How safe are black children in California?

“It’s okay, I’m right here with you.” These were the soft-spoken words of four-year-old Dae’Anna Reynolds, just minutes after she and her mother had witnessed the July 6 police shooting death—while sitting in the same car—of Philando Castile in Falcon Heights, Minnesota. The Castile case, along with the police shooting deaths of black children such as Michael Brown and Tamir Rice, are reminders of the disparate levels of violence faced by black children in this country.

To better understand how safe black children are in California, Kidsdata provides a wealth of relevant data, broken down by race. In multiple categories, black children consistently face the worst outcomes when compared to children of other ethnicities: black and multiracial infants under one year old are dying at a high rate and black children and youth over one year old are also dying at a high rate.

The disparity in infant mortality rates is largely attributed to perinatal conditions and sleep-related incidents, but for children over the age of one, additional factors include death from violence committed by parents/caregivers as well as by non-parents/caregivers.

In school, data on Kidsdata show that a high percentage of black students report being bullied because of their race, compared to students of other races; and a high percentage of black students report feeling unsafe at school, compared to students of other races.

Last month, Sacramento County announced a $26 million initiative to address its high rate of black child deaths. Working with the Steering Committee on Reduction of African American Child Deaths, the program’s goal is to organize community groups, engage policymakers, coordinate existing services, and push for data-driven accountability in order to reduce black child mortality by 10-20 percent by 2020.

Related Data:

Helpful Links

Understanding Racial and Ethnic Disparities in U.S. Infant Mortality Rates, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention

Black Children Die at Alarming Rate in Sacramento County, and Here’s Why, The Sacramento Bee

Steering Committee on Reduction of African American Child Deaths, Sierra Health Foundation

Racial and Ethnic Stereotypes and Bullying Victimization, Youth & Society

First Full Year of NYPD Data Shows Black Students Disproportionately Arrested at School, New York Civil Liberties Union

Kidsdata in the News

A recent Kidsdata advisory that identified high rates of pediatric cancer in Napa and Marin counties has helped lead to a special report investigating the possible causes of these high rates. The report was presented to the Napa County Board of Supervisors in June. The board is now asking for an annual report on the topic.

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Child asthma hospitalizations drop as CA’s air quality improves

The rate of asthma-related child hospitalizations in California dropped by one-third, from 16 to 11 percent, between 2001-2014, according the most recent data now available on Kidsdata. During the same time period, measurements of air quality also improved: the number of days with ozone levels that exceeded regulatory standards in California dropped by 60 percent, and the levels of Particulate Matter Concentration fell by 23 percent.

Five counties, Napa, Ventura, Imperial, Yuba, and Yolo, all saw drops of more than 50 percent in total asthma-related child hospitalizations.

Asthma is one of the most common chronic diseases among children in the U.S. and a leading cause of hospitalizations and absences from school. Environmental factors, including air pollutants, account for an estimated 30 percent of the total childhood asthma burden in California, according to a report by the Public Health Institute.

Children are more vulnerable to pollutants because they breathe more air relative to their size, compared to adults, and thus experience greater proportionate exposure to chemicals. In addition, children are at greater risk of harm from contaminants because their bodies and organs are not fully developed.

According to experts, policies that could influence asthma rates, treatment, and health consequences include ensuring that all children have adequate health care and insurance coverage for prevention and treatment of asthma. Other recommendations call for strengthening and enforcing laws and regulations limiting vehicle emissions, agricultural practices that generate dust and particulates, and industrial practices that generate air pollution.

Related Data (by State and County):

Asthma (summary)

Air Quality (summary)

Helpful Links

Air Resources Board: Asthma and Air Pollution, California Environmental Protection Agency

California Breathing, California Dept. of Public Health, Environmental Health Investigations Branch

California Environmental Health Tracking Program: Asthma

Costs of Environmental Health Conditions in California Children, Public Health Institute, California Environmental Health Tracking Program

Paying for Quality Care: Implications for Racial and Ethnic Health Disparities in Pediatric Asthma, Pediatrics

California County Asthma Profiles, California Breathing

Children’s Environmental Health Network

Creating Healthy Indoor Air Quality in Schools, U.S. Environmental Protection Agency

Health Effects of Air Pollution, California Environmental Protection Agency, Air Resources Board

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California students getting fitter with age?

According to multiple 2015 data sets now available on Kidsdata, California students are showing improved fitness outcomes as they age. First, more students are able to meet physical fitness standards as they rise between 5th, 7th, and 9th grades. In 2015, 26 percent of the state’s 5th graders met all fitness standards, compared to 33 percent of 7th graders and 38 percent of 9th graders. The upward trend was consistent across all races and ethnicities.

Second, younger students showed higher rates of obesity compared to older students. In 2015, 40 percent of 5th graders were overweight or obese, compared to 39 percent of 7th graders and 36 percent of 9th graders.

Overweight and obese children are at higher risk for a range of health problems, including heart disease, stroke, asthma, and some types of cancer; they also are more likely to stay overweight or obese as adults. In addition, children with obesity are at increased risk for joint and bone problems, sleep apnea, and social and emotional difficulties, such as stigmatization and low self-esteem.

The Physical Activity Guidelines for Americans and the American Academy of Pediatrics recommend that children and adolescents participate in moderate-to-vigorous exercise at least 60 minutes every day. However, according to a 2014 report (PDF), only about one quarter of youth nationwide get the recommended amount of exercise.

According to experts, policy options that could improve children’s physical activity include ensuring that all schools meet state physical education requirements, making school recreational facilities available for use outside of school hours, and encouraging child care and after-school programs to incorporate physical activity opportunities. Additional recommendations that would reduce childhood obesity include providing access to affordable healthful foods and beverages, and reducing access to high-calorie and sugar-sweetened drinks and foods.

Related Data (by State, County, and School District):

Physical Fitness (summary)

Weight (summary)

Helpful Links

Action for Healthy Kids

California Project LEAN

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention: Childhood Overweight and Obesity

CDC Healthy Schools, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention

Healthychildren.org: Obesity, American Academy of Pediatrics

Let’s Move! America’s Move to Raise a Healthier Generation of Kids

The Whole School, Whole Community, Whole Child Model, Journal of School Health

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Highest concentration of child hunger in CA shifts to northernmost counties

School is out, which means that child hunger is more visible as millions of low-income California children will no longer have easy access to nutritious school-provided meals. To better understand the demand for food assistance programs, Kidsdata has made available the latest food insecurity data, which show that 23 percent of California children, higher than the national average of 21 percent, lived in a food insecure household in 2014.

The geographic disparities are startling. Data show that California’s seven northernmost counties have some of the greatest need. In those counties, 26 to 32 percent of children lived in food insecure households in 2014. Just three years earlier, in 2011, the counties with the highest percentages were primarily located in the Central Valley. On the other end of the spectrum, the San Francisco Bay Area had the lowest percentages in the state, both in 2011 and 2014. In 2014, the nine Bay Area counties were home to 16 to 22 percent of children living in food insecure households.

Public food assistance programs such as the Free or Reduced Price School Meal program, Summer Food Service Program, and CalFresh provide a safety net to help ensure that low-income children get adequate nutrition to improve their physical health, behavior, school performance, and cognitive development.

Many children who are eligible for these programs do not use them. In California public schools, one-third (PDF) of the state’s low-income students miss out on free or reduced price school lunch during the school year, and two-thirds miss out on school breakfast. The numbers drop even more during the summer months. In California, less than 20 percent (PDF) of children in need access the Summer Food Service Program.

According to experts, policies and programs that could improve nutrition assistance participation, and the quality of the meals themselves, include simplifying and de-stigmatizing access to free and reduced price school meals, adopting more effective breakfast service models, and ensuring the availability of nutritious, appealing school meals and snacks without competition from unhealthy foods.

Related Data:

Helpful Links

California Food Policy Advocates

Feeding America

USDA Food and Nutrition Service: School Meals

Hunger Doesn’t Take a Vacation: Summer Nutrition Status Report (PDF), Food Research and Action Center

Promoting Food Security for All Children, American Academy of Pediatrics

The CalFresh Food Assistance Program, Public Policy Institute of California

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Higher-income students 2x more likely to meet standards for CA’s new common core tests

Higher-income California students are more than twice as likely to meet or exceed grade-level standards on California’s new standardized tests compared to their lower-income counterparts, according to the first year of published test results, which are now available to compare and visualize, by county and by district, on Kidsdata.

For the English Language Arts/Literacy (ELA) test, 64 percent of non-economically disadvantaged students met or exceeded test standards, versus 30 percent of economically disadvantaged students. For the mathematics test, 52 percent of non-economically disadvantaged students met or exceeded test standards, versus 21 percent of economically disadvantaged students. Economic disadvantage is determined by whether or not a student is eligible for the state’s free or reduced price lunch program or if neither of the student’s parents graduated from high school.

When broken down by county, the wealthier Bay Area counties tended to show the highest rates of students passing these exams, while inland, central valley and more rural counties had the lowest rates.

The Smarter Balanced ELA and math tests, which are both administered online, replaced the paper-based Standardized Testing and Reporting (STAR) program, which had been the statewide testing system since 1998. Students in grades 3-8 and high school juniors take the Smarter Balanced tests, which assess the Common Core principles of critical thinking and writing as well as real-world application.

Each state is required to test at least 95 percent of its students, both state-wide and district-wide, in order to receive federal funding. In 2015, 97 percent of California students took the Smarter Balanced tests, but 21 school districts failed to meet the threshold due to parental exemptions. In the Palo Alto Unified School District, for example, 50 percent of juniors at both of the city’s high schools opted out of the 2015 tests due to their proximity to the Advanced Placement and SAT exams.

Early intervention is critical for children who are struggling with reading and math. Limited skills in these subjects can have effects into adulthood, too, as proficiency in both reading and math is associated with better employment and income prospects.

According to experts, policy options that could improve reading and math proficiency include: ensuring that all children have access to high-quality preschool or kindergarten readiness programs, supporting strategies to involve families in school, evaluating the state’s new accountability system for effectiveness, and providing equitable student access to Common Core-aligned curricula as well as the technology needed for Smarter Balanced testing.

Related Data:

Helpful Links

Achievement Gap Points to Ineffectiveness of Decades of Reforms, EdSource

Health and Academic Achievement, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention

Student Achievement in California: 2015 California Assessment of Student Performance and Progress (CAASPP) Results, Education Trust–West

The Local Control Funding Formula: An Essential EdSource Guide (PDF), EdSource

The Power of Parents: Research Underscores the Impact of Parent Involvement in Schools, EdSource and New America Media

The Whole School, Whole Community, Whole Child Model, Journal of School Health

Time for Equity: Expanding Access to Learning, Voices in Urban Education

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Nine percent of young CA children have never seen a dentist

On the heels of the Little Hoover Commission’s scathing report on Denti-Cal, the dental health care program for 13 million low-income Californians, Kidsdata now offers the latest data on the Length of Time Since Last Dental Visit for kids in California. The data come from the California Health Interview Survey and are now available to view and visualize on Kidsdata.

The data show that in 2013-2014, nine percent of children ages 2-11 had never had a dental visit. The counties with the highest percent of young children who had never visited a dentist were San Joaquin County at 28 percent, Shasta County at 19 percent, and Fresno County at 18 percent. In over 12 additional counties, at least 10 percent of children hadn’t visited a dentist, including Santa Clara County, Sacramento County, and Los Angeles County.

Tooth decay is the most common chronic disease (PDF) among children ages 6-18. Untreated dental problems, such as cavities and gum disease, can affect a child’s health and quality of life by causing pain, nutritional and sleep problems, impaired concentration, and increased school absences, as well as lost work hours for parents. If dental disease is not treated early, it can result in more serious and expensive intervention later on.

Tooth decay and other oral diseases disproportionately affect low-income children, children of color, and uninsured children. For this reason, the federal government has set a public health goal focused on improving access to preventive dental services for low-income children. The federal Affordable Care Act (ACA) includes dental health care for children in the essential health benefits that must be covered by all qualified health insurance plans, a major step forward in ensuring access to oral health care for children.

According to experts, policy options that could influence children’s dental health include: increasing reimbursement rates for dental providers under public insurance programs, creating incentives for them to treat low-income children; increasing the number of pediatric dentists where Medi-Cal patients live; setting pediatric dental benefits under ACA at affordable rates to allow low-income families to access the services; reinstating state support for children’s dental disease prevention (PDF); and ensuring that all communities have fluoridated drinking water, as evidence suggests that it reduces cavities among children.

Related Data:

Helpful Links

Center for Oral Health

Children’s Dental Health Project

Dental Care Access for Children in California: Institutionalized Inequality, Lucile Packard Foundation for Children’s Health

Oral Health Care in CSHCN: State Medicaid Policy Considerations, Pediatrics

Racial Disparity Trends in Children’s Dental Visits: US National Health Interview Survey, 1964–2010, Pediatrics

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Kidsdata Welcomes Lori Turk-Bicakci!

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The Lucile Packard Foundation for Children’s Health is excited to welcome Lori Turk-Bicakci to the Kidsdata team as our new senior manager of data and research.

Before joining the Foundation, Dr. Turk-Bicakci was a senior researcher and project director at American Institutes for Research. She has extensive experience with project management, data collection, analysis, and reporting for social welfare and education research projects and has a particular interest in examining and diminishing disparity.

Her most recent project was a large-scale, multi-year evaluation of a law change to the California Work Responsibility and Opportunity for Kids (CalWORKs) program intended to promote self-sufficiency among families in poverty. Also, she is a certified project management professional (PMP) and a certified reviewer for What Works Clearinghouse (WWC) to assess quality of research studies.

Before her graduate studies in sociology, Dr. Turk-Bicakci was a middle school social studies teacher.

To contact Lori, you can reach her via email.

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Child Abuse Cases in CA Drop by 1/4 in Last Decade

For Child Abuse Prevention Month, we are happy to report some good news: The rate of substantiated cases of child abuse and neglect in California dropped by 25 percent between 2004-2014, according to the most recent data available on Kidsdata.

More than 80 percent of counties saw a decline in their rates of substantiated child abuse cases during this time period. Merced, Lake, Santa Cruz, and Colusa counties all saw the steepest declines. During the entire 10-year period, higher rates were concentrated in the state’s northern counties.

23 per 1,000 children in both the African American and American Indian communities experienced substantiated cases of abuse in 2014, the highest by far among ethnic groups. Rates for those two groups were also the highest in 2004. Children ages 0-5 make up nearly half of all substantiated abuse cases, but only one-third of the state’s child population. In addition, children with special needs and those in the foster care system are also at higher risk of abuse.

Children who are abused or neglected are more likely to experience cognitive, emotional, and behavioral problems, as well as disruptions in brain and physical development, which increase the risk for health problems in adulthood. Children who are abused or neglected also are more likely to repeat the cycle of violence by entering into violent relationships as teens and adults or by abusing their own children.

Beyond the impact on individuals, child abuse has a significant impact on society; the total lifetime economic cost due to new child maltreatment cases in a single year is estimated at $124 billion in the U.S.

While California has made major strides in these areas in recent years, continued efforts are needed to ensure the safety of all children. According to experts, programs that can help address child abuse/neglect include: continuing to ensure that effective prevention services are in place, including risk assessment and home-visiting services for families with children at risk of abuse; supporting policies that help reduce family stress, promote stable environments for children, and ensure that affordable child care is available; and providing an accessible system of mental health services for parents and children.

Related Data:

Helpful Links

Children and Family Services Division, California Dept. of Social Services

Office of Planning, Research & Evaluation: Abuse, Neglect, Adoption & Foster Care, U.S. Dept. of Health and Human Services, Administration for Children & Families

A Hidden Crisis: Findings on Adverse Childhood Experiences in California, Center for Youth Wellness

Cost of Child Abuse and Neglect Rival Other Major Public Health Problems, National Center for Injury Prevention and Control

Income Inequality and Child Maltreatment in the United States, Pediatrics

Subsequent Maltreatment in Children With Disabilities After an Unsubstantiated Report for Neglect, JAMA: The Journal of the American Medical Association

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Number of CA Students with Autism Rises Sixfold Since 2002

April is Autism Awareness Month, and Kidsdata has released the latest data on California’s special education enrollment for students with autism. Between 2002 and 2015, the number of public school students in California enrolled in special education due to autism has risen sixfold, from 13,276 to 90,794 students. In 2002, autism was the 6th most common disability among special education students, but by 2015, it had risen to the third most common disability.

Nationwide, the identified prevalence of autism spectrum disorder (ASD) has more than doubled from one in 150 school-aged children in 2000 to one in 68 in 2012, according to the most recent data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Has the prevalence of autism actually risen or does the upward trend reflect broadened diagnostic criteria and increased awareness of the disorder? Some researchers point to “diagnostic substitution,” meaning that a child diagnosed with autism today may have been dubbed mentally retarded in years past. It wasn’t until 1992 when the Individuals With Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) included autism as a special education reporting category. And while the causes of autism are largely a mystery, most researchers agree that both genetics and environmental factors, such as exposure to pesticides during pregnancy, may play a role.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention is stressing the importance of early identification through its “Learn the Signs. Act Early” program. In 2012, only 43 percent of children identified with ASD received developmental evaluations by the age of three. Black and Latino children tend to receive diagnoses at even older ages. By prioritizing early identification, children with ASD can access special services and support during the crucial stages of early childhood development.

Related Data:

 

Helpful Links

California Dept. of Education: Special Education

Disability Rights California

Family Voices

Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA)

Lucile Packard Foundation for Children’s Health

National Center for Learning Disabilities

Students with Disabilities and California’s Special Education Program, 2009, Public Policy Institute of California

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From the Ventura County Star to the Napa Valley Register, Kidsdata is often in the news. Keep up with the latest in children’s health news by following Kidsdata on Facebook and Twitter.

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California’s food stamp recipients rise by 123% in last decade

food stamps

Between 2006 and 2015, the number of California residents receiving food stamps rose 123 percent, from just over two million people to nearly 4.5 million people, according to the latest data on Kidsdata. That’s 12 percent of the state’s entire population. According to the California Department of Social Services, more than half of the state’s food stamp recipients are children.

Los Angeles, San Bernardino, Riverside, and San Diego counties all saw more than 200,000 additional food stamp recipients in the last decade. In Los Angeles county alone, more than half a million new recipients received benefits for food stamps during this time period.

While it’s no surprise that more Californians would sign up for food stamps during the Great Recession between 2007-2009, the question remains: Why has the number continued to rise in the five years since the recession ended? Although unemployment rates have fallen, “the historical record shows that declines in poverty and [food stamp] enrollment typically lag behind improvements in the unemployment rate following recessions,” according to an article published last week by the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities. Another major factor is that in 2008, Congress permitted states to relax their eligibility standards for the national food stamp program.

Research shows that food insecurity can seriously affect children’s cognitive and physical development. Hunger can also hinder school attendance, academic achievement, graduation rates, and job readiness.

Currently, hunger relief advocates are asking Congress to pass a strong Child Nutrition Reauthorization Act, which would provide nutritious food to children at school, in child care, and during weekends and school holidays, and to strengthen the federal Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) that provides food for 45 million low-income Americans (PDF). Other policy recommendations include making it simpler and less stigmatizing for students to access free and reduced-price school meals and ensuring the availability of nutritious, appealing foods at school meals without competition from less healthy foods.

Related Data:

Helpful Links

California Food Policy Advocates

Feeding America

Enrollment in Health and Nutrition Safety Net Programs Among California’s Children, Public Policy Institute of California

How Hungry Is America?, Food Research & Action Center

Promoting Food Security for All Children, Pediatrics, American Academy of Pediatrics Council on Community Pediatrics, Committee on Nutrition

Nutrition & Food Insecurity Profiles, California Food Policy Advocates

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