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Poor children left behind in medicine's technological advance

While technology and medicine continue their onward advance, basic health care for children, especially poor children, is in jeopardy.

Edward B. Clark, professor and chairman of pediatrics at the University of Utah and medical director at Primary Children's Medical Center, says it's time to educate and advocate for children's health.In 1915, one in 10 children died by the first birthday. Accessibility of antibiotics in the 1950s and continuous improvements in medicine have dropped infant mortality to less than 5 percent in 1997, Clark said.

Yesterday's problems have been replaced by those of today: poverty, violence and no medical insurance.

Clark said basic health care continues to be restricted and American children continue to live without medical coverage - in Utah, 65 percent of children aren't immunized by their second birthday - despite technological advances.

Clark told about 400 professionals gathered at the Critical Issues in Child and Adolescent Mental Health conference Thursday in Park City that unless people advocate for children they'll continue to be underserved.

"Health care is a commodity not a public right in this country," Clark said.

The decline of health care coverage can be attributed to the decline of two-parent families, an aging population and "disturbing" trends in health care, Clark said.

Sixty percent of American children will live with one parent at some time during their childhood and 22 percent live in pervasive poverty, he said.

All that going on at a time of rising health care costs, Medicaid restrictions and the transformation of the role of medicine.

Clark said Utahns need to make their voices heard at the Capitol and support ideas like the new Health Insurance Program, aimed at providing medical coverage to children of the country's working poor.

Adequate health care is vital for children, he says, because they are forming life-long habits, they are more vulnerable than adults and many mental disorders have their origin in childhood.