Top 5 Policies to Promote Children’s Health in Kansas
Originally published in the Summer 2022 Issue of Kansas Child Magazine.
Policy choices in Kansas can change the health outcomes of Kansas kids for the better — or for the worse. Our government should prioritize health policy that gives every Kansas kid the opportunity to grow up healthy and thrive, regardless of their family’s race, income, or zip code. Here are five ways lawmakers can prioritize Kansas kids’ health.
Passing KanCare (Medicaid) expansion
Currently, kids in Kansas already qualify for KanCare at much higher income levels than parents or caregivers do. If Kansas expanded KanCare, more parents and caregivers would become eligible for health coverage at a more reasonable income level. Expansion outreach would naturally encourage parents to enroll their already eligible kids in KanCare. Workers whose jobs do not include insurance coverage (including many early childhood educators) often fall into the coverage gap and would benefit from KanCare expansion. When more people are covered by insurance, we all win — including young children.
Holding the line on childhood immunization requirements
Over the past few years, several attempts have been made to change childhood immunization laws in Kansas, including who has the authority to determine the list of required vaccines and the types of exemptions parents can apply for. Numerous vaccine-preventable diseases are of particular risk to young children; loosening immunization requirements would harm Kansas kids. In the coming years, Kansas policymakers should protect our current processes and let experts — not politicians — handle the complexities of public health policy.
Easing the administrative burden to access important services
Families with young children may qualify for several state services during the first few years of a child’s life. However, legislators have created a long and confusing process that Kansans must successfully navigate before accessing those benefits. Rather than requiring Kansas families to jump through cumbersome, invasive, and time-consuming hoops, our elected officials should be looking to make it easier for families facing financial hardship.
Strengthening infrastructure for maternal and child health
Kansas must invest more time, money, and staff positions in programs that provide services to young children and their families, such as local health departments and home visiting professionals. These are critical programs for maternal and child health. Increased capacity in these programs will benefit the health of all young children and their families.
Addressing racial inequities
Kansas must investigate racial inequity issues and their correlation to the health outcomes of young children. We must thoroughly examine what causes these outcomes and the options lawmakers have available to address these causes.
Implementing these five policies is just the beginning of the journey to improve the health of young Kansans. Other issues, such as addressing environmental impacts, paid family leave, and adequate access to medical providers, should also be considered.
While Kansans will have to wait for lawmakers to begin the 2023 Legislative Session in January to pass any new legislation, advocates can start preparing now to promote policies that will help Kansas kids.