Elizabeth (Izzy) Montgomery, MPA
The United Health Foundation has released the 2019 America’s Health Rankings Health of Women and Children Report, which analyzes key measures regarding the health women and children both nationally and by state. The report ranks Arkansas 49th in the overall health measure, meaning that the state has some of the most significant health challenges for women and children. Rhode Island is ranked as the healthiest state for women and children, and Mississippi is ranked 50th. Arkansas’s overall ranking did not change from 2018 to 2019.
The report’s Arkansas summary notes strengths and challenges for the state in women’s and children’s health. Challenges include a high prevalence of diabetes among women (5%), a high prevalence of tobacco use during pregnancy (13.7%), and a high teen birth rate (32.8%). While strides have been made in reducing Arkansas’s teen birth rate ― it’s down 14% from 2018 ― Arkansas is still ranked 50th among all states in this measure.
Strengths noted for Arkansas include a low prevalence of excessive drinking among women (17.4%), a low cost of infant childcare (9.7% of married couples’ median income), and a low prevalence of homeless families (1.9%).
The report highlights additional key metrics, noting progress in some areas and setbacks in others. For example, two immunization rate metrics have trended in a positive direction, with HPV immunization among females ages 13‒17 increasing by 31% in the past year and meningococcal immunization rates increasing by 42% over the past three years. Additionally, the percentage of infants exclusively breastfed for six months increased by 48% over the past three years. Increasing breastfeeding rates in the state is one of nine priority areas of the governor-led Healthy Active Arkansas initiative.
A disturbing trend highlighted in the Arkansas summary is a 30% increase in the teen suicide rate from the previous year. A June 2019 report in the Journal of the American Medical Association found suicide rates among those ages 15‒19 to be at their highest point since 2000, with researchers suggesting possible connections to the nation’s ongoing opioid crisis, increased use of social media, and high rates of anxiety and depression.
A printable copy of Arkansas’s summary report is available here.