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AAP: Screen for Childhood Poverty to Improve Health

Regularly screening pediatric patients for access to basic needs could help to reduce negative health outcomes related to poverty, according to new guidance from the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP).

Nearly half of children younger than 18 live in “poor” households — those with incomes below 100 percent of the federal poverty level — or households designated as “near poor” or “low income,” 2014 U.S. Census data show. AAP notes that childhood poverty can have many negative health effects, including

  • higher rates of chronic illnesses, such as asthma or diabetes;
  • higher infant mortality rates; and
  • “toxic stress,” a heightened physiological response to stressful situations.

The guidance recommends that pediatricians ask patients or their caregivers about access to basic needs and refer them to nutrition and housing resources when necessary. In addition, the guidance urges pediatricians to advocate for public policies that aim to support children’s health and reduce poverty by increasing health care access, among other things.

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About the Author

Michelle Rosenfeld is senior writer/editor at America's Essential Hospitals.

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