Pediatricians are being asked to check whether families are able to make ends meet every month.
The American Academy of Pediatrics is aiming to tackle the long-ranging effects of poverty on children’s health.
Last week, AAP announced new recommendations that encourage pediatricians to ask the question “Do you have difficulty making ends meet at the end of the month?” during checkups. The group is hoping that the extra question will help identify families who could benefit from greater access to community resources.
“Poverty is everywhere,” AAP President Benard P. Dreyer said in a statement. “It affects children of all backgrounds and in all communities. Pediatricians want to improve the health and wellbeing of every child, and helping families deal with poverty-related issues is essential to achieving that goal. Fortunately, we have realistic solutions that we know will work. This is a problem that can be solved, and it’s well within our reach.”
Roughly 21 percent of U.S. children under the age of 18 live in poverty, according to 2014 data from the U.S. Census Bureau. Meanwhile, about 43 percent of U.S. children under 18 live in households designated as poor, near poor, or low income.
Studies have shown that living in an enduring state of poverty can cause lifelong health concerns, such as higher rates of asthma and obesity as well as a higher risk of injury. AAP pointed to research that shows a correlation between child poverty and toxic stress, which can contribute to chronic cardiovascular, psychiatric, and immune disorders.
The group’s new policy statement, as well as an additional technical report, outline some of the ways poverty can negatively affect children’s development and well-being with the hope that with a broader understanding of poverty’s impact, pediatricians can help mitigate its adverse effects.
“We know that poverty-related conditions can take a significant and lasting toll,” John M. Pascoe, one of the report’s lead authors, said in a statement. “But we also know there are effective interventions to help buffer these effects, like promoting strong family relationships, which cause positive changes in the body’s stress response system and the architecture of the developing brain.”