How Poverty Affects Children's Health
In light of the destructive effects of poverty on health, the nation's leading pediatrics group last week recommended that pediatricians check up on young families' financial well-being.
(Image by Nevit Dilmen - Own work, CC BY-SA 3.0)
That screening, according to the American Academy of Pediatrics, could begin with the simple question: “Do you have difficulty making ends meet at the end of the month?”
If a family is having trouble getting by, pediatricians are now encouraged to connect that family to social programs that can help them in areas such as housing and food.
One in five U.S. children live in poverty, and the AAP says that there is growing evidence that the stress of not having safe and secure housing, regular meals and a stable home environment can lead to significant health problems, TIME reported.
In the United States, some 31.5 million children — roughly 43 percent — live under, at, or near the federal poverty line, defined as household income of less than $20,090 for a family of three or $15,930 for a family of two, the LA Times reported.
“We know children living in poverty have more chronic disease, more severe chronic disease, and have poor early brain development which can impact them when they get to school, and lead to poor academic performance,” Dr. Benard Dreyer, president of the AAP, told TIME. “Pediatricians deal on a daily basis with the intersection between poverty and health and the well being of children. They understand that they actually aren’t separate.”
Addressing the Social Determinants of Health
From Healthify's perspective, it is encouraging to hear that the AAP has recommended that pediatricians do more to address poverty's detrimental impact on health.
That recommendation is in line with Healthify's belief that the social determinants of health — things like poverty, housing, unemployment, and access to healthy food — often play a significant role in a person's health.
It's likewise in line with Healthify's goal, which is to efficiently connect underserved, vulnerable people, such as children, to the social programs that can help them escape poverty and get on the path toward good health.
According to TIME, Dreyer said 50 percent of families who currently qualify for additional support such as housing services, food pantries and job placement programs aren't receiving that support.
That statistic points to the dire need to better facilitate families' access to those programs. Hopefully, both the AAP's recommendation and Healthy's efforts will contribute to improving the status quo.