The 24th annual Indiana Youth Institute’s Kids Count Data Book was released Monday. The data tool measures the well-being of Hoosier children. Overall Indiana ranks 28th nationally, but near the bottom in several categories.
This year’s data is broken up by race and ethnicity. Indiana Youth Institute President Tamil Silverman says this year’s data gives a clearer picture of which groups of Hoosier children face the greatest challenges.
“We see that those gaps exist in education, in health, in safety, in community services,” says Silverman, “all of those things.”
The data book is meant to be a tool for policy makers, community leaders, educators or anyone with an interest in children’s well-being.
Taking a look at the health data measurements, Hoosier children face a number of difficulties.
The data ranks Indiana 41st nationally in infant mortality rates, and black infants are more than twice as likely to die than white infants before their first birthday. Silverman says this is a measure that clearly show disparity.
“When you go ahead and disaggregate that data by race we find that there are even bigger challenges and gaps, particularly with African American children,” Silverman says.
The data tracks related behaviors like pregnancy smoking rates. An average 13.5 percent of Hoosier moms smoked during pregnancy. Grant County with the highest rates at more than 31 percent and Hamilton County with the lowest at 2.4 percent.
Breastfeeding is on the rise in Indiana and is most common among Hispanic mothers. But nearly 8,300 Hoosier babies were born premature in 2016. That’s the highest rate since 2011.
Another area of concern in Indiana is the rise in acute neglect cases related to the opioid epidemic. Over the past five years Indiana has a 58 percent increase in the number of children entering foster homes.
“It’s not so much intentional abuse but parents that, because of addiction, are not providing adequate food or supervision or access to health care or transportation to school,” Silverman says.
The data finds one in 10 Indiana children live with someone that has a substance use disorder.
Indiana children also face higher rates of developmental delays and teens have higher rates of suicidal ideation than the national average.
Economic and access factors play into high rates of childhood obesity in Indiana. The data finds one in three Indiana children are overweight or obese.
Positive changes in Hoosier youth health measurements include an increase in health coverage, 94 percent of Hoosier youth have some type of health insurance. More than three in 10 youth rely on Medicaid.
Teen pregnancy rates are at the lowest since the book began tracking data.
Young people in Indiana are using alcohol and illegal drugs at lower rates but the use of electronic vaping products is on the rise.
The book also highlights possible solutions and lists resources available across the state.