With about half of U.S. families with young children struggling financially, it makes sense for pediatricians to ask at annual checkups if parents are having a difficult time making ends meet, according to a story produced by Youth Today and published May 18 on NPR’s Shots. It could help doctors and nurses identify associated health risks, the article stated.
The author, Elaine Korry, wrote, “The Center for Youth Wellness, located in San Francisco’s low-income Bayview Hunters Point neighborhood, is working with [The American Academy of Pediatrics] on a national campaign, Children Can Thrive, to raise awareness about the impact of a range of childhood stressors, known as adverse childhood experiences, or ACEs. These experiences of abuse, neglect or household dysfunction can have grave implications for both child and adult health.
In screening children for ACEs, the center recognizes a high relationship between low incomes and harmful stressors. Although children from any economic status can live with ACEs, exposure is greater for children who live in poverty, Mark Cloutier, executive director of the center, said in the article.
“The ACE screening test is simple — 10 questions that an adult or child can answer in a few minutes,” Korry wrote in the article.
Korry wrote doctors aren’t taught about ACE scores in medical school, therefore some are reluctant to give patients the test, believing it to be too invasive.
In a March 2016 article published in Pediatrics, The American Academy of Pediatrics Council on Community Pediatrics wrote that “Child poverty is associated with lifelong hardship. Poor developmental and psychosocial outcomes are accompanied by a significant financial burden, not just for the children and families who experience them but also for the rest of society.” According to the article, teens who do not complete high school, for example, are more likely to become teenage parents, to be unemployed and to be incarcerated, all of which exact heavy social and economic costs.
Also, research indicates that child poverty is associated with neuroendocrine dysregulation that may alter brain function and may contribute to the development of chronic cardiovascular, immune and psychiatric disorders, according to the article.
The National Center for Children in Poverty website indicates that more than 16 million U.S. children — 22% of all children — live in families with incomes below the federal poverty level, $23,550 a year for a family of four.
“Most of these children have parents who work, but low wages and unstable employment leave their families struggling to make ends meet,” the site stated. “Poverty can impede children’s ability to learn and contribute to social, emotional, and behavioral problems. Poverty also can contribute to poor health and mental health. Risks are greatest for children who experience poverty when they are young and/or experience deep and persistent poverty. Research is clear that poverty is the single greatest threat to children’s well-being.”
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For more information on children’s health issues, read the following continuing education modules:
“Children’s Health and Wellness”
“Juvenile Diabetes: Empowering Self-Management”