New AAP policy addresses caring for homeless children and adolescents

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1. The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) urges pediatricians to endorse local, state and federal policies that support the development of low-income, transitional and permanent housing.

 2. The AAP encourages pediatricians to develop care plans specifically addressing the challenges facing the homeless including familiarizing themselves with local and government services that address unmet needs of the community. 

Rundown: In 2010, an estimated 1 in 45 American children experienced homelessness. In a policy statement released today, the AAP urges pediatricians to recognize the connection between homelessness and poor health in order to advocate and improve care for homeless children. It is noted that homeless children are at an increased risk for both acute and chronic health problems including otitis media, diarrhea, bronchitis and asthma. The AAP proposes that pediatricians develop care plans accounting for the unique difficulties posed by homelessness. For example, by offering assistance with transportation, flexible office hours, and the most affordable treatments available, pediatricians can address needs specific to this population. The AAP urges pediatricians to familiarize themselves with local community and government services designed to assist families with unmet needs including Temporary Assistance for Needy Families, Special Nutrition Assistance for Nutrition, and the Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women Infant and Children. Pediatricians are also encouraged to promote strategies to provide health insurance coverage to patients without a permanent address. Overall, the AAP states that homelessness is a prevalent, complex issue that significantly impacts the health of children in the United States and that pediatricians occupy a unique position to support children affected by homelessness through their ability to participate in advocacy and focused care.

Click to read the study in Pediatrics

Relevant Reading: Associations between housing instability and food insecurity with health care access in low-income children

Determinants of health and service use patterns in homeless and low-income housed children

By Emilia Hermann and Leah Carr 

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