After reading this fact sheet from the American Public Health Association (APHA), it is apparent that NC policymakers need to take action in order to improve our state’s public health. If our state legislators were assigned a grade for how they are investing in NC’s public health, it would not be a passing grade. The following statistics show there is much room for improving NC’s public health rankings:
- Ranks 8th for prevalence of diabetes amongst adults.
- Ranks 47th for the availability of dentists.
- Ranks 10th for infant mortality.
- Ranks 47th for the amount invested in each person’s public health needs. NC spends $11.73 per year per resident.
- Ranks 5th for the number of children living in poverty.
While these numbers are unimpressive at best, there are some public health areas that NC has improved on. First, the high school graduation rate has improved, but then again the Senate budget proposes tax cuts that lower the number of teacher assistants, which could negate the progress made. Second, NC has made great progress in reducing air pollution, but then again the House wants to cut auto emissions tests in some counties.
Even though the sequester led to significant cuts in public health funding, there is federal funding available to address the poor rankings listed above. NC could receive funding to help the following:
- Provide 27, 044 diabetics with medication.
- Provide pre-natal care to expectant mothers to reduce risks of infant mortality.
- Provide health coverage to low-income working parents so that they are more likely to seek care for their children.
- Provide dental care to specific populations (i.e., pregnant women and children).
Fifteen percent of North Carolinians are uninsured and 500,000 people are in the Medicaid coverage gap. These are people that could seek primary preventative health care that will yield better health outcomes such as prenatal and maternity care to ensure healthy outcomes after childbirth. Research has shown that children eligible for Medicaid miss fewer school days, have higher educational attainment. and their families have more financial security. There are also 150,000 people in NC in the coverage gap with mental health and substance use disorders that need ongoing treatment. The Affordable Care Act has written into law that the federal government will cover 100% of Medicaid expansion costs until 2016 and up to 90 percent of costs starting 2020. Ensuring coverage to one half million North Carolinians is one public health act that will pull NC up the rankings.