The 411 on kids' health

Wondering how to better serve your younger patients? One step in the right direction is getting hard facts about the overall health of this unique population.

"Given the complexity of issues surrounding children's health, it's vital that related decisions be based on data that are reliable, current, and local," said David Alexander, M.D., president and CEO of the Lucile Packard Foundation for Children's Health, in a press release.

Dr. Alexander should know. The Packard Foundation has just expanded its health database, which now covers San Francisco, Marin, Alameda, and Contra Costa counties, plus Santa Barbara county. The site culls data from a number of public sources and sifts it into 20 demographic categories encompassing more than 250 health indicators. The site also includes information from hundreds of cities and school districts throughout the Bay Area.

Dig into the database--by region, demographic, or topic-- and you discover a wealth of information. In neat tabular form, you can learn everything from "Dental Insurance Status" and "Asthma Hospitalization Rate by Age Group," to "Parent Ratings of Child's Dental Care Quality, by Income Level" and "Public School Students Enrolled in the Free or Reduced Price Meal Program."

For a similar approach at the state level covering kids and adults, megahealth insurer WellPoint (think Blue Cross and Blue Shield) has just launched the State Health Index, a report that pulls together CDC health data from 14 states. (Namely, California, Colorado, Connecticut, Georgia, Indiana, Kentucky, Maine, Missouri, Nevada, New Hampshire, New York, Ohio, Virginia and Wisconsin.) The Index tracks 23 measures of public health, including prenatal care, cigarette smoking rate, diabetes in the adult population, and heart disease rate.

The Index's aim is to "identify the most serious health issues facing each unique population" and improve and develop programs that address these health issues for WellPoint's 35 million members. One example, says Jim Gavin, the company's Corporate Communications Director: The Index revealed that Georgia ranks 44th and 39th for adult flu and pneumonia vaccinations. WellPoint's response: donate $50,000 to 10 free clinics to purchase and administer adult flu and pneumococcal immunizations.

WellPoint has likewise funded health education programs that tackle everything from premature births to quit smoking campaigns.

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