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From Action for Children North Carolina, shared  Nov. 3:

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RALEIGH — The 2011 Child Health Report Card, issued jointly by Action for Children North Carolina and the North Carolina Institute of Medicine, finds infant mortality in North Carolina has dropped to 7 per 1,000 live births — an all-time low for the state.

This is the 17th annual release of the report card, which monitors progress for North Carolina’s 2.3 million children on 14 measures of health and safety, including access to care, preventive health, risk behaviors, and death and injury.  These data reflect the period before recent budget cuts to Medicaid and key prevention and intervention programs were made.

“Improvements in North Carolina’s infant mortality provide a clear cause for celebration,” said Barb Bradley, President and CEO of Action for Children North Carolina, a statewide research and advocacy organization that promotes child well-being. “These gains reflect improvements in maternal and child health and are the direct result of multiple investments made by the North Carolina General Assembly and the sustained efforts of the North Carolina Department of Health and Human Services, the Child Fatality Task Force and nonprofit partners like the March of Dimes.”

Highlights from the 2011 Child Health Report Card include:

  • The proportion of children living in poverty increased for the second consecutive year. One in four children in North Carolina now live in a family earning less than the poverty guideline, a significant challenge for child well-being.
  • Despite a continuing decline in employer-sponsored health insurance, overall coverage rates among children were bolstered by expansions in Medicaid and Health Choice. One in nine children in North Carolina lacks health insurance coverage.
  • North Carolina continues to lags behind the nation in the initiation and duration of breastfeeding, a practice that has the potential to reduce both morbidity and mortality among infants.
  • The percent of children hospitalized for asthma continues to decline as service enhancements mean more children are being identified earlier and their care is being managed more effectively.

Recent budget cuts to the state’s nationally-recognized early invention program and other programs jeopardize hard-won gains in child health. “North Carolina succeeds in bringing dental care to more than half of all Medicaid-enrolled children,” said Pam Silberman, President of the North Carolina Institute of Medicine. “We need to ensure that changes in public policy do not impair access to dental care.” Tooth decay is the most common childhood disease. Research has linked early periodontal disease to reduced outcomes for children, including increased morbidity, more missed school time and reduced academic performance.

As North Carolina faces daunting economic challenges and a sluggish recovery, both Bradley and Silberman stress the importance of prioritizing child health. “These data show important gains have been made because of past efforts to improve the health and safety of children in our state,” said Silberman. “To protect these gains, and avoid declines in the future, it is critical that state health, policy, business and community leaders continue to pursue a vision of healthy, safe children.”

More Data on the Horizon

Action for Children North Carolina will release county-level data cards to supplement the Child Health Report Card once indicators for which new data were unavailable at the time of publication have been updated.  To view data for other indicators of health and safety for children in your community, visit the North Carolina state profile on the KIDS COUNT Data Center at datacenter.kidscount.org.

Visit www.ncchild.org to read the 2011 Child Health Report Card.

Action for Children North Carolina is a leading statewide, nonpartisan, nonprofit policy research and advocacy organization dedicated to ensuring that North Carolina children are healthy, safe, well-educated and have every opportunity for success. For more information, visit www.ncchild.org.

The North Carolina Institute of Medicine (NCIOM) is an independent, quasi-state agency that was chartered by the North Carolina General Assembly in 1983 to provide balanced, non-partisan information on issues of relevance to the health of North Carolina’s population. The NCIOM convenes task forces of knowledgeable and interested individuals to study complex health issues facing the state in order to develop workable solutions to address these issues. For more information, visit www.nciom.org.

Kathleen O'Nan

Kathleen O'Nan is a contributing reporter to Carolina Public Press.

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