Talking About Poverty

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Talking About Poverty


The AAP provides a series of messages and communications tips for pediatricians to use when talking about poverty and child health with other health care providers, legislators, and other audiences. These messages were developed with Burness, a firm specializing in health communications.

Download the Poverty and Child Health Messaging Guide, with key messages and tips.

Key Messages and Tips for Pediatricians

Tip 1: Emphasize the connection between poverty and child health.
Focus on poverty as a key determinant of child health. As an expert in child health, pediatricians have the opportunity to talk about the influence of poverty on child health, development and long-term outcomes.

Key Messages:

  • Poverty is a strong risk factor for poor health. Child poverty is linked to higher rates of asthma and obesity, poor language development, increased infant mortality and an increased risk of injuries.
  • A growing body of research links child poverty with toxic stress that can alter gene expression and brain function and contributes to chronic cardiovascular, immune, and psychiatric disorders, as well as behavioral difficulties.

T​ip 2: Make the economic case and explain the benefits to society.
Talk about the ways that addressing child poverty can improve the life course trajectory for a child, and benefit society. Highlight policies and programs that have demonstrated measurable, proven benefits to society, including economic benefits.

Key Messages:

  • Childhood poverty is associated with lifelong hardship and linked to multiple health problems that can be costly to treat and that can limit economic potential. Research now shows us that giving children a healthy start pays off in health and well-being. This is not just important for children and their families, but for society as a whole.
  • Poverty costs the U.S. economy more than $1.03 trillion a year in low productivity and poor health, and puts one at risk for crime and incarceration. That is 5.4% of the economy. It doesn’t have to be this way.
  • To be healthy, children need financially secure parents. We need to invest further, and sustain our investments, in programs we know work to help parents and lift families out of poverty.

Media Kit​

Pediatricians Talk About Poverty and Child Health

A doctor's call for action on childhood poverty
Philadelphia Inquirer, Op-Ed by Daniel R. Taylor- April 25, 2016

Ricks: Poverty harming Mississippi children's health
The Clarion-Ledger, Op-Ed by Dr. Barbara Ricks - March 13, 2016

Getting all Colorado kids insured — and healthy
Denver Post, Op-Ed by Dr. Steve Federico - March 12, 2016

New approach needed as doctors deal with poverty
Courier-Journal, Op-ed by Dr. Amber L. Pendleton - March 10, 2016

The Child Poverty Prescription
U.S. News & World Report, Op-Ed by Dr. Benard Dreyer - March 9, 2016

Guest commentary: Cannot continue to ignore plight of homeless families
Contra-Costa Times, Op-Ed by Dr. Christine Ma - March 8, 2016

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