A national county health study identified the cost of child care as one of the biggest challenges facing families in Missoula County.
The Population Health Institute at the University of Wisconsin released the annual report on Wednesday, which examines more than 90 factors affecting health, including education, housing, employment, transportation and access to medical care. to rank counties based on health outcomes.
The study found that the burden of child care poses one of the biggest challenges for counties nationwide, and Missoula County is no exception.
In Montana, on average, households with two children spend 31 percent of their total income on child care, according to the study. In Missoula, households spend an average of 25-29% of their income on child care costs.
“When a single household expense consumes the majority of a paycheck, it becomes difficult to meet competing needs and can force households to make tough decisions like choosing between quality child care, pay rent and buy nutritious food,” the study said.
Childcare is considered unaffordable by the US Department of Health and Human Services if it accounts for more than 7% of a household’s total income.
“As it stands, there is not a single county in the country where child care costs for two children are at or below the affordability threshold,” said a press release from the Institute. population health from the University of Wisconsin.
The study goes on to identify racial disparities in access to child care and overall health outcomes.
According to the study, Native American and Alaska Native families in Montana have a median household income of $35,859, while the median household income of white families in Montana is $58,291.
Missoula’s overall median household income was $63,400, according to the study.
Missoula County ranked sixth out of Montana’s 56 counties in overall health outcomes.
Gallatin County took first place and Roosevelt County had the worst results of any county in Montana. In order, the top five counties ahead of Missoula in the standings were Gallatin County, Carbon County, Madison County, Beaverhead County, and Jefferson County.
Missoula County had a 16% adult smoking rate, an 18% physical inactivity rate and a 96% high school completion rate, according to the report.
Notably, only 18% of Missoula County’s population would have experienced serious housing problems, which the study included if a household lacks a full kitchen or plumbing fixtures, is overcrowded, or is heavily burdened with costs.
The report also provides action items that communities can take as part of their efforts to improve their health outcomes.
To improve access to child care, Michael Stevenson of the Population Health Institute at the University of Wisconsin suggested establishing child care subsidies and funded pre-kindergarten classes. state for 3 and 4 year olds.
The Institute of Health also included suggestions for broader health improvements, such as expanding government assistance programs such as earned income tax credits and the Employment Assistance Program. low-income household energy from the US Department of Health and Human Services.
The Population Health Institute at the University of Wisconsin proposes to integrate social services across delivery systems and disciplinary boundaries, for example by combining housing with workforce services.
Another option is to provide health care to those whose employers do not provide affordable coverage, who are self-employed, or who are unemployed.
To read the full report, visit bit.ly/3xYyp9V.