In South, Children's Health Poorer Than in Other Regions; That's What Study Shows, but It's Hardly a Revelation for Health Care Professionals

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Byline: URVAKSH KARKARIA

Children who live in some Deep South states are two to three times more likely to die or have other health problems than children living in some states in other regions, according to a University of Florida professor.

The poor health outcomes among children in the South documented in a study released Tuesday include low birth weight, teen pregnancy, death and problems such as mental illness, asthma, obesity, tooth decay and school performance. The study, led by Jeffrey Goldhagen, an associate professor of community pediatrics at the UF College of Medicine in Jacksonville, was published recently in the journal Pediatrics and is billed as the first to statistically relate region of residence to measures of child health.

Goldhagen was director of the Duval County Health Department until late last year. He was embroiled last year in a dispute over $25,000 he received for teaching at the University of North Florida while he was Duval County health director.

As part of the three-year study, UF researchers computed a Child Health Index that ranked each state according to five routine indicators of physical health in children -- percentage of low-birthweight infants, infant mortality rate, child death rate, teen death rate and teen birth rates.

The scores revealed that eight of the 10 states with the poorest child health outcomes in the nation -- Mississippi, Louisiana, Arkansas, Tennessee, Alabama, Georgia, North Carolina and South Carolina -- are in what the researchers defined as the Deep South. The remaining Deep South states, Kentucky and Florida, are in the lowest quarter. …