Health Insurance Coverage and Student Health Data

06 October 2015 Written by  

child-health-insuranceWhat the Numbers Mean for Utah Children

Last week was a big week for health data. The Census Bureau released data on health insurance coverage in America for 2014 and compared it to 2013 coverage data. Meanwhile the state of Utah released its findings from the SHARP survey (Student Health and Risk Prevention), conducted every two years. This survey provides important information on Utah students in grades 6, 8, 10, and 12, looking at protective and risk factors that can influence students’ health, including smoking, drinking, family and neighborhood environment.

Here’s a quick look at what the numbers mean for children in Utah:

Most of the country saw a decline in the numbers of uninsured children, but not Utah. In Utah the number of uninsured children remained relatively stagnant at 9%. Nationally, the uninsured rate for children dropped from 7 to 6%.

In Utah, 9.4% of children under the age of 18 do not have health insurance, or 85,000 children.

Among the most vulnerable children, those 200% below poverty, there are 51,000 children without health insurance.

Utah is among the five worst states for uninsured children and worst in the nation for children below 200% of the poverty line. Interestingly, Utah is only in the bottom 15 for its total uninsured rate (adults and children). Why do Utah children fare worse?

States with the Highest Percent of Uninsured Kids

Percentage of Uninsured











National Average


Disparities in Uninsured Rates Remain

Across the nation, Latino families continue to have some of the highest rates of uninsured children. While the uninsured rates decline overall, Hispanic families continue to experience wide gaps in coverage, compared to their White counterparts.



How are Utah students doing?  Data from the Student Health and Risk Prevention Survey

The good news is that overall student risk factors are on the decline, including drinking and traditional cigarette use. However, there are a few important risk factors to highlight:

E-cigarette use is increasing at an alarming rate. The e-cigarette rates among students have almost doubled from 9.6% in 2013 to 17.4% in 2015.

The number of students carrying a handgun increased from 7.5% in 2013 to 8.3% in 2015.

Mental health and depression rates are also on the rise, particularly among female and racial/ ethnic minorities. Females are 4x more likely to experience high depressive symptoms, compared to males.

Racial and ethnic minorities experience greater mental health treatment needs and higher depressive symptoms, particularly when they are in the younger grades.

mental health needs


*Depressive symptoms were defined as follows: During the past 12 months, did you ever feel so sad or hopeless almost every day for two weeks or more in a row that you stopped doing some usual activities?

The survey data suggest that Hispanic youth are at greater risk across categories, contributing to growing health disparities between Hispanic and White youth in Utah. One way to address this disparity is to enroll children in health insurance. Utah has the highest rate of uninsured Hispanic children in the nation. Health insurance coverage connects children with necessary mental and behavioral health treatment to identify conditions early in childhood. By taking measures now to support a culture of health and wellness for all children, Utah can prevent disparities from widening further. 


For 30 years now, Voices for Utah Children has called on our state, federal and local leaders to put children’s needs first. But the work is not done. The children of 30 years ago now have children of their own. Too many of these children are growing up in poverty, without access to healthcare or quality educational opportunities.

How can you be involved?

Make a tax-deductible donation to Voices for Utah Children—or join our Network with a monthly donation of $20 or more.  Network membership includes complimentary admission to Network events with food, socializing, and opportunity to meet child advocacy experts.

We look forward to the future of Voices for Utah Children and we hope you will be a part of our next 30 years.

Special thanks to American Express for sponsoring our 30th Anniversary Year. Amex

JessieJessie Mandle, Senior Health Policy Analyst, joined the organization in 2015. Prior to joining Voices for Utah Children, Jessie was a Senior Program Planner with the San Francisco Department of Children, Youth and Their Families, where she focused on nutrition and Out of School Time areas. Jessie also worked as a policy researcher in Johannesburg, South Africa and oversaw a CDC grant for Multnomah County Aging and Disability Services in Portland, Oregon. Most recently, she worked with the Utah Department of Health and the Utah Cancer Action Network. Jessie has a Master's degree in Public Heath from Portland State University and a B.A. in Government from Wesleyan University in Connecticut.