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Wyoming Ranks Near Last in Children's Health

Just 663 Wyoming children live in high-poverty areas, and teen births have dropped by 55% since 1990. (Pixabay)
Just 663 Wyoming children live in high-poverty areas, and teen births have dropped by 55% since 1990. (Pixabay)
June 18, 2019

LARAMIE, Wyo. — Wyoming ranks 49th nationally for child health, and an estimated 14,000 Wyoming kids do not have health insurance. That's according to The Annie E. Casey Foundation's 2019 Kids Count Data Book, widely viewed as the most comprehensive annual report on children in the nation.

Samin Dadelahi, chief operating officer with the Wyoming Community Foundation, said while the state has above average scores for economic well-being and education, the near-bottom ranking for health deserves a closer look from state lawmakers.

"Without a doubt, the one statistic that pulls us down, where we're double the national average, is the number of children without health insurance,” Dadelahi said. “The national average is 5%, and the number of uninsured children in Wyoming is at 10%."

Wyoming's health score was consistent with other states that have not expanded Medicaid coverage under the Affordable Care Act.

The Cowboy State ranked ninth nationally in family and community indicators, with just 5% of children living in families where the head of the household lacked a high school diploma. Wyoming ranked first in the nation for its low number of children living in high-poverty areas.

Leslie Boissiere, vice president for external affairs with The Annie E. Casey Foundation, said the report underscores the stakes of getting an accurate count in the 2020 census. She said the 2010 census missed more than 2 million children younger than age five, and more could be missed if outreach for hard-to-count families is not a priority. She said an accurate count helps states and communities make strategic investments to support families.

"That affects things such as how federal resources are allocated to states, the resources that are available for things like schools and roads and libraries. All of that is related to getting an accurate count in the census,” Boissiere said.

Fifty-five major federal programs, including Head Start and the Children's Health Insurance Program, allocate more than $880 billion each year based on census data. This year's report also noted teen births in Wyoming have declined by 55% since 1990, when the first Data Book was published.

Disclosure: Annie E Casey Foundation contributes to our fund for reporting on Children's Issues, Education, Juvenile Justice, Welfare Reform. If you would like to help support news in the public interest, click here.
Eric Galatas, Public News Service - WY