- Associated Press - Tuesday, October 28, 2014

BOSTON (AP) - A new report by state health officials is showing a drop in violent crime, but continued problems with heroin overdose deaths and childhood asthma and obesity.

The study by the Massachusetts Health Council, citing the most recent FBI crime report available, said that the state’s murder rate fell by 34 percent and all violent crime fell by 4.5 percent between 2011 to 2012.

The study also confirmed the state’s struggle with heroin and opioid addiction.

According the report, there was a 10 percent increase in opioid-related deaths between 2011 and 2012, while the estimate for the 2013 fiscal year is even higher.

The report said there were 1,300 babies born with narcotics in their system last year in Massachusetts - a rate of more than 17 per 1,000 hospital births, far higher than the rate of five per 1,000 births nationally in 2012.

“The opioid crisis we raised an alarm on two years ago has continued to hit the state hard,” Massachusetts Health Council Executive Director Susan Servais said in a written statement.

The report also found rising rates of asthma among children. Rates of lifetime asthma in Massachusetts are among the highest in the country.

While Massachusetts has made some progress on childhood obesity, challenges remained.

In the 2011-2012 school year, nearly 37 percent of fourth-grade boys and 33 percent of fourth-grade girls were obese or overweight.

The report also found significant disparities in overweight and obese rates when measured by race and ethnicity.

The study found that the poverty rate in Massachusetts climbed from 10 percent in 2010 to 12 percent in 2012, with more than over 213,000 children currently living under the poverty line.

And while the state has seen overall progress fighting smoking, the use of electronic nicotine delivery systems - or e-cigarettes - has been taking off in Massachusetts.

The report also found that more than 36 percent of 18-24 year olds are binge drinkers, consuming more than four to five alcoholic drinks at one occasion in the past month. A quarter of high school students used marijuana in the last 30 days.

In good news, HIV infection diagnoses decreased by 41 percent over the past decade with deaths from HIV and AIDS falling by 34 percent, according to the report.


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