The State of Child Wellness

Three kindergarten children. A hispanic boy wearing a red shirt, an Asian girl wearing a pink top, and a black girl wearing a green top

Three kindergarten children. A hispanic boy wearing a red shirt, an Asian girl wearing a pink top, and a black girl wearing a green topAs a pediatrician I am dedicated to the health of each individual patient.  My hope is also that my career adds up to improve the status of child health and well-being as a population.

Many of the factors that play into child health such as nutrition and safety are driven by circumstances outside the walls of my clinic. Children are particularly sensitive to the social and economic circumstances in which they live and depend on the adults in their lives for housing, food, and psychological support.  Because school performance is a key factor in a child’s overall success in life I spend a lot of time asking about academics and am attentive to key benchmarks such as reading proficiency by the end of 3rd grade, teen pregnancy and high school graduation.

So how are we doing as a nation?

This month the Annie E. Casey Foundation released it’s annual report on child well-being and provides insight into the challenges and needs of children in the United States.  The report divided child well-being into four domains: economic well-being, education, health and family and community.  Each domain was comprised of a selection of key indicators.  The report then ranked states based on those domains.

Here are a few takeaways:

* Teen birth rates are at an historic low.

* Mortality rates for children and adolescents continues to decline.

* The percent of children without health insurance has declined from 10% in 2008 to 7% in 2012.

*46% of three and four year olds are not enrolled in preschool.

* 22% of high schoolers did not graduate on time.

What about child poverty?

One of the most concerning findings in this year’s report is the rise in child poverty.  Based on the most recent data, 23% of children in the United States lived in poverty.  This is a rise from 22% in 2011 and 19% in 2005.  Child poverty has been a particular area of interest among pediatricians because of its far reaching impact on areas including physical health, mental health, educational attainment, and substance abuse.

The states that rank highest in child well-being are Massachusetts, Vermont, Iowa, New Hampshire and Minnesota rank.  Arizona, Louisiana, Nevada, New Mexico and Mississippi rank at the bottom of the list.

Take a look at the report. How is your state is doing?

Ricky Choi MD

Article written by

Ricky Y. Choi, MD, MPH is the Department Head of Pediatrics at Asian Health Services Community Health Center in Oakland, CA. He also provides primary care for those patients who speak any of ten different Asian languages and is a Co-Founder of HealthBegins, a nonprofit think-and-do tank that demonstrates how smart medicine starts upstream.

 

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