Study Finds 42% of India's Children Under 5 Are Malnourished
1/11/2012 2:32:32 PM
Photo by Neil Palmer of CIAT International Center for Tropical Agriculture
A recent survey
by the Naandi Foundation found that 42% of all Indian children younger than five are underweight, defined as having low weight for their age. Another 59% were found to be stunted, defined as having low height for age. The study surveyed 109,093 children in 3,360 villages in 9 states. The report also notes that 58% of mothers do not exclusively breastfeed for the first 6 months, which is important for preventing childhood malnutrition. Key factors in child malnutrition were family socioeconomic status and the educational status of mothers.
With recent droughts leading to famine in East Africa
, child hunger is increasingly gaining international attention. Doctors Without Borders/Médicins Sans Frontières
estimates that 146 million children under the age of five are underweight, with sixty million children considered wasted, meaning below the normal weight for height. Most of these children live in the Sahel, South Asia and the Horn of Africa. UNICEF
notes that malnutrition is implicated in 40% of all child deaths under the age of five in developing countries. In addition to deaths from starvation, malnutrition can stunt children's growth, reduce their immunity, and damage intellectual achievement.
In 2010, MSF launched the Starved for Attention
campaign to draw attention to the issue of widespread child malnutrition and the importance of providing malnourished children with nutritionally adequate foods. According to MSF
most food aid provided to malnourished people in crises is a corn-soy blend that does not adequately meet the nutritional needs of growing children.
Tags: Children, Early Childhood, Healthy Eating, Poverty
Improving Access to Books in Poorer Neighborhoods
5/20/2011 11:36:50 AM
Research consistently shows the importance of access to reading materials for children, especially low-income children. A meta-analysis published last August by Reading is Fundamental found that access to print materials, and in particular access to print materials to own, improves children’s reading performance, helps children learn the basics of reading, causes children to read more and for longer lengths of time, and produces improved attitudes towards reading and learning. A recent report by the Annie E. Casey foundation found that children who were not reading proficiently in third grade are four times more likely to not graduate high school on time. Additionally, the Schubert Center was privileged to host Nobel Prize Winner Dr. James Heckman of the University of Chicago in March 2010 for a lecture on the economic case for investing in early childhood education. A video of Dr. Heckman’s lecture as well as other resources related to his talk can be found from our website.
An 2001 study from the University of Michigan and Temple University comparing access to reading materials in low-income and middle-income urban neighborhoods found that while middle-income neighborhoods had as many as 13 book titles available for every child, low-income neighborhoods had as few as 1 title for every 300 children. Additionally, both public and school libraries in low-income neighborhoods had fewer hours and fewer books than libraries in middle-income neighborhoods. This finding follows an earlier study that found that classroom, school and public libraries combined in a high-income neighborhood had an average of nearly 261,000 books, while libraries in low-income neighborhoods had between 113,000 and 106,000 books.
However, the limited access to books in these neighborhoods does not indicate that parents are unwilling to buy books for their children. Susan B. Newman, a co-author of the 2001 study, said in a recent New York Times article “When poor people, even those at low literacy levels, have a little extra money, they will buy inexpensive books. But some families have so little disposable income, they can’t afford any books.”
The New York Times recently profiled an organization that works to increase the number of books in the homes of low-income children, First Book Marketplace. First Book Marketplace sells books discounted far below their retail prices to programs that serve low-income children. Their website shows classic titles such as To Kill a Mockingbird, Where the Wild Things Are, and A Very Hungry Caterpillar, as well as SAT preparatory materials and nonfiction, discounted by 50% or more.
A number of Schubert Center Faculty Associates study children in low-income households and literacy:
More information about First Book Marketplace can be found on their website.
For those interested in improving access to books in their communities, the Corporation for National and Community Service provides a toolkit for starting a book distribution team.
Tags: Children, Development, Early Childhood, Education, Poverty, School
Women Abused During Childhood at Increased Risk for Having Low Birthweight Babies
3/31/2011 9:12:44 AM
A recent study from the University of Washington has found that emotional, sexual, and physical abuse and poverty before age 10 leads to an increased risk of having a low birth weight baby. The study also found links between alcohol and drug use during adolescence and pregnancy and low birth weight.
Children are considered low birth weight if they are born weighing less than 2500 grams. Low birth weight has been linked with a variety of negative impacts to health and development including cerebral palsy, increased rates of conduct disorders, obesity, and increased risk of death before age one.
The study is the first to find a link between maternal childhood maltreatment and low birth weight. The authors also found the childhood maltreatment increased risk of substance abuse during high school and that women who used drugs during high school were more likely to smoke and drink alcohol during later pregnancies. The study is part of a recent trend in looking at the effects of early life experiences on later health outcomes.
Several Schubert Center Faculty Associates study various issues related to low birth weight and child maltreatment.
- Schubert Center Director Dr. Jill Korbin has studied child maltreatment with a focus on child abuse in a cross-cultural setting for 35 years.
- Dr. Maureen Hack studies the outcomes for low birth weight and very low birth weight children. A policy brief on the findings of her research on the impact of low birth weight throughout the lifespan can be downloaded here.
- Dr. H. Gerry Taylor studies the impact of low birth weight and premature birth and future learning and neurological status. A policy brief from a recent talk he gave on early school progress for children with extreme prematurity can be downloaded here.
- Dr. Marilyn Lotas studies the health issues related to low and very low birth weight.
To read the article, click here.
To read a news article about the study, click here.
Tags: Children, Family, Low Birth Weight, Parenthood, Poverty, Violence
Recession Leaves Increasing Numbers of Children Homeless
3/18/2011 10:54:52 AM
60 Minutes recently profiled several families with children who had become homeless as a result of the current economic recession. The number of American children in poverty has increased from 14 million in 2008 to 16 million in 2010. A million houses were foreclosed on in 2010. An accompanying article also states that the child poverty is expected to hit 25 percent. In Seminole County, Florida, just outside of Disney World, nearly 1000 children have recently lost their homes and are living in cars, homeless shelters or motels. According to the county’s director of programs for homeless children, between 5 and 15 students are newly homeless every day. Click here to watch the segment from 60 Minutes.
According to the Northeast Ohio Coalition for the Homeless, in Cuyahoga County, 1,944 children in the Cleveland Metropolitan School District used services for homeless children in the second half of 2009, as compared to 1657 in the second half of 2008. While family and friends take in 60 percent of these children, 19 percent reported living in shelters and 20 percent were unaccompanied homeless youth. An earlier report from Case’s Center on Urban Poverty and Community Development found that from 2005 to 2008, 65 percent of all homeless individuals living in families are children, and the average length of stay in a shelter for individuals in families was 51 days.
Several Schubert Center Faculty Associates study the impact of child homelessness and the recession.
Click here to read the 2009 State of Homelessness report from the Northeast Ohio Coalition for the Homeless.
Click here to read the Center on Urban Poverty and Community Development’s report on Family Homelessness in Cuyahoga County.
Tags: Children, Family, Poverty
School Lunch Bill Provides More Funding, Healthier Choices
12/16/2010 1:19:48 PM
On Monday December 13, President Obama signed the Healthy, Hunger-Free Kids Act, a $4.5 billion expansion of the school lunch program. The bill adds 6 cents per reimbursed school meal, the first noninflationary increase in federal reimbursement of school lunches in more than 30 years. The increase is intended to provide funding to help schools increase the nutritional standards of federally-subsidized lunches. Additionally, the bill increases the number of children eligible for fully or partially reimbursed meals by 115,000 and streamlines the process of receiving free or reduced-price lunches.
The bill also gives the USDA the authority to set nutritional standards for all foods sold in schools, including vending machines, and requires audits every three years to ensure compliance with nutritional standards. A sample menu showing elementary school meals before and after the bill shows that meals such as pizza sticks with marinara sauce with a banana, raisins and whole milk will be changed to meals such as chef salad featuring low-fat mozzarella and grilled chicken with a whole wheat soft pretzel, cooked corn, baby carrots, a banana, skim chocolate milk and low-fat dressing. The bill also aims to source some foods in school lunches from local farms and create school gardens.
Michelle Obama has heavily supported the bill as part of her initiative to reduce childhood obesity and improve child nutrition. She released a statement saying “We can all agree that in the wealthiest nation on Earth, all children should have the basic nutrition they need to learn and grow and to pursue their dreams, because in the end, nothing is more important than the health and well-being of our children. Nothing. And our hopes for their future should drive every single decision that we make.”
Ohio Senator Sherrod Brown, who chairs the Senate Agriculture Subcommittee on Hunger, Nutrition and Family Farms, was a strong supporter of the bill. The director of legislative services for the Ohio School Boards Association in Colombus, Damon F. Asbury, mentioned concerns about whether the bill provides sufficient funding to offset the increased costs of implementing the new standards.
Tags: Children, Healthy Eating, Education, Obesity, Poverty, School
Patterns of Lead Exposure in Childhood
11/10/2010 1:10:51 PM
Though the incidence is declining, lead exposure remains one of the most common preventable poisonings affecting children. Exposure to lead has been linked to a number of neurological, behavioral, and developmental problems both in childhood and in later life. Children who experience lead exposure early in life often have difficulties with inattentiveness and hyperactivity, which can affect their performance in school and, ultimately, their educational achievement over the long term.
While almost all children are exposed to at least small amounts of lead, a child’s individual risk of exposure to harmful amounts of lead – particularly in urban areas – is closely linked to his or her neighborhood and socioeconomic status. Recent data published by researchers working in Rhode Island illustrates the importance of neighborhood in risk for lead exposure. The researchers mapped statewide data on incidence of childhood lead poisoning taken over a 12-year period. They found that in some census blocks, the risk for lead poisoning was almost 50 percent higher than in others. The highest rate of lead poisoning occurred in the state’s lowest income communities, in which many families also still live in older housing that is more likely to contain lead-based paint. Researchers hope that these findings may be used to improve the efficacy of clean-up efforts in the state.
Click here to read the Science Daily article on this research.
Lead poisoning is also a serious public health concern in Cleveland. As recently as 2007, rates of childhood lead poisoning were 16% in Cuyahoga County, 22% in Cleveland and 24% in East Cleveland. While these numbers are still unacceptably high, they have been declining in the last decade. This decline may be attributed in part to public health efforts to clean up lead-based paint, but a multidisciplinary team of researchers at CWRU, including Schubert Center Faculty Associate Dr. James Lalumandier, has offered an alternative explanation. A chemical analysis of the layers of teeth extracted from Cleveland residents has shown that lead levels are lower in the layers that were formed in later years. Furthermore, researchers estimate that this decline in lead levels in teeth occurred simultaneously with the decline in leaded gasoline use in the United States as a whole. This research provides a more comprehensive explanation for the declining levels of lead poisoning nationally. The researchers emphasize, however, that these findings do not undermine the importance of improving housing standards, including removal of lead-based paint, which is still essential to preventing childhood lead poisoning.
Click here to read a more detailed summary of the work of Dr. Lalumandier and colleagues.
Tags: Children, Development, Early Childhood, Health, Neighborhoods, Poverty