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Number of local, uninsured children declines; other health statistics remain below state average

By Josh Bergeron

josh.bergeron@salisburypost.com

SALISBURY — Even as the number of uninsured children declines, data released Wednesday shows Rowan County still has work to do to improve the well-being of its youth.

About 95 percent of children in the county have health insurance, according to he advocacy group N.C. Child. That’s a 39 percent improvement when compared to the 2011 rate. N.C. Child, which released data for every county in the state Wednesday, attributed the improvement to expanded access to health insurance provided by Medicaid, N.C. Health Choice and the Affordable Care Act.

The number of uninsured children here is equal to the state average.

Meanwhile, Rowan County’s other child health statistics lag behind the state’s. Teen pregnancy is more common here, and local children are more commonly evaluated for abuse or neglect than elsewhere the state, according to N.C. Child data.

In a news release, N.C. Child said the insurance coverage improvements could be jeopardized by changes in federal health care law.

“The gains we have made in children’s health insurance coverage are largely a result of investing in and strengthening public health insurance programs, like Medicaid and CHIP,” said N.C. Child Research Director Laila A. Bell. “If we want to build on our past progress, the U.S. Senate must reject the cuts to Medicaid and consumer protections in the American Health Care Act.”

AHCA is the U.S. House Republicans’ plan to repeal and replace Obamacare.

The release said insurance statistics alone are not a complete picture of the state of children’s health.

“Rowan has reached an all-time high in its children’s health insurance coverage, mirroring the state and national trend,” Bell said. “While we should celebrate this achievement, we should also look closely at data regarding other factors that shape child health.”

In Rowan County, a newborn child is expected to live 75 years, which is seven years shorter than the best life expectancy in the state — in Chatham County.

About 56 percent of the county’s children live in poor or low-income homes, which can be a risk for academic and health success.

“If left unaddressed, these preventable obstacles can turn into permanent roadblocks that result in dead-ends for Rowan children’s education, development, social and emotional outcomes,” the N.C. Child news release said.

Other statistics included in the N.C. Child data include:

• 18,847 children in Rowan County are covered by public health insurance programs.

• 58.4 percent of women receive early prenatal care. The state average is 67.8 percent.

• 34.9 percent of 3- and 4-year-olds are enrolled in school. The state average is 43.3 percent.

• 55.5 percent of children live in poor or low-income homes. The state average is 48.9 percent.

• 17.8 children are born for every 1,000 girls ages 15 to 17. The state average is 10.9 percent.

N.C. Child said policymakers in Rowan County and North Carolina could improve health outcomes for children by doing the following:

• Increase health insurance access for low-income adults of reproductive age.

• Ensure children’s access to health insurance.

• Strengthen public policies to promote health equity.

Contact reporter Josh Bergeron at 704-797-4246.

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