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By Whitney Tucker

We’ve covered the good news and the failing grades in this week’s blog series on the Child Health Report Card—now we report on the opportunities for policymakers to take action to improve outcomes for children.

As the state legislature prepares to convene for the 2018 “short session” on May 16, we see three opportunities to address some critical points for children’s health in North Carolina highlighted by the 2018 Child Health Report Card:

Suicide Prevention Children’s mental health stands out as one of the most sobering points in the 2018 Child Health Report Card. Last year nearly 1 in 10 North Carolina high school students reported attempting suicide. Between 2011 and 2015, suicide was the 2nd leading cause of death for NC youth age 15 to 17. Legislators can address this problem directly by requiring that all school personnel in grades 6-12 regularly complete high-quality suicide awareness and prevention training.

school nurse imageAdditional Funding for School Nurses School nurses are on the front lines of protecting our children’s physical and mental health, and play a key role in ensuring students are well enough to thrive in the classroom. School nurses are a particularly vital resource for students living in poverty, who often face barriers to managing chronic conditions or receiving preventive care. North Carolina currently has a shortage of approximately 654 school nurses. This means school nurses frequently serve between 2 and 6 schools, and may only be in a given school for one-half day each week.  Legislators can address this shortage by increasing funding for school nurses.

Parental InsuranceClosing the Health Care Coverage Gap   North Carolina’s health insurance rate for children has hit an all-time high with 96 percent insured. However, a child’s health is determined by much more than his or her own access to affordable health insurance; parental health, family well-being, and financial security also play a major role. More than 100,000 parents in North Carolina don’t have insurance because they earn too much to qualify for Medicaid, but too little to purchase private health insurance. Legislators should pursue policy options to use available federal funding to expand health care to uninsured adults.

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