Georgia Ranks Among Bottom 10 for Health Despite Gains in Child Well-Being

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Shanteya Hudson, Producer

Thursday, June 13, 2024

Georgia remains among the bottom 10 states for children’s health, according to the latest KIDS COUNT Data Book from the Annie E. Casey Foundation.

Despite showing overall improvement in child well-being over the past decade, with a current ranking of 37th, health continues to be a significant issue. The annual report assessed four key areas: economic well-being, education, health, and community and family. While Georgia shows progress in some areas, it sits at 43rd for children’s health.

Jacquan Jordan, Kids Count data manager for the Georgia Family Connection Partnership, underscored the critical areas needing attention.

“Our low birth weight continues to be at a high 10.6%, which is compared to the national rate, which is already 8.6%,” Jordan outlined. “Which is already higher than some developing or less wealthy countries.”

He pointed out the state’s child and teen death rate skyrocketed by 21% from 2019 to 2022. The Data Book also highlighted Georgia’s persistently high child poverty rate, surpassing the national average.

Despite some concerning trends, the state is making strides in other areas. In 2022, 31,000 more children had health insurance than in 2019. And when it comes to education, more students are graduating from high school on time. Jordan acknowledged while the progress is promising, one thing the state is paying attention to is the rate of absenteeism in schools.

“Chronic absenteeism is an issue that’s facing the entire nation, and Georgia is no stranger to it,” Jordan emphasized. “Our rating of absenteeism or chronic absenteeism was 27%, which is lower than the 30% for the nation.”

He added one way to help address the problem is through continued investments in education supports and wraparound services to target the needs of each community.

Leslie Boissiere, vice president of external affairs for the Annie E. Casey Foundation, said many of the challenges states are facing stem from the pandemic. However, she stressed the report encouraged states and communities to examine a number of approaches to help improve kids’ well-being and address some of the pandemic’s negative effects.

“We know some of the things that work,” Boissiere explained. “Both in remediating or providing additional supports for kids who may have fallen behind such as high dosage tutoring, creating environments within schools where all kids feel like they can belong, and looking at evidence-based curriculum approaches.”

Advocates also suggested states take advantage of all their allocated pandemic relief funding to prioritize the social, emotional, academic and physical well-being of students. They also called on policymakers to invest in community schools and wraparound services.

Disclosure: The Annie E. Casey Foundation contributes to our fund for reporting on Children’s Issues, Education, Juvenile Justice, and Welfare Reform.

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