Poverty cuts lives short and strips livelihoods bare. It is linked to increased risk to countless dimensions of child health and development, it disrupts medical care that could address those risks, and it carries these health harms into adulthood and across generations.[i] Roughly one-in-five children lives in poverty and fully two-in-five American children live in households that are considered low income at less than twice the FPL. By any measure, the United States – the wealthiest country on Earth – has for decades maintained among the worst rates of child poverty of nations in the industrialized world. This issue has been brought into stark relief during the COVID-19 pandemic, throughout which families with children have disproportionately born the economic brunt of a once-in-a-lifetime plague. These historic challenges have created opportunities for historic policy progress, such as the implementation of a child allowance, just when many families needed it most.
To help tackle issues of child poverty and health, a fundamental health risk which is both urgent and all too familiar, Academic Pediatrics is publishing its second Child Poverty and Health Supplement covering advances in the science and knowledge essential to pediatricians and anyone else concerned with the health and well-being of children in the US. This Supplement moves beyond how poverty is numerically defined to understand how it is socially constructed. It includes evidence on progress in our understanding of poverty’s prevalence and health risks, presents solutions to treat child poverty at various levels from policy to clinical practice, and approaches the topic of poverty from an intersectional lens, recognizing that poverty operates as a principal mechanism of structural racism and systematic social marginalization. The current Supplement, made possible thanks again to the generous support of the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, brings together leading clinicians, scholars, educators, economists, public health experts, policymakers, and community advocates to inform readers on key poverty-related themes around which the issue is organized, including: 1) equity, or lack thereof, in the unequal distribution of poverty and its consequent health risks patterned by social disadvantage and exposure to racism; 2) effective anti-poverty state and Federal policies, 3) clinical and health system responses to poverty, and 4) community-wide anti-poverty & health interventions.
The expert voices that compose this second Academic Pediatrics Poverty Supplement represent a chorus calling for action, based in abundant evidence, to end child poverty and protect the health, development, and opportunity that should be afforded every child to reach their full potential. Pediatricians are in a unique and influential position to help poor and socially marginalized children by joining this chorus through action in their practices, communities, and through public discourse and policy advocacy. Now’s the time for pediatricians to take action on child poverty to improve health and the Academic Pediatrics Child Poverty and Health Supplement offers a roadmap for progress.
[i]. Schickedanz A, Dreyer BP, Halfon N. Childhood Poverty: Understanding and Preventing the Adverse Impacts of a Most-Prevalent Risk to Pediatric Health and Well-Being. Pediatr Clin North Am. 2015 Oct;62(5):1111-35. doi: 10.1016/j.pcl.2015.05.008. PMID: 26318943.