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Dual Reports Highlight Health Inequalities Among Illinois Kids

Infant mortality among Black infants in Illinois is two times the overall state rate. (AdobeStock)
Infant mortality among Black infants in Illinois is two times the overall state rate. (AdobeStock)
June 23, 2020

SPRINGFIELD, Ill. -- Dual reports featuring new data on child outcomes reveal persistent health inequalities among children in Illinois.

The 2020 Illinois KIDS COUNT report, released in conjunction with the national 2020 KIDS COUNT Data Book from the Annie E. Casey Foundation, shows that roughly 30,000 more Illinois kids were uninsured in 2018 compared with 2016.

Bill Byrnes, KIDS COUNT project manager with Voices for Illinois Children - Powered by YWCA of Metropolitan Chicago, explained there also was a higher percentage of children of color without health insurance than white children.

"When you look at the percentage of kids who are Black who are uninsured, their rate is 3.9%. For Latinx kids, it's 4.4%," Byrnes said. "And when you look at white children, by way of contrast, their rate of uninsured is 2.7%."

Other disparities uncovered in the health report include infant mortality among Black infants was two times the state rate, and blood lead levels were at their highest among Black children.

The Casey Foundation's 2020 Kids Count Data Book looks at 16 indicators of child well-being, and Illinois' overall national ranking slipped from 23rd to 24th in the last year.

Byrnes said the national Data Book examines factors long considered important social determinants of health, such as high housing cost burden, educational achievement and single-parent households. And he said economic inequalities persist.

"The rate of child poverty was 19% in 2010 and it decreased to 16% in 2018," he said. "Even though that's a good decrease, there's still in 2018, 457,000 kids in the state who live in poverty."

Byrnes contends policymakers will need to consider some of the issues outlined in the report, especially in terms of the long-term impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic. He said this includes mandating that state agencies collect data broken down by race and ethnicity and increasing the availability of community-based mental-health services.

"We would also argue that we need to provide more economic supports to children and their families whether that's in the form of direct cash payments, increases in food stamps, utility assistance, rental and mortgage assistance, and so on," he said.

The national 2020 Kids Count Data Book noted the pandemic has had a negative effect on kids, and the foundation will continue to monitor child well-being outcomes as the nation recovers.

Mary Schuermann Kuhlman, Public News Service - IL