Category Archives: Advocacy and Health Policy

Getting ready for school… 5 years in advance

(iStock photo / Getty Images)

Eighty percent of brain growth occurs by age 3. (iStock photo / Getty Images)

Gigi Chawla, MD

Gigi Chawla, MD

By Gigi Chawla, MD

As summer winds down and kids start filling desks and lining hallways at school, it’s a good time to talk about child development. And while this year is the first year that all children will have access to all-day kindergarten, I’m also reminded that not all children arrive to school ready to learn. In fact, getting a healthy start begins long before kids step onto a school bus. As a mom and pediatrician, I know that healthy development and school readiness occur well before children are reading and writing. They occur in those early years, as children are beginning to experience all of their firsts – first smile, first word, first step.

As advocates for children, Children’s Hospitals and Clinics of Minnesota recognizes that health and wellness play a critical role in being ready to learn and that we have a part to play in helping children get a strong start – not only in school but in all areas of life.

We have embarked on an even more deliberate focus on early childhood development, and know that it’s the earliest years in life when the most difference can be made. Consider:

  • Eighty percent of brain growth occurs by age 3.
  • In early childhood, physical, cognitive, emotional and social development occurs at a rate that far exceeds any other stage of human life. This has a significant impact on long-term health and wellness.
  • Toxic stress – including poverty, poor nutrition, inadequate housing, exposure to violence and the absence of attentive caregivers – can be devastating to an infant’s developing brain, thus setting children far behind before they’ve had a chance to start.

Subscribe to MightyGiven the obstacles to healthy child development, we at Children’s decided we needed to venture beyond our walls to address these issues and work with others engaged in protecting the health and well-being of children. We’ve engaged in an effort to build greater awareness about the importance of a child’s development in the earliest years and are working towards identifying collaborative methods to reach more children at this critical time in life.

Every day, I have the privilege to care for children when they are sick and to support ways to make them healthy. And that includes engaging in and elevating the discussion around the value of investments in programs that give kids the start in life that they deserve; please join us.

Read more about the importance of early childhood development and our investment in our children. Read our paper, “Foundation for Life: The Significance of Birth to Three,” to learn more about our efforts.

Gigi Chawla, MD, is senior medical director of primary care for Children’s Hospitals and Clinics of Minnesota.

2014 Kids Count Data Book: It’s time we listen

iStock_000008083181Small

Nearly 50 percent of all African-American children in Minnesota lived in poverty in 2012, along with 38 percent of American Indian children, 30 percent of Hispanic or Latino children and 20 percent of Asian children — this compared to 8 percent of white children. (iStock photo / Getty Images)

By Ryan Earp

News usually is framed in two ways: the good news and the bad news. And while good news is always great to hear, it’s important to listen to the bad, especially when it comes to how well we are serving our kids. The annual Kids Count Data Book released last month reported good and bad news for Minnesota, and it’s time we paid attention to both.

The report produced by the Annie E. Casey Foundation and the Children’s Defense Fund is highly respected for its state-by-state assessment of children’s health, education and overall well-being.

A snapshot of Minnesota kids

While on the surface many headlines from around the state highlight good news in the report – that “Minnesota is No. 5 Best State for Children” and that “Minnesota Ranks High in Kids’ Well-Being,” – their underlying messages tell us that there is much work to be done surrounding children’s general welfare as more Minnesota kids are living in poverty. Here’s a snapshot of the Minnesota rankings.

Previously ranked as high as seventh in the nation’s overall health ranking, the 2014 Kids Count Data Book finds Minnesota to have fallen to the 17th among all states. In a recent interview with the Star Tribune, Stephanie Hogenson, research and policy director at the Children’s Defense Fund – Minnesota explains, “As one of the healthiest states overall in the country, and with globally renowned health care, Minnesota should not be in the middle of the pack for child health. … We’re no longer seen as a leader in child health as we once were.”

What happened?

Policy experts point to the increase in poverty as a determining factor in the state’s declining health outcomes. According to the report, “Growing up in poverty is one of the greatest threats to healthy child development. … [It] can impede children’s cognitive development and their ability to learn. It can contribute to behavioral, social and emotional problems and poor health.”

Minnesota’s rising rates of child poverty are exacerbating racial inequities that are among the worst in the nation, because communities of color and native communities are disproportionately impacted. Nearly 50 percent of all African-American children in Minnesota lived in poverty in 2012, along with 38 percent of American Indian children, 30 percent of Hispanic or Latino children and 20 percent of Asian children — this compared to 8 percent of white children.

The report goes on to state “the biggest challenge in an era of increasing inequality in income and wealth is the widening gulf between children growing up in strong, economically secure families within thriving communities and children who are not.”

Subscribe to MightyA call to action

Minnesotans are taking note. Efforts are under way through organizations and initiatives aimed at providing our children and families with economic stability, affordable housing options, and access to high-quality child care and development opportunities.

At Children’s Hospitals and Clinics of Minnesota, we are committed to helping all children lead healthier lives, and are actively involved in supporting efforts to address some of the economic and social determinants that have profound impacts on child health. We are hopeful that new policies, funding and programs will help lift our children out of poverty. You can be a part of our work by joining our advocacy efforts.

See a quick snapshot of how Minnesota ranks in other areas of the report.

Ryan Earp is an intern with the Advocacy and Child Health Policy team at Children’s Hospitals and Clinics of Minnesota.

Children’s represented at Family Advocacy Day in Washington

By Kelly Wolfe

In late June, Children’s participated in the Children’s Hospitals Association Family Advocacy Day.

The Christiansen family (Eleanor, Tyler, Greta and Wes) joined families from across the country to advocate for funding and programming for children’s hospitals and children with special health care needs. The Christiansen’s used their experience at Children’s to educate and inform our U.S. senators and representatives on Capitol Hill. We were lucky to have them represent us!

Kelly Wolfe is senior policy and advocacy specialist at Children’s Hospitals and Clinics of Minnesota.

Family Advocacy Day 2014 in Washington, D.C. from Children’s of Minnesota on Vimeo.

Photo diary of the trip:

The Christiansens get inspired in front of the U.S. Capitol for meetings on the Hill. The weather was warm and breezy; a perfect day for a lot of walking.

The Christiansens get inspired in front of the U.S. Capitol for meetings on the Hill. The weather was warm and breezy; a perfect day for a lot of walking.

Washington, D.C., is full of wonderful sightseeing opportunities. The Christiansen family takes advantage of some free time by visiting all of the monuments.

Washington, D.C., is full of wonderful sightseeing opportunities. The Christiansen family takes advantage of some free time by visiting all of the monuments.

The Christiansens visit "Honest Abe." The passion they have for advocating for child health almost equals the size of the Lincoln Memorial.

The Christiansens visit “Honest Abe.” The passion they have for advocating for child health almost equals the size of the Lincoln Memorial.

Future presidents? We hope so! Greta and Wes take their turns at the president’s desk at the White House Gift Shop.

Future presidents? We hope so! Greta and Wes take their turns at the president’s desk at the White House Gift Shop.

Greta and Wes certainly are out of this world! They had a great time checking out the astronauts at the Smithsonian Air and Space Museum.

Greta and Wes certainly are out of this world! They had a great time checking out the astronauts at the Smithsonian Air and Space Museum.

Batman flew by to say a special hello to Greta and Wes at the Family Advocacy Day Celebration dinner. Complete with a band, dancing, caricatures, face-painting, photo booths and games, the event gave families one last chance to exchange trading cards and have some fun before a full day of meetings on Capitol Hill.

Batman flew by to say a special hello to Greta and Wes at the Family Advocacy Day Celebration dinner. Complete with a band, dancing, caricatures, face-painting, photo booths and games, the event gave families one last chance to exchange trading cards and have some fun before a full day of meetings on Capitol Hill.

The Christiansens pose with Congressman Eric Paulsen under his Minnesota-made canoe.

The Christiansens pose with Congressman Eric Paulsen under his Minnesota-made canoe.

After a special breakfast of Minnesota Mahnomen porridge in U.S. Sen. Franken’s office, Greta cozied up next to him as he listened to the Christiansens' moving story. It’s not every day you get to sit on a U.S. senator’s couch.

After a special breakfast of Minnesota Mahnomen porridge in U.S. Sen. Franken’s office, Greta cozied up next to him as he listened to the Christiansens’ moving story. It’s not every day you get to sit on a U.S. senator’s couch.

Eleanor talks to Congressman Keith Ellison about the importance of funding programs like the Children’s Hospital Graduate Medical Education (CHGME) program, which provides funding to train future pediatricians and specialists like the ones that treated Greta.

Eleanor talks to Congressman Keith Ellison about the importance of funding programs like the Children’s Hospital Graduate Medical Education (CHGME) program, which provides funding to train future pediatricians and specialists like the ones that treated Greta.

Making magic happen: The infant-toddler brain

Anna Youngerman is the director of advocacy and health policy at Children's Hospitals and Clinics of Minnesota and a proud parent of her 2-year-old son.

Anna Youngerman is the director of advocacy and health policy at Children’s Hospitals and Clinics of Minnesota and a proud parent of her 2-year-old son.

By Anna Youngerman

For many parents, sleep-deprived might be how we choose to describe the first three years of a child’s life — at least it has been for me. But as I look through the haze of too few hours of sleep, there’s also magic to these early years. I frequently find myself in a state of awe and wonder at my growing child. The first time your baby catches your eye and holds your gaze, the first time he says “mommy,” the cobbling together of phrases to describe his day and even the frustration-driven tantrums — those are all magical moments.

It turns out there’s a reason the awe-inspiring moments come fast and furious during these earliest years. The brain wiring is on hyper-drive:

  • 80 percent of brain development happens by the time a child is 3 years old.
  • 700 new neural connections are made every second in the first few years of life.

This naturally occurring development can serve as a springboard for a productive, healthy life. Yet, just as a magician must carefully prepare for a trick so it appears both astonishing and seamless, helping every child realize the powerful potential of these years also requires intentional support.

Inspiring action

Though our paper, “Foundation for Life: The Significance of Birth to Three,” we want to inspire more robust discussion and action around the value of investments in and attention to our youngest children. We want to invite the tough questions and – more importantly – be part of answering them:

  • What can we do, collectively, to reach the most vulnerable children?
  • How do we mitigate toxic stress factors that tear away at a child’s potential?
  • What’s the community’s role in ensuring that no child lacks the positive relationships so crucial to healthy development?
  • How do we build a coordinated system that focuses on what a child needs and not what the system needs?
  • Subscribe to MightyHow do we reach children at an age (0-3) when they often are cared for by family, friends and neighbors and not always tied to existing systems?

These aren’t easy questions, but just because they’re tough doesn’t mean we shouldn’t take them on and figure out how to work together toward getting answers. The stakes are just too high and the opportunity too great.

Like most parents, I’ll gladly navigate my sleep deprivation in exchange for giving my kiddo every opportunity he deserves. That’s the hope and dedication we want to inspire. I hope you’ll join us.

Anna Youngerman is the director of advocacy and health policy at Children’s Hospitals and Clinics of Minnesota and a proud parent of her 2-year-old son.

Children’s at the Capitol: Newborn screening comes to a vote

Update: Late Thursday night, April 10, we were disappointed to hear that the newborn screening vote scheduled for that day was unexpectedly pulled from the schedule. We fully expect that newborn screening will still be voted on this session, likely later in April. Help us make sure that legislators know how critical this program is for child health by contacting your state representatives (action link below)!


Today the Minnesota House of Representatives will be considering and voting on a bill to restore Minnesota’s newborn screening program, which is credited with saving more than 5,000 lives since its inception 50 years ago. We’ve provided the streaming video of the House floor session below, though the debate on newborn screening may not happen until later today.

Urgent action needed

Up until the House floor vote happens, you can contact your state representative and ask for his or her support on the Newborn Screening bill, H.F. 2526, authored by Representative Kim Norton. Taking action is easy, and it only takes a minute! This bill is critically important to newborn health and your legislators need to hear that you support this program today. (A couple things to note about the action page: 1. You’ll need to enter your full ZIP code (first 5 numbers + 4-digit extension) in order to connect with your state rep. 2. Use “MN” instead of “Minnesota.”)

What is newborn screening?

The program is simple: At birth, all newborns have a small blood sample collected through a heal prick. The blood spots are put onto a card and then tested for more than 50 genetic and chromosomal abnormalities. These tests are essential in detecting many serious and often hidden conditions, including some that, if diagnosed and treated early, can have a critical impact on the health of a child.

Why is this debate happening?

Over the past few years, the newborn screening program has been modified so that currently the Minnesota Department of Health can only retain blood spots for a short period of time before destroying them, possibly missing the window of diagnosis.

The problem is that there are many reasons these samples should be kept on hand, including: some conditions can take several months to diagnose; cards may be needed for reassessment at a later date; or they may be used for comparison when a younger sibling is born. Without long-term storage, we lose the ability to go back and review the samples when critical health questions arise.

Watch it live:

Watch live streaming video from uptakemnhouse at livestream.com

Video: Minnesota Senate debate over anti-bullying bill

Minnesota state capitol, Senate chamber

The Minnesota Senate will debate an anti-bullying bill Thursday, April 3, 2014.

Children’s at the Capitol: Minnesota Senate brings Safe Schools Act to a floor vote

Today the Minnesota State Senate will consider and vote on the Safe and Supportive Schools Act, a bill that would redefine Minnesota’s current 37-word law on bullying, one of the weakest in the country.

Last year, Children’s explored the many ways in which bullying affects kids. We found that:

  • Bullying is common in Minnesota: About one in seven Minnesota children are bullied regularly.
  • Bullying is bad for health: Children who are bullied are more likely than their peers to suffer from anxiety, depression, loneliness and post-traumatic stress.
  • Kids with special needs are bullied at high rates: In a recent study, 94 percent of students with disabilities reported experiencing some form of victimization.

That’s why Children’s supports passage of the Safe and Supportive Schools Act. We hope you’ll tune in to the live floor debate and watch as our state senators discuss, amend and vote on this bill. Don’t know who represents you? Find out now!

You also can learn more about our work on bullying and find helpful resources at childrensmn.org/bullying.

Watch live streaming video from uptakemnsenate at livestream.com

Children’s at the Capitol: A simple test can save a child’s life

Since the newborn-screening program began, more than 5,000 children have been saved. (iStock photo / Getty Images)

Every parent hopes and dreams for a happy, healthy child. Unfortunately, those dreams don’t always come true. Sometimes children are born with serious conditions that impact their health, but if caught early, many can be treated and the severity lessened. Since the newborn-screening program began, more than 5,000 children have been saved; children like Zak and Ella. Thanks to newborn screening, Ella was diagnosed early with Cystic Fibrosis (CF) and because the blood spots and test results were saved, doctors were also able to diagnose her older brother with CF when he became sick.

The Newborn Screening Program tests newborns between 24-48 hours after birth for more than 50 rare, life-threatening disorders; disorders that if left untreated, can result in illness, physical disabilities, learning and developmental disabilities, hearing loss or even death. Yet early treatment and diagnosis, medications, and/or changes in diet can prevent or lessen the impact of most of these health problems.

Two years ago, changes were made to the program that drastically altered the amount of time blood spots and test results could be retained. Now, after only 71 days parents and providers no longer have access to blood spots, despite the fact that testing can often take up to six months or longer to confirm a diagnosis. After two years, parents have no access to data (unless they make a special request) and therefore lose the ability to access that critical information for the purposes of retroactive investigation or sibling comparisons. And lastly, these changes mean that the department of health cannot use de-identified information for research to create new life-saving tests.

This year, legislation is being proposed to return Minnesota’s Newborn Screening program back to the nation-leading one it once was. House File 2526/Senate File 2047 would allow parents to store their children’s blood spots and test results indefinitely, preserving access to the life-saving information they need. We owe it to our kids, their parents and our communities to strengthen programs that can be used to not only save lives but to protect those in the generations to come.

Until further legislative changes take place, parents can request to have their blood spots and test results retained for a longer period of time on the Minnesota Department of Health website.

Take action!

You can help restore Minnesota’s Newborn Screening Program to its nation-leading status by calling members of the Senate Judiciary committee by Thursday, March 20th, 2014 at 5 p.m. and asking for their support of the Newborn Screening bill, H.F. 2526/S.F. 2047.

Calling is easy and it just takes a minute! (Phone numbers below). If you are a constituent of the person you call, make sure to let them know! Look up your legislators and compare them to the list below. Here is a sample of what you can say:

———

Hello,

My name is [your name] and I am calling to ask for Representative [last name]‘s/Senator [last name]‘s support of the Newborn screening bill, H.F. 2526/S.F. 2047.

This bill will allow parents and families to have access to the newborn screening spots and test results for a longer period of time, allowing for follow-up care re-analyses and sibling comparisons. I support this bill because it will help all children have the best chance for a healthy start in life. I hope [Legislator's name] will support it as well, by voting in favor when the bill is heard in committee.

Thank you!

Once you call committee members, send a note to Katie Rojas-Jahn at Katherine.Rojas-Jahn@childrensmn.org to let us know you took action. 

Here’s who to call:

Senate Judiciary committee members

Chair: Senator Ron Latz 651-297-8065

Vice Chair: Senator Barb Goodwin 651-296-4334

Senator Warren Limmer 651-296-2159

Senator Bobby Joe Champion 651-296-9246

Senator Dan D. Hall 651-296-5975

Senator Kathy Sheran 651-296-6153

Senator Kari Dziedzic 651-296-7809

Senator Scott J. Newman 651-296-4131

Children’s at the Capitol: Child health and wellbeing a big focus this year

(Kristin Marz, kristinized / Flckr)

Briefcases and business suits are lining the halls of the Capitol once again as the legislature reconvened for the 2014 session this week. The governor and legislative leaders have been promising a shorter, more focused session, but with all 134 house members and the governor up for re-election in November, legislators will be working on legislative successes they can take back to their districts.

This year, Children’s will be supporting several policies that impact the health of kids in our state.

School lunches
Recently, the internet exploded with stories about a school in Utah that was denying children lunches who couldn’t pay their lunch bill. Not only were they refusing to feed the children but they were throwing lunches away right in front of them. Unfortunately, amidst the uproar and outrage we learned that many schools in Minnesota do the same. A recent report from Legal Aid showed that 15 percent of Minnesota school districts report that their policies allow lunchroom staff to refuse hot meals to students who can’t pay.

As the state’s leading provider of health care for children, we know this is unacceptable. Children need food to grow and to learn. And they shouldn’t be punished or stigmatized because their family has limited resources or because someone forgot to pay a bill.

Children’s is part of a coalition working to put a stop to this practice and will advocate providing all students with access to a healthy school lunch. With an estimated cost to the state of $3.5 million, the costs of not providing children with adequate nutrition are far greater.

Newborn screening
Since its inception over 50 years ago, Minnesota’s newborn screening program has saved the lives of over 5,000 babies. But once a nation-leading program, recent legislative changes have begun to put Minnesota children at risk.

Between 24-48 hours after birth, blood is taken from a baby’s heel and tested for over 50 congenital conditions including cystic fibrosis and sickle cell disease; conditions that often are asymptomatic at birth but that once detected can be treated. Prior to 2013, the test results and data were stored so that at any time they could be accessed for additional testing. Unfortunately, in 2013, changes were made so that test results and blood spots would be destroyed after two years and 71 days, respectively. This means that millions of children’s results are now being destroyed.

We will be working to restore the newborn screening program to ensure that parents and children have the option and ability to save their test results for future use. You can read the stories of just a few of the children that have been saved by the program.

Mandatory flu vaccines for health care providers
This flu season, Children’s has seen over 520 confirmed cases of the flu. For some patients, it’s a quick diagnosis and visit. For others, it can mean an overnight stay, admission to our ICU, or even requiring ECMO (heart-lung bypass) treatment. Children and those with immune-suppressed systems are the most vulnerable, and for a very small few, they may never survive.

We know that a hospital should be the place where people and children go when they are sick, not to become sick. Being protected from the influenza virus is one small but important step in doing that, so Children’s is supporting a bill that would make flu vaccines mandatory for health care providers.

The good news is that Children’s is already a leader among hospitals. Ninety-three percent of our employees receive their vaccination. But we can do better and so can many other hospitals.

Early childhood education scholarships
Healthy children are learning children. Research shows that investment in high-quality early childhood education improves health outcomes, socio-economic status and school achievement. Every year, over 50 percent of new kindergartners are not prepared with the skills necessary to succeed in school.  As a result, many children lag behind their peers never able to catch up.

Our health care providers know how crucial education and developmental opportunities are for children ages 0-5. That is why we have joined MinneMinds, a coalition of non-profits, education organizations, health care providers, and businesses, that are devoted to assuring access to high-quality early education programs for our early learners most in need.

Photo by Kristin Marz (ristinized on Flckr)

Learning more about the health of our community

This fall, Children’s Hospitals and Clinics of Minnesota completed a valuable process to help us better understand pressing health needs in the communities we serve.

Under the Affordable Care Act, all non-profit hospitals are required to conduct a community health needs assessment every three years. The intention is to help hospitals understand the most pressing health needs in the communities they serve and to explore how the hospital can support efforts to address these needs.

The community we looked at

Map of the community boundaries as defined in the 2013 Children's CHNAChildren’s serves families from every county in Minnesota, and a majority of counties in the four surrounding states (Wisconsin, North Dakota, South Dakota and Iowa). However, for the purposes of this health needs assessment, we defined the seven-county metro area as our “broader community.” From there, we also took a closer look at the five school districts (Minneapolis, St. Paul, South St. Paul, Richfield and West St. Paul – Mendota Heights – Eagan) that surround our hospital campuses in Minneapolis and St. Paul. We called this group of five school districts our “immediate community.”

What we found

The health needs assessment findings largely reflect the experiences of our medical providers and patient families. The needs we identified are related to overarching community health problems that can’t be solved by one institution alone, but instead will require the commitment and collaboration of many organizations and individuals to solve. The identified areas of health need are the following:

  • Access to care
  • Maternal and child health
  • Mental health
  • Childhood obesity
  • Youth asthma
  • Support for families/caregivers for children with special needs

What we’re doing

At Children’s, we are working to address all of the health needs identified in our CHNA through many of our clinical services and community engagement work. Over the coming weeks, we’ll highlight some of our programs right here on the Mighty blog.

Today we’re looking at how Children’s is addressing health needs in the area of access to care.

Children’s has long been committed to ensuring that all children who come to us receive the care they need, regardless of ability to pay. Approximately 42 percent of the children we care for rely on Medicaid, for example. In addition to serving these children, we provide extensive interpreter services which include having interpreters on staff for the three most common non-English languages (Spanish, Somali and Hmong) our patients speak.

Families can also access our family resource centers, which houses financial counselors who assist families in applying for public health insurance programs and financial assistance. Our financial counselors are now also certified application counselors that can assist families in signing up for health insurance through Minnesota’s new insurance exchange, MNSure.

Over the next three years, we plan to take on several additional initiatives that deal directly with access to care, including: improving collection and analysis of data to better understand health disparities and investing in strengthening relationships with community stakeholders to better understand the health needs and assets in underserved communities.

Learn more

You can learn more about Children’s work in the local community at childrensMN.org/community. This page houses all information on our community needs assessment, implementation strategy and past community benefit reports.

To provide feedback on the health needs assessment or implementation strategy, please contact Katie Rojas-Jahn at Katherine.Rojas-Jahn@childrensmn.org.

World AIDS Day: Getting to zero

Fatumata, whose name has been changed, is a 14-year-old girl who lived in Eastern Africa all of her life before coming to Minnesota in 2010. She grew up in a refugee camp with her younger brother and sister and her parents. She had to take medicine every day, and sometimes she was very sick. But mostly she liked to play with her friends and help her mother with the chores.  Fatumata noticed that some of the people in the camp avoided her and her family, and she was not allowed to go to school with the other children. She didn’t know why.

Then one day, Fatumata’s father became very ill and eventually passed away.  Soon after, her mother became too sick to care for her and her siblings, and her uncle came to tell her that she would be leaving the camp to go and live with his family in America. Fatumata cried because she did not want to leave her mother, but her mother told her that she would be able to grow and be healthy where she was going and that they would see each other again.

So Fatumata and her siblings came to Minnesota. It was very cold and, at first, she didn’t understand what anyone was saying.  Soon she was able to go to school for the first time, and she learned English, and she continued to take her medications and grow strong and healthy. Today, Fatumata knows why she takes medications. She knows the name of her disease and doesn’t fear her HIV. She has a dedicated medical team at Children’s who provide care and support to her and her family. Fatumata is looking forward to the day when she will be able to go to college and some day, have a healthy family of her own.

Dec. 1 marked the 25th anniversary of World AIDS Day.  It is an opportunity for us to come together to show support for people living with HIV and AIDS around the world and at home, to remember those who have died from this disease, and to commit to “getting to zero” in the fight against HIV:  zero new infections and zero deaths from HIV and AIDS.

HIV today

Around the world, there are an estimated 34 million people living with HIV. About 3.3 million are children under 15.  In addition, around 17.3 million children have lost one or both parents to AIDS and millions more have been affected by the epidemic. Every day, almost 7,000 people become infected with HIV and nearly 5,000 people die from AIDS.  In 2011, 230,000 of those who lost their lives were children, according to UNICEF.

In the United States approximately 1.1 million people are living with HIV, and in Minnesota, just over 7,500 of our neighbors, family members, and friends are living with HIV and AIDS, according to the Minnesota Department of Health.

What is Children’s doing in the fight against HIV?

As the largest provider of care to HIV-infected children in Minnesota, we provide medical care to more than 100 children infected with HIV every year.  Children come to us from all over Minnesota and all over the world. Many of the children in our care have been adopted from countries in Asia, Africa, Eastern Europe, and the Caribbean.  Many more are refugees and immigrants, who may not be able to access treatment in their own countries. In addition to expert medical care, families can access specialized support services funded through the federal Ryan White CARE Act, including education, family case management and mental health services.

What can you do?

1. Get tested, know your status! HIV testing is recommended as a routine part of medical care.Talk to your provider about testing.

2. Get connected, get support! If you are living with HIV, find out about the programs and services offered in your area to help you stay healthy and support you and your family in living with your disease.

3. Educate yourself about HIV! Learn how to prevent HIV infection and how to keep yourself safe. Can you answer these questions about HIV?

True or false?

1. HIV is a virus and AIDS is a bacteria

2. HIV infection can be spread by hugging

3. Some people have HIV and do not know it

4. There is treatment for HIV

5. People who have HIV can give birth to healthy babies

Quiz answers

1.  HIV (human immunodeficiency virus) is a virus and AIDS (Acquired Immune Deficiency Syndrome) is the disease caused by the HIV virus. AIDS makes it hard for people to fight off other kinds of infections and illnesses and can make people sick.

2.  False! You cannot get HIV from hugging or playing with other people with HIV. HIV can only be spread by direct contact with blood and some other body fluids through sex, sharing needles, or breastfeeding.

3.  True. About 15 percent of people infected with HIV do not know they are infected with the virus. That’s why getting tested is so important!

4.  True! We have great treatments and medications for people living with HIV that enable them to stay healthy and live a very long time. We don’t have a cure yet, but scientists are hard at work on it.

5.  True! When people living with HIV take their medications and see their doctors regularly, they have over a 98 percent chance of having a baby born without HIV.