Montana is number 28 when it comes to the annual ranking of states in a report that checks on health, education, community and family economics.

(06/24/13) MISSOULA, Mont. -  Kids Count issues a national Data Book each year that compiles statistics, and a closer look shows that Big Sky County excels in education but is faltering when it comes to children's health, ranking last in the country because of an increase in the number of low birth-weight babies and a higher child and teenage death rate.

Thale Dillon, director of Montana Kids Count, explained that while the report receives a lot of attention today, it's really designed to be helpful throughout the year. "The national Kids Count Data Book is actually a research resource for anyone who's looking to evaluate child and family well-being in Montana, and in the U.S., for that matter," she said. Dillon said the Data Book is online for anyone to use at, and there are 16 rating categories, all related to how well children and families are doing. It is, she said, "a snapshot of current levels of well-being that can be used by people who are writing state-level grants, or are looking for support for state-level policy."

The report found evidence that families are seeing some economic recovery after several years of declines. New Hampshire is ranked highest overall and New Mexico is lowest. Neighboring states Idaho, Wyoming and North Dakota all ranked higher than Montana. The Annie E. Casey Foundation publishes the Data Book, which has been around for 24 years.

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