Why it’s past time to make children’s health a national priority

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This fall, President Biden hosted the first White House summit in decades focused on ending hunger in America, with his administration announcing $8 billion in public and private sector commitments to that goal.

The last such summit was in 1969 and convened by President Richard M. Nixon. It influenced food policy with an expansion of the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, which helps low-income families buy healthy food, and the creation of the Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants, and Children (WIC), which provides assistance to mothers.

With Biden hoping to have a major impact on food policy in the coming years, this post provides a road map for how the administration and Congress can address the issue of child health. It was written by Robert Boyd, CEO of the School-Based Health Alliance, a nonprofit organization that promotes and supports school-based health centers, and Pedro Noguera, dean of the Rossier School of Education at the University of Southern California.

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By Robert Boyd and Peter A. Noguera

The Biden-Harris administration made the bold commitment this fall to try to end child hunger in the United States by the end of the decade. “I know we can do it,” President Biden declared at a White House summit on the issue, the first since 1969. Now, with the midterm elections upon us, it’s time for the administration to take steps to follow through on this promise step.

To make greater progress in addressing the needs of its children, the administration should create the proposed White House Office on Children and Youth. Doing so will send a clear message that we prioritize our children as much as issues such as national security, immigration and international trade, which consistently receive more attention; after all, by investing in our children, we are literally investing in America’s future.

Biden hosts conference on hunger and announces $8 billion in commitments

Too often that phrase is little more than a cute slogan. It should be a source of national shame that America has some of the highest child poverty among rich nations.

Today, 12 million children live in poverty, according to Facts About Childhood Hunger in America; 12.5 percent of households with children were food insecure in 2021, and that rate is double for single-woman households with children, reports Hunger in America. The pandemic has further devastated the health and well-being of America’s children, especially those from low-income families. While issues such as school safety, teacher salaries and the decline in student test scores have received most of the attention, it is time for policymakers to recognize the obvious: healthy children learn better.

As two men of color who have benefited immensely from quality public education, we have dedicated our careers to advancing equality for others. In 2020, we called for federal candidates to invest $1 trillion in education and health care, including over the next five years $100 billion in free breakfast, lunch and dinner in Title I schools; $2,500 in tax credits for all employees in all Title I schools at a cost of $33 billion; $5.5 billion for the creation of school-based health centers in all Title I schools; $2 billion for full-service community schools; and $130 billion to fully fund school infrastructure improvements.

We know that’s a lot of money, and at a time of rising national debt and inflation, many would balk at the idea of ​​committing additional revenue to social spending. This is why we suggest reframing such expenditure as an investment rather than simply an expense. Like families putting money away for college savings or retirement, we should think of investments made to support the health, education, and well-being of children as a way to secure America’s future.

We commend the Biden administration for the monthly tax credits that were part of the $1.9 trillion coronavirus relief package in 2021. According to estimates by the Center on Poverty and Social Policy at Columbia University, approximately 3.7 million children were lifted out of poverty during the year. that the monthly payments were spread out, contributing to an estimated nearly 30 percent decrease in the child poverty rate because the additional income enabled low-income families to pay for food and other necessities. Even at $160 billion a year, it’s a good investment. Unfortunately, the tax credits were discontinued after just one year, leading to an increase in child poverty.

Child poverty rose 41 percent in January after the Biden benefit program expired, study found

Over the past two years, bipartisan efforts in Congress have helped improve access to primary, behavioral, oral, and vision care services in public schools. Bipartisanship in support of children is exactly what we need right now. Schools are the logical place to locate such services because that is where the vast majority of children are. In fiscal year 2021, first-time operational funding for school-based health centers was $5 million. In fiscal year 2022, that funding increased to $30 million. For fiscal year 2023, Congress recommended $100 million. The administration also supported more than $400 million in funding for full-service community schools.

We must act now to address the hardship and looming health crisis facing America’s children. Before the pandemic, about 14 percent of children between the ages of 3 and 18 had no Internet access at home, according to the National Center for Education Studies. We are also in the midst of a mental health epidemic. Since 2020, 16.8 percent of children 12 – 17 years have sought mental health treatment, and suicide rates among children are rising. In addition, 20 percent of children between the ages of 6-11 are obese, and the number of children with chronic diseases such as asthma and diabetes is increasing. Data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention is clear. Children with poor health will grow up to be sick adults.

The administration recently announced several initiatives to recruit more talented people for teaching. We also need to increase the number of school nurses, counsellors, psychologists and social workers to meet the needs of our children.

Most Americans agreed that healthy, well-educated children are essential to securing America’s future. Investing in our children is one of the best ways to reduce the billions we spend on incarceration and to support people who cannot take care of themselves. Currently, 37 percent of Americans between the ages of 16 and 65 are currently not in the labor market and earning no income at all. We can and must do better. By addressing educational and health needs, we can increase the productivity of our economy and the health of our nation.

We need a blueprint to guide our efforts to support the nation’s youth, and we need leadership at the federal, state, and local levels. The National Healthy Schools Collaborative’s ten-year roadmap for healthy schools is a good start. We call on Congress and the administration to focus on the needs of our children, starting with the passage of budget year appropriations. Our leaders must ensure that every child has access to top education and quality, affordable health care, regardless of their zip code. Our future depends on it.

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