Children's Health (Pediatrics)

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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 immunizations. 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 10/20/2014

Slideshow: Children's Health - Childhood Illnesses Every Parent Should Know
Learn how physical activity can keep your kids happy and healthy.

Physical Activity Keeps Kids Healthy

Medical Author: Melissa Conrad Stöppler, MD
Medical Editor: Barbara K. Hecht, PhD

Pediatric experts agree that moderate-to-vigorous physical activity can help keep kids healthy. In 2005, a 13-member panel of pediatric experts issued a strong recommendation that school-age children engage in a minimum of 60 minutes per day of moderate-to-vigorous physical activity, which is now the official recommendation from the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) and the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS). These agencies recommend that all children 2 years of age and older should get 60 minutes of moderate to vigorous exerciseon most, preferably all, days of the week.

This "moderate-to-vigorous" level of physical activity can be achieved by brisk walking, jumping rope, or playing basketball, soccer, or other sports.

Pediatric experts note that while children take in essentially the same number of calories as always, their amount of physical activity is drastically lower than that of children 10 to 20 years ago. The technology revolution has lead to an increase in the number of popular activities for children (such as video gaming and computer use) that do not require physical effort.

To arrive at these recommendations, members of the expert pediatric panel reviewed thousands of published research reports that examined the relationship of physical activity to children's mental and physical health.

Theoretically, 60 minutes of physical activity could be achieved by participation in school activities through a combination of daily physical-education classes, after-school sports programs, and recess activities. Unfortunately, physical education is not taken seriously by many schools or is allowed to slide when a student experiences academic difficulties.