The United States government is failing its children. According to research published in the journal, Health Affairs, children in the United States are seventy times more likely to die before adulthood than children in other developed countries.
In a survey of twenty developed nations, including France, Canada, and the United Kingdom, the United States had the most childhood deaths, and it has held this title consistently since the 1990s. Health Affairs’ study was published only a few months after the United States government almost allowed the Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP) to expire, which provides nine million low-income children with health care. After 114 days without funding, Congress extended the program on January 22, 2018 for six years. While CHIP is a vital resource for low-income children, it only applies to twelve percent of the population of children in the United States. This does not solve the problem.
The research conducted by Health Affairs attributes the high childhood death rate to a fragmented health care system and gun violence. Health Affairs found that gun violence contributed significantly to child death rates in the United States. Teenagers are far more likely to die from gun violence than those in similar developed countries. While child deaths have decreased overall since the 1960s, the evidence clearly shows that a lack of funding for children’s health insurance and the absence of any meaningful efforts to curb gun violence has caused the United States to lag far behind its peers in children’s health.
The same day that CHIP expired, the Maternal, Infant, and Early Childhood Home Visiting program expired, and unlike CHIP, there was no extension its budget. The program provided low-income mothers and families resources and skills to raise their children. The program touted several achievements, such as, improving maternal and newborn health, reducing crime and domestic violence, and reducing child abuse and neglect.
According to Article 24 of the Convention on the Rights of the Child (CRC), every child has the right to the highest attainable standard of health. Moreover, the Convention obliges countries to ensure the provision of necessary medical assistance and health care. Article 24 also requires countries take all appropriate measures to achieve full implementation of the child’s right to health.
Children’s poverty rates have risen substantially in the United States since the 1980s. Defunding and delaying the implementation of programs that provide health care and assistance to low-income children significantly hinder the United States’ compliance with the provisions of the CRC. The fact that the United States has the most child deaths compared to its peer countries shows that the United States has not taken all appropriate measures to ensure its children’s right to health.
Healthcare is only part of the problem. Gun violence in the United States has also contributed to child death rate. Research shows gun ownership rates have a significantly positive correlation to homicide rates, and the citizens of the United States have an arsenal of almost half of the world’s civilian-owned guns. Congress has refused to enact any form of meaningful gun control reform, which is likely one explanation for the consistent gun violence.
Children and teenagers are eighty-two times more likely to die from gun violence than in similarly developed countries. Article 6, Section 1 of the CRC states unequivocally that every child has the inherent right to life. Health Affairs research estimates that since 1960, Congress’ lack of action in introducing meaningful legislation on health care and gun reform has accounted for 600,000 child deaths. The government’s inability to implement health care and gun control reform is violating United States’ children’s right to life and right to health.
Additionally, Article 6, Section 2 states that governments are obliged to ensure to the maximum extent possible, the survival and development of the child. Congress has refused to fund the Center for Disease Control to investigate gun violence in the United States. The fact that the United States will not even allow research on the issue that is affecting its children displays non-compliance with Article 6.
The United States is the only country in the United Nations that has not ratified the CRC, which means they are not legally bound by it. However, it has signed the CRC and under Article 18 of the Vienna Convention of the Law of Treaties, the United States is required not to defeat the object and purpose of the treaty. By defunding programs that provide necessary assistance to low-income children and refusing to implement responsible gun control reform, the United States is defeating the purpose of the CRC by not taking into account their rights.