whole society.
When youth use substances, their chances of continuing to use substances and developing substance use disorder later in life is greater. Substance use in youth can affect growth and development (especially brain development), occur more frequently with other risky behaviors (such as unprotected sex and dangerous driving), and contribute to the development of adult health issues (such heart disease, high blood pressure, and sleep disorders). Parents play a critical role in their children’s lives including their health and safety. Parents can help their children by talking to their child's pediatrician about screening for substance use, recommended by the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) to start at nine years of age.
Alcohol is the most commonly used and abused drug among youth in the United States (U.S.). According to the CDC, youth who drink alcohol are more likely to experience a variety of adverse health outcomes which can affect their school performance, physical and mental health, and brain development. In 2019, 14.7% of Greater Nashua youth reported having a drink of alcohol one or two days in the last month, and 6.4% reported drinking three to five days of the last month.
Electronic vapor products, sometimes called e-cigarettes, vapes, e-hookahs, vape pens, and electronic nicotine delivery systems (ENDS), are dangerous to the developing brain. Most e-cigarettes contain nicotine, which is highly addictive and can harm brain development. Use of Marijuana amongst youth is also harmful to development and growth. In Greater Nashua, 6.5% of students reported Marijuana use one to two days in the past month in 2017 while in 2019, 9.7% of students reported use on one to two days.
During childhood, positive mental health includes reaching developmental and emotional milestones, developing healthy social skills, and learning how to cope when issues arise. Children who are mentally healthy often have a positive quality of life and can function well at home, in school, and within their communities. Poor mental health in children is described as serious changes in the way they typically learn, behave, or handle emotions, which cause distress and problems getting through the day.
Common mental health conditions that occur in childhood include attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), anxiety, and behavior disorders. Many children occasionally deal with issues, such as fear, worry, or disruptive behaviors, but a diagnosis of a mental health condition may occur if a child's symptoms are severe and persistent, interfering with daily activities.
Suicide is a serious public health problem that can have lasting harmful effects on individuals, families, and communities. Suicide is a problem throughout the life span, affecting all ages, and is the second leading cause of death for people 10 to 34 years of age. While adolescence is a period of growth and development, it can also present youth with critical transition related to cognitive, mental, emotional, and social change. For many, this time can be challenging and lead to various mental health challenges associated with increased risk for suicide.
Academic performance can be a good indication of overall health and well-being of students. When students are happy, healthy, and are provided the resources that they need to succeed, student grades will reflect that. However, youth risk behaviors, such as physical inactivity, unhealthy dietary behaviors, and substance use, can lead to poor academic achievement.
Bullying can affect physical and emotional health, both in the short and long term, and can lead to physical injury, social and emotional problems, and even death. Children who are bullied are at increased risk for mental health disorders, long-term damage to self-esteem, substance use, academic problems, and violence. With increased access to technology, there has been an increase in online or electronic bullying, through texting and social media.
Sleep is essential for growth and development. When kids get the sleep they need, there is lower risk of adverse health outcomes, poor mental health, and learning difficulties.
The CDC recommends that kids ages 6 to 12 need 9 to 12 hours of sleep each night. Teens ages 13 to 18 need 8 to 10 hours.
As adolescence is a time for growth and development, youth may find themselves engaging in sexual risk behaviors and experiences that can result in unintended health outcomes. In the U.S., half of all new sexually transmitted infections (STIs) reported each year are among young people 15 to 24 years of age and more than 46% of sexually active high school students did not use a condom the last time they had sexual intercourse. According to the CDC, lesbian, gay, and bisexual high school students are at greater risk for serious health outcomes compared to their peers.
If you are sexually active, or planning to be, getting tested is the most important step you can take to protect your health and that of your partner.
• Talk to a healthcare provider about your sexual health. Complete any recommended course of treatment.
• Inform sexual partner(s) of any positive test results so they can get tested and properly treated.
• Don't resume sexual activities until a healthcare provider says it's okay.
Teen pregnancy and childbearing can lead to substantial social and economic costs through immediate and long-term impacts on teen parents and their children. Teen pregnancy increases the risk of health consequences, such as hypertension, pre-term birth, inadequate weight gain, and sexually transmitted infections. Social determinants of health, including African American race, rural residence, inadequate education, and low socioeconomic status, also contribute to poor pregnancy outcomes in adolescent mothers (NLIM).
By better understanding the many factors that contribute to teen pregnancy, communities can better design, implement, evaluate, and improve prevention interventions and further reduce health disparities.
Physical Activity & Nutrition
Regular physical activity for children can help them improve their cardiorespiratory fitness, build strong bones and muscles, control weight, and reduce symptoms of a variety of mental health conditions. Staying active can also reduce a youth's risk of developing health conditions including heart disease, cancer, type 2 diabetes, high blood pressure, osteoporosis, and obesity.
In the U.S., less than one-quarter of children between the ages of six to 17 participate in at least 60 minutes of physical activity each day. Living an active lifestyle does not solely depend on individual factors but is influenced by broader socioeconomic factors within a community. The conditions in which youth are born, live, and play in affect their ability to be physically active.
Eating disorders are serious conditions related to persistent eating behaviors that negatively impact health, emotions, and the ability to function in important areas of life. Eating disorders, including anorexia nervosa, bulimia nervosa, and binge-eating disorder, are bio-psycho-social diseases, not lifestyle choices made by youth. The average age of onset for eating disorders is 12 to 13 years of age, but is seen and can be diagnosed in children as young as five or six.
Injuries are the leading cause of death among children ages 19 and younger. Each year, more than 12k children between birth to 19 years of age die from unintentional injuries. More than 9.2 million children are treated in emergency departments for nonfatal injuries. Most childhood injuries are preventable, and parents and caregivers can play a large role in protecting the health and safety of children.
Many people in the U.S. live in neighborhoods with high rates of violence and other safety risks. Youth violence can be defined as the intentional use of physical force or power, threatened or actual, against another person or group that results in high likelihood of injury, death, psychological harm, mal-development, or deprivation among persons ages 10 to 24 (CHOP). Youth may experience violence in many forms as victims, offenders, or witnesses. The impact of youth violence can last long after the acute trauma, making youth violence a serious public health problem and an ACE that impacts a child's health and well being by negatively affecting brain development.
Dating violence, both in-person and electronically, affects millions of teens in the U.S. each year. Unhealthy relationships can start in youth and last through adulthood.
Many teens may not recognize some behaviors as being unhealthy, allowing them to become abusive and develop into serious forms of violence. Many teens also do not report these unhealthy behaviors because they are afraid to tell their family and friends. Some racial and ethnic minority groups are disproportionately affected by youth dating violence.
The use of verbal and non-verbal communication with the intent to harm another person mentally or emotionally and/or exert control over another person.
When a person hurts or tries to hurt a partner by hitting, kicking, or using another type of physical force.
Forcing or attempting to force a partner to take part in a sex act, sexual touching, or a non-physical sexual event when the partner does not or cannot consent.
A pattern of repeated, unwanted attention and contact by a partner causing fear or concern for one’s own safety or the safety of someone close to the victim.
Access to Care
Lack of necessary health care (including dental care and physical examinations) is a concern for kids in the GNPHR. 5.1% of American children don’t have health insurance coverage, according to the CDC, a major factor affecting access to care for kids. The State of NH funds ten community health centers and one health agency in NH through their Child Health Program to provide health care services to children in their community. Services include: helping parents enroll a child on NH Medicaid, if the child is eligible; physical exams; health screenings; immunizations; providing information on topics such as a child's growth, development, and safety; social services; and helping parents with coordinating care and getting other needed services.
Health Equity & Healthy Kids
A person's health can be seriously impacted by their race, ethnicity, gender, income level, education, and other socioeconomic factors. In regards to healthy kids...
• Children and adolescents in NH are disproportionately affected by poverty. 10.8% of NH residents under age 18 living below 100% of the federal poverty level in the previous 12 months, compared to 8.1% of individuals aged 18 to 64 years old and 6.7% of residents aged 65 and older (NH DHHS).