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County Data Cards Highlight Local Child Health Successes, Challenges; See Watauga’s Data

Where children are born in North Carolina makes a big difference in how long they live and the quality of their health, according to new county data cards released by NC Child.

A baby born in Watauga County is expected to live 81.6 years. Compared to children in Orange County, where life expectancy is the longest in the state, Watauga children will live .1 fewer years.

The differences in life expectancy by location are dramatic. In Watauga County, children can expect to live an average of 81 years–on par with Japan where residents have the longest life expectancy of any major country. Drive just 80 miles east to Surry County and children’s life expectancies declined by nearly a decade to 73 years.  On average, children born in Surry County have life expectancies on par with children in Cambodia.

The county-level pictures of child health and well-being were produced by Laila A. Bell, director of research and data at NC Child.  Bell compiled data on social, economic and health outcomes for the data cards as a supplement to the North Carolina Child Health Report Cardan annual report released in partnership with the North Carolina Institute of Medicine that monitors the health and safety of children in North Carolina.

“Across indicators we see that a distance of fewer than 100 miles can mean the difference between positive or negative outcomes in children’s lives, a fact that simply cannot be explained by random chance or genetic predisposition,” said Bell. “These geographic disparities are a stark reminder of the profound impact the environments where our children live, play and go to school have on their long-term health opportunities.”

The data cards present a variety of indicators ranging from income and insurance coverage to asthma and infant mortality.

In Watauga County:

  • One in 41 births ( 2.4% percent) is to a mother who received very late or no prenatal care.Women who are uninsured at the time of conception may encounter administrative delays for Medicaid that prevent them from accessing prenatal care during the most critical period of their babies’ development.
  • One in 5 children (21.3% percent) lives in poverty. Research shows children who are raised in poverty have poorer health outcomes and are more likely to suffer from acute and chronic health problems as they age.
  • One in 13 children is uninsured ( 7.5% percent).Children who lack access to health insurance are less likely to receive the preventive care they need to achieve and maintain good health.
  • 1,920 children (27.1% percent) are estimated to be food insecure, living in households that struggle to provide enough healthy, nutritious food for all members of the family.
  • One in 21 babies ( 4.7% percent) is born at a low birth weightputting children at greater risk for developmental delays or future health complications including infant mortality.

“These health challenges are avoidable,” Bell said.

“We know that smart public policy decisions can help enhance local efforts to ensure all children in Watauga live in homes and communities that promote their health and development.”

The county data cards identify three investments North Carolina can make to significantly improve the health of its children and families:

  • Strengthen access to health insurance for women of reproductive age by expanding Medicaid to cover adults below 138 percent of the Federal Poverty Line.
  • Support infant mortality prevention strategies like the Healthy Babies Bundle recommended by the Child Fatality Task Force.
  • Invest in early intervention services to reduce the effects of developmental delays.

Click here to download the Watauga data snapshot: http://www.ncchild.org/wp-content/uploads/2015/05/Watauga.pdf


NC Child is a statewide organization that works to advance public policies that improve the lives of North Carolina children.