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All children in Allegheny County should have access to quality healthcare and health-promoting services. To make Allegheny County a safer and healthier place to live and raise children, Allies for Children advocates for policies to improve child nutrition, ensure primary prevention of childhood lead exposure, and increase access to health insurance, supporting children’s health and learning.


Child Nutrition

To build a local health alliance and address food access issues facing children and youth, over the past four years Allies for Children partnered with Greater Pittsburgh Community Food Bank and school districts throughout Allegheny County. The successful collaboration resulted in an annual report entitled Breakfast Basics 2019 Update: A Comprehensive Look at School Breakfast Participation in Allegheny County. The report, released annually during School Breakfast Week, highlights how school policy changes can help combat childhood hunger and increase the number of breakfasts schools serve. In 2019, an updated report found that Allegheny County outperformed the state in reaching Governor Wolf’s School Breakfast Goal. On average, 57 students who qualify for free and reduced price meals are eating breakfast for every 100 who eat lunch. In Pennsylvania, on average only 53 students who qualify for free and reduced price meals are eating breakfast per 100 eating lunch. Governor Tom Wolf’s 2020 goal is to reach 60. Currently, Allies for Children and Greater Pittsburgh Community Food Bank are working with schools to implement alternative breakfast models or determine the viability of CEP. 

Over 75,000 Allegheny County students are eligible for free and reduced price school meals. Approximately 53,000, or 70 percent, of free or reduced price eligible students eat lunch at school during the school year. Those children still need access to meals during the summer months, and summer meal programs are designed to fill that need. In Summer 2019, Allies for Children released its Summer Meals Fact Sheet examining trends and needs for further investment in summer meals.

Health Insurance

According to the Kaiser Family Foundation, health coverage provides children access to needed care and promotes improved health, education, and financial success over the long-term. Children with health coverage fare better on measures of access to care compared to uninsured children, and access for children with Medicaid and CHIP is comparable to access for children with private coverage along these measures. Imagine a county where all children have access to health insurance and medical care. While progress has been made, the uninsured rate continues to be too high for our children.

Pennsylvania has made significant progress expanding access to affordable health insurance for children and families over the last two decades. Additionally, due to Allies for Children’s and its partners’ advocacy, Congress reauthorized the Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP) for 10 years in 2018. Unfortunately, some children still do not have health care, despite qualifying for public health insurance programs such as CHIP and Medicaid. Nearly 46 percent (110,300) of children in Allegheny County are enrolled in CHIP (13,800) or Medicaid (96,500). Currently, nearly 5,000 children in Allegheny County are uninsured. These children are five times more likely to have unmet medical concerns, and three times more likely to not have access to prescription drugs, like asthma inhalers. Additionally, uninsured kids are 30 percent less likely to get medical treatment when injured.

To address this problem and expand access to affordable health insurance for children and families, Allies for Children partnered with the Office of Mayor William Peduto, the Allegheny County Health Department, the Consumer Health Coalition and Enroll America. The group developed a plan called Healthy Together and later received a $200,000 implementation grant from the National League of Cities to connect children to available health care coverage and ensure they received the basic services they need and deserve. To continue advocacy efforts around healthcare, Allies for Children convened a Southwestern Pennsylvania coalition to educate legislators about the importance of both CHIP and Medicaid. The coalition continues  advocacy efforts to ensure children’s health is a priority among lawmakers.

Lead

To make Allegheny County a safer place to live and raise children, Allies for Children is working to advance policies that emphasize primary prevention of childhood lead poisoning. The Allegheny County Lead Task Force convened in May 2017 to review data on all sources of lead and provide a set of recommendations for further action. The Task Force concluded that both primary prevention and intervention strategies are required, but only primary prevention will lead to a continuing overall reduction in childhood lead exposure and should be prioritized.

Coming out of the work of the Allegheny County Lead Task Force, Allies for Children’s goal is to advance the group’s number one recommendation set forth in its report: lead-safe housing. More specifically, pre-1978 rental housing is of paramount concern. Together with partners including Allegheny County Health Department and others, Allies for Children works with municipal stakeholders to advance formal policy ensuring that rental housing is maintained in such a way that protects children from lead exposure.

By prioritizing eliminating harmful exposures to lead from paint, dust, and other household sources, Allies for Children aims to prevent harmful effects of lead before these occur, supporting the overall goal of children’s health and learning.