NC’s Child Health Grades Slip in 2021
Published jointly by the NC Institute of Medicine and NC Child, North Carolina’s latest Child Health Report Card gives the state high marks for children’s health coverage, but also points out some troubling trends.
North Carolina earned failing grades in several key areas, including Mental Health, Substance Use, Birth Outcomes, and Housing & Economic Security. The data sources for this release pre-date the current pandemic and associated economic downturn. However, the report card also highlights current data snapshots pertinent to children’s health, and the impact of the pandemic on children and families.
“Even before the pandemic struck, we had a long way to go to improve health outcomes for North Carolina’s children - especially some of our biggest challenges, like ensuring healthy births for families of all races and economic means,” said Kathy Colville, President and CEO of the NC Institute of Medicine. “We know our state has made great strides in areas such as children’s health insurance coverage and childhood immunizations. We want to apply the successful approaches in those areas to the other health issues facing our kids and families.”
Opportunities to Strengthen Children’s Health
“Children have the best chance of thriving and living full lives when they have access to physical and mental health care, education, adequate nourishment, safe housing, and high-quality child care,” said Michelle Hughes, executive director of NC Child. “Our state’s leaders have a responsibility to make wise policy choices that support children and families at all times – and especially in times of crisis.”
As the state legislature convenes for the 2021 “long session,” policy-makers have several opportunities to address some critical points for children’s health in North Carolina highlighted in the Report Card.
Strengthening health coverage as a crucial part of North Carolina’s public health response to COVID-19. Expanding access to affordable health coverage - for adults and children alike - is important to children’s physical, mental, and emotional health. When parents are insured, they are better able to stay healthy and care for their children. Likewise, their children are more likely to have health insurance and to use it. Hundreds of thousands of North Carolina caregivers have lost the health coverage they previously received through their employers. Without health insurance, it can be nearly impossible for parents and caregivers to get health care when they need it. Affordable health coverage has also been proven to be an important bulwark against economic hardship for families.
Preventing long-term harm to kids by investing in the programs that are proven to insulate families against the harmful effects of poverty. Programs such as Medicaid, SNAP, WIC, and high-quality early childhood education are proven to boost school success and help keep kids healthy throughout their lives.
Expanding access to broadband internet. State legislators have an opportunity to get broadband internet to the estimated 200,000 homes with students in North Carolina that still have no internet access at home. Currently, these families don’t have the wi-fi access they need for their kids to attend class remotely. Without high-speed internet, families often cannot use telehealth services, search & apply for jobs, or apply for vital benefits like Medicaid or SNAP, particularly during the pandemic.