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Female & black legislators more likely than others to prioritize children's health

ANN ARBOR, Mich. -- When it comes to new proposals to protect children's health at the state level, women and African Americans serving in legislatures are far more likely than other legislators to put forth new bills -- but the issue doesn't appear to rank high on legislatures' overall priority list, a new study finds.

In an exhaustive analysis of more than 9,800 bills introduced in three states over a two-year period, researchers from the University of Michigan Health System, the U-M C.S. Mott Children's Hospital and the U-M Ford School of Public Policy find that a tiny percentage -- two-thirds of one percent -- pertained to children's health.

That's only 11 percent of all health bills, even though children's medical issues often involve important preventive measures, as well as bills related to the Medicaid and State Children's Health Insurance Program (SCHIP) services that make up a large part of state budgets. The paper is in the July-August issue of Ambulatory Pediatrics.

Women legislators were more than twice as likely as their male counterparts to sponsor child health bills. Their proposals made up 37 percent of all child health bills while their total number of proposals made up 16 percent of all bills introduced.

Members of the Black Caucus in each state legislature also were more likely than non-Caucus legislators to put forth children's health legislation. There was no significant difference between legislators of the two major political parties.

But when the researchers looked at the bills introduced by senior legislators of any gender or race who had risen to committee chair positions, they found an opposite trend: a far lower percentage of bills introduced by chairs pertained to child health when compared with the bills introduced by non-chairs.

And when they looked at what child health bills actually passed in the legislature and and received the governor's signature, the only factor that seeme
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Contact: Kara Gavin
kegavin@umich.edu
734-764-2220
University of Michigan Health System
20-Jul-2004


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