Mark Richardson, Public News Service
Advocacy groups are sounding the alarm about the well-being of Arizona’s children.
The 2022 Kids Count Data Book released today ranks Arizona 44th out of 50 states for the health and well-being of its children. The survey highlights some troubling trends in how Arizona children are facing significant mental-health challenges and increasing levels of poverty.
Kelley Murphy, vice president of policy for the Children’s Action Alliance, Arizona’s Kids Count partner, said while 9% of Arizona children suffer with anxiety and depression, the numbers rapidly increase when applied to the state’s marginalized communities.
“There are huge, disproportionate differences between all Black and brown children and white children, and what we see in the data,” Murphy reported. “Even on mental health, depression and anxiety ratings for our Native American populations is significantly higher than it is for white children.”
The report ranks Arizona 47th for education, with an increase in three- and four-year-old children not in preschool. The study also ranked Arizona 29th in children’s health, with a surge in deaths among children and teens, and an increase in low-birth weight babies.
Murphy pointed out the study reinforces the belief high poverty rates are a direct result of policymakers “dis-investing” in Arizona families. She urged lawmakers to boost the state’s lagging public education system to lift Arizonans out of poverty.
“One of the key ways for families to get back out of poverty or for individuals to get out of poverty is education,” Murphy asserted. “We really want to see the K-12 education system in the state reaching all of those families equally and not leaving some parts of the state behind.”
Leslie Boissiere, vice president of external affairs for the Annie E. Casey Foundation, said access to health insurance is one of the best ways to provide children with a high level of health and well-being.
“We know that both the physical and mental health of children is incredibly important,” Boissiere contended. “Access to health insurance can provide them with the resources to ensure that they do well both physically and also that they have access to the mental-health resources they need to do well mentally.”
The annual Kids Count Data Book is published annually by the Annie E. Casey Foundation, ranking states on the overall well-being of their children. The grades are based on 16 indicators across four major areas: economic well-being, education, health and community, and family.
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