The Family Context of Health for Youth

August 26, 2019

In this month’s Voices of Child Health in Chicago report, we examine how parent health is associated with their children’s health, then we explore how factors such as parent health insurance are associated with child health. To learn more about these issues, Ann & Robert H. Lurie Children’s Hospital teamed up with the Chicago Department of Public Health (CDPH) on the 2017-18 Healthy Chicago Survey, Jr. We asked 1,002 Chicago parents and guardians (referred to here as parents) to report on their own health and the health of their children.  

Report Highlights

  • Youth were less likely to be healthy themselves if they had a parent with worse health than if they had a parent with better health.
  • Youth were less likely to be healthy themselves if their parent reported experiencing psychological distress in the last 30 days.
  • When youth had a parent without health insurance, they were less likely to be in better health themselves.

Download the Report PDF


Information You Can Use

Overall parent physical and mental health were associated with child health

We asked parents about their own health status using a five-option scale. Parents who reported that their health was “excellent” or “very good” were grouped as having “better” health status. Parents whose health was “good,” “fair,” or “poor” were grouped as having “worse” health status. Approximately half of children and adolescents (referred to here as “youth”) in our survey had a survey-responding parent in better health (51%). Overall, youth whose survey-responding parent was in better health were more likely to be in better health themselves (93%) than youth whose parent was in worse health (70%).

Similarly, parents’ reported psychological distress was associated with worse health for youth. Youth whose survey-responding parent did not report experiencing any psychological distress over the last 30 days were more likely to have better health status (83%) than youth whose survey-responding parent reported some degree of psychological distress over the last 30 days (74%).

Youth health was not associated with specific parent health conditions such as diabetes, asthma, or high blood pressure. However, youth whose parent was obese or overweight were less likely to be in better health (80%) than those whose parent was normal or underweight (86%).

Health and Well-Being Resources for Family Health

Parents can find resources about helping your family stay healthy at healthychicagobabies.org. This website, which is run by CDPH, includes lists of local resources for family services, community services, health services, and social services.

There are also numerous local resources for behavioral health such as Chicago Connects, which is a tool to help find behavioral health services in Chicago, and the NAMI Chicago helpline (833.626.4244), which connects callers to mental health providers. Additionally, in Chicago, you can call 311 to get information about behavioral health resources near you.

Keeping the family happy and healthy is important, so take a look at a few tips on establishing healthy eating habits from a young age and maintaining heart-healthy routines for the whole family. Additionally, online resources list teenage superfoods to have in the house and methods for ensuring child health during the school year.

Child health in connection with parent insurance status

In our survey, most youth had health insurance, but not all of the parents were insured, and this situation was associated with worse health status for their children. When youth had a parent without health insurance, they were less likely to be in better health (71%) than youth whose parent did have health insurance (84%).

Resources about Health Insurance

In Illinois, you can find a trained professional, called an Assister, who can help you find the right insurance coverage for you and your family. You can also learn more about healthcare coverage in Illinois here.

Chicago Public Schools (CPS) Children and Family Benefits Unit connects CPS families to public benefits such as SNAP and free and low cost health insurance (Medicaid) and supports families through enrollment process.

It also can be helpful to learn some of the key terms in health insurance. There are online resources about choosing a health insurance plan, and to help parents become familiar with the Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP), what is covered by CHIP, as well as how parents can apply.

Additional Resources for Parents and Teens

Below are some additional resources where you can learn more about health and well-being for parents and for teens and emerging adults. 

Health and Well-Being Resources for Parents

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention provides a useful list of tips for parents on how to raise healthy and safe children such as having a healthy pregnancy, vaccinating children, and providing love and support. You can also find tips from Lurie Children’s about how to start an exercise plan with your kids. Other online resources offer tips for keeping the home germ free and how to promote health and well-being in young children and teens.

Health and Well-Being Resources for Teens and Emerging Adults

The teenage years can be overwhelming and stressful, so learning how to manage both mental and physical health is crucial. Find out about the services provided by Lurie Children’s Potocsnak Family Division of Adolescent and Young Adult Medicine and the Erie Teen Center in Chicago. Take a look at the online resources that teach teens how to keep their bodies and minds healthy, offer tips about the classic teenage years, and aid in stress management. Finally, for the emerging adult: a breakdown for the young adult to help keep the apartment clean and healthy.

About the survey

The sample consisted of 3,310 adults in Chicago, 1,002 of whom were the parent, step-parent, foster parent, or guardian (referred to here as parents) of at least one child under 18 years old living in the household. We asked parents about their own health and the health of their children. The survey cooperation rate was 18%. All analyses were conducted with statistical weighting so that they are representative of the adult population of the City of Chicago during the time period of data collection. For more information about health in your community, visit chicagohealthatlas.org.

Who We Are

Matthew M. Davis, MD, MAPP
Marie Heffernan, PhD
Tracie Smith, MPH
Anne Bendelow, MPH
Punreet Bhatti, MD

Contact Us

312.227.2436
voicesofchildhealth@luriechildrens.org

Media Coverage

Press Release

Study: Parents' troubles impact kids' health
Crain's Chicago Business

When Parents Lack Health Insurance, Kids' Health Suffers
Chicago City Wire