The United States has one of the highest rates of child poverty globally. One in five children lives in poverty, including almost half of all African-American and Latino children. Children are especially vulnerable to food insecurity and homelessness, with one out of every 17 American children suffering from hunger, even while they live above the poverty line.
Moreover, many families cannot afford proper health care for their kids: only 55% of U.S. children under six have fully vaccinated coverage. As a result, childhood diseases such as measles and whooping cough have reemerged after being virtually eliminated by vaccines many years ago.
This heartbreaking situation is due to a variety of factors, including lack of access to quality education and employment opportunities and rising costs of living. It is compounded by our country’s long-standing racial disparities, which mean that children of color are more likely to experience poverty than their white counterparts.
Fortunately, many communities are working hard to change these outcomes for their children. From after-school programs that provide meals and enrichment activities to job training initiatives that help parents obtain employment and move up the social ladder, there are a variety of ways communities can promote child health in the United States.
Healthier Meals in Public Schools
Public school cafeterias across the country are being transformed through initiatives such as “Healthy Schools, Healthy Kids” by the Alliance for a Healthier Generation and First Lady Michelle Obama’s “Let’s Move!” campaign. These programs provide support to students and parents in making healthy choices. Some of the strategies used include offering healthier foods in schools, educating kids on healthy eating habits, and working with growers to ensure that children have access to fresh fruits and vegetables.
With these efforts, more than millions of students now eat healthier lunches in public schools every day. Many also participate in programs like Salad Bars to Schools or Farm-to-School, which provide access to locally sourced produce at school cafeterias.
A recent study found that healthy eating habits were most strongly correlated with lower obesity rates in both children and adults, suggesting that healthy school lunches may be an effective way of fighting malnutrition nationwide.
Job Training for Parents
In addition to providing food security and access to health care, communities are also working to ensure parents have access to employment opportunities so they can provide for their families. Often referred to as “deep poverty,” the inability of parents to work or obtain stable employment is a significant contributor to child mortality and long-term issues such as substance abuse or mental illness.
One example of this issue being addressed is through initiatives like Career Gear, which provides free career counseling and interview training for low-income men. The program helps participants gain the skills and confidence they need to reenter the workforce and provides them with access to professional clothing for job interviews.
Since its inception, Career Gear has served more than 125,000 men in over 200 cities across the United States. The organization reports that 80% of participants find jobs within 90 days of completing the program.
Fluoridization of Water
Fluoridization is the process of adding fluoride to public water supplies in order to prevent tooth decay. It is a highly effective measure that has been endorsed by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP).
In communities where fluoridated water is not readily available, children are at an increased risk for cavities and other dental problems. A recent study found that nearly one in four American children aged 6-19 have untreated tooth decay, which can lead to pain, infection, and difficulty eating or sleeping.
Fortunately, many communities are working to change this situation by fluoridating their water supplies. As of 2016, over 74% of the U.S. population has access to fluoridated water. The CDC reports that the average incidence of tooth decay in children under five years old is reduced by 26% within five years when community water fluoridation is used.
However, dentists are always willing to do charity drives whenever teeth problems arise. Some of these drives include free tooth implants for children suffering tooth decay at such an early age. These drives are helpful for children to grow healthy teeth.
Overall, there are many ways that communities are working to raise healthier children in the United States. From providing access to nutritious food at school cafeterias to offering job training for parents, these initiatives help ensure that all children have the opportunity to grow up healthy and strong. By supporting these programs, we can make a real difference in the lives of future generations.