For a state and nation already on notice that our long-term health is deteriorating, news at the beginning of this week sounded disturbing wakeup calls.

The health of millennials is worse than the Generation Xers that they follow; and a 40% increase in uninsured rates for the youngest Ohioans — infants to preschoolers — could have long-term consequences not only for their health but also their brain development and overall well-being.

Combined, these developments raise serious questions about the likelihood that trends toward decreased life expectancy can soon be reversed.

It was already distressing when the Journal of the American Medical Association reported late last year that Ohio was one of four states with especially high numbers of “excess deaths” — cases in which more people died than would have been expected if life expectancy rates remained stable. In fact, life expectancy in the United States has declined for three years in a row through 2017, the most recent year for which rates are available.

The U.S. life expectancy, now at 78.6 years, is the lowest among a dozen comparable nations, with a decline starting in 2014 as the life span in other developed nations has continue to rise to an average of 82.3 years.

Now we learn from health insurer Blue Cross Blue Shield that millennials, those born between 1981 and 1996, are significantly less healthy than the population cohort just before them, the Gen Xers with birthdates between 1965 and 1980.

Being less physically active and having more issues with addiction, depression, high cholesterol and hypertension are millennial characteristics noted in the Blue Cross Blue Shield report, which warns the mortality rate for this sector of the population could be 40% higher than the generation they succeeded.

Beyond the obvious concerns of higher health care costs and reduced quality of life for millennials are wider societal issues: More sick time taken by this group means they will contribute less to the economy as a whole, which impacts all of us.

And what of the even younger generations to come? Seeing more of them start off without access to regular medical care due to being uninsured is a frightening prospect, yet that is what is happening across the nation, according to a new study by the Georgetown University Center for Children and Families.

For the first time since federal health care reform was enacted with the Affordable Care Act in 2010, more than 1 million children under age 6 across the country did not have access to health coverage as their uninsured rate, which had been declining, rose from 3.8% in 2016 to 4.3% in 2018. ...

Fortunately, emergency medical treatment will be available to uninsured children who get sick enough to require hospitalization because of laws requiring such care regardless of ability to pay. But not having insurance keeps them from getting the regular checkups that can ensure healthy development for the rest of their lives.

The Dispatch is glad to see Gov. Mike DeWine was appropriately dismayed at the Georgetown findings and asked state officials to identify ways to reduce any bureaucratic barriers for uninsured children to access coverage through Medicaid. That’s the least we should do.

The Michigan Supreme Court should be applauded for its decision that cellphones and other electronic devices must be explicitly allowed in courthouses and courtrooms starting May 1, on the basis of equal access. As it currently stands, courthouses across Michigan have different standards and varying levels of access. Implementing uniformity levels the playing field.

Some opponents of the change say it would lead to disruptive “buzzes and beeps,” or to jurors and witnesses being photographed or videoed, which could negatively impact a proceeding. Others point to decreased revenue for court offices that previously charged for making copies of court documents that could now be scanned on electronic devices. ...

Cellphones have become ubiquitous in society. People use them to access information, take notes and keep in contact with others. Allowing them in courthouses and courtrooms makes sense.

Restrictions remain to maintain order and protect privacy in the courts. ...

Judges and court administrators should prepare now to address disruptions; an increase in accidental buzzes and beeps is only to be expected. ...

Sometimes, there’s a cost to doing what’s right. This is a small price to pay for increasing access to our courts and public records.

From The Columbus Dispatch of Jan. 9 on the state of health of the millennial generation:

The Lansing (Mich.) State Journal of Jan. 8 on the use of cellphones in courtrooms.

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