Friday, November 24, 2017

Report: Florida ranks 40th in 'child well-being' despite gains in jobs and health insurance


Despite a decrease in the number of uninsured kids in Florida, the state ranked 40th in overall child well-being — the same as last year and down from 37th in 2015, according to a report released Tuesday.

The ranking is based on data from four categories — economic well-being, education, health and family and community — compiled by Kids Count, a project of the Annie E. Casey Foundation. The organization bills Kids Count as the nation's top source for information on the well-being of children and families.

"We have lots of work to do to ensure our kids are healthy and strong," said Norin Dollard, director of Florida Kids Count, housed at the University of South Florida's College of Behavioral and Community Sciences.

A big part of the state's overall low ranking stems from economic factors, she said.

Florida ranked 45th in economic well-being, with 23 percent of children living in poverty and 31 percent having parents who were unemployed. Forty percent lived in households that spent 30 percent or more of their income on housing, and 8 percent of teens were not in school or not working.

The report states that low unemployment levels haven't translated to better economic conditions for children. "Because of rising inequality," it concludes, "last year's broad-based wage growth means that most workers are simply making up lost ground rather than getting ahead."

Said Dollard: "The jobs are out there, but they don't afford a liveable wage or . . . offer (families) insurance for their children."

To make rent for an average apartment in Hillsborough County, she said, someone earning minimum wage would need to work 90 hours a week, meaning two parents would need to work full-time. According to the report, 40 percent of kids in Florida live in single-parent households.

Cory Adler, executive director of St. Petersburg's 2020 Task Force, called the state's ranking "disappointing and disheartening." The task force tries to lift families out of poverty by helping parents find employment, but it's difficult, she said.

"Right now, families can be penalized for exiting poverty when benefits fall away," Adler said. "They're going from unemployed and receiving benefits to employed and losing benefits, unless there are jobs available that can help them sustain."

In the category of health, Florida ranked 44th, though the number of uninsured kids decreased by 46 percent from 2010 to 2015. The ranking took into account the number of uninsured children, the rate of low-birth weight babies, child and teen deaths and the rate of drug or alcohol abuse.

While not all of the credit for getting more children insured goes to the Affordable Care Act, recent efforts by Congress to repeal it are concerning, said Florencia Gutierrez, a senior associate with the Annie E. Casey Foundation.

"Along with expansion of Medicaid and children's health insurance programs, we have really worked towards ensuring children have access to health insurance," Gutierrez said. "The nation is seeing an all-time high in kids being covered by health insurance. We believe this is an American victory and this is something we should protect and not back away from."

Kelley Parris, executive director for the Children's Board of Hillsborough County, said the data will be important in securing state funding to address problems. The board, she said, has focused largely on education, where Florida ranked 31st in the Kids Count data.

"You look at the number of kids touched by juvenile justice and their literacy levels, those who smoke and put their health at risk and their literacy levels, those with undiagnosed and unmedicated mental health issues and their literacy levels, early learning and education help," she said.

The Kids Count education ranking took into account the number of 3- and 4-year-olds not in school, fourth-graders not proficient in reading, eighth-graders not proficient in math and teens not in school.

Florida ranked 35th for family and community factors, as measured by single-parent households, children in families where the household head lacks a high school diploma, children living in high-poverty areas and teen births, which decreased in Florida.

New Hampshire ranked first among the states, followed by Massachusetts and Vermont. Louisiana, New Mexico and Mississippi ranked lowest.

The report also found racial disparities nationally. Twelve percent of white children lived in poverty, compared with 36 percent of black children and 31 percent of Hispanic children.

The 2020 task force found that, based on 2014 Census data, the contrast was even more stark in St. Petersburg, with 61 percent of black children under age 6 living in poverty compared to 30 percent of Hispanic children and 14 percent of white children of the same age.

Nationally, African-Americans and Hispanics also had higher rates of low-birth weights, single-parent households, families where the head of household lacks a high school diploma and children living in high poverty areas.

Roy Miller, president of the Children's Campaign, a Tallahassee nonprofit focused on children's issues in Florida, called the report sobering.

"Public investments in children haven't kept up with population growth," he said. "And it shows."

The report will be a useful tool in approaching state legislators, said Sonia Lindell, a communications specialist with the Florida Policy Institute.

"State lawmakers aren't investing enough in public services," she said. "Across party lines, everyone can agree the well-being of children is of utmost importance. We're at the bottom of the barrel in terms of ranking."

Revenge may not be so sweet after all

Revenge may not be so sweet after all

Jennifer Breheny Wallaceo the Washington PostA colleague steals your idea and then undermines you in front of the boss. It’s human nature to want revenge. But will getting even make you feel better in the long run?People are motivated to seek revenge...
Published: 11/24/17
Big Tobacco’s anti-smoking ads begin after decade of delay

Big Tobacco’s anti-smoking ads begin after decade of delay

WASHINGTON — Decades after they were banned from the airwaves, Big Tobacco companies return to prime-time television this weekend — but not by choice. Under court order, the tobacco industry for the first time will be forced to advertise the deadly, ...
Published: 11/21/17

Owning dogs may be great for your heart and lower risk of death, study finds

Dog ownership correlates with lower rates of mortality and some fatal diseases, particularly cardiovascular disease, a study published this past week concluded.The study in the journal Scientific Reports found that canine ownership was associated wit...
Published: 11/19/17
New shingles vaccine touted as a breakthrough for older adults

New shingles vaccine touted as a breakthrough for older adults

Medical researchers and government health policymakers, a cautious lot, normally take pains to keep expectations modest when they’re discussing some new finding or treatment.They warn about studies’ limitations. They point out what isn’t known. They ...
Published: 11/17/17
BayCare’s HealthHub breaks ground behind Valrico shopping center

BayCare’s HealthHub breaks ground behind Valrico shopping center

VALRICO — Health care officials broke ground Thursday on the long anticipated HealthHub at Bloomingdale, which will bring about 150 jobs to an area that’s experiencing tremendous growth and provide patients with the latest in technological care.A pro...
Published: 11/16/17
Updated: 11/19/17
In Tampa Bay and elsewhere, early numbers show record sign-ups for Obamacare

In Tampa Bay and elsewhere, early numbers show record sign-ups for Obamacare

Despite the budget cuts, the attempts to repeal and replace, and reports of sharp rises in premiums, Floridians and other Americans are signing up for health insurance under the Affordable Care Act at record rates this year.Enrollment has surged 47 p...
Published: 11/16/17
Updated: 11/17/17
Study: Mental quickness exercises can lower risk of dementia

Study: Mental quickness exercises can lower risk of dementia

Where did I leave my keys?As we age, it can take longer to answer a question like that.Humans begin to lose cognitive ability at age 25. Dementia, or the decline of memory most commonly seen in aging adults, takes hold early on and is gradual, but ac...
Published: 11/16/17
Making a list: holiday gift ideas for the water warrior, runner, fit foodie ...

Making a list: holiday gift ideas for the water warrior, runner, fit foodie ...

Given Santa’s legendary girth, one could justifiably question his ability to choose suitable gifts for the fitness-focused folks on his "nice" list. Dasher, Dancer and Prancer (all clearly more inclined to stay active) are always there to offer some ...
Published: 11/22/17
Mayo Clinic Q&A: gangrene causes and prevention; irregular bleeding

Mayo Clinic Q&A: gangrene causes and prevention; irregular bleeding

PEOPLE WITH DIABETES, PERIPHERAL ARTERY DISEASE AT INCREASED RISK OF GANGRENEI have heard that a stubbed toe can lead to gangrene in some individuals. Is that true? What are the signs of gangrene, and how can it be avoided?Gangrene, which refers to t...
Published: 11/15/17
Updated: 11/22/17
Blood pressure of 130 is the new ‘high,’ according to update of guidelines

Blood pressure of 130 is the new ‘high,’ according to update of guidelines

The nation’s heart experts tightened the guidelines for high blood pressure Monday, a change that will sharply increase the number of U.S. adults considered hypertensive in the hope that they, and their doctors, will address the deadly condition earl...
Published: 11/13/17