Pandemic Health In United States - MAPS

Pandemic Health In United States

James Neuenschwander, MD, FMAPS , MD, FMAPS

We have a health crisis of pandemic proportions in the United States, and it has nothing to do with a virus. The crisis I am referring to is the catastrophic decline in pediatric health that we have witnessed in the last fifty years. In the 1960’s the rate of pediatric chronic disease in the U.S. was a bit over 10%. By 2007 (the last time these numbers were published), the rate was over 50%.[1, 2] The most serious illness rate in pediatrics (that which interferes with daily living) went from a rate of less than 2% in 1960 to over 8% in 2010.[3] According to the National Institute for Health Care Management (NIHCM), our current numbers include a 20% rate of obesity, 10% rate of asthma (16.8% for black children), over 20% of high school children with suicidal ideation, 9.2% rate of anxiety, and a 8.1% rate of depression.[4] If you compare pediatric health in the United States to the rest of world, you will find our outcomes behind Canada, all of western Europe, Japan, Australia, South Korea, and even countries like Croatia, Estonia, and Belarus. When you look at our place in international rankings, we typically are in the mid-30’s (there are 29 industrialized, rich nations).

We have made huge gains in the treatment of acute medical issues—particularly with infections and acute leukemias. The rise in chronic pediatric illness has been in four fundamental areas: asthma, neurodevelopmental issues (including autism, learning disabilities, and ADHD), mental health issues, autoimmune disorders, and obesity. What ties all these conditions together? The concepts of immune dysfunction and environmental toxicity. The immune dysfunction connection is obvious with conditions like autoimmunity and asthma. We now know that chronic (neuro) inflammation is involved with many mental health and neurodevelopmental issues including autism, ADHD, major depressive disorders, bipolar disorder, and schizophrenia. Environmental toxicity has also been linked with these disorders (including obesity) by directly impacting immune function, altering the endocrine response, and disrupting the gut microbiome.

What do we do about this problem? Based on the infographics from the NIHCM, our situation is not for the lack of doctor visits or vaccines: about 90% of children had seen their doctor in the past year and over 93% were up to date on all required vaccines. Clearly the answers to these problems lie outside of the traditional medical system that we currently have. I have always said that you don’t find health at the bottom of pill bottle or at the end of a needle—these are crisis interventions. Health is found through the basics of good nutrition, exercise, engagement with peers, and maintaining a clean environment for the child. All these things need to start with mom before she ever gets pregnant and continue through the process of breast feeding. Food should be organic, when possible, with minimal processing. Any animals or animal products should be from free range, organically raised animals. For children that have already developed conditions, I would recommend seeking out a MAPS trained practitioner. At MAPS, we delve into the true causes of illness and treat our patients at that level. By understanding the biochemistry and physiology of health, our practitioners can choose the best path forward for the patient in front of them and use all the tools that are available.

We do have a crisis of pediatric health here in the United States. Fortunately, we also have a solution called MAPS.

  • Van Cleave, J.G., SL; Perrin, JM, Dynamics of obesity and chronic helath conditions among children and youth. JAMA, 2011. 303(7): p. 623-30.
  • Bethell, C.D., et al., A national and state profile of leading health problems and health care quality for US children: key insurance disparities and across-state variations. Acad Pediatr, 2011. 11(3 Suppl): p. S22-33.
  • Perrin, J.M., L.E. Anderson, and J. Van Cleave, The rise in chronic conditions among infants, children, and youth can be met with continued health system innovations. Health Aff (Millwood), 2014. 33(12): p. 2099-105.
  • Management, N.I.f.H.C. The State of Children’s Health in the United States. Mini Infographics 2023 04/17/2023 [cited 2023 12/05/2023]; Available from: