Georgia’s child well-being ranking has climbed one spot, to 38th among the states, in an annual national report on kids.
The KIDS COUNT Data Book for 2019, released Monday, measures children on education, economic well-being, health and family and community. Georgia has come a long way from a ranking of 48th in 1990, the report said.
Georgia’s health care rankings in two other recent reports, though, languish in the 40s among states.
That’s a familiar spot in such rankings for the state, which has high rates of people in poverty and without health insurance, and grapples with issues of access to care.
The Commonwealth Fund last week ranked Georgia 42nd in its scorecard on health care system performance. And MoneyRates.com ranked the state No. 49 in its analysis of health care in the 50 states and the District of Columbia.
KIDS COUNT is an annual project of the Annie E. Casey Foundation.
“If you want to peer into Georgia’s future, you need only measure the health and well-being of our children,” Russell Hardin, president of the Robert W. Woodruff Foundation, said in a statement. “The annual KIDS COUNT data is our report card and should be required reading for everyone who cares about our state. It is encouraging to see that our state’s ranking has improved, but as long as one in five children are born into poverty, we have more work to do to ensure that all of Georgia’s children have the opportunity to succeed.”
On health, the report found that just 7 percent of Georgia kids lack coverage. Yet Georgia’s child uninsured rate is higher than the national average of 5 percent.
Georgia’s death rate for children and teenagers was 52 per 100,000 in 1990. The report, released Monday, said that death rate now is 28 per 100,000. And fewer teenagers abuse drugs and alcohol, with the figure cut in half in recent years, going from 6 percent in 1990 to 3 percent today.
But there remain some worrisome trends. Georgia’s low-birthweight baby rate has increased significantly since 1990 and is at a 30-year high of 9.9 percent.
Polly McKinney of the advocacy group Voices for Georgia’s Children said Tuesday that such rankings “are a great way to show where we as a state have improved overall, and where we stand relative to the rest of the country. And they certainly indicate an increasingly integrated and cohesive approach by the array of public and private stakeholders doing the work.’’
McKinney, citing the high poverty rate here, added that “we must continue to expand stakeholder and community ownership in helping these kids and families find health, happiness and success.’’
The Commonwealth Fund’s 2019 Scorecard on State Health System Performance put Hawaii, Massachusetts, Minnesota, Washington state, Connecticut and Vermont at the top of its rankings.
The scorecard assesses 47 health care measures, covering access, quality, service use and costs of care, health outcomes, and income-based health care disparities. Arkansas, Nevada, Texas, Oklahoma, and Mississippi ranked at the bottom in the report.
Among the national findings: Health care costs are the primary force behind rising premiums, which are an increasing financial burden to working families in all states.
Georgia scored well in some categories, such as having fewer adults with inappropriate lower back imaging; a high rate of children’s vaccinations; and fewer home health patients without improved mobility.
Its lowest measures include adults who went without care because of cost; its uninsured rate; and catheter-related infections.
The Commonwealth Fund scorecard also said Georgia improved on diabetic patients getting an annual hemoglobin A1c test. Among the measures of health in which the state got worse were hospital 30-day mortality and adults without all recommended cancer screenings.
Last year’s scorecard ranked Georgia 40th.
Dr. Harry Heiman, a health policy expert at Georgia State University, said Tuesday that “what is striking to me is the lack of meaningful action, in spite of [Georgia’s] continued dismal health rankings.”
“How can state leaders honestly say they are committed to the health and well-being of Georgia children and families, as their policy decisions continue to fail to meet the needs of people living in our state?” Heiman added. “Georgia remains a negative outlier in terms of our overall health and health system performance.”
In a high-profile effort, Gov. Brian Kemp has pushed for federal waivers for the state’s Medicaid program and the private insurance exchange market, aiming to improve health care in Georgia.
MoneyRates focused on seven factors: health insurance coverage, age-adjusted mortality, vaccination rates, infant mortality, nursing home availability, hospital availability and practicing physicians per capita. Data came from the U.S. Census Bureau and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
Massachusetts was rated the best state, while Mississippi was worst.
The report rated Georgia “critical’’ on its overall condition, health insurance coverage, infant survival and patient care doctors. Hospital capacity and longevity in the state were judged to be “frail.’’
The one “robust’’ factor for Georgia: child vaccinations.
Andy Miller is editor and CEO of Georgia Health News