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Media Kit Poverty

March 2016

​One in 5 U.S. children are living in poverty. The situation endangers their health on many levels, from altering brain development to creating damaging, long-term changes in the immune and cardiovascular systems. The good news is that medical research is revealing works to help protect children from the negative health effects of poverty.  

The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) has assembled key reports, research and other resources to assist in your research on the effects of poverty on children’s health. If you need help locating experts to interview, please contact the AAP Department of Public Affairs at (847) 434-7877 or commun@aap.org.

News Release

American Academy of Pediatrics Recommends Pediatricians Screen for Poverty at Check-Ups and Help Eliminate Its Toxic Health Effects
With nearly half of young children in the United States living in or near poverty-- tied to a range of lasting medical harms—the AAP is launching a new anti-poverty initiative.

Policy Statement

Poverty and Child Health in the United States
AAP Council on Community Pediatrics
Pediatrics April 2016

Technical Report

Mediators and Adverse Effects of Child Poverty in the United States
John M. Pascoe, MD, MPH, FAAP; David L. Wood, MD, MPH, FAAP; Alice Kuo, MD, PhD, MEd, FAAP, James H. Duffee, MD, MPH, FAAP and the AAP Committee on Psychosocial Aspects of Child and Family Health and Council on Community Pediatrics
Pediatrics April 2016

Related Policy Statements

Promoting Food Security for All Children
AAP Council on Community Pediatrics, Committee on Nutrition
Pediatrics November 2015

Literacy Promotion: An Essential Component of Primary Care Pediatric Practice
AAP Council on Early Childhood
Pediatrics August 2014

The Lifelong Effects of Early Childhood Adversity and Toxic Stress
Jack P. Shonkoff, Andrew S. Garner, THE COMMITTEE ON PSYCHOSOCIAL ASPECTS OF CHILD AND FAMILY HEALTH, COMMITTEE ON EARLY CHILDHOOD, ADOPTION, AND DEPENDENT CARE, AND SECTION ON DEVELOPMENTAL AND BEHAVIORAL PEDIATRICS, Benjamin S. Siegel, Mary I. Dobbins, Marian F. Earls, Andrew S. Garner, Laura McGuinn, John Pascoe, David L. Wood
Pediatrics January 2012

The Importance of Play in Promoting Healthy Child Development and Maintaining Strong Parent-Child Bond: Focus on Children in Poverty
Regina M. Milteer, Kenneth R. Ginsburg, COUNCIL ON COMMUNICATIONS AND MEDIA COMMITTEE ON PSYCHOSOCIAL ASPECTS OF CHILD AND FAMILY HEALTH, Deborah Ann Mulligan
Pediatrics January 2012

Recent Research

Determinants of Health and Pediatric Primary Care Practices
Andrew F. Beck, Megan M. Tschudy, Tumaini R. Coker, Kamila B. Mistry, Joanne E. Cox, Benjamin A. Gitterman, Lisa J. Chamberlain, Aimee M. Grace, Michael K. Hole, Perri E. Klass, Katherine S. Lobach, Christine T. Ma, Dipesh Navsaria, Kimberly D. Northrip, Matthew D. Sadof, Anita N. Shah, Arthur H. Fierman
Pediatrics March 2016

Adverse Experiences in Early Childhood and Kindergarten Outcomes
Manuel E. Jimenez, Roy Wade Jr, Yong Lin, Lesley M. Morrow, Nancy E. Reichman
Pediatrics February 2016

Promotion of Positive Parenting and Prevention of Socioemotional Disparities
Adriana Weisleder, Carolyn Brockmeyer Cates, Benard P. Dreyer, Samantha Berkule Johnson, Harris S. Huberman, Anne M. Seery, Caitlin F. Canfield, Alan L. Mendelsohn
Pediatrics February 2016

Pediatrics for the 21st Century: The Trauma-Informed Pediatrician: Identifying Toxic Stress and Promoting Resilience
Pediatrics February 2016 (Supplement 3)

Parental Debt and Children's Socioemotional Well-being
Lawrence M. Berger, Jason N. Houle
Pediatrics February 2016

A Road Map to Address the Social Determinants of Health through Community Collaboration
Adrienne W. Henize, Andrew F. Beck, Melissa D. Klein, Monica Adams, Robert S. Kahn
Pediatrics October 2015

KEY POVERTY STATISTICS

  • According to 2014 census data, 21.1% of all U.S. children under age 18 live in poverty. 42.9% of U.S. children live in households classified as poor, near poor or low-income.
  • Since the recession (2008), poverty rates have increased in the suburbs more quickly than in any other area. The result is more pediatricians are now caring for families who have are impacted by economic insecurity. The “face” of child poverty has expanded and diversified.
  • More than 15 million U.S. children live in households struggling with hunger.

Poverty F.A.Q.

Q. Why would a pediatrician ask about poverty, or whether a family is having trouble making ends meet, at a child’s check-up?
Poverty is one of the most widespread and persistent health risks facing children today, and it can cause lifelong medical problems. Some of the ways living in poverty can hurt children are more obvious, like when it prevents a family from being able to buy enough healthy and nutritious food or live in a neighborhood where it’s safe for children to play outside. But a growing number of studies show that the daily stress that usually comes with being poor and living in “survival mode” affects every cell in the body. It can alter the way our genes are expressed and our brains develop and function, for example, and can lead to lifelong cardiovascular, immune, respiratory, psychiatric and behavioral problems. Pediatricians don't know who is having problems with food or housing unless they ask.

Q. How widespread a problem is child poverty in the United States?
According to 2014 U.S. census data, 1 in 5 U.S. children (15.5 million) under age 18 live in poverty. When households designated as poor, near poor or low-income are included, the number of children living in poverty rises to 43 percent (more than 31.5 million). While urban and rural areas continue to have high rates of poverty, the suburbs have experienced the largest and fastest increases in poverty since the 2008 recession. Poverty is in every community. Children who are born into poverty and live persistently in poor conditions are at greatest risk for harmful effects, but even short-term spells of poverty can expose children to hardships, such as food insecurity, housing insecurity or homelessness, difficulty accessing health care and missed school. Roughly 37% of all children live in poverty for some period during their childhood.

Q. What can a pediatrician do to help?
Pediatricians can ask about poverty-related problems the same way they check for other health risks facing children. If a family needs help putting healthy food on the table and affording safe, stable housing, they can connect them to programs that help buffer the harmful effects of poverty. Some programs promote strong family relationships, for example, which cause positive changes in the body’s stress response system and the architecture of the developing brain. Pediatricians around the U.S. have already adopted unique and effective programs in their practices to help low-income and poor families access the resources and skills they need to  raise healthy, resilient children.

Q. What is the solution?
Federal and state anti-poverty and safety net programs, health care, early childhood education, affordable housing, home visiting programs, and critical nutrition support programs like WIC, SNAP, and the school lunch program, all play a role in helping protect against poverty. Without these programs, it’s estimated nearly 1 in 3 children would live in poverty, instead of 1 in 5. The AAP urges policymakers to support and expand these programs. Pediatricians can serve as important advocates for policies that support and expand these critical resources for families. Pediatricians also can adopt programs within their own practices to help lift parents out of poverty. Resources like home visiting programs that pair new parents with educators who promote good parenting skills, and Reach Out and Read, which promotes early literacy in pediatric exam rooms, have been shown to put children on a path to better health and opportunity.