The most recent data report cards for North Carolina and Orange County regarding child health were released by NC Child and show children’s health insurance coverage in the state at an all time high with 96 percent coverage as of 2016.
Deputy Director for NC Child, Rob Thompson, said the most positive significant takeaway for Orange County was the financial security percentage.
“I think one area that Orange County is doing really well is in terms of finance, family financial security in Orange County is far above state averages. If you just look at children living poor low income homes, in Orange County it’s about 29 percent, statewide it’s closer to 50 percent. So that’s a really good thing, children are going to thrive if that’s the case,” Thompson said. “But yeah I think that babies born a low birth weight I think that’s a little bit of a troubling indicator.”
In 2016, 8.9 percent of babies were born at a low birth weight in the county.
Thompson said the overwhelming problem when it comes to children’s health is the “nefarious and persistent influence of childhood poverty.”
“In our state about half of all children come from poor or near poor homes, which is under 200 percent of the federal poverty line, and children from those homes are much less likely to be healthy than children who are from more affluent homes,” said Thompson.
Thomson said they are now seeing that health is really impacted by things that happen outside of a doctor’s office or clinical setting.
“In low income communities we see there’s a lot more stress on families, they don’t have access to healthy food and they don’t have access to built environments where play and play and exercise are easily accessible,” Thompson said.
Additionally, Thomson called the attempted suicide statistic for the state “always shockingly high” and said he thinks it’s a testament to the need for greater mental health services currently available in the state both outside and inside the school setting.
Based on the report, one in 10 high school students attempted suicide in the year and suicide is the 2nd leading cause of death for teens aged 15-19 in North Carolina.
Thompson said to make progress, the state should close the health care gap.
“One thing the state can do right now is expand Medicaid, or close the health care gap, however you want to term it, as we have the ability to do under the Affordable Care Act,” Thomson said. “The money is there, the money is going to come from the federal government, it’s already been allocated, and it’s just an opportunity we’re leaving on the table right now.”
To view the full report card and county data cards visit NC Child’s website.