Other than his tendency to be completely oblivious while he watches TV (he’d call it an “ability” … but pot-a-to, pot-ah-to), my husband is a pretty awesome guy. I appreciate him, and I’m sure he appreciates me, too. It wasn’t always this way, though. We’ve […]
Author: Eva Jenkins
Dear Ikea Chris, I apologize for not knowing your last name; the conditions under which we met weren’t conducive to a more formal introduction. But please know that I’m extremely grateful for what you did for me and my family on Sunday at the Brooklyn […]
A new study, published in the current issue of Health Affairs, found that kids born in the United States are 70% more likely to die before they reach adulthood than kids in other wealthy, developed countries.
Nope, this is not a joke, or a sensationalized headline. These are facts, compiled and presented by medical researchers from some of our most prestigious and respected medical universities, and published in a reputable medical journal.
And it’s as shocking and horrifying as it sounds.
Here’s the deal: The researchers looked at death rates from the past 50 years among kids in America as well as 19 other developed countries like Canada, Australia, France, Sweden, and the UK. They found that child deaths dramatically decreased since 1960 for all countries studied. That’s the good news, even for the U.S.
But death rates for American kids is significantly higher than the rates for all the other countries studied. In fact, the researchers estimate that since 1961, there were 600,000 excess child deaths among American children versus children in other developed countries. They surmise that if these same children had been born in other developed countries, their deaths would have been prevented.
It’s a glaring and disturbing disparity that should deeply concern us all.
“In all the wealthy, democratic countries we studied children are dying less often than they were 50 years ago,” Ashish Thakrar, internal medicine intern at Johns Hopkins Hospital and Health System, and lead author of the study, tells Vox. “But we found that children are dying more often in the United States than in any similar country.”
According to the study researchers, the greatest disparities in death rates were among American infants and teenagers. Between 2001 and 2010, the risk of death in the U.S. was 76% greater for infants and teenagers (and 57% higher for children ages 1–19), say the researchers.
So what’s causing this unconscionable problem?
As for the high death rate among infants, the researchers point to problems in America’s healthcare system, and the fact that it’s so freaking hard to get good health insurance, especially among poorer families.
Think about it. Many mothers, especially from lower-income brackets, go without health insurance before their pregnancies. This means that any underlying health conditions are ignored, and can negatively impact their pregnancies. Still, other mothers don’t receive proper prenatal care for their babies, because even once a woman becomes pregnant, it can take forever to wade through all the red tape and get Medicaid or other insurance.
“It really seems to be the impact of our fragmented health care system,” said Thakrar, discussing the study results with Vox. “Mothers who are qualifying for Medicaid for the first time because they’re mothers might be seeing doctors for the first time. They might not have a family physician, or a clear support system.”
Poverty and other societal factors play a definite role in the high infant mortality rates among babies. Thakrar points to the rising rates in poverty since the 1980s as another underlying cause for our terribly high rates of infant deaths.
Additionally, we would be remiss not to add to the role that racism plays in this disaster as well, with infant mortality rates strikingly higher among black babies in America. Unconscionable.
And what about the glaringly higher rates of death among American teenagers?
These elevated rates have two main causes, according to the study: car accidents and gun-related deaths. From the ages of 15 to 19, teens are twice as likely to die in car crashes than teens in other developed countries. Teens are 82 times more likely to die from gun violence, which makes sense considering America is home to half of all civilian-owned guns in the world, and has a gun-related death rate 10 times higher than other developed countries.
“This study should alarm everyone,” Thakrar told CNN. “The US is the most dangerous of wealthy, democratic countries in the world for children.”
WE AGREE. Everyone should certainly be alarmed, concerned, and ready to do something about this.
And if you are one to think, “Oh, this stuff doesn’t really happen” or “This isn’t going to happen to me,” then you need to take a seat and check your privilege immediately. We are all affected by issues like these, or might be some day. And we all really need to start caring—not just about our own lives, but about the lives of those around us and in our communities.
The researchers agree that the way to reduce these deaths isn’t just to put a Band-Aid on it all or pretend these things aren’t happening. These problems need to be addressed at their root. Our social systems need addressing, as do our governmental policies.
“To turn around these trends, we will need to think beyond medical care to address the social environment children live in,” Thakrar tells CNN. “Every child deserves the opportunity to live a full, healthy and safe life. These findings show that we are not living up to that promise and that we have fallen short of that promise for the last 30 years.”
If studies like this sicken you to your core, they should. We need to pour all our resources—and money—into making sure our children have everything they need to live full, safe, healthy, and long lives. And we need to ask our lawmakers to do the same.
We are talking about our kids here—our babies—and they deserve nothing but the best.
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Somehow my adult siblings and I ended up living in three different states, but two years ago, we all made a pact that our kids would know each other — no matter what it takes. We decided at our last family gathering that despite the miles separating our kids, we would make regular visits happen so our kids can know the joy of growing up with their cousins around.
I was lucky to have lots of cousins nearby when I was growing up. I had cousin sleepovers, and we played elaborate make-believe games in the backroom of my grandma’s house, building forts and pretending we were dogs. I had fun swimming in the lake with cousins, fishing, and playing card games. I have cousins the same age as me, and cousins who babysat me and are many years older. I love them all dearly.
I have fond memories of family reunions where we played for hours as the adults talked, and we all sweated it out in the Texas summer heat in pure bliss, happy just to be together. I have memories of nighttime games and weeklong visits when we were spoiled by each other’s parents and got a reprieve from our own.
Cousins are like having all the benefits of a sibling, without actually having to live with them.
Cousins know your secrets, and they know what it’s like to have a mom or dad just enough like your own to relate, but just different enough to make it fun to sleep over for a change of scenery and a little spoiling.
Cousins are like having your best friend visit for all the important family events, so you can sneak off and have a little fun while the adults are boring themselves with talking.
Cousins have your same quirky sense of humor and kind of look like you too. In fact, they are enough like you that you can be completely yourself around them, without feeling weird or different. They know what it’s like to come from a really loud family like you do, and they laugh at all your jokes because they genuinely find them funny.
It’s instantly comforting to hang out with someone who has the same wit and enjoys the same banter as you, but who has just the right amount of differences to make it more fun than hanging out with your brother or sister. They are role models and confidants, the sister you never got or the best friend you always wanted.
I’d argue that cousins are an essential part of a happy life because they love you fiercely, remember you as a baby, and cheer you on as an adult. Having a cousin is like having a forever friend in your corner, no matter what life throws your way.
I see these kinds of relationships blossoming between my own kids and their cousins, and it’s a beautiful thing to watch. While I don’t always love the long road trips it takes to make it happen, watching my kids bond with their cousins and talk about the memories they are making with them for months afterward is worth all the “Are we there yet?” questions in the world.
I love my nieces and nephews as much as I could possibly love a child who isn’t my own, and it’s a gift to watch my kids love them as much as I do.
I make these long trips because I look at my daughter, who desperately wants a sister, and know that her relationship with her cousin, almost the same exact age, will be a lifelong one that will help fill that gap.
I look at my 8-year-old and see the joy he feels when he gets to hang out with his cousin who is just a few months his senior and play with Nerf guns all day, and talk about Legos, Star Wars, and all kinds of kid stuff with someone who is just as interested as he.
And I look at my youngest and see the joy in his eyes when he gets to spend time with his older cousins and be included because there is no leaving anyone out when cousins are around.
It seems like the time has passed when our cousins lived down the street or just across town. But to this day, I message, call, and text my cousins regularly enough that it doesn’t matter. I’m almost 40, and I consider my cousins some of my greatest friends in this life and my biggest cheerleaders.
I want that for my kids. The miles may separate them, but I will make sure they know each other, no matter the cost, and make memories that will bond them together for a lifetime.
The last time my siblings and I were all together was almost two years ago, and my kids still talk about the experiences they had on that trip with their cousins like it was yesterday. This spring we’re getting together again for swimming, horseback riding, and playing video games past bedtime. My guess is they’ll remember this trip as fondly as the last, and we’ll all keep coming back for more.
My cousins are one of the greatest blessings I’ve been given in this life. And I’ll do whatever it takes to make sure my kids know that blessing too.
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This is part of a sponsored collaboration with ScholarShare.
You can learn a lot about your kids by simply listening to their conversations, particularly when those conversations do not involve you. “I’m going to NYU,” my son proclaimed confidently. “And then I’m going to work at Google!” “Well I’m going to study to be a teacher,” my daughter responded. My kids’ career aspirations have varied over the years, and I am certain those interests will change numerous times before they complete high school. But one thing that is certain is the fact that each of them will go to college.
The Rising Cost of Obtaining a College Education
As the first in my family to obtain a college education, I realize the sacrifices my parents made early on. It wasn’t until I was older that I was able to truly appreciate their foresight. Their decision to have just one child was, in part, due to economics. They sacrificed lofty vacations and other luxuries to build my college fund.
Over the past 30 years, the cost of college has risen 146% for private, four-year schools, 150% for two-year colleges, and 225% for public, four-year schools. This increase supersedes inflation, and in general, costs will continue to rise 5% every year. With two children less than 10 years away from entering college, I’ve thought intently about how I plan to pay for their education. A few years back I opened ScholarShare accounts for each of my kids, and in addition to my regular contributions, my kids will put some of their Christmas and Birthday money into their accounts.
ScholarShare 529 College Savings Plan
ScholarShare 529 is the official college savings plan of California, helping families save for their children’s education. The plan features 100% tax-free growth which means families can accumulate up to 25% more money for college education and can be used at most accredited colleges and universities in the US and some colleges abroad. In addition to tuition, the funds saved can be used for required fees, room and board costs, books, supplies, computer and tech-related costs and more.
How to Open a ScholarShare 529 College Savings Plan
Opening a ScholarShare 529 account is easy and takes less than 15 minutes. Be sure to have the the date of birth, social security number and address for both the student and the person opening the account. During the sign-up process, you will be asked to make an investment selection and then begin funding the account. ScholarShare 529 offers several low-cost investment portfolios including age-based, multi-fund, single-fund and guaranteed.
2018 Matching Grant Program
ScholarShare, in partnership with California State Treasurer John Chiang and TV personality Liz Hernandez, recently announced a brand new matching program designed to help low and moderate income families start saving for college. As I mentioned earlier, rising tuition costs are a significant obstacle for college- bound students. According to Chiang, “Making college more accessible to all Californians, regardless of income, is a necessity if we ant to improve the overall fiscal health of our state and close the workforce skills gap.”
With this new matching grant program, families will be offered a dollar-for-dollar match contribution of up to $200 on new accounts. Families that establish a monthly automatic contribution plan of $25 or more are eligible for a $25 bonus (for a total of $225). California families must meet the following eligibility requirements:
- Proof of California residency at the time of enrollment
- Possession of a valid social security number or federal tax ID number
- Have an adjusted gross annual income of $75,000 or less
- Open an account for a beneficiary who will be 14 years or younger on December 31, 2018. The beneficiary cannot have an existing ScholarShare account
- Be the parent or legal guardian of the beneficiary
How the program works:
- On or after January 1st, apply for a matching grant.
- Open and fund a new ScholarShare 529 account.
- Make contributions to your new account through December 31, 2018.
- At the end of the contribution year, receive dollar-for-dollar matching contributions up to $200 into your account from ScholarShare 529!
Research shows that children with college savings of less than $500 are three times more likely to enroll in higher education, and four times more likely to graduate, than those without a college savings account.
It is never too late to begin saving for your child’s college education. Even if your child is starting college in two years, ScholarShare’s savings plan works in such a way that you could have up to six years of account growth before he/she graduates. Even if you are not able to save a lot of money, every dollar saved upfront is equal to more than two dollars needed to repay student debt over the life of a 25 year loan.
To learn more about ScholarShare’s new Matching Grant Program or to open a new ScholarShare 529 account, visit ScholarShare.com.