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Doctors say poverty is biggest risk faced by America's children

Published: Monday, May 20 2013 9:44 p.m. MDT

The Academic Pediatric Association and American Academy of Pediatrics considers poverty to be the biggest risk facing American children, according to a Washington Post report. These doctors, however, say lack of sustained focus on childhood poverty, or a unified pediatric voice speaking about the poverty, has been an impediment to actually solving the problem.

Twenty-two percent of American children are growing up in poverty, according to the National Poverty Center. A growing body of research shows the negative consequences of poverty on children's health and well-being. For example, childhood poverty is linked with negative conditions such as substandard housing, homelessness, inadequate nutrition and food insecurity and unsafe neighborhoods, according to the American Psychological Association.

Poor children and teens are also more likely to struggle academically, drop out of school, suffer from abuse, neglect, behavioral emotional problems, physical health issues and developmental delays. The American Psychological Association estimates that child poverty costs American taxpayers $500 billion a year to the U.S. economy and reduces economic output by 1.3 percent of GDP.

To address some of theses issues, the Pediatric Academic Societies released a report, "A National Agenda to End Childhood Poverty," advocating a comprehensive approach to attacking child poverty. They will focus on four key issues, according to the report: raising families out of poverty, providing high-quality early childhood programs and high-quality affordable child care to poor families, promoting a White House conference on children and youth and working on neighborhood revitalization initiatives

"Pediatricians simply can't reach their full potential as health care providers when we have no real strategy to help address the most important childhood drivers of lifelong poor health, such as poverty," said Dr. Paul Chung, chairman of the Academic Pediatric Association and chief of general pediatrics at Mattel Children's Hospital UCLA, in an interview with Science Daily. "Until then, we're all just playing at the margins."

It was noted that there are solutions, as evidenced by efforts in other developed countries, including Britain, which dramatically reduced childhood poverty with sustained national efforts.

email: mwhite@deseretnews.com

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