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AZ Slips Slightly in Kids Count Ranking

July 28, 2009

PHOENIX, Ariz. - The annual Kids Count report card puts Arizona 40th among the states for the well-being of its children, down one spot from last year. Children's Action Alliance president Dana Naimark says the report from the Annie E. Casey Foundation gives the state especially low marks for child and teen death rates.

"Arizona is tied with the highest teen death rate in the country, which is certainly very disturbing and frightening. And that was primarily a surge in deaths from car accidents and also homicides."

On the positive side, Naimark says, Arizona's rates for child poverty, teenage births and high school dropouts have all improved remarkably, but not enough to pull the state out of the bottom ten nationally in those areas.

Child and teen deaths, dropout and poverty rates are significantly worse in rural Arizona. Naimark says communities need to work together to overcome the effects of lower wages and higher unemployment.

"They need to focus not only on economic development, but also educational access for youth and access to health care. All of those things really work together to keep kids safe and also show them a vision for their future."

Arizona remains 46th in the nation for percentage of children without health insurance, but Naimark says that ranking covers up a lot of progress.

"Obviously, it's bad news that we still have so many uninsured kids. On the other hand, we have seen great improvement, thanks to our effective KidsCare coverage for children and working families combined with AHCCCS."

Naimark says the challenge now is to protect those programs from budget cuts as state lawmakers and the governor continue talks over a shortfall estimated at 2.6 billion dollars.

The Kids Count Data Book will be available online Tuesday morning at
datacenter.kidscount.org

Doug Ramsey, Public News Service - AZ