Investing in a Healthy Start for Children

Investing in a Healthy Start for Children

July 2009

Children in poor health generally do less well in school, complete fewer years of school, have poorer adult health and earn less as adults.  According to the New England Journal of Medicine, only 41 percent of children receive recommended health screenings and services to prevent disease, reduce complications, and achieve optimal health and development, including those enrolled in Medicaid and SCHIP.  States cover millions of children in their Medicaid and SCHIP programs, where children should be getting the recommended screenings and services.  However, most states do not achieve the recommended levels of screening for their enrolled children.

In response to legislator interest in these issues, the National Conference of State Legislatures researches policy and provides technical assistance to state legislatures about early childhood health and development.   State legislatures can play important roles in improving child health and development by considering evidenced-based and cost-effective pediatric practices, particularly around preventive, well-child care.  Possible options for action include:

  • Assess the status of the state's child health screening rates under Medicaid and CHIP, including the recommended screening for developmental disabilities;

  • Assess the availability of treatment services and referrals;

  • Influence state planning and use of evidence-based best practices and cross-agency coordination;

  • Finance specific initiatives and innovations to develop best practices as well as reimbursement within public health insurance programs;

  • Set and regulate standards relating to insurance;

  • Identify appropriate stakeholders who can collaborate with policymakers to create more effective child health and development policy.

NCSL Meeting Materials

Investing in a Healthy Start for Children: Are States Getting Their Money's Worth?
Spring Forum Preconference, April 2008


National Organizations and Programs


The Commonwealth Fund

This project is made possible by a grant from The Commonwealth Fund.


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