An annual health survey of Nevada's kindergarteners found that more Silver State families than ever have health insurance and are also reporting fewer barriers to accessing health care.
The report, which compares data from the last three years by the Nevada Institute for Children’s Research and Policy (NICRP) at UNLV, summarized survey responses from nearly 7,500 parents representing about 32,000 kindergarten students across the state’s 17 school districts.
Since last year, the percentage of uninsured children dramatically decreased — by nearly 40 percent. That brought the number of children with health insurance up to 92 percent, findings show. The statistic is staggering for Nevada, where the number of uninsured children under 18 is typically double the United States average. The authors attribute the change primarily to increases in Medicaid enrollment.
Meanwhile, the survey found, only about 21 percent of respondents — down from roughly 25 percent last year — said they had encountered one or more barriers, such as lack of transportation or money, to accessing physical or mental health services. Routine doctor and dentist wellness checks were up about 1 percent.
“The healthier kids are, the fewer days they miss from school and the better they are able to concentrate in class,” said Amanda Haboush-Deloye, chief research associate for NICRP. “If children are healthy, mentally and physically, they are better able to focus on learning in the classroom.”
NICRP each year administers the Kindergarten Health Survey, in partnership with the Nevada Division of Public and Behavioral Health and all the state’s school districts, to assess the overall health status of young children as they enter the education system. The findings identify health trends that can be used by educators and state officials to guide policy and program development.
Additional findings include:
- 16.1 percent of children are underweight, 9.8 percent are overweight and 21.7 percent are obese. The percentage of overweight children declined while numbers show slight increases in the obese and underweight categories. “Hunger and lack of access to nutritious foods is as much of a problem as overeating or eating unhealthy foods,” said Haboush-Deloye.
- 51.4 percent of children did at least 30 minutes of physical activity six or more times per week.
- 33 percent of families have an annual household income less than $25,000.
- Nearly 35 percent of parents reported breastfeeding at three months (up slightly from last year), while about 22 percent were doing so at six months (slightly down from last year). Breastfeeding has been associated with reduced risk of illnesses such as cancer and diabetes in mothers, and reduced risk of other ailments in children like ear infections, allergies and obesity in children.
Other behaviors related to nutrition and physical activity, such as playing computer and video games, watching TV and drinking soda, remained fairly consistent with last year’s findings.
“It is important to continue to measure these indicators so that we can monitor changes over time and know that we are using real data to inform decisions related to programs and policies,” Haboush-Deloye said. “With these data we also know when the interventions selected are making a difference in overall outcomes for young children.”
In addition to Haboush-Deloye, the research team included Patricia Haddad, Mirzah Trejo, Tara Phebus, and Dawn Davidson. NICRP also had the aid of several additional research assistants who were vital to the completion of this project.
To access the full report, contact the NICRP at (702) 895-1040 or visit nic.unlv.edu.