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Annual report card shows improvement in child health in Colorado

The health of Colorado children earned a C on the 2013 Colorado Health Report Card released today, up from a D+ last year.

The change appears due to a reduction in childhood obesity, a decrease in the percentage of uninsured children, and an increase in physical activity among children, three of six indicators tracked for the age group.

According to the report card, which is published each spring by the Colorado Health Foundation in partnership with the Colorado Health Institute, the child obesity rate fell from 14.2 percent last year to 10.9 percent this year. That said, officials from the Colorado Health Institute said the change isn’t statistically signficant because of the small sample size used to get those percentages. In other words, the actual change may be smaller than the 3.3 percentage points reported.

“It’s a marker, but it isn’t necessarily all the information,” said Sara Schmitt, director of community health policy for the Colorado Health Institute.

The report card also found that the percentage of children between the ages of 6 and 17 doing vigorous physical activity four or more days a week jumped from 64.1 percent last year to 67.6 percent this year. In addition, the percentage of children not covered by public or private insurance dropped from 8.6 percent last year to 7.3 percent this year.

Colorado scored about the same as last year on two other child health indicators—the percentage of children in poverty and the percentage who get routine preventive dental care. On a sixth indicator—the percentage of children with a medical home—the state fell from 59.3 percent last year to 55.3 percent this year.

Overall, the improvements in child health mean that Colorado now ranks 25th among states according to the report card. Being smack in the middle of the pack may not be ideal, but it’s better than the ranking of 31st the state earned last year.

While child health measures improved a bit this year, adolescent health stayed almost exactly the same, earning a B again this year and continuing to rank about 15th among states. The Healthy Beginnings category, which tracks indicators like smoking among pregnant women, infant mortality rates, and child vaccination rates, earned a C again this year.

The last two life stage categories on the report card—Healthy Adults and Healthy Aging—earned a B and B+ respectively this year.

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