Doctors group calls on pediatricians to address child poverty

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For pediatricians, a routine visit is a chance to chat with parents about their child's vaccinations, sleep patterns, nutrition and TV time. But new guidelines say that with nearly half of American children living in poverty or close to that line, pediatricians need to broach another health-related matter with mom or dad: Are you having trouble making ends meet?

"The early detection and management of poverty-related disorders is an important, emerging component of the pediatric scope of practice," says a policy statement issued this week by the American Academy of Pediatrics. "Pediatricians can apply interventions in practice to help address the toxic effects of poverty on children and families."

The academy's statement, undergirded by a lengthy technical report and published this week in the journal Pediatrics, leaves little doubt that living in poverty is a scourge with health effects across an individual's lifespan. In addition to raising the risk of pre-term birth and stunting cognitive development, poverty can impair immune function, contribute to psychiatric disorders and foster cardiovascular disease.

"Child poverty is associated with lifelong hardship," the academy's statement declares.

Read full article by Melissa Healy in the Los Angeles Times here.