Center for Youth Wellness Applauds New AAP Policy Urging Pediatricians to Screen for Poverty and Eliminate its Toxic Health Effects
Mar 9, 2016
San Francisco, CA – The Center for Youth Wellness (CYW) commends the American Academy of Pediatricians (AAP) for calling on pediatricians to screen all children for poverty, drawing attention to early adversity’s impact on children’s health now and throughout their lives.
The AAP’s groundbreaking report and policy statement, “Poverty and Health in the United States,” argues that living in poverty can cause severe lifelong health effects. The report references a growing body of research linking poverty to toxic stress “that can alter gene expression and brain function and contributes to chronic cardiovascular, immune, and psychiatric disorders, as well as behavioral difficulties.”
The Center for Youth Wellness is working closely with the AAP and others on a national campaign, #ChildrenCanThrive, to raise awareness about the impact of adverse childhood experiences (ACEs) on child and adult health. Although children of any economic status can be exposed to ACEs, exposure is greater for the one in five U.S. children who live in poverty. There are also fewer resources available to help low-income children address the toxic stress they may suffer as a result.
“Health professionals who work with children—whether pediatricians, nurses or medical assistants—have the job to help patients get a healthy start that gives them a good chance to live long, healthy lives,” says Mark Cloutier, Executive Director of the Center for Youth Wellness. “Yet for millions of children, that prospect is threatened by early adversity and trauma.”
The Center for Youth Wellness (CYW), located in the Bayview Hunters Point neighborhood in San Francisco, believes that ACEs represent a major public health crisis that threatens millions of children. CYW is a leader in the national movement to revolutionize pediatric medicine and launched the #ChildrenCanThrive campaign last year to create a more effective national response to ACES.
In its policy statement the AAP notes, “Poverty and other adverse social determinants have a detrimental effect on child health and are root causes of child health inequity in the United States. Knowledge is expanding rapidly, especially regarding the neurobiological effects of related environmental stressors on the developing human brain as well as the life course of chronic illness.”
Adverse childhood experiences that can cause toxic stress include abuse or neglect or living in a household with family members who had drug or alcohol problems, were depressed or mentally ill, spent time in jail, or harmed or threatened others.
“Health professionals are uniquely positioned to educate parents and caregivers about the health impact of childhood adversity and can help families get the help they need to prevent early adverse experiences from having lifelong effects,” said Cloutier. “What could be more important?”
Research shows that ACEs are common, and have long-lasting health effects. In California, 61.7% of adults have experienced at least one ACE and 16.7% have experienced four or more, according to a 2014 report released by Center for Youth Wellness. Studies suggest that people who have experienced four or more ACEs are 2.4 times as likely to have chronic obstructive pulmonary diseases, 1.9 times as likely to have asthma, 1.7 times as likely to have kidney disease, and 1.5 times as likely to have a stroke.
About Center for Youth Wellness The Center for Youth Wellness is part of a national effort to revolutionize pediatric medicine and transform the way society responds to kids exposed to significant adverse childhood experiences and toxic stress.
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