Michigan Made Progress Meeting Some Healthy People 2010 Targets for Children; Racial Health Disparities Remain, Report Says
The Kids Count in Michigan report, conducted by Michigan's Children and the Michigan League for Human Services, shows a "growing disparity" between black and white children on issues such as child mortality, child abuse and neglect, and children living in poverty, the Detroit Free Press reports (Hackney, Detroit Free Press, 12/4).
The report looked at 18 health targets for children and teens as set by Healthy People 2010. The initiative has an overarching goal of eliminating racial and ethnic health disparities (Michigan's Children/Michigan League for Human Services joint release, 12/4). The targets were developed by CDC, NIH and other federal agencies (Detroit Free Press, 12/4).
According to the report, black children have an infant mortality rate about three times higher than that of white children. In addition, the mortality rate among young black children and black children in early elementary school is double the rate among white children. Further, the report said that the rates of asthma-related hospitalizations and low birthweight infants among blacks are twice as high as they are among whites (Michigan's Children/Michigan League for Human Services joint release, 12/4). Black and Hispanic children also are more likely to be living in poverty than white children, the report said (Brand-Williams, Detroit News, 12/4).
Overall, the state met Healthy People 2010 targets for toddler immunizations, teen pregnancy rates and the number of children involved in physical altercations at school (Hackney, Detroit Free Press, 12/4).
Michele Corey, community advocacy director at Michigan's Children, said, "The news isn't so good for children of color. We just need to acknowledge that and figure out some strategies that will really work for these populations" (Detroit News, 12/4).
Jane Zehnder-Merrell, director of the Michigan League for Human Services, added, "What is troubling is that we're seeing substantial cuts" in public services "that disproportionately affect low-income children, even as we see an increase in child poverty." She said, "Overall, we've made some limited progress toward improving the health and well-being of our children, but we're not seeing the kinds of improvements that are going to move us forward at the rate that we need."
Lynn Burdell, director of programs for YouthBuild Detroit, said, "We know where there are significant concentrations of African-Americans who are experiencing these deficits. We need to make sure we're addressing health, specifically, as we work with our families. We often focus on the economic, and that's important, but we also need to focus on health" (Hackney, Detroit Free Press, 12/4).
The report is available online.
The report "underscores ... persistent disparities and cries out for a shift in policy to help children improve equally," a Free Press editorial states, noting that two of the "more telling aspects of Michigan's health divide" are rates of death among children and teenage pregnancies.
Twelve white children for every 100,000 died in 2005, compared with 29 deaths per 100,000 among black children, according to the editorial. The editorial says, "There's too much talk and not enough action being deployed toward safer communities."
While the state's teen pregnancy rate fell below the target, "it's only a partial victory," the editorial says. Teen pregnancy among blacks in Michigan is 60 pregnancies per 1,000, and the rate dropped by 5% between 2000 and 2005. According to the editorial, "Such minimal progress isn't good enough for African-American girls or the bar Michigan seeks to raise." It adds that because the state ends up paying the "economic and social costs of teen pregnancy, legislators ought also to fight harder for wider access to programs that teach decision-making and the long-term benefits of focusing on education."
The editorial concludes, "Addressing the gap that race has created in the lives of children raises the quality of life for everyone" (Detroit Free Press, 12/4).