UNLV Researchers Complete First-Ever Health Status of Nevada’s Kindergartners

April 9, 2009 – A team of UNLV researchers has completed the first-ever comprehensive health status report of children entering kindergarten in Nevada – a tool that can be used to identify and remediate health disparities and may ultimately lead to increased academic success among Nevada’s students.

The Nevada Kindergarten Health Survey, a partnership of the Nevada Institute for Children’s Research and Policy (NICRP) at UNLV, the Southern Nevada Health District and the Clark County School District, was administered by all of the state’s 17 school districts in the fall of 2008 with the goal of providing baseline data on the overall health status of children entering school. The 22-question survey gathered information including insurance status, routine care, immunizations, access to care, mental care and weight and healthy behaviors.

The survey was distributed in both English and Spanish to parents of the estimated 30,744 entering kindergartners. More than 11,000 surveys were collected. Among the findings:

• 36 percent of kindergartners are either overweight or at-risk of being overweight

• 18 percent have no health insurance coverage

• 32 percent have not received routine dental care in the past 12 months

• 25 percent indicated using ER or urgent care for non-life threatening illness in past 12 months

“With this new information we can begin to identify health issues that may ultimately affect the well-being of children, in and out of school, and implement strategies to make improvements,” said Denise Tanata Ashby, executive director of the NICRP.

Financial consideration was the primary barrier to health care access among those surveyed. For example, 16 percent said they either cannot or do not follow doctor’s recommendations in dealing with their child’s medical care, primarily due to cost. Also, nearly 60 percent of those surveyed who were uninsured were Hispanic, most of whom cited a lack of financial resources.

“Studies have shown that there are definite links between the health status of a child and the child’s academic success,” said Tanata Ashby. “If we can track the trends, down to the school level, that may be affecting the health status of children, we can target parent outreach and resources and ultimately increase both the well-being and academic success of children in our state.”

The full report can be obtained by contacting the NICRP at (702) 895-1040 or by visiting http://nic.unlv.edu. Researchers expect to distribute the survey annually to parents of incoming kindergartners throughout the state.

The UNLV research team included Denise Tanata Ashby, Amanda Haboush and Tara Phebus, Jennifer Waddoups and Enrique Lopez from the NICRP in the School of Community Health Sciences. Representatives from the Southern Nevada Health District, Clark County School District and the Nevada State Health Division and Nevada School District Superintendents also participated in the project.

UNLV is a doctoral-degree-granting institution of 28,000 students and 3,300 faculty and staff. Founded in 1957, the university offers more than 220 undergraduate, master’s and doctoral degree programs. UNLV is located on a 350-acre campus in dynamic Southern Nevada and is classified in the category of Research Universities (high research activity) by the Carnegie Foundation for the Advancement of Teaching.