Children’s health discussed at Fannin County meeting


BONHAM — A report has been released that finds children in North Texas are twice as likely to be uninsured as are children in other parts of the country. The report, titled “Beyond ABC: Assessing Children’s Health in the North Texas Corridor,” was published by Children’s Medical Center in Dallas, and whose editors were a part of a presentation given Monday in Fannin County.

The “ABC” report highlights the quality of life for children living in five North Texas counties: Grayson, Cooke, Denton, Collin, and Fannin; the counties have a combined population of 453,403 children. According to the report, access to health care for those children is one of the most important issues needing to be addressed. Joyce Harris, one of the editors of the study, commented on the issue: “In Fannin County only half the pregnant women are getting first trimester care; there are no OB/GYN practitioners or pediatricians in Fannin.”

In addition, the report finds several counties have a high number of children without insurance. Grayson County’s percentage of uninsured children is 19.1 percent, with Cooke County at 23.9 percent. Ten percent of the quarter-million children living in Collin County have no health insurance of any kind.

Timothy Bray, the director of the Institute for Urban Policy Research at the University of Texas at Dallas and part of the research group for the report, commented on the issue, “We are seeing a return of diseases we haven’t seen in a long time, like diphtheria.” Bray said the rise is “due to the lack of access to health care and preventative services like immunizations.”

The report states that only 31 percent of Texas physicians accept Medicaid patients, making it more difficult for parents to get the health care their children need. The report highlighted Collin County, which experienced a 69 percent increase in Medicaid enrollment, and Denton County, which had a 76 percent increase.

“Around 86 percent of ER visits are for preventable healthcare needs,” said Bray. One solution, he noted, is to increase the reimbursement rates to pediatric primary-care providers who accept Medicaid or CHIP. Bray used the MyChildren’s Medical Centers as an example: ER visits in the surrounding area of those clinics that accept CHIP, Medicaid, as well as patients without any insurance dropped by 65 percent.

However, the nearest MyChildren’s Medical Center to Sherman is in McKinney, which again, he said, highlights the difficulties North Texas children face in accessing affordable healthcare. Rising poverty, another concern of the report, is also a big factor.

Kate Whitefield, a trustee of Sherman ISD, addressed the issue at the meeting. “Health affects students tremendously, and research has shown poverty directly affects education and how well students do,” she said. “We have a large percentage of children living in poverty and this report is vital for showing where are resources need to go.”

Whitefield said, 70 percent of Sherman ISD students are on free- or reduced-cost lunch, which reflects the economic situation of many families in the area. The “ABC” report shows that 16 percent of Grayson County children live below the poverty line of $23,050 for a family of four, as defined by federal guidelines.

The meeting concluded in an optimistic light.“It is a gold mine of information and it’s important that people know about it and start the conversation for the issues that need to be addressed,” said Sandy Barber, executive director of the Fannin County Children’s Center who hosted the meeting.

“It takes a village,” Barber said, “and this report starts the dialogue of how are children are doing.”

The complete report may be accessed at www.childrens.com/about-us/leading-the-way/child-advocacy/beyond-abc.aspx.