Material hardship and the physical health of school-aged children in low-income households

Yoo, J. P.; Slack, K. S.; Holl, J. L.

Am J Public Health. 2008 Aug 16; 99(5):829-36

Abstract

OBJECTIVES: We examined the relationship between material hardship reported by low-income caregivers and caregivers' assessments of their children's overall health. METHODS: We used logistic regression techniques to analyze data from 1073 children aged 5 through 11 years whose caregivers participated in multiple waves of the Illinois Families Study. RESULTS: Caregivers' reports of food hardship were strongly associated with their assessments of their children's health. Other sources of self-reported material hardship were also associated with caregivers' assessments of their children's health, but the effects disappeared when we controlled for caregiver physical health status and mental health status. Proximal measures of material hardship better explained low-income children's health than traditional socioeconomic measures. There were no statistically significant cumulative effects of material hardships above and beyond individual hardship effects. CONCLUSIONS: Our findings highlight the importance of developing and supporting programs and policies that ensure access to better-quality food, higher quantities of food, and better living conditions for low-income children, as well as health promotion and prevention efforts targeted toward their primary caregivers as ways to reduce health disparities for this population.

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