There are some positives – the number of overweight children in California declined slightly and preschool enrollment increased. Yet the overall health picture, especially for California’s low-income kids, is grim according to a new research brief “Trends in the Health of Young Children in California” by the UCLA Center for Health Policy Research and sponsored by First 5 California.
The brief found that two-thirds of California children are without health insurance are from low-income families. Low-income children utilize community clinics for primary care at three times the rate of higher income children. And the proportion of children enrolled in private health insurance is shrinking – while the reliance on public programs is growing.
“The research suggests there has been a steady erosion of health care and health access for the most vulnerable children,” said David Grant, lead author of the policy research brief and director of the California Health Interview Survey (CHIS). “As Californians, we have a lot of work to do to reverse the trend.”
The research brief examined trends in health among Californian children from a wide range of ethnicities and economic backgrounds. It is based upon an analysis of data collected by CHIS, the nation’s largest state health survey, in 2001, 2003 and 2005. Conducted by the UCLA Center for Health Policy Research, CHIS surveys up to 50,000 Californians – including up to 10,000 children – every two years.
“There is no higher priority than the health and well-being of our children,” said Kris Perry, executive director of First 5 California. “This research brief provides a valuable reminder of where our priorities must be, even at a time of scarce resources.”
Researchers drew upon those interviews for “Trends in the Health of Young Children in California.”
Among their findings:
Fewer overweight children: The prevalence of overweight children ages 0-5 dropped slightly in California from 14% in 2001 to 12% in 2005. There were steep drops in Riverside County (16.2% in 2003 to 12.4% in 2005) and San Bernardino County (16.2% in 2003 to 8.4% in 2005). Los Angeles County also dropped (14.3% in 2003 to 12.8% in 2005) as well as Alameda County (13.4% in 2003 to 8.9% in 2005) and San Diego County (12.9% in 2003 to 8.5% in 2005).
No improvement in health insurance coverage: The proportion of children ages 0-5 in California who lacked health insurance for all or part of the previous year – one in ten children – remained unchanged between 2001 and 2005.