The Children’s Initiative, a local nonprofit agency, released its report card on the health and well-being of San Diego County children this week.

The 100-page report was commissioned and partially funded by San Diego County.

The report’s authors were surprised to find improving trends for most of the indicators they looked at — despite the fact that the report showed that the number of kids living in poverty in 2008 climbed to its highest rate since 2000.

Among the improving indicators:

  • immunizations for preschool-aged kids
  • more moms breastfeeding their babies
  • health coverage for kids
  • fewer substantiated reports of child abuse and neglect
  • infant mortality rates

Among the trends that are stagnant or headed in the wrong direction:

  • obesity
  • percentage of women receiving prenatal care
  • teen DUI arrests
  • teen use of alcohol, cigarettes and marijuana

From the report:

The majority of our community and family indicators are improving. Of concern is the lack of substantial progress in reducing poverty, crimes against children, and childhood mortality rates. These broad indicators may point to underlying problems in the health and safety net of our community. In addition, in the current economic situation, many San Diego County families are faced with loss of income, lack of health coverage, and not enough food. Economic pressures and unemployment are associated with domestic violence, child abuse and neglect, and crime. The full impact of the recession is not yet known.

The Children’s Initiative’s Sandra McBrayer and Paula Ingrum presented the report to the supervisors on Monday. Supervisor Dianne Jacob cheered it for indicating results on the ground, not just the amount of money the county spends on an issue.

Supervisor Ron Roberts emphasized he’s still troubled by the obesity rate, which has been hovering around 30 percent for school age kids since 2000. He said he didn’t buy McBrayer’s answer that a stagnant obesity rate is actually better than a lot of other communities around the country that have seen obesity spike. He said he wanted the results to be better in light of the county’s efforts to fight the problem.

“Overall, we’ve got some work to do,” he said.

Officials say they rely on the report card to help them target places to spend money where it can have the greatest impact.

At the Children’s Initiative’s offices in Pacific Beach yesterday, McBrayer said not any of these issues — from poverty to food stamps participation to educating teens about alcohol — can be solved by just the county.

“I think it’s a myth that the county government can do everything,” McBrayer said. “This is a parents and education problem.”

McBrayer said she hears a lot of excuses from parents — it’s someone else’s kids who are drinking and driving or using prescription drugs.

“I hear a lot, it’s only south-of-8, low-income families,” she said. “But it’s not all based on education and economics.”

McBrayer said the county needs more partners to combat the problem. She used an example of the lack of supermarkets accessible to Logan Heights residents.

“I don’t expect any one agency to solve this,” she said.

— KELLY BENNETT

Dagny Salas

Dagny Salas was web editor at Voice of San Diego from 2010 to 2013. She was an investigative fellow at VOSD from 2009 to 2010.

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