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May 27, 2009
TOPEKA About 85 percent of Kansas children are in good to excellent health, according to updated survey findings.
The National Survey of Children’s Health is the largest survey of children that focuses on health, said Christina Bethell, director of the Child and Adolescent Health Measurement Initiative and the Data Resource Center at the Oregon Health & Science University, which makes available the findings.
Data from the 2007 version of the survey were released last week. It was the second round of the survey, which is conducted every four years.
• About 85 percent of Kansas children are in excellent or good health, compared to about 84 percent of children nationally.
• About 61 percent of Kansas children have a medical home, compared to about 56 percent of the nation’s children;
• About 26 percent live in a household where a family member smokes, almost the same as the percentage of children nationwide;
• About 7 percent of Kansas school-aged children missed 11 or more days of school in the previous year, compared to about 6 percent of children nationwide who missed that much school.
“On some data points, Kansas is doing better, on some, we’re doing worse. Overall, we’re pretty comparable to the nationwide average across the board” said Suzanne Wikle, director of health policy for Kansas Action for Children, a Topeka-based advocacy group. “While some people may think that’s a good thing, there are still some things Kansas can do to be out in front and be leaders in some of these indicators.”
Support for early childhood programs, Wikle said, is one example of an investment that could improve the well-being of Kansas children and their families.
In addition to asking parents about their children’s physical and mental health, the survey also gauges the strength and support of families, neighborhoods, schools and communities.
“What’s great about the National Survey of Children’s Health is that it collects data about the whole context of the child and their life,” Bethell said. “We’re able to see a comprehensive profile of how the system is doing on their behalf and all the different sectors that are serving children and their families. We haven’t had that before — usually surveys look at one sector, such as schools. This tries to bring it all together.”
The survey also is conducted identically in every state, allowing policymakers and advocates to better pinpoint policies that are successful — discussions that were previously limited by a lack of state-level data, Bethell said.
“We had local inferential data, and national data,” she said. “Now we can have a conversation across states about what children’s needs are and what policies affect them.”
The latest data also allows states to compare themselves in many categories to their status four years ago, which can help identify trends, strengths and weaknesses in programs and policies that affect children’s health, officials said.
The Kansas Health Institute analyzed results from the 2003 survey. Those results may be accessed here.
The survey was supported and developed by the U.S. Maternal and Child Health Bureau of the Health Resources and Services Administration and conducted by the CDC’s National Center for Health Statistics. Parents of children birth to 17 years who do not live in institutions were chosen for the survey.
-Sarah Green is a staff writer for KHI News Service, which specializes in coverage of health issues facing Kansans. She can be reached at email@example.com or at 785-233-5443, ext. 118.