It has been well described that poverty is associated with poor health, starting from time in the womb all the way into adulthood. Poor children have higher rates of infant mortality, low birth weight, food insecurity, and unintentional injuries. They also have a higher incidence and worse severity of chronic diseases such as asthma and obesity. As these children grow older, they are at higher risk of poor educational achievement, teen pregnancy, and inability to escape poverty. Finally, most poor children unfortunately grow into poor adults with higher rates of diabetes and cardiovascular disease, depression, substance abuse, and ultimately shorter life expectancy. Lately, a growing body of evidence has shown that toxic stress experienced by developing children fundamentally changes their biology – altering brain development, the immune system, hormones, and metabolism in ways that predispose to illness. As pediatricians, we should understand that addressing the effect of poverty on our patients’ health requires more than seeing families individually in the office. It will require our voices in broader social institutions. (more…)
A proposed reduction of 8.6 million dollars in the budget for The Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), formerly called Food Stamps, has already been approved in the House and is moving on to the Senate. See quote below from the AAP president Dr. James Perrin.
“Pediatricians witness the effects of childhood hunger firsthand: hungry children are less likely to be healthy and are more likely to suffer developmental delays, have behavioral problems and have difficulties focusing in school. At a time when more than one in five U.S. children lives in poverty, the Farm Bill’s cuts to this program exacerbate the effects of child hunger and disproportionately hurt children. In fact, 850,000 households across the country will now receive $90 less of SNAP benefits each month. To a family already living in poverty, these cuts will mean fewer meals and contribute to more anxiety about where the next meal will come from. No child should be hungry in this country. Parents should not be left wondering how to feed their families at the end of each month.”
– James Perrin, MD, FAAP
– See more at AAP Federal Policy
– Learn about ways to help Dallas families dealing with food insecurity at The North Texas Food Bank
By Katie Maddox, MD