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How Children Are Faring in Santa Clara County

PALO ALTO, Calif. – The majority of children in Santa Clara County are doing well on many measures of health and well being, but these findings mask significant disparities among racial, ethnic and income groups, on issues ranging from physical health to school success to safety.

The latest update of the Santa Clara County Children’s Report was presented Jan. 16 to the Children, Seniors and Family Committee of the Board of Supervisors. The report was delivered by David Alexander, MD, president and CEO of the Lucile Packard Foundation for Children’s Health, and Martin Fenstersheib, MD, the Santa Clara County Health Officer.  

The report, produced every two or three years by a collaborative of public and private agencies, tracks key indicators that measure how the county’s children are faring over time in three areas: children are physically, socially and emotionally healthy; children are prepared for and successful in school; and children live in safe and stable families and communities. The report does not make specific recommendations, but highlights areas that need attention. The report emphasizes the need to address the marked disparities in health outcomes for specific groups of children.  

Among the report’s positive findings, the county’s infant mortality rate has fallen nearly 15 percent, and the teen birth rate has dropped 42 percent. In addition, fewer than seven percent of seventh, ninth and 11th graders reported that their schools were unsafe in 2005-06.

Disparities among groups can be seen in many measures. For example:

  • While 77 percent of kindergarteners in 2006 were fully immunized by age 2, that figure was just 69 percent for Latino children and 64 percent for African American children, far lower than the 83 percent for Asian children and 80 percent for Caucasian children.

  • Only 24 percent of low-income third graders scored proficient or better on a standardized English language arts test (a measure of reading proficiency), compared to 67 percent of higher income students.

  • Though the overall teen birth rate has fallen in the last decade, rates for Latinas were more than 11 times, and rates for African Americans were more than three times, higher than for Asian teens in 2004.

The report concludes that the county’s top priority for children should be the elimination of such disparities.

Other troubling findings were that in 2004 one-quarter of fifth, seventh and ninth graders were overweight, and in 2005 about 27 percent of children ages 2-11 had never seen a dentist. In 2006, fewer than half of incoming kindergarteners were ready for school on all aspects of child development measured. Also, 25-33 percent of seventh, ninth and 11th graders reported symptoms of depression in 2005-06, with 16 percent reporting they seriously considered, and 8 percent reporting they had actually attempted, suicide during the previous year.

The report also notes a number of major community efforts under way to address a range of issues, including providing preschool for all 3- and 4-year-olds, promoting positive youth development and decreasing childhood obesity.

The report was funded by the Lucile Packard Foundation for Children’s Health and Lucile Packard Children’s Hospital.

The full report, Santa Clara County Children’s Report: Key Indicators of Well-Being 2007, is available at