Delivery of Care

Celebrating the advocates for children

Rhode Island Kids Count holds it annual luncheon celebration, honoring elected officials and advocates who champion the health of children and families

Image courtesy of Sen. Gayle Goldin's Twitter feed

Representative-elect Rebecca Kislak, left, and Rep. Teresa Tanzi, second from left, join other recipients of the Covering Kids awards on stage at the Rhode Island Kids Count luncheon celebrating children's health, held on Nov. 19.

By Richard Asinof
Posted 11/26/18
Rhode Island Kids Count held its 18th consecutive annual celebration of children’s health, bringing together a full house of elected officials and advocates in what has become a traditional pre-Thanksgiving event to give thanks to advocates.
What kinds of new datasets are needed to be developed to support the work of health equity zones and neighborhood health stations in Rhode Island? How does the work to provide access to health care for uninsured and under-insured adults and children become a priority, particularly for the immigrant population, as a way to lessen the dependence – and the cost – of unnecessary use of emergency rooms? What is the connection between domestic violence, sexual assault and gun violence in Rhode Island?
Rhode Island Kids Count has adopted an outreach strategy of producing numerous fact sheets and holding community briefings around such issues as trends and factors related to youth tobacco use and maternal depression, among others, attempting to build a network of advocates and followers through an aggressive use of social media, especially Twitter.
It would be fascinating to learn the effectiveness of that strategy as correlated with the success around particular advocacy outcomes, particularly in shaping legislative outcomes, as the traditional media world continues to be disrupted.

PROVIDENCE – Four days before Thanksgiving, on Monday, Nov. 19, Rhode Island Kids Count held its annual luncheon celebrating the health of children and families in Rhode Island, with Executive Director Elizabeth Burke Bryant serving as the advocate in chief before a room full of elected officials and advocates at the Marriott, an event that has been held for 18 consecutive years.

All four members of the Rhode Island Congressional delegation – Sen. Jack Reed, Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse, Congressman David Cicilline and Congressman Jim Langevin – attended, all received their Covering Kids awards, all shared words of hope and praise and encouragement, and all received rousing applause.

Burke Bryant set the stage by noting how special it was that the state’s entire Congressional delegation was present, something that children’s advocates in other states talked about with a sense of envy. She praised their accomplishments, in particular the extension of the federal Children’s Health Insurance Program for 10 years, and that the fact that the Affordable Care Act is “still the law of the land,” despite a climate of fear.

Rhode Island also was the third best state in the nation for health insurance coverage for children, with 97.9 percent covered, behind only Massachusetts and Vermont, Burke Bryant boasted, with pride.

What gets measured, gets done
Her statement, of course, was immediately backed up evidence-based measurements, presented in a slide, breaking down the coverage by percentages, including 51 percent that was employer-based, 32 percent were through RIte Care, [the state’s managed Medicaid program for eligible children, their parents and pregnant women], 6 percent were through direct purchase, and 9 percent were through a combination of plans.

[The details in the fine print in one of Rhode Island Kids Count’s issue briefs, “Maternal Depression in Rhode Island: Two Generations at Risk,” brought home the importance of health insurance coverage: in 2016, 50 percent of births and approximately 58 percent of infants under age one were covered through RIte Care.]

Plans were announced by Burke Bryant, in partnership with the R.I. Medicaid Office, to launch a new program, called the “First 1,000 Days of Rite Care,” modeled on a similar initiative in New York State, to improve the health and development outcomes for infants and toddlers in low-income families, tracking and promotion of routine screening for maternal depression, developmental delays in children, and elevated blood lead levels.

Sights and sounds of the celebration
Reed was magnanimous in his praise for the family of children’s advocates in Rhode Island, saying: “Rhode Island has been the example for the nation.”

Whitehouse, who that morning had been one of three Senators filing a federal lawsuit challenging the appointment of Matthew Whitaker as acting U.S. Attorney General, effusively thanked Burke Bryant for her hard work.

Langevin said the new Democratic majority in the House of Representatives would be fighting to “protect and expand, not repeal and replace” the Affordable Care Act.

Cicilline, acknowledging that the new Democratic majority would create a “less hostile work environment,” quipped that perhaps the members of the House should speak first at the celebration of children’s health next year, given that they are now the majority.

Local heroes, local elected officials
As with every celebration of children’s health, Rhode Island Kids Count brought a local mother to the stage to share her own health story of success, thanks to health insurance coverage. The mother had discovered that she was pregnant at the same time she found out that she had thyroid cancer. Both she and her child are doing fine, thanks in large part to the support and guidance of her health care team.

Dr. Nicole Alexander-Scott, the director of the R.I. Department of Health, also lent her voice to the celebration, talking about the importance of promoting health equity in Rhode Island.

The final act
Also receiving Covering Kids awards were a number of elected officials, including mayors and Senators and Representatives from the R.I. General Assembly. Advocates from the Economic Progress Institute, Linda Katz and Rachel Flum, were also presented with awards.

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