By Nathan Chomilo, MD, FAAP, Park Nicollet Health Services/HealthPartners; Krishnan Subrahamanian, MD, FAAP, Hennepin Healthcare
When it comes to education, health, and economic outcomes, Minnesota remains a national leader, ranking the 4th best state for children in America. Yet that success is not uniformly distributed and is too frequently unrealized by children living in low-income households, children of color and, American Indian children. These are the findings of the 2018 KIDS COUNT report published by the Children’s Defense Fund with support from the Annie E. Casey Foundation.
At the State Capitol, businesses can point to data on unemployment and GDP, energy companies can talk about energy utilization and pollution rates, and lawyers, prosecutors, and police can talk about crime rates, incarceration and recidivism. For lawmakers seeking out objective data on the state of children in the country, and their specific county, the Annie E. Casey Foundation’s KIDS COUNT project has become a welcome tool to track benchmarks for child well-being in the United States.
In Minnesota, the Children’s Defense Fund (CDF), annually helps to compile and distribute this information. The 2018 Minnesota KIDS Count data book focuses on critical areas of childhood needs including safe and supportive homes and communities, high-quality early childhood and K-12 education, economic well-being and health coverage and care. The report not only provides raw data, but in each general category also provides policy recommendations
Since implementation of the Affordable Care Act (ACA), there has been a 60 percent decline in the number of uninsured children in Minnesota. However, we continue to see a picture of two Minnesotas in the data: between 2009-2016 three times as many American Indian children were uninsured as were white children. Hispanic and Latino children were far less likely to have had insurance during this time with an uninsured rate of greater than 10 percent. Five times as many American Indian and African American children live in poverty, and more broadly American Indian and African American families in Minnesota are over 20 times more likely to live in an area of concentrated poverty.
To help address these inequities, the report recommends health policy solutions that are largely in line with the MNAAP’s 2019 legislative priorities including expanding access to coverage regardless of immigration and residency status. Also important are expanding home visiting for vulnerable families, expanding access for dental coverage, and extending the provider tax that provides funds for vulnerable children through the Health Care Access Fund. Further policy recommendations in the report were made around emphasizing targeted outreach and enrollment efforts for American Indian and Latino communities. The report also highlighted a program at Children’s Minnesota called Community Connect which proactively helps families address social determinants of health such as food insecurity, housing, and childcare.
Outside of health care, there were several recommendations to address economic and educational disparities. The report cites evidence that even a relatively small gain in annual family income of $1,000/year can improve a child’s chance at success. To address this, the report calls for support of paid family leave, creating a state child tax credit and greater funding of the child care assistance program, early learning scholarships, Head Start and voluntary pre-K. Furthermore, the report emphasizes greater cultural competency and funding for programs that aim to serve young students of color. Regarding K-12 education, recommendations included emphasizing programs that promote school attendance, hiring more teachers of color, and increasing resources to high-quality summer and after-school programs.
With discussion of repealing the ACA taking place once again, and many of these policies coming before the Minnesota legislature this session, this report provides a solid basis from which to make educated, effective and equitable policy. A great deal more data is available, and searchable at www.datacenter.kidscount.org and county level fact sheets are available at www.cdf-mn.org.