06-27-2011 (Dayton, OH) -
Childhood obesity, colds and flu, injuries and safety, and access to health care are top pediatric health concerns according to the findings of the 2011 Regional Pediatric Health Assessmentreleased today by The Children’s Medical Center of Dayton.
Conducted every three years, the assessment identified health and safety issues from online and telephone surveys conducted between January and March 2011.
More than 600 parents and guardians of children 14 years old and younger from 13 counties in Dayton Children’s service area responded to the survey conducted by Schwartz Consulting Partners, Inc. The assessment indicates children in our region, generally speaking, are in good health. However, the assessment also shows opportunities for parents and the community to prevent the preventable when it comes to disease, illness and injury to children.
Among the findings in the 2011 Assessment:
- Childhood obesity remains at the forefront of child health issues. Thirty-seven percent of children in our service area are overweight or obese and over 60 percent of parents of overweight and obese children do not perceive their children as having any weight problem.
- Ten percent of the parents responding to the survey indicated their child went to the emergency room within the last year because of an injury. According to the survey, the leading causes of these injuries included household accidents, general play, school activities, organized sports, car or bicycle accidents and unorganized sports.
- Children from low-income families are significantly more likely to have never had a flu shot than children from households above 200 percent of poverty. Likewise, children from households below 200 percent poverty are also slightly more likely to have had the flu in the past year and to have used emergency services for the flu.
In addition to specific medical condition or incidents, parents are concerned about the cost of health care and access to pediatric services.
- Twenty-eight percent of parents indicated health care costs or insurance is an area of greatest concern to them.
- Lower middle income parents were significantly more likely to view high medical costs as a problem than are either low income or high income parents. For 54 percent of parents in the median household income range of $20,000 to $49,999, medical costs are somewhat or a very serious concern.
- In addition, parents with higher deductibles and co-pays and those who use private insurance are significantly more likely to see high medical care costs as a problem than are parents with lower deductibles and co-pays or those who receive Medicaid or military health care.
“The assessment gives this community an opportunity to have an honest conversation about our greatest asset, our children, and what we can do to improve their health outcomes,” says Vicki Giambrone, vice president of marketing and external relations at Dayton Children’s. “Many of the challenges identified in this survey can be solved. As a voice for children, all adults have the opportunity to change our behaviors to improve the health and safety of children in our region.”
Focus on Prevention
While some diseases and illnesses are difficult to prevent, top parental concerns identified in the assessment are preventable such as the likelihood of children becoming accidentally injured, getting the flu or becoming obese.
“Clearly there is a disconnect between parent perception of a child’s weight and reality,” said James Ebert, MD, lead physician for the lipid clinic at Dayton Children’s. “If actions speak louder than words, then the data are even more alarming,” said Ebert. “Only 14 percent of overweight and 27 percent of obese children are doing anything to attempt to achieve a healthier weight.”
A variety of factors can contribute to a child’s risk for obesity. However, the pediatric experts at Dayton Children’s know proper diet and activity are key to managing a child’s weight.
“It takes a joint effort from parents, children, and doctors to recognize there’s a problem and then act on it in order to prolong the child’s life and provide a healthier style of living,” said Dr. Ebert .
Dayton Children’s is working with area physicians and other healthcare provides to make sure they have appropriate resources available to help children and their families choose healthier lifestyles in an effort to prevent childhood obesity.
Injury and accidents was another area explored in the assessment. More than 30 percent of parents who reported their child was injured, indicated their child was playing. This was followed by 25 percent of parents reporting their child was either playing sports or at home when an injury occurred. Not surprisingly, older children (ages 11 to 14) were more likely to suffer an injury during organized sports, whereas younger children (ages 0-5) were more likely to be injured in a household accident or general play.
The good news according to the assessment, nearly 100 percent of children of all ages use either seat belt or car seats regularly. Children younger than 4 years old typically ride in a car seat and children ages 4 to 8 are a target age group for booster seats. Children ages 9 to 14 are predrivers and statistically an age where seat belt usage rates begin to decline. Dayton Children’s would like to see all of these usage rates at 100 percent.
Although usage rates are approaching 100 percent for all age groups, local car seat check statistics show 90 percent misuse of car seats. Eighty percent of children ages 4 through 8 and 59 percent of children ages 9 through 14 regularly use helmets. The trend is similar for children riding scooters, skateboards or rollerblades where 77 percent of children ages 4 through 8 and 51 percent of children ages 9 through 14 regularly use helmets. Helmet use can reduce the risk of head injury by 85 percent and severe brain injury by 88 percent. Therefore Dayton Children’s and our community partners will continue to advocate for helmet laws and usage.
Colds and flu are two very spreadable yet preventable illnesses that not only impact a child’s health but also impact school and work attendance costing employers and the health care system millions of dollars each year. According to the assessment, 75 percent of parents reported their children had a cold and 17 percent had the flu during the last 12 months. The best way to decrease the frequency of colds and flu is through prevention – by educating proper hand washing and getting the flu vaccine.
Keeping with the theme of “Preventing the Preventable,” Dayton Children’s will also work with community partners on prevention strategies around childhood obesity, injuries and colds and flu including increased outreach and educational efforts.
Increase Access for Children
As the assessment indicates, many families face challenges in access to quality, pediatric care. Medicaid has been successful in providing coverage to millions of children in the United States, but it has fallen short on ensuring sufficient physician participation and access to care at the right time. Because of Medicaid’s lower reimbursement rate, access to primary pediatric care is limited and many times the underinsured or uninsured rely on emergency departments for non-emergent needs. Dayton Children’s serves as the community’s pediatric safety net for these patients.
Access to care may be one reason the use of the emergency department for non-emergent illnesses may be higher among lower income households. According to the assessment, while children do not differ overall in their frequency of use of emergency services, children from lower income households appear more likely to use emergency services for a number of common conditions including ear infections, coughs, throat symptoms, and high fever.
Dayton Children’s will continue to advocate on behalf of the children we serve for increased Medicaid reimbursement rates to ensure access for pediatric patients.
About the Assessment
The 2011 Regional Pediatric Health Assessment, generously funded by Dayton Children’s Foundation Board and conducted by Schwartz Consulting Partners, Inc., was administered between January and March 2011. The survey included both online and telephone responses of over 600 parents and guardians, the primary health care decision makers of children 14 years old and younger in a 13 county area served by Dayton Children’s. This assessment helps Dayton Children’s and its partners identify pediatric health and safety issues that require communitywide attention and action.
For the complete 2011 Regional Pediatric Health Assessment, please visit www.childrensdayton.org. If you have questions about the information in this report, please contact Dayton Children’s at 937-641-3666.
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