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Researcher awarded grant to study food insecurity in homes of child with special healthcare needs

(Boston) Ruth Rose-Jacobs, ScD, associate professor of pediatrics at Boston University School of Medicine (BUSM) and a research scientist at Boston Medical Center (BMC), has received funding for a two-year study to examine the association between the presence of young children with special healthcare needs in households and food insecurity. Rose-Jacobs, also a child development researcher with Children's HealthWatch, is the principal investigator (PI) on this $249,984 grant awarded by the University of Kentucky's Research Program on Childhood Hunger, which is funded by the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) Food and Nutritional Service.

Children with special health care needs (SHCN) are children who have, or are at increased risk for a chronic physical, developmental, behavioral, or emotional condition and require health and related services of a type or amount beyond that required by children generally. The research project will examine the impact of having a young child with SHCN on child and/or household food insecurity in low-income households. Food insecurity is not being able to afford enough food for an active, healthy life for all household members. According to the National Survey of Children with Special Health Care Needs, approximately 15 percent of US children under the age of 17 have SHCN. Households with versus without a child with SHCN are more likely to live at or near the poverty level. The presence of a child with SHCN is associated with lower overall household adult employment due to the increased care needs of the child, which may be associated with family material hardships.

"We anticipate that households with a child with SHCN suffer disproportionately from food insecurity," said Rose-Jacobs, who is one of three recipients of this two-year grant. "This study could have important implications for the expansion of food insecurity screening and inform practice in federal and state nutrition and non-nutrition assistance programs aimed at reducing food insecurity and other material hardships."

The study will take place at safety-net hospitals in Baltimore, Boston, Little Rock, Ark., Minneapolis and Philadelphia.

In 2011, approximately 25 percent of American households with children under 6 years of age were food insecure at some point during the year, according to data from the USDA's Economic Research Service. According to Children's HealthWatch, children from food insecure households, when compared to those from food secure households, are 90 percent more likely to be reported in fair or poor health and are two thirds more likely to be at risk for developmental delays.


Contact: Jenny Eriksen Leary
Boston University Medical Center

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