More than 13 percent of all Dallas County children are currently without any form of health insurance, a rate nearly double that of the country as a whole, but still a slight improvement over 2011 numbers, according to a report released Tuesday by Children’s Medical Center Dallas.
The 13.6 percent rate in 2012 is an improvement over 2011’s rate of 16.3 percent, and is even more heartening when compared to 2008’s astounding 25.5 percent clip. The numbers were published in “Beyond ABC: Assessing Children’s Health in Dallas County,” an annual series providing current and historical data about the health and quality of life for children in the region. Last year’s edition concentrated on the five northern counties adjacent to Dallas — Collin, Cooke, Denton, Fannin and Grayson — while the new edition focuses exclusively on children in Dallas County.
The study addresses the health, education, economic security, and safety of the region’s children, creating a holistic look at the average child’s life and well-being. The common thread among many of Dallas County’s least-healthy children? Poverty.
“Poverty is the common factor in substandard academic achievement, exposure to crime, domestic abuse and illness, and poor health resulting from lack of access to preventive healthcare,” said Children’s Medical Center president and CEO Christopher Durovich. “We cannot allow the cascading effect of poverty to compromise the health and well-being of such large numbers of children—the next generation of Americans and our future workforce. If we shortchange these children now, the community will pay the price for it later.”
The decline in uninsured rates for children coincides with an increase in enrollment in CHIP and children’s Medicaid, which resulted from outreach programs funded through the Children’s Health Insurance Program Reauthorization Act. Similar outreach and education programs can be expected with the continuing implementation of the Affordable Care Act.
While the uninsured rate is staggering, the amount of children living below the poverty line—an already-low $23,550 or less, per year, for a family of four—was even more disheartening. According to the study, 29.5 percent of Dallas County children lived below the poverty line, a number virtually unchanged since 2010.
There is some promising news, too, Durovich reminded. More Dallas County children than ever are on Medicaid, and the percentage of uninsured children has dropped by almost 3 percent since 2011. There is a slow improvement in the percentage of two-year-olds who are fully immunized as well, and overall child mortality declined by 50 pediatric deaths since 2011.
The study wasn’t just an academic exercise, it was a chance to outline goals and actions. At a symposium Tuesday, Children’s officials laid out the following goals:
– Raise the immunization rate for Dallas County children to no less than 90 percent.
– Promote the establishment of more medical homes and neighborhood clinics.
– Encourage more widespread assessment of young children with special needs.
– Establish partnerships between schools and businesses.
– Increase the county’s stock of safe, affordable housing units.
– Encourage dual-generation early childhood education.
– Expand school meal programs.
– Increase awareness of the need for more foster homes.
– Increase the number of specialty courts handling juvenile justice cases.
“As Dallas County children go, so goes Texas, and as Texas children go, so goes the United States,” said Children’s senior VP Regina Montoya. “If we love Texas, we also need to love Texas children, as if each one of them was our own.”
Read the full report below: