Doctors are being asked to join the fight against childhood hunger by doing one thing.
The American Academy of Pediatrics is asking doctors across the nation to make a big change in how they treat children in order to prevent childhood hunger.
Millions of children in the United States are believed to be living in homes where there isn’t enough food, and many families don’t realize help is available — which is where doctors come in, according to a New York Times report.
AAP is requesting pediatricians to screen patients for food insecurity, and if they find that a child isn’t getting enough to eat, to refer his or her parents to agencies in order for the children to get the nourishment they need.
It’s a public health issue because kids who don’t get enough to eat get sick more often, are hospitalized more often, and are generally in poorer health than others
About 16 million children could fall into this category int he United States, which drives up a big health care bill, to say nothing of the emotional impact on the kids.
The reality is that not much research has been done on childhood hunger, and most people don’t really pay attention to the problem of food insecurity in this country, said Mariana Chilton, the director of the Center for Hunger-Free Communities at Drexel University, according to the report. And yet, it’s perhaps the most important factor in a child’s health.
Doctors are at the forefront of the issue as they are the ones with the expertise to spot childhood hunger and they are in a position to do so. By looking out for the signs as a matter of routine, they can take the parents aside and provide them with information on food banks and other assistance agencies.
And it may be as simple as asking a couple of questions: did you ever worry about food running out before you could buy more, and did groceries last long enough to cover meals before money was available. About 97 percent of people in underfed households would answer yes to at least one of these questions.
Families are often too scared or embarrassed to ask for help, which is why this screening could help break the ice and help them get over that obstacle.
AAP posted a news release on their site on the issue, which can be found here.