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Kids Count: Report Finds Improved Health and Education Despite Pervasive Poverty

The cover of the 2016 Kids Count Data Book
The cover of the 2016 Kids Count Data Book

Health and education indicators are improving among North Carolina children despite spotty economic recovery, according to an annual report from the Annie E. Casey Foundation.

The 2016 Kids Count Data Book ranks North Carolina 34th in the country for overall wellbeing, which is up one spot from the year before.

The slight climb doesn't indicate big overall improvement, but probably signals other states falling behind, according to Laila Bell, who directs data and research at NC Child, a child wellbeing advocacy organization.

But there's good news. The Kids Count report shows decreased substance abuse, dropout, and teen pregnancy rates. Bell said public policies have made a difference there.

"In terms of teen births, we've seen investments at the state level in teen pregnancy prevention programs, and we've also seen a lot of local communities really mobilize around this issue," she said. "So this has been not only a state-level success, but a local community success as well."

But Bell said 1-in-4 North Carolina children still live in poverty, which limits their potential for healthy, successful lives.

"While we celebrate the fact that kids are making healthier choices, or kids have healthier behaviors, and kids are healthier today in many ways than they were in the past, we know that out kids can't do it alone," she said.

Her organization advocates bringing back the earned income tax credit and closing the health insurance coverage gap to help poor families.

Rebecca Martinez produces podcasts at WUNC. She’s been at the station since 2013, when she produced Morning Edition and reported for newscasts and radio features. Rebecca also serves on WUNC’s Inclusion, Diversity, Equity and Accountability (IDEA) Committee.
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