NJ women and children rank as 7th healthiest in America, but here’s where they fare worse

According to the latest report, the health and economy of New Jersey families declined during the first two years of the coronavirus pandemic, with many children missing out on important preventative medical care and many women losing their lives. work and died of drug overdose. by UnitedHealthcare Foundation.

New Jersey ranks seventh in the nation in the annual Women’s and Children’s Health Report, down from fourth in 2022, based on analysis of more than 100 publicly reported metrics measuring physical health , spirit and quality of life.

The largely suburban and wealthy Garden State is rated the highest in the nation after Minnesota, Massachusetts, Vermont, New Hampshire, Hawaii and Utah, the report said.

However, most of the data reported in 2020 and 2021 revealed surprising and alarming shortcomings.

According to the report, in a state with the highest rate of autism spectrum disorder in children, New Jersey ranked 40th in the percentage of infants and toddlers screened to determine whether they met developmental milestones or not. Only 31% of children 9 months to 35 months old are screened in New Jersey compared to 34.8% of infants and toddlers nationwide.

The screening process involves completing a simple questionnaire that asks parents, for example, whether their baby has crawled or not yet able to babble, the stage before they start speaking. K. Hovnanian Children’s Hospital in Neptune.

It’s really important that we work to solve this problem,” Pall said. The rate of autism in New Jersey is high and we need to identify children early. We need to connect them with the right resources.

A Rutgers University study in February found that the rate of autism spectrum disorder in children had increased 300% in Essex, Hudson, Ocean and Union counties, and 500% in children with non-autistic autism. current intellectual impairment, from 2000 to 2016.

The state Department of Health provides an early intervention system that links infants and toddlers with delayed motor and communication skills as well as visual and hearing abilities with therapies at no cost to them. families with incomes three times the federal poverty rate.

But first, pediatricians and parents need to discuss whether the child is falling behind. Pall says there’s usually a short window of time during a visit to the pediatrician. Insurance companies typically pay doctors based on the number of patients they see, he said.

“If we build in incentives that we believe are important metrics to follow, such as development screening, instead of paying for volume, it could lead to some results that we are looking for.

This time crunch and the volume-based payment model may also be the culprits behind why only 45% of New Jersey children have a medical home with a doctor or care provider team. Consistent and comprehensive care and referrals to specialists when needed. Pall said this is more important than ever at a time when medical advances have made it possible for newborns to survive brutal medical conditions.

Ongoing care for these fragile children is complex, Pall said, and there is a shortage of pediatric specialists. Payment models are also an issue, especially for the one in three children in the state who rely on Medicaid, also known as NJ FamilyCare, for insurance. The refund rate is among the lowest in the country.

Nemours Children’s Health in Delaware announced in August that it would no longer accept most new patients enrolled in New Jersey’s Medicaid managed care insurance plan because of poor reimbursement rates. cover their expenses. Most of the 11,000 children in south Jersey who rely on Nemours will be phased out by 2024. The nearest children’s hospital may be a two-hour drive away.

Fixing this problem will involve more generous Medicaid reimbursement rates, greater reliance on telehealth visits and success in growing networks of specialists, Pall said. Pediatrics.

It’s all possible, Pall added. I would say that children are only a quarter of the population but they are 100% of our future, so I think this is an important thing to focus on.

The report also found that drug-related deaths among women increased by 66% between 2014-2016 and 2019-2021. New Jersey ranked No. 4 on this index in the 2022 report but dropped to 26th nationally in the most recent report.

Aakash Shah, director of Addiction Medicine at Jersey Shore Medical Center, said the trend is consistent with what’s happening nationwide, fueled by the most recent wave of drug poisonings by fentanyl. He said drug deaths are rising nationwide as more people unknowingly consume drugs containing fentanyl, which is 100 times more powerful than morphine.

It is important to remember that death from drug overdose is in many cases due to desperate illness. And so the question in my mind becomes, will there be more despair? In recent years, especially as we move through the pandemic, I think the answer is clearly yes, Shah said. Does that desperation fall disproportionately on women? I doubt so.

The report also noted a spike in unemployment among women in New Jersey in 2020-21, ranking it 47th lowest in the country. Does the economic crisis correlate with drug use, increasing mortality? Shah suspects there is some overlap. He noted that women lost jobs faster during the pandemic and re-entered the workforce more slowly.

The good news is that medication-assisted treatments are effective in reducing cravings, preventing withdrawal and saving lives, Shah said. There is a lingering stigma in the medical profession and society in general against the use of drugs such as buprenorphine and naltrexone, although that is gradually decreasing. The Biden Administration has changed the policy requiring doctors to apply for a waiver to use these drugs, he said.

I am reassured that we have leaders at the state and federal level who understand the challenges. They are working to resolve this issue, Shah said.

Meanwhile, Jersey Shore is committed to spending $6 million to expand these services, he said. I fully expect to see the numbers improve, Shah added.

The report also found that fewer 11- and 12-year-olds received the HPV vaccine in 2021, which helps reduce the incidence of some cancers later in life. According to last year’s report, only 55% of children received the two-shot vaccine, compared with nearly 60%.

Human papillomavirus is sexually transmitted and can lead to nasopharyngeal, cervical and other cancers. Pall said with the steady increase in the number of immigrants living in New Jersey, there is less and less knowledge and comfort level when it comes to their children getting vaccines.

As a state, he said, we need to improve education levels through repeated consultation and discussion during primary care visits to reduce this hesitancy.

The report can be found This.

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Susan K. Livio can be reached at slivio@njadvancemedia.com.

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