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The United States is the wealthiest nation in the world, yet children's health status in our country as measured by selected indicators is among the worst in the industrialized world. Poor health in childhood can cast long shadows later in life and funnel tens of thousands of children and youths into the Cradle to Prison Pipeline. Undiagnosed, untreated and poorly managed health and mental health problems increase a child’s chances of being born at low birthweight, starting school not ready to learn, falling behind in school, dropping out, being neglected or abused, and ending up in costly juvenile detention facilities, putting them at greater risk for entering the adult criminal justice system, and for lower earnings as adults.
We must ensure every child and pregnant woman has access to affordable, seamless, comprehensive health and mental health coverage and services. With more than two-thirds of uninsured children already eligible for health coverage, states now have new tools and funding to get eligible children enrolled, and to expand the reach of the health care safety net to include all children.