Families Delayed Getting Medical Care Because of the Pandemic, Annie E. Casey Foundation Finds
Pennsylvania performed well on food security, access to health care and housing stability, but is falling short on mental health, according to Kids, Families and COVID-19: Pandemic Pain Points and a Roadmap for Recovery, a 50-state report of recent household data developed by the Annie E. Casey Foundation analyzing how families are faring during the COVID-19 crisis.
This KIDS COUNT report examined data from weekly surveys conducted by the U.S. Census Bureau that demonstrate how families across the country are challenged to meet basic needs during this global public health crisis while managing school, work and mental health. The Foundation finds that the concurrent health and economic crises are exacerbating trends that show vulnerable families are unable to fulfill basic needs.
Approximately 27% of Pennsylvania families with children felt down, depressed or hopeless. Maternal and child health is intertwined, so focusing on improving the physical and mental well-being of moms brings improving the outcomes for infants and children into focus. In addition, 32% delayed getting medical care because of the pandemic.
“As schools and child care centers closed to reduce the spread of COVID-19, in addition to not going to the doctors themselves, many parents understandably kept their children at home, and even stopped going to pediatric offices,” said Kari King, president and CEO of Pennsylvania Partnerships for Children, Pennsylvania’s member of the KIDS COUNT network. “The decline in pediatric office visits has corresponded with a similar drop in childhood vaccination rates in Pennsylvania, particularly for children over age one.”
The report shows how urgent state and federal intervention is to the health and well-being of families with children. In addition to measuring mental health concerns, the Casey Foundation identified three other pain points for children and families that require action:
- AFFORDABLE HEALTH CARE: 1 in every 10 adults did not have health insurance. When parents have health coverage, their eligible children are more likely to be enrolled and access needed care. Research shows that the long-term benefits of childhood health care coverage last through adulthood, including better health outcomes, lower rates of mortality, stronger educational and economic achievements, and a significant return on public investment.
- FOOD SECURITY: More than 1 in 7 households said they sometimes or often did not have enough to eat. No child should have to worry about their next meal and whether they will have enough to eat. Hunger and lack of nutrition negatively impacts a child’s cognitive development and impairs healthy development.
- HOUSING STABILITY: Nearly 1 in 6 families had slight or no confidence they would make the next rent or mortgage payment on time. And, 94% who are not working are not receiving pay. Children in high-poverty neighborhoods tend to lack access to healthy food and quality medical care, and they often face greater exposure to environmental hazards, such as poor air quality and toxins such as lead. Financial hardships and fear of violence can cause chronic stress linked to diabetes, heart disease and stroke. And when these children grow up, they are more likely to have lower incomes than children who have relocated away from communities of concentrated poverty.
The Annie E. Casey Foundation urges policymakers and child advocates to unite across differences and put COVID-19 response at the top of 2021 agendas to ensure that children have what they need to survive and thrive.
The Foundation calls on elected officials and other decisionmakers to, among other things, prioritize the physical and mental health of all children by guaranteeing that any vaccine will be available without cost as a factor and by retaining and strengthening the Affordable Care Act; and put racial and ethnic equity first in policymaking by using disaggregated data and engaging community stakeholders. This should ensure that the policymaking process is informed by the diverse perspectives of those hardest hit by the crisis and created in partnership with communities. This approach should underpin any concrete policy actions.
Additional information is available at www.aecf.org. Journalists interested in creating maps, graphs and rankings in stories about the Kids Count report can use the KIDS COUNT Data Center at datacenter.kidscount.org.
About Pennsylvania Partnerships for Children
Pennsylvania Partnerships for Children (PPC) is a strong, effective and trusted voice to improve the health, education and well-being of children and youth in the commonwealth. Since 1992, our public policy victories have helped countless children learn, thrive and succeed, regardless of circumstances. PPC is statewide, independent, nonpartisan and nonprofit.
About the Annie E. Casey Foundation
The Annie E. Casey Foundation creates a brighter future for the nation’s children by developing solutions to strengthen families, build paths to economic opportunity and transform struggling communities into safer and healthier places to live, work and grow. For more information, visit www.aecf.org. KIDS COUNT® is a registered trademark of the Annie E. Casey Foundation.