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2014 National Kids Count Series: Health

Last month the Annie E. Casey Foundation released the 2014 KIDS COUNT Data Book highlighting state trends in child well-being and celebrating their 25th edition of the book by going back to 1990 and looking at changes in America’s children since then. Voices for Children in Nebraska is featuring a series on the data book and how Nebraska did this year in relation to ourselves from past years as well as other states in the nation. Typically, Nebraska fares quite well in the report with rankings near the top every year, and 2014 was no different. This year our state ranked number 10, meaning that children in Nebraska have higher measures of well-being than 80% of states in the U.S. So far in this series we have investigated Nebraska’s rankings in economic well-being and education. This post will go more into the health rankings and indicators.

Interestingly, Nebraska showed improvements in each of the 4 health indicators from pre-recession years, but our overall rankings compared to other states in the country dropped significantly. This year we barely made the top half of states with a ranking in 24th place, this compared to last year’s 10th place ranking is quite troubling. When looking at this year’s and last year’s scores we see that the data really did not change much between the 2 years. We improved from last year in one indicator – % of low birthweight babies, and slightly worsened in another – % of teens who abuse alcohol or drugs. Neither of the changes were dramatic. Our data in health this year looks as follows:

  • Low-birthweight babies: 6.7% of babies born in 2012 were classified as being low-birthweight. This is an improvement from 7% in 2005.
  • Children without health insurance: 6% of Nebraska kids were living without health insurance in 2012, down from 7% in 2008.
  • Child and teen deaths: In 2010, 27 out of every 100,000 children or teens died. This is an improvement from 34 out of every 100,00 in 2005, but is one of 2 indicators that Nebraska actually does worse in than the nation as a whole.
  • Teens who abuse alcohol or drugs: 7% of teens claimed to use drugs or alcohol in 2011-12, an improvement from 9% in 2005-06. This is the second indicator that Nebraska does worse than the national average of  6% of teens.

We at Voices for Children are very happy to see these improvements in the health of Nebraska children, but are troubled by the overall worsening and below national average scores. While none of the data changed much in the last year, or even since pre-recession, we are left wondering why our rankings worsened so much this year from last. Based on the numbers and the rankings we believe that while Nebraska is improving in regards to child health, other states are improving faster. The strides that other states are making can be used by Nebraska to make comparable changes for the kids in our state. Voices will continue to investigate what we can do better to ensure a healthy and safe childhood for all Nebraska children.

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