Our children deserve better – a repeated pre-pandemic clarion call

The following post was written a couple of years ago. Although the pandemic has rightfully gotten our attention, this story bears repeating.

Two time Pulitzer Prize winner Nicholas Kristof wrote an editorial earlier this week in The New York Times called “Our children deserve better.” It is a clarion call to our nation showing the plight of kids in America.

Here are a few quotes to frame the issue:

“UNICEF says America ranks No. 37 among countries in well-being of children, and Save the Children puts the United States at No. 36. European countries dominate the top places.

American infants at last count were 76 percent more likely to die in their first year than children in other advanced countries, according to an article last year in the journal Health Affairs. We would save the lives of 20,000 American children each year if we could just achieve the same child mortality rates as the rest of the rich world.”

“Half a million American kids also suffer lead poisoning each year, and the youth suicide rate is at its highest level on record….The Census Bureau reported this week that the number of uninsured children increased by 425,000 last year.”

These are different views and sources of the threats to US children that note we have a problem. Another source I read a couple of years ago noted America has a much higher maternal mortality rate at child birth than other civilized countries, which further endangers children as well as the mothers.

Yet, these issues are not being discussed in the halls of government. We have a poverty problem in our country with too many living in or just above poverty levels. We have not expanded Medicaid in fifteen states* whose numbers are worse than these national numbers per capita. We have not addressed our national water crisis which has a Flint, MI like exposure to lead in too many cities and a volume of available fresh water issue in other places. We have not invested as we should to diminish crime and provide more opportunities for jobs in disenfranchised areas. There are several pockets of success that can be emulated in more cities.

We also need to address better gun governance, especially with the number one gun death cause by far being suicide and a non-inconsequential accidental gun death rate. And, we have not dealt with the continuing and rising exposure to technology and artificial intelligence which have taken and will take even more jobs in the future. Finally, there is that climate change thing we need to deal with.

These are real problems. And, they will get worse. Data driven analysis of causes and solutions are needed. They are both multi-faceted. Investing more now, will save huge amounts later. This is not just an urban issue, it is rural one as well. The opioid crisis is rampant in these impoverished rural areas, for example.

None of the solutions will fit on a bumper sticker. And, political attempts to oversimplify issues should be questioned. Here is an easy contradiction to spot – if people believe gun deaths are a mental health issue, then why the effort to eliminate or not expand mental health benefits?

Please make your legislators aware of these issues and ask pointed questions. These questions deserve answers, not bumper sticker slogans. These concerns deserve to be talked about, studied and acted upon.

*Note: The number of states who have not expanded Medicaid is now twelve. Here is a link to a tracking of the states who have and have not. What puzzles me is this change would help people in rural areas, which tend to vote more conservatively. So, not expanding Medicaid hurts health access, but also rural hospitals and economies, with the federal government funding 90% of the cost. As former Republican governor of Ohio and presidential candidate John Kasich said, Medicaid expansion is a “no brainer.”

26 thoughts on “Our children deserve better – a repeated pre-pandemic clarion call

    • Linda, family values seem to have been forgotten along this path. I have long found candidates that tout those two words as a mantra, do not walk the talk. Keith

    • Holly, I agree. This is a glaring example of party politics telling people to be against something that would be in their best interest. I also fault pseudo-news organizations for discounting comparative data. No matter how we measure it, the US is the runt of the litter on health care outcomes. We have the most expensive health care in the world, but rank in the thirties on too many measures for our spend. Keith

  1. It is shocking to read this. But that is the system. Too many fall through the grate (as we say). The social system needs to be overworked dramatically. But that is the real problem. Too many politicians are not interested to support those who suffer from poverty but to get the attention and support of the rich ones. I am lucky to live in a country where no one is forgotten. There is not a single homeless. And health insurance is mandatory.

    • Erika, I commend your country for taking care of the folks Jesus called “the least of these.” And, Gandhi said a country’s greatness is measured by how it takes care of its less fortunate. In America, we let too many fall through the cracks of opportunity. Keith

      • Gosh, Liechtenstein has its issues and reputation problems on other ends. But yes, the social system is very good compared to other countries – also thanks to its good financial situation. Of course, other countries are in depth and they may have to deal with other problems first. But, it is not ok to support and protect the rich ones while those who don’t even have the minimum like a roof over their heads and enough food are left alone.

    • Janis, Kasich was by far the best Republican candidate in 2016. He just did not lie well enough to win in a party not concerned as much with the truth. Keith

  2. I agree with this statement – “Data driven analysis of causes and solutions are needed.” Things would run so much more smoothly if data wasn’t created to fit a political agenda, and instead focused on real causes and solutions.

    • Rose, well said. I have shared this with staff of legislators, the nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office (CBO) gets cited as great when their numbers support a cause and biased when the numbers do not. Same folks who are trying to get their projections as accurate as possible. Keith

    • Thanks Yvette. In our country, we have too many who believe in American exceptionalism when it is no longer or never was warranted. So, it is hard to shake them up to face the real truths. Health care change proves difficult as a result. Thanks for stopping by. Keith

    • Roger, for some reason, when American exceptionalism is challenged by real data, it sets some off on a course to deny or distract from the source. This gets in the way of healthy discussion. Keith

      • It is very saddening Keith that the Nation which turned itself into a powerhouse of production throughout the 20th Century, in particular during WWII cannot now come together as one to perceive the threats and repeat those performances with constructive results.
        The USA is beset by a clutch folk of shallow characters and negligible perceptions. Like woodworm in the body politic and social.

      • Roger, true. I made reference to another comment of yours citing the book “That used to be us” which speaks to your point here. Blended, collaborative investment between government and private sector has been our history. The book “The World is curved” went further saying most development involves a blend of government, venture capital and private sector investment, noting the timing may vary on which comes first. Keith

  3. Note to Readers: My newspaper printed my letter to the editor along the lines of needed Medicaid expansion in my home state. The General Assembly just removed it from the budget. Here is the letter:

    “Medicaid in NC

    It saddens me to see North Carolina in the bottom ranks of states. The number of states that have not expanded Medicaid is now 12, including our state.

    What puzzles me is that this change would help people in rural areas, which tend to vote more conservatively. So, not expanding Medicaid hurts health access, but also rural hospitals and economies — with the federal government funding 90% of the cost.

    As former Ohio Republican governor and presidential candidate John Kasich said, Medicaid expansion is a ‘no brainer.'”

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