As a pediatrician, father and grandfather, I understand how hard it is to be a parent. And when you are poor, that makes everything even harder.
I see parents every day who struggle financially. Living in this "survival mode" is stressful. Imagine the challenge of raising kids while working multiple jobs to avoid eviction, or when you lack access to good transportation or affordable
child care. These parents use most of their physical and emotional resources simply to help their families survive. Living in this stressful environment is hard on children, too, and can
impact their long-term health.
We know every parent wants to be the best parent possible, and pediatricians want to help. In its
new policy statement, the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) is asking pediatricians to talk with families about things like whether they have enough food, or if they are struggling to find affordable housing or child care. Asking these questions is important.
It's impossible to know who needs help unless we ask.
The truth is that poverty is everywhere.
While inner city and rural areas still have the highest rates of poverty, the largest and fastest increases in poverty since the 2008 recession are in the suburbs. Today, 1 in 5 children (about 15.5 million) in the U.S. live in poverty.
Almost half of all children in the U.S. are poor or near poor.
Not all families are persistently poor; many cycle in and out of poverty. Of all children in the U.S., 37% live in poverty at least some part of their childhoods.
Every community includes families who are struggling to make ends meet. Many families will face problems like this at some point in their lives.
The good news is we have ways to help.
Pediatricians can connect parents with resources in their communities, including access to food, safe housing, transportation, quality child care, and other supports. Your pediatrician can also inform you about the benefits you are eligible for, such as the Earned Income Tax Credit (EITC) and Supplemental Nutritional Assistance Program (SNAP), as well as home-visiting and early education programs your community offers.
In most cases, parents who are poor are getting only about half of the services they already qualify for. Help really is not far away. Your pediatrician can guide you to resources in your community. When parents have more resources to cope with these challenges, they are
less stressed and can focus on keeping their children healthy.
Remember, you are your child's first and best teacher.
read to your child every day, and reach out to your pediatrician if you need help. If we work together, your child can grow up to be a great success and have a wonderful future.
About Dr. Dreyer:
Benard P. Dreyer, M.D., FAAP, was past president of the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP). Dr. Dreyer began his one-year term as AAP president on Jan. 1, 2016. He is a general and development-behavioral pediatrician who has spent his professional lifetime serving poor children and families. Professor of Pediatrics at NYU, he leads the Division of Developmental-Behavioral Pediatrics, is Director of Pediatrics at Bellevue Hospital, and also works as a hospitalist. Dr. Dreyer has been AAP NY Chapter 3 President, a member of the Committee on Pediatric Research and the Executive Committee of the Council on Communications and Media, and co-chaired the AAP Health Literacy Project Advisory Committee. He serves as a member of the Executive Committee of the Section on LGBT Health and Wellness and the AAP Leadership Workgroup on Poverty and Child Health. He also hosts a weekly radio show on the Sirius XM Doctor Radio Channel, On Call for Kids.