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Survey: Arkansas 8th-Worst State for Children's Health

Health care for children in Arkansas is ranked 44th among the 50 states and the District of Columbia in a new WalletHub survey. (Getty Images)
Health care for children in Arkansas is ranked 44th among the 50 states and the District of Columbia in a new WalletHub survey. (Getty Images)
April 27, 2017

LITTLE ROCK, Ark -- This week, April 24-28, is Every Kid Healthy Week, and a new survey shows that Arkansas ranks near the bottom for the health of its children.

The report, released this week by the marketing firm WalletHub, ranked Arkansas 44th among the 50 states and District of Columbia for the overall health of its kids under age 18 - eighth worst in the country.

WalletHub analyst Jill Gonzalez said the survey examined 28 key indicators of cost, quality and access to children's health care.

"We looked at the percentage of children who are in excellent or very good health, and it's a pretty low number in Arkansas, less than 82 percent,” Gonzalez said. "Typically, that number is up at the 90th percentile, so Arkansas has the fifth-lowest rate of healthy kids."

Gonzalez said the information for the survey was taken from census and other publicly available data and is rated in three main categories: overall health and access to care; nutrition, physical activity and obesity; and oral health. She said many of the low rankings were due to a lack of state and local funding for kids' health programs.

She pointed to the state's infant mortality rate as a key indicator of children's health. Arkansas is ranked 45th in the nation.

"These are infant deaths per 1,000 live births - there are about eight of them. Again, that number is very high,” Gonzalez said. "Typically, in most states, it's around one or two. That not only speaks to the access of health care, but to the quality of health care within Arkansas."

Gonzales said another key factor, childhood obesity, is seen as an accurate barometer of a kid's chance of being healthy later in life.

"As far as the children under the age of 18 who are obese, Arkansas ranked highly here - not in a good way - ranked 46th in all 50 states, plus D.C. And this, unfortunately, is a trend that we've seen throughout the South,” she said.

Arkansas also ranks near the bottom in terms of the number of pediatricians and family doctors per capita, the percentage of children with "good or excellent" teeth, and the number of kids with access to proper dental care.

Mark Richardson, Public News Service - AR