Children’s HealthWatch supports families by addressing food, housing insecurity

Originally published on CBS.

BOSTON – Housing and hunger are two of the biggest issues plaguing vulnerable children across our country.  That’s according to the Children’s HealthWatch organization which has spent decades supporting families in need. Dr. Mallika Marshall shows us how the group helped make dreams come true for one mother.

Falancia Latus was gainfully employed, but when COVID hit, the bottom fell out.

“I cannot go to work,” recalled Falancia. “All my kids had COVID.  Only my husband could go to work then he had to stop working.”

To make matters worse, two of her five children dropped off their growth curves, one due to severe food allergies, so preparing meals became unaffordable.

“We have to make different kinds of food,” Falancia explains.

Falancia turned to Children’s HealthWatch, a national network of pediatricians and researchers centered at Boston Medical Center.  Its main goal is to improve the health outcomes of babies and toddlers by addressing food and housing insecurity.

Two of the organization’s lead cheerleaders are two pediatricians from Boston Medical Center, Dr. Deborah Frank, Co-Founder of Children’s HealthWatch and Dr. Megan Sandel, Co-Lead Principal Investigator.

As Dr. Frank explains, “Dr. Sandel is the housing doctor and I’m the hunger doctor.  But we work very closely together because those are the twin demons….And we always talk about the canaries in the coal mine well, the babies are the canaries.  Of course, they’re also invisible.  They’re not shutting down Congress.”

Children’s HealthWatch has interviewed over 80,000 families and has been able to show policymakers that children in assistance programs are in better health.  Take tax credits, for example.

“When you can translate that an extra $1,000 in some families’ pockets may result in 8% lower premature births or 10% higher rates of babies being born with a healthy weight, then all of a sudden it clicks,” says Dr. Sandel.

Dr. Sandel says Children’s HealthWatch not only supported the growth of Falancia’s children but also helped her achieve a life-long goal.  “We were able to step in to get her over the hump and last month she bought her house.”

“That’s one of my big dreams to have my own place,” says Falancia, “So I’m so grateful, yes.”

A dream most of us have.

Children’s HealthWatch is celebrating its 25th anniversary.  The organization relies heavily on donations. CLICK HERE for more information.