A new Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) report estimates the number of U.S. kids with attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) as well as the number being medicated. It also reveals disparities in diagnosis and treatment across sex, geographic, cultural and socioeconomic lines. The report is the first of its kind, said CDC epidemiologist and lead author Susanna Visser. "Previous studies hadn't been generalizable to the nation."

Stand Up and Be Counted Nearly 8 percent (4.4 million) of children ages 4 to 17 have been diagnosed with ADHD. Fifty-six percent of those diagnosed are taking medication. (Other forms of treatment were not reported.) The numbers come from the 2003 National Survey of Children's Health (NSCH), a telephone survey covering both physical and mental health.

Equal Opportunity Disorder? Hispanic children were half as likely to have received a diagnosis of ADHD as non-Hispanics. Kids in homes where English is the primary language were five times more likely to have been diagnosed and 15 times more likely to be on medication than those in non-English-speaking households. Uninsured kids were also less likely to be diagnosed and treated. "That's a large issue," said Visser. "We need to investigate the socio-demographic disparities in the report."

Girls Against Boys Boys are 2.5 times more likely than girls to have been diagnosed. That doesn't necessarily mean that few girls have the disorder. Unlike boys, girls with ADHD are less likely to be hyperactive. Because "they are not turning their desks over, girls tend to be overlooked," said Adelaide Robb, a child psychiatrist at Children's National Medical Center, who did not work on the report.

Crossing State Lines Approximately 6 percent of D.C. kids have been diagnosed with ADHD, compared with about 9 percent of kids in Maryland and Virginia. In all three jurisdictions, about half of those kids are taking meds. "The report is important because we'd only seen snippets from smaller studies and areas," said Robb. It also raises concerns, he added: "Is everybody who needs help getting help?"

-- Matt McMillen