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KY Report Card on Kids Well-Being Mixed

December 2, 2011

JEFFERSONTOWN, Ky. - The 2011 KIDS COUNT Data Book, with measurements of the overall well-being of children in several key areas, contains both good news and bad for Kentucky.

According to Terry Brooks, executive director of Kentucky Youth Advocates, the good news is that more kids are enrolled in K-CHIP, the state health insurance program for children. Brooks credits the governor for easing the enrollment process along with other barriers to access.

"They removed some co-payment requirements, which were also a barrier – and the result of that is, Kentucky is a national success story when it comes to getting kids enrolled kids in K-CHIP."

The 21st annual Kentucky KIDS COUNT data by county also shows a decline in births to teen moms, although fewer pregnant women are receiving prenatal care and the state has experienced a rise in the number of premature, low birth-weight babies. Brooks believes state investments built around prevention produce better outcomes for families and taxpayers.

"How much less expensive would it be to work with those first-time pregnant women, than wait until they bring a low-weight, pre-term baby into the world, and then have to treat serious medical problems and then have the outcomes of that ripple for a lifetime?"

Brooks points to expectant moms smoking as the most prevalent cause of low birth-weight babies, and the state leads the nation in the percentage of pregnant women who smoke. It's a habit that often snuffs out positive futures for those kids, he adds.

"They're less likely to graduate from high school; they're more likely to have economic well-being issues, and the list just goes on and on."

The report also reveals that, with nearly a quarter of Kentucky kids are in poverty, 57 percent of them are getting dental services from the state. Access and affordability are the main barriers to oral health care - a situation that is especially true for rural areas, adds Brooks.

"What we've got to do is figure out ways – where families are having to make decisions, do I take my kid to the dentist or do I pay the utility bill – we as a state have to be ingenious and creative, and focused on providing support for those families."

More bad news: The explosion of childhood obesity in Kentucky - the number of obese preschoolers has quadrupled, and there are three times as many obese adolescents as a decade ago.

The 2011 KIDS COUNT Data Book can be found at www.kyyouth.org.

Renee Shaw, Public News Service - KY