Diphtheria, scurvy, rickets, rheumatic heart disease, tetanus ... these are the diseases of history that killed and maimed tens of thousands of children every year in America during the 19th and early 20th centuries. Now those of us who work in pediatrics face different, but no less serious challenges.
Back then, images of wasted babies and street urchins in tattered clothes are often conjured when the lives of children in early America are described. In the early days of modern medicine, before antibiotics, before immunizations, before sterile surgical techniques, infants and children were at the daily mercy of these scourges that harken from a Charles Dickens novel. Infectious diseases, malnutrition, accidental injuries and poor sanitation killed 10 percent of all children prior to their first birthday; with some cities having rates as high as 30 percent. As medicine advanced over the past century, there were remarkable advances that resulted in the modern rate of 0.7 percent; a drop of over 90 percent.
As medicine began to banish the "old" threats to children, there has been a growing recognition over the past several decades that today's children are confronted with a whole new set of diseases. These are not the conventional infectious, hygiene, traumatic or nutritional blights of the past, but are quite different maladies.
[For more of this story, written by Dr. Christopher Greeley, go to http://www.houstonchronicle.co...diatrics-9191342.php]