child health care FILE

CHEYENNE – Wyoming ranks just one spot from the bottom compared to the rest of the nation when it comes to the health of its children.

In the 2019 Kids Count Data Book, compiled by the Annie E. Casey Foundation and released Monday, Wyoming’s child health system ranked 49th in the nation, only outpacing Alaska.

The study looks at various factors that create a safe and productive environment for a child to grow up in.

That low ranking in health stands is a stark contrast to Wyoming’s other rankings in family and community (ninth), education (14th) and economic well being (14th). Those other three rankings moved Wyoming up to 21st in the nation for the overall environment for children.

“It was good news and bad news for the state,” said Samin Dadelahi, chief operating officer for the Wyoming Community Foundation, which was the Annie E. Casey Foundation’s partner in Wyoming.

“We ranked pretty high except for that one category,” Dadelahi said. “What should jump out at you is we’re pretty high in three and really low in one, and that always stands out.”

The health well-being scores took into account four categories: babies born with low birth weight, child and teen deaths per 100,000 people, teens who abuse drugs or alcohol and children without health insurance. In each of those categories, Wyoming came in worse than the national average.

But Wyoming has improved in the first three categories since 2010. The state has seen a drop in children who abuse substances, from 6% to 5%, and reducing its number of youth deaths per 100,000 from 32 to 29, close to the national average of 26.

But the state has gone in the opposite direction when it comes to children without health insurance.

According to numbers gathered from 2017, the most recent year data was available, 10% of Wyoming’s children 18 and younger lacked health insurance. That number has grown from 9% since 2010. During the same time period, the national average dropped from 8% to 5%.

Alaska also came in at 10%, and Texas was the highest at 11%.

When looking at the bottom tier of states for health care, some of the states – such as Wyoming, Oklahoma and Montana – didn’t expand their Medicaid population when the Affordable Care Act was first rolled out. But other states that did – like Nevada, Alaska and Mexico – were also in the bottom 10 for children’s health outcomes.

When looking at those states that ranked in the bottom rung for insuring children, Dadelahi said the common theme among all of them is they tended to be rural, with a spread-out population. The lack of concentration of a population, and the resulting access to better medical care, seemed to have a negative effect on overall outcomes.

But that didn’t hold true for states like Idaho, North Dakota and Nebraska, which are largely rural, but all ranked in the top 30 for children’s health care.

That discrepancy between rural states and health-care outcomes is one of the main reasons why the foundation does this yearly analysis of the states, said Lisa Hamilton, Annie E. Casey Found-ation president. It allows policymakers a chance to dig into what those states showing signs of success are doing and see if the actions they’ve taken can be adapted to places like Wyoming.

“America’s children are one quarter of our population and 100% of our future,” Hamilton said in a release. “All of the 74 million kids in our increasingly diverse country have unlimited potential, and we have the data, knowledge and evidence to create the policies that will help them realize it.”

But the state has gone in the opposite direction when it comes to children without health insurance.

According to numbers gathered from 2017, the most recent year data was available, 10% of Wyoming’s children 18 and younger lacked health insurance. That number has grown from 9% since 2010. During the same time period, the national average dropped from 8% to 5%.

Alaska also came in at 10%, and Texas was the highest at 11%.

When looking at the bottom tier of states for health care, some of the states – such as Wyoming, Oklahoma and Montana – didn’t expand their Medicaid population when the Affordable Care Act was first rolled out. But other states that did – like Nevada, Alaska and Mexico – were also in the bottom 10 for children’s health outcomes.

When looking at those states that ranked in the bottom rung for insuring children, Dadelahi said the common theme among all of them is they tended to be rural, with a spread-out population. The lack of concentration of a population, and the resulting access to better medical care, seemed to have a negative effect on overall outcomes.

But that didn’t hold true for states like Idaho, North Dakota and Nebraska, which are largely rural, but all ranked in the top 30 for children’s health care.

That discrepancy between rural states and health-care outcomes is one of the main reasons why the foundation does this yearly analysis of the states, said Lisa Hamilton, Annie E. Casey Found-ation president. It allows policymakers a chance to dig into what those states showing signs of success are doing and see if the actions they’ve taken can be adapted to places like Wyoming.

“America’s children are one quarter of our population and 100% of our future,” Hamilton said in a release. “All of the 74 million kids in our increasingly diverse country have unlimited potential, and we have the data, knowledge and evidence to create the policies that will help them realize it.”

Ramsey Scott is the Wyoming Tribune Eagle’s state government reporter. He can be reached at 307-633-3124 or rscott@wyomingnews.com. Follow him on Twitter at @RamseyWyoming.

Ramsey Scott is the Wyoming Tribune Eagle’s state government reporter. He can be reached at 307-633-3124 or rscott@wyomingnews.com. Follow him on Twitter at @RamseyWyoming.

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