100,000 kids get reason to smile, 400,000 left out

With the expansion of Healthy Kids Dental to Kalamazoo and Macomb counties, 100,000 kids (and their parents) will have reason to smile as they gain access to this highly successful program starting Oct. 1.

Healthy Kids Dental  is a public-private partnership between the Department of Community Health and Delta Dental of Michigan. The program is available to Medicaid-eligible children under age 21 in 78 counties in which the Department is funded to contract with Delta Dental.

The state budget beginning Oct. 1 includes $5.4 million in state funds and $10.3 million in federal funds to expand to Kalamazoo and Macomb counties. The program, administered by Delta Dental, uses Delta’s commercial network and pays higher rates than Medicaid.

That means as of Oct. 1, Healthy Kids Dental will be available to Medicaid-eligible children in all counties except Wayne, Oakland and Kent. These counties are home to hundreds of thousands of children from low-income families, representing nearly 40% of Michigan’s Medicaid-eligible children. A significant percentage of those left out are children of color.

While it is great that 100,000 children will gain access to comprehensive dental services, it is critical that all Medicaid-eligible children in Michigan have access to this program and to good oral health opportunities. Tooth decay remains the No. 1 chronic disease in children, but it is preventable with access to good dental care. Like potholes, cavities just grow larger, more expensive to repair and more painful.

All children need to be able to learn and progress in school, but toothaches and other dental problems cause them to lose concentration or miss school. In a study of low-income children in Los Angeles, researchers found that elementary students missed 2.1 days of school each year due to dental problems while high school students missed 2.3 days and parents missed 2.5 days of work.

In addition, untreated problems can impact overall health, including growth and nutrition as well as behavior. Inadequate oral health treatment in childhood can result in ongoing problems in adulthood, including missed work, inability to get a job, or aggravated chronic health conditions.

The Michigan Oral Health Coalition report, 2013 Check-Up on Oral Health, documents a number of key oral health indicators by county, including the number of Medicaid-participating dentists, the number of Healthy Kids Dental participating dentists as well as the estimated cost of “dental neglect.”

While we celebrate the addition of Kalamazoo and Macomb counties to the list of Healthy Kids Dental covered counties, we must not lose sight of the kids left behind. Healthy Kids Dental must be expanded statewide to the remaining 402,000 children, improving their health and learning potential, while reducing pain and cost.

-- Jan Hudson-

 

Maternal and infant risks in Michigan’s legacy cities

Roughly one of every four children in the state lives in one of Michigan’s legacy cities located across the southern half of the state’s Lower Peninsula. These legacy cities, once economic and social powerhouses, are now, in many cases, struggling with population loss and high unemployment.

Perhaps, not so surprising, risks to maternal and infant well-being are generally worse within these cities than the out-county areas in the counties where they are located.

The latest analysis of Right Start in Michigan, an annual report from Kids Count in Michigan, examines eight indicators to assess maternal and infant risks across the 15 so-called legacy cities. Only Ann Arbor, which has actually thrived in the new post-industrial economy, shows lower risk on almost all indicators than the out-county. (more…)

Today’s lesson: Poverty is not a learning disability

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My Brother’s Keeper is a White House initiative aimed at addressing what is truly a crisis in Michigan and across the nation: The lack of opportunity for young males of color.

Attendees at the Opportunity and Equity Convening Monday in Novi, an event sponsored by the Prosperity Coalition and the League, heard directly from Cabinet Secretary Broderick Johnson, who attended the gathering to preview the initiative – with a report due to President Obama May 28. (more…)

More schools can opt to feed all their hungry kids

At school, a fifth-grader named Rosie pretends her teacher is a banana, and her classmates are apples. Active imagination? Yes, but not only because she’s a child. Rosie cannot concentrate on her school work because her stomach is empty. She’s constantly hungry and copes with it by daydreaming about food.

That is the unfortunate experience of a food-insecure child documented in A Place at the Table, a film that highlights some of the effects of hunger on children. (more…)

Early reading critical

Michigan is losing ground on a key benchmark in its long-term goal of expanding its educated workforce. The state is among only six that showed no improvement in reading proficiency among fourth-graders over the decade between 2003 and 2013, according to a just released Data Snapshot from the Annie E. Casey Foundation.

Almost seven of every 10 Michigan fourth-graders did not demonstrate reading proficiency in 2013—up 1 percentage point from 2003 while the national average dropped by 4 percentage points, according to the review of national test results across the states. Just over half (53%) of all fourth-graders in the best state, Massachusetts, scored below proficient in reading compared with almost four of five Mississippi fourth-graders. (more…)

War on Poverty: Part 2

From the League’s First Tuesday newsletter
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Today marks the 50th anniversary of President Lyndon Baines Johnson’s now-famous State of the Union address that launched the War on Poverty:

“Unfortunately, many Americans live on the outskirts of hope — some because of their poverty, and some because of their color, and all too many because of both. Our task is to help replace their despair with opportunity.

While some pundits will undoubtedly seize the anniversary as an opportunity to wrongly declare the War on Poverty a failure, we should instead recommit to LBJ’s vision, as there is plenty of evidence that it worked. And what an incredible return on investment! (more…)

Ten steps to boost Michigan’s economy

new report by the League outlines 10 steps Michigan must take to improve its economy, refuting the myth that tax cuts are a shortcut to economic prosperity. Included in the report are strategies for investing in the services and infrastructure needed to create jobs and fuel economic growth, as well as tax changes that modernize and strengthen the state’s revenue system.

It is an agenda for long-term economic prosperity that includes investments in education from early childhood through higher education, access to the health and mental health services needed for a healthy workforce, basic income security for those who cannot work or find jobs, and support for the community services businesses and consumers rely on. (more…)

KIDS COUNT: First eight years

Legislation gaining attention in Lansing would force third-graders behind in reading to redo a grade. A new KIDS COUNT policy report out today offers some better options.

Michigan policymakers are addressing the importance of investing in early childhood by expanding the state-funded preschool program for 4-year-olds, a key recommendation in the report, The First Eight Years: Giving Kids a Foundation for Lifetime Success, by the Annie E. Casey Foundation. But the administration and Legislature fall down on another important recommendation: Support for low-income families. (more…)

Not all blessed with food

Next month many of us will celebrate Thanksgiving with a big meal and lots of good food. Not everyone will be so blessed, though.

On Nov. 1, 1.8 million children, veterans, seniors and others in Michigan will see their food assistance reduced. Over the next year, food assistance will be cut $183 million in our state alone. (more…)

Michigan’s child poverty unacceptably high

Michigan’s child poverty rate now matches those of Florida and West Virginia, according to the latest data released today by the U.S. Census Bureau. All the states with child poverty rates higher than that of Michigan are located in the South or Southwest where overall child well-being lags national averages.

Although Michigan’s child poverty rate didn’t continue its upward climb in 2012, it is stagnating at a relatively high level—affecting roughly one of every four children. More than half a million children in Michigan lived in a family with income below the federal poverty level ($23,300 for a family of four and $18,500 for a single parent with two children). Roughly half of these children live in families in extreme poverty—with annual income below $10,000. (more…)

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