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Wilson County ranks third in study of child well being

Staff Report • Jul 28, 2017 at 2:56 PM

Wilson County ranked third in the state in the State of the Child in Tennessee 2016 report released Friday by the Tennessee Commission on Children and Youth.

The annual report focuses on the importance of preventing and responding appropriately to adverse childhood experiences, current data for Tennessee and how each county ranks in child well being.

“Research demonstrates adverse childhood experiences can disrupt brain development, especially in young children,” said Linda O’Neal, executive director of the Tennessee Commission on Children and Youth, “and present lifelong challenges for success in school, relationships, employment, and health across the lifespan.”

The original adverse childhood experiences study focused on child abuse and neglect and family dysfunction, and revealed the prevalence of these conditions, even in families that appear to be prospering. It demonstrated people with more adverse childhood experiences were more likely to face health and mental health challenges.

The report released Friday includes the most recent data on adverse childhood experiences in Tennessee from the Department of Health Behavioral Risk Factor Surveillance System survey conducted by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

While two in five adults in Tennessee have experienced no adverse childhood experiences, more than one in six Tennesseans has experienced four or more adverse childhood experiences, the critical point where outcomes are increasingly compromised. Tennesseans with four or more adverse childhood experiences report lower average income, lower educational attainment, poorer health, and higher rates of obesity, smoking, depression and heart disease.

Tennessee’s Adverse Childhood Experiences Initiative is a public/private effort to change the culture of Tennessee to focus on preventing adverse childhood experiences whenever possible, and to mitigating their impact when they cannot be prevented. Providing safe, stable, nurturing environments encourages healthy brain development and improves outcomes for individuals and prosperity for the state.

According to officials with the Tennessee Commission on Children and Youth, research shows children with the same risk factors fare differently on issues like educational success, life expectancy and economic mobility based on their neighborhood.

The child well-being rankings for the Tennessee counties in the State of the Child in Tennessee report the range of outcomes from Williamson County, which ranked the best, to Shelby County, where children face the most obstacles.

“Where children live can have a substantial impact on the trajectory of their lives,” said O’Neal, “and supportive, nurturing communities and good public policies can be instrumental in helping overcome poverty, adversity and other challenging circumstances.”

The commission ranked counties based on data organized into four domains, economic well being, education, health, and family and community. Each domain is made up of three measures of child well being.

Economic well being included child poverty, median household income and fair market rent. Education was comprised of reading proficiency, math proficiency and high school graduation rate. Health measures ranked were low birth-weight babies, children without health insurance, and child and teen deaths. The family and community domain includes teen pregnancy, schools suspension rate and substantiated abuse and neglect.

Child poverty, one of the measures comprising the economic well-being domain, varied greatly, with one in 20 children in Williamson County living in poverty while nearly half the children in Lake County do. Only a little more than three of every four students in Sequatchie and Shelby counties graduated from high school on time compared to Lauderdale County, which had nearly every student graduate at 99.1 percent.

More than one in eight Fayette County K-12 students have been suspended; eight counties are tied for No. 1 ranking with no suspensions.

The percentage of children without health insurance coverage in the lowest ranked counties is double that of the best ranked counties.

Many of the better ranking counties surround Nashville or are in West Tennessee. Williamson County, in addition to ranking best overall, ranked best in three of the domains, economic well being, education and family & community. Weakley County in West Tennessee ranked second overall and best in the health domain.

Washington County scored best in East Tennessee at ninth. The counties with the highest levels of child well being were Williamson, Weakley, Wilson, Rutherford and Sumner. Counties where child well being was most challenged were Shelby, Lake, Union, Clay and Sequatchie.

The report included overviews of and tables of county rankings for the four domains and county rankings for each factor composing the domains.

The State of the Child in Tennessee report will be available online Aug. 1 at tn.gov/tccy/article/tccy-kcsoc16. Profiles for individual counties, including how each ranks overall and on the domains by linking to the county pages, will be available available at tn.gov/tccy/article/tccy-kc-soc16-counties.

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