Children’s Health in Louisiana
Children deserve to grow up healthy and strong. Unfortunately, birth outcome data show that Louisiana children experience poorer health outcomes than their peers around the country. In 2019, 10.8% of Louisiana babies were born at low birth weight, putting them at a higher risk of negative outcomes ranging from developmental delays to death. Louisiana also regularly ranks among the bottom ten states in such basic health measures as the child and teen death rate.
While our state has successfully connected 96% of children to health insurance, our progress in improving children’s overall health outcomes has been uneven, as evidenced by our ranking of 48th in the health domain of the 2021 KIDS COUNT Data Book. Expanding access to healthcare and addressing healthcare provider shortages are important steps forward. However, if we want to transform health outcomes for children in Louisiana we must also focus on the “upstream” factors that can affect children’s health, from stable housing to ensuring that kids have access to quality food, and safe places to play and exercise.
Strategies Louisiana Can Use to Improve Children’s Health
Expand access to evidence-based home visiting programs, such as the Nurse-Family Partnership and Parents as Teachers, supports new parents and fosters children’s social-emotional and physical development.
Evaluate policies and data with an equity lens to ensure that policymaking works to reduce Louisiana’s shameful racial disparities in health outcomes, including a maternal mortality rate for Black women that is 2.2 times as large as the rate for white women.
Enact paid sick leave and paid family and medical leave policies. Short-term sick days are associated with increases in children receiving preventative medical care, while paid family and medical leave are associated with improved parental mental health and lower rates of infant mortality.
Institute universal behavioral and mental health screening for all K-12 students each school year. Screenings can help schools proactively identify and intervene with our most vulnerable and at-risk students, and provide data that local officials and policymakers can use to allocate resources.
Increase access to health insurance for women and children by joining the 34 other states that have applied for a waiver to remove the 5-year waiting period for lawfully residing immigrant children to become eligible for Medicaid. While our overall rate of uninsured children is quite low (4%), that rate masks the high rate of uninsured Latinx children (12%) in 2019.
Extend postpartum Medicaid coverage to one full year after birth, giving more birthing people access to potentially life-saving healthcare.
Implement presumptive eligibility, allowing certain entities, such as health care providers, schools, and community-based organizations to screen for Medicaid and LaCHIP eligibility and immediately enroll children and pregnant women who appear to be eligible.
- Roadmap to Improve Child Well-Being in Louisiana (Agenda)
- Paid Leave is the Foundation for a Stronger Louisiana (Agenda)
- Parish Profiles
- Housing as a Health Care Investment (National Housing Conference)
- Louisiana Pregnancy Associated Mortality Review (Louisiana Department of Health)
- Extending Medicaid Coverage for Postpartum Individuals (Equitable Maternal Health Coalition)
- The Utility of Universal Screening to Guide School-Based Prevention Initiatives: Comparison of Office Discipline Referrals to Standardized Emotional and Behavioral Risk Screening (Dr. Shereen Naser et. al)
Data on the Health of Children in Louisiana
The KIDS COUNT Data Center has a wealth of data on children’s health at the state and parish levels. Learn more
State Level Partners Working to Improve Children’s Health in Louisiana
Melanie Bronfin, a longtime member of Agenda’s Board of Advisors, founded the Louisiana Policy Institute for Children, where she fought relentlessly to raise awareness of young children’s needs and the need to adequately fund early care and education. She galvanized businesses, nonprofits and centers to support high quality early care and education.