Re­port says county chil­dren in good health

The Colonial - - FRONT PAGE - By Brendan Wills

bwills@21st-cen­tu­ry­media.com

The ma­jor­ity of Mont­gomery County chil­dren are liv­ing healthy lives, ac­cord­ing to the lat­est re­port from Pub­lic Cit­i­zens for Chil­dren and Youth ti­tled “The Bot­tom Line is Chil­dren: Chil­dren’s Health Sta­tus in Mont­gomery County.”

De­spite a coun­ty­wide in­crease in chil­dren’s ac­cess to health care, a de­crease in asthma-re­lated hos­pi­tal­iza­tions and a de­crease in teen birth rates, the re­port in­di­cates there are still a few prob­lem ar­eas Mont­gomery County of­fi­cials and cit­i­zens must ad­dress.

The re­main­ing chil­dren in the county who lack health in­sur­ance, an in­crease in child obe­sity and a lack of lead screen­ings for youth are all is­sues PCCY hopes to com­bat in a com­bined ef­fort with county of­fi­cials, in­clud­ing Mont­gomery County Com­mis­sion­ers Chair­man Josh Shapiro, who sat in on a con­fer­ence call with the au­thors of the re­port Feb. 11.

PCCY Ex­ec­u­tive Di­rec­tor Donna Cooper and Health Di­rec­tor Colleen McCauley both agreed that the ma­jor­ity of the county’s chil­dren are healthy.

“Re­search proves healthy chil­dren are more likely to grow up to be­come healthy, suc­cess­ful adults,” the re­port said, cit­ing a study by the Robert Wood Foun­da­tion. “Bet­ter child­hood health is linked to im­proved ed­u­ca­tional at­tain­ment, bet­ter em­ploy­ment op­por­tu­ni­ties and higher in­come in adult­hood,”

In Mont­gomery County, teen birth rates de­creased 28 per­cent from 2007 to 2011. Asthma di­ag­noses are down from 26,922 in 2004 to 23,414 in 2012, and asthma-in­duced hos­pi­tal­iza­tions are down 2 per­cent from 2007 to 2011.

Ninety-seven per­cent of the county’s es­ti­mated 178,000 chil­dren are in­sured, leav­ing only 5,787 with­out in­sur­ance, ac­cord­ing to the re­port.

Shapiro said the re­port’s find­ings are in­di­ca­tors of the over­all health of the county.

“I am proud of the work we are do­ing in Mont­gomery County, and we look for­ward to part­ner­ing with PCCY to make fur­ther strides in pro­tect­ing the health and wel­fare of the chil­dren of our county,” he said.

Cooper said the find­ings are a good start, but there is still work ahead for the county.

“It should not be a sur­prise that chil­dren in the sta­ble and strong fam­i­lies and com­mu­ni­ties are do­ing well,” Cooper said. “How­ever, there is still strain on some lives in the county.”

It is mostly poor or un­doc­u­mented chil­dren who are suf­fer­ing, McCau-

ley said. The ma­jor­ity of the 5,787 with­out in­sur­ance are un­doc­u­mented im­mi­grants, she said.

All doc­u­mented chil­dren in Penn­syl­va­nia are el­i­gi­ble for Med­i­cal As­sis­tance or the Chil­dren’s Health In­sur­ance Pro­gram, ac­cord­ing to the re­port.

“The only people who don’t qual­ify are un­doc­u­mented chil­dren who do not have qual­i­fy­ing im­mi­gra­tion sta­tus,” McCauley said.

Two other prob­lem ar­eas are child­hood obe­sity and lead-based paint screen­ings.

The re­port in­di­cates 8,800 chil­dren be­came over­weight or obese in the last five years, and 14 per­cent of chil­dren younger than 6 were screened for lead even though twothirds of homes in the county were built be­fore 1978, mean­ing they po­ten­tially con­tain lead-based paints.

Again, McCauley in­di­cated that poor or un­doc­u­mented par­ents are more likely to make poor de­ci­sions re­gard­ing phys­i­cal ex­er­cise and proper nu­tri­tion for their chil­dren. In ad­di­tion, less for­tu­nate fam­i­lies can­not af­ford the ex­pen­sive paint-re­moval ren­o­va­tions.

Cooper, McCauley and Shapiro all agreed some prob­lems stem from cuts in fund­ing at the state and federal level.

“Fund­ing has been cut at state and federal lev­els for pro­grams that bat­tle obe­sity and screen for lead,” Shapiro said.

The re­port lists sev­eral ways that county of­fi­cials can part­ner with PCCY and other or­ga­ni­za­tions to help com­bat these re­main­ing is­sues. The ini­tia­tives in­clude adding to the county’s al­ready strong health in­sur­ance en­roll­ment through the Af­ford­able Care Act, work­ing on new op­por­tu­ni­ties with school district lead­ers, re­mov­ing the bar­ri­ers fac­ing un­doc­u­mented chil­dren in procur­ing in­sur­ance, en­cour­ag­ing phys­i­cal ed­u­ca­tion pro­grams in schools and of­fer­ing in­cen­tives for Med­i­caid man­aged care com­pa­nies to com­bat obe­sity.

Shapiro said he is on board with the ef­fort.

“I will con­tinue to call for com­pre­hen­sive im­mi­gra­tion re­form at the state and federal level,” Shapiro said. “Mont­gomery County has shown we are a leader in terms of how we in­vest in the well­be­ing of our chil­dren. The com­mis­sion­ers will con­tinue to work in part­ner­ship with PCCY to take the ini­tia­tive in Penn­syl­va­nia to get these chil­dren com­pre­hen­sive health care.”

For the full re­port and pre­vi­ous re­ports in the “The Bot­tom Line is Chil­dren” se­ries, PCCY en­cour­ages Mont­gomery County res­i­dents to visit www.pccy. org.

Sub­mit­ted photo

Leo Costello has been ap­pointed the new chief of the Con­shohocken Fire Depart­ment.

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