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N.C. child health review gives low grades on obesity

RALEIGH — More state government budget reductions next year after cutbacks in 2009 and 2010 could reverse years of health and safety improvements, according to the authors of an annual report grading the well-being of North Carolina’s children.

The 16th annual North Carolina Child Health Report Card, released today by the North Carolina Institute of Medicine and Action for Children North Carolina, graded health indicators in 14 categories, mostly by examining 2009 data and comparing them with four or five years ago.

The report continued to give the highest grades — “A’s” — because children are born with a low number of communicable diseases and many preschoolers at risk for development delays or chronic illness get formal help.

But the report gave the state an “F” because too many poor children are obese — as many as 28 percent from the ages of 12 to 18 — and a “D” for alcohol, tobacco and drug use, even though all of them showed improvement for the first time.

The data didn’t reflect the full weight of the recession and spending cuts, said Barbara Bradley, president and chief executive of Action for Children.

“As they consider potential budget reductions in 2011, our leaders must keep in mind that the health and safety of our children are already being compromised,” Bradley said in a news release. “Further budget reductions could place children in serious jeopardy.”

The report card pointed out that the overall child fatality rate and infant mortality rate both reached historic lows last year, but the infant rate still ranked poorly among the states, earning the state a “C” grade.

The report gave “B’s” for the state’s high immunization rate and improvements in the number of children enrolled in public health insurance of getting preventative care through Medicaid. But 11.5 percent of all children still don’t have any health insurance, the report said.

The report’s authors also gave an “A” because so many toddlers are screened for elevated levels of lead in their blood and a lower percentage of children are diagnosed with asthma.

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