Wednesday, November 21, 2012
Uninsured children in five North Texas counties exceed at least twice the national average
The report seeks alternative solutions to provide cost-effective care.
DENTON Texas Sen. Florence Shapiro led a conversation regarding the state of children’s health in Denton and four other North Texas counties last week at Children’s Medical Center Dallas’ 2012 Beyond ABC symposium.
The hospital’s Legacy campus hosted the meeting to coincide with the release of the hospital’s 2012 Beyond ABC report, which assesses the health and quality of life of some 453,000 children living in Collin, Cooke, Denton, Grayson, and Fannin counties.
Chris Durovich, CEO and president of Children’s Medical Center Dallas, said 14 percent of Texas children have no health insurance, compared to the national average of 8 percent. All five counties studied by the report have at least twice the national average of uninsured children, with Denton County’s rate standing at 17.4 percent.
“North Texas is, overall, a great place to live, especially if you have the means to enjoy it, but the population explosion in North Texas is creating new challenges as well as exacerbating existing challenges,” he said. “We must be aware that for too many of the children who live here, poverty and hunger are realities that mean their lives aren’t nearly as safe and as healthy as they could and should be.”
Shapiro introduced a panel of North Texas health care, education and law enforcement experts to provide feedback and describe how they think North Texas can be a safer, healthier place to live.
“Every day you read in the newspaper about the plight of children across this country,” Shapiro said. “Every day you furrow your brow and you think to yourself, 'Oh my goodness, that is just terrible.' ... but we also tend to look at it and say, ‘Those children, those poor children, live somewhere else. How sad. How terrible.’ Well, this morning, we're going to see this as our children.”
Dr. Timothy Bray, director of the University of Texas at Dallas’ urban policy and research center, the group that conducted the survey, said the statistics in the report bring together data from very diverse communities, including some neighborhoods in Collin County where 50 percent of children do not have health insurance.
How each community responds to such unique issues is dependent on what services its doctors and neighborhoods are able to provide in those communities and how much revenue their tax base can generate, Bray said.
“When we walk out of this room and we decide that we’re going to take action based on these numbers, how we do it is going to look different, but the fact that we must is the same for all of us,” he said.
Dr. Ray Tsai, medical director of MyChildren’s, a system of nine primary care offices in underserved North Texas neighborhoods, said his clinics provide sick visits, medication and other basic care to mostly Medicaid and CHIP-enrolled children.
Too often, Tsai said, parents are unable to find a doctor who takes Medicaid or CHIP patients to see their children for such basic care.
“They go to the emergency room, and they are not receiving the most cost-effective care,” he said. “I would even posit that for those conditions, MyChildren’s or their general pediatrician is their most effective care.”
Melinda Smith, health and physical education coordinator for Plano ISD, said her district has decided to tackle children’s health issues head-on by creating a campus wellness team created for every school. Other health-minded policy changes include a nutritious school lunch menu overhaul, the rescheduling of recess before lunch and a full schedule of physical activities for children.
“We want to bring the parents back (to the schools) for family fitness nights,” she said. “We have school walks, walk-and-bike to school programs; we even have some of our middle schools that have run their own 5Ks, and we have a huge parental involvement in all of these.”
The Beyond ABC was report first published in 1996. The first edition focusing on Collin County was published in 2008 to coincide with the opening of Children’s Medical Center’s Legacy campus. This year’s edition is the 11th published so far.
To view the 2012 Beyond ABC report, visit www.childrens.com and search “Beyond ABC.”
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