Report: California children's health is at risk
Los Angeles Daily News
October 21, 2008
By Susan Abram, Staff Writer
Many of the state's 3 million children ages 0-5 "grow up in environments where their health may limit their social, emotional and academic development," said the authors of a report released by the UCLA Center for Health Policy Research.
The results of the study were based on surveys of up to 50,000 Californians, including 10,000 children.
They found that while 300,000 more children enrolled in preschool or Head Start programs between 2003 and 2005, the number of children who sought care from private physicians declined by 9 percent during the same period.
"While there are positives, there also is a long way to go," said David Grant, author and director of the California Health Interview Survey.
"What we have seen is a decline from employment-based insurance coverage and the use of private doctors to an increase in the use of public clinics. That's frightening, given the state budget now."
He added that if the state funding continues to erode, and community clinics try to serve more people with less money, "There will be real consequences."
And Gloria Rodriguez, president of the Community Clinic Association of Los Angeles County, backed that up.
"We are seeing an increase in patients overall, the largest among families and adults," she said.
Though President Bush vetoed an updated version of the national Children's Health Insurance Program, or CHIP, the existing program has been temporarily extended. But Rodriguez and others wonder for how long.
"There have been several studies showing how successful the CHIP program has been, but as the economy tanks, we're continuing to get new patients every day," Rodriguez said.
At public preschools, parents must prove they are working or attending school or actively looking for employment for their children to be enrolled for free. But parents who have lost jobs struggle to find new ones.
"I'm seeing an impact among parents who have 60 days to seek employment but find that it is challenging," said Rachel Mermell, principal of the Pinewood Avenue Early Education Center in Tujunga.
Mermell, who also oversees another campus in Pacoima, said the schools direct parents to clinics where their children can seek care, vaccinations and other services, but she remains concerned about the link between the economy, children's health and school.
"We're here for families and children, but I also have to meet with my funding terms and conditions," she said. "I am concerned if they cannot take them to the doctors."
Among the report's other findings:
The prevalence of overweight children ages 0-5 dropped slightly in California, from 14 percent in 2001 to 12 percent in 2005.
Yearly dental visits increased from 55 percent to 63 percent among 1-year-olds with teeth and children ages 2-5.
White and Asian children have the fewest gaps in health coverage, while Latino children have the most.
To read the report, click here.