By Any Measure, Many California Children Still Live in Poverty

poverty The percentage of California children living in poverty remains high – even as the nation continues to recover from the recession. Two measures used by the federal government to assess poverty among American families, the Federal Poverty Level and the more state-specific Supplemental Poverty Measure, indicate that a quarter of the state’s children remain in poverty. A third measure suggests the numbers are even higher.

The Federal Poverty Level (FPL) for a family of two adults and two children in 2012 was $23,283. Using this standard, about 24% of California children lived in poverty that year, up from about 17% in 2007. The FPL is based on the basic food budget a family needs to meet minimum nutritional requirements but does not take into account other expenses like housing.

To address this limitation, the Census Bureau created the Supplemental Poverty Measure (SPM). Unlike the FPL, the SPM takes into account regional differences in the cost of living (e.g., differences in the cost of food, clothing, shelter, utilities, etc.) and the benefits provided to needy families. According to the SPM, about 27% of California children lived in poverty in 2012, up from 25% in 2009.

The Supplemental Poverty Measure is only available at the state and national level, however. To assess the local situation, experts created Self-Sufficiency Standards for every California county. These standards calculate the estimated amount of money a family needs to adequately meet all its basic needs without public or private assistance.

On average, these standards are more than double the Federal Poverty Level. For example, the average California Self-Sufficiency Standard for two adults, one preschooler, and one school-aged child is $63,979. Reflecting California’s relatively high cost of living, more than half of families had incomes below the Self-Sufficiency Standard for their county in 2012.

Read more about child poverty in California, including policy implications>>

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Data in Your Pocket: Goes Mobile

Have you ever been in a meeting and needed quick access to info about kids in California? Good news! is now easier to use when you’re on the go: Our data are optimized for mobile devices.

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Your smartphone is perfect for looking up fast facts on children’s health and well-being in California. Just navigate to (you might even want to bookmark it) to find what you’re seeking.

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If you have questions about using the mobile version of, please contact us at



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National Public Health Week: How California’s Children are Faring

Girls to be vaccinated

As National Public Health Week gets under way today, it’s a good time to examine how California’s kids are faring on some classic public health measures, including immunizations, exposure to lead and teen birth rates.

Here’s a sampling of public health indicators from


California children are required to get several immunizations before entering kindergarten. In 2013, 9 out of 10 California kindergartners received all required immunizations before starting school, but a rise in families using “personal belief exemptions” to avoid some or all required vaccines has public health officials concerned.
See data by county:

Kindergartners with All Required Immunizations

Kindergartners with Immunization Exemptions


Exposure to lead has been linked to lower IQ, behavioral problems and other health problems in children. In 2011, 2,156 children/youth in California ages 0-20 (0.3% of all children tested) were found to have elevated levels of lead in their blood, down from 0.6% in 2007. While elevated blood lead levels are defined as 9.5 micrograms per deciliter or more, most public health officials agree that there is no safe level of exposure to lead. Not all children in the state are tested for lead exposure, however, and the available data may understate lead exposure.

See data by county: Children/Youth with Elevated Blood Lead Levels, by Age


In what’s widely regarded as a public health success story, teen births have declined sharply in both California and the U.S., although racial disparities remain. The teen birth rate in California decreased by 59% between 1995 and 2012, from 62.9 to 25.7 per 1,000 young women ages 15-19.

See data by county:

Teen Births by Age of Mother

Teen Births by Race/Ethnicity


Be sure to take a look at these other public health indicators, too!

Air Quality: Annual Average Particulate Matter Concentration

Infant Mortality Rate

Students Who Are at a Healthy Weight or Underweight, by Grade Level

Breastfeeding of Newborns, by Breastfeeding Status

Children Drinking One or More Sugar-Sweetened Beverages Per Day

Children Who Ate Fast Food Two or More Times in the Past Week, by Age Group

Children Who Eat Five or More Servings of Fruits/Vegetables Daily, by Age Group

Sexually Transmitted Infections

Water Quality Violations, by Violation Type

Infants Whose Mothers Received Prenatal Care in the First Trimester

Posted by Barbara Feder Ostrov

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Tutorial Videos: Get the Most Out of the New’s updated look and new features make it easier than ever to find and use data about the health and well-being of children. If you’re new to the site, or just need a refresher, here are some (short!) video tutorials on how to get the most out of Each runs less than three minutes, so you’ll be able to learn new skills fast. Overview: Learn the basics of what kidsdata offers and how to navigate the site.

Finding Data by Topic: Discover several techniques to search for data about topics ranging from physical health to educational achievement to emotional well-being.

Finding Data by Region and Demographic Group: Explore how to find data by county, school district, city, legislative district, age range, racial and ethnic categories, and more.

Customizing Data: Find out how to create data visualizations including trend charts, bar graphs and maps, and tailor them to meet your needs.

Downloading and Sharing Data: See various ways to download large data sets, share data visualizations through social media, and embed charts and graphs on your website or in your blog post.

Having Trouble Finding What You’re Looking For? Learn how use search features and navigation menus to find the data you need.

E-alerts and Kidsdata Newsletter
: Check out how to sign up for data alerts tailored to your interests, along with our newsletter.

Questions? Contact us at or see our Help page.

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New Study: The ‘Hidden Health Care System’ in California Schools and Children with Special Health Care Needs


The recent controversy over who is permitted to administer diabetes injections to children in school underscores a larger issue: Health services for California students with special health care needs vary greatly by school district, are provided by a variety of school staff, operate under a confusing patchwork of regulations, and are often underfunded, according to a new study.

See preliminary findings from the study>>

Researchers from California State University-Sacramento’s School of Nursing analyzed 2011-2012 state education data, interviewed school education experts, and conducted a large-scale survey of certified school nurses who are members of the California School Nurses Association. The research, which will be presented today at the California School Nurses Association conference in Sacramento, was funded by the Lucile Packard Foundation for Children’s Health.

California is home to an estimated 1.4 million children with chronic health issues, ranging from mild to life-threatening. About 16% of 6-to-11 year-olds and 20% of 12-to-17 year-olds have a special health care need that may require additional health services at school to allow for their full participation.

Among the study’s findings:

  • 57% of California public school districts report having no school nurse personnel. These districts serve about 1.2 million students, about 20 percent of all public school students in the state.
  • School nurse responsibilities have become more complex, including inserting urinary catheters, helping children with their feeding tubes, changing ostomy bags, monitoring oxygen tubes, testing blood sugar, and administering anti-seizure medication.
  • Unlicensed school staffers provide sometimes complex medical care in the absence of school nurses. While many staffers are trained by nurses, there is little statewide regulation or monitoring of their training.
  • Children with special health care needs aren’t always identified by school staff and may not receive services that could help them stay and succeed in school.

“California has very weak requirements governing school health and provides little data or guidance for school nurses and administrators to manage the care of children with special health care needs,” said the study’s lead author Dian Baker, a pediatric nurse practitioner and associate professor of nursing at CSU-Sacramento. “We can do better.”

See student-to-school nurse ratios by county>>

California has the largest population of children with special health care needs of any state. The federal Education for All Handicapped Children Act (1975), as amended in the Individuals with Disabilities Act (2004), was designed to ensure that children with disabilities have the opportunity to receive a free appropriate public education.

The study’s authors recommend several statewide policies and local practices that could help improve the hidden health system in California schools, not just for children with special health care needs, but for all students.

  • Require systematic data collection and reporting systems in school districts to identify and serve children with special health care needs, and to monitor their health and educational outcomes.
  • Require that all personnel delivering health services in schools receive mandatory training, including first aid, CPR and procedures needed to serve specific children in each school.
  • Require that funds generated through Medi-Cal Administrative Claiming be earmarked to support school health services in the same manner as are Local Education Agency funds.


Posted by Barbara Feder Ostrov

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ARCHIVED WEBINAR: The New Putting Data to Work for California Children

If you missed our February webinar on how to use after our recent redesign, the recording is now available!

The webinar covers how to find the data you need, tailor the data format for your needs, export data for analysis, and communicate your data in reports, presentations, proposals, social media and more.

Questions? Email us at To sign up for announcements of upcoming webinars, data alerts and other news from, click here.

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Updated AAP Policy on Retail Clinics: A Wake Up Call for Pediatricians

Doctor giving girl checkup in doctor office

The American Academy of Pediatrics’ recently updated policy statement opposing retail clinics for children’s health care drew a surprising amount of attention this week.

While the AAP characterized the clinics as providing fragmented care at odds with the ideals of coordinated care and the medical home, some observers saw the statement as an effort by pediatricians to protect their turf. The AAP has long opposed the rise of retail clinics, which are open late, don’t require appointments and post their prices up front.

In an editorial published in JAMA Pediatrics last year, Dr. Edward Schor, senior vice president of the Lucile Packard Foundation for Children’s Health, urged his fellow pediatricians to embrace some of the customer-focused practices that have made retail clinics so successful.

To improve the care experience for busy families, pediatricians who haven’t already done so should consider expanded office hours and after-hours care, same-day and walk-in appointments, co-location of frequently used services, and transparent pricing, Schor noted.

“Families are sending a clear message to pediatric practices through their use of RBCs (retail-based clinics). Although they appreciate the array of services available from their pediatrician, they value convenience and low cost and see no apparent difference between a pediatric practice and an RBC in quality of care for minor illnesses,” Schor wrote.

Read the editorial.

Related Content

Docs Oppose Retail-Based Clinics For Kids’ Care, USA Today

AAP Principles Concerning Retail-Based Clinics

Medical Home: What’s in a Name?

Toward a “Triple Aim Medical Home” for Children with Special Health Care Needs

Aiming for Change: Achieving Triple Aim Goals in Pediatricians’ Practices

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National Children’s Dental Health Month: For Some California Kids, Dental Care Remains Elusive


As National Children’s Dental Health Month winds down, we’re highlighting a number of developments relating to children’s oral health and access to dental care.

In recent news, Covered California, the state’s health insurance exchange, will require children’s health plans available on the exchange to include pediatric dental coverage starting in 2015. Also, dental coverage for adults, which often has an impact on whether their children receive regular dental care, will be partially restored under Denti-Cal beginning May 1.

The Children’s Dental Health Project and Families USA have just released a new consumer guide for parents trying to evaluate dental coverage on the exchanges in California and nationwide.

And the Lucile Packard Foundation for Children’s Health has published a new issue brief, Dental Care Access for Children in California: Institutionalized Inequality, that examines shortcomings in the state’s social safety net of publicly funded health care services related to dental care.

So how are California children faring when it comes to getting the dental care they need? That all depends on their income, insurance status, race/ethnicity and where they live.

While an estimated 73% of California children ages 2-11 and 78% of youths ages 12-17 had a dental visit in the past six months, approximately 10% of children between the ages of 2-11 had never had a dental visit. Some counties reported that more than one-fifth of children have never been to the dentist by the age of 11, according to 2011-12 data from

Tooth decay is the most common chronic disease among children ages 6-18, and cavities among even younger children are on the rise, according to a new report from the American Academy of Pediatric Dentistry. Tooth decay and other oral diseases disproportionately affect low-income children, children of color, and the uninsured; these children are less likely to receive routine dental check-ups. The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends dental visits every six months.

Regular dental care is one of the best forms of prevention available, so it is important that all kids have ready access to high quality, affordable dental care.

For more information about dental care in California, see these measures on

Length of Time Since Last Dental Visit

By County

Unmet Needs for Preventive Dental Care Among Children with Special Health Care Needs


More Resources:

Children’s Partnership

National Children’s Dental Health Month

California HealthCare Foundation: Dental Health

Center for Oral Health

Children’s Dental Health Project


Photo credit: Dillweed via flickr

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Field Poll: When It Comes to Kids’ Health Risks, Public Now More Worried About Healthy Eating, Exercise than Drugs or Violence


A new Field Poll shows that public concerns over the biggest threats to children’s health are shifting to nutrition and exercise, rather than drugs or violence.

The new Poll, which surveyed more than 1,000 California voters in late 2013, found that:

…the proportion of Californians citing unhealthy eating or a lack of physical activity among kids’ top two health risks has grown over the past ten years to 59%, and now far outranks the next highest ranking concern, illegal drug use (43%) by a considerable margin. Next most frequently mentioned is the threat of violence to children cited by 31%.

Their concerns may be well-founded. According to

For more comprehensive information on children’s weight, nutrition and fitness – including how California children are faring and policy implications, check out these links: Topic Summary: Physical Fitness Topic Summary: Nutrition Topic Summary: Weight


Photo credit: USDA via Flickr

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How Will California’s Children’s Health Insurance Programs Evolve under the Affordable Care Act?


Approximately 95% of California children have health insurance coverage, most through their parents’ employers or through Medi-Cal, the state’s Medicaid program. As the Affordable Care Act (ACA) is implemented in 2014, some children and families will see changes to their plans and new opportunities for coverage.

Meanwhile, the State is at a crossroads, and must determine if and how to alter existing programs and systems to better serve children. Several questions arise in the wake of ACA implementation: what will be the role of the numerous children’s health programs post ACA, what can be done to ensure adequate coverage of vulnerable populations, including the remaining uninsured, and how can insurance programs be better coordinated for optimum efficiency and accessibility?

A new series of issue briefs, prepared by Insure the Uninsured (ITUP) and funded by the Lucile Packard Foundation for Children’s Health, examines the impact of the ACA on health insurance coverage for children in California, and offers recommendations on how the state might alter existing programs and systems to better serve children.

The briefs include:

Executive Summary
Part I: Inventory of Children’s Health Programs
Part II: Issue Diagnosis – Patient Care Challenges
Part III: Issue Diagnosis – Evolutionary Challenges
Part IV: Policy Options & Recommendations

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