The effects of poverty -- from crowded housing to insufficient heat and an uncertain diet -- combine to lower the chances that infants and toddlers will be healthy and grow normally, new research suggests.
"The current findings raise serious concerns about the future well-being of young children, given rising poverty among families with young children and many households' inadequate wages and benefits to meet fluctuating food, housing and energy costs," the study's lead author, Dr Deborah Frank, a pediatrician and director of the Grow Clinic at Boston Medical Centre, said.
Research and interventions often neglect to take into account "material hardships" -- such as decreased access to food, housing issues and inconsistent home heating -- when they consider the effects of poverty on children, the study authors noted.
How the study was done
The new study, published online in the journal Paediatrics, involved more than 7 000 US children aged four months to three years who were brought to urban primary-care clinics or hospital emergency departments for care.
These children were less likely to have normal growth, health and development -- or "wellness" -- if their scores were higher on an index that evaluated hardships. The discrepancy remained even after the researchers took into account factors that might throw off their findings.
"We know that deprivations in early life can become biologically embedded, forcing children onto negative trajectories that jeopardise their health, their school readiness and their ability to earn a living as adults," Frank said. "We also know that the remedies for many of these hardships are within reach if our society chooses to prescribe them." - (HealthDay News, April 2010)