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Arizona making significant progress in reducing childhood poverty

(PIxabay Photo)

PHOENIX – Arizona is making significant progress in reducing the percentage of children living below the poverty line.

According to the United Health Foundation’s annual America’s Health Rankings report, which was released last week, the childhood poverty rate in the state was 12 percent lower in 2018 than the previous year.

The reduction from 23.6 percent to 20.8 percent extended the gains made in recent years.

“In the past five years in Arizona, the children in poverty have decreased from 27 percent to 20.8 percent, a 23 percent decrease of children living in poverty age zero to 17,” Dr. Rhonda Randall, chief medical officer for UnitedHealthcare, told KTAR News 92.3 FM recently.

That’s a bigger improvement than the national average reduction of 19 percent over that time.

Randall said the figure is important because it reflects socioeconomic status and overall health.

“We know that when children are not living in poverty we’re setting them on a better pathway for greater health over the course of their lifetime,” she said.

Arizona still ranks in the bottom third nationally in childhood poverty at 37th. However, that’s a big leap from 2017, when the state was near the bottom of the pack at 45th.

The report didn’t address cause and effect, Randall said, but she cited the economy as a factor in childhood poverty.

“There is absolutely an influence of how the overall economy is doing and the unemployment rate is decreasing,” she said.

With more parents working, fewer kids are living in poverty, Randall said.

“Regardless of the reason, it’s a very good measure for the health of our nation,” she said.

KTAR News 92.3 FM’s Griselda Zetino contributed to this report.

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