Children’s health is the foundation for overall development and the steps toward becoming a happy, healthy adult. Consistent, preventive health care gives children the best chance to grow up to be productive adults. Conversely, poor health in childhood impacts other critical aspects of a child’s life, like school readiness and attendance, and can have lasting consequences on future health and overall well-being. With this in mind, today’s post looks at the health section of the Annie E.Casey Foundation’s National KIDS COUNT Data Book released last month. The Data Book highlights data in child well-being in 4 sections and provides a ranking to each state. Typically, our state’s children fare quite well, this year being no different with an overall ranking of 10th best state in the nation in child well-being, 3rd best in economic well-being and 11th in education.
Health is where we see the lowest ranking as a state, coming in at 26th best state in the nation in terms of health, a drop of 2 places from last year. Despite our average ranking, we have made great strides in improving the health outcomes of our children with improvements seen in all 4 indicators.
- Low-birthweight babies: 6.4% of babies born in 2013 were classified as being low-birthweight. This is an improvement from 7% in 2008.
- Children without health insurance: 5% of Nebraska kids were living without health insurance in 2013, down from 7% in 2008.
- Child and teen deaths: In 2013, 26 out of every 100,000 children or teens died. This is an improvement from 31 out of every 100,000 in 2008, but remains worse than the nation as a whole.
- Teens who abuse alcohol or drugs: 6% of teens claimed to use drugs or alcohol in 2012-13, an improvement from 8% in 2007-08.
All of these improvements are exciting and represent positive changes in policy and behavior of Nebraska’s children and adults like decreased smoking and improved nutrition, access to physical and mental health care, the gradual reduction of poverty in recent years, and public health insurance programs. With continued improvements, we hope to see our state and children moving up the rankings. We should encourage our elected officials to expand Medicaid to all those who need it and ensure that all eligible children are enrolled to improve our national ranking on health.