Children's Health, Parents' Income, Education Levels Linked

Ruzanna Harutyunyan's picture
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The health of children is affected by the education and income levels of their parents, according to a state-by-state study published on Tuesday by the Commission to Build a Healthier America at the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, the Cleveland Plain Dealer reports. For the study, researchers measured infant mortality rates and the general health of children in each state based on data from surveys conducted by the U.S. Census Bureau and CDC (Zeltner, Cleveland Plain Dealer, 10/8).

The study found that nationwide infant mortality rates increased by 50% when mothers did not complete high school (Rowley, Tucson Citizen, 10/8). Nationwide, the infant mortality rate was 6.5 deaths per 1,000 live births, the study found. Mississippi had the highest infant mortality rate at 9.9 deaths per 1,000 live births and Massachusetts had the lowest rate at 4.6 deaths per 1,000 live births, according to the study.

In addition, the study compared the percentages of children with "optimal" health -- based on assessments by parents of whether the health of their children ranged from "poor" to "excellent" -- in families with annual incomes that ranged from the federal poverty level to four times that amount (Vu, Stateline.org, 10/8). As income levels increased, parents were more likely to report the health of their children as excellent, the study found (Howington, Louisville Courier-Journal, 10/8).

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Nationwide, the study found that 15.9% of children are not at optimal health. Texas had the highest percentage of children who are not at optimal health at 22.8%, and Vermont had the lowest percentage at 6.9%, the study found. Texas also had the highest percentage of children in lower-income families who are not at optimal health at 44.1%, as well as the largest gap between the percentage of children in lower-income families who are not at optimal health and the percentage of those in higher-income families who are not at optimal health, according to the study. According to the study, states in the South and Southwest have the largest gaps, and states in the northern Midwest, northern Great Plains and Northeast have the smallest gaps.

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Study co-author Paula Braveman said that the study "vividly illustrates how much parents' income and education levels matter when it comes to children's health," adding that "it will be startling to most people to learn that children in middle-class families have worse health than children in wealthier families." David Williams, staff director of the commission, said, "Even if we had equal access to health care, we'd still have disparities and shortfalls in health," adding, "It's not just access to health care, it's where you live, learn, work, play and worship" (Stateline.org, 10/8).

Study co-author Sue Egeter said, "There is more to health than health care. If we are serious about putting all America's children on the path to good health, we need to look at all strategies," such as efforts to promote college education (Tucson Citizen, 10/8).

Reprinted with permission from kaisernetwork.org. You can view the entire Kaiser Daily Health Policy Report, search the archives, and sign up for email delivery at kaisernetwork.org/email . The Kaiser Daily Health Policy Report is published for kaisernetwork.org, a free service of The Henry J. Kaiser Family Foundation. © 2007 Advisory Board Company and Kaiser Family Foundation. All rights reserved.

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