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Health & Development

Healthy children play better, learn better, and live better. Children’s health affects all aspects of their lives, including school readiness, educational outcomes, and future economic opportunities. Supporting children’s health  from the very earliest age — including the months before birth — is critical to children’s  overall development. Voices for Illinois Children believes that a healthy child is not only physically healthy, but also well-prepared socially and emotionally for the intricacies of school, work, and life.

Issue Areas

Access to Health Care:  Children with health insurance are more likely to get the health services they need. They miss fewer days of school, and their parents miss fewer days of work. Almost 1.7 million Illinois children have access to health care through the All Kids health insurance program. Most of these children are covered through Medicaid and the Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP), which are jointly funded by the federal government and the states. And other parents can access coverage for their children and pay premiums based on their ability to pay. Voices helped pave the way for the All Kids program, which has contributed to a significant increase in the proportion of Illinois children with health insurance, as well as a substantial reduction in racial-ethnic disparities in health care coverage.

Children’s Mental Health:  Teen suicides, school violence, bullying, substance abuse — all are mental health issues that children and their families face today. Voices is a leader in the Illinois Children’s Mental Health Partnership (ICMHP), a statewide group of state agencies and provider and advocacy organizations committed to improving the scope, quality, and access of mental health programs from birth through young adulthood. ICMHP works to support the prevention, early intervention, and treatment of mental health challenges facing children and their families. Because of the ICMHP, more young children are better able to access community-based mental health services, preventing more severe problems that are difficult — and expensive — to treat. Investments in ICMHP priorities strengthen our mental health system in a cost-effective way, so all Illinois children and their families can live healthier, happier lives and have a better chance for a brighter future.

Child Trauma:  Toxic stress from economic insecurity and exposure to violence or trauma damages the developing brain and can lead to problems in learning, behavior, and health. We know that, with appropriate support and treatment, children who have experienced toxic stress can go on to lead happy, healthy, and productive lives. Voices for Illinois Children partners with the Illinois Childhood Trauma Coalition (ICTC) in its mission to prevent and treat childhood trauma by raising public awareness, sharing research, and implementing best practices for early intervention and treatment. Spreading and integrating trauma-informed practice throughout professions that serve children and their families continues to be a high priority for the ICTC, which provides workshops for more than 2,000 professionals a year.

Food Insecurity: Consistent access to nutritious food is critical to living a healthy life. Research shows that inadequate nutrition can lead to greater risk for health problems, developmental delays, and impaired school performance. Striving to improve food security in our state, Voices is an appointed member of the Illinois Commission to End Hunger.

Child Nutrition and Obesity: Proper nutrition influences brain development, school performance, and behavior, and plays a major role in whether children are at increased risk of obesity. Unfortunately, Illinois has one of the highest childhood obesity rates in the country, with 1 in 5 Illinois children considered obese. Obese children face significant health risks, including diabetes, high blood pressure and high cholesterol, asthma, and depression. Voices is committed to supporting policies that help children and families achieve healthy lifestyle habits, including healthy eating and physical activity, to prevent childhood obesity and related problems.

For more information

Contact the Health & Development team

Gaylord Gieseke, President (312) 516-5565
Colette Lueck, Managing Director, Illinois Children’s Mental Health Partnership (312) 516-5569
Anne Studzinski, Managing Director, Illinois Childhood Trauma Coalition (312) 516-5560
Larry Joseph, Director of Research (All Kids, Medicaid, CHIP) (312) 516-5556