By Natasha Robinson, MPCA Communications Specialist
More of Michigan’s children are living in poverty and families are still struggling to cover the basics, according to the latest Kids Count in Michigan Data Book.
The good news is that data did show some improvement in the state for children’s health insurance and infant mortality. More than 95 percent of children in Michigan have health insurance, one of the highest rates in the country. Nationally, an average of 8 percent of children are uninsured. Additionally, mortality rates for infants fell by 8 percent between 2005 and 2010 while the death rate for children/youth ages 1-19 declined 11 percent.
“Kids Count Data show that Michigan has more work to do to provide better economic security, health, and educational opportunities. MPCA and the 35 Health Center organizations we represent have worked diligently to make sure children in Michigan have health coverage and access to care, and we are glad to see data show more children are insured now than in the past,” said Kim Sibilsky, MPCA’s executive director. “Health Centers across the state offer medical, dental, and behavioral health care services, and their doors are open to all. Fully implementing the Affordable Care Act as it was intended will give more children and families a chance to thrive in Michigan.”
Kids Count Data also shows that the health outcomes of minority children are disproportionate to white children. For instance, black children insured by Medicaid have the highest rates of asthma and of asthma-related emergency department visits compared with other children enrolled in Medicaid, according to the 2012 Kids Count Data Book. “These dramatic differences suggest these children are not able to get the necessary preventive care or to avoid the environmental triggers,” the Data Book says. “Even more troubling, the prevalence of asthma and emergency room visits is increasing among such children.”
Ottawa, Livingston and Clinton counties were ranked the best for overall child wellbeing while Clare, Roscommon and Lake counties were the last among the 82 counties ranked. Keweenaw County was not included in the rankings because it lacked data for most indicators.
Recommendations outlined for improving the health of Michigan’s children included to advocate for policies that improve the health and well-being of children in low-income communities and communities of color, address the causes of the high teen homicide rates in black communities, and support the successful implementation of the Affordable Care Act.
“In order to help struggling families, state policymakers should restore the Michigan EITC [Earned Income Tax Credit], expand Medicaid as required under the Affordable Care Act, restore unemployment benefits, and look for ways to help families meet their basic needs,” Gilda Z. Jacobs, president & CEO of the Michigan League for Public Policy, said in a statement. “Although a recovery is under way, it has not been felt by all families. In fact, a third of working families in Michigan are low income and struggle to cover the basics — housing, food and utilities.”
The annual Data Book is released by the Kids Count in Michigan project. It is a collaboration between the Michigan League for Public Policy and Michigan’s Children. Both are nonpartisan, nonprofit advocacy organizations concerned about the well-being of children and their families.