Kids-CountIowa’s quest to become the healthiest state in the nation is getting a boost. The latest “Kids Count” survey, which ranks all 50 states for the well-being of children, places Iowa near the very top.

Laura Speer, a spokeswoman for the Annie E. Casey Foundation, says they look at 16 key criteria, including: education, health, economic well-being, and family and community conditions.

“Iowa was ranked 4th overall in terms of the well-being of its children,” Speer says. “Where Iowa is really a shining star is in the area of health. The state is ranked #1 best in the country in terms of the physical health of children.” Minnesota ranked first overall on this year’s Kids Count report, followed by New Hampshire and Massachusetts, with Iowa a close fourth.

Speer says Iowa is a clear leader of all states in several categories. “We looked at things like the percent of low birthweight babies, the percent of children who lack health insurance, the child and teen death rates and the percent of teens who abuse alcohol or drugs,” Speer says. “In those four measures, Iowa is ranked the best in the country.”

In last year’s report, Iowa ranked third in the nation overall, so the state’s fourth-place showing this year represents a slight drop. Iowa’s lost a little ground in one category in particular, according to Speer. “One of the areas that is most disconcerting is the percent of children living in poverty in the state,” Speer says. “It’s about 16% of all children in Iowa who are living below the poverty line in 2013. That’s actually higher than in was in 2008 when it was 14%.”

Iowa’s child poverty level is fairly low compared to many other states but Speer says it was still unfortunate to see that figure rise. The lowest-ranked states on the list are: Louisiana, New Mexico and Mississippi. See the full report at the Annie E. Casey Foundation website: