Local News

Latest Child Health Report Card Shows Mixed Results

Posted October 23, 2003

— North Carolina apparently has some work to do when it comes to protecting children.

In July, a child died and two others went to a hospital after being left in a hot car in Fayetteville. A new report says stories like that are too common in this state.

The ninth annual

"Child Health Report Card"

has been released, and the results are mixed.

If a child brought the same report card home to his or her parents, the student probably would get a pat on the back for effort. After all, the card shows a lot of improvement.

But the child would be grounded for getting failing grades in critical areas.

When it comes to child health, North Carolina needs to really hit the books.

Individually, most parents adore their children. But as a society, the well-being of all children has an impact on our lives.

"Children and youth are 20 percent of our population," said Tom Vitaglione, of the North Carolina Child Advocacy Institute. "But they are 100 percent of our future."


North Carolina Child Advocacy Institute

rates the state every year in areas of child health. The report card often influences legislation.

Some of the results are good: The state gets an "A" for its immunization program, an "A" for its push to insure all children, an "A" for bike safety and a "B" for car safety.

The infant death rate is the lowest ever. The state's death rate for older children is the lowest ever. The state's immunization rate is one of the best in the country. The number of children insured in the state is the highest ever recorded.

But an area in which the state received an "F" stands out -- child abuse and neglect.

State Rep. Jennifer Weiss, who is chairing a new House committee on child abuse and neglect, said prevention programs are the key to improving the state's grade in that area.

"We don't get a license to be parents," Weiss said. "Children don't come with a manual, and a lot of people are not brought up in healthy settings where they know how to be a good parent."

Part of being a good parent is keeping kids healthy. But in the area of child obesity, North Carolina received another "F."

In the area of teen smoking, North Carolina received a "D."

Child advocates hope the report card gives lawmakers something to think about next year.

In May, Weiss' committee will give North Carolina lawmakers a report on what they find, as well as suggestions.

One of those requests likely will be for more money for programs that help children. In the past couple of years, those budgets have taken a beating.

Meanwhile, the state gets an "A" for effort when it comes to reducing teen pregnancy. The rate is the lowest its ever been.

Between 2001-2002, the number dropped seven and a half percent. That means 64 pregnancies for every 1,000 teens.

The reduction marks the 12th straight year in which the number has declined. But the state still has the 14th-highest birth rate for older teens in the country.


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