CHILDREN’S HEALTH: Improved from 1990-1997
The well-being of children in the United States improved from 1990-1997 in six out of 10 categories, including infant mortality and teen birth rates, according to the new Kids Count report from the Annie E. Casey Foundation. The nation's infant mortality rate declined from 9.2 deaths per 1,000 live births in 1990 to 7.2 deaths in 1997. New Hampshire had the lowest infant mortality rate (4.3) in 1997, while Mississippi had the highest (10.6). At the same time, the teen birth rate dipped from 37 births per 1,000 females ages 15-17 in 1990 to 32 births per 1,000 in 1997. The lowest teen birth rate by state was 12 births per 1,000 in Vermont, and Mississippi had the highest rate with 50 births per 1,000. Children fared worse in regard to low-birthweight babies. Low-birthweight babies accounted for 7.5% of all births in 1997, an increase from 7% in 1990. Non-Hispanic blacks were the most likely to have low-birthweight babies, at 13.1%, followed by Asians and Pacific Islanders (7.2%), Native Americans (6.7%), non-Hispanic whites (6.5%) and Hispanics (6.4%). In regard to other health factors, the report notes that 25% of low-income children lacked health insurance in 1997, while 81% of two-year-olds were immunized in 1998 (Kids Count report, 6/19). Overall, Minnesota ranked first in improvements across the 10 categories, followed by New Hampshire, North Dakota, Wisconsin, Iowa and Utah (Pertman, Boston Globe, 6/20). Ralph Smith, vice president of the Annie E. Casey Foundation, said, "It's increasingly clear that things are better for most kids, and you might even say, things are better for many poor kids. But what makes this issue urgent is that there is a subset of kids for whom things are arguably worse" (Dubin, Philadelphia Inquirer, 6/20).
At the Bottom
Some of those children likely live in Louisiana, which ranked last in the foundation's survey of improvements in children's well-being. Mississippi, Arkansas, Alabama and New Mexico all ranked slightly above Louisiana. Since the foundation began releasing the annual report in 1990, Louisiana has "lingered at the bottom." Judy Watts, head of Agenda for Children in New Orleans, said that poverty is the main factor behind Louisiana's problems -- one-third of the state's children live in poverty and about half the children in New Orleans are from poor families. Partly in response to the state's lack of improvement, Louisiana Gov. Mike Foster (R) is making children's health a priority, targeting pregnant women, rural areas and poor children (Burdeau, Chicago Tribune, 6/20). To view the full report, visit http://www.aecf.org/kidscount/kc2000/.