Thursday, June 12, 2008

Report: Tennessee ranks 42nd for kids' well-being

Associated Press • June 12, 2008 Tennessee still ranks among the bottom 10 states for children's health and well-being, but its high-school dropout rate has improved dramatically, a national report shows. The annual Kids Count report measures each state's progress in 10 areas, including infant mortality, poverty rates, single-parent families, teen death rates and low birth weight babies. This year Tennessee improved to 42nd overall from 43rd. Despite some improvement, Tennessee ranks in the bottom 10 states for infant mortality, low birth weight babies, children living in poverty and teen births, the report shows.But high school dropouts decreased 45 percent between 2000 and 2006 and both the child and teen death rates improved. Only 6 percent of teens in Tennessee left school without getting a diploma compared to 7 percent for the nation. Tennessee's dropout rate ranks 15th in the U.S."Tennessee has implemented good public policies and strategies to improve outcomes for older children, resulting in more children graduating and fewer adolescents dying," said Linda O'Neal, executive director of the state Commission on Children and Youth. Tennessee has received national attention for the quality of its pre-kindergarten programs, but Gov. Phil Bredesen had to trim a planned expansion to the program as part of budget cuts this year. The state has also started providing more pre-pregnancy health programs that make sure women have a proper diet and avoid smoking and using drugs or alcohol. "Tennessee must continue and strengthen significant emphasis on improving preconception maternal health to reduce the number of low birth weight babies and infant death, efforts that take several years before the outcomes are reflected in data reported in the book," O'Neal said

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