Academic journal article The Science Teacher

Health Wise

Academic journal article The Science Teacher

Health Wise

Article excerpt

Countering Poverty's Effects on Learning

Poverty is a student health problem, according to the 64,000-member American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP; 2016a).

The AAP announced earlier this year that at all checkups, pediatricians should ask parents and guardians: "Do you have difficulty making ends meet at the end of the month?" This question helps identify the one in five U.S. children who are living in poverty, or an income level at or below $24,230 for a family of four, according to 2015 U.S. Census Bureau data (2016). The number of poor children younger than 18 rises to 43%, or 31.5 million, when families designated as "poor," "near poor," and "low-income" are included in census data, according to the AAP (2016a).

"Research shows that living in deep and persistent poverty can cause severe, lifelong health problems, including ... poor language development, higher rates of asthma, and obesity. A growing body of research links child poverty with toxic stress that can alter gene expression and brain function and contributes to chronic cardiovascular, immune, and psychiatric disorders, as well as behavioral difficulties" (AAP 2016a).

"While urban and rural areas continue to have high rates of poverty, the suburbs have experienced the largest and fastest increases in poverty since the 2008 recession," the AAP says. "Poverty is everywhere. It affects children of all backgrounds and in all communities," says AAP president Benard P. Dreyer (AAP 2016a).

Moreover, the consequences of poverty can limit educational achievement, the AAP says (2016b). Irwin Redlener, a professor of pediatrics at Columbia University, also wrote about the role poverty plays in education achievement in an Education Week commentary:

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"Kids are sleeping at their desks after being up all night wheezing with untreated asthma. They are failing tests because they don't have the glasses they need to read a lesson on the blackboard. They are being held back a grade because they can't hear the teacher. They are acting out because they are traumatized by extreme stress in their home. These are the health burdens of poverty that weigh on children in classrooms every day" (Redlener 2014).

One study found that half of parents of uninsured children were unaware that their children were eligible for government health insurance. …

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