Back to school: Are children ready to learn?

For children to succeed in school, they must go to school “ready to learn” –  rested, fed and healthy. But how many children will start the school year with a toothache or other dental problem?

According to the Department of Community Health’s 2011 -2012 Count Your Smiles survey, the number is likely pretty high.

Survey highlights include:

  • Nearly one in 14 (7%) Michigan third-grade children were in need of immediate dental care for signs or symptoms of pain, infection, or swelling.
  • Over one in four Michigan third-grade children, 27.1%, have untreated dental disease.
  • Untreated dental disease was highest in the Detroit area at 41.9%, with a higher prevalence of African American, Arab, and Hispanic school children with untreated dental disease. 
  • Oral pain can impact a child’s learning, nutrition, and sleeping. Over one in nine parents of third-grade children, 11.3%, reported their child had a toothache when biting or chewing in the past six months.

Unfortunately dental caries (cavities) remain the No. 1 chronic disease in children, despite the fact they are preventable. Our children’s oral health has not been a high enough priority.  While Healthy Kids Dental will expand to Kalamazoo and Macomb counties in October, the children in Kent, Oakland and Wayne Counties will remain left out.

Third grade reading success has been in the news a lot lately with legislation under consideration to retain children in third grade if they do not demonstrate proficiency in reading. Based on the statistics from the Count Your Smiles survey, it should not be surprising that many children are unable to concentrate in school due to untreated dental disease. Research links oral health to academic performance not only from the ability to concentrate and learn, but also from the number of missed days of school due to dental issues.

The Kids Count in Michigan Data Profile 2013  provides the following snapshots for children not proficient in reading at the beginning of fourth grade for the areas not covered by Healthy Kids Dental:

  • Kent County – 27%
  • Oakland County – 24.9%
  • Wayne County – 43.7%
  • Detroit – 60.1%

As a state, we need to focus on the underlying causes that prevent children from learning to read rather than punishing the child and family. Improving the oral health of our children by expanding Healthy Kids Dental statewide would be a great place to start.

– Jan Hudson

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. (more…)

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

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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…)

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