Study Hypothesis

Children’s HealthWatch interview data are used to continually monitor the following hypothesis:

Changes in public assistance policies and spending and the fluctuations of the economy impact the nutrition, health and development of young, low-income children.

Children’s HealthWatch monitors, among other key indicators:

  • food insecurity and hunger rates
  • housing security (e.g. living in over-crowded spaces)
  • household energy security (e.g. inability to pay utility bill, unheated/uncooled days)
  • being behind on rent
  • weight-for-age and weight-for-height measurements (anthropometrics)
  • child health status
  • hospitalization rates, and;
  • developmental risk.

Children’s HealthWatch is uniquely positioned to demonstrate the effects on children’s and families’ health of changes to public policy and the economy, given our long history of data collection during economic booms and recessions. Monitoring data since 1998, the Children’s HealthWatch dataset currently includes over 50,000 caregiver interviews.

Learn more about food insecurity.
Learn more about housing insecurity.
Learn more about energy insecurity.

Study Location

Why monitor children in acute/primary care clinics and emergency departments?

The Children’s HealthWatch sample comprises a vulnerable sentinel group (like “canaries in a coal mine”). Emergency departments and acute care clinics serve a disproportionate share of medically uninsured and underinsured young children. Additionally, working poor parents are likely to have less work flexibility to take children for routine health care visits, making greater use of off-hour acute care centers and emergency departments instead. Health and social problems come to the attention of acute care and emergency department medical providers that otherwise would be missed.


With leadership from our network of pediatricians and public health researchers, we collect data on children up to the age of four and their families in emergency departments and clinics at Boston Medical Center in Boston; the University of Maryland School of Medicine in Baltimore; the University of Arkansas for Medical Sciences in Little Rock; Hennepin County Medical Center in Minneapolis; and St. Christopher’s Hospital in Philadelphia.

Below are a few of the many findings that have been drawn from Children’s HealthWatch data, many of which have been published in peer reviewed journals or presented at national scientific meetings.  Many of these findings have also been highlighted in Congressional testimony, policy reports, and media coverage.

To read our peer-reviewed articles, click here.
To read a summary of our findings, click here.