New NC Child Health Report Card: Improvements In Parents’ Health and Insurance Needed To Help Kids

2016_CHRC--Select highlightsNorth Carolina’s latest child health report card tracking 40 areas of child health, shows progress in some areas while others lag behind.  The report card is issued annually by the North Carolina Institute of Medicine (NCIOM) and NC Child, and reports on such health concerns and risk factors as asthma, teen births, infant mortality, and child deaths from a variety of causes. 

Areas of improvement include hospitalization rates for asthma, (receiving a grade of “A”), and insurance coverage, teen births, immunization rates and dental health, which got grades of “B.”  Areas getting a “D” include school health, weight and physical activity, tobacco use, and mental health, alcohol and substance abuse. Birth outcomes, including the state infant death rate, which has not improved since 2010, received a “C.”

Report authors highlighted the need to improve the health of parents as an important strategy for addressing some of the most difficult health problems facing children. Currently, 17.4 percent of all parents statewide (324,000) lack health insurance.

“It’s a simple concept—you can’t separate the future of children from the realities of the families they grow up with,” said Dr. Adam Zolotor, president and chief executive officer of the NCIOM.“Healthy children come from healthy families.”

 The uninsurance rate for children reached an all-time low of 5.2 percent in 2014, but the high rate of uninsured parents restricted additional gains. 119,000 children remain uninsured statewide. Two-thirds of uninsured children are eligible for either Medicaid or NC Health Choice, but not enrolled. 

Having health insurance allows children and their parents to receive preventive care like check-ups, immunizations, and dental cleanings, which can prevent chronic diseases and have a long-term impact on not only their health, but also their education and economic status.  

The Report Card also found that one in 10 babies are born to mothers who smoke, a health risk that often predates pregnancy. Children of parents who smoke have worse birth outcomes, get sick more often, and are more likely to smoke themselves. Parents’ eating behaviors and levels of physical activity also significantly impact those of their children.

“Parental influences on child health begin before conception and continue throughout their lifetime,” said Zolotor. “While North Carolina has made gains in many areas of child health, more attention needs to be given to the significant impact that improving the health of parents would have on children’s health.”

About the Report Card

For 20 years, the North Carolina Child Health Report Card has monitored the health and safety of children and youth in our state. The report compiles more than 40 indicators of child health and safety into one easy-to-read document that helps policymakers, health professionals, the media, and concerned citizens track children’s health outcomes, identify emerging trends, and plan future investments. The report card presents data for the most current year available, usually 2014, and a comparison year, or benchmark, usually 2010.