Children's Health (Pediatrics)

  • Medical Author:
    David Perlstein, MD, MBA, FAAP

    Dr. Perlstein received his Medical Degree from the University of Cincinnati and then completed his internship and residency in pediatrics at The New York Hospital, Cornell medical Center in New York City. After serving an additional year as Chief Pediatric Resident, he worked as a private practitioner and then was appointed Director of Ambulatory Pediatrics at St. Barnabas Hospital in the Bronx.

  • Medical Editor: William C. Shiel Jr., MD, FACP, FACR
    William C. Shiel Jr., MD, FACP, FACR

    William C. Shiel Jr., MD, FACP, FACR

    Dr. Shiel received a Bachelor of Science degree with honors from the University of Notre Dame. There he was involved in research in radiation biology and received the Huisking Scholarship. After graduating from St. Louis University School of Medicine, he completed his Internal Medicine residency and Rheumatology fellowship at the University of California, Irvine. He is board-certified in Internal Medicine and Rheumatology.

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Prevalence of Childhood Obesity

In the 1970s and 1980s, approximately 5% of children were obese. By 2000, over 13% were obese, and 2010 statistics indicate pediatric obesity to be leveling off at approximately 18% of the population. (In contrast, approximately 35% of adults are obese.) While the frequency of obesity appears to be leveling off, the amount of excess weight has continued to rise (for example, BMI value has risen higher per individual).

Quick GuideChildhood Illnesses: A Parenting Guide to Sick Kids

Childhood Illnesses: A Parenting Guide to Sick Kids

Introduction to children's health

Children's health, or pediatrics, focuses on the well-being of children from conception through adolescence. It is vitally concerned with all aspects of children's growth and development and with the unique opportunity that each child has to achieve their full potential as a healthy adult.

Children's health was once a part of adult medicine. It emerged in the 19th and early 20th century as a medical specialty because of the gradual awareness that the health problems of children are different from those of grown-ups. It was also recognized that a child's response to illness, medications, and the environment depends upon the age of the child.

There are many aspects to children's health. Any organization of these aspects of child health is necessarily arbitrary. For example, the topics could be presented in alphabetical order. However, it seems most logical to start at the beginning -- with the factors that determine a child's healthy growth and development.

Children's growth and development

A healthy child's development actually begins before conception with the parents' health and their genetic legacy. It continues on to conception and through the prenatal period. During this time, there is naturally considerable overlap between pediatric concerns for the fetus and obstetrical concerns for the mother.

Once the baby is delivered, there are new and important matters to ponder, such as breastfeeding, newborn screening tests, and sleeping safety. All too soon, there are health-care appointments to be kept, for example, for well-baby checkups and vaccinations. These are followed by other challenges, such as when to introduce solid foods and to start toilet training and when to see the dentist.

The field of pediatrics recognizes classic stages in growth and development, but these are artificial since a child's growth and development constitute a continuum. A baby changes at an astonishing rate during the newborn period and early infancy. Before you know it, the baby becomes a toddler, next a child and, after a little more than a decade, is already a teen. It is a busy, challenging period.

Medically Reviewed by a Doctor on 1/29/2016

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