By: Jennifer Chubinski
As we leave flu season behind, it’s a good time to talk about how healthy our children are. As a mother I feel very fortunate to say that all of my children are in good health, as are the large majority of children in general. This is true for children in our region as well: most parents (84%) consistently report that their child’s health is “excellent” or “very good.” And this percentage is much higher than the percentage of adults in our region who report their own health as “excellent” or “very good” (50%), which I discussed in one of my previous blogs.
This month I’ve decided to focus on data available through our regional data portal Facts Matter. Since you are reading a blog from CRC, Facts Matter’s parent organization, you have probably perused the data portal, but if you haven’t I encourage you to play with all of its award-winning features here. A number of health-focused datasets are available on Facts Matter, but for this month’s blog I decided to focus on the 2011 Greater Cincinnati/ Northern Kentucky Child Well Being Survey (CWBS).
The 2011 CWBS interviewed 2,083 primary caregivers (generally parents) of children younger than 18 in the Greater Cincinnati/Northern Kentucky region. Primary caregivers were asked more than 70 questions about a randomly selected child in their household. Topics ranged from access to care and chronic conditions to food security and neighborhood social structure. We are very fortunate to have such a rich source of health data for children in our region. Most regions must rely on national datasets. You can access all of the data analyses here and the raw data here.
So what do we know about children’s health in our region? Based on survey results, we know parents describe most of their children as healthy (84%) and most children have access to a healthcare professional who knows their family’s history (85%). We know that 1 in 4 children (26%) have been identified as having a special healthcare need and that 1 in 12 (8%) has received behavioral health services. In addition, a small percentage of children did not have health insurance at the time of the survey (4%).
It is also important to know about childrens’ health conditions. The table below shows the estimated percentages of children with health problems in the Greater Cincinnati region, based on the questions asked on the CWBS. Based on these data, the most common problems are being overweight or obese (41%) and injuries that required medical attention (18%). 1 in 8 children (13%) have asthma and 1 in 10 (11%) have attention deficit hyperactivity disorder. 1 in 14 (7%) have fair or poor oral health.
Looking beyond the regional average
While regional data is important for understanding regional trends, it is also important to look at sub-demographic groups within our region. A slightly nuanced look at the data reveals large disparities by poverty status, race and geography – in particular when one looks at children with untreated health issues. Children who live in households with incomes less than 100% of the Federal Poverty Level (FPL), and in some cases less than 300% FPL, experience poor health at higher rates. The same is often true for Black, non-Hispanic children and children who reside in our urban core. Looking at obesity, only 3 in 10 (32%) children living in households with incomes more than 300% FPL are overweight or obese, while more than half (51%) of children living in households with incomes less than 100% FPL are overweight or obese. Likewise, fewer than 4 in 10 (39%) White non-Hispanic children are overweight or obese, while more than 6 in 10 (62%) Black non-Hispanic children are overweight or obese.
The CWBS also focused on three neighborhoods: Avondale, Price Hill and Covington. These small area samples allow people interested in working in these communities an unprecedented collection of rich area-specific data on health and social conditions in these communities. If you’re interested in knowing more, click here.
The CWBS has a wealth of other information about physical activity, screen time, eating meals as a household, participation in extracurricular activities, food security, neighborhood and school social and physical environment, and parent-child interactions (reading together, talking about drugs and alcohol, etc.) among other topics.
What can you do?
Beyond showing the health condition of children in our region, the survey results suggest areas where parents and the community can do better. For example, parents’ perceptions of their children’s weight category (underweight, healthy weight, overweight/obese) differed substantially from their children’s actual weight category. When children’s BMI’s were calculated from weight and height information gathered during the survey, 41% of the children placed in the overweight or obese category. However, only 13% of parents describe their child as overweight or obese and only 11% of parents reported that a healthcare provider had expressed concern about a child’s weight. Obesity, like many health conditions, must be recognized as a problem before it can be resolved.
How can you learn more?
This short blog post only hints at the richness of data available in the CWBS. If you are interested in knowing more, or using the data for your community’s project, please contact Rachel Sebastian, a research associate at Cincinnati Children’s Hospital Medical Center and the expert on this survey by email.
 Forty-one percent of children between the ages of 2 and 18 are overweight or obese. That percentage drops to 27% for the region when only children between the ages of 10 and 18 are included.