LITTLE ROCK, Ark. – A new recent study ranked Arkansas near the bottom of U.S. states in terms of taking care of the health of children.

A state-by-state analysis by the Annie E. Casey Foundation released Aug. 8 ranked Arkansas 43rd overall in child well-being. The study looked at trends over time.

One of the factors in that ranking was the child health category. Trends here show especially low results for the state with Arkansas earning a 46th ranking in terms of that metric.

Another factor considered was the number of cases of low birth weight, noted as babies born weighing under 5.5 pounds, which the study authors said shows a higher probability of future developmental and health problems.

In 2020, the last year data was available, 9.6% of the births in Arkansas were low birth-weight babies, compared to 8.8% a decade earlier.

Child and teen obesity are increasing in the state, with up to 36% of Arkansans under 17 considered obese, compared to 30% just three years earlier.

The foundation study also shows child and teen deaths now sit at 40 per 100,000, compared to 34 per 100,000 10 years ago. Death by firearms is the leading cause of death for teens, a first for that statistic being a leader.

Anxiety and depression in children are increasing nationally, but the Casey study showed Arkansas with the third-highest increase of all states, with 14.7% of the state’s children suffering anxiety or depression, a 67.4% jump.

Arkansas also came in near the bottom of a WalletHub study released Aug. 8 ranking the best states in which to have a baby.

The study weighed 32 factors, grouped into cost, health care, baby friendliness, and family friendliness. Arkansas ranked 45th out of the 50 states and the District of Columbia.

The worst score for Arkansas was in the health care category, where it ranked at the very bottom. The infant mortality rate in Arkansas was among the lowest scores (the highest rate) in the study at 48th. Only Louisiana, West Virginia, and Mississippi ranked lower in this category.

WalletHub study released last year put Arkansas at a low 47 out of 51 for children’s health care. Arkansas ranked near the bottom for children’s access to health care, nutrition, physical activity, and obesity, as well as children’s oral health in this study.

The group Arkansas Advocates for Children and Families is calling for changes to improve conditions for children in Arkansas, including a call to extend and enlarge Medicaid eligibility and coverage and lower the restrictions on ARKids First health insurance.

The group is also seeking that SNAP benefits and WIC enrollment restrictions should be eased, as well as changes to what the advocacy group called “harsh policies” in Arkansas cash assistance programs.

The group also is looking for the state to “require scientifically based sex education in schools” and to see changes to improve mental health by prioritizing the basic needs of children, with access to relevant mental health care.