Georgia ranked 42nd nationally for child well-being in a 2011 survey reported by The Annie E. Casey Foundation, with children in the midstate ranking lower than state and nationwide averages in several of the report’s featured categories.
The annual survey released Wednesday by the Baltimore-based group showed Georgia improving in some areas but remaining at No. 42 overall for the third straight year.
The Atlanta Journal-Constitution reported that Gaye Smith, executive director of the Georgia Family Connection Partnership, said Georgia has made progress in some areas, including a declining teen birth rate that now ranks 38th in the country, but she said an increase in low birth-weight babies is a big concern.
Georgia ranked 46th in the country for low-birth-weight babies at 9.6 percent in 2008 and 42nd in infant mortality at 8 percent in 2007.
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Bibb County had a higher percentage of low-birth-weigh babies with 12.4 percent, according to the report. Houston County’s 9.5 percent was just below the state average.
In terms of infant mortality, Bibb County’s 13.9 percent was more than twice the national average of 6.8 percent. Meanwhile, Houston County at 10.4 percent also was above the state and national averages.
The economic recession made things far worse, but it isn’t to blame for all of Georgia’s problems, Smith said. The state has been among the 10 worst states almost every year since the annual report started two decades ago, she said. A study of persistent poverty by the University of Georgia identified 240 counties in the South, including 91 in Georgia, that had three generations of poverty, Smith said. “That was a huge eye-opener,” she said. “We have deep-rooted poverty that has lasted for generations, and that takes a lot to turn around.”
The survey shows nearly 570,000 children living in poverty in the state, and it ranks Georgia 35th in that category with 22 percent of children living in poverty in 2009. Georgia’s 8th Congressional District, which includes Bibb County, topped that number, totaling 25 percent in that year. The economy may have led to limited access to prenatal care, said John Carter, a clinical assistant professor at Emory University’s Rollins School of Public Health. Living in poverty can also lead to stress and poor nutrition for expecting mothers, Carter said.
Telegraph writer Caryn Grant and The Associated Press contributed to this report.