CHILDREN’S HEALTH: Report Gives California Poor Ranking
California was "one of the worst places for children" in 1996, according to a report released in Los Angeles yesterday by the Children's Defense Fund (CDF). Twenty-six percent of children in the state lived in poverty that year, "ranking the state 42nd in the nation." Almost 19% of California children lacked health care insurance in 1996, "ranking the state 44th" on the group's report. Nationwide, the CDF said U.S. Census Bureau estimates put the number of uninsured children at 11.3 million, the "highest" level ever. Twenty percent of American children lived in poverty in 1996, "compared with 14% in 1973," the CDF said. The report also noted that "young families with children have suffered significant economic losses." Families "headed by parents younger than 30" saw their median incomes fall 33% between 1973 and 1996, "from $30,000 to less than $20,000" (AP/Sacramento Bee, 3/27). CDF founder Marian Wright Edelman said, "In a $7 trillion economy, with budget surpluses, new potential tobacco revenues and unnecessary corporate welfare and military spending, America has no excuse not to invest in the health care, child care and after-school and summer programs children need to succeed in school and to grow up safe and healthy" (CDF release, 3/26).
Signs Of Progress?
The CDF report "acknowledged progress for disabled children" and found that childhood immunization rates have increased and "rates for teen pregnancies and births have leveled off." Susanne Martinez, the director of programs and policy at CDF, said, "Our sense is that preventive programs are making a difference. More teens are delaying pregnancies and more are using contraceptives." The report also found that "gun deaths of children dropped for the first time in a decade in 1996," declining 10% overall (AP/Bee, 3/27). In the area of health care coverage, the report noted that six million children would remain uninsured even if every state took full advantage of the federal Children's Health Insurance Program.
For the 1994-96 period, 1.8 million California children (18.7%) lacked health insurance coverage. Only Arkansas, Arizona, Louisiana, Oklahoma and New Mexico had higher rates of uninsured children during these years. Wisconsin had the fewest uninsured children at 6.4%. On childhood immunizations, California ranked 32nd on the CDF list for 1996, with 76% of 19- to 35-month-old children fully immunized. Connecticut had the highest childhood immunization rate, at 87% (CDF release, 3/26).