Survey: Iowa's children are healthy, feel safe

Survey: Iowa's children are healthy, feel safe

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Iowa’s children are healthy, happy, and feel safer in their communities and in their schools than children nationally, a survey led by University of Iowa researchers has found.

The 2010 Iowa Child and Family Household Health Survey is the only statewide study of the health and well being of the state’s children. The surveys, led by the UI Public Policy Center, began in 2000 and are conducted every five years.

According to the survey, 97 percent of children in Iowa have health insurance, giving Iowa one of the highest rates of children’s health
coverage in the nation. Nationally, 91 percent of children had health coverage, according to a 2007 survey by the government National Center for Health Statistics. Of those in Iowa without health insurance, the researchers found that two-thirds of them likely would qualify for some form of federal or state coverage.

Perhaps due in part to the high rate of coverage, 90 percent of Iowa’s children rate themselves as in good or excellent health. And, when they do need care, the state’s children generally have few problems getting it. The survey found that just three percent of children were not able to receive needed medical care in a year’s time, a low percentage considering Iowa’s rural makeup.

Children also feel safe in their neighborhoods and in their schools. Ninety-two percent report they feel safe in their communities, although the percentage drops to 81 percent for low-income children. Children also found their immediate surroundings to be supportive, with 87 percent voicing satisfaction—four points above the national average—yet less so for children in low-income families in the state.

The vast majority of children from kindergarten through high school—95 percent and above the national average—feel safe at school. The percentage cuts across income and social backgrounds, as 90 percent of low-income children also reported feeling safe in the classroom.

"Overall, children in Iowa are generally quite healthy and safe, especially when you compare them with children nationally. That's a really good thing, and we should be proud of the parents, the schools, and communities throughout the state," says Peter Damiano, head of the UI Public Policy Center, which led the study. "Still, we should recognize that low-income children are in a somewhat different situation, and we should take steps to address these concerns."

There are some troubling signs. The study looked at hunger for the first time: Perhaps due to the recession, 13 percent of children go hungry at least some of the time, in line with national statistics. That figure rises to 40 percent for low-income children in Iowa. Also, more than half of children surveyed reported they watch more than two hours of television or online videos daily; these children, perhaps not surprisingly, were more likely to be overweight.

"It's important that policymakers are aware that our study notes significant disparities, especially for low-income children in key areas such as health status, parenting stress, food security, and safe and supportive neighborhoods," Damiano said.

Other highlights:

  • 89 percent of children live with married parents or in a married-like relationship
  • 18 percent of children live in households where tobacco, alcohol, or drug use is a reported problem.

Researchers polled 2,386 parents across the state by phone or online, with a special emphasis on getting responses from African-American and Latino households. A parent or guardian responded on behalf of one randomly selected child, who ranged from birth to 17 years old. The data were weighted to account for family size, children’s ages, and to reflect the 2010 census of children in Iowa, which counted about 820,000 children in the state.

The full report is available here:

Gretchen Hageman, bureau chief of family health with the Iowa Department of Public Health, says the survey lends valuable insights not easily gleaned elsewhere. "We use it extensively to determine core strategies and programming to meet the needs of Iowa’s children and families,” she says.

The survey comes from a collaboration among the UI Public Policy Center, the state Department of Public Health, and the Child Health Specialty Clinics. Jean Willard, research manager at the PPC, and Ki Park, a UI graduate student, helped compile the study and analyze the results.

Funders include the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act, Iowa Department of Health, Blank Children’s Hospital, the Iowa chapter of the American Academy of Pediatrics, and Child Health Specialty Clinics.


Peter Damiano, Public Policy Center, 319-335-6813
Richard Lewis, University Communication and Marketing, 319-384-0012


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