Policy Action Briefs

Children’s HealthWatch Policy Action Brief Series-
concise briefs on policy-relevant research

Safe, Stable Homes Lead to Healthier Children and Families for BaltimoreOctober 2012
Children’s HealthWatch analyzed nearly 5,000 surveys from Baltimore families with children under age four collected between 2002-2011. In this sample, just 49% of families were stably housed. Compared to those in stably housed families, housing insecure families were more likely to experience fair or poor health, developmental delays and food insecurity. For example, children in families who were crowded or behind on rent were about 22% less likely to be classified as “well” on a composite scale of child well-being than were children in stably housed families.

Safe, Stable Homes Mean Healthier Children for Massachusetts. October 2012.
Children’s HealthWatch analyzed surveys from 6,000 young Massachusetts children and their caregivers collected between 2002-2011 at the Boston Medical Center Emergency Department. We found that approximately 49% of families were housing insecure (behind on rent, living in over-crowded conditions or had moved at least two times in the past year).

A Safe, Stable Place to Call Home Supports Young Children’s Health in Arkansas, June 2012.
Children’s HealthWatch researchers analyzed survey data collected from caregivers in Arkansas between 2005 and 2011. In the sample of 5,000 families with children under age four, Children’s HealthWatch found that about 51% of families were housing insecure. Housing insecurity is associated with fair or poor health, and greater risk of developmental delays in children in Arkansas. For example, Children’s HealthWatch found that children in households who moved frequently are 34% more likely to be underweight as compared with children in stably housed families.

Stable, Affordable Housing Supports Young Children’s Health in Philadelphia, May 2012.
Children’s HealthWatch researchers analyzed survey data collected from caregivers in Phildelphia between 2005 and 2011. In the sample of 4,500 families, Children’s HealthWatch found that about 56% of families were housing insecure. Housing insecurity is associated with poor health outcomes in very young children. Short-and long term interventions that help stabilize families in affordable housing will improve the health and development of Philadelphia’s youngest children.

 Overcrowding, Frequent Moves Harmful to Children’s Health, November 2011.
New housing insecurity research by Children’s HealthWatch finds that families that are housing insecure are more likely to be food insecure and have young children who are in fair or poor health, at risk of developmental delays and/or underweight.  Recent economic conditions have put families at risk of housing insecurity (frequent moves, overcrowding, or doubling up with another family for economic reasons). Investment in affordable and subsidized housing would not only reduce housing and food insecurity, but would improve the health and potential for school success of our nation’s young children.

Boost to SNAP Benefits Protected Young Children’s HealthOctober 2011.

Children’s HealthWatch research shows that the SNAP benefit increase instituted as part of the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act protected young children’s health.  In the two years after the benefit increase, children in families receiving SNAP were significantly more likely to be classified as ‘well children’ than young children whose families were eligible for but did not receive SNAP.  Sustaining the April 2009 benefit increase will promote the health and well-being of America’s youngest and most vulnerable children.

Federal Programs that Protect Young Children’s HealthJune 2011.
Research has shown that children who suffer from poor nutrition, unstable housing and inadequate home heating have a greater likelihood of poor health, a higher risk of developmental delays, and in some cases, an increased risk of hospitalization.  Fortunately, our country has a number of highly effective programs, including SNAP, WIC, LIHEAP and subsidized housing, that help protect brain and body growth in very young children.

Too Many Hurdles: Barriers to Receiving SNAP Put Children’s Health at RiskMarch 2011.
Research by Children’s HealthWatch shows that young children in families that did not receive SNAP due to administrative and other difficulties were more likely to be child food insecure (sometimes called child hunger) and significantly underweight for their age (an indication of under nutrition). These young children were also more likely to live in households that were struggling to put food on the table (houshold food insecure) and living in crowded/doubled up conditions or moving frequently.  Our previous research has shown that children in food-insecure households whose families participate in SNAP are significantly more likely to be in good or excellent health than children in similar families that do not have access to the program.  Removing barriers to accessing SNAP can protect the health of America’s children.

LIHEAP Stabilizes Family Housing and Protects Children’s HealthFebruary 2011.
Research by Children’s HealthWatch shows that the federal government’s Low Income Home Energy Assistance Program protects very young children from the risk factors for poor child health that are associated with energy insecurity.  Energy insecure families are more likely to move frequently, experience food insecurity, and have poor child health outcomes.  LIHEAP attenuates these risks, helping to stabilize families’ housing and to protect children’s health and growth.

Children of Immigrants: Healthy Beginnings Derailed by Food InsecurityOctober 2010.
U.S.-born children of immigrant mothers are more likely to be breastfed, have a healthy birth weight, and live with two parents than children of U.S.-born mothers.  Despite this healthier start, young children of recent immigrants are more likely to be in poor health and food insecure. Food insecurity plays a significant role in harming the health of young children of immigrants. Though immigrant families have higher rates of poverty and food insecurity, because of regulatory barriers and confusion about eligibility, children of immigrants are less likely than those of U.S.-born parents to receive important nutritional and health benefits needed for healthy growth and development.
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Earning More, Receiving Less: Loss of Benefits and Child Hunger, September 2010.
New research from Children’s HealthWatch shows that increases in income that trigger loss of public assistance benefits can leave young children without enough food to eat.  Families hat have been cut off from SNAP or TANF when their income exceeds eligibility limits are more likely to experience levels of food insecurity that require reducing the size or frequency of children’s meals compared to those currently receiving benefits.  Previous research has demonstrated that both SNAP and TANF reduce the likelihood of food insecurity. Income eligibility guidelines should be re-examined to ensure that a modest increase in income does not disqulaify a family from the benefits they need to keep their children healthy and well-fed.  Families that successfully increase their earnings should not find themselves worse off due to a resulting loss of benefits.
To see a list of full references, click here.

Energy Insecurity is a Major Threat to Child HealthFebruary 2010.
With the recession and this winter’s harsh weather, many families are facing a choice between eating and heating. Research by Children’s HealthWatch shows that young children whose families struggle to pay their utility bills (‘energy insecure’ families) are more likely to suffer a host of problems including food insecurity, poor health, hospitalizations and development delays. The Low Income Home Energy Assistance Program (LIHEAP), which provides low-income households with assistance in paying their utility bills, is effective at shielding young children from the harmful effects of energy insecurity. According to research by Children’s HealthWatch, young children whose families received LIHEAP were less likely to be at risk for growth problems and had healthier weights for their age. By appropriating the maximum authorized funding for LIHEAP and ensuring that climate change legislation buffers vulnerable familes and children from the harmful effects of higher energy prices, Congress will be taking important steps to protect children’s health.
To see a list of full references, click here.

Child Care Feeding Programs Support Young Children’s Healthy DevelopmentJanuary 2010.
Children’s HealthWatch finds that toddlers receiving meals from their child care provider are in better health than those who must bring meals from home.  The Child and Adult Care Feeding Program (CACFP) is the nation’s only nutrition program for young children in child care.  Children’s HealthWatch identified a group of children in it’s dataset that are very likely receiving CACFP meals.  Children in participating child care centers or family child care homes are in better health, have decreased risk for hospitalization, and are at healthier heights and weights for their age than children whose meals are supplied from home.  Changes to CACFP that expand access, reduce barriers and ensure that providers have the resources they need to provide healthy meals are beneficial for young children’s health and growth.
To see a list of full references, click here.


WIC Improves Child Health and School ReadinessJanuary 2010.
Children’s HealthWatch finds that young children who participate in the Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants, and Children (WIC) are more likely to be in excellent or good health and have a reduced risk of developmental delay compared to children who are eligible for WIC but not enrolled.  WIC provides vouchers for foods high in essential nutrients to young children and pregnant and postpartum women.  Investing in WIC not only provides cost savings in infant health care, but also supports the nutritional needs of young children during a critical window of brain and body growth. Program improvements that decrease access barriers, provide the full amount of recommended fruits and vegetables, and accommodate working parents will help young children reach their full potential.
To see a list of full references, click here.

Funding Shortfall for Housing Vouchers Could Have Serious Health Consequences for Children,September 2009.
Children’s HealthWatch finds that unaffordable housing endangers the health and development of young children.  Due to a federal funding shortfall, state and local housing agencies will be forced to reduce or eliminate rental assitance to thousands of families starting this month. Voucher cuts will push more families into the ranks of the “hidden homeless” — families that move frequently, crowd into apartments that are too small, or live doubled up with other households when they cannot find affordable housing.  Children in hidden homeless families are at increased risk for poor health, nutrition, and growth, as well as developmental delays.  Timely Congressional action to protect the Housing Choice Voucher Program will ensure that families have stable, affordable housing essential to children’s health.
To see a list of full references, click here.


 Affordable Health Care Keeps Children and Families HealthyJuly 2009.
Children’s HealthWatch finds that the health of young children is negatively affected when parents have to forego health care for themselves or other adult members of the household or when parents have to forego payment of household expenses in order to pay for health care.  Children in families who struggle to pay for health care are at increased risk for health problems, developmental delays and food insecurity. The health and well-being of their mothers also suffer. Access to quality, affordable health care for all family members is essential to children’s health and development. It is critical that all plans for health care reform ensure that parents can afford quality health care for the whole family.
To see a full list of references, Click Here.


Food Insecurity Rates Rise Steeply with RecessionJune 2009.
Children’s HealthWatch finds that the prevalence of food insecurity in a five-city sample of low-income families with young children increased from 18.5 percent to 22.6 percent between 2007 and 2008.  This is the largest year-to-year change seen in the dataset since 2001.  The increase is an indication of the economic hardships facing low-income families with young children.  This data suggests that we are likely to see significant increases in food insecurity when the U.S. Department of Agriculture issues its own statistics for 2008 in late fall.
To see a list of full references, click here.


Even Very Low Levels of Food Insecurity Found to Harm Children’s HealthMay 2009.
This publication is the first in a series of Children’s HealthWatch Policy Action Briefs, which will provide a summary of our research, as well as that of others, on issues affecting children’s health and well-being.  This brief finds that more children are at risk for health and developmental problems due to lack of food than were previously thought. These children and their families are classified as “marginally food secure” by the USDA, which suggests that they are not at risk.  The data show that they are, in fact, significantly at risk.
To see a list of full references, click here.