Health News sponsored by VCU Health
The ABC’s of Youth Health Disparity
By: J. Chevonte’ Alexander
Welcome to Urban Views Health News , malady a bi-monthly article focusing on health, viagra sale specific health-related issues, prostate fitness and fun and giving tips on how we can become healthier individually and as a community.
This week, we discuss youth health disparity. Oddly enough, there is not a lot of research out there about this issue, but it is a very real problem in our communities. Simply put, we know that where someone lives could change their health outcomes. How can we as a community address this?
“In general, children are a marginalized group to begin with,” comments Alex Sims, a community pediatrician in Washington, DC. “Children are, somewhat, a neglected population when compared to adults.”
So, when we talk about disparities existing in our communities, we often overlook that those affecting mom and dad can have the same, if not worse, effect on the children.
Although the term disparity is often interpreted to mean racial or ethnic disparities, many dimensions of disparity exist, particularly in health. If a health outcome is seen to a greater or lesser extent between populations, there is a disparity. Race or ethnicity, sex, sexual identity, age, disability, socioeconomic status and geographic location can all contribute to an individual’s ability to achieve good health.
But why do disparities exist and, more importantly, how can disparities develop so early in a child’s life?
“A disparity is an unequal distribution of resources,” says Tiffany Cox, Community Health and Prevention Supervisor for the Virginia Department of Health – Crater Health District. “To start addressing these issues, we first need to recognize that they exist. Equal means providing the same for all people and this is hard to do when people are not even starting at the same level from birth.”
“We still have strides to go to define what they (youth disparities) are.” said Sims.
Disparities that we see in adults can affect children, as well. This is more likely in communities that have challenges. Lower socioeconomic demographics have an impact on more than just healthcare outcomes for youth, including: infant mortality, low birth weight, tobacco use, education, greater risk factor for chronic diseases, teen pregnancy, HIV/AIDS and other sexually transmitted infections, and access to healthcare. Minorities are also less physically active across the board, so this leads to other issues later with having poor diets and limited physical activity.
As a community, what can we do to change this paradigm?
Cox suggests that we look at the data we do have for adults to help shape the programs we provide for youth and the entire family. “Comprehensive health education is important to have in schools and where families live, learn and play. This is not a problem we will fix without involving our families.”
Addressing these disparities is critical during a child’s early years because these are their formative years – they are building lifelong behaviors, retaining learned behaviors and we have to show children healthy behaviors to have healthy outcomes for their futures.
“Cavities are the most common infectious disease for children.” comments Sims. “Children that are in lower socioeconomics have higher risk of having cavities, and not having a dental medical home. Since we know this disparity exists, a local school, afterschool program or even a babysitter could implement a teeth brushing program for our youth.”
This leads to a direct improvement in oral health and chronic pain, which translates to the child missing less school days and, ultimately, normalizing the idea of brushing teeth and dental care. It is truly a collaborative approach that needs to happen to change the pattern.
“Pediatricians are doing advocacy work by educating families and helping with access to care,” said Sims. “Research is a big way to change this paradigm, but we need to have everyone at the table including the children. Ask them what they need and want and establish a pipeline, including strong mentors in a child’s life to close up the leaks in the pipeline. We have to incorporate all age groups in the decision making process.”