Kokomo Tribune; Kokomo, Indiana

Local News

July 9, 2013

Health of state's children improving

Report finds more are liviing in poverty, despite recession's end.

According to a new report, 8 percent of babies born in Indiana in 2010 had low birth weights – a surprisingly good sign for a state that’s struggled for decades to bring that number down.

The Annie E. Casey Foundation recently released its 2013 Kids Count data book, which ranks states on 16 indicators of child well being.

Indiana ranked 30th overall, which Indiana Youth Institute CEO Bill Stanczykiewicz said isn’t all that surprising. The state falls in the middle of the pack every year. If Indiana makes gains in one area, so does the rest of the nation, he said.

What he found “really incredible,” though, were the gains the state made in terms of children’s health. This year, Indiana moved up 13 spots to 21st in the health rankings.

That’s due, in large part, to the tireless effort of local and state officials to curtail the number of low-birthweight babies, he said.

It’s an important crusade, according to the report.

“The birth of a baby reminds us of the potential that exists in every new generation,” the Kids Count report states. “Yet, the odds against thriving are higher for some newborns than for others. Babies born with a low birth weight — less than about 5.5 pounds — have a high probability of experiencing developmental problems and short- and long-term disabilities and are at greater risk of dying within the first year of life.”

While the state made only modest gains, it’s a start, he said.

“That’s been a stubborn statistic for the state for the better part of 20 years,” Stanczykiewicz said. “But it’s not time to declare victory.”

Indiana has one of the highest percentages in the nation of mothers who smoke during pregnancy, he said.

If the state could get that number under control, the number of babies born with low birth weights would plummet, he said.

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