Feb 11, 2008

Low-birth-weight babies and infant mortality becoming problems in Michigan

LANSING -- Fewer Michigan teens are binge drinking and smoking, but more children are overweight and exercising too little.

That's the finding of the 2007 Kids Count in Michigan report, which warns that unless the state acts more decisively in the next few years, it will fail to meet many national standards for healthy children, families and neighborhoods.

Jane Zehnder-Merrell, senior research associate at the Michigan League for Human Services (MLHS) and project director, recently presented the report's finding to the Michigan Legislature Children's Caucus. The report had both good and bad news for Michigan policymakers and children's advocates.

The report examines 18 wide-ranging health goals for children and teens that are set by the Healthy People (HP) 2010, a national initiative to advance health and well-being. The report points out Michigan is making progress, but it is not fast enough to meet the goals in many areas. Minority children and youth are further behind in meeting most of the targets.

Of the 18 objectives, Michigan met three indications. They are immunization of toddlers, teen pregnancies and physical fitness. Michigan is also making substantial improvements in lessening binge drinking and tobacco use, but it has not yet met the goals.

“The good news is we have met three of the indicators,” Zehnder-Merrell said. “This is an indication of what can be done when we address the issues.”

Michigan is performing even worse in four indicators: low-birth-weight babies, high school students being overweight, a lack of vigorous exercise, and confirmed victims of abuse and neglect. The state is also showing little or no progress in these four indicators: infant mortality, asthma, young child deaths and prenatal care.

“It goes to show the lack of support for young families,” Zehnder-Merrell said. “It behooves us to look at child health in Michigan.”

Infant mortality and low birth weight are major concerns in Michigan. The report points to the $4 billion in cuts to the state budget since 2000 as a reason for the problem. Michigan has also seen a 36 percent increase in child poverty between 2000 and 2005.

Zehnder-Merrell said the report should also be taken in the context of the United States’ position in child well-being among industrialized nations -- 21st.

The Michigan League for Human Services (MLHS) is a statewide nonprofit organization consisting of more than 1,900 member organizations dedicated to education, research and advocacy for the benefit of low-income and other vulnerable citizens.

No comments: