Children’s health and housing security are closely intertwined, and children without homes are more likely to suffer from chronic disease, hunger and malnutrition.
In a policy statement, “Providing Care for Children and Adolescents Facing Homelessness and Housing Insecurity,” published in the June 2013 Pediatrics (published online May 27), the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) makes a series of recommendations for how pediatricians can improve the health of homeless children.
“During the recent recession many families lost homes, jobs, and other resources,” said pediatrician Melissa Briggs, MD, lead author of the policy statement. “In this setting, it is key for pediatricians to recognize the impact of homelessness on children and families in their communities, and to consider ways that they can lessen this burden.”
According to the AAP, by partnering with community resources and making changes in their practice, pediatricians can help families establish a stable source of high-quality health care.
The AAP recommends that pediatricians should:
- Facilitate the enrollment of eligible children in Medicaid
- Become familiar with the management of chronic diseases in homeless populations
- Optimize health visits to provide comprehensive, preventive care
- Connect families to community resources
- Identify the underlying causes of homelessness
- Assist in the development of shelter-based care
The AAP also advocates for government policies that increase the access of families to housing, health care, child care and other resources.