ANCHORAGE, Alaska (KTUU) - 45th out of the 50 states. That's where Alaska ranks in the 2019 Kids Count Data Book.
Some alarming stats are raising concern over the well-being of children in our state.
The 65-page-long book of data is created by the Annie E. Casey Foundation each year that deals with the overall well-being of children in each individual state.
Organizations across the nation contribute their data to help analysts paint an accurate picture of childhood for each individual state.
Alaska’s picture is not so pretty.
"One of the most valuable resources in our state are our children. They are the future of our state but today, Alaska's children are hurting and Alaska's families are suffering," says Trevor Storrs, president and CEO of Alaska Children’s Trust, an organization that contributes data to the book.
The analysis is broken down into four domains: economic well-being, education, family and community, and health.
Alaska’s standing on each domain compared to the rest of the U.S. is 33rd in economic well-being, 49th in education, 21st in family and community and 50th in health. The rank of last in health care for the children of the state is unsurprising to many in related fields.
“We know that for every dollar we invest in early childhood we save up to 7 dollars long term. However Alaska invests very little in early childhood compared to our investment in things like the correctional system,” says Storr.
The health domain is evaluated by looking at the number of low birth-weight babies, children without health insurance, child and teen deaths per 100,000 and teens who abuse drugs or alcohol.
One debated statistic that puts Alaska on the bottom for health care is the lack of insurance for children. Experts say the study does not include children who are covered by Indian Health Services, who provide care for a large number of children in the state.
One statistic that does have cause to raise alarm Alaska’s status as the worst state for the number of deaths in teens and children.
“So in Alaska, we have a lot of unintentional and intentional injuries and often times those unintentional injuries are called accidents and those things are referred to as motor vehicle crashes, drownings falls and things in those nature. We have a high proportion of those in our states,” says Jared Parrish, senior internal child health epidemiologist with the Department of Health and Human Services.
Parrish says the nature of transportation in rural Alaska and a majority of the state being in close proximity to open or fast-moving waters is a large contributing factor to the unintentional deaths. On the other side of the coin, we know that while unintentional deaths are higher, the suicide rate in teens and children is still above the national average.
"When we look at the spectrum of suicide, we need to understand our mental health and our substance use a little better and we need to be able to talk about this and get our youth and teens connected to services as quickly as possible," says Parrish.
Several groups evaluating the kids count data agree a solution to the health care ranking is needed and fast.
“Health is such an important thing and health and well-being and having an early start is so important and critical to your lifelong trajectory that we are really emphasizing that there are certain components and that child death is a really good indication that we need to strengthen that unit, that household unit, a little bit better so that they can live a healthier, more productive life and not die,” says Parrish.
The Alaska Children's Trust outlined several points while looking into a solution for the overall low rank, investing in kids early, strengthening health care, getting rid of barriers for basic needs like food and clothing and then continuing support in the collection of data.
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