A healthy future

July 10, 1991

It's a truism that the future of any region rests with its children. In Baltimore, that future may well be clouded by health problems -- many of them easily preventable. A recent report from Advocates for Children and Youth has brought together statistics showing how the city and state are not only failing to reach national goals for maternal and child health, but actually falling further behind. If good information is crucial to setting priorities and finding solutions to problems, perhaps this document can spur officials -- and voters -- to invest in the kinds of programs and priorities that will create a healthier future.

The report highlights four key problems for city children: limited access to health care, high infant mortality, low birth weight babies and adolescent pregnancy. Although these conditions can be found to some extent in many parts of the state, they are especially intense in the city. What's striking about them is simply that none of these "crises" comes as a surprise. Stories about uninsured families or teen mothers have become as routine as the dismal statistics on infant mortality.

That's all the more reason to pay attention to this report. When children are born small, sickly and premature the cost of caring for them, in both human and financial terms, is immense -- especially when compared with the relatively small investment it would take to provide better prenatal care for all prospective mothers, access to medical care for all families and more health care programs for young people in school.

It's no secret that this country's health care system may be the most inefficient and wasteful in the world. We all pay a huge price for that. One of the most tragic costs is the toll on poor children our misguided priorities are taking each day -- a toll that is already being felt by society as a whole.

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