Florida is faring poorly on economic factors that influence child poverty, but key health indicators -- from low-birthweight babies to child health insurance rates and teens who abuse drugs and alcohol – have improved, according to the latest Kids Count report from the Annie E. Casey Foundation.
While Florida was ranked 37th in overall child well-being, the state showed improvement in measures of health over a five-year period from 2008 to 2013:
· Low-birthweight babies: 8.5 percent in 2013; 8.8 percent in 2008
· Children without health insurance: 11 percent in 2013; 18 percent in 2008
· Child and teen deaths per 100,000: 25 in 2013; 31 in 2008
· Teens who abuse alcohol or drugs: 6 percent in 2012-13; 7 percent in 2007-08
“I would say that while we do have some bright spots, in terms of teen deaths, improvement in the teen birth rate, I think there needs to be continued effort to give these children access to health care,” said Dr. Norin Dollard, who co-directs Florida KIDS COUNT at the University of South Florida in Tampa. “We are improving in terms of getting kids health insurance. We still need to maximize the public sources of insurance.”
A look of the type of health insurance Florida children are enrolled in showed about 40 percent in 2011 had coverage through a parent’s employer, while 32 percent had Medicaid, CHIP (Florida KidCare and Florida Healthy Kids) or another type of public coverage.
Nationwide, 7 percent of children lacked health insurance in 2013, while in Florida, it was 11 percent, according to the report.
Dollard said it’s difficult to point to one issue that needs to be fixed first, as all of the indicators work together to impact child well-being. She noted that the factors that have done the most to influence Florida’s lower ranking are the economic well-being indicators, including children in poverty (24 percent) and those whose parents lack secure employment (33 percent).
"We still have substantial proportions of parents who do not have a steady employment income, and not only…steady employment, but having the types of jobs that bring in adequate income and that would provide that health insurance component as well,” Dollard said.
While there is new job growth occurring at all wage levels, the reports says, the growth is disproportionate in low-wage sectors.
“Those lower-income jobs, there’s not first of all the economic support to give kids the kind of chances that we want,” Dollard said. “But they also are the jobs that don’t come with insurance.”
In the family and community category, the report notes a dramatic decline in teen births, both nationwide (from 40 per 1,000 in 2008 to 26 per 1,000 in 2013) and in Florida (from 40 per 1,000 in 2008 to 25 per 1,000 in 2013).
“It’s actually been cut in half in about the last 20 years. It’s the lowest rate on record for as long as we’ve been tracking the teen birth rates,” said Laura Speer, associate director of policy reform and advocacy with the Casey Foundation.
“We know that young people are choosing to abstain from having sexual intercourse for longer. They’re waiting until their adults … and when they do, they’re more likely to use birth control, so it really is kind of a combination of abstinence and the use of birth control,” she said.
The Kids Count has been ranking states on measures of child well-being since 1990.