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Report: More N.C. Children Uninsured

Posted October 15, 2007 11:42 a.m. EDT
Updated October 15, 2007 10:54 p.m. EDT

Baby Medical

— Despite efforts to improve children's health, a growing number of North Carolina children have no health insurance, according to a state report card issued Monday.

The 2007 North Carolina Child Health Report Card, issued by Action for Children North Carolina and the North Carolina Institute of Medicine, also shows that more children and youths are overweight but fewer are smoking or getting pregnant.

More than 13 percent of children through age 18 were uninsured last year, up from 11 percent in 2001, earning the state a "D" in the report for insurance coverage. Meanwhile, the state received an "A" for adding about 230,000 children to the rolls of Medicaid or other public health insurance programs.

The report attributed the larger number of uninsured children to the continued loss of employer-based insurance for dependents.

"The progress made in children’s health in North Carolina has been slowed by some steps in the wrong direction,” Barbara Bradley, president and chief executive of Action for Children North Carolina, said in a statement. “Access to care through insurance is a critical underpinning of children’s health status.”

“While much progress has been made, more focus is needed to address the needs of children who have lost insurance coverage. The increase in the numbers of uninsured children is troubling. We need concentrated and sustained efforts in most areas to ensure our children are healthy,” Dr. Pam Silberman, president and chief executive of the North Carolina Institute of Medicine, said in the statement.

Also growing is the number of North Carolina children who are overweight, prompting a failing grade on the report card.

More than a quarter of low-income children ages 5 to 11 are overweight, up from 20 percent in 2001, the report shows. Likewise, almost 30 percent of low-income children ages 12 to 18 are overweight, up from 26 percent five years ago.

Dental care for children is another problem area for the state, according to the report. Although the number of children with untreated tooth decay declined and the number of Medicaid-eligible children receiving dental care increased, the state earned a "D" because a majority of children still receive no dental care.

Two bright spots on the report card are the decline in teen pregnancy and smoking rates.

About 35 percent of girls ages 15 to 17 became pregnant last year, down from 44 percent in 2001, earning the state a "C" on the report card. The drop reflects a national trend.

Meanwhile, about 20 percent of high school students reported smoking cigarettes, down from about 28 percent in 2001. But the state still earned a "D" in the category on the report card.

“Our children and youth must be assured the best possible health outcomes for positive development into adulthood,” Silberman said. “Adults – both collectively and individually – must make necessary investments that will assure a bright future for our state’s youngest North Carolinians.”