Leaders in Children's Health Discuss Uninsured Families

Leaders in children's health issues met to discuss the on-going challenges facing Houston youth. Houston Public Radio's Capella Tucker reports many of the groups see how public policy affects the lives of families.

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HISD Health and Medical Services Director Evelyn Henry sees first hand the difference having health insurance has for children and their families. The schools do vision, hearing and spinal screening.

"Of the children we refer to the doctor, approximately 30 percent were not able to get either glasses, a hearing aid or to have their backs checked for spinal conditions so we have seen a definite affect upon children and on health insurance."

Henry says they estimate that between ten and 15 percent of children with chronic medical conditions are not able to get medications.

"We help parents to identify resources and really to teach them how to use their health insurance, how to access if they have Medicaid or if they have CHIP and one of the things we are working with is to help parents sign up to become eligible for CHIP."

Children's advocates say 180,000 children have dropped out of the Children's Health Insurance Program since changes to the program in 2003. But it's staff, including social workers and school nurses, that is needed to help families.

"This year for the first time we have more applicants than positions so things have improved and we are able to attract qualified nurses with baccalaureate degrees in nursing. in fact there is a bill before the house which talks about mandating a ratio of school nurses per student."

Texas Children's Pediatric Associates is working to increase access to primary care services for families without insurance. President Ayse McCrackin says they want to change the idea that doctors are for only when children are sick.

"There's a wellness component for primary care services so if a family has a doctor who knows them and their children get well-visits on an ongoing basis things that lead to poor habits, poor nutrition, things that then turn into obesity that then has the co-morbidities of sleep apnea, depression, diabetes and as an adult, heart disease, the idea of prevention, an ounce of prevention, delivered in primary care is really very valuable."

Capella Tucker, Houston Public Radio News.

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