Utah ranks in the top 10 nationally for child well-being, and has made improvements across almost all key measures, according to the 2017 Kids Count Data Book by the Annie E. Casey Foundation. The percentage of children living in poverty remained unchanged at 13 percent from 2014 to 2015.
Utah has made gains on nearly every key indicator for children's well-being, and the state ranks seventh nationally overall in this year's Kids Count Data Book from the Annie E. Casey Foundation. The state moved up eight spots in the report's health category, from 27th to 19th. Terry Haven with Voices for Utah Children says kids are benefiting from policies aimed at helping them succeed.
"When we start talking about making policy changes like cutting Medicaid, that's going to have an impact," Haven said. "We need to make sure that our politicians know that making changes in those really positive programs that are working are going to make negative issues for our children."
She said while the percentage of Utah children without health insurance still is above the national average, 20,000 more of them now have coverage thanks to programs including the Children's Health Insurance Program (CHIP), Medicaid and a push for outreach. The report also found the state exceeds the national average for its percentages of fourth graders meeting proficiency in reading, eighth-graders meeting proficiency in math, and high schoolers graduating on time.
The Data Book focuses on key trends since the recession and measures child well-being in four areas: economic, education, health and family and community. Laura Speer with the Annie E. Casey Foundation says getting accurate data to policy makers is important, and notes the foundation has been tracking these indicators for more than 25 years.
"Because we believe in the importance of really getting a clear, unbiased measure of child well-being over time, we want folks to use this information to make good decisions so that we can maintain the gains that we've been able to achieve," Speer said.
Nationally, the report found that 95 percent of children now have health-care coverage, a historic high, mostly because of the expansion of Medicaid and CHIP under the Affordable Care Act.