Report shows health progress for Durham children

Feb. 27, 2014 @ 04:24 PM

Children in Durham County have seen improvement in dental care, insurance coverage and teen pregnancy since 2007, a report released this week says.

The findings by NC Child, a Raleigh-based child advocacy group, also show progress in high school graduation rates among Durham children.
Between 2007 and 2012 in Durham, the report said:
- Medicaid enrollment increased by 39.1 percent and Health Choice enrollment for children not covered by Medicaid rose 40.7 percent, which is consistent with state figures showing a 30 percent drop in uninsured children.
- Medicaid-eligible children who got dental care increased 31.9 percent for children ages 1 to 5 and 10.8 percent for children 6 to 14.
- The teen pregnancy rate fell 24.4 percent, from 40.2 per 1,000 girls ages 15 to 17 to 30.4 per 1,000.
- The high school graduation rate rose 16 percent, from 66.3 percent in the 2006-07 school year to 76.9 percent in 2011-12.
“It’s no coincidence that Durham County experienced a significant decline in its teen pregnancy rate and increase in its graduation rate over the past several years,” Laila A. Bell, director of research and data at NC Child, said. “Both of these indicators have been targeted by well-funded state efforts. This improvement should give us hope that we can make progress on big problems when we’re willing to put resources behind data-driven solutions.”
Bell expressed concern, though, that recent budget cuts by the N.C. Legislature could undermine progress made in Durham and the rest of the state.
But for the 2007-12 period, she said, it was particularly encouraging that key health indicators for Durham children improved, despite a deep recession.
“Poverty causes increased financial and emotional strains on families that often result in poorer health outcomes for children,” Bell said. “These data show that public policy actions which promote evidence-based programs and support local communities can be powerful tools to safeguard our children’s health during tough economic times.”
On the negative side, child deaths in Durham County increased from 42 in 2007 to 50 in 2012.
In addition, Durham County’s jobless rate increased from 3.8 percent to 7.6 percent during the period, and the median household income fell 4 percent to $50,889. In 2011, the most recent year for which data are available, 21.6 percent of children in Durham County lived in households that struggled to meet basic food needs.
“Statewide, one in four children are growing up in poverty,” Bell said. “Food insecurity is a very serious byproduct of poverty that’s making its presence felt in Durham County. No child should ever go to bed hungry, but unfortunately, that’s what’s happening to children across the county.”
Bell said the impact of public policy decisions are affecting communities across North Carolina.
“We know that parents and communities are working hard to grow healthy children, but they cannot do it alone,” Bell said. “Advocates, providers, community and business leaders, state and federal governments must collaborate to strengthen investments in prevention programs and promote focused public policies that promote child well-being.”
Gayle Harris, director of the Durham County Department of Public Health, said she was encouraged by the progress in key health indicators, especially teen pregnancy and graduation rates.
“These improvements are the results of many community collaborative efforts to implement policies and other evidence-based solutions,” she said. “As we celebrate these successes, we cannot ignore the inequities that exist when our data are examined by race and ethnicity. We, as a community, must address socioeconomic factors – poverty, education, housing – in order to improve everyone’s health in our community.”

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To download a copy of the report, visit http://www.ncchild.org/sites/default/files/Durham.pdf