Health Check: Kids Count says 98 percent of RI children insured

Rhode Island Kids Count has released the latest study of the state of children in Rhode Island.

Rhode Island Kids Count has released the latest study of the state of children in Rhode Island.

This is its 24th annual Factbook.

"A full 98 percent of our kids have health insurance coverage," said Elizabeth Burke Bryant, executive director of Rhode Island Kids Count, a policy and advocacy agency for Rhode Island.

RIte care, Rhode Island's Medicaid-managed program for families with children, is a big reason why.

"The RIte care program has been a key part of our success with both health insurance coverage and positive health outcomes," said Bryant.

Preventive dental care, too, is improving thanks to an offshoot of RIte care known as RIte smiles.

"When RIte smiles began a little over 10 years ago, around only 90 dentists were willing to serve kids that were on Medicaid," said Bryant. "And now we have over 350 dentists in different practice locations serving kids on RIte Care, on RIte Smiles, and that has led to better oral health care for kids."

Rhode Island is reporting high rates of childhood and adolescent immunizations, teen births have reached an historic low and lead poisoning continues to go down. And there's more.

"Cigarette use is significantly down and in a good place for youth in Rhode Island. In 2017, 6 percent of our high school students reported currently smoking cigarettes,” said Bryant. "However, in Rhode Island, in 2017, 20 percent compared to that 6 percent number are reporting currently using e-cigarettes."

The opioid crisis continues to have an impact. Ninety-six babies born in 2016 had been exposed to opiates in the womb, compared to 114 the year before.

"But still double what it was in 2006," said Bryant.

Obesity remains an issue, as does poverty, which affects 40,000 kids in Rhode Island.

"There are still disparities based on race and ethnicity. Clearly there's disparities based on family income as well, so I think we need to keep working hard," Bryant said.

The 2018 Rhode Island Kids Count Factbook charts improvements and declines.

"We put it out in understandable, well-organized ways so that people don't use anecdotes anymore. They actually know the real numbers of how kids and families are doing in Rhode Island," Bryant said.

This data, over the years, has lead to policy changes and the emergence of programs to help improve the health of our kids.

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