Data Tells a Story: Here’s Ours

From a young age, we realize that numbers hold significance. They can be used to measure wealth (or the lack thereof), note the passage of time from one scant second to infinity, or assign value or importance. Here at Children’s HealthWatch, we are in the business of numbers, specifically the data we have been collecting at our four sites in Boston, Little Rock, Minneapolis, and Philadelphia since 1998. However, this work is more than just datasets; our research tells the stories of more than 75,000 interviewed caregivers of children under 4 years of age, many of whom live in marginalized communities struggling to afford basic needs.

The role of racism, discrimination, and xenophobia in the disparities in access to nutritious food, safe housing, affordable childcare, family-sustaining wages, and quality healthcare cannot be understated. This is why our work centers on calling out inequities in the systems that hinder children and families’ ability to thrive and seeks solutions to promote health equity. Our data reflect on-the-ground, lived experiences which we then ‘translate’ and bring to decision makers as credible, relevant, and timely research that can inform more equitable policies and social programs.

For example,

  • Children’s HealthWatch formed and led the Healthy Families EITC Coalition, which successfully advocated for improvements in the Massachusetts state Earned Income Tax Credit (EITC), including:
    • Doubling the credit match through two increases over the course of three years.
    • A first-in-the-nation expansion in EITC eligibility that ensures survivors of domestic violence are able to safely access the credit in 2017.
    • Investments in free tax preparation services across the state to ensure everyone eligible for the credit is able to receive it.
  • Our work to develop a simple food insecurity screening measure we call the “Hunger Vital Sign” has revolutionized pediatric and adult primary care. This work has catalyzed a movement to screen and respond to food insecurity in clinics across the country and reshaped health care policies and clinical practice toward a focus on responding to hunger as a health issue.
  • On the federal level, our research has been at the center of debates to expand the Child Tax Credit, improve federal nutrition assistance programs, increase funding for rental assistance and eviction prevention programs, and invest in high-quality, affordable child care. In collaboration with organizations across the country, our data are used to amplify the urgent need for robust solutions to respond to the needs of families with young children.

As we embark on our 25th year of using evidence from the frontlines of healthcare to inform policies, we see our anniversary as less than a milestone and more of an opportunity to continue our commitment to achieve health equity for young children and their families by advancing research to transform policy; and we invite you on this journey. Our equity series this year, Pathways to Equity: Reflect, Research, Respond, will identify ways to engender and support equity for young children and families through

  • Reflection: learn how, why, and where inequities happen by reflecting on the 25 years of research, policy, and economic change;
  • Research: see how we catalyze research to create equitable public policies and practices to alleviate them; and
  • Policy Response: how you can join us in supporting policies and actions that respond and redress inequities facing families and children so that all have equal opportunities for health and success, now and in the future.

Our aim remains to demonstrate families’ challenges and the opportunities we ALL have to make meaningful, impactful change happen. We hope this series will empower you, alongside policymakers, advocates, and families themselves to champion equity in all its forms, and advance Children’s HealthWatch research as a tool to transform policy and improve the health and development of our collective future.