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Little Progress in Well-Being of Rural Ohio Appalachian Children, Report Says

Children living in the rural Appalachian region of Ohio have seen little improvement when it comes to education and health outcomes over the past 15 years, and they continue to lack access to critical amenities like health care and technology, according to a new report. 

The Children's Defense Fund-Ohio examined the challenges faced by these children in Ohio's Appalachian Children at a Crossroads: A Roadmap for Action. The Appalachian region of the state spans 32 counties in eastern Ohio and is home to 1 in 6 children in the state. 

The report compared today's rates of poverty, health care access, and education attainment to its 2001 report on the same issues and found little improvement in several areas. During the last 15 years, the percentage of children living in poverty has increased from about 18 percent in 2000 to nearly 27 percent in 2013. Children in the region still lack access to health care at a time when health issues have increased. Children also face education challenges due to a lack of amenities like broadband internet and a lack of high-quality early-childhood programs. Fourteen of Appalachia's counties have no Early Head Start program and there are 3.8 children for every available spot in an early-learning program in the region. Students who graduate high school in the region are more likely than their non-rural peers to take remedial coursework in college.  

Many of these issues, especially those related to health, impact rural kids across the state. A 2014 report by the CDF-Ohio found that the state's overall rural-urban child health gap has been increasing, and children in rural Ohio have higher rates of health issues like obesity and lack access to medical care and community resources like grocery stores. Researchers found that while the statewide child poverty rate grew by 75 percent between 2002 and 2012, child poverty grew by 92 percent in rural, non-Appalachian parts of the state.

Here are a few more findings from the new report:

  • The number and rate of children in foster care has increased in the region since 2001, even though that number and rate has decreased in the rest of the state.
  • The proportion of babies born at low birth weight and with exposure to opiate drugs has increased in Appalachia since the early 2000's.
  • Only about 16 percent of adults in Appalachia have completed a four-year degree or higher, compared to more than 25 percent of adults statewide.
  • Despite the lack of progress in many areas, there are some bright spots for Appalachian children. Students in the region are performing as well as their non-Appalachian peers on measures of kindergarten readiness, third grade reading proficiency, and high school graduation rates, and schools in Ohio Appalachia have the highest percentages of students earning college credit while in high school.

 Check out the full report here.

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