The issue has been found to often pass by overlooked, so a new study has seen to doctors advised to screen children about ‘food insecurity’ within their household.
- Over 15 million children live in homes with the difficulty of putting food on the table
- Around 7.9 million children live in households where they don’t have enough to eat
- The problems could further result in heart disease, diabetes, distress, or many other factors
- Doctors are now including two new questions in routine visits concerning hunger
Researchers at the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) have brought up a sensible issue that can easily pass by unaddressed. Families with low income, or insufficient resources of providing proper food do not often admit it. According to one of the lead authors of the study and pediatrician, Sarah Schwarzenberg, most are “embarrassed or don’t think the doctors will care”.
It’s a highly sensitive issue to bring up, but it’s one that should be addressed for the sake of the children’s’ health. At the moment, an estimated number of over 15 million kids live in households struggling to consistently put food on the table, only in the United States. Around half of them, 7.9 million, live with ‘food insecurity’, meaning that they don’t always have something to eat.
These issues, be it hunger, malnutrition, or just food insecurity, may lead to problems later on in life. Children could carry conditions further into their adulthood, such as cardiovascular problems, diabetes, hyperlipidemia, or even mental and emotional distress. The strain is placed on early and could damage their lives decades later.
It may cause iron deficiency, and lower bone density in preadolescent boys.
Furthermore, studies have found that children who live in ‘food insecure’ households get sick more often, spent more time in the hospital, and have a slower recovery rate. It can impair their ability to concentrate or even perform well in school. All of these vital factors are crucial to a child’s future.
According to Dr. Schwarzenberg, some families may rely too much on “starchy, filling foods” that may not be beneficial in the long run. They could lack the necessary vitamins and minerals required for a healthy lifestyle. These problems can, in fact, be overlooked. Hunger could be present in patients that “look OK”.
That is why, AAP is now advising doctors to include two questions in routine visits for general health screening. One is whether they worried that food would run out within the 12 months before the examination. The second was related to significant lack, specifically if food had run out and they had no money to acquire more within the last 12 months.
These two parameters would help medical health professionals understand the family’s situation better. From there, they can guide them and offer access to programs, such as WIC and SNAP (Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program). As stated by Dr. Schwarzenberg, pediatricians have all this information “at their fingertips”.
It can be easily recommended. All that is needed from the patients is honesty.