State Child Well-Being Ranking At Bottom
By COSHANDRA DILLARD
According to The Children's Campaign Report: 2009 Update, Texas is trailing the nation in several child-wellness indicators.
Released Tuesday, the report was published by Texans Care for Children, a network of nonprofit organizations that advocate the well-being of Texas children, and is a collection of data from the U.S. Census Bureau, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and the Center for Public Policy Priorities and others.
The report concluded that Texas ranks last in high school completion and health insurance coverage for children and near the bottom for teen births and child deaths from abuse and neglect. In addition, the state's infant mortality rate has spiked, going from being ranked ninth in the nation to 21st in just five years.
However, in Smith County, most indicators fare better than the state's.
The infant mortality rate in the county (6.9 percent) has decreased by more than 3 percent since 2000. Child poverty, high school completion, teen births and confirmed cases of abuse and neglect are at or above the state average.
Smith County Public Health Authority Dr. Jonathan MacClements said he is pleased to see that Smith County is improving in regards to the well-being of children, particularly with the infant mortality rate.
"One of the key factors that indicate how well a community is doing is by looking at the infant mortality," he said. "Our rate is going down, and that attests to the quality of health care in Smith County."
As for the low ranking for uninsured children, MacClements said initiatives to enroll more children in health insurance programs recently were established to address the issue.
Stephanie Taylor, Northeast Texas Public Health District community outreach director, said from 2005 to 2008, the county experienced about a 9 percent increase in Medicaid and Children's Health Insurance Program enrollment -- an improvement that is not reflected in the most recent CPPP report.
NETPHD's community outreach and assistance program was developed in 2006. In the program's first year, they reached more then 22,000 potential recipients in Smith County.
With the use of a grant obtained from the Texas Department of Health and Human Services, NETPHD assists clients with Medicaid and CHIP applications, partners with organizations and educates the community about state services at events, Ms. Taylor said.
"This program is to help boost that enrollment in Smith County," she said. "We are always trying to seek out any community outreach event. We're always looking at different media resources, going to schools ΓΆΒ?Β» we do as much as we can to get the information out there."
Ms. Taylor noted that the reason for the large number of uninsured Texas children could be attributed to a concentrated illegal immigrant population that is not eligible for state health insurance.
Despite the low rankings, there have been some improvements statewide. Texas went from ranking 46th to 9th in the collection of child support. For the administration of vaccinations, it has jumped to 22nd from being last in the nation.
Other wellness indicators included in the report are child poverty, food security, low birth rate, pre-K availability and public spending on mental health, among others.
For more information or details in the Texans for Children report, visit www.texanscareforchildren.org