Posts Tagged ‘Child Health Issues’

This Week Is World Breastfeeding Week

It’s World Breastfeeding Week, and we’re celebrating by sharing updated breastfeeding data for California. Breast milk is widely acknowledged as the most complete form of nutrition for infants, and offers variety of benefits for infant health, growth, and development. Breastfeeding also offers multiple health advantages to mothers, including reducing breast and ovarian cancer risk. Increasing the proportion of children who are breastfed during the first year of life — as well as the proportion who are breastfed exclusively up to the age of three months — are important public health goals.

According to the California Department of Public Health, in 2009, 52% of infants in California were breastfed exclusively in the hospital after birth. Among counties, percentages of exclusive breastfeeding ranged widely from 14% to 86%. Find data for your county >>

Percentages also ranged among racial/ethnic groups; Caucasian/White infants had the highest exclusive breastfeeding percentages, while Hispanic/Latino and African American infants had the lowest.

Learn more about breastfeeding >>

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Study Reveals Different Health Impacts of Living in Rural and Urban Areas

Despite the often-held image of clean air, fresh food, and physical activity in rural areas, a recent article in the Wall Street Journal notes that Americans who reside in cities tend to live longer, healthier lives than those in rural areas, according to a study. Among the specific findings, city-dwellers rate their own health more highly and are less likely to die prematurely than those living in rural areas.

Both urban and rural areas have positive and negative health trends, though. For example, obesity appears to be more prevalent in rural areas, with 55% of rural children ages 2 to 19 categorized as obese or overweight, compared to 45% of urban kids, according to the article. On the other hand, urban dwellers tend to have more low-birthweight babies than those in the rural areas, and children in rural areas tend to have less asthma and fewer allergies and autoimmune disorders than urban children.

According to data recently added to, of the 10 million kids ages 0-17 in California, 92% (about 8.7 million) lived in urban areas in 2005-2009, while about 8% (nearly 750K) lived in rural areas (as defined using the U.S. Census Bureau’s 2009 American Community Survey definition).

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A Looming Threat to Public Insurance Programs for Children with Special Health Care Needs

Negotiations now under way in Washington, DC, regarding the U.S. debt ceiling could have a catastrophic effect on some of California’s children with special health care needs and their families.

Many children in our state depend on public health insurance programs to meet all or part of their health care costs, through Medi-Cal (California’s Medicaid program) or Healthy Families (California’s State Children’s Health Insurance program). The State Flexibility Act, currently under debate in Congress in conjunction with the debt negotiations, would reduce spending and allow states to make cuts in eligibility for these vital programs. Potential scenarios for California could include complete elimination of Healthy Families, and limits placed on the number of children eligible for Medi-Cal.

Such changes would have a particularly negative effect in California, where more than a third of California’s children with special health care needs already have insurance that is not adequate to meet their requirements, according to Children with Special Health Care Needs: A Profile of Key Issues in California, a report commissioned by our Foundation. Our state ranks 46th out of the 50 states on adequacy of insurance for children with special health care needs, the report notes.

The Medicaid and Healthy Families programs have contributed substantially to improving the health and well being of children, and these programs are especially critical for children with complex and chronic conditions.  A new study from Georgetown University’s Center for Children and Families documents how much is at stake if these programs are cut or lost. Without insurance, children may lose access to primary care, specialists, early intervention programs, or preventive services that help keep their conditions from worsening. Medicaid also helps many children live and be cared for in their homes and communities rather than in institutions.

Attempts to alter these essential public insurance programs have been made before. This time around, however, the crisis is so severe that some supporters in Congress are pessimistic. In a recent Wall Street Journal article, Senator Jay Rockefeller (D-WV), a longtime Medicaid advocate said, “There has been an unsettling silence around Medicaid even from members of my own party.”

As the negotiations about reducing the national debt proceed, it is imperative that we add our voices to the debate. Let your Congressional representatives and the Obama Administration know what it means for children and families to lose access to the health care they deserve.

You can find your representatives at, or call
(202) 225-3121 for the Capitol switchboard and (202) 456-1414 for the White House. Ask them to protect Medicaid and the State Children’s Health Insurance Program.

I also encourage you to join the new California Collaborative for Children with Special Health Care Needs, a statewide group developed by our Foundation that will be working toward a better system of care for children in California with special health care needs.

Posted by David Alexander, MD

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New Test for Down Syndrome Raises Ethical Concerns

A recent AP article, “Comfort or Conflict: Earlier Down Syndrome Test,” explores the ethical challenges posed by a new type of DNA test for Down syndrome. In the near future, DNA tests for Down syndrome may be available as a simple blood draw, and the new tests could give parents accurate results earlier in the pregnancy than with amniocentesis or chorionic villus sampling (CVS).

The article notes that this new test raises complex ethical concerns, because a Down syndrome diagnosis before birth can “pose a difficult challenge for couples as they decide whether to continue the pregnancy,” according to Dr. Mary Norton, director of Perinatal Research at Lucile Packard Children’s Hospital.

A recent study concluded that advances in testing (and, thus, more options for would-be parents during pregnancy) have contributed to an 11 percent decline in Down syndrome births in the U.S. between 1989 and 2006, a time during which rates were expected to rise 42 percent.

In California, about 1% of all children with special health care needs have Down syndrome, according to 2005-06 survey data, the most recent time period for which data are available.

Posted by Jordan Handcox

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What Issue is a Top Priority for Children’s Health?

The Association of Maternal and Child Health Programs recently polled its readership, asking “What is a top child health priority in your state?”

The top response, perhaps not surprisingly, was obesity/overweight, which was identified by 24% of the nearly 600 respondents. The second most popular response was dental care, followed by access to care, health insurance coverage, unintentional injuries, and several others. See the full list of responses>>

This was a national survey, so we thought we’d ask our readers the same question: What is a top child health priority in California?

On, some of our most visited topics are homelessness, reading proficiency, child abuse, asthma, autism, and teen sexual health. While visits to an indicator don’t necessarily align with concern, we’re curious to hear what you think of that list – and what you might add. Take our unofficial, unscientific poll below and let us know a top child health priority in California:

[polldaddy poll=”5139140″]

Posted by Felicity Simmons


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Obama Targets Bullying of Gay Youth with June Proclamation

Earlier this month, President Obama again proclaimed June to be National Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender Pride Month. In the announcement, Obama called out initiatives set forth to prevent bullying of gay youth:

My Administration is actively engaged with educators and community leaders across America to reduce violence and discrimination in schools. To help dispel the myth that bullying is a harmless or inevitable part of growing up, the First Lady and I hosted the first White House Conference on Bullying Prevention in March. Many senior Administration officials have also joined me in reaching out to LGBT youth who have been bullied by recording “It Gets Better” video messages to assure them they are not alone.

In California schools, more than 1 in 10 7th and 9th grade boys reported being bullied due to their sexual orientation, according to ’06-’08 data. Among girls, 10% of 7th-graders and 9% of 9th graders said the same. Find data for your school district>>

For more insights into these and other bullying data, read our October blog post to mark National Bullying Prevention Month. The president’s “It Gets Better” video is available on YouTube.

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School’s out! Now what?

In many districts across California, school’s out and summer has begun. For some kids, this means a lot of free time, and we thought we’d highlight a few related data points — from a parent’s perspective.

According to our foundation’s 2010 survey of parents across the state, about half of California children have the right amount of free time, and about 15% do not have “quite enough” or “nearly enough” free time (findings are for children in general, not specific to summer).  The same survey found that 18% of children do not have enough family time, according to their parents.

Also among the results of this survey, about 16% of California children have parents who say they do not have affordable arrangements for child care. And parents say more than half of children (59%) regularly participate in extracurricular activities or after-school programs.

We welcome your comments on these findings.

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Some Recent Top Stories in Children’s Health

Here are some news articles from the last few weeks that focus on children’s health issues, along with related data from

Births (See related data)

Cancer (See related data)

Demographics (See Related Data)

Mental Health (See Related Data)

Special Health Care Needs (See Related Data)

Weight (See Related Data)

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The Changing Demographics of U.S. Kids and Families and More Top Stories

Following are some recent news highlights about children and families from our April News Round-Up:


White Children to Become the New Minority Within the Decade, Report Predicts
(NY Times, 4/6/11, by Tavernise)

Study: 40% of Adoptions in America Involve Kids Whose Race Is Different from that of Their Adoptive Parents’
(USA Today, 4/11/11, by Jayson)

Census Shows Rise in Multiracial Population of Youth
(NY Times, 3/24/11, by Saulny)

Divorce Becoming More Common in Rural America, Changing the Face of Its Families, Census Data Show
(NY Times, 3/23/11, by Tavernise and Gebeloff)

See the Data:

In California, White children already are a minority (30.6%); Latino children account for about half of the child population.

The overall California child population rose from about 9 to 10 million from 1995-2009.

The number of multiracial kids in California rose steadily from 2000 to 2005, but leveled off since then, to about 369,000 in 2009.

Juvenile Arrests

Counties Differ Radically Across California on Handling of Youth Offenders
(The Bay Citizen, 4/17/11, by Bundy)

See the Data:

The juvenile felony arrest rate in California varies widely by county, from 7.7 to 34.7 arrests per 1,000 youth ages 10-17, according to 2008 data.

Substance Abuse

Teen Substance Abuse in the U.S. on the Rise Over Past 3 Years, Study Finds
(LA Times, 4/6/11, by Marsh)

Study: Many Teens Don’t See Harm in Drinking 5 or More Alcoholic Drinks a Day
(San Jose Mercury, 4/6/11, by Kerr)

See the Data:

In California, roughly one in five 11th graders reported binge drinking at least one time in the past 30 days, according to 06-08 data.

In 2010, about 15% of California children lived in households with smokers, according to a survey of California parents.

Posted by Jordan Handcox


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Report Card Sheds Light on How Kids Are Faring in San Joaquin Valley

Widespread poverty emerged as the main headline in the Kern County Report Card, released this week by the Kern County Network for Children.

The report, which includes 160+ measures of child and youth well being, notes the toll that the recession has taken on youth in the area, with family income dropping, unemployment rising, and 25% of kids living below the federal poverty line. But the report showed some areas of improvement as well, including notable decreases in rates of child abuse and children in foster care.

We applaud the Kern County Network for Children for producing this report for 13 years, as data reports such as these help policymakers and community leaders make informed decisions on behalf of kids across California. To read the full report, visit$1328.

Also see data about Kern County kids on, at

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