Action for Children North Carolina, a Raleigh-based non-profit advocacy group, and the North Carolina Institute for Medicine have released a new "Child Health Report Card" (PDF format).

The purpose of the report is "to heighten awareness-among policymakers, practitioners, the media and the general public-of the health of children and youth across our state. All of the leading child health indicators are summarized in this one easy-to-read publication." This is the group's 12th annual report card. It looks at several measures and compares findings to a 2000 baseline to identify trends.

In general, the findings are similar to the recent "Kids Count" surveys for states across the South. (Action for Children is the North Carolina agency for Kids Count.) And again, poverty is an overriding theme.

There are some encouraging signs of progress in the report. The number of children aged zero to three enrolled in "early intervention services to reduce effects of developmental delay, emotional disturbance and/or chronic illness" has increased by 47.5%. Infant mortality has shown only a slight increase since 2000, and immunization rates are more than 99% by the time of school entry.

But report notes other disturbing trends. The percentage of uninsured children has increased by 17.8%. The rate of infant mortality among minorities is more than twice that of whites. The number of confirmed deaths due to child abuse increased by 28%.

Another troubling statistic is poverty. More than 21% of children in North Carolina are now living in poverty, a 12% increase since 2000. In addition, nearly 12% of children are uninsured, an 18% increase since 2000.

The report gives an 'A' for improvement in the number of children covered by public health insurance (either Medicaid or North Carolina's Health Choice program), which increased by 45% since 2000.

While it's good that more children have access to health care, it's troubling that more children need access to public health care because of poverty and rising health care costs. And despite best efforts to get children enrolled in public health insurance programs, the number of uninsured children continues to climb.

With the mid-term elections upon us and both major parties fighting for control of Congress, one would think these issues would be front and center in every campaign. Sadly, partisan politics and negative campaigning are in high gear, and candidates are talking more about their opponents than they are the issues.

Action for Children North Carolina has a call to action ("Who's for Kids and Who's Just Kidding") with facts about the health and safety of North Carolina's children, and specific questions for candidates about their policies and what solutions they propose.