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Maryland ranks 16th for overall child well-being

BALTIMORE, Md. – The 2017 KIDS COUNT Data Book released Tuesday by the Annie E. Casey Foundation ranked Maryland as 16th in the nation for overall child well-being.

The 28th annual report used measurements of health, education, economic well-being, and family and community from 2010 to 2015 to determine if kids have what they need to thrive.

Children advocacy groups say the numbers show a need for greater investment in children’s health.

“Maryland’s children are probably not worse off, but are not better off,” said Nonso Umunna, the research director with Advocates for Children and Youth.

Umunna helped supply the Annie E. Casey Foundation, the publisher of the KIDS COUNT Data Book, with Maryland data. He said the latest information is a mixed bag. There were some improvements as well as some worrisome trends.

“We also see numbers in that report that are not very positive, particularly in the area of health,” said Umunna.

There were more child and teen deaths in 2015, which is 70 more than the year prior. While the numbers don’t specify the reason behind the spike, Umunna and his team have identified some factors.

“One of them is opioid abuse, and also the lack of prenatal care and other factors, so we think [health] is the particular area that should be looked at,” he said.

The percentage of teens who abuse alcohol or drugs is the same as five years ago. It remained steady at 6 percent. The stagnation coupled with the death rate contributed to the state’s drop in overall health rank from 22 to 30.

However, there was significant improvement in the number of children with health insurance in Maryland and nationwide.

“We see a very steep drop in the number of children who are uninsured nationally,” said Umunna.

U.S. children with health insurance is at 95 percent, a historic high. The report’s authors credit the bump to the Affordable Care Act and expansions to Medicaid and the children’s health insurance programs, the same programs that could be seeing cuts in the future.

“That would be taking us back to where we were five years ago and beyond that, and we don’t want to do that especially because the health of our children is very important,” Umunna said.

As for education, Maryland ranks 12th in the nation, another slight improvement. There are less eighth graders who are proficient in math, but there was a bump in high school students who graduated on time.

Maryland also ranked 15th in economic well-being. And 20th in family and community. The state has seen a decline of nearly 40 percent in the teen birth rate since 2010.