Georgia made progress in terms of child well-being, says the Annie E. Casey’s Foundations annual Kids Count Data Book released Monday.
But the state still lags behind in one key health measure: the number of low birth-weight babies born to mothers in the state.
Overall, the Georgia ranked 38th in the country — a vast improvement from the first Kids Count report issued in 1990. Then, Georgia ranked 48th.
“The fact that we’ve moved 10 spots [since then] is promising, but I think we have a ways to go before we can say we’ve really made some permanent gains,” said Rebecca Rice, with the Georgia Family Connection Partnership, which helped compile the report.
The latest report, based on data from 2017, shows the state made progress on key measures of children’s family and community, and economic well-being.
Georgia’s highest ranks came in the areas of education and health. The state made improvements with regard to the number of fourth-graders proficient in reading and eighth-graders proficient in math.
It also saw a decline in the number of children without health insurance and a decrease in the number of child and teen deaths.
But Georgia saw an increase in the number of low birth-weight babies born. And that can speak to larger challenges.
“It can have both short term and long term negative effects for the infant, but it can also speak to maternal health, because healthy moms make healthy babies. That tells us that there’s something going on with maternal health in Georgia,” Rice said.
Multiple reports have said Georgia’s maternal mortality rate is one of the highest in the country, and state lawmakers recently convened a study committee to look at the issue.
“Children can’t advocate for themselves, so it’s up to the adults in their lives and the systems that surround them to make sure they get what they need,” Rice said.