New study shows health care challenges for families in Greater MinnesotaThe 2012 KIDS COUNT Data book found that access to health care, food, jobs, and child care is limited in many regions throughout the state. When these resources do exist, many families are unable to afford them because their jobs do not pay sufficient wages or offer critical benefits.
For families in Greater Minnesota, accessing and affording critical basic needs can be extremely stressful and keep them from achieving economic stability. The 2012 KIDS COUNT Data book found that access to health care, food, jobs, and child care is limited in many regions throughout the state. When these resources do exist, many families are unable to afford them because their jobs do not pay sufficient wages or offer critical benefits.
For example, health care is a critical basic need for children so they can learn and for families so they can work. However, across Minnesota there are health care shortage areas in 62 counties for primary care, 67 counties for dental care, and 77 counties for mental health care. If doctors do not exist in these areas, children cannot receive important preventive checkups, which can put them at risk for developing chronic health conditions. On top of limited health care access, about 75,000 children are without health insurance, with the highest percentages of children without health insurance residing in Greater Minnesota. As a result, even if they live in an area with health care access, their family may not be able to afford it.
In addition to limited access to services, the Data book finds that family incomes have not kept pace over time and that there is a wide gap across regions when looking at income. Since the beginning of the decade, families across Minnesota were making about $1,200 less per year in inflation adjusted dollars in 2010 compared to 2000, while many costs have continued to increase. Statewide, family median income was about $69,000 but this ranged from about $50,000 in Region 2 to almost $85,000 in Region 11.
In the end, the real consequence of limited access and affordability will come when children grow up unprepared to work, lead, or carry on the vision of prosperity Minnesota needs. According to the Data book, the child population in Minnesota has not grown in the past 10 years. In fact, in many places, populations are dwindling. “As a result, the state cannot afford to lose even one child to poor health or academic failure because the skills, abilities, and ingenuity of the younger generation are essential to ensure continued prosperity,” says Children’s Defense Fund-Minnesota Research Director, Kara Arzamendia.
The Data book also highlights seven promising practices in communities across Minnesota that promote healthy child development and build on families’ strengths to move towards self-sufficiency. One example is the Lakes & Prairies Community Action Partnership in Moorhead that helps families access a range of services from homeless prevention to help with food, health
care and child care. With its mantra of “surviving to thriving—a passport to success,” Lakes & Prairies Community Action Partnership empowers families with the tools and resources needed to avoid further crises.
As the Data book concludes, accessing and affording goods and services to keep families and children safe and healthy should not be limited by the place they call home.
The 2012 KIDS COUNT data book can be found at http://www.cdf-mn.org/research-library/kids-count/.