A recent report published in JAMA Pediatrics finds that childhood poverty in the United States to be at its highest level in 20 years.
According to the report, over 16 million children are living in poverty, with 25% of children in the US not having adequate access to enough food to eat. A Feeding America study found that children who go hungry are more likely to get sick, as well as be subjected to stunted emotional, physical and intellectual development. They are also at a higher risk of becoming obese, as cheaper foods are often higher in fat.
In addition, 7 million children are living without health insurance, causing a number of issues including delayed immunizations, more complications during birth, and a higher rate of emergency room visits.
The report also discovered that five children die each day as a result of firearms, and one will pass away every 7 hours from abuse or neglect.
The findings have not changed since 2010 when the numbers initially peaked. However, since that time, federal spending on children has dropped by over $20 billion.
“It shouldn’t be this hard for kids to grow and thrive in the world’s richest, most powerful nation,” co-author Bruce Lesley, president of the Washington-based child advocacy organization First Focus, said in a written statement.
The report continues to state that although 24% of American citizens are children, only 12% of the National Institutes of Health’s budget for 2013 went toward pediatric research.
A separate report from the Department of Education found 1.3 million public school students in the US to be homeless in the 2012-2013 school year. Homeless children are more likely to have lower test scores and be subjected to sex trafficking, abuse and hunger.
A recent Sports Illustrated report discovered that although over 100,000 homeless youth are playing on school sports teams, many of them will not receive the sports scholarships they deserve because they are considered a “risky” investment.
The authors suggest 10 steps the US should take to help end childhood poverty. A national target date for an end to poverty should be publicized, and the authors would like to see maltreatment deaths be cut in half by 2018. In addition, the authors call for more funding for pediatric research and children’s nutrition programs, Medicaid insurance programs being extended to children, a criminal background check be mandated for all firearm sales, and an increase in the number of mental healthcare providers through higher Medicaid reimbursement rates.
“Child well-being in America has declined since the most recent recession,” authors Bruce Lesley and Dr. Glenn Flores wrote. “Overwhelming, bipartisan support by American voters exists for measures that would enhance our nation’s investments in and focus on children’s health and well-being. … The needs of our nation’s children have never been greater.”