Ensuring Access to the Health Care Services and Supports
Families need access to critical preventive services – including prenatal care and planning, primary care, oral health services, and developmental and mental health screenings – in order to ensure that kids get off to the best possible start. Incorporating access to health care into schools and communities ensures children get the primary, mental, and oral health care services they need.
Prenatal Care and Planning
Prenatal care helps women understand the steps they can take to maintain a healthy pregnancy and helps doctors detect potential complications early. Early prenatal care also reduces the risk of preterm birth and infant mortality; babies born to mothers who receive no prenatal care are three times more likely to have a low birth weight and five times more likely to die in infancy than those born to mothers who do receive care. In addition, by ensuring women have access to the most effective methods of birth control, we enable them to create the best future for themselves and support a healthy start for their children.
Teenagers have much higher rates of unintended pregnancies than other women, and teen pregnancy and parenthood are among the top reasons students cite for dropping out of school. When teenagers have access to effective forms of birth control, two generations of Colorado kids benefit – since access to birth control reduces unintended pregnancies while also supporting teenagers’ ability to finish school.
Oral Health Care
Tooth decay is the most prevalent chronic disease among young children. Left untreated, tooth decay can lead to serious health problems such as infection or pain so severe that it can cause difficulty eating, sleeping, and learning. Poor oral health can affect children’s attendance and performance in school. In addition to ensuring that children have oral health care, focusing on the oral health of expectant mothers is another way to prevent health problems among children. Research shows that the bacteria associated with poor oral health can pass from mother to baby with the potential to cause dental decay in infancy or early childhood. In addition, mothers who experience gum disease during their pregnancy are at higher risk of having a preterm birth or a baby born at a low birth weight.
Access to primary care services is critical to ensuring that all kids get off to a healthy start. Primary care services that help support children’s healthy early development include immunizations and developmental and mental health screenings. Families do best when kids receive their care from a medical home that helps to coordinate their health services, offers after-hours care, and integrates mental health and other health services.
Developmental Screenings and Services
While the rate of young children receiving a developmental screening is higher in Colorado than in almost any other state, only about half of all Colorado kids under age six received a developmental screening between 2011 and 2012. Data suggest that nationally, when developmental screenings indicate a need for further evaluation, only half of families are referred for in-depth evaluation and less than 11 percent of children actually receive services.
These concerns are even more pronounced in some communities. According to a 2001 report from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, “minority communities have a higher proportion of individuals with unmet mental health needs.” A long history of racism, discrimination, and systemic barriers mean children of color are also over-represented among vulnerable populations that experience higher rates of mental illness. Our growing and changing child population requires us to consider new strategies that take into account economic and cultural factors that influence if, how, where, and when families access and use mental health services.
Recent Policy Successes
House Bill 16-1405, the 2016-2017 Colorado state budget, supports an evidence-based program that provides comprehensive contraceptive services, including hormonal implants and IUDs, for those who may not be able to access them otherwise.
House Bill 16-1408 supports Medicaid reimbursement for critical primary care services that help support children’s healthy early development including preventive care, vaccine administration, and adolescent and post-partum depression screening for one year.