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Pediatricians find link between cumulative hardships and health in low-income young children
Date:4/11/2010

(Boston) - Pediatric researchers from Boston Medical Center (BMC), in partnership with other Children's HealthWatch investigators in Minneapolis, Little Rock, Philadelphia, and Baltimore, have found that the cumulative effects of crowded and unstable housing and uncertain supplies of food and heat act together to decrease the chances of normal growth and development and good physical health among infants and toddlers. The findings, which appear in the April 12th online issue of the journal Pediatrics, bring attention to remediable conditions that influence the health, development and growth of America's youngest children.

Poverty influences a child's well-being through multiple environmental stressors, the report says, but research and interventions often fail to take into account the remediable "material hardships" that may have direct physiologic impacts on children. These hardships include food insecurity (lack of access to enough healthful food for an active healthy life) housing insecurity (unstable or overcrowded housing) and energy insecurity (inability of families to afford consistent home heating or cooling).

In order to test the cumulative effect of these multiple hardships, Children's HealthWatch researchers evaluated more than 7,000 children between 4 and 36 months old who were waiting for care at one of five urban primary-care clinics or emergency departments. The researchers found that as scores on a cumulative index of the hardships increased in severity, the chances of young low- income children simultaneously experiencing normal growth, health, and development (which the investigators term "wellness") decreased, even after controlling for multiple background factors.

According to the researchers, cumulative hardships--a diet of inadequate quality or quantity, temperature stress from lack of heat or cooling, and frequent moves or increased exposure to infectious disease and noise in crowded households--exert di
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Contact: Gina DiGravio
gina.digravio@bmc.org
617-638-8480
Boston University Medical Center
Source:Eurekalert

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